Saturday, April 30, 2011

Is this how One Leisure operates?

In the May issue of the free listings magazine, received 26th April 2011,  there is an advert on page 9. It is for the Easter break activities for kids at St Neots leisure centre.
Sounds good but I received this copy on 26th April 2011 and the activities finished on 25th April 2011 the day after I received this magazine.

So what is the point of this advert? Is this the result of One Leisure becoming more business like?

Friday, April 29, 2011

How times change

Back when the St Neots Conservative Councillors had a local website one of the complaints was the Liberal Democrats not being open. This has continued with the Town Council misapplying their own standing orders.

The Conservatives now seem content with this state of affairs. Back in 2008 they weren't. What has changed?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Will a Conservative Town Council accede to HDC failings?

The Conservative run HDC budget report has a section in it which says:
So Conservative run HDC will be looking for "contributions" or I say Conservative Stealth Taxes for a number of services. This is effectively indirect taxation on the St Neots Council taxpayer because the Council Taxpayer will have to pay for these services.

According to HDC CCTV is something the consultation said cut. Instead of cutting HDC is trying different ways to keep this service going. Including an extra tax on the St Neots Council taxpayer.

This is insidious as if residents complain about the lowering of standards Conservative controlled HDC will blame the Town and Parish Councils for not picking up these costs. All this so HDC can keep their Council Tax down whilst the residents will see increases in Town and Parish council tax. It seems to me the line HDC is taking is blame everyone for the mess they are in.

Of course there is an argument that these services could be devolved to the Town and Parish Council level. It is a good argument. But devolution means not only the service but the money for this service is also devolved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Death of Merv Perry postpones Town Poll in Eynesbury

The death of Conservative Town Council candidate has postponed the Town Council elections in Eynesbury. This could mean the result of the Town Council elections could hang on the Eynesbury. Or not if the Conservatives sweep up the other seats in the other parts of St Neots.

So there we have it. Eynesbury will go to the polls again on 9th June 2011 barring any more incidents which could cause a postponed poll.

The District Election and the AV referendum still continue on 5th May 2011 in Eynesbury.

Conservative Leaflet for Eynesbury now received

I received a Conservative leaflet through promoting Paul Ursell for District. It can be seen at

To start with I looked through the leaflet and compared it to the 2010 leaflet. In the section for £3 a week there are a few differences. In 2011 it says:
The 2010 leaflet said:
So what has been dropped? Grant aid to community projects, Listed Building Grants and Transport initiatives such as Dial-a-Ride.

Nothing in the leaflet about £8.6 million of cuts. All the Governments fault it would seem. The Council Tax comparison needs to be looked at as Conservative run Fenland District Council charges £241.56.
What is also missing is the amount of reserves being used to pay for this low Council Tax rate in Huntingdonshire.

Now the Conservatives do make a series of pledges about Council Tax. I've highlighted the passage. The pledge is to "Reduce the cost of Local Government whilst keeping key services intact". What are the key services?
Whilst these pledges sound good none of them actually mean anything in terms of Council Tax rates. Lots of words - little content.

Rebalancing must be the buzz word of this election. When it comes to the Town Council, I asked what are front lines services and what will this mean to the back-room bureaucracy. Answer.....Silence.

The one pledge I see is the protect and enhance pledge for open spaces.
So the Conservatives are going to protect and enhance Shady Walk instead of having a cinema! Not going to become a car park then!

Lastly we have the New Homes Bonus.
To me this is a commitment by the HDC Conservatives (Jason Ablewhite - next Leader of HDC is featured on this leaflet) that New Homes Bonus money will come to St Neots. This is at odds with what Cllr Rogers said about the New Homes Bonus.

This is a well presented leaflet and gives good account of what the Conservatives aspire to do. There are some conflicts between what the Conservatives say and do as outlined above.  The problem I have is the leaflet leaves out the mess HDC got itself into. It doesn't really say anything concrete over Council tax rates and whilst it does go on about the New Homes Bonus this is at total variance to what the current Executive Councillor in charge of finance actually says. He said the money is to be spread across the District. How this will hold up only time will tell. If the money for St Neots does come back to St Neots this will leave another hole in the Conservative run HDC budget.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And the Conservatives don't check the fine print!

