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.

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.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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