Once again, many thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my blog this past year. It has been an interesting year for me as a blogger, with an increased readership and an all-time high for hits on one day in November – the day after I was hauled before the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Standards Committee over comments made by others on the blog.
To see the story rocket around cyberspace and be re-posted on so many blogs and websites, including by Tim Montgomerie on conservativehome, and to read all the comments, emails and messages of support, meant that the minimal censure the Committee imposed became somewhat meaningless. The wider debate in the media clearly indicated that freedom of speech will not be stifled.
The wonder of Google means that many of my old blogposts still get regular hits, and the increased use of Facebook and Twitter (follow me at #paul12clear) has resulted in many more re-postings.
2011 has been a really good year for me personally, with many ups - but surprisingly few downs. Amongst other achievements, I have managed to get the new company website up and running – and, yes, it has its own blog which can be found here.
One of the year’s highlights was being re-elected to represent Howdenshire in May’s local elections. The fantastic numbers of votes I received from all the parishes (including the Gilberdyke Parish Council election) that make up Howdenshire, vindicated the stance I had taken on a number of issues. These ranged from wind farms, landfill sites, affordable housing and flood relief, to senior Council employee early retirement packages. The election saw an increase in the Conservative majority and brought some really good new councillors to County Hall. The age profile of councillors was brought a little more into line with the area demographics with the election of the youthful duo of Josh Newlove (Labour) and Bradley Birmingham (Conservative) both of whom are in their twenties.
The election result was tempered a little by the ERYC Council Leader’s decision to remove me from my previously held position as Chairman of the Goole and Howdenshire Local Action Team, and from the Council’s Planning Committee. The level of support I subsequently received from the public was very humbling and sometimes came from unexpected quarters. I’m really enjoying my role as a backbencher, but people keep reminding me of that famous quote of Arnold Schwarzenegger – “I’ll be back!” - Who knows?
If I could give an award to the community of the year it would be to Spaldington, who went into battle against not one, but two wind farm companies seeking to build giant wind turbines at each side of their village. This community raised in excess of £80,000, employed their own barrister and expert witnesses, and showed true teamwork in putting together a fantastic case at the public enquiry, with the result that one wind farm application was thrown out by the planning inspector and the other conditioned in such a way that the turbines will not be able to operate at full capacity because of noise. It has been an honour and a privilege to work with the people of Spaldington.
A close second would be Gilberdyke, where we have seen a great example of the community taking responsibility for themselves in the construction of the flood relief culvert. This, coupled with the snow clearing efforts at the end of the previous year, shows that localism is alive and kicking here and in many other East Riding villages. The Government’s Localism Act should enable more power, decision making and spending to cascade down to the local level – I for one will be pushing for this to happen in Howdenshire over the next year.
One of my most satisfying experiences was in my role as a governor at Howden Secondary School and Technology College. As a part of ‘Team Howden’ we pulled the school out of special measures in record time and the pupils achieved their best ever exam results at the end of the year. I have every confidence that the momentum will continue and that this year will be even better.
I’ve also enjoyed doing a number of fundraising activities, including the Humber Bridge Midnight Walk (dressed as Elvis!) and speaking about my ‘African Odyssey’ to a number of groups. I had received many requests to talk on this subject and this was the year I finally bit the bullet. I look forward to doing more talks next year, beginning with the W I in February.
In conclusion, I will continue to engage with the community and champion free speech via my blog and other social networking media, or by ‘Witchcraft’ (as some of my colleagues would have it), and who knows - we may see a couple of other ERYC Councillors blogging in the coming year?
It has been a pleasure to represent Howdenshire, and East Riding residents during 2011 and I will do my utmost to speak up for, and fight their causes during 2012.
I wish you all a very Happy and Successful New Year