Monday, 20 March 2017

HRTC councillor switches party after just a few months

At 11:03 PM on 18th March I was sent a Press Release:

"Press Release on behalf of Dunstable and Houghton Regis Labour Group
Tony Swain, leader of the Houghton Regis Town Council Labour Group applauds Tim Welch’s principled decision to join the Labour Party, meaning we are now the largest group on the Town Council and are in a stronger position to represent hard pressed and hard working members of our town. Tim recently won his seat in Houghton Hall ward, but has been disillusioned by the Liberal Democrats position on some key issues and was impressed with the principled stand of the Labour group. Amongst these issues were the decision to refuse almost £1/4 million of Market Town Regeneration Fund that was on offer from Central Beds Council and the ridiculous decision to go ahead with a vanity project to provide Mayoral robes and a hat to “add dignity” to the role of mayor of Houghton Regis at a cost of thousands of pounds when residents in Houghton Regis already pay nearly the highest level of council tax in Central Bedfordshire. These were decisions that the Labour group unanimously opposed and Tim has decided that this position was in the best interest of the people of Houghton Regis and has chosen to join us to further the interests of our community.
Tim will be warmly welcomed by fellow Labour Councillors Chris Slough, Richard Scott and Martin Kennedy representing all wards in Houghton Regis."

Let's look at this more closely.

Switching Party

"Tony Swain, leader of the Houghton Regis Town Council Labour Group applauds Tim Welch’s principled decision to join the Labour Party, meaning we are now the largest group on the Town Council and are in a stronger position to represent hard pressed and hard working members of our town. "

Timothy George Welch only won a by-election on Thursday 27 October 2016 where he represented the Liberal Democrats in Houghton Hall Ward of Houghton Regis Town Council. The turnout was less than 10%. Labour had no candidate.

When the Council was elected in May 2015, the Council's new composition was 5 Liberal Democrats, 5 Labour, 3 Community Independent Alliance, and one Independent.

Since then, 1 Labour member went Independent after 7 months, 1 Lib Dem went Independent and subsequently resigned, another Lib Dem went Independent in February 2017.

Tim Welch's defection leaves the current composition as, 5 Labour, 3 Lib Dem, 3 Community Independent Alliance, and 3 Independent.


Market Town Regeneration Fund

"Tim ... has been disillusioned by the Liberal Democrats position on some key issues and was impressed with the principled stand of the Labour group. Amongst these issues were the decision to refuse almost £1/4 million of Market Town Regeneration Fund that was on offer from Central Beds Council "

In June 2016, long before Mr Welch's election, Town Councillors of all parties had expressed their concern over the Market Town Regeneration Fund which required matched funding from the Town Council. You can read about that meeting in my report on here: http://www.hrnd.co.uk/2016/06/town-councillors-unhappy-with.html

At a subsequent meeting of the Council that I witnessed, again long before Mr Welch stood for election, the MTRF was again on the agenda.

"The potential investment in support of the town centre from the project equated to £437,700 which comprised a contribution from CBC of £211,600 and from HRTC of £226,100." see 22 August meeting.

Cllr Abbott (Independent) suggested that the motion before them should be voted on. The meeting was chaired by Labour's Cllr Slough, and he put the motion to the vote. No discussion took place, denying the few visitors the opportunity to understand all points of view. The vote effectively declined to accept the terms of the Fund offer. I blame all the members of the council for not ensuring that the issue was fully discussed as there was so much money involved, especially the chair of the meeting who has responsibility under Standing Orders:


20/3/2017 Footnote:
Cllr Swain approached me last night on this issue. To be fair he wasn't at the first meeting so didn't witness the concern shown by the councillors at that Council Meeting. During our brief exchange he confirmed my suspicion that he had been taken by surprise by the vote that eventually decided the matter. Which **eyebrows raised ** makes it all the more damning since his Labour colleagues perhaps should have let him know in advance so that he could have been ready to argue their case.

Mayoral Robes

"Amongst these issues were the decision to ... go ahead with a vanity project to provide Mayoral robes and a hat to “add dignity” to the role of mayor of Houghton Regis at a cost of thousands of pounds"

I won't defend the council's expenditure on the robes. It's not something I personally agree with.

But in the scale of other expenses it's not such a big deal.

The evidence to the council meeting was that the cost would be around £1100 plus carriage, then the councillors agreed to add a bicorn hat to the purchase and collectively voted in favour of it.



I attended this meeting in January 2017 and took notes. Only an Independent councillors word was taken for the cost of the bicorn hat of between '£200 and £300'.

http://www.civicrobes.com/Pages/Prices/Prices.htm website is referred to in the report to council and actually puts the cost of a bicorn hat at between £290 and £410. So the cost now rises to £1500. Then there will be the occasional cleaning costs. To my knowledge cleaning costs have not been discussed at a council meeting, but I understand from other councils that this is an infrequent expense.

