Cuts? What cuts?

Despite all the talk of “government cuts” at Telford & Wrekin Council as an excuse for poor service, there seems to be a bottomless pit of money to pay obscene salaries.

Advert for Assistant Director of Children's Safeguarding at £74-87kLast year the council’s Chief Executive also did the job of Director of Childrens’ Services alongside his day job.  This year the council pays someone £109,600 to do it.  Last year there was no Assistant Director of Childrens’ Services, this week the council advertised for an Assistant Director of Childrens’ Services on a salary of between £74,220 to £82,304 plus expenses. That’s almost £200k for two jobs that didn’t even exist last year.

We’ll be told that this post is a legal requirement and to think of the children.  It was made a legal requirement in the Children’s Act 2004 but nowhere does it say the holder of the post has to do it full time, hence the Chief Executive doing it part time until last year and despite not devoting his full attention to the job, there were no tragedies like that of Baby P in Haringey or anything even remotely similar.

Five council employees get paid more than government ministers, three of which are paid more than David Cameron yet services are being cut because (we are told) there is no money because of “government cuts”.  Well here’s a suggestion: how about making some more cuts in salaries?  The person who came up with the idea of paying nearly £200k a year for two people to do a job that the Chief Executive did part time last year is a good place to start.

UKIP Telford & Wrekin’s policy is to cap senior staff salaries at the Assistant Director pay grade which attracts a maximum of around £97k a year and salaries for senior pay grades would be adjusted proportionately.  We want the people running the council to choose the council because they want to serve the public – that’s why they’re called public servants after all – not because they want to become millionaires at the taxpayers expense.

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Press release: UKIP Councillor condemns wind turbine application

A UKIP councillor has condemned Telford & Wrekin Council’s decision to approve a planning application by Windmill School for a 33ft wind turbine in its nature reserve.

Stuart Parr, a parish councillor for Brookside, sits on the Environment and Planning Committee at Stirchley & Brookside Parish Council which rejected the application on Tuesday. He submitted a two page document detailing why the application should be rejected.

Following Telford & Wrekin Council’s decision to ignore Brookside’s parish councillors, Cllr Parr has made an official complaint about the false statements and misleading information in the application which was missing material facts.

The main reasons for objecting to the application were the wind turbine’s close proximity to houses, the cost to the taxpayer, the ineffectiveness of the wind turbine because of its location surrounded by trees and houses making it a poor educational tool, the fact that the electricity produced won’t be used to provide usable power to the school, the location of the wind turbine in a nature reserve and false and misleading information in the application. Full details of the objection can be found on Cllr Stuart Parr’s blog.

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Direct rail route to London … in 4 years time … maybe

Today’s announcement that Telford will be getting its direct rail connection to London back is great news but why do we have to wait until 2016 for it to be put in place?

Telford Central Train StationShropshire is the only county in England that has no direct rail connection to the capital  and that’s not going to change for at least the next four years, subject to the new West Coast Main Line franchisee First Group getting agreement to operate the route.  In other words, it might not even happen if agreements can’t be secured for a price that First Group are happy with.

The good news has been undermined, though, by the announcement that rail fares in England are to rise by 3% above inflation which is an average 6.2% increase in ticket prices.  Prices in Scotland are only being increased by 1% above inflation and price increases have not yet been announced in Wales or Northern Ireland.  This discrepancy is possible because the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments decide regulated train fares in their own countries but there is no English government so the British government gets to decide how much rail fares go up in England.

UKIP national policy is to scrap the wasteful HS2 rail line and invest the billions of pounds the British government intends to spend decreasing the amount of time it takes to travel by train from Glasgow to London by 8 minutes into improving the existing road and rail network.

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Road “repair” outside Bembridge Garages

Originally posted at: Stuart Parr for Brookside

I was contacted a few weeks ago by a resident who is currently posted away from home in the armed forces regarding the state of the road outside Bembridge Garages.

This resident’s mother tripped in one of the potholes recently and he asked me to see if I could do something about the road so I took a look at it, took some pictures and reported it to Telford & Wrekin Council.  A few weeks later and no news so I called and reported it – this time getting an email confirming that a job had been created.

Last week I was away on holiday so I took a look today and the pothole people have been round and filled in some holes.  Not all the holes, just a few of them with no apparent rhyme or reason for leaving the ones they have.

Clearly this isn’t an acceptable road repair – if it wasn’t for the paint still on the road and the fact the tarmac hasn’t faded to grey you wouldn’t know it had been repaired just days ago.  If they repaired all the potholes and damaged road surface then they would have virtually resurfaced the whole road.  It’s already a patchwork of previous repairs and needs resurfacing.  It’s not a busy stretch of road as it only serves the garages so a cheap surface dressing should be enough.