Candidates are responsible for their election literature. It is in their names it goes out and they should approve every word and comma. So I was surprised that in the recent Conservative leaflet there was a mistake on the fine print. Paul is now Paula!

The Town Toilets - why St Neots is having to pay

The public conveniences (PCs)in St Neots still seem to be a source of discontentment amongst parts of the population of St Neots. So lets get some fact straight.

1. The PCs are owned by HDC.
2. There were 3.
3. The PC situated in the Riverside Car Park in an HDC owned Car Park.
4. The Tebbutts Road PC is situated in the HDC owned Tebbutts Road Car Park
5. The South Street PC was closed.
6. HDC let the Town Council run all 3 PCs under an Agency Agreement until 2006.
7. Under the Agency Agreement HDC PAID the Town Council to run these PCs on its behalf.
8. In 2006 HDC decided to scrap the Agency Agreement and bring all PCs in Huntingdonshire under one contract.
9. HDC did spend a large amount of money doing up PCs not due for closure.
10. HDC decided to end this service. No discussions with any of the Town Councils before making this decision.
11. One of the reasons HDC gave for making the Town Councils take up the service was they knew the demand better than HDC. But HDC were running the PCs. Obviously they didn't know the demand yet expected the Town Councils to know.
12. Unlike the Agency Agreement where St Neots Town Council was PAID to clean the PCs, the Town Council has taken over the cost at £30,000 to the St Neots Council taxpayer.
13. Conservative run Huntingdon Town Council has refused to take on their HDC owned PCs and continue to inform HDC of that.
14. By cutting the PCs Conservative run HDC was able to boast about keeping their rise in Council Tax down to 2.5%. In St Neots we picked up the bill for that.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The mountain of debt starts to rise at Conservative run HDC

The Conservatives had a plan. That is to use reserves to prop up their failing budget at HDC. No content with nicking the New Homes Bonus, the Conservatives are looking to take on a mountain of debt over the next few years.
With a £10 million loan already taken out and likely to increase by another £11.2 million the "Shortfall met from reserves" is really being paid from loans taken out over 50 years. Spend to today with loans that everyone else in the future will have to pay for.

This is the basic problem. Instead of using the reserves not to take out loans, the reserves are being used to prop up the budget. This is effectively what the Conservatives are having a go at Labour Government about. Like Labour, the HDC Conservatives intend to prop up the budget taking out loans and nicking the New Homes Bonus from St Neots and other developing areas.

More loans isn't the answer. A loan will have to be repaid and the interest will have to be paid. This eats into the Council's budgets and other services are either not funded or cut. Time the Conservatives got a grip with this budget.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A message from Cllr Ursell

I received this personal message from Cllr Ursell to me at the St Neots Community Forums. I posted this message as Cllr Ursell says he can't get access to my blog. So I thought it best to add to the blog.


To: rednek
20/04/2011 02:54PM

Letters to postal voters have been delivered to most postal voters in Eynesbury. The few that remain will be delivered by tomorrow night.

The main leaflet is being delivered during the next week or so. I will deliver your copy personally

The conservative candidate team have been out canvassing and will continue to do so up until the election.

As we have been going round we have not seen the other parties canvassing

I would have posted a comment on your blog but I can't get access


Paul Ursell

Parish Council elections

The call by a vocal few for a return to the golden era of independent councillors on St Neots Town Council has to be taken with a pinch of salt. The Parish Council sector of local Government shows  less and less Independents are will to stand for election at this level of Government.

In the notice of uncontested elections many Parish Councils simply don't attract the number of candidates needed to hold a contested poll. A majority of Parish Councils (I've excluded the Town Councils which have political parties standing) simply don't have enough people interested to stand for election.
Of the 33 Parish Councils up for election this year, 5 have contested elections, 12 have exactly the right number and 16 have less candidates than the number of seats up for election. Some are just below the number of seats. Some like Bythorn and Hail Weston only attracted 2 candidates each.

In the case of Hail Weston this means it will lose Quality Status as it doesn't meet the electoral mandate test of 2/3rds of members being elected. But meeting the mandatory tests isn't the CPALC way and Hail Weston will probably retain this now dubious status.

