Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?




Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?
I did! I was elected as a Councillor for the Lynn South & West ward of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk on 5th May 2011.

A little bit about me:
I have lived in South Lynn for 7 years with my wife and work locally for the Norfolk Primary Care Trust as an IT Manager.

I am a Labour Councillor and whilst the local Labour group made some encouraging gains in the May elections (moving from 4 councillors to 13) we are still very much a minority opposition as the Tories hold 42 of the 64 council seats.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

An open letter to Oliver Letwin

Absolutely horrified this evening to read an article due to be published in tomorrow's Observer, as 'tweeted' by local reporter Chris Bishop (@chrismojo) the comments are very Tebbit-esque.

I set out my open letter to Letwin below....

Dear Mr Letwin

Having read your comments regarding the Public Sector in the Observer article of Sunday 31st August, I felt compelled to write to you to urge caution in what seems like a very cavalier attempt to drive up productivity in the Public Sector by increasing the fear factor.

As a dedicated Public Servant (with experience in Health, Education and Local Government) I have to tell you that age old adage about many public services being run on goodwill and sandwiches is true (or at least partly true - the hospitality budgets that paid for sandwiches for attendees at lunchtime meetings went long ago) and the effects of such a risky strategy might just be to destroy the last shreds of goodwill; when the Public Sector starts 'working to rule' it will quickly become apparent that productivity was never really the problem.

Successive re-organisations of Public Sector bodies have left morale in tatters and staff are never really given time to reach a normal level of productivity before the next re-organisation is announced and we all end up in a seemingly repetitive cycle. I can understand the rationale behind most of the re-organisations is to find better, more efficient, more productive ways of working and rightly so; after all we are all tax payers too and we should demand that our taxes are spent as wisely as possible, either to drive down the level of taxation or to drive up the level of service but I have to tell you that my experience is that services are not usually given enough time to produce the expected results before someone comes in and stomps all over the structures, frameworks, boundaries etc and kicks the whole cycle off again, the reason usually being given as the existing structure is not productive or efficient enough.

I am told anecdotally by a former colleague, an accomplished doctor at a large hospital trust, that his bigger fear for the future of the NHS is the attitude of junior doctors coming through the system when it comes to goodwill. Whereas when he was a junior doctor (within the last 15 years) it was the norm for his shift to finish when all the patients had been seen, today's juniors are showing signs of working to rule and, whilst not necessarily leaving patients to fend for themselves, are not as willing to put their personal lives on hold for the sake of 'the job'. I have to report that the same erosion of a sense of working for the 'public good' is happening in the other Public Service areas I come into contact with.

Perhaps this government could focus on helping the Public Sector realise its undoubted potential rather than completely dismantle it and try to drive up productivity in the remaining pieces with the kind of threats normally associated with feudal landowners.

Yours Faithfully

Gary

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Monday, July 25, 2011

£20m wind farm plans unveiled - Business - Lynn News

I attended an exhibition at Terrington St Clement this afternoon, held to give more information to local residents about the wind farm planned for Ongar Hill.

I am sure this will prove to be the next big contentious issue in West Norfolk (or perhaps the idea is to try and get it pushed through whilst the big bad spectre of an incinerator is taking up everyone's campaign energy) so wanted to find out more.

There were some very interesting mocked up photographs that showed how the wind farm would look from various aspects around the borough - though they all had the benefit of foliage on trees helping to obscure the view.

£20m wind farm plans unveiled - Business - Lynn News

Excellent left leaning column by right-thinking journalist

Hopefully this guy has got a hotline to George Osborn!

I'm starting to think that the Left might actually be right - Telegraph:

Norfolk County Council - Power and recycling centre consultation extended

News broke today of an extension in the consultation period for the Willows Power and Recycling Centre from 6 weeks to 8 weeks. The news came as the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk's Development Control Board voted unanimously to object to the County Council's plans on 13 different points.

The Borough Council will not determine whether the plans will go ahead but as a statutory consultee of the County Council's proposal (the County Council's own equivalent planning committee will make this decision, that is unless it is 'called in' by the Secretary of State) the output of this morning's meeting will constitute its response to the consultation.

The extension to the consultation period gives a little extra time for local residents to object to the planning application. Those against the incinerator are also encouraged to write to Caroline Spelman MP to encourage her to withhold the PFI credits that the proposal relies on and Eric Pickles MP asking him to call in the planning application.

