Ormskirk newsletter 29th March 2009

Below is a copy of this week’s Ormskirk Newsletter.

Rather than break it into parts, I’m going to post it verbatim on the blog. This practice may change depending on feedback and how practical it is.

Anyway, if you want to open up your inbox to future email newsletters you can subscribe at https://www.kiemiestas.com/newsletter.


In this newsletter

  • Welcome from Steve
  • From the doorstep – issues you’ve been raising while canvassing
  • Meetings I’ve been to – and those I’ve missed!
  • Where next?
  • What’s on
  • Contact Information
  • Closing notes

Welcome from Steve

Welcome to this newsletter for 29th March. I had intended that this should be a quick update of what I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks, but it’s a little longer than planned because I’ve picked up a lot of issues as I’m going around areas for the first time.

I expect that things will slow down and things can move from gathering what’s going on to trying to do something about them. I have never promised that I can sort everything out, but hopefully by talking to enough people, by raising petitions where necessary and by writing to those in power, I can help push things forward a bit and by working together we can try to improve things in Ormskirk.

This newsletter in both the leaflet and email format have come about because I decided to put my name forward as a candidate for the County Council elections. However, I will continue with this newsletter in some form or other after the election in June because I think it’s a good way to keep abreast of things that are happening locally.

I’d love to hear from you if you agree, or disagree with anything that I’ve written here. My contact details are at the end of this email and I’ll be happy to discuss and take on board your comments. If you want to do this in a more public forum, then I’ve posted this newsletter on my blog at https://www.kiemiestas.com/index.php/2009/03/28/newsletter-29309newsletter-29309/ and you are welcome to comment there.

From the doorstep

With the election a couple of months away, I’ve been trying to meet as many people as possible.

The most regularly raised grumbles have been complaints about the roads, traffic, parking and inconsiderate driving. Our road system is simply not designed for modern volumes of traffic. Unfortunately for us, we share these problems with many other towns across the North West and have to fight to be considered alongside the large towns and cities that receive investment for transport infrastructure.

Historically the solution to these problems has been the proposed Ormskirk bypass, which has been on the drawing-board for well over 40 years, but I think that it misses the point because there are many other problems around the town too. Only a comprehensive look at all the traffic and all the public transport available in the town will give us the starting point to deal with the issue. The County Council has recently started a full traffic survey which will give one perspective, but we also need a proper review of public transport and other routes around the town including via Burscough and in Sefton.

It feels like many people are resigned to the traffic problems because they’ve been going for so long. In comparison, the problem that has really got people motivated on the doorstep is that of multi occupancy student accommodation in the town and is something that has dominated the past two weeks of what I’ve been doing.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that some communities in the town have been devastated by houses being snapped up by landlords and rented out to groups of students. There are real problems – anti-social behaviour, a lack of consideration for neighbours, noise at night and a deterioration of the area due to not taking care of the area; and then the isolation felt by some when Christmas or Summer comes and the students have moved away for the holidays.

The residents of these roads, and neighbouring streets, are starting to get more organised and that’s a good thing. I attended the New Way Residents Association AGM last week and I was impressed with their determination to face the problems head on and try to make things better in their streets.

There haven’t been any realistic answers coming from the Conservative councillors who have been in control of the town since 2001. One problem is that the councillors don’t seem to be reflecting the real voice of the community. I hope to change that and will write a bit more about it in my next update and on my blog.

However, in the meantime I’ve been trying to speak to as many people as possible about the problems. I have been to the University and spoken to staff there; I’ve spoken to students and most importantly I’ve been getting around talking to local residents who are affected by this.

There are plenty of other grumbles that have been raised. Many due to the way that the District Council do things, but I’ll try and broaden the issues in my next update.
 

Meetings I’ve been to… and those I’ve missed!

  • Lancashire Local – at the district council a couple of weeks ago now, the big news being the changes in the speed limits, and the allocation of some county funds towards the SPAD’s on Cottage Lane. Good work by the Cottage Lane Residents Association.
  • Knowsley ward PACT meeting
  • New Way Residents Association AGM on Thursday 19th March.
  • Inaugural lecture by Tanya Byron, Edge Hill, Tuesday 24th March.

 and I missed:

  •  "Face the people" at Edge Hill last Tuesday. To be fair, I was out canvassing. I’m guessing that the District Council have a 5 event contract with Dave Guest from the BBC and were obliged to hold some more public events after they scrapped the annual council meeting as an assembly. There are mixed reports, but I’ll link to my colleague Paul Cotterill’s blog for the review of the meeting: http://www.bickerstafferecord.org.uk/?p=572

Where next?

