War Memorial Gary Trouton

Straight Talking

October 2008

Our Grumpy Old man feels the need to challenge local councillors!

I couldn't allow this milestone edition of the Pump to pass by without having a little moan about what has been annoying me lately. Since my last article at the beginning of the (miserable) summer much has happened in the village.

We have seen continued confusion with the renumbering of Wretton Road. We have had high drama at the Parish Council meeting with a long established councillor 'storming' out of the meeting and resigning, and we have had the great East / West debate over the future of Norfolk County Council, which has now been rejected by the Boundary Commission.

I think it's fair to say that I don't have much time for any council, whether it be Parish, Borough or County. The thought of giving Norfolk County Council ultimate power over every aspect of our lives, especially in West Norfolk, is far from appealing. To have a body of self obsessed egomaniac's sitting in their ivory tower making decisions that dictate how I live my life is almost too much to bear. Let's face it; since one of Stoke Ferry's former Parish Councillors was elected to the County Council you don't see him for dust. Sure, his name appears every six weeks in the minutes of the Parish Council...but only under the heading of Apologies. According to StokeFerry.com, the last time our elected County Councillor attended a Parish Council meeting was in October 2006! And some idiot in London wants to give people like our elected County Councillor total power over us. I know I have used the word elected three times already but I just wanted to remind our elected County Councillor that in a few years time he could quite easily lose his coveted title and all the financial and social status benefits that are attached to it. I am pretty sure that when the county council elections come around again we will see plenty of him.

Below is an excerpt from the Norfolk County Council website which lists the roles of a County Councillor. I have underlined a few key points.

What is a councillor's role?

* To contribute to good governance and actively encourage community participation and citizen involvement in decision-making

* To represent the interests of their division

* To deal with constituents' enquiries and representations,

* Meet regularly with key local stakeholders

* To participate in the activities of outside bodies report back to the council

* To champion the causes which further the interests, quality of life and sustainable development of the community

They also work to ensure local people are informed about:

* services in their area

* decisions that affect them

* the reasons why decisions are taken by Norfolk County Council

* the rights of people living in Norfolk.

I believe that our elected County Councillor does not fulfil all the roles required of him. He seems to have forgotten where his roots are and more importantly who he has to answer to. And I am afraid that this will be the case across the board if Norfolk County Council gains control over the whole county. With the power base firmly biased towards Norwich I fear we will become a forgotten area. Although I don't think the current situation is all that good, I am of the opinion that it is the lesser of two evils.

Back to our Parish Council and things haven't improved that much since I last wrote about them. They seem to have got themselves stuck in a bit of a rut. They are putting their full weight behind some rather irrelevant issue's and ignoring the more important issue's. Every month there is mention of the Care Home in Oxborough Road, waiting for some information from some external agency about some irrelevant issue that affects no one. However on the subject of getting traffic calming in Buckenham Drive, and the Parish Council have done what they do best and have accepted the county's decision that this will not happen. Perhaps if the elected County Councillor was interested in Stoke Ferry we would have got the much needed traffic calming. Perhaps if the Parish Council had stopped rolling over and playing dead we would have the traffic calming. At what point will they actually do something? I do hope we don't have to wait until the unthinkable happens. The residents of Stoke Ferry deserve to be protected from senseless morons who have a total disregard for life by driving at excessive speeds on the roads around our village, particularly in the residential area's where the most vulnerable members of our community live.

I always look forward to reading the minutes of the Parish Council meetings. I enjoy all the assumptions that are made, these assumptions being made through bias and not fact. For instance the "Loose Kerb" at the junction of Buckenham Drive and Wretton Road had, according to the Parish Council minutes, "become loose again possibly caused by lorries driving over the footpath". To say that the damage was possibly caused by lorries comes across as another "Grampian Bashing" comment. Maybe the damage was caused by the large number of private road cars that think they have the right to park on the grassed area. Of course the Parish Council have no jurisdiction over the roads, that is a job for the Police. Yet I still blame the Parish Council. Let me explain. When the current owners of the chip shop put in for planning permission to build a flat above the shop, the Parish Council were given the opportunity to make comment on the application, at no point did the Parish Council raise the problem of parking. That is parking for the new residents of the flat above the chip shop or the increased traffic that would be generated by the 'slight' change of use of the shop from chip shop to chip shop and Chinese takeaway. What we now have is an unofficial car park adjacent to the chip shop that is causing damage to the grassed area, footpath and kerbs and, given the very wet weather we have had and are likely to continue to have, the mud which will be deposited onto the road which doesn't exactly make for safe driving conditions. The exact same problem exists on the opposite side of the road, which I like to call "Stoke Ferry Car Sales" as there always seems to be a car for sale parked there. I understand that planning permission has been or is being sort to do a similar conversion to the hairdressers shop, maybe the Parish Council will address the parking problem this time. The last thing we need is more cars parked on this already busy junction.