Further details on how to object and how to write to the relevant Ministers can be found at the Farmer's Campaign website www.farmerscampaign.org

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Should Secretary of State decide King’s Lynn incinerator plan, asks new report - Politics - Eastern Daily Press

Interesting piece in today's EDP about the incinerator, those opposed should be encouraged to select the Secretary of State option in the online poll.

Should Secretary of State decide King’s Lynn incinerator plan, asks new report - Politics - Eastern Daily Press

More case work - Fences and Sludge

Quite a busy week in terms of case work, I continue to deal with Council officers regarding the building of a public footpath over a resident's land and have been asked to look into the building of a fence around the border of the play area opened in South Lynn last week and yesterday attended a meeting at the Anglian Water Treatment Works in West Lynn to discuss options for the future of transportation of sludge to this facility.

It was fascinating to learn more about the treatment works and to get an understanding of some of the issues and forward thinking solutions being mooted.

The treatment plant itself is one of only 4 currently within the Anglian Water region that processes the sludge by-product created at smaller waste treatment facilities, converting it into methane gas (which is used to power the whole operation and feeds a surplus into the grid) and biosolids which can be used as an alternative to agrochemicals on local farms.

The main issue it seems to face is that the sludge needs to be transported to the facility from the smaller facilities and this currently happens by road transport, big blue tankers, arriving via the Pullover roundabout (A47/A17), through West Lynn (along Clenchwarton Road) to Millenium Way (a road that had been built specifically to keep the traffic off Jubilee Bank Road on the edge of Clenchwarton) to Clockcase Lane which leads to the treatment facility.

Currently, the route down Clockcase Lane takes the traffic past 2 farmhouses at the Ferry road end.

High level options shown to us by Anglian water include the following:


  • Creation of a link road closer to West Lynn which would divert the traffic away from Clockcase Lane for the first 200 yards or so which would bring it all a lot closer to properties on the edge of West Lynn
  • Creation of a transfer station somewhere close to the Pullover roundabout so that vehicles could be emptied without having to travel through the villages with the sludge then being pumped by underground pipe to the treatment works.
  • Removal of much (but not all) of the road traffic by a system of barges, transferring sludge from smaller facilities/transfer stations at Ely (down the river Great Ouse), Wisbech (via the River Nene and out through the Wash), Boston (from the port of Boston) and Spalding (via the River Welland)


Obviously each option has its own pros and cons, for example the underground transfer pipe would be relatively expensive to implement and maintain but would remove a huge proportion of the traffic from the roads through both West Lynn (where it currently travels past the Poppyfields development) and Clockcase Lane. The Barge option would be very expensive to implement but reduces operating costs through reduction in road miles as well as helping toward a commitment to reduce carbon emmissions overall (the company's social conscience when talking about this option was very evident, quite refreshingly so!) and the link road option appears to just move the 'problem' about 50 yards further East and very much into the line of sight of a number of West Lynn residents.

I have taken away an action to make contact with Henry Bellingham MP to represent the views of the West Lynn Residents, many of whom feel that they are not being represented as the Treatment works (which are situated within West Lynn) have expanded in recent years and all current traffic flows through the village - this has happened with little opposition from the West Lynn Residents whereas the Clenchwarton Parish Council appears to have commanded a costly options appraisal exercise because of the effects on a small number of residents. Indeed, one of the West Lynn Forum's recent campaign's, to have a pedestrian crossing installed to allow residents from the Poppyfields development to safely cross the road to reach local amenities was unsuccessful but appears not to have taken into account the 100+ vehicle movements per day generated by the transportation of sludge along this stretch of road.




Thursday, July 14, 2011

Election Swindle... Part 3

The agenda for the next cabinet meeting was published today and if any proof were needed that the Conservative group's opposition to the proposed incinerator at Saddlebow was waning, this appears to provide it in spades.

As explained in an earlier post the Labour Group put forward a motion at the last full council meeting for the current council to re-affirm its opposition to the incinerator, the Leader of the ruling Conservative group, Cllr Daubney, opted to refer the matter to Cabinet, later explaining that he "did not believe debating a position the authority already holds was necessary" - somewhat inexplicably.

The agenda for the next cabinet meeting to be held on 26th July shows that the matter will not be discussed by that meeting but has instead been deferred until the next cabinet meeting, due to be held on 6th September, more that a month after the planning consultation has closed.

