David Watts writes: May I apologise that there hasn’t been a newsletter for the past couple of weeks and may I also thank everyone who sent goodwill messages during my wife’s illness.
Thankfully Gill is now out of hospital and in recovery.
1. Council Tax
The Borough Council approved their budget on Wednesday which includes massive cuts and withdrawals from reserves. During the time that I was in a senior leadership position on the council I insisted that we maintain a sensible level of reserves but it looks like the Conservative administration are going to spend that all in one year. They plan to reduce reserves from £4.3m to a dangerously low £1.6m. The Liberal Democrats proposed a modest 1.99% increase in council tax which would have cost a Band D council tax payer £3.25 pa.
Labour proposed a council tax freeze and absolutely no savings at all which would have reduced reserves to below the statutory minimum of £1.5 million. If you rent a garage from the council then the rent will be going up by 40%, and they are closing the cash offices and public toilets. This again is a major change in direction to the previous administration as I had obtained a commitment from the council to install a Changing Places disabled toilet in Beeston. These are a radical design in toilets for people with disabilities and have a life-changing impact on users. It is deeply disappointing that this plan has been abandoned.
On the County Council, which makes up the vast majority of the council tax that we pay, tax will be going up by 3.9%. Two percent of the increase is earmarked for funding social care for adults. Here the three main parties worked together to prepare this budget so it was a bit of a surprise when the Conservatives, who had been a full part of this and had agreed all the proposals in advance, then voted against it in the council chamber. To add to the financial hit that local residents will face the Fire Authority have raised their precept by 1.95%.
2. By Elections
The Conservatives won both the Greasley and Toton by elections so congratulations to the two new councillors. There was encouragement for the Liberal Democrats with big swings to us in both seats (21% in Toton and 10% in Greasley).
Just after the by elections the Conservatives on the borough council voted to grant planning permission for a massive development on green belt land in Toton. This was despite their pre-election claims that they would stop any building on the green belt. They maintained the 500 houses which had been proposed by the previous Lib-Dem/Labour administration but they have added a huge area allocated for industrial development as well.
4. Combined Authority
A number of local authorities in Notts and Derbyshire are continuing to press ahead with plans for a combined authority including a directly elected mayor, despite a number of others wanting to pull out of the scheme. Those councils which have pressed ahead, including Broxtowe, have committed to paying
£135,000 in staff costs to develop the proposals. The Liberal Democrats remain firmly opposed to any proposals to impose a new council structure on people where they are not given a say. When Nottingham City proposed having an elected mayor the public rejected the idea in a referendum, and it seems utterly wrong that the Government and local authorities should now impose it on us.
5. Messy Church
Wollaton Road Methodist Church in Beeston will be holding their next Messy Church session on Saturday 26th March from 3.30 to 5.30pm. This is a free event and designed to present the Christian faith in a child and family friendly way.
Everyone is welcome to attend and more details can be obtained from 07716 123193.
6. Sunnyside Spencer Academy
Work has now begun on constructing a new school at the Sunnyside spencer Academy in Gt Hoggett Drive in Chilwell. The new school will cost £2.6 million to build and should be open for the start of the new school year in September.
It will hold 236 children and will also include a 26 space nursery.
7. Hickings Lane
New yellow lines are to be painted on Hickings Lane around the junction with Washington Drive. These should be installed within the next few weeks after local residents supported the proposals.
8. Mayoral Badges
An interesting argument has broken out on Stapleford Town Council after a Conservative Councillor proposed that they spend £2,500 on badges for former mayors. Many local authorities do this, and so the proposal was not unusual (albeit it should hardly be the top priority for a council when the Government are still making massive cuts to funding). The interesting part of the argument is that the councillor then denied ever having suggested this in the first place. A freedom of information request revealed his email and made it clear that he did make the request. One would hope that the Conservative Party would take action over such blatant dishonesty but I’m not holding my breath for this.
9. Stem Cell Donors
A blood cancer charity has appealed for young men in Nottinghamshire to join up as stem cell donors. The Anthony Nolan Trust has more than 52,000 men on its register but just 20% of these are young men. They are particularly in need of males between 16 and 30 years of age. To sign up or for more details visit www.anthonynolan.org/MarchoftheMen.
10. Secondary School Pupils
Last week year six children in Broxtowe found out which secondary schools they had been allocated to. The County Council have announced that 93.8% of children received their first choice school, which was slightly down on the position last year. In total 8,002 pupils applied for places and 7,509 received their first choice place.
11. MP’s Expenses
There was an article in the Daily Mirror this week reporting the results of an investigation that they have carried out into the amounts MP’s spent during last years general election campaign. There are set limits about what can be spent and the Daily Mirror claimed that Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry was one of 24 MP’s who breached the rules and spent more than they should. It is right to say that Anna Soubry denied this, but according to the Daily Mirror she spent £1,250 more than the limits allowed.
12. Beeston Post Office
I reported a few weeks ago about the Post Office’s plans to close the post office on Chilwell Road in Beeston Centre and move it into a local shop. Now 4,000 local residents have signed a petition against this proposal which was presented to the Borough Council last week.
As ever thank you for your support for this newsletter. Any feedback is gratefully received.