Election

Southend Liberal Democrats have remembered there’s an election on…


paul collins

It looks like my friendly reminder last week helped: Southend Liberal Democrats seem to have remembered that there’s an election in May, and have selected Paul Collins as their candidate for Southend West — with only 109 days left until polling day…

Paul, some may remember, was a councillor for Westborough ward until last year, when he suffered a pretty heavy defeat to Labour’s Kevin Robinson. His was the name my little birds consistently brought back to me as the Lib Dem candidate-to-be — though, interestingly, Leigh councillor Carole Mulroney was also mentioned — and to be fair to him, he wasn’t a bad councillor. Certainly there was much on which I agreed with him during his time in the chamber.

But voters of Southend West would do well to look at Paul and his party’s rhetoric, and compare it to their propping up the Tories in government and voting for the bedroom tax; trebling tuition fees; slashing benefits for the disabled; and a host of other illiberal, unfair measures. They would do well to look at the Liberal Democrats’ record in government, and then go and vote for Labour’s Julian Ware-Lane, the real alternative to the Conservatives and David Amess in Southend West.

The Thames Valley Police Commissioner results (and what they mean)


So, it’s all over. The votes have been counted, collated, and are in the process of being picked over by those sad individuals with nothing better to do with their time (such as myself). But Anthony Stansfeld has been elected as the first Police and Crime Commissioner, so congratulations are due to him.

Below I have assembled a breakdown of the results by candidate and first/second preference. I feel mine are more accurate than the BBC’s, as for reasons best known to themselves they have decided not to include the spoilt ballot figures. Personally, I think spoilt ballots making up over 3% of the total vote is worthy of mention, but anyway:

Name 1st pref 2nd pref Mandate
STANSFELD, Anthony (CON) 76,011 — 33.60% 94,238 — 54.76% 7.28%
STARKEY, Tim (LAB) 56,631 — 25.00% 70,403 — 40.91%
HOWARD, Geoff (IND) 31,716 — 14.00%
HOWSON, John (LD) 20,511 — 9.05%
COOPER, Barry (UKIP) 19,324 — 8.53%
AWE, Patience Tayo (IND) 14,878 — 6.57%
SPOILT 7,445 — 3.29% 7,445 — 4.33%
Total 226,516 172,086

So there you have it. The turnout was a mere (and embarrassing) 13.3%, which is the lowest turnout I’ve ever seen in an election. When I say that Commissioner Stansfeld has the support of only 7.28% of people in the Thames Valley, it’s not sour grapes, but an underscoring of the real winner of these elections: voter apathy.

Thames Valley voters simply did not turn out on Thursday, and from everything I’ve heard it’s simply because they do not believe that we should have an elected Police Commissioner.

I am, of course, disappointed that Tim Starkey did not win. I wasn’t in favour of the role, but I thought he was definitely the best candidate and would have made the best job of it (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). It was always going to be a long shot, but still. Disappointed.

And more disappointment over the Liberal Democrat candidate only polling in fourth. Don’t get me wrong, normally hardship for Clegg’s party would be a cause for giggles (and many hearty giggles were had over their losing their deposit in Corby), but John Howson lost out to “Independent” Geoff Howard, a man who has formerly been a member of Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP, and who offered absolutely nothing to voters. I am forced to conclude that he garnered many votes simply because he ran as an independent.

I’m a touched surprised that UKIP’s Barry Cooper didn’t do better than he did. Possibly it was his views on police armament which hurt him, or maybe all of the fringe-right eurosceptics stayed at hime. It’s hard to tell really.

But none of it changes the outcome. After what has frankly been a disaster of an election (and of policy execution) Anthony Stansfeld will head the Thames Valley Police until May 2016. I still have a great many concerns about him, and I worry that he will be a model of unaccountability in the role — which is ironic, really.

Hopefully he won’t now be refusing interviews with the media and refusing to answer questions put to him, but I have my doubts. At any rate, with the support of only 7.28 of his constituents, and offering no concrete policies in his campaign to boot, I am adamant that he has no mandate at all for radical changes to policing. And you can be sure I will call him out if he attempts any.