These are hardly the actions of a group vehemently opposed to the proposals, at least not as vociferously as was the case during their election campaign.

Mayor launches new South Lynn play area - News - Eastern Daily Press

Press Coverage from the opening of a new play area on Wisbech Road that I attended last week

Mayor launches new South Lynn play area - News - Eastern Daily Press


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

PRESS RELEASE - Labour Councillors raise safety concerns over taxi driver points limits

The following press release was sent out after Labour Councillors proposed an amendment to a policy being pushed through at Thursday's full council meeting. The amendment was worked up by the Labour Group after I had raised concerns at my first Community & Culture panel meeting and following a lengthy email exchange with the relevant portfolio holder, Cllr Brian Long.







PRESS RELEASE

Labour Councillors in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk have opposed changes to new licensing conditions for the Borough’s Private Hire and Hackney Carriage vehicles.

Currently if a licensed driver accrues 7 DVLA points, this triggers an appearance before the Council’s Licensing Panel where the situation is discussed and sanctions can be applied. The new conditions would see the points total increase to 10 before the Panel considers the matter. The Labour Group are concerned that this could lead to drivers who have accrued almost as many points as to receive a DVLA ban (currently 12) continuing to drive without having to attend a Borough Council Licensing Panel.

Speaking at the Full Council Meeting on 30 June 2011, Labour Group Leader, Councillor David Collis, said, “As the licensing authority, the Borough Council has a duty of care to ensure the safety of all passengers using any taxi services in West Norfolk. By allowing drivers to accrue up to 10 points before even being given a warning we consider that the Borough Council is not fulfilling this obligation.”

“The vast majority of licensed drivers keep within the bounds of the law and we do not want their good reputation to suffer as a result of any adverse publicity if say, a driver with 9 DVLA points was involved in an accident whilst speeding and it was later revealed that the Borough Council had not even issued a formal warning. The present system works well and the only reasons we can see for change is one of cost savings.”

Cllr Collis formally proposed that the procedure remain as it is – accruing 7 points would require an appearance at the Panel. A recorded vote was held but the motion was defeated by 37 votes to 15.

After the Council meeting Cllr Collis said “It is a regrettable outcome but the Labour Group of Councillors will maintain a watching brief and re visit the matter if standards of safety appear to be declining.”

- ends -

Note to editors
In the past 2 years, 9 drivers (3% of the total number of licensed drivers) have appeared before the Licensing & Appeals Panel for having accrued 7 or more DVLA points.


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Great Election Swindle - Update

Further to my last post about the Tory administration's decision to refer a Labour motion to cabinet, it was reported in yesterday's Lynn News that Cllr Daubney referred the matter to cabinet because he "did not believe debating a position the authority already holds was necessary".

I couldn't agree more on the sentiment but would question the execution, surely the best way to curtail such a debate would have been through a simple agreement with the motion to re-affirm the authority's position, given the new make up of the council. Referring the matter to cabinet just gives the opportunity for further debate and it will likely have to come back to full council for a vote in any case.

Looks like an ill-conceived attempt at saving face to the casual observer.

I expect the cabinet meeting will be well attended - I shall certainly be making my best efforts to attend.


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Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Great Local Election Swindle?

After an election in which all parties seemed to be in agreement that the proposed incinerator development at Saddlebow the first cracks in the Tory administration's commitment to opposition began to appear on Thursday after they were given the opportunity to re-affirm their opposition to the proposal and took the option to discuss the matter further at Cabinet level.

The opportunity came in the form of a motion put forward by Labour Councillor Charles Joyce at Thursday's Full Council Meeting:

"This Council welcomes its predecessor's decision to oppose an incinerator. This Council wishes to reaffirm its opposition to an incinerator."

Surely, there is nothing contentious in this motion to require a period of reflection and discussion at cabinet level? In itself, it does not even mention the location of the incinerator - the subject of some contention at the pre-election council meeting where another Labour Councillor, Margaret Wilkinson suggested an amendment  to the Council's opposition to "the construction of a Municipal Mass Burn Incinerator at Saddlebow, King’s Lynn." by expanding this to the whole of West Norfolk.

