Second Week as Haslemere County Councillor

Induction day 2: Monday, May 13th, 2013

Second induction day at County Hall, Kingston, including sessions on Environment and Infrastructure, Customers and Community, Adult Social Care, Children Schools and Families, Code of Conduct and a session on ‘Listening to our Customers’.

Frustrated that most of the day spent listening to presentations on SCC facts and figures on services provided, when more useful would have been sessions with experienced re-elected councillors to give practical advice for newly elected members, e.g., how to respond to problems raised by constituents, the funding pots available to Haslemere, how to draw up bids to apply for funds as some have imminent deadlines for applications etc.

Attended Independent and Residents’ Association group meeting. Confirmed I will sit on Local Area Committee and will for now be a substitute for Environment and Highways Committee.

Highways and Transport team meeting: Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Met Highways & Transport team, John Hilder (Area Highways Officer, South West), Richard Bolton (Local Highway Services Group Manager) and David Curl (Parking Strategy and Implementation Team) at the Surrey CC site at Merrow. The site is shared with SCC highway contractor May Gurney and Skanska, SCC lighting contractor.  There is also an on site laboratory for product testing.

Was shown the high tech pot hole call centre with 4 large screens showing live information including local weather, incoming calls and e-mails reporting holes, and real time pot hole repair team location. You can report by logging a pothole online or in the case of emergencies by calling SCC on 0300 200 1003.

Discussed introduction of residents’ permits scheme in Haslemere in late May/early June.  Expressed my concern about some elements of the scheme.  Agreed that where a residents’ parking permit scheme does not function properly it can be assessed and withdrawn under the December 2013 Parking review.

Highways team explained that Waverley Local Committee makes decisions on Highway Improvement Schemes (ITS) in the four areas of the Borough (centred around Haslemere, Cranleigh, Godalming and Farnham).  The ITS schemes collectively form the Waverley Local Transport Plan (LTP).

Expected allocations to Waverley for 2013/14 are as follows:

  • £262,000 ITS capital, (usually directed towards ITS schemes)
  • £262,000 Maintenance Capital, (intended for capital maintenance work but can be directed towards ITS)
  • £317,000 Maintenance Revenue (can be used for ITS schemes or capital maintenance.
  •  Total allocation: £814,000

Looking forward to the training session on June 4th to understand how councillors prioritise their local improvement schemes and how to bid for a share of this allocation.  I understand that whilst other Local Committees share the pot equally between member Councillors, the Waverley Local Committee shares the allocation following negotiation between members of the Local Committee.

Local transport plan (LTP) task groups represent the four areas of Waverley, Haslemere is represented by the Haslemere and Western Villages Task Group.

The 2013/14 priority list for the LTP Task Group:

  • £20