I suspect that, regardless, he has just been made a patsy for police cuts to come and rising crime as a result. But his success would benefit all of us, and is in all our interests. So I wish him the very best of luck. I reckon he’ll need it.

Who I’m voting for as Thames Valley PCC


The Police and Crime Commissioner elections are upon us at last, and now in the absence of Jim Gordon on the slate (more’s the pity) we must decide who we’re going to vote for.

I’ve already made up my mind. In fact, I decided in the aftermath of the public debate in Finchampstead. So to help anyone who us still undecided, I’m going to share my choices and the reasoning behind them.

Just as a note: PCCs will be elected by a supplementary vote system, meaning you can vote for a first and second preference (if no candidate achieves 50% of first preferences, all the top two go through to the next stage, and the second preferences of the rest of the candidate’s supporters are distributed). Like many other supporters of AV in 2011, I will be using both votes.

So, in reverse order, my thoughts on each candidate, culminating in the two I’m voting for:

Patience Awe, one of the two independent candidates, was supremely unimpressive, and has been so throughout the campaign. She has systematically failed to give any reason to vote for her, barring her IT experience. That is, to me, not sufficient reason to warrant giving her my vote, and I do not feel policing would be safe in her hands. I will not be voting for Patience.

Geoffrey Howard is the other independent, and although he has a very long CV, he has also been less than impressive. His primary selling point seems to be that he is a magistrate (both laudable and relevant) and that he is an independent candidate. But Mr Howard has left off that he has previously been a member of three political parties, and aside from rhetoric seems to have few ideas for the role. At the Finchampstead debate, he did not contribute beyond an opening statement – I’m not sure how that fits with his pledge to “make the role accountable to the public”. I will not be voting for Geoffrey.

(This is a shame. I do not believe that the PCC role should be party political, and thus to have no independent candidates of merit is another nail in the coffin of the policy)

Anthony Stansfeld, as regular readers of my blog will know, is the Conservative Party candidate. He has a very impressive business and army CV, and has served on the Police Authority — even if his claims about his achievements in that position feel a bit far-fetched. I don’t agree with his politics, though I know there are many who will, but for me it’s his cavalier attitude to transparency that is most troubling. Questions still remain over his declared interests, which he has repeatedly failed to clear up despite opportunities to do so. I will not be voting for Anthony.

Barry Cooper, the UKIP candidate, is the surprising and alarming entry at third place on my rundown. First off, I disagree with UKIP’s reactionary and diversive politics more even than the Conservatives. But Barry did present himself as at least having some clue what the role would entail and what he’d do with it. He was articulate and confident, and in the end it is only his politics and his views on police armament which put me off. I will not be voting for Barry.

John Howson is the Liberal Democrat candidate. Many other Labour supporters (as well as independent voters) have been aghast at the idea of voting for a Lib Dem after all the damage that they’re doing in government. I find it a touch distasteful too, but I have two votes and that’s two opportunities to deny the role to a right-wing candidate who would pursue policies I disagree with intensely. At Finchampstead, John was imaginative, confident and exuded the kind of competence I believe essential to this role. I will be giving my second preference to John.

Which leaves only the Labour candidate, Tim Starkey. I know that most readers will be entirely unsurprised at my support for him, but truthfully he has it because he has convinced me that he is the best man for the job. I don’t like the idea of PCCs, and had one of them been best for the job I would have had no qualms about voting for an independent. But Tim has the experience of the justice system and victims of crime necessary to make the best of this role, and has shown that he has the policy ideas to improve policing in the Thames Valley. In particular, he has been the only one to focus on lesser noticed crimes like domestic violence. I will be giving my first preference to Tim.