If you’re a subscriber to this newsletter then you may have seen my first leaflet that I’ve been putting out through March. We’re having a push to get this delivered through as many doors as possible over the next week so that we can start getting deeper into some of the issues in the next Ormskirk News. 

This week we’ll continue canvassing, specifically in the areas around Wimbrick Crescent, Halsall Lane and into Scott Estate.  With the clocks going forward and the evenings getting lighter we’ll be going out later. But I usually try to be at home between 6:45 and 7:30 when it’s the children’s bed time.

I’m grateful for the help from our small band of volunteers – they will be leafleting while I’m swanning around introducing myself. 

What’s on

PACT meetings are held by the local police to consult and work in partnership with the local community. The feedback that they get from these meetings feeds into setting their priorities and so is the best place to raise any concerns regarding policing and anti-social behaviour. The next meetings are on Wednesday 1st April:

  • SCOTT WARD:Wednesday, 1st April 2009 5.15pm-6pm, Ellerbrook House, Ellerbrook Drive Ormskirk.
  • TOWN CENTRE: Wednesday 1st April 2009 6pm-7pm, Ormskirk Police Station.

To find out more about the PACT meetings, go can visit the Lancashire Police website. Go to http://www.lancashire.police.uk/index.php?id=272 for information about Scott ward meetings and http://www.lancashire.police.uk/index.php?id=252 for information about the Knowsley meetings.

Contact information

I am always available if you want to call, text or email me. You can even follow me on twitter these days (if you don’t know what that means, then you’ve probably got more of a life than me!) Probably the best number to call is my mobile. If you call in the day you’ll either get me or a receptionist at work (that’s OK, just leave a message and I’ll call back).

Those contact details in full:

  • email: steve@hanlon.co.uk
  • mobile phone: 0797 006 7750
  • home phone: 01695 571818
  • letters: Highfield, High Lane, Ormskirk. L40 7SL. 

You can also see what I’m thinking and doing on twitter (http://www.twitter.com/stevehanlon) and on my blog at https://www.kiemiestas.com

Closing Notes

It is my aim to keep this newsletter going beyond the election and not just have it as an electioneering tool. There are many things that go on in the town which we miss, and I hope that an email-based newsletter will be a good way of getting information out and keeping in touch.

If you know anyone who might be interested in this newsletter then please feel free to forward it to them.

If you have received this from a friend or colleague and would like to be added to the mailing list, then either drop me a note at steve@hanlon.co.uk, or sign up on my website: https://www.kiemiestas.com/newsletter

Finally, if you have any feedback – good, bad or indifferent; or if you have any events or activities that you’d like me to include then please drop me an email at steve@hanlon.co.uk

I :heart: Blackburn Labour’s website

Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but it’s a fine site. It does all the things that a modern local political party should be doing – engaging through as many social networks as possible, using youtube, flickr and twitter (and facebook?) and they use joomla! for their content management (good choice).

If you think that I like the site because I’m a leftie techie – then you’d be right, but it’s also because they’re doing so many things _really_ well.

It’s not a Jack Straw MP site, but there are lots of contributions from him; it’s not a personal site (like this one) which suffers from the whims and changing interests of the author and it’s not a cheap aggregation of what’s going on locally. Instead it’s a straightforward campaigning local website which gives the residents of Blackburn a good idea of what Labour is doing and what it thinks about local issues.

There’s nothing like it in West Lancs, or I think, the rest of the county which is a great shame.

The past few years have seen an explosion of platforms for blogging and social interaction at virtually no cost to the publisher – it can be done locally where there is the will. Blackburn are doing a great job in exploiting all the platforms that they can lay their hands on, which I applaud.

Keep up the good work!

now… how do I add it to my blogroll…

Planning application for new flats on Burscough Street

I haven’t posted about it yet, but last Monday’s canvassing around Station Road was a genuine eye-opener. In particular the strong feelings about the student population and the effects it has on the rest of the community. I’ll go into this more at another time, but one specific issue was raised about a proposed development of apartments on Burscough Street.

Thanks to the power of the internet you can see the application and related documents here.