For the past two or three Parish Council meetings the subject of a clothes bank has been on the agenda. The Parish Council approached the school with a view to locating a Clothes Bank in the "School Car Park". At what point did the car park at the Community Centre become the School car park? Is this the beginning of the end of the Community Centre? If the School are claiming the car park and ultimately the whole building as their own then perhaps the School should be forced to pay back all the money that was raised by public and private donation for the construction of the community centre back in the eighties, adjusted for inflation.

On the few good days we had in August I did have a little wander around the village, as usual I headed up (or is that down?) the High Street and was appalled at the poor standard of parking. There seems to be some form of reckless abandonment when it comes to parking. For most people a car will be the second largest investment they will make in their lives after a house, and as such we want to make sure our investment is safe and secure, so what do we do? We park our cars directly outside our houses, and we do this regardless of whether it is safe to do so or not. Every time I drive up (or down) the High Street I take my life in my hands especially when approaching from the Lynn Road end of the High Street, the only thing that remotely makes me feel better about the atrocious parking by a certain vehicle just after the bend is that if I hit his car I will have written off a nice shiny new 08 plate expensive Japanese car. (Admit it we all smile when we see a new car with the front or rear end all crumpled). I just hope that this stupid display of poor parking does not cause an injury. And on the subject of poor parking why have people started to double park on the Lynn Road. It was hard enough to drive down (or up) the road when cars were parked on just one side!

As we move into the Autumn we are faced with the start of annual beet harvest. Now I know farmers have had it a bit rough time lately what with the weather and the price of fuel and fertilizer but does that give them the excuse to do whatever they want. During the recent cereal crop harvest I was confronted with a combine harvester driving along the Lynn Road with his thresher still attached, forcing me to take evasive action to avoid colliding with this monster of a machine. On another occasion I witnessed a young girl who could have been no older than 7 or 8 at the wheel of a tractor driving down the road towards Wretton. As Autumn turns into winter we will be faced with vast quantities of wet slippery mud deposited all over the road with a token "Mud on road" sign erected. We will have tractors driving for many many miles on main roads and country lanes (avoiding diesel duty by using red diesel). Some of the tractor drivers will show us their complete arrogance by not pulling into lay-by's and letting the half a mile of traffic get by them, but because they are farmers and what they do provides this country with food it is frowned upon if we levy any criticism upon them. I for one do don't subscribe to this point of view. I still get a cold shiver run down my spine when I pass the point where 2 young lives were lost in such a horrific way when they collided with a huge agricultural vehicle that was travelling on the road at quite a high speed with off road tyres. The hard work that farmers do does not justify the carnage that sometimes occurs on our rural roads. Unknown to many, the government have actually put a price on a persons life. Currently this is £1,250,000. Is the wheat that is used in our breakfast cereal or the sugar that sweetens our tea worth a life? I would urge all those drivers who have to risk their lives when driving on our public roads to report those farmers who have a complete disregard for road safety.

My last comment in this article is primarily aimed at one of Stoke Ferry's (Ex) Parish Councillors, but the sentiment also applies to our Borough Councillor, County Councillor and our MP.

You were elected by the people of this parish to represent our views and interests within local government. If council meetings are not to your liking why on earth did you stand for council in the first place. Apart from making yourself look very foolish you have betrayed the very people which you represent. You have a job to do and therefore you must make the time to do that job to the best of your ability, to storm out of the meeting because it went passed 9pm is absolutely disgraceful. It shows complete and utter contempt for the very people who put you where you are today. I for one will not vote for you again, should you wish to stand for the Parish Council, and the same goes for our elusive elected county councillor and our even more elusive elected MP. When I vote for someone I expect them to go the distance, to be fair, honest and above all they should be humble. Title and social standing mean absolutely nothing if you can't be bothered to respect the people who voted for you in the first place.

Grumpy Old Man

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