So there you have it. Whether you’re surprised or not, those are my choices and the reasons behind them. I urge voters in the Thames Valley to use the final few days before the vote to read up on the candidates, and put questions to them if possible. Above all, I urge all of you to go out and vote on Thursday. Like it or not, Police and Crime Commissioners are happening. Abstention is only abdication of your choice and responsibility.

Why you need to vote for your Police Commissioner


The below is the text of a letter I wrote, published in the present Wokingham Times, in response to an earlier letter written by Green Party activist Marjory Bisset. In it, Marjory calls on Wokingham residents to boycott the Police Commissioner elections in protest against their imposition.

As you will see below, this is not a position with which I agree.

I was, I must admit, somewhat surprised to read Marjory Bisset’s letter in last week’s Wokingham Times advocating, on behalf of the Green Party, a boycott of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. Whilst I share her scepticism about the new position, hers is, unfortunately, a position lacking pragmatism.

That these elections are going to happen is an unavoidable truth. Elected police commissioners are a Conservative policy and the Conservative Party has its eye on taking control of as many police forces as possible – including in the Thames Valley.

Over the last two and a half years I think we’ve seen all we need to of Tory policing policy. Budget cutbacks, accompanied by nonsense about not cutting the “front lines”, even as we see those front lines suffering. The former Chief Whip’s comments have shown just what the Tories think of police officers – and, indeed, the rest of us “plebs”.

As for the Conservative candidate in the Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld, his website demonstrates he is a man bankrupt of ideas to improve policing, and with neither the experience nor the imagination to have any. Indeed, his one policy that I have been able to find so far is that the new Police Commissioner should have a dedicated car and chauffeur. Whose priorities are these?

Residents of Wokingham should think carefully about whether this is a man, and a party, they want in control of their police force. If not, then the answer is not to boycott the vote – an action which can only hand victory to the Conservatives – but to read the policy pledges of the other candidates, and turn out to vote on November 15th.

Matthew S. Dent

Twyford & District Labour Party

You’ll only get one chance to make this choice. After November 15th, you’ll be stuck with the winner for three and a half years. Take this opportunity. Use your vote to choose the best candidate.

Glass Houses and Throwing Stones


Owen Jones — a man talking an enormous amount of sense in the debate on trades union and strike ballot thresholds.

There was an interesting moment on last week’s version of Any Questions, Radio 4’s political panel show (think Question Time, but on the radio and with a different Dimbleby), there was an interesting little exchange regarding strike ballots.

In response to a question about the PCS trade union calling a strike for the day before the Olympics begin, and coming immediately after a spout of reactionary, right-wing nonsense from Kelvin MacKenzie (if not the most insufferable and repugnant men in the media today, then certainly one of), the microphone came to Owen Jones. After he had corrected Kelvin on the reasons for the strike, and doing a sterling job explaining why the workers had no choice, Jonathan Dimbleby asked him this question:

JD: “Does the fact that only 20% were balloted, and only 50% of the 20% were in favour of strike action, weigh with you or not?

OJ: “That would strike out a lot of elected politicians in this country including Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

Which, aside from being very true, is an interesting point. If we take practising what they preach as the standard that our politicians should be aspiring to, then the people calling for the introduction of strike ballot thresholds should, themselves, surely be commanding a majority of the overall electorate in their constituencies. Right?

So I decided to check. I started with the elected politicians in the cabinet, calculating how much of their electorates voted for them. I’ve put the turnout for each MP’s constituency there too, just for added context, and have colour coded the results: green for half or more of the vote; orange for less than half but more than a third; and red for less than a third. All results are rounded to one decimal place, and you are welcome — nay, encouraged — to check my maths:

Name Position

Turnout (%)

Support of total electorate (%)

