Thursday, 30 March 2017

March Branch Meeting

The meeting was held on the 27th March.

The meeting was opened with Gill Bailey as chairman and briefly discussed the recent departure of Douglas Carswell. Although there were concerns that this represented bad press for UKIP, it was thought that this would lead to the NEC becoming more harmonious which would be good for UKIP.


There was then (unusually) a vote on whether branch meeting should spend more time discussing national issues. The meeting voted in favour of more national politics, although a minority thought that there was no need to change. Later in the meeting Mark Staplehurst explained that he voted against because he thoght that the local issues were more important. He quoted one of the residents in his ward, who said "I would never normally vote UKIP, but I am voting for you because you look after the residents interests.


There was a long discussion about the upcoming elections on the 4th of May. Among other things, this covered the usual topic of volunteers for leafleting and canvassing. The list of UKIP candidates will be announced next week, so watch this space!


Moving on to local issues, Mark Staplehurst gave an update on the Number 9 bus, the planning application for development of The Crescent and finding funding for a barrier on Maple Close. Dave Bell discussed the Moor Park redevelopment and the waste handling contract awarded to Serco. There were questions from the floor about Rushmoor setting up a development company and the proposals for replacement of the community centre (this will be announced in the next two months). 


There was also a suggestion that this blog should write about the Cabinet system and how it works in local government. Again, watch this space.

To round off the evening, there was tea and chocolate cake.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Saturday Morning with Mark Staplehurst

In order to find out what a UKIP councillor does I had arranged to follow Mark Staplehurst around on a Saturday morning.

I meet Mark at 9:00 in the morning. He is recognisable from 200 yards away as he is wearing his trademark UKIP purple hi-viz vest. Mark has already been out in the ward on his scooter since 8:00. The scooter has recently been repaired following an accident that Mark had in January. As I don't have a bike we decide the best plan is to walk.


The first stop is a Children's Play Area where Mark pulls a bin bag out of his pocket and we pick up some litter. On the next street we say hello to a passer by who Mark knows. Then we stop at Londis to buy a coffee. Another passer by who Mark knows stops to talk while we drink our coffee.


Back on the move, and picking up litter as we go, we head off to investigate a report of fly tipping. We find some grass cuttings that have been dumped over a fence on a vacant plot. The manager that Mark wants to speak to is out but his assistant fills us in. Then we knock on the doors of a couple of local residents and hear the other side of the story. At the second house there is a dog which makes a break for freedom when the front door is opened, but we eventually manage to coax it back indoors. The grass cuttings issue is not resolved but Mark intends to follow it up later.


We head past the roadworks on West Heath road and meet a cheerful bloke who discusses the roadworks and agrees to put up a UKIP poster at the next elections. Shortly after this we knock on the door of fellow UKIP Councillor Dave Bell. We discuss the upcoming county elections over a cup of coffee.


Further down the road we knock on the door of a lady who is coming to 'We'll meet again', a social event for older residents that Mark helps to organise. Mark fills her in on a slight change of plans. The rest of the morning is taken up with similar calls; Mark clearly feels that his job involves taking care of people who do not have other family around.


Round the corner we visit a couple and Mark asks after the wife. It turns out that she is feeling much better than previously and is in the conservatory having her hair done. The husband complains about never having seen the Police in the local area and also mentions a large pothole on a nearby road that needs fixed. Mark pulls out a small voice recorder and notes the location.


The next door that we knock on there is no response. However nearby Mark notices that the pavement is subsiding and the voice recorder comes out of his pocket again.


On the following visit, we are invited in to the kitchen. The lady is worried about her neighbour who has family problems. They call the neighbour on the phone and the issue is sufficiently sensitive that Mark offers to return without the hi-viz jacket in order to be discreet. Mark makes a note to call back later.


At the next house we visit is a lady who has recently moved house. Mark has helped organise getting her gutters cleared. We also discuss the TV aerials and the security light at the front door before moving on.


Our last visit is another lady and she invites us in for coffee and a biscuit. She describes how Mark helped fix her gas cooker and then says "I have lived in Farnborough since 1953 and Mark is the only councillor I have seen round here in that time". Before we leave, Mark offers to help appeal a parking ticket she received because she thought that the ticket machine was not working.


By now it is approaching midday and I think it must be time for lunch. Mark has to take one of the people from his ward to a meeting with Gerald Howarth (the MP for Aldershot) to discuss disability benefit. He then plans to head back to the ward for some more visits. After following Mark for less than half of his day I need a rest, however Mark still seems to be going strong. Follow Mark's Facebook posts and you will know that he is out doing his rounds in Farnborough every saturday (even at Christmas time).


A friend of mine once told me of old highland proverb: "If you want anything done, its best to see the busiest man in the village". That seems to describe Mark rather well.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Aldershot

Oh, dear what can the matter be – Aldershot!

There used to be a saying that ‘if you couldn’t get in London you could get it in Aldershot. At the time this was true but then Aldershot was home to the British Army. I was born in Aldershot and I can remember the heady days of a department store, M&S, Woolworths, three arcades, excellent restaurants, all the major utility companies and above all the Army. There are just a few reasons why I go to Aldershot these days. The health centre, the cinema & my lodge otherwise nothing else.

So, when I read in ‘Get Hampshire’ that Poundland is closing one must wonder what on earth has gone so horribly wrong. Clearly there are many reasons for this and the town has been in steady decline for many years but you hear people say ‘well if Poundland is closing down something must be wrong’ it just makes you wonder who will be next. What I find surprising is, with all this massive house building that is going on, why is the town centre falling even faster down the road of irrelevance? I don’t have an easy answer for this but it’s going to take a miracle to do something with the town.

But what does this mean for Farnborough? Well good news. The regeneration of the town is moving ahead at a pace. The new Farnborough Civic Quarter development has been handed over to a government body who have now started the process of getting the job done. I understand it is to be a mixed development of housing, business, a new community centre and a Farnborough Centre for Health but not on the scale of Aldershot’s.

One might ask why is this happening? Well I believe there several reasons why Farnborough is becoming in the ‘in place’. The redevelopment of the old RAE site has had an impact with an airport for business use, good rail & road networks to London, new housing, the airshow and by the looks of it a more permanent exhibition site now under construction, something that has been muted for years. 

However, there now looms a big question about the future of Rushmoor in its current form. Many years ago, when I was a Councillor on Rushmoor Borough Council, local government reorganisation took place. It was put forward that we should join up with Hart District, Ash Vale & Farnham. This would have created a Metropolitan Borough something Aldershot had always wanted since 1922. With Farnborough becoming the centre of Rushmoor & with all this development taking place boundaries between the various areas is rapidly disappearing if not already in some places. Rushmoor did expand but only on the fringes. As I said, does this mean that the great dream of a Metropolitan Borough of Rushmoor is coming closer to being a reality? I feel it does so watch this space. 

Martyn Marsh