I put this to the Highways department at the council today and was told there isn’t any money to resurface, surface dress or even fill all the holes in that stretch of road.  It’s August and budgets run from April to April so are we really expected to believe that there is no money in the budget for an hour’s work surface dressing 50yds of uneven, unsafe road that has already caused an elderly lady to trip and fall?

I drove back from Wellington today via Dawley and marvelled at the lovely, recently resurfaced Cock Hotel lights junction.  There is money to pay for that stretch of road to be surfaced apparently.  I was less impressed by the “metalled” surface on Dawley Road between the white church and the Livian Autos island (it’s a noisy road surface) but impressed nonetheless that they’ve managed to find some money in the budget to pay for resurfacing that half a mile stretch of road.

So there’s money in the budget for major road resurfacing in Dawley and Wellington but not to resurface 50yds of road in Brookside?  That’s not good enough.

Posted in Councillors, Telford News Tagged with: ,

UKIP Telford & Wrekin raising the bar for online engagement

UKIP Telford & Wrekin launched it’s new website (this one, obviously) a couple of weeks ago and paid some more attention to or previously low-key twitter account at the same time.

So how do we compare to the other parties in Telford & Wrekin?

Let’s take a look at the tories first. They created a Twitter account a few weeks ago to cover both their constituency associations of Telford & the Wrekin and currently have 8 (yes, eight) followers. Perhaps it’s because they mostly tweet about national Conservative Party news which most people in Telford really aren’t going to be interested in or maybe Twitter users in Telford just aren’t interested in what the Tories have to say? The Telford & Wrekin Facebook page has 20 likes.

What about their websites? The Tories have a website for Telford and another for the Wrekin. The Telford website hasn’t been updated for over a month and that was about the West Mercia political police commissioner election. There are no upcoming events and no local manifesto. The Wrekin website has a bit more information on it but still hasn’t been updated since May and the only upcoming event is a fundraiser in Ludlow for the aforementioned police commissioner election. The imprint on the Wrekin Conservatives website doesn’t comply with electoral law which is a bit of a silly mistake to make. Both websites claim that the Conservatives are the most democratic party in the country because they allow members to vote on party matters after 3 months. UKIP members can vote as soon as their membership has been processed as long as they join in time for ballot papers to be printed which by the Conservatives’ definition makes us the most democratic party in the UK. Thanks for clarifying that guys.

The Telford Labour Party website redirects to David Wright MPs website if you happen across some of their old, out-of-date content from a Google search. If there is a website for the Labour Party in Telford & Wrekin then it’s so obscure that we can’t find it! They also don’t appear to want to do Twitter either, presumably something to do with David Wright’s Twitter “hack” scandal. Telford & Wrekin Labour seem to rely entirely on David Wright MP and Telford & Wrekin Council to promote themselves which is an interesting approach. Telford Labour has 254 friends on Facebook.

Wrekin & Telford Lib Dems have a website “updated regularly with local Lib Dem news”. Last updated in September 2010. Perhaps they’re waiting for some good news? The Lib Dems also don’t do Twitter and the imprint on their website also doesn’t comply with electoral law. The Lib Dems also have no local manifesto. Telford & Wrekin Lib Dems has 5 likes on Facebook.

The Green Party has no website or Twitter account for Telford and there are no contacts or news on the West Midlands Green Party website. The BNP don’t have a Telford website or Twitter account as they can only manage one branch for the whole of Shropshire. The English Democrats also have no website or Twitter account and to the best of our knowledge, only one member in the borough. Neither party has a local manifesto. None of these 3 are on Facebook.

So how does Telford & Wrekin UKIP compare? We are the only party in Telford & Wrekin that publishes a local manifesto. We have 32 likes on our Facebook page which is hardly spectacular but still more than the Tories. We have 183 followers on Twitter and our website was last updated just 2 days ago. So we’re the only party in Telford & Wrekin with a published plan for what we would do for Telford, and we make more effort to engage with people through social media than any other party. All we need now is the opportunity to show residents of Telford & Wrekin how UKIP councillors can make life in Telford better!

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UKIP Deputy Leader backs grammar schools

UKIP Deputy Leader, Paul Nuttall, has written to a local newspaper calling for a grammar school for Knowsley in Merseyside.

UKIP party policy is for a return of the grammar school system so that the brightest children can receive an education that will take advantage of their natural academic ability.. UKIP Telford & Wrekin share this belief in giving children an education that suits their abilities rather than losing them in the one-size-fits-all education system which is why we have an additional grammar school as one of our policies in our local manifesto for Telford.

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Welsh road signs to be replaced thanks to UKIP Telford & Wrekin

Contractors carrying out roadworks in Telford have agreed to replace dual language Welsh/English roadsigns free of charge after UKIP Telford & Wrekin contacted the council to highlight the detrimental impact on road safety caused by dual language signs, especially where the first language on the sign isn’t English.

It’s not unusual to see dual language temporary road signs in Telford with the Welsh border being so close (relatively speaking) but the practice has to stop and Telford & Wrekin Council need to issue contractors with guidelines on the use of temporary signs in the borough.

Almost all road signs contain a picture because pictures are universally understood whereas the written word isn’t. Additional instructions or information are written underneath. In Wales, it is written in English and Welsh and which language comes first depends on the local authority. This obviously makes the signage less safe because the extra few seconds it takes to figure out which text you’re meant to be reading is an extra few seconds you’re not concentrating on the road. In Wales they have two languages in everyday use so dual language signs make sense (although not the inconsistency) but in England we only have one so they don’t.

It only takes a few seconds of inattention to run someone over or hit the back of a car and there is enough street furniture clutter already without the added complication of Welsh language road signs in Telford!

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Putting taxpayers money to good use

The saga of the sale of Telford & Wrekin Council’s civic offices to Asda is a long one which I won’t go into here but things are moving along now and Telford & Wrekin are getting ready to move into their offices.

The council has purchased Addenbrooke House in Ironmasters Way – until recently occupied by HMRC – to use as its new civic offices.  It’s in a great location in the town centre area, on a busy walkway between the train station and the town centre and almost within touching distance of their Darby House office.  It has good communication links, a large car park and a staff restaurant on the ground floor.  The outside of the building is a bit dirty though and it could do with a good wash down.  But why wash a building when you can paint it?  White.  In the rain.  That’s a better use of taxpayers money, surely?

Addenbrooke House being painted

And I won’t go into the pay & display car park they’re operating from Addenbrooke House without planning permission, fining visitors to Telford who parked there to see the Olympic torch coming through town.  Not yet anyway.

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Do the Tories have a right to your vote?

Conservative borough councillor, Stephen Burrell, made the bizarre suggestion on Twitter the other day that UKIP shouldn’t contest elections in Telford because we split their vote and let Labour win.

When challenged, he then went on to say that UKIP has no purpose in local government.

Councillor Burrell’s attitude is common amongst Tories who see UKIP as stealing votes that they have a right to expect.  They divide all votes into two: the left wing vote which goes to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens and the right wing vote that goes to the  Conservatives.  Anyone who tries to upset this cosy arrangement is in league with the devil.  Or Ed Miliband, which is much the same thing.

There is the equally arrogant belief that anyone who doesn’t support either Labour or the Conservatives should cast a “tactical” vote based on who they believe to be the lesser of two evils and that anyone who supports UKIP should consider the Tories to be preferable to Labour.  Most UKIPpers hold the Tories and Labour in equal contempt and couldn’t choose between the two.

Do the Tories have a right to your vote?

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There is no such thing as a tactical vote: if you vote for someone you don’t want because you don’t want someone else to win then you’ll end up with someone you don’t want.  It’s also a lazy assumption that UKIP supporters are disaffected Tories who would consider a Conservative a better proposition than a Labour candidate.  There are a great many UKIPpers that have never voted Conservative, that are on the left politically and some who aren’t even eurosceptic!  Young Independence (the youth wing of UKIP) is doing particularly well at attracting new members at colleges and universities where they have often never voted before, let alone been members of another party.

UKIP will continue to stand in elections in Telford & Wrekin and elsewhere in the country, whether it means depriving a Conservative of a win or not.  We are not a pressure group trying to force a change Tory policy on the EU, we are a political party with a more comprehensive local and national manifesto than the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems that intends to win elections and one day form a government.

There is a simple solution for Councillor Burrell and any of his colleagues that are concerned that UKIP competing for the same votes as the Tories will result in Labour wins – we will happily let Telford & Wrekin Conservatives know which elections we are contesting so they can stand aside.

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Telford & Wrekin Council putting broadband funding at risk

Originally posted at: Stuart Parr for Brookside

Back in August last year I wrote a bit of a round-up on broadband internet provision in Brookside and mentioned £8m of funding to improve internet access in Shropshire, including Telford & Wrekin.

Rather disappointingly, Telford & Wrekin Council are one of only six local authorities in England that have failed to agree a plan for spending the available funding with the British government after apparently withdrawing from the county-wide plan and intending to go it alone.

According to the British government, everyone has a “right” to 2mbit internet as a minimum and this is what the funding is for.  I doubt there is anywhere in Brookside that is incapable of getting 2mbit broadband but that doesn’t mean people in Brookside wouldn’t benefit from improved internet access elsewhere in the borough – it could be keeping in touch with friends and relatives in rural parts of the borough, getting a job with someone who’s been able to start their own business thanks to a good internet connection or even getting an order for your own business from someone who’s been able to start up their own business because of the investment in broadband.

So come on Telford & Wrekin, pull your finger out and get this money while it’s still available.

Posted in Councillors, Telford News Tagged with: , ,