Friday, 12 March 2010

'Watch out, Mehaffey's about' - a useful slogan?

Swaffham Prior's monthly Parish Council meeting got off to a very good start last evening with an address from Mr Mark Mehaffey (pictured above at Ely), East Cambridgeshire District Council's 'Clean Neighbourhood Enforcement Officer.' Mr Mehaffey made an excellent impression with his description of his work in ensuring that such as fly-tipping is not only discouraged but positively clamped down on.

I did not realise that the District Council - through Mr Mehaffey - had powers to penalise so severely those who transgress the littering and fly-tipping laws and it appears that the powers are now being exercised to the full. So impressed were we that it was urged on County and District Councillor Mr David Brown, who was present (our own District Councillor, Mr Allen Alderson, was absent on other business), to exclude Mr Mehaffey and his work from any cost-saving decisions that the District Council might have to take. This was for the very simple reason that some areas of Swaffham Prior Parish, notably the Fen and Heath Road, have suffered from the fly-tipping of all sorts of disgusting rubbish (see my pictures above and below) by those who should and do know better.

'Watch out, Mehaffey's about' is a slogan I shall suggest.

Cllr. Brown (pictured right) alluded in his report to the County Council's difficult budget decisions and to the on-going problems of potholes in the roads and the now-notorious 'guided busway' scheme that is still not in operation (and will be of little use to Swaffham Prior when it is). This gave me an opening and I drew Cllr. Brown's attention to what people are saying to me, namely, that they expect the potholes to be dealt with and that they were and are increasingly critical of the 'guided busway.' People connect the two problems and note that more money is needed to pay for the latter whilst the former are seemingly neglected. I also advised Cllr. Brown that, whilst his hands were clean in the context of the 'guided busway' decision-making progress, others' hands were not, and that he should try to avoid dirtying his hands in future on other such grandiose schemes. My memory of my own County Council days came back at this point and I recalled a particularly ignorant County Councillor (long since departed from the Shire Hall) who had, I supposed, been given a script for a speech that included the word 'grandiose.' He pronounced it 'grandoise.' That sort of daft thing sticks in the mind.

Some excellent news came to the Parish Council via Cllr. Allen Alderson's written report, read in his absence by the Clerk, Mrs Karen King. It seems that Cllr. Alderson has twisted some arms at Ely and has obtained that which Swaffham Prior Parish Council had demanded as a matter of honour: a proper contribution towards the costs already incurred in connection with works on the ancient village pound. Cllr. Alderson is deserving of praise, which was given by all present. He will be thanked.

As I have mentioned before, I have given very serious thought to what I should do about my membership of Swaffham Prior Parish Council in the event of my being elected as MP for South East Cambridgeshire. Fortunately, the monthly meetings fall on the second Thursday of every month and that helps, as most Members of Parliament make their way home on Thursdays and I would be very reluctant to give up on the Parish Council. Moreover, because I attach so much importance to the work of Parish Councils in general, I plan to get myself invited to attend from time to time other Parish Council meetings (including Soham Town Council and Ely City Council) in the Constituency. Party political MPs keep in touch with people partly through Party political meetings and social functions. As an independent, I would not have this political imperative and, in any case, I would prefer to see cross-sections of the various communities rather than the politically-biased types who are often very unrepresentative of 'ordinary' people.

Abraham Lincoln is said to have said, 'God must have liked ordinary people, for he made an awful lot of them.' 'Honest' Abe was right!

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