Political parties do have a role to play in local politics. Even at Parish level they would try and get candidates to stand for election. The exclusion of party politics at this level of Government is to the detriment of Parishes. Whilst our population is growing and with an ageing population there should be more candidates than ever for these positions. In essence people don't want to put the time into Parish Councils as they are pretty useless without the money.

I hope when HDC takes a look at the Parishes again it does so with open eyes on how many of these Parishes are actually viable. The Parish Council has been around for over 110 years. Isn't it time for reform of the system that only covers 35% of the population of England?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lack of evidence costs the Council Taxpayer

Planning is a problem for local politicians. The illusion that it is somehow "democratic" needs to be punctured yet again. From the useless Town Council Planning Committee to the District Council Development Management Committee, evidence is the key to decisions. Planning isn't democratic it is judicial.

When costs are awarded against the Development Planning Committee for putting the applicant to unnecessary expense who pays? The Councillors who voted against this proposal or the Council taxpayer? The Council Taxpayer of course.

In the case of the fuel station at St Ives Co-op the Planning Inspector found against the Councillor who voted this application down. The officer report says:

This is very damning but also educational. The reason it is educational is Councillors when voting against officer recommendations on an application have to produce evidence to support their voting choice. Time and again I've banged on about how useless the Town Council Planning Committee is because it objects without any evidence to support its objections. This time the District Council has been caught out. This is costing the Council Taxpayer.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Could UKIP mess it up for the Conservatives?

The party of the protest vote were the Liberal Democrats. At the 2010 local elections UKIP certainly spoiled the result in Eynesbury for the Conservatives. This year no UKIP candidates. In St Neots and the surrounding areas this is a UKIP desert. Jenny O'Dell is standing in Kimbolton and Staughton.

At the District elections UKIP have put up 11 candidates mainly in the north of Huntingdonshire. This is unlikely to pose many problems for the Conservatives unless the party of protest does well. It is not just some Liberal Democrat supporters who are unhappy with the Coalition, there are many Conservatives how are also unhappy. The result in Huntingdon North could be the one to watch. Because UKIP stopped the Conservatives winning at the last Huntingdon North by-election.

At these election UKIP is trying to do two things. Firstly it is trying to establish a base in Ramsey. Secondly from this there it will attack the wards surrounding Ramsey and spread southwards.

To many political pundits UKIP is something to be disregarded. To the Conservative right, UKIP is a natural alternative home for their support. To the general public left without a party of protest now the Liberal Democrats are in government UKIP is the vehicle to use. But not in St Neots. Because we have no UKIP candidates.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is Labour over egging their chances?

In a piece on the local elections in the News and Crier, Labour spokesman Mike Sneath says he is confident Labour will get 4 to 5 seats. Where these seats are he doesn't indicate. With Labour trailing a very poor third in all locations there isn't many places where Labour could come from third to first. Yaxley and Farcet ward is one such place.
I suppose this is premised on the weird assumption that all Liberal Democrat supporters will now vote Labour. But that won't be so. Or is this a statement in the hope that Labour supporters will go out and vote if there is a notion of a chance of winning.

Labour needs to campaign. They have put up a full slate of candidates in the 3 Huntingdon wards up for election and for the Town Council. In St Neots, Labour is is only fighting in 3 of the 4 wards up for election and no one for the Town Council elections. Hardly going to win here.

So Labour are targeting Huntingdon. It could be they have done the ground work, but that is unlikely.

Labour got us into this mess. Labours love affair with the city is well documented.
I suppose we have to wait for the count on 6th May 2011 to find out whether Labours prediction will come true. Is Labour over egging their chances? The answer has to be yes they are!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Conservative postal letter - The first Conservative literature of this campaign

I thought I would take a look at the Conservative letter to postal voters as delivered in Eynesbury. The Conservative District candidate is Paul Ursell. There are 7 candidates for Town Council.

The letter can be accessed here and on the website or here.

The letter starts off with a bit about people agreeing with Conservative policies. Of course you want to be one of the crowd. The letter then goes onto list the things the Conservatives want to achieve. These are:

So the Conservatives are going to maximise the use of Bargroves as the community centre for Eynesbury! Please inform me what maximise means?

Now this is a bit of a contentious issue. Much of Parklands was in the area of the former Eynesbury Hardwicke Parish Council which Cllr Ursell sat on. They didn't get around to putting this in place. Now St Neots Town Council has too.