It struck me before the election that the previous Tory administration, which enjoyed a far larger majority than it does now, seemingly hopped on the anti-incinerator sentiment as soon as the results of the referendum were published but I never thought for one moment that they would begin to let their true colours shine through so soon after the elections (elections in which they fared better than should have been expected, particularly with some of the 'Twin-hatters' who failed to show at County Council meetings discussing the incinerator managing to keep their seats) and at a time when the planning application is out for public consultation.

Only time will tell whether the Tory Cabinet will eventually agree with the motion being put forward by the Labour Group; its just a shame that if their pre-election stance on the incinerator is not carried forward, the electorate will have to wait a further 4 years to let them know what they think. If the Tories believe the people can forget their election promises after just 2 months, they will surely be confident that it will be no problem after 4 years.

Note: I was not able to attend this Full Council Meeting because of a long-standing pre-election commitment. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First case work

Picked up my first bit of case work this evening, speaking to a local resident who is finding it difficult to sell their property as a public footpath has been built over a portion of their land. Seems fairly clear to me that this shouldn't have happened (at least without having first established with the resident that it would be okay) and I am looking forward to getting my teeth into it over the next few weeks.

Other than this I have made a little bit of headway in looking at the status of the land on the old Del Monte factory in West Lynn. I had picked up on some concern about this site when attending the West Lynn forum some time ago and having learned that the council maintains a Derelict Land & Buildings register contacted the department that maintains this register to see if the Del Monte land was on it. Turns out that it isn't; I will be working with West Lynn residents over the coming weeks to ensure this is resolved.


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Giving the Union Dues

Have spent the evening at an awards ceremony for the HPMA Excellence in HRM 2011 Awards. I was invited along as a member of NHS Norfolk's Staff Management Council (in my role as a Unison Rep). NHS Norfolk was nominated in the Social Partnership/Partnership Working category for is work in having implemented a true partnership Staff Management council for commissioning staff from scratch after the formation of Norfolk Community Health & Care took most of the previous union members and all of the representatives/stewards etc. out of NHS Norfolk.
Working with the unions (in particular Unison) the HR team encouraged remaining members to become more involved and formed a Staff Management Council that has helped to steer the organisation through some very difficult times with a new Chief Exec implementing a new management structure followed by a consultation to 'right-size' the organisation and prepare for the effects of the Governments' Health White Paper.
Thanks to the sterling efforts of a now departed (to another NHS body) HR Advisor, Damon Williams, the excellent partnership working and presentation in front of the judging panel by another HR advisor, Michelle Pelling & our Unison Link, Noel Glover... and of course the continued good work of the staff and management side reps on the SMC, we won the award! A great feeling! It recognises the work we all put in as a group on behalf of the whole organisation.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Incinerator: Public Meeting at Lynnsport

Attended the public meeting to discuss the Willows Incinerator at Lynnsport tonight, the meeting had been called jointly by the Farmers Campaign (led my Mike Knights) and King's Lynn Without Incineration (KLWIN - led by Michael de Whalley) and drew a very large crowd of concerned residents.

I published tweets directly from the meeting on my twitter feed and a summary of the most salient points is provided below:

Mike Knights kicked off the meeting by giving an update on the situation so far,
  • Currently the Contract with Cory Wheelabrator has not been signed so the £20.3million penalty clause does not apply yet.
  • DEFRA have not yet awarded the PFI credits on which the project hinges.
  • In order to satisfy the PFI requirement to show broad support for the project Norfolk County Council will be contacting parish councils across the county and as most of them will be apathetic towards the plight of King's Lynn, they will not respond. This will be seen as support by NCC.
Michael de Whalley updated the meeting on the status of the legal action he has brought against the county council. This action is seeking a judicial review of the decision taken by NCC to award the contract to Cory Wheelabrator with specific reference to the proposed penalty clause of £20.3million (and whether this will weigh on the minds of the planning committee who will be at the same authority that is liable for the penalty) and the way in which the Borough Council's referendum has been ignored by the County Council.

The planning application was submitted last week and a six week consultation period begins next week. All opponents were encouraged to object to the planning application - whilst the County Council website states that they will be encouraging letters from statutory consultees and 'local' residents this should not deter objectors living further afield from submitting an objection.
The planning committee should take account of the number of objections received but each letter should raise valid objections and the use of 'proforma' objections should be discouraged as they will be amalgamated into a single response. A list of valid grounds for objection were discussed, amongst these were:

  • Noise
  • Dust
  • Smell
  • Air Pollution & Public Health (3 out of 7 Air Pollution monitoring sites are in the King's Lynn area)
  • Climate Change
  • Traffic Congestion & Road Safety
  • Flood Risk
  • Ecology
  • Public Fear and Apprehension
  • Risk to Livelihood (e.g. Farm produce)
  • Ground Stability
  • Visual appearance
it is not possible to object on grounds of negative effect on property prices or that it is undemocratic in the context of the Borough Council run referendum.