David Cameron Prime Minister

73.3

43.1

George Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer

70.6

38.5

Nick Clegg Deputy Prime Minister

73.7

39.4

William Hague Foreign Secretary

67.2

42

Iain Duncan Smith SoS for Work and Pensions

66.5

35.1

Vince Cable SoS for Business Skills and Innovation

74.8

40.7

Danny Alexander Chief Secretary to the Treasury

64.9

26.4

Theresa May Home Secretary

73.7

43.9

Michael Gove SoS for Education

70.0

40.3

Eric Pickles SoS for Communities and Local Government

71.9

40.9

Justine Greening SoS for Transport

64.4

34.1

Ed Davey SoS for Energy and Climate Change

70.4

35.1

Andrew Lansley SoS for Health

74.8

35.5

Ken Clarke SoS for Justice

73.6

37.7

Philip Hammond SoS for Defence

66.4

37.1

Caroline Spelman SoS for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

63.3

32.7

Owen Paterson SoS for Northern Ireland

65.7

33.8

Cheryl Gillan SoS for Wales

74.6

45.1

Jeremy Hunt SoS for Culture, Media and Sport

73.4

43.1

Michael Moore SoS for Scotland

66.4

30.1

Andrew Mitchell SoS for International Development

67.9

36.7

Francis Maude Minister for the Cabinet Office

72.1

38.0

Oliver Letwin Minister of State in the Cabinet Office

74.6

35.5

David Willetts Minister of State for Universities and Science

63.0

32.2

Sir George Young Leader of the House of Commons

69.6

40.6

Patrick McLoughlin Chief Whip in the House of Commons

73.8

38.4

Dominic Grieve Attorney General

70.0

42.8

There’s a distinct lack of green in that table, isn’t there?

And bear in mind that these are cabinet ministers, the leading politicians of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Most of them represent “safe seats” where they far outstrip the nearest rival candidates. Backbenchers who represent more marginal constituencies are going to command even less support.

So, after this enlightening little revelation, I thought I’d do a bit more. Below is a second table, showing the same information with a number of other elected politicians who have called for or expressed support for introducing a rule requiring a ballot on industrial action to reach a threshold level of support in order to be valid.

(N.B. Aidan Burley is the chairman of the “Trade Union Reform Campaign”, an organisation dedicated to attacking the trades union, and staffed by a variety of comic characters, of whom Burley is by far the most tragically hilarious.)

Name Position

Turnout (%)

Support of total electorate (%)

Boris Johnson Mayor of London

38.1

19.6

Matthew Hancock MP for West Suffolk

64.6

32.7

Aidan Burley MP for Cannock Chase, Chairman of the TURC

61.1

24.5

Dominic Raab MP for Esher and Walton

72.0

42.4

Priti Patel MP for Witham

70.2

36.6

Nick de Bois MP for Enfield North

67.1

28.4

Conor Burns MP for Bournemouth West

58.1

26.2

Damian Green Minister of State for Immigration

67.9

36.7

Still no green. And a good deal more red.

Now, I actually agree that there’s a problem with the turnout in the PCS ballot. But the solution isn’t curbing the democracy of the unions, but trying to encourage better participation in the democratic process. Owen Jones himself went on to suggest a number of good, constructive ideas:

What we need to do is change our very stringent anti-union laws to allow workplace based balloting, to ensure as many workers can take part as possible. Text balloting, email balloting. At the moment the problem is with the postal ballot system, is that most people don’t get round to filling out their postal ballot and sending it off.

Maybe I’m just a dangerous lefty subversive, but I think there’s a certain irony in people who don’t have majority support complaining that the unions don’t have the support of the majority of their members. This kind of hypocrisy could be stemmed with the introduction of a more proportional voting system — but none of the Conservative politicians listed above supported such a move when it was put to a referendum in 2011.

There is a well-known proverbial saying, “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones“. And I think there are a lot of politicians on the government benches in the House of Commons who should think very carefully upon it.

Wokingham Election Results – An Analysis


The results of Wokingham’s 2012 local elections are in…

I’ve had a few hours now to reflect on the results of the Wokingham local elections, and to do some some fancy arithmetic with the numbers to get a full picture of how the votes played out across the borough.

There were a total of 31,630 votes cast between the hours of 7am and 10pm in the borough as a whole. I don’t yet have the information on turnout, but it doesn’t seem terribly good- probably around 30%. The weather contributed to this, doubtless, but there has been a slump in turnout across the country.