As to the purchase being a 'vanity' project, that is an emotive word. I would point out that the report to council stated that it was "an agreed Outcome within the Council Vision".

In conclusion, to say "thousands of pounds" and use the word 'vanity' in the Press Release was taking a liberty. And, although Labour councillors spoke opposing the purchase of the robes, there was no recorded vote taken, so the whole council bear the responsibility for the decision to buy these robes. 


Friday, 10 March 2017

'Houghton Regis with Luton North' would be better if we have to have this.

The Proposed new Parliamentary constituency boundaries


MY views on the 2018 Boundary Review

submitted on 10th March 2017. Make your comments here.

About

I edit several social media pages, aimed principally at Houghton Regis, Dunstable, and to a much lesser extent Luton. The combined following of these Pages is 6,032. I could not imagine a homogeneous title for a social media page that wholly covered your proposed 'Luton North And Houghton' because the areas are so far apart in social activities shared.

Houghton Regis Residents Opposed

Your correspondents living in Houghton Regis all seem to be opposed to this proposal. Many of the comments on the Luton side appear to come from Labour Party activists. The only comment from Lewsey Farm, Luton, is from Hazel Simmons who describes herself as a Member of the Public when in actual fact she is Labour Leader at Luton Borough Council.

Kelvin Hopkins

In the enquiry in November 2016 Kelvin Hopkins MP pointed out that many of his constituents in his current Luton North constituency attend Central Bedfordshire College. Well, that may be possible, but even so, the college is located in central Dunstable, not Houghton Regis.

Mr Hopkins states that [the Luton North and Houghton area] 'is a contiguous urban area'. It is not. The two are separated by the M1 motorway, and a wide swathe of land currently designated as Green Field.

Andrew Selous

Andrew Selous, MP, also spoke at the enquiry, saying he was, " very sorry to see any part of my constituency removed; that very much includes the town of Houghton Regis." I am disappointed that he made no further attempt in his representation at that time to hold on to the town as part of his remit. He is held in high regard for his helpful interventions in small issues, not least because he is able to exert some influence with Central Bedfordshire Council. I'm not so sure that a Luton Borough ward MP would carry the same weight with Central Bedfordshire Council.

Two halves

To have the two halfs of constituents belonging to two different unitary authorities will be confusing to many people.

On this topic, this is why people will be confused:

New Build.

One of your correspondents rightly points to new build and population growth, expected in north of Houghton Regis and north of Sundon Park and I wonder if this has truly been factored in properly?


'Houghton Regis with Luton North'. 

There are two Houghton's in Bedfordshire. You must name the constituencies accordingly. "Regis" was added to my Houghton many centuries ago to distinguish it from Houghton Conquest. It would be quite wrong to chop it down to be known as simply "And Houghton". Houghton Regis is a town in its own right, with its key inhabitants striving to be known about on the map of the UK. Its Parish boundaries to 2030 are projected to double its population size. If the shape of this constituency ends up prevailing, then I would suggest that it be named 'Houghton Regis with Luton North', handing some pride back to local inhabitants, some of whom abhor connection to Luton judging by feedback they have left.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Pasta And Sausage Microwaved For One

Microwaving For One

Time: 12-13 minutes.

Food:
  • 3 Sausages
  • 2 Bacon Rashes
  • Mixed Veg
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tagliatelle
  • Spirali
  • Honey and Mustard sauce
Equipment:
  1. 2 microwave ovens
  2. microwave saucepan
  3. microwave steamer
  4. microwave tray
  5. frying pan
  6. kitchen scissors
  7. tea-cup
  8. colander

To cook this I first boiled water in a kettle. 
While that's boiling up, arrange tagliatelle (3 lumps) and spirali in a microwavable saucepan. 
Then, place 3 frozen sausages and 2 slices of bacon onto the tray and set to cook on Microwave High for 4 minutes in Microwave Oven 1. 
Into the  steamer place portion of frozen mixed vegetables and extra sweetcorn. 
When the water has boiled pour over the pasta and place the saucepan into Microwave Oven 2, and cook on Microwave High for 10 minutes.  

As the sausage and bacon near cooking completion, start to heat a frying pan. 
Flick the kettle back on. 
On completion of set time, remove tray from Microwave Oven 1. 
Pour boiled water into steamer, then place steamer in oven to cook for 5 minutes on Microwave High.
Turn frying pan heat to low, cut the sausage and bacon up with kitchen scissors. Fry the sausage and bacon up.
Fill a tea-cup with honey and mustard sauce (shop bought from Morrisons in my case).
When a microwave oven is available, carefully take out the contents, and heat the honey and mustard sauce on Microwave High for 3 minutes.

Strain the pasta through a colander, and serve onto plate. Add steamed vegetables, bacon, sausage and sauce, and toss together to make it look absolutely yummy. As it's a white sauce, white wines go well with this dish.