This is Sutton Coldfield’s Tory MP campaigning against his own government’s policy on the Green Belt this year.
He told the Birmingham Mail: “This drives a horse and cart through the Government’s commitment to localism it suggests the Secretary of State is not to be trusted when he says his commitment to the green belt is sacrosanct…”
Contrast this with Burntwood’s MP who has not attended a public meeting or issued a single word objecting to Lichfield District Council’s proposal to take out two parcels of Green Belt around the town to accommodate developer proposals.
Hold on! Isn’t our MP campaigning against the government in this picture?
Well no. This was in June 2008 and it was the Labour Government looking at “eco village” sites in the country so naturally , as it was near Lichfield (it was Curborough) and as it was a Labour Government our MP was against it!
Ironically, it was the same Secretary of State who recently overruled the Planning Inspector and Lichfield District’s Local Plan (which was supported by the High Court) to allow 750 houses to be built at the same spot – but not a squeak out of our Conservative MP.
He can’t bring himself to support Burntwood’s residents against his Government and that’s why he wouldn’t attend the Burntwood Action Group (BAG) meeting recently. Okay his excuse was that he had an appointment in London but of course you fit a meeting around your Member of Parliament and in any case he is too busy trying to get his close friend, Andy Street, elected as West Midlands mayor to spend time in Burntwood.
All credit to Lichfield District Council’s Conservative Leader who did attend and who, just for the record, is the only Conservative Leader at Lichfield District to have attended Burntwood Town Council meetings when run by Labour and run by Conservative administrations. His Deputy and Cabinet member responsible for the Local Plan also attended, listened to residents and answered questions.
Planning guidance for the naive.
The Government of the day sets the planning guidance which local councils have to follow and this government, particularly with the publication of the Housing White Paper is giving priority to “sustainable” development over the Green Belt. That’s why the Conservative Cabinet is proposing to realise Green Belt land at St Mathews and off Highfields Road for Housing.
Staffordshire County Council had said that they considered the flooding in High Street in Chasetown “not be a high risk to the public” despite cars driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid an unknown problem under the water.
Labour’s candidate for Burntwood South County Division which covers Chasetown, Steve Norman, submitted a Freedom of Information request because he says, “The County Council’s highways division does not respond to normal channels of communication requests like emails.”.
Councils and other bodies are supposed to respond within 20 working days but even when he gave them some extra time they have still not replied and he is taking a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner if the County Council still fails to comply with the law on Freedom of Information requests.
Steven said: “Because the Highways section was suggestion that the High Street flooding was not urgent and it had to wait for other ‘similar work’ in the area he asked for justification for this.
He asked: “When is the latest date that the work will be carried out? The contractors have said the work ‘will be grouped with similar works in the area.’
What is the ‘area’ referred to, how many similar works are there currently and where are they?”
He has said that he will make the other repairs needed for High Street his priority if elected on Thursday.
Your County Council candidates, Steve Norman and Sue Woodward, led the decision to consult residents on the District Council’s dire financial problems when both were members of Lichfield District Council in May 2014.
The above chart shows what residents though about various options to generate extra income. 70% of you were opposed to charging for emptying our brown bins but your District Council will ignore that because the County Council is going to “charge” them. As both Conservative-run councils have already increased your Council Tax to the maximum allowed by the Government what are they going to choose next to plug the £2.3 million gap by 2021/21? Charging for disabled parking in the district and for car parking in Chasetown?
Why are they doing this?
Soon the Government grant to local authorities will be zero. The only other way to fund services is by attracting more businesses, charging for service previously free and – building more houses.
The District Council gets a “New Home Bonus” from the Government, using a complicated formula, and for 2017/18 this is predicted to be £2.353 million in total. So now you can see why the Green Belt is under threat in Burntwood and elsewhere and why you are being charged for services you thought you paid for.
Staffordshire County Council are also affected and benefit from the New Homes Bonus at the same time as the Government reduces their grant. So now you know why they closed the Youth Service, can’t repair our roads, charge for DIY waste at the Recycling Centre (the Tip Tax) and even want to stop the maintenance of stairlifts for older and disabled people!
The funding review – and austerity – is predicted to leave schools worse off.
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said today:
“The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto promised that a future Conservative Government would ensure that ‘the amount of money following your child into school will be protected.’ Unfortunately this promise is being broken for 99% of schools. For half of the schools in England, the money following children into schools is being cut in real terms and in the other half the money following children will be cut in cash terms.
Burntwood South Candidate, Steven Norman, writes:
I went to Parliament with the Staffordshire F40 Group some years ago – in a school bus – to protest about the unfair funding for Staffordshire. I was Chair of the Children and Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee at the time.
Then it was a Labour government, followed by a Lib/Dem and Conservative government and now a Conservative government and it is still not yet resolved.
The danger now is that although the consultation on the review is being considered and schools may end up with a fairer system but there will be less money all round.
The Conservative Government’s national planning guidance, which councils have to follow says early on:
“At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.”
It’s not just Burntwood suffering the threat to our Green Belt
which shows it is Government policy – and why our MP has kept quiet about it.
