County Councillor Avril Davies’s Quarterly Report

Introducing Rob Andrew

I am sure the Parish Clerks have all  had contact with Rob, our new Local Area Technician by now and had a discussion about areas of work needed to be done on roads  and drainage.

I had a very useful morning with Rob at the end of January and was pleased to find out that he was already familiar with the ways and byways of the Division, and keen to get going with his shovel! He will be ably backed up in the office with Clifford Marshall who must know every gully and culvert in the area, having been based at Winslow in the past and responded to many a local call.

We looked at a comprehensive list of  jobs needing doing. There were three serious flooding problems, several more potential ones, and a water leak, all of which are which are in hand. Many repairs cannot be undertaken unfortunately until drier weather.

The most interesting thing about the whole visit was the number and extent of soft verges where the diagonal grips that drain water into the parallel ditches have been silted up or blocked by vehicles running over them leaving deep tyre treads. This leads to standing water on the highway – and guess what – resulting potholes! There are some stretches of road where this is really bad.

Rob has been busy catching up with his shovel on years of lack of verge maintenance, but there are many miles still to do, and vigilance for fresh damage. But the old adage ‘For the want of a nail the horse shoe was lost’ etc etc. couldn’t be more apt when considering the state of the roads.

If through the Local Area Forum we can find a way to keep the drainage working, for example through a scheme like the one at  Stewkley that was presented to the LAF last year, where young people formed a social enterprise to carry out verge maintenance, perhaps we can reduce the attrition of water, combined with traffic, on our country lanes.

Goodbye Jackie Wesley

We will miss Jackie Wesley very much indeed when she starts supporting the LAFs in the south of the County. Paul Hodson, with whom she is changing place will find Jackie a hard act to follow. I hope that Paul will enjoy working with us. He will certainly find the Great Brickhill Wing and Ivinghoe LAF very different in style and substance, much of which was achieved by Jackie’s hard work in supporting our priorities and finding lots of extra funding opportunities.

LAF priorities workshop 12th February

Both Jackie and Paul will be at the workshop in Edlesborough village hall next week. This is an annual event where we look at what the LAF has achieved, and what the priorities are for next year. I hope as many people will come along as possible. The usual representatives will be joined by a cross section of community groups including young people.

County Council Budget  

The County Council continues to take large sums of money out of its operating budget. In the first week of January the proposals were minutely examined in public by councillors in a very similar fashion to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. But questioning was a bit less intimidating.

Many changes and staff reductions are proposed, but the headlines for cuts are the home to school transport budget, which is very bad news for parents in this area, so I will be doing my utmost to stave off the worst effects; the educational psychology services – again; and maintenance of footpaths and rights of way.

The state of the roads is never out of sight, but a 20 year structural maintenance programme seems as far away as ever, and only short term but increased spending approved.

At the time of writing the council tax proposal is for the minimum increase possible without a local referendum, 1.9%. But it’s impossible to predict as the threshold for a referendum may be reduced to 1%.

High speed broadband (non)delivery 

The BT notice  (promise?)  of high speed broadband to the area by 31st December 2013 remains unfulfilled. Contention is still appalling at peak times, like 4.30pm and 6.55pm for some reason.  The new published date is 31st March.

At last the Public Accounts Committee chair, Margaret Hodge MP, has been airing the issue on TV of public money being given to BT to deliver high speed broadband to rural areas, but being completely cavalier about timescales and transparency over spending the money.

For that reason I have no way of establishing whether the broadband roll out that covers the Cheddington exchange is part of BTs own investment, or the joint Herts and Bucks project supported by government grant.

Aylesbury Vale District Local Plan

Obviously a district matter,  I am never the less involved and concerned both as County Councillor,  and  AVDC councillor on the major developments planning committee, that so far AVDC has spent going on for £3M bringing forward two new district wide plans. Both have had to be withdrawn as unsound following public enquiry, leaving everywhere vulnerable to speculative development. For example it was no coincidence that 40 homes are currently applied for on a controversial site in Pitstone, but this is small compared to many now awaiting appeals.

The planning inspector’s verdict can be read here  http://www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id=fAAxADQAMwAyADYAfAB8AFQAcgB1AGUAfAB8ADAAfAA1

Fortunately the District has ‘saved’ its most important policies from the 2008-11 plan and is able to apply them to planning applications so long as they are in line with the new 56 pages of  national  planning policy guidance (NPPG)

These policies were used recently to refuse a major application in Winslow. An appeal against the decision is being held in mid March when AVDC will find out exactly how robust those saved policies are and how much in line with current national guidance.

My best regards

Avril Davies, County Councillor, Ivinghoe Division