...putting people before party

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Councillor Notes June 2013

Richard Bird


Well as you can see from the heading and for those who don’t know. I was successful in the bid to become Norfolk County Council’s only Independent Councillor.

I took up my seat in the Chamber for the first time with all the other winning candidates on Monday 13th of May. At 10am we started the agenda. Item 1 was electing a chairman; the only nomination was Cllr Hilary Cox and she was voted into office in very short order. The candidate, a Conservative, was not opposed; the Chair is a neutral position like the Speaker in the House of Commons and as such not contentious.

The fun and games then started when another Conservative was put forward as deputy, suffice to say that it did not happen and a temporary deputy from another party was elected for this meeting only.

Everything went according to the agenda until item 7. The election of a Leader, when remarkably the Conservatives, possibly trying their luck or being incredibly naïve, put forward their Leader. Nobody else was nominated, and so the vote was held. Predictably the vote went 40 from the Conservatives 43 from the opposition parties and stalemate was achieved. Item 8 was a motion put forward by Cllr John Dobson, an extremely important document concerning the Incinerator project. The motion called for further and better details of the contract to be put into the Council’s domain and for the item to be debated fully within Council. After some discussion this was agreed, a date was set and the leader of the Conservative group stated that he would allow a free vote (not whipped) for the Conservatives, a massive breakthrough.
The new leader of the U.K.I.P. group Cllr. Richard ‘Toby’ Coke then asked for an adjournment until Friday 24th of May to enable the groups more time to re-align themselves and this was accepted. As it stands there can be no business dealt with until a Leader is found, a task I can assure you is proving most difficult. Watch this space, it is really exciting and we all really don’t know what will happen next.

I would like to thank all the people that helped in the campaign, Those that delivered best part of 5000 brochures around the streets of the district, those that put up posters, my two most trusted helpers, Andrew and my wife Elaine, who walked miles delivering out in the rural areas, along some of the longest driveways in the County and of course the 1125 of you that trusted me with your vote. Thanks to all. I promise to do my very best. Just like when I was running marathons, after the finish you promise yourself and all those who helped you, NEVER AGAIN. I have no idea why we do it, such hard work and when you come second there are no prizes. While on the subject I would like to thank my opposition who conducted themselves with such professionalism, good grace and dignity.

To other matters. The Hunstanton Town T.I.C. has been completed and although there is a full story in this magazine it is good to recognise the efforts of staff and members in achieving this difficult refurbishment, working to keep any business operating while the builders are ‘in’ is very hard.
The Bookings for both the Town Hall and the Community Centre have really taken off with staff promoting, explaining and selling the space extremely professionally well done all. If you need a venue for your event call the Town Hall staff for a brochure and details. Incidentally if you like car boot sales there are another 10 to go at the Community field.

The Spinney appears to be going ahead and work should start this year, in the last but one issue I advised you that there would probably be a plan put forward by McCarthy and Stone for the site where the old garage in Hunstanton was. I advised that we as a community should rejoice in this transformation as the site had been an eyesore for a decade or more but that we as a Community are very good at debating (read objecting). Well it’s started before planning permission has been sought. The objectors are lining up. While I am neutral in this I would ask the question. Where have the objectors been for the last decade? Only now when some company has an idea are the alternatives appearing. I am the servant of the people but I do sometimes wonder. Once again I am afraid that different opinions could divide our great community. I read in the papers that a similar project along the coast is having massive local objection but upon investigation the arguments are entirely against the profile of how we the Councillors of all levels locally including our M.P. perceive the future needs of our community. Should we abandon progress of any type of development?

The Boro’ Council has been relatively quiet when it comes to our area, lots going on in K.L. but not so much here. However as you are probably aware in an effort to support the Princess Theatre I have been asking about subsidies to its main rival, the Corn Exchange in K.L.
Now I don’t want to be seen criticising the Arts, indeed, I have the honour to be Chair of The Hunstanton & District Festival of Arts, but the grant, trading loss or subsidy whatever you want to call it, for the Corn Exchange in K.L. was £850,000 per year. With nothing, no subsidy at all, to the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton. I asked the question, Is this a level playing field? Why should the domestic ratepayers of this area subsidise the K.L. operation that is in direct competition with the Princess that has none? Well I must have got to somebody because the grant has now been reduced at a stroke by nearly 50%. It now stands at about £430,000, that works out at about £1178-00 per day subsidy. Apparently according to the Portfolio holder this reduction has been I quote: “achieved by efficiencies”. I am told that the next operation to be worked on is the Oasis in Hunstanton. Currently that receives a grant package of around £360,000 per annum, that’s about £1,000 per day subsidy, and according to my sources it has had a reduced amount of people attending despite advertising extensively. Perhaps this is a result of the abandonment of ‘Free swimming’ recently, or just market share. I have been told there are more Oasis users from Downham Market than Hunstanton. In any event I look forward to the review.

There is a general debate going on about wellbeing in the community. How much subsidy should go into the arts leisure and sport? Clearly there are massive issues here. Swimming Pools do not make money but are there for the benefit of the community and its wellbeing but that is not to be used as an excuse for poor management. Also, we should not confuse the benefits to the domestic ratepayer with that of the visitors to our area. This of course also applies to the arts and leisure. What do you think? Where is the balance?, perhaps you have an opinion? Let me know. My contacts as always are:
T: 01485 532565
M: 07860 476198
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lastly with the name Bird I really will be Tweeting. Look out for me: @RichardBirdCllr


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