Here is a table of information on the election, showing the number of seats won by each party, the gains that it means for them, the total votes they received, and how that stands as a percentage of the overall vote (Note: I’ve rounded the percentage figures to one decimal place, which is why the total comes to 100.1%).

Seats Gains Votes Percentage
CON 13 -2 15,345 48.5%
LD 4 +1 7,643 24.2%
LAB 0 0 3,862 12.2%
GREEN 0 0 2,378 7.5%
UKIP 0 0 1,733 5.5%
IND 1 +1 496 1.6%
Spoilt 183 0.6%

There were 18 seats up for election this year, which is a third of the council, and the Tories lost two. Somehow (think #wokyrubbish) the Liberal Democrats managed to buck the national trend, and actually gain a seat in Winnersh. The independent Nick Ray (about whom I know embarrassingly, well, nothing) taking Charvil from Tory incumbent Emma Hobbes was the shock of the day really.

Firstly, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. I had held private hopes of Labour winning a seat- Greg Bello came agonisingly close in Bulmershe & Whitegates, and I maintain he would have been a superb representative. I’m also disappointed that I came third after a candidate who did no campaigning at all, but I did significantly increase my share of the vote. Thank you to everyone who came along to help me campaign, and especially to everyone who voted for me.

The results show, I think, Labour as the solid third party of the borough. The Greens get fourth place, largely out of the number of candidates they stood (they didn’t poll badly, but only Marjorie Bisset in Shinfield South posed any serious challenge). I’m still waiting for any signs of this supposed UKIP breakthrough.

There are several lessons I take from these results with regard to improving Labour’s performance. The first is that we need to stand a full slate of candidates. We can’t be seen as a credible challenger in the borough unless we’re fielding candidates all across it.

Secondly, there was a distinct lack of canvassing all across Wokingham. I worked hard knocking doors and distributing leaflets, and so did my opponents (well, one of them did). But many of the returned Conservative councillors didn’t do a thing by all accounts. There are so many votes that are there to be picked up, if only we could run even a minimal campaign- and not to mention a get the vote out operation.

The next election isn’t until 2014, so that gives us two years to look at what needs to be done, and take steps to do it. Labour is here in Wokingham, and we’re not going away any time soon.

An Election Day Letter to the People of Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe


Dear residents

Today is the day; election day. And the polls are now open, the ballot papers are now read, and I sincerely hope that somewhen in the next fifteen hours you will all be making your way to the polling station to cast your votes.

I have spent the last few weeks working hard, talking to you and distributing leaflets, and offering my policies and stances on the local issues that matter to you. I sadly haven’t managed to speak to all of you, but most of you will by now have seen my leaflet. And if you haven’t, and would still like to, I have made it available online here.

I wanted to take this last opportunity to simply remind you of the importance of your ballot paper. When you stand in the polling booth, you will hold in your hands the power to influence the course that your local government takes. And it is your local government. I know it hasn’t always felt like that, I know that the council haven’t listened to your views, your concerns, your opinions.

But the ballot box is the one thing they cannot ignore.

I have laid out the changes I would make, and how I would conduct myself differently if elected as your councillor. I would put your views and interests first, and I would push the council to consult more and listen more.

The disaster that has been the new rubbish scheme has shown what happens when council stagnates. There is no meaningful debate of ideas, and the assumption that those in power are right presides. The new scheme has been proved ill thought out from the start, and the Conservatives must accept blame for it.

I humbly ask you, today, for your trust, your support and your vote. Throughout this campaign I have tried my utmost to maintain an atmosphere of honesty (I was not afraid to hold my hands up when I got things wrong) and keep the focus on local issues that are within the ambit of the local authority. This is what I would strive to maintain in office.

With that said, I invite you to examine my policies once more. Besides my leaflet, I have made my own views and policies fully available on this blog, and you can read through those blogs here.

