Saturday, 26 February 2011

Councillor commutes from Canada to Sussex

From today's Daily Torygraph:

A councillor has been criticised for refusing to step down despite living in Canada, 4,700 miles from his constituency.

Brian Hall travels  across the Atlantic from his home in British Columbia to attend meetings of West Sussex County Council.  He will not stand for re-election as a district councillor in May, but will continue to represent Haywards Heath from Canada.

Pathetic is a word which springs to mind.  For more information on this individual click here

Mrs Anne Hall who represents another part of Haywards Heath on the county council has the same address as Mr Hall in the town.

Mr Hall is a Liberal Democrat, so next time you hear or read of a Liberal Democrat criticising where a councillor or candidate lives in relation to the area he/she represents or seeks to represent, remember Brian Hall.

Friday, 25 February 2011

John Smith deposed

According to the local newspaper John Smith remains de-selected as a Conservative candidate at the May borough council elections. He has been a councillor for nine years and currently is the chair of the Conservative Group on the Council.  He has the support and  confidence of his peers but not of his ward party.

A strange state of affairs which makes the claims of Cllr Atwood to be a 'unifier' all the more hollow.  Will John Smith stand as an Independent against his replacement as Conservative candidate in Frittenden and Sissinghurst?

Some people out Canbrook way are being small-minded and petty  I hope he stands and wins.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Rusthall Parish Council: decision time

To-night Tunbridge Wells Borough Council will decide if there is to be a  parish council in Rusthall.  It is expected the Council will decide in favour of the proposal to establish a parish council. The first election for the new council will be held in May this year.

According to the report presented to councillors, the Council is proposing to make a loan of £40,000 to the new parish council to enable it to function in its first year.  Thereafter the parish council will raise a parish precept.  The loan will be interest free for the first year.  Should the parish council decide not to repay the full amount at the end of the first year interest will be charged on the outstanding loan at a rate to be agreed.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

On the radio

Last Friday Radio Kent telephoned me and asked me a few questions about food banks and I spoke about the work of Communities Food cic.  The upshot was an invitation to be interviewed at the radio station's studio tomorrow.

I had hoped the interview would be recorded, but no, it is live just after 10.00AM tomorrow morning.  My  very first live broadcast!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Most powerful person in Tunbridge Wells

The Courier has run a nonsense article listing the twenty most powerful people in Tunbridge Wells. Placed at number one is the Mayor, Cllr David Jukes.

Pity really that the Mayor lives just outside Crowborough in East Sussex.

Conservative candidate wanders far and wide

Robert William Rutherford must be keen to be a councillor - somewhere, anywhere.  Last May he contested Broadwater Ward.  Undaunted he appeared in St James in October and promptly lost again.  He has appeared  now as the Conservative candidate at the Pembury by-election.  Third time lucky?

Does the Conservative Party have a dearth of suitable candidates, or is the Party desperate to get him on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council? It is possible of course that Mr Rutherford is acting the role of martyr, standing in seats the Conservatives expect to lose.

The Liberal Democrat candidate lives in Pembury, whereas Mr Rutherford  lives in Broadwater. Should Mr Rutherford lose, one wonders where he will turn up next.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Food bank for Kent

We reached an important milestone in establishing a food bank for Kent with the setting up of a community interest company. The company's name is Communities Food Community Interest Company.

The company will be doing much more than running a food bank.  Our community interest statement envisages the company taking steps to reduce food poverty in Kent and Medway.  Food poverty means both lack of food and lack of appropriate food.

Our initial directors have been appointed and make a very strong team with in-depth knowledge, experience and working with communities across Kent.

Friday, 11 February 2011

New Leader's soggy centre

The new Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council trumpeted on his election that he would be a unifier. So, what has he achieved so far?

As reported in an earlier blog, a councillor has resigned following the de-selection of the former Leader Roy Bullock. Bullock, to his credit, has maintained a dignified  silence.

The Chairman of the Conservative Group on the Council, John Smith, remains de-selected.  He had the temerity to support loyally Roy Bullock.

Most recently we have had one Tory councillor taking lumps out of a fellowTory councillor courtesy of the letters page of the local newspaper. Cllr Dr Linda Hall (presumably she uses the 'Dr' to impress us -  fat chance!) informs us that Cllr Tracy Moore is 'too young, naive and ignorant'.  Bitchy.

Good unifying stuff!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Today I visited the cafe run by the Better Living in Southborough Society (BLISS).

BLISS is a community group.  It took over empty shop premises opposite the Fire Station in Southborough and turned it into a cafe, meeting place and small shop. It runs activities for all ages and hosts meetings with representatives from a number of organisations including the CAB, police, housing association and Connexions.

An example of the Big Society before the the concept was dreamed up by Cameron's back-room boys.

Well worth a visit to see community engagement in action.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Local Transport.

The High Street in Rusthall often is congested with parked vehicles making it difficult for buses to negotiate the street. A councillor has suggested that stricter enforcement of parking restrictions is the answer to the problem but local shop keepers complain that this will drive away trade.  He has suggested also that some of the buses have their route changed from the circle they currently make via Southwood Road, Parsonage Road and Erskine Park Road and instead head off towards Langton Green.  The bus company is not enamoured by this proposal and local residents living on or near these roads do not wish their service to be reduced.

