Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Consultation on Community Strategy

Castle Morpeth Local Strategy Partnership is currently consulting on a Sustainable Communities Strategy. Deadline for comments 23rd March.

OK – it’s yet another consultation – and because it has to fit the Government ‘Sustainable Communities’ template, and has to be ‘aligned’ with the Northumberland Local Area Agreement (don’t ask – or rather do ask – but not just now!) – it comes across as high level, vague jargon.

But don’t be put off! This little strategy and the action plan that emerges from it is going to determine the priorities for how any money is spent in Castle Morpeth over the next few years. So have a look and make sure it covers the things you think are important

The strategy and response form etc are downloadable from the main Castle Morpeth BC website

Deadline for responses – 23rd March – to Ailsa Coverdale

Traffic Warden Sighted in Morpeth

A traffic warden was on duty in Morpeth last Thursday.
The Chairman of the Town Council gave him an official welcome - read all about it in the Morpeth Herald (with pics!)

Seriously - there actually was a traffic warden in Morpeth last week: there are eleven traffic wardens covering the whole county - one has managerial responsibilities and two are on longterm sick - leaving just eight to actually do the job.

And there is a job to do!

Morpeth is terrible for cars parked on pavements, cars parks on double yellow lines etc - we need proper enforcement of on-street car parking.

Castle Morpeth BC is working to convince NCC and the Police to 'decriminalise enforcement of on-street car parking' - which would mean that our enthusiastic car park attendants would have powers to write tickets for cars parked illegally on the road - as well as in the Borough Council car parks. But it's a long slow process.....

Monday, 26 February 2007

Climate Change and Local Authorities

The Borough Council agreed to sign up to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change at Full Council last Thursday (22nd Feb) – with a commitment to producing an Action Plan by next March (2008), but a suggestion that all we’ll be doing is ‘badging up’ things we are already doing.

Obviously, I feel we should get as committed to taking action on climate change as possible while its still ‘flavour of the month’ with the other political parties. We’ll see how things go….

Meanwhile - the Local Government Association (see has set up a "climate change commission" launched today (26th Feb) intended to make sure that councils are in the lead in delivering climate change policies. Everyone can give evidence to this commission and point out what local authorities should or could do.

In my view – there’s a lot councils can do to sort out our own act before taking on a self-declared leadership role:

bypasses are a big problem: The Lancaster northern bypass supported by Lancashire County Council produces 25,000 tonnes of CO2 each year which when costed at Treasury rates over the normal 60 year life of the road comes to £44M. There are dozens of these bypasses around the country

* airports: Councils often support airports (e.g. part of Newcastle Airport is in Castle Morpeth). Councils have to be far clearer in taking on the role of saying "enough is enough" (I understand that Uttlesford DC has just done this for Stanstead)

* cycling, walking, public transport: Castle Morpeth BC adopted a green travel plan when it relocated to Longhirst Hall, but I’m not aware it has been implemented in any real sense.

* procurement: There’s a lot of scope here. Currently, it’s getting more centralised and the main pressure is to cut costs. If we’re serious about climate change, we should be including carbon counting or eco-auditing as part of the procurement process.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007


The great theme of modern politics is 'consultation' - from national government down to district councils everyone's doing it - and is often required to do it.

Often it is hard to find out about consultations that are happening, and whether they are important or not. I'm going to try to make things a bit more open by posting consultations that I think are important.

Of course - 'consultation' can mean many things including:

endorsement: this is what we're going to do - agree with us

validation: this is what we are doing - tell us how well we're doing it

options: eg you're going to get an incinerator in SE Northumberland - would you like it here, here or here?

consultation: tell us what you think, though we can't guarantee we'll change anything

scoping: we've appointed consultants but they don't know the area, can you tell them what they need to do

On the other hand - there are good and effective forms of consultation (like design by enquiry, village design statements) which are inclusive and do work if you get everyone affected involved from the beginning. Let me know if you can think of any ways the Council can make its consultations more effective.

Unfortunately – people don’t seem to respond to a general consultation with no clear proposals – but if there is a clear proposal – even if it’s an ‘Aunt Sally’ to be knocked down, they assume that it’s all cut and dried and the consultation is a sham. If we’re going to have real consultation – we’re going to need to re-educate people first.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

What is this all about?

As a councillor on Castle Morpeth Borough Council - I have an official website which I try to use to keep people in Morpeth informed about what is going on - and I must be doing OK cos it gets around 2000 hits a month.

However - it will be closed down in the run up to the local elections (May 3rd) - so I'm launching this blog mainly to keep the information flowing - though I will of course be tempted to use it for electoral purposes too - so much more eco-friendly and responsive that multiple leaflets!

Do let me know if there's anything you'd like to see posted here....