I haven’t come across anyone who is in favour of this application so far, but I’m sure there are some. I know that these items have to be taken individually, which can devalue the local context and concerns. Far too many times when I was on the planning committee we were told that each application has to be considered on its own merits and not on what it might lead to.

I would encourage anyone with an interest in Ormskirk and our community to review the plans carefully, particularly the three sets of drawings dated 16/3/09 since these are the ones that the planning officers and committee members will be considering.

For my part, I think that a 22 bedroom set of flats which are mainly bedrooms and very little other living space, placed on a site that already has student accomodation, seems like we have gone past the “thin end of the wedge”. If this application were to be granted, it would represent the systematic building of student and multi-occupancy flats in a part of Ormskirk that has already suffered a lot from the change of existing homes over to multi-occupancy.

The planning committee has to draw a line somewhere, and I believe that this application shows that it has to stop abandoning the communities in Ormskirk to “conservative free-market ideals” and should start showing some leadership in how it sees the town being developed in the future.

There is a new period of public consultation on this development and I would urge all people – those in favour and those against – to look at the plans and then send their comments to the planning department so that they hear the clear voice of the local community.

Shortest NHS waits since records began

I don’t normally post things that I get in my email, but I think this is a really important piece of news. There is a lot of bad news at the moment, but it’s things like this that show what politics and concerted effort can achieve.

Oh, and only my mother and labour party emails call me “Stephen”

Stephen,

Now and again, something comes along to make us all feel especially proud to be Labour supporters. I’m writing to let you know about one that’s happening right now.

This week, the NHS is celebrating the shortest waits since its records began – something that would have been unimaginable when our Party came to power 12 years ago.

Make no mistake, you are part of this achievement. None of this would have happened without the hard work of Labour Party supporters like yourself campaigning to make three general election victories possible.

Now, for the first time, in every part of the country, nobody has to wait more than 18 weeks for treatment after being referred by their GP, unless they choose to wait longer or there is a good medical reason. Most people wait less than 8 weeks.

Alan Johnson Video Image

Click here to watch the video


But, as is always true in politics, we must fight to keep our achievements safe. The Tories are committed to scrapping the waiting time guarantees that have made such a difference to people’s lives.

We can never allow this to happen and I’m asking you to watch the video above and consider donating to help us campaign to make sure that people across the country never again have to suffer the consequences of Tory cuts.

Click here to watch the video or donate.

Best Wishes

Alan

PS – Please also pass this email on to at least 5 of your friends to make sure they know what we’ve achieved and the risk posed by the Tories

To unsubscribe, please click here. Privacy: we won’t pass on your email address to anyone else. See http://www.labour.org.uk/privacy Reproduced from an email sent by the Labour Party, promoted by Ray Collins, General Secretary, the Labour Party, on behalf of the Labour Party, all at 39 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0HA

County Elections 2009

I should have posted something to this effect a few weeks ago, but I’ve been busy just getting on with things. Last month I was selected as Labour’s candidate for the Ormskirk West Lancashire County Council seat.

It’s an incredible honour to be given the opportunity to campaign on a Labour ticket in Ormskirk, especially in the obviously difficult times that we all face at the moment.

I’m told that the Conservative candidate lives somewhere over in Parbold, and so it’s doubly satisfying to know that I’m the only major party candidate who actually lives in the town.

It’s a short period of time between now and June 6th when the election will take place, and most of my spare time has been spent going out talking to people around the town about the issues that face them. I expect that I’ll be doing that right up until polling day.

I’ve been at it for about two weeks now and I’m pleased to say that most people have been extremely welcoming considering that for most I’m just a stranger knocking on the door. In many cases I speak to people who disagree with the Labour party and what they stand for. I can quite understand, particularly considering what we get in the media each day, that natural Conservative supporters will feel quite bitter towards the current government – and therefore me, on their doorstep.

However, it’s good to see that many people, of all backgrounds and points of view, are pleased just to have _anyone_ come around and talk to them.

There is a massive political disengagement in Ormskirk, which comes across when you talk to people about the things that really matter to them. People feel incredibly let down by those currently in control. Some of this is systematic in the way that they deal with “casework” and some of it is simply down to political dogma by those in charge. Either way, the net result is that there is no trust in those that look after the interests of the town.