One improvement would be to divert the current Tunbridge Wells-Langton-Speldhurst service via Rusthall.

Transport Tribulations

Tunbridge Wells has a good rail service to London, well in theory it does.  Trains every fifteen minutes to London and half-hourly to Hastings.  And that is it. Travel by rail to anywhere else is a complete nightmare.  A journey to Gatwick or to Maidstone involves a change at Tonbridge and the service to these two locations is hourly.

Ashford and points beyond - Canterbury, Dover etc is now a lot slower as all the trains between Tonbridge and Ashford stop at every station, whereas at one time some trains were non-stop and other stopped only at Paddock Wood and Staplehurst. 

Brighton involves two or three changes and takes two hours. 

There is a wide range of destinations by through bus services - Ashford, Chatham, Bromley, Crawley, Brighton and Eastbourne: but again these are slow.

In fact, apart from stations on the line between Hastings and London there is no incentive to travel by public transport.  No wonder roads are clogged with cars and town centres suffer from traffic congestion.

The nation has spent millions on providing motorways to the ports and a high speed rail routes, but all are London centric. Virtually nothing has been done to improve services within Kent.

Allan Collie RIP

Sad to note the death of Allan Collie who was Chief  Executive of West Kent Chamber of Commerce in the 1990s.  He did not receive the recognition he deserved for keeping the Chamber functioning during a difficult period. After he left the Chamber Allan became involved in promoting Crowborough's connection with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Tory turmoil and trouble in Tunbridge Wells

The shambles that is the Conservative administration of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council continues. 

We know now why Cllr Tompsett resigned: in protest at the decision of the Conservative Association to de-select Roy Bullock as a candidate at the May elections. Pay back time by an anti- Bullock faction?  As far as I am aware the chairman of the Convervative Group on the Council, Cllr John Smith, remains de-selected by the anti-Bullock forces at large in Cranbrook.  So is a McCarthyite witch hunt on?

The new Leader of the Council, Robert 'Bob' Atwood claimed he was a unifying force. Doesn't seem his words have had much effect on the minor luminaries of the Conservative Association who seem hell bent on blood-letting.  Of course having Roy Bullock out of the way would be convenient for the new Leader.

The local newspaper carried a letter from the Leader of the Council to the papers' readers. Self-congratulatory smug hogwash seems to me to be a mild comment on its content.

Three issues have been spread across the pages of the Courier.

The first is the proposal for a park and ride between the Tesco site in Pembury and the centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells. This scheme looks hare-brained and it is no surprise it has surfaced with the appointment of Councillor Brian Ransley as the holder of the transport portfolio in the cabinet.   Cllr Ransley you will recall had the bright idea that some off-peak trains from Tunbridge Wells to London should terminate at Cannon Street even though the vast majority of passengers head for Charing Cross.  The proposal to increase the size of Tesco store at Pembury, the traffic which will be generated by the new hospital and a park and ride will overwhelm the road system and leave the park and ride buses stuck in traffic.

The second issue is the resignation of Cllr Glenn Hall from the Regeneration Company  (which he chaired)  following the referendum he held in his ward concerning redevelopment of the civic complex.  It seems to me that it is gormless to hold a referendum before any plans for redevelopment have been drawn up. Of the 4900 people invited to vote, 415 opposed and 314 supported redevelopment.  Apathy the clear winner.

The third matter, relates to the second. Cllr Tracey Moore, booted off the cabinet by the new Leader, has written a spirited letter to the local newspaper setting out reasons for redevelopment of the civic complex.

So tensions are continuing in the Conservative Group on the Council.

I finish with the thoughts of one of my correspondents, some of which are echoed in the comments made by Cllr Moore:

The circle around the Civic Society (though it should be made clear that the Society does not endorse the political activities of a noisy minority) represent the presentation of a suicide note to the town. The only way forward is for the Tory Leadership to get a grip and elect or re-elect a leader committed both to public debate and communication and to full throttle regeneration. Above all, political communications must be directed at exposing the reactionary plotters who triggered this crisis and ensuring that they are not allowed to slow down or damage vital investment in the town in order to preserve it as a rest home for aging 'baby-boomers'.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Communities Food: community interest company formed.

A community interest company has been formed known as Communities Food Community Interest Company.  The company's activities will provide benefit to communities of geography and interest suffering from food poverty (defined as lack of food in terms of quantity or quality) living in Kent.

I am a director of the company and will be blogging about its activities in the coming months.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Another by-election

Pembury was a small sleepy village to the east of Royal Tunbridge Wells.  Then came the motor car and Pembury was clogged with vehicles, so much so that a north-south by-pass and an east-west by pass were built.

The village's population has soared, mostly owner-occupier properties have been built.  Soon, the new hospital will be fully operational and the Tesco store will be tripled in size.  Doubtless this will result in a big increase in traffic on already busy roads.

A Conservative councillor has resigned (why he did so is not known to your blogger). One would expect the Conservatives to hold the seat.  Liberal Democrats have held the Pembury ward seats in the past, including the unlamented former Leader of the Council, Lorraine Braam.  The other parties have found Pembury to be barren ground.  It will be interesting to see if Labour contests the seat.  Will any of the minor parties enter the fray?