I thank you for the time you have invested in reading this, and all of the thousands of other words I have written.

Matthew S. Dent

Labour and Co-operative Party candidate

Remenham, Wargrave & Ruscombe

Not Fit for Purpose


Cllr Gary Cowan and council waste boss Peter Baveystock proudly show off their new stealth tax wheeze- the green waste bins.

We’re on the eve of the local elections now, and as it’s almost alarming that it’s here so quickly. This has been an exciting election campaign, charged by the fact that people have a fair amount that they want to discuss with the candidates who come to talk to them.

By far the most popular subject is the new rubbish scheme, and I’m afraid the vast, overwhelming majority has not been positive. On the whole, single people and couples without children have no real problem with the scheme, whilst families with children are finding it impractical and unmanageable.

What’s become clear is that this is not simply teething problems. Yes, the execution has been awful. Bags the wrong size have been distributed, they have been carelessly left on doorsteps and stolen, and more than a month into the scheme there are still residents who haven’t received bags.

But the problems with the scheme run deeper than that. I have found myself largely focusing on the blue bags, but the green waste scheme is just as flawed. What was previously a free service now costs £60 (per year) for a brown bin or £1 each for individual compostable bin bags. 5,000 have reportedly signed up for the bins, which is much less than the council expected and has resulted in them halving the number of bins that they’ve ordered- from 10,000 to 20,000.

Let’s look at the money in this for a moment. With 5,000 bins sold at £60 each, the council have already received £300,000. Now, if we take away the cost to the council for each bin (which, after the local budget, we now know is a mere £25) and we get £175,000 profit. An extra £175k to plug the gap in finances created by a smoke-and-mirrors council tax freeze, by paying for a service which was previously paid for by that same council tax. 2,000 bags have been reportedly sold, so that’s £2,000 minus the 15p-per-bag cost to the council: £1,700. So that’s £176,700 made out of the scheme in the first month alone.

And this is just the first year. The charge is annual, but the bins are (I believe) for life. So whilst the first month of the scheme this year has raised £175k, if the same people renew their participation in the scheme next year the council will make the full £300k as profit. I defy anyone to explain to me how this isn’t a stealth tax.

Aside from that, there are the bin bags themselves. “Compostable” might work well as a buzz word, but as Jonny Vaughan pointed out you’re still creating something to be instantly disposed of. And given that they’re compostable, they will fall apart readily. I wonder what all this rain has been doing to them…

Finally, I’ll close with something else I’ve found. Three Mile Cross Info (a blog belonging to a resident of Three Mile Cross village) has posted a letter from the council, which seems to indicate that they are rethinking the legality (questionable at best) of the scheme.

…we have agreed that there will be a review of the collection services in the next few weeks and until then our contractors have been told to accept refuse in any form of plastic bag.

A review, in the next few weeks. Conveniently, just after the election. So here’s where your vote tomorrow counts. If Conservative candidates are returned on mass across the borough, the council will descend back below the parapets to ignore you all until 2014. The only way of smoking them out and making them listen is to hit them where it hurts: and elect non-Tory candidates.

Do not underestimate how much your vote tomorrow will count.

James Fort for Twyford


Here I share with you the election leaflet of James Fort, the Labour Party candidate for Twyford.

James is a hard-working local man, heavily involved in the local community. I do think that when choosing who to vote for, a candidate’s understanding of the locality is a very strong factor. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they have to live within the strict boundary of the ward or constituency, but a stranger to the area is beyond useless.

(As before, here’s a more basic download link, and a link to the leaflet on ElectionLeaflets.org)

This leaflet has been going out across Twyford this. If you haven’t received a copy yet, drop by and see us in the village centre on Saturday morning, where we’ll be handing them out and engaging with residents.

My Response to Cllr John Halsall


So I finally have a copy of the Conservative leaflet for Remenham, Wargrave and Ruscombe (thanks to the generosity and sense of fair play of Cllr Halsall himself), and can thus make my response to it.