Now I keep getting told that the Swimming Pool Trust is separate from the Town Council. Remember the phrase "ALL THE PROCEEDS OF THE SALE".

To my mind the best possible concept is to put this in an out of town location.

Sounds good.

Not to sure what is meant by this. There is actually very little to cut in Central Administration. Only the Deputy Town Clerk. And what are front line services?

Very good except when the idea of a family friendly arcade came before them the Conservatives objected. One reason was they didn't want those kind of people in the Town Centre.

What does "support" mean?

There are more questions than answers in what the Conservatives are going to do. The main question I have is over Council Tax. Not a word from them in this leaflet.

Also what has happened to the Eynesbury Hardwicke fund? the extra money from the hard pressed ex Eynesbury Hardwicke residents!
In the last few paragraphs is this little statement:
Does this mean Cllr Ursell who is so experienced he only has turn up 55% of the time in the last 6 months.

Also if we are only going to elect experienced candidates what about the Town Council where 5 Liberal Democrats are the experienced ones. What of other Conservative candidates like Roger Harrison. Should the electorates not elect these Conservatives because they have no experience of Town or District?

Not at letter that enthralled me to vote Conservative. Key points are missing especially over Council Tax.

Cllr Ursell standing in Eynesbury

On the St Neots Community Forum Cllr Ursell (Conservative District candidate for Eynesbury) has been saying a few things about the non-appearance of any Conservative literature since the election campaign started. On the Forum Cllr Ursell says on 12th April 2011:

Six days later and the leaflets will be now delivered over the next two weeks.

If Cllr Ursell fails to be re-elected, then this must be the significant reason why not.

Another reason could be the candidate didn't come and knock on the electors doors.

But Eynesbury isn't that large.
This is not a rural ward. All the housing are in estates and aren't particularly spread out. Combining the District and Town candidates there are 7 Conservatives candidates in Eynesbury. With that many candidates Eynesbury should be canvassed within the election period. If Eynesbury is too big then this is evidence that St Neots should go to single member wards. Also instead of not getting round within the election period do this beforehand!

This isn't good enough and this is a lame excuse by the Conservatives as to why they are not effective campaigning. Why are they being so quiet?

One Independent candidate - Where are the others?

At these elections there is only one Independent standing and Carl Jones is standing for Town Council in St Neots East. Why no others? The chief moaners about St Neots are: Chris Brick, Jon Mountfort, Lorraine Hines and Chris Clifton. Yet none of these have put their forward for election.

Chris Brick was an organiser against Car Parking charges and lives in Little Paxton. The Little Paxton Parish council is up for election this year. No Chris Brick even though the Parish is short on nominations.

Jon Mountfort has a Save St Neots website having a go at the ruling group and all the money the cabinet gets in allowances. No jon Mountfort standing.

Lorraine Hines has a website called Scrap HDC. No Lorraine Hines standing.

Chris Clifton was on about how bad HDC is. No Chris Clifton standing.

Just goes to show a lot of huffing and puffing about how bad we are governed but not will to do anything about it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Annual Town Meeting on Monday 16th May 2011

St Neots Town Council has announced the date of the Annual Town Meeting as 16th May 2011 at the Priory Centre. Anyone else going?

How I voted at the District Elections

I vote in Eynesbury and this is how I cast my postal vote at the District Elections:
As a person who normally votes Conservative, until I moved to St Neots, I have to say the main reason I voted Liberal Democrat is because I feel the local Conservatives aren't up to the job. The District Council is in a financial mess and the Conservatives are nicking the New Homes Bonus from St Neots.

I therefore voted Liberal Democrat out of protest rather than for their policies. I believe the local Conservatives need a bit of a bloody nose to get their act together.

Also the incumbent, Cllr Paul Ursell isn't that good at attending meetings.

Too many Town Council candidates are on other Councils too?

The Conservatives have put forward a full slate of candidates for the Town Council elections. Many are already Councillors on other Councils or candidates for other Councils.

County Council only:
Catherine Hutton

County and District Councils:
Bob Farrer
David Harty

District only:
Paul Ursell
Andrew Hansard
Barry Chapman

District candidates:
Roger Harrison
Andy Jennings

That makes many councillors/candidates who have a lot of other duties to do.