From chapter 19 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on Green Belt land:
5. When defining boundaries, local planning authorities should:
● ensure consistency with the Local Plan strategy for meeting identified requirements for sustainable development;
● not include land which it is unnecessary to keep permanently open;
● where necessary, identify in their plans areas of ‘safeguarded land’ between the urban area and the Green Belt, in order to meet longer-term development needs stretching well beyond the plan period;
● make clear that the safeguarded land is not allocated for development at the present time. Planning permission for the permanent development of safeguarded land should only be granted following a Local Plan review which proposes the development;
● satisfy themselves that Green Belt boundaries will not need to be altered at the end of the development plan period; and
● define boundaries clearly, using physical features that are readily recognisable and likely to be permanent.
That last bullet point is what the Conservative Cabinet at Lichfield District Council are using to justify using green belt land for housing off Highfields Road – the M6 Toll is a clear physical feature!
The Green Belt reviews took published in 2012, 2013 and November 2016. Did your Hammerwich or Highfield Ward district councillors speak up on your behalf then – when it was really needed? Ask them, we know your MP didn’t.
“Our future together in Staffordshire” says the inside headline but I don’t recognise the locations or the models – let’s hope they are all in Staffordshire.
What are the facts behind the headings though?
We can only be pleased that unemployment has reduced but there has to be concern over the increase in “forced” self employment numbers. I was in that position in the early 90’s. I was employed but then the “choice” came to be unemployed or self employed (but doing the same job). I chose self employed – at least for a year – until I found further employment. I admire the self-employed but it has to be a real choice knowing you can afford the insurances and a future pension.
In 2014 (last figures available) the County Council had 2% on zero hour contracts and it was revealed that 3% of staff were paid less than the minimum wage.
A better Health Service
In 2013 not long before the last County Council elections they (the future Police and Crime Commissioner) issued a press release saying work was due to start on Greenwood House. It still hasn’t and the building will be demolished soon.
The permanent replacement for the Health Centre near the Leisure Centre has still not happened and our Tory MP has done nothing to move it on after the Coalition Government cancelled it in 2010.
My recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that the CCG, the local Clinical Commissioning Group run by and for doctors, have not received any communication, of any kind, from him between April 2013 and the 12th of January this year! The NHS gave me the same answer last year.
Staying well and healthy
If you or your family have had contact with Social Services recently you will know this is rubbish – and costs have increased. The 3% increase in Council Tax for Social Care will not be noticed by the vulnerable or frail in Burntwood. The cuts this year to debt advice for local Citizens Advice Bureau will be unlikely to help residents’ health and wellbeing.
Extra £3m to tackle potholes
Read the small print! It doesn’t just say potholes (we do promise an extra £1.5 million just for pothole repair) but roads generally. And what is the £250k fund “communities can bid into”? DIY pothole repair?
But they are buying a new machine!
Well in answer to a Labour question at the last County Council meeting it was revealed that they hired one vehicle, contracted another and were going to contract another one this year.
Surely this means that there will then be an increase in pothole repairs of a third?
If so then look out for six (6) potholes repaired in the next 12 months in Burntwood North Division and eight (8) potholes repaired in Burntwood South Division. We are luckier because we should then have eight(!) done. I know it is hard to believe but the Cabinet member’s answer was that 4 potholes had been repaired in the preceding 12 months in Burntwood North and 6 in Burntwood South by these machines which each, “generally cost …between £6000 and £9000 a week”.
If you read it it’s rather defensive of poor results – but they had to put something in I suppose. Of course they don’t mention the funding proposals with predicted cuts of between 6% and 10% on average for Burntwood Schools – £39 million for the county as a whole and over 1,000 teachers.
To see what the prospect is for your school in the area click here.
Stronger and safer
No reference to cuts to libraries or the abolition of the Youth Service but great opportunities for volunteers – the Big Society comes to Staffordshire. Clearly the Police and Crime Commissioner, the man previously responsible for Social Services in the County carries on his great ambition to take over the Fire Service as well the Police Service..
A place to grow old.
Whilst Labour want to make the County a dementia friendly County the Tories are proposing to stop maintaining stairlifts and other equipment for older people in their homes. They (again when the current Police and Crime Commissioner was in charge) cut the Handyperson Service for older people that carried out small repairs for the old and the vulnerable at a low fixed cost. Changing a light bulb or putting up curtains now may mean employing someone at commercial costs and can lead to the temptation to stand on a chair and do it yourself. Apart from the distress the risk of falling is increased and result in a greater bill for the public purse in A and E.
A well run council
“We will keep council tax to a minimum”
It’s true that some costs have been reduced – by cutting important services like the Youth Service and Libraries for example and charging for DIY waste. One elderly lady found out last weekend that she had to pay £3 for a bag of old cement but thought she had paid for with her Council Tax. It wasn’t in Conservative election leaflets last time of course.
Staffordshire are now charging extra to Lichfield District, and other district councils so they in turn want to charge you £36 to empty your brown bin.
Staffordshire County Council, the Conservative-run Police Authority and Lichfield District have all charged the maximum – not the minimum (0%) they are allowed to charge by law without holding a referendum.
Though in fact when residents were consulted over the District Council’s future budgets, thanks to Labour pressure, 70 % of you said “no” to a bin tax.