At last year’s by-election there were five candidates, and so plenty of rival literature for me to blog about. This year only the three main parties are fielding candidates, and if my suspicions that the Lib Dems are focusing their attentions and resources elsewhere are true then this could be the only leaflet (other than my own) that residents see.

So on that note, what does it say?

[Here’s a slightly lower-tech download link, if Scribd isn’t working for you, or a link to the leaflet on ElectionLeaflets.org if you’d prefer not to download]

The first page has the usual ode to [insert local area here], which to be honest is more or less universally unobjectionable. An interesting addition is a vote of confidence from Theresa May, who “looks forward to working with him over the next four years“. I imagine she’d look forward less to working with me, but given her apparent failure to grasp elementary timekeeping, I might choose to take that as a compliment.

John is also described as “the LOCAL & EXPERIENCED choice”. Which presumably is a shot at my age. I’ll grant that he is more “experienced” than I am, but I’d dispute that age necessarily makes a better councillor. I’d counter that what the council needs is an injection of radical new ideas, that are a bit more grounded in common sense and reality than what the council has been producing lately.

Inside, we’re treated the usual (possibly obligatory?) refrain about how poor Wokingham is. This is the Tories’ first, last and only line of defence against criticism. They have to sell off the libraries/sell off social care/stealth tax residents/treat voters like mugs, because they’re the worst funded local authority in the world. I won’t take up words here dispelling that particular myth, but suffice it to say it isn’t quite as simple as that.

Moving forward, John has identified three key areas where he intends to focus his efforts if re-elected:

  • Roads and traffic: John has correctly identified parking as a problem, especially around the centre of the village. This has been a problem since before I moved to Wargrave, and boils down to two simple facts: too many cars, not enough space to park them. There isn’t a quick or easy fix to this one. Restrict parking, and whilst making residents happy you make local businesses unhappy. Leave it unrestricted, and residents have to compete with customers for parking space. This one is going to run and run.
  • Green belt and planning: John is concerned with the preservation of green-belt land around the village(s). This is a pleasant, rural area, and I imagine a lot of people would agree. I tend to be somewhere in the middle of the “build” and “don’t build” camps. I accept that there is a need for increased housing provision across the borough, but would rather not see my favourite views and walking routes paved over. Of course, what John doesn’t mention is that it’s actually the Conservative-led national government’s planning reforms that are threatening green belt land. Don’t just take it from me; that’s the opinion of the Daily Telegraph.
  • Wargrave library: I’ll admit, this made me giggle. “The Conservatives are committed to the Library service by improving the efficiency of service delivery whilst maintaining and bettering what is offered.” Oh really? Then why are you selling it off? And why, John, are you failing to address the concerns over privatisation, by offering only a bland, manufactured non-statement?

Have you noticed what’s missing though? For the last couple of months, the local press has been alive with the complaints of residents that the new waste scheme is unfit for purpose. I’ve written plenty on this, and have conversed with John himself on the matter by email. But all his leaflet has to say on the matter is that if elected he will:

Address the concerns of the new waste collection scheme

And that’s it. How, John? I’ve quite clearly laid out what I think the council should do. The scheme hasn’t just had teething problems, it has been conceptually flawed from the start. People on the doorstep are angry that this has been sprung on them and that no one is listening to their complaints. This won’t address anyone’s concerns- though I confess it’s a little better than a certain Winnersh candidate’s adamant insistence that the scheme is perfect.

As I’ve said before, I like John Halsall. He is a very nice man, and every time I have had occasion to converse with him he has been polite and a joy to talk to. Sadly, though, this election comes down to policy. I strongly suspect that John himself is displeased with the waste scheme, and the library plans, and a host of other WBC policies. But he’s been left no choice but to try to defend them.

Cllr John Halsall represents the status quo. I can’t promise that I will be able to right all the wrongs in Remenham, Wargave and Ruscombe, because I won’t. But I am the candidate for change, and a change is very definitely what is needed.