The campaign websites at


will provide more information and exemplar letters etc over the coming week or so.

The consultation period runs between 22nd June and 3rd August 2011 and there will be drop in sessions at Libraries at the following dates/times:

Kings Lynn Library:
Saturday 2nd July 2011, 10:00-15:00
Wednesday 13th July 2011, 15:00-20:00

Gaywood Library:
Tuesday 28th June 2011, 15:00-20:00
Thursday 14th July 2011, 15:00-20:00

A full copy of the planning application is available from the County Council but could cost between £60-£120. Parish Councils can get a free copy so if you want to see it you could try contacting your local parish council.

Details of the planning process are available at the NCC website here along with a link to the actual planning application documentation

Fundraising

The campaigns made an appeal for funds to help the fight against the incinerator (in particular to support the application for a judicial review by Michael de Whalley) and this will be explained in more detail in Tuesday's Lynn News. It was pointed out that if every person who voted no in the incinerator referendum donated just one pound, this would likely cover the eventual cost of the legal action (estimated to somewhere around the £50,000 mark)

Q&A

The most interesting questions from the floor concerned the amount of water that would be required to 'quench' the bottom ash that would be produced as a result of the incinerator, particularly given the recent record levels of drought experienced and the levels of transport required to transport waste around the county to feed the incinerator.

Overall a very encouraging evening, I would encourage as many people as possible to submit an objection to the planning application, I certainly will be.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waste Burner Plans: Now it gets serious . . . - Environment - Lynn News

Just hours after the last post about potential compromises about the incinerator, Tuesday's Lynn News dropped on to the doormat with the story below - that the planning application for the Willows Incinerator has now been submitted.

There will be a public meeting at Lynnsport at 7:00pm on Friday evening to discuss how best to object to the planning application.

Norfolk County Council has today announced that the statutory consultation period of 21 days has been extended to 6 weeks.

The Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk had been pushing for a 12 week consultation and have requested that the County Planning Committee meeting to discuss the application is moved to King's Lynn rather than Norwich.

I will be trying to provide twitter updates from the public meeting on Friday at http://twitter.com/gary_mcguinness

Waste Burner Plans: Now it gets serious . . . - Environment - Lynn News

Monday, June 13, 2011

Incinerator Compromise on the cards?

There were interesting whisperings on Twitter at the end of last week that West Norfolk's two MPs (Henry Bellingham & Elizabeth Truss) are brokering some sort of compromise between the County & Borough Councils on the issue of the incinerator. Andrew Sinclair (@andrewpolitics), the BBC's Political Respondent for the East posted the following tweet last Wednesday tea-time, shortly after there was an update on BBC Radio Norfolk:
MPs starting 2 use word "compromise" over incinerator, perhaps let it go ahead but on much smaller scale. 1st sign of a solution?
Followed a short time after, in response to a couple of local tweeters:
i sense mood music is slightly changing. County council won't back down, row becoming bitter and embarrasing 4 tories.... so argument goes let's go back 2drawing board,redesign it,perhaps add sum sweetners and both sides claim victory.
He then added a bit of qualification:
someone very close 2 debate told me today they think public might accept incinerator if smaller
I have followed Mr Sinclair's twitter feed for a number of months and have generally found it very informative and erudite so have no reason to disbelieve his interpretation of what he is being told by knowledgeable sources but I really can't see how a 'compromise' could be reached over this issue. The county council clearly wants an incinerator to be built in King's Lynn, so much so that they agreed to a £20million cancellation clause in the selection process for the proposed contractors and the borough council and local residents have made it abundantly clear that they do not want an incinerator built in Saddlebow (92% of West Norfolk residents having voted no in the referendum earlier this year).