Over time, I’ll write more on the specific issues that have been coming up while canvassing. However, there is a common thread across all the issues that are raised. People feel like they’re on their own – despite reaching out to local politicians and those who work at the Council, they still feel like there isn’t anyone on their side.

That’s something that I would try to change. But regardless of whether or not I win – for the sake of our town – we have to clear out the cynicism in our local politics.

Never enough time…

What with being out canvassing straight after work and then the occasional meeting afterward, I’ve not really had a chance to post anything here.

It was said recently that a politician who didn’t have time to blog or twitter is like the politician who doesn’t have time to make a speech. I think that there is a lot of truth in this, and I _really_ have to make the time to post stuff here.

I’m hoping to put more here over the next couple of months and onwards now that I’m back properly in the groove of talking to people and getting on with the work of local campaigning. The last couple of weeks has been a great opportunity to talk to residents across the town and I aim to report back here.

Speed limits to be cut on 84 roads across Lancashire

I spotted this today: Speed limits to be cut on 84 roads across Lancashire, a report in the Lancashire Telegraph stating that a two-year County Council study of all the county’s A and B roads has recommended new speed limits for 84 stretches of road.

The newspaper report goes on to say that 13 will be cut in West Lancashire.

This is a different initiative to the reduction in national speed limits that I posted about yesterday, and taken together should make the roads in West Lancs even safer. Once I get a copy of the report I’ll post which roads are recommended for speed changes.

UPDATE:

This is due for discussion at the Lancashire Local meeting on Thursday, agenda here. Scroll down to item 10 on the agenda and you’ll find all the information.

Interesting to see that this is a scheme that has been worked on for the past two years and that it will take up to another two years to be implemented, so not the fastest turnaround ever. The work was kicked off following guidance from the government (“Setting Local Speed Limits” is available on the dti website here), which itself was the result of a number of years work.

These things take a long time to go from national review, to guidance, to local review to implementation, but it will be worth it in the end.

National speed limit to be reduced from 60 to 50mph

It is reported today in The Sunday Times that the national speed limit is to be reduced from 60 to 50mph. Specifically aimed at reducing the death toll on rural roads, this will improve the lives of all those in West Lancashire who live on one of the many national speed limit roads.

Dave Sudworth has already pointed out that this will be good news in Skelmersdale, and it’s true that there are a couple of roads in the town which have the national speed limit. There are other roads in the town that have 40 and 50mph limits but still have terrible accidents – mainly because of the planning and layout of the road.

A couple of years ago, Rosie Cooper organised a transport related “Let’s Talk” session, and I was taken aback by the tales of those who lived on rural roads. Young families with children trying to get to a school just 500 yards away, but petrified of the speeding traffic outside their house and elderly people who are left isolated because of irresponsible driving.

We live on the A59 close to a stretch between Burscough and Ormskirk. The traffic heading up to Burscough starts accelerating well before the speed limit changes, and southbound traffic regularly exceeds 50mph well into the 40mph zone. I know that braking technology on cars has improved, but the regular sight of cars being dug out of hedges and front garden walls suggests that the brain to foot and foot to pedal technology is still somewhere in the stone-ages.

Well done to the government for standing up to the driving lobby and implementing something that will make a real improvement to people’s lives.

Gratuitous hat tip to Dave for spotting this.

Baldock, new deputy mayor, looks forward to discovering world beyond front-door

At last week’s Council meeting it was agreed that Cllr Baldock should be the deputy Mayor of the new West Lancs Borough. Reported in the Southport Visitor he says:

As a North Meols councillor I have not seen many other wards in the district. In my new role I am looking forward to meeting more people from different parts of the area.

I’m sure he’s delighted to be the first deputy Mayor, but to state publically that in ten years as a Council member, a regular member of the planning committee and three years as cabinet member for waste management, he hasn’t seen many other wards in the district is disgraceful.

It’s no surprise though, because week after week, I would despair at Tory councillors who had no idea what was going on outside their own patch. This lack of understanding is why Skelmersdale is left misunderstood and ignored by the Tories and why parts of Ormskirk are left under-represented with semi-detached rural councillors with safe Ormskirk Tory seats.

This narrow-minded parochialism, particularly from an ex-cabinet member, should be alarming to all in West Lancs who want the district to be prosperous and successful.

I welcome the fact that Cllr Baldock is finally getting his head out of the sand, but it stinks that he’s needs the gold chain around his neck to do it.

Blogged with the Flock Browser