Saturday, 27 February 2010

WALC Rugby Branch Meeting - 25 February

On Thursday night, I attended the Rugby branch meeting of the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) in Ryton-on-Dunsmore.

The main item of interest was a presentation by Myles Thornton from the Warwickshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England on the problem of litter, and their 'Stop the Drop' initiative to target this.

Some of the facts presented at the meeting highlighted just what a blight litter was and how much of a problem it had become:
  • it costs local authorities more than £500 million a year to clear up litter;
  • there has been a five-fold increase in the amount of litter dropped in the UK since the 1960s;
  • an estimated 25 million tonnes of litter is dropped in public places every year (equivalent to the weight of 62,500 jumbo jets);
  • in 2007, an estimated 69,000 animals were killed or injured by litter dropped in Britain;
  • every weekend, 1.3 million pieces of rubbish are dropped on motorways and major truck roads across England - totalling 67.6 million items of litter ever year.
  • fly-tipping cost councils across the country a further £74 million to clear up the 2.6 million instances where it occurred during 2007, yet there were only 1,800 successful prosecutions against the people doing the fly-tipping.

Frankly, I was staggered by these statistics, but we see the evidence for ourselves every day right on our doorsteps in Shilton and Barnacle.

In response to this national blight, the CPRE have launched their 'Stop the Drop' campaign which encourages local residents, supported by their parish council, to clear up their local neighbourhood on a regular basis.

There's a lot more detail to the scheme, and it's something I'd like the Shilton parish councillors to discuss to see what we can do to play our part. The next meeting of the parish council is next week (Tuesday 2 March), and I shall report back on those discussions in a future blog.

I know local people who already do take it upon themselves to pick up litter, and there are the annual village litter picks that get people involved too (Barnacle's is Saturday 28 March - put it in your diary!) If there can be a consistent, co-ordinated and long-term approach to keeping our own local streets and green areas clear of rubbish, then it'll be something we should take pride in, and hopefully motivate all of us to do our bit!

Watch this space for further news.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Fosse Community Forum - Venue Update

Back in December, I mentioned that Warwickshire Police's Safer Neighbourhood Team were to look into reported instances of drug misuse taking place in the car park at Shilton Village Hall. This had been raised at the most recent Fosse Community Forum, and the Police agreed to target the car park during the next three months to try to address these concerns.

The next meeting of the Fosse Community Forum is being held on Tuesday 23 March, starting at 7.30pm. This was to have been held at the Village Hall in Shilton, giving residents a good opportunity to come along and hear what had been done.

Unfortunately, due to the unavailability of the room, the meeting will now be held at the Village Hall, Brockhurst Lane, Monks Kirby. I shall be at the meeting, and will report back on what the Police had to say for those of you who are unable to get to Monks Kirby.

A poster advertising this meeting can be viewed here.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Site Updates and How to Post Your Comments

Hopefully you'll have noticed a gradual improvement in the appearance and content of this blog.

Those of you who were with me from the start may well remember the bland 'all white' look of the site. Things have moved on a bit from those minimalist beginnings, and I'm beginning to feel more happy about the way the blog's looking. I know that it still doesn't have enough video, audio or pictures, but I'm always on the lookout for how it can be improved so that it is a more attractive site to visit.

There are two new improvements to the site I wanted to tell you about. After each post, you'll now see a 'Reactions' tool. This allows you, by clicking in the box next to the description that best fits your reaction to the story, to give instant feedback on what you thought about what you've just read. It's helpful to me to see what people are interested in and what they're not. And it'll be interesting for other people viewing the site to see which stories have generated the most interest. So the next time you read something you like, or don't like, let everyone else know by registering your reaction!

If you've wished that there was some way to be automatically notified of when this blog gets updated (and you're not technically minded enough to subscribe to my RSS feed), then you'll be pleased to know that there now is. Email me (dan - but without the space between my first and surname) and you will be automatically notified by this blog every time I post a new story, saving yourself time logging on to the site only to find the same story still at the top of the page, and getting to read the new stories as soon as I post them.