Presumably the county council has done its maths and determined that the proposed incinerator meets the needs of the county's waste disposal for the foreseeable future so a smaller incinerator is not going to meet these needs by itself; on the other hand, you can dress an incinerator up whichever way you want (or in this case dress it down) - it will still be an incinerator. Would the suggestion be that by making the incinerator smaller, the amount of emissions would be reduced and would therefore go some way to alleviating the concerns of the anti-incinerator groups who lobby on the grounds of the ill effects of dioxins? Seems unlikely as a climbdown on these grounds would represent an admission that there is a legitimate concern about the effects on health of the tiny particles that are legally permissible as far as waste incineration is concerned.

Could a climbdown be tagged as an attempt to improve recycling rates (it would be interesting to see what effect the last 6-12 months coverage about the incinerator has done to recycling rates in West Norfolk), a compromise which would see the county council say, "we'll make the incinerator smaller if you promise to do your bit by improving your recycling."

One of my objections to the idea of an incinerator in West Norfolk is that it seems like bad planning to put such a facility on the edge of the county which by comparison with the East of the county is less populous and therefore generates much less in terms of waste (would estimate that over 75% of the county's waste would have to travel over 40-50 miles to reach the facility) and as a result has a much less robust transport network.

Perhaps the idea would be to build smaller incinerators at each end of the county that would fully meet the county's waste disposal needs without having to transport it about so much; Again, can't imagine that the county council would look at such possibilities as the countdown to county council elections (in 2013) begins as this would make them incredibly unpopular in much more than just the handful of wards affected by the proposed incinerator for King's Lynn.

This brings us back to one of the points in Mr Sinclairs tweets, "the row [is] becoming bitter and embarrasing 4 tories". It is difficult to understand how, given that the Tory led borough council and the two local Tory MPs are so vehemently opposed to the incinerator (noticeably since the referendum result was returned - some campaigners recall that Mr Bellingham once heralded the idea of an incinerator in West Norfolk as it would help bring jobs to the area) how can the Tory led County Council continue to be so pig-headed and unfaltering in their objective to build the Willows incinerator.

For my own part, since elected just over a month ago, I have been talking to local campaign groups about the most effective way forward over the coming months, writing to DEFRA to urge them to withhold the PFI credits and trying to encourage the shadow environment ministers to add weight to the argument in the House of Commons.

Recent reports that DEFRA will withhold PFI credits appear to be a little wide of the mark; a departmental response sent to another campaigner recently makes clear that Norfolk County Council effectively obtained public support during the "Future of Norfolk" public consultation and that DEFRA will effectively discount the results of the referendum and only really recognise valid objections raised through the formal planning process. The question is, would it be better to have a considerable number of 'proforma' objections (which may smack of NIMBY syndrome) or a small number of well written, reasonable and valid objections.

The issue is set to dominate the local political landscape for a long while yet!

Follow Andrew Sinclair's Twitter Feed at http://twitter.com/andrewpolitics

Follow my Twitter Feed at http://twitter.com/Gary_McGuinness



Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Community & Culture Panel

Attended my first overview/scrutiny panel meeting tonight, an interesting 2 hours or so that covered a number of papers that will be considered by cabinet next week from a report on the first season of King's Lynn Town FC to Affordable Housing and Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing. As it was my first such meeting I had taken the view that it might be best to take more of a listening role in proceedings but did feel compelled to ask one question about the number of DVLA penalty points a taxi driver could accrue before being asked to attend a member led Licensing and Appeals Hearing (the proposal was to increase this threshold to reduce the administrative burden and requirement for panel hearings).

I am beginning to find my way around how the council operates in general and can only say that I am very impressed by the knowledge and presentation skills of the Officers who were there to talk members through the proposals contained within the papers.

It was good to see a number of members mixing after the meeting as we adjourned to the Lattice House for a swift half afterwards - as one member put it, the role of a borough councillor is political for 2 hours a month at 'Full Council', for the rest of time we are all in it together.


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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guest post: The bitter irony of using the financial crisis to scrap the NHS | UK Uncut

Very interesting blog post from the UK Uncut site, on the day they took part in an Emergency Operation to highlight the bankers part in current government plans to break up the NHS under an austerity drive. Not sure that I would necessarily make the link between the suggested changes as a reaction to acute financial crisis, much more of an ideological change in response to projected rising costs in the NHS but the link between the US healthcare system and the sub-prime crisis is an important in the context that, to most observers, the Health & Social Care Bill is a huge step towards a US style healthcare here in England.

Guest post: The bitter irony of using the financial crisis to scrap the NHS | UK Uncut

Does letter spell rethink on King’s Lynn incinerator plan? - Environment - Eastern Daily Press

Hope on the horizon....