This is the problem with politics. The political parties are contracting as people are really not interested in joining. 21 seats for St Neots Town Council is far too many. The number should be halved to 11. I have to question whether a Councillor on so many different Councils and outside bodies will really have the time and energy to put into directing the Town Council.

For a bit of balance there are a few Liberal Democrats who are doing the same. Gordon Thorpe,  Julia Hayward, Steve van de Kerkhove, Rob Moores, Eleanor Mason and Kendal Cooper. The difference between the two parties is the Conservatives are in power at County and District. The Liberal Democrats are in opposition.

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Liberal Democrat leaflet for Postal Voters

As a Postal Voter I got an extra piece of literature. This is a short leaflet aimed at those who receive their votes by post. It can be accessed here.

The leaflet makes a statement about the difference in Council Tax between Liberal Democrat run St Neots and Conservative run Huntingdon.
The leaflet goes onto make a promise:
and a target:
With the number of housing continuing to increase these will be easy to achieve.

Should I take the promise and the target seriously. Well YES. The Liberal Democrats have got the Town Council into a much better position financially than when they started off. That is not without problems and quite a few pledges got dumped along the way.

In my view the Liberal Democrat run Town Council is roughly taxing us what it is supposed to raise. Reserves aren't being used to keep Council Tax down which is a good thing.

This sounds a tough promise and target to meet but the reality is it should be pretty easy to meet this promise and target over the next 4 years.

The incumbents and their attendances

I took a look at the list of candidates and I looked up their attendance records at HDC and other Councils to see how they have been doing. Attendance is only one measure of being a Councillor. Whilst not perfect it does give a good idea of how each is doing. I'll do this by ward:

Eynesbury- Cllr Ursell - Conservative

This is for the 6 months period before the election. As can be see Cllr Ursell has turned up for 55% of the meetings.
I therefore went back another 6 months to see if this was a blip.
As can be seen his average was 70%. So I went back a further 6 months to see whether this was a blip.
Well it was. Cllr Ursell's attendances were back down to 55%.

Eaton Ford - David Harty - Conservative

Again I went back 12 months.
Clearly a Councillor how takes being a representative seriously with only 1 absence.

Eaton Socon - Gordon Thorpe - Liberal Democrat
With nearly twice as many meeting to go to, Gordon Thorpe put in a good number of appearances.

Eaton Socon - Andy Jennings - Conservative

As Andy is an ex-Councillor from Greenwich I thought I would his attendances at Greenwich. These were:

Not exceptional.

Priory Park - Kendal Cooper - Liberal Democrat
Pretty good statistics.

Of all the candidates standing the only question mark I have is over Cllr Ursell's attendances at 55%. This is low for a Councillor who should be representing St Neots at Council. Too much work Paul?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Huntingdon Town Conservatives say no to HDC Toilets

I'm not one who normally compares what goes on in St Neots to what is going on in Huntingdon. On this occasion I will make an exception. Last year HDC decided to dump their public conveniences onto the Town Councils. The St Neots Conservatives played merry hell with this issue although it was an Conservative run HDC decision of which many are members.

In contrast the Conservative run Huntingdon Town Council, where the public toilets were also closed down, simply said NO to HDC. And continue to do so. As the Conservative run Huntingdon Town Council continues to point out these facilities are owned by HDC and were run by HDC.
In St Neots the Conservatives chastise the Liberal Democrats for not taking up the public toilets.
In doing so they lied as HDC are the owners of the toilets and are responsible for their up keep. HDC also stopped the agency agreement with St Neots Town Council in 2006 and ran the toilets for 3 years before deciding to end this service. I just have to wonder whether the Conservatives will produce the same sort of statement in their election literature in Huntingdon? I doubt it.

The difference between the Conservatives on Huntingdon Town Council and those on St Neots Town Council is those in Huntingdon are willing to stand up against HDC, whilst the St Neots Conservative Councillors kowtow to the decisions they also made.

The Huntingdon Town Conservatives have the right policy of saving their taxpayers £30,000 a year. In St Neots Conservatives just added a Conservative Stealth tax to St Neots Council taxpayers and then went onto blame the Liberal Democrats for the consequences of the Conservatives decision.