I have one further request to make regarding people adding 'Comments' on to the stories that I post. It's not a new feature on the blog, but it is one that's woefully underused. I guess you come to this site because you're interested in what I've written. I am equally interested in what you think. So if you've always wanted to post a comment, but don't know how to, here's the straightforward guide:
  • The last ten stories that I've posted always appear on the homepage of the blog. The title of each of those stories is actually a clickable link (eg. the title of the story immediately below this one is "What the Parish Council Will Cost You"). If you've read a story that you want to comment on, click on the title of that story.
  • This will take you to a new page containing just that one story that you clicked on (the rest of the blog page will look exactly the same). Scroll to the bottom of the story and you'll see a heading "Post a Comment" followed by an empty box.
  • Type whatever comment you wish to make (good or bad!) in that empty box.
  • Underneath the box, you'll see another heading "Comment as:" with a down-pointing arrow next to it. Click on the down arrow.
  • You'll be presented with a list of up to eight options, but you only really need to concern yourself with the bottom two. If you want to add your name to the comment you made, select the second from bottom "Name/URL" and then type your name in the box that pops up (and then click "Continue"); or select "Anonymous" and your comments will be posted without you having to say who you are.
  • Finally, click on "Post Comment" and that's all there is to it.

And if you think that this sounds complicated, try it once and you'll realise just how simple and obvious it actually all is.

Once people start posting comments, these will appear at the bottom of the each post they relate to. Have a look at my 1 February 'Scrutiny Review' story as a good example of this.

Blogs become really interesting when there's a regular exchange of differing views and opinions, so I'm calling on my regular readers to set an example and let's start having a conversation!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

What the Parish Council Will Cost You

I told you in December that Shilton Parish Council had set a budget of £15,700 for 2010/11. I'm now able to tell you how this will be reflected on the Council Tax bills that you'll start paying from April.

It is important to remember that this is not the total Council Tax bill that you'll have to pay, but just one element of it (relating to Shilton Parish Council only). The combined costs of
Warwickshire County Council, Rugby Borough Council, Warwickshire Police Authority and the parish council make up the overall Council Tax bill that you have to pay.

Each of these other bodies are currently in the process of setting their budgets for the forthcoming year, which will be added together before the bills are sent out to households. For a quick recap on the funding of your local councils and the Council Tax, read
here and here.

However, if you'd like to know exactly how much you'll be paying in 2010/11 towards the cost of the parish council, the total annual amount (depending on what band your property comes under) is:
  • Band A - £29.07
  • Band B - £33.92
  • Band C - £38.77
  • Band D - £43.61
  • Band E - £53.30
  • Band F - £63.00
  • Band G - £72.69
  • Band H - £87.22
In true politician's style, I'll tell you that for a Band D property, this equates to only 84p per week. I'm hoping that you'll now tell me whether we're worth it or not!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Scrutiny Review Proposal for Rugby Borough Council

Each year, Rugby Borough Council carries out a series of scrutiny reviews on topics of local concern. A number of in-depth reviews are undertaken by small cross-party groups of councillors, who will gather evidence in order to make recommendations for change or improvement to the Council's Cabinet.

In order to assist in drawing up its work programme of reviews in 2010/11, Rugby is asking individuals and organisations (including parish councils) to suggest issues of local concern that would benefit from a detailed review by the Borough Council. With this in mind, over the weekend I submitted my suggested scrutiny review for inclusion within their 2010/11 work programme.

My suggestion is a review of the availability of highspeed broadband internet in rural communities within the borough. It can't have escaped anyone's attention in Shilton or Barnacle that the broadband access is slow at best, at times becoming non-existent. Where broadband is available, line speeds are so slow that making use of services like the
BBC's iPlayer is impossible.

The problem is due to the distance from properties in the two villages to BT's exchange, which is located at Walsgrave. The further the distance between the house and the exchange, the slower the download speeds will be. I'm told my property is 6.1km away from the exchange, which is right at the limit of being able to access broadband services. And unless BT build an exchange closer to the village, things won't improve.

Government are recommending that households throughout the country should have access to 2Mbps download speeds by 2012, and have introduced the 50p per month 'broadband tax' on all telephone line rentals to help pay for the infrastructure upgrades that will be required to deliver these improvements. The 2Mbps download speed is considered the minimum required to be able to watch streaming video services like the iPlayer and YouTube. But will these improvements happen before the end of 2012? I very much doubt it.

My scrutiny review would require Rugby Borough Council to establish how many households within the borough are currently unable to access broadband speeds in excess of the Government's recommended 2Mbps. It asks what measures Rugby Borough Council could take to ensure that those households currently without highspeed broadband access were not disadvantaged in accessing public information over the internet. And it challenges the Council to work with technology partners to look at innovative ways to bring highspeed broadband to rural communities within the borough through the use of wireless technologies.

There are many examples across the country where wireless technology has been used to provide the solution to slow broadband speeds. Hopefully, this proposed scrutiny review will help test the extent to which Rugby Borough Council are prepared to work with local communities to overcome pockets of super slow broadband.

Rugby's Overview and Scrutiny Management Board are meeting on 15 March to consider which reviews to take forward into next year's work programme. I shall keep you updated on progress as it develops. Broadband is no doubt a topic I'll return to again at another time!