Does letter spell rethink on King’s Lynn incinerator plan? - Environment - Eastern Daily Press

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Busy, busy night

It turns out that next week is the first meeting of the Community & Culture Panel so I was able to attend the West Lynn Forum after all. In addition, there was a South Lynn Neighbourhood Partnership meeting to attend and fitting them both in was a bit of a squeeze!

First off, and straight from work, a meeting of the South Lynn Neighbourhood Partnership at the NORA project offices, the main subject for discussion: Whether the South Lynn Neighbourhood Partnership should become a fully constituted body, continue without administrative support from the Borough Council's Neighbourhood Officer or disband. There didn't appear to be a huge appetite for any option and it was eventually agreed to hold a separate meeting to discuss the options in more detail, perhaps with more representatives from around the patch.

This decision was taken after I had to leave to make it over to St Peter's Church in time for the West Lynn Forum meeting, in this instance a fairly special meeting that had representatives from the Norfolk Local Government Association and the Leader of the Borough Council to discuss the options, benefits and otherwise of West Lynn establishing a Parish Council. There does appear to be a healthy appetite for such a body within West Lynn but there is a long road ahead with a Local Governance Review required and this could take up to 12 months. The Borough Council appear broadly supportive of such a review and the Leader took on board my point about wanting to ensure that a broad spectrum of West Lynn residents were consulted as there are obvious financial consequences in terms of parish precept which would affect all local residents, not just the 30 or 40-odd residents who would like to have more say in local matters. It is clear that there is some way to go before a decision can be reached and I can only promise to be as good a representative as possible in the meantime.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control | Left Foot Forward

Very interesting piece by Shadow Environment Minister Gavin Shuker MP about the shambolic department that the hopes of West Norfolk's anti-incinerator lobby currently rest with. Makes you worry for the future....

Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control | Left Foot Forward

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Full Council Meeting

Attended my first full council meeting tonight, what have I let myself in for..... ;)

Seriously though, tonight was all about the ceremonial mayor making and confirming the composition of the various committees, panels and cabinet etc.

First things first, two things really impressed me tonight. As with every experience of the Borough Council staff so far, the event was very well organised, councillors being photographed for ID cards and website information etc and being welcomed and introduced to staff from various different departments from democratic services to communications. I was also very impressed with the Town Hall - my first time inside what is a very historic looking building from the outside and I can only say it is every bit as historic looking from the inside - wasn't able to take it all in tonight but will make it my mission to explore and soak up as much of the culture as possible over the coming months and years.

So what of the ceremony? Have to admit that I felt a little ambushed to have been asked to stand as the Mayoral procession passed through the hall then remain standing for the 'chaplain's prayers'. As a firm atheist I do not like having religion imposed upon me and it was all I could do to remain standing against my better instincts.

I became involved in the first party political actions as the Labour councillors abstained from the voting for the position of Mayor - a protest at not having been consulted in the nomination process. I can understand the point of view as the opposition councillors feel that such non-political decisions should be a little more proportional now that the Tory majority has been slashed from 5:1 to 2:1. The flip side of this is of course, that even if the Tories had agreed to a fully consultative process they could still have skewed the result in their favour by dint of their majority anyway. The hope is that an opposition councillor will be given the opportunity to stand as mayor in future years but by the tone of some of the conversations I overheard afterwards I would not hold my breath.

I discovered that I had not only been nominated as a member of the Community & Culture Panel but had been nominated as Vice Chair. Had mixed feelings when my nomination was voted down by the majority Tory contingent. On one hand I am not sure such an inexperienced councillor should or could be an effective Vice Chair of any panel but it is clear that, as the Tory contingent was able to pass pretty much anything it wanted at the full council meeting, it might have been useful for at least some of the positions of authority to be filled by opposition councillors.

Had an interesting, long conversation with one of the aldermen of the council in attendance, a ward constituent and Labour party member who I met for the first time back in October as the ward members met to consider the available candidates for our ward. I was very grateful on that occasion as a new party member to have been so readily accepted as a potential councillor by party members and was very pleased to have the chance to have a catch up this evening, especially as it gave me the opportunity to learn a little more about some of the issues I will no doubt be involved in in the next few years - in particular regarding whether or not there should be a West Lynn Parish Council; it appears there is a growing campaign for such a body but it seems to be based in all of the positive things that could come out of having a parish council for the locality and does not really cover any of the negatives, principally the requirement for a parish council precept to be added to council tax bills. As the Council's chief exec explained at our new Councillors' induction session on Tuesday, this can be as high as an extra 10% of the existing council tax bill.

