Tuesday 16 April 2013

Where next for Whittlesey?

The Combination of the Sainsbury Planning application (and everything that comes with it), an enhanced Town Centre and a bridge over Kings Dyke Crossing will mean Whittlesey is likely to take some major steps forward in the next few years.

One of the reasons I want to be re-elected is because of my desire to ensure that the momentum that has been built up continues and we see these important projects to fruition.  But elections also provide an opportunity to demonstrate that you have ideas for the area you represent and to set out what you want to achieve, so I want to use this blog post to put forward some other thoughts.

For a start, there are other projects for Whittlesey that also need to continue, there is a Station improvement project that other Councillors are working on in the Town, and we are trying to put on some pressure to increase the number of trains that stop at the Station (ably supported by Stephen Barclay MP).  We also need to make sure we keep the pressure on Stagecoach to improve bus services for Whittlesey.  I really think Stagecoach are missing a trick with Whittlesey and if they don't find a way of delivering a decent evening service soon, someone else will step in and fill the gap.  Off course, I will always argue the case for a bypass for Whittlesey, because that is the ultimate solution to our road problems. I also want to continue working on some ideas that Stephen Barclay, Cllr Gary Swan, a few residents and I have had some discussions about, relating to improving the situation around the B1040 and its flooding.

But there are some more basic issues that we still need to get to the bottom of and I want to try some new ways of consulting with residents on a street by street basis to identify priorities and find solutions: it is just not good enough for anyone to say "speeding is a problem and the solution is Speedwatch" when there is quite clearly significant resident concern about Speedwatch, the answer is to talk to residents more, ask for their solutions and then work with the authorities to get those solutions delivered.

Of course, Councillors and Councils should have a good idea of what does work and what has worked in other areas, but that should feed in to solutions, not dictate them.

Here are a few of these basic issues that we need to focus on and find long term solutions:

Speeding in housing estates
Parking aground schools (and indeed in a few other problem areas).
Dog fouling

These are not issues that I have ignored in the past, I have raised and got short term action on all of them.  I just think it is time to try a different approach,  to find out what is going to deliver permanent solutions. This is easier said than done, all of these issues are caused by people, often people behaving badly, so the solutions have to be a combination of prevention, punishment and new thinking.

Why is this important for the election?  I am an experienced councillor, I have a record of delivery and I know the way the system works. I have good links with organisations like the  Local Government Association and I have worked hard over the last few years on how to make consultation work.  I was a first-time candidate once, so I know how easy it is to make promises during election campaigns and I know how easy it is to leap up and down once elected to demand action.  But, all too often, that action deals with the immediate problem but does nothing to solve it in the long term.  I am not saying there is anything wrong with a quick fix, just that this is half the solution, and I believe it will take a Councillor with real experience and contacts to work in the way that is needed.

One of the pledges I am making in my next correspondence to residents is that I will continue to stand up for Whittlesey; Whittlesey is my home, I will always do that, but I believe I can do that with authority and with a real knowledge of how local government works both in Cambridgeshire and Nationally. It is that experience that will continue to move Whittlesey forwards.

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