Will be attending my first Community & Culture Panel on Tuesday next week and in doing so will miss the first meeting of the West Lynn Forum since the election (also had to miss the South Lynn SNAP meeting on Tuesday due to the new councillors inductions). With so many conflicts already in the diary, it seems the hard work has only just begun....

Friday, May 13, 2011

letter to the editor

Got home from a very tiring day at work to discover that my letter (below) to the Lynn News had been published...

Dear Sirs

Having been involved in my first election campaign over the past few months, culminating in Thursday's election and Friday's count, I feel it is important to express gratitude to the dozens of staff and volunteers who worked behind the scenes to make the election happen. In particular, I was impressed at how professional the vote counting was; in the face of scrutiny from candidates, agents and other interested parties the counting staff just got on with what in some instances was a very difficult task, counting votes for multiple councillor wards and in a few cases, being asked to re-count. A mention should also go to those who staffed the polling stations on Thursday and the very efficient Democratic Services team at the Borough Council. All of those who stood for election, whether successful or not, would have been quick to express gratitude to their colleagues and helpers when the results were announced but without the hard work of all of those behind the scenes, elections such as these would not happen so smoothly.

Yours faithfully

Gary McGuinness
Newly Elected Borough Councillor for South & West Lynn
A
longside my copy of the Lynn News, I also received a letter from the Borough Councillor with several references to me with a mis-spelt surname!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A week of form filling

The first council meetings don't take place until next week (an induction for new councillors on 17th May and the first full council meeting on 19th May) and much of the first few days of being a Borough Councillor have been spent catching up with missed work and filling in various forms to be sent back to the Council.

Have had to miss the first full meeting of the Local Labour Group which will have determined the group leader and nominated members to sit on various committees etc - had a pre-existing arrangement in London in the early evening that just couldn't be re-arranged.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Counting

Spent almost all day at the Corn Exchange watching the counting of votes. Never realised how much work goes into the counting of an election's votes and in this particular instance there were two or three votes going on with Parish & Borough Council elections being run alongside the AV referendum.

Results for the Borough Council elections started trickling through at around 2pm after all ballots had been verified but were then suspended whilst the AV referendum was counted (a national requirement that all AV counts were conducted at 4pm).

The results for my ward were finally announced at around 7pm and I both myself and Charles Joyce were elected! the full results were:

Lynn South and West (two seats)

Charles Joyce (Labour) – 546 *

Gary McGuinness (Labour) – 467 *

Geoff Daniell (Conservative) – 354

Val Daniell (Conservative) – 302

Jonathan Burr (Green Party) – 224


The hard work starts here!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Leaflets all delivered, polling stations open

Finally managed to get the last of my leaflets out at around 9pm last night.

Having put in extra hours at work over the past few days I have been able to confirm that I am able to take Friday off to attend the count.

Will be visiting the polling station at NORA project offices to cast my own votes at around 6pm this evening, other than that it is now in the hands of the electorate as to whether I am successful.

Monday, May 2, 2011

One down... One to go


Master stroke by the organisers of GEAR to have it run the day before a bank holiday! extra time to recuperate...

Clocked a time of 54 Minutes 54 Seconds in the Grand East Anglia Run yesterday, 772nd of the 1479 runners - very pleased considering when I started running last November I wasn't able to run any more than around half a mile.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Running... in more ways than one

Spent much of the past few months spending every minute of my spare time preparing for two events that will both be over by the end of the next 7 days.

First up, today, my first ever 10km road race in the Grand East Anglia Run through the streets of King's Lynn. I will be running in aid of the Norfolk Hospice and I am aiming to complete in less than an hour. Visit www.justgiving.com/Gary-McGuinness for further details.

Then comes the main event, the Borough Council elections on Thursday. There are five candidates contesting 2 seats on the council, myself and an experienced candidate, Charles Joyce for Labour. One of the incumbent councillors, Geoff Daniell and his wife Val standing for the Conservatives and Jonathan Burr a Green candidate.

I still have some leaflets to deliver to residents in West Lynn before the election, I only hope I am able to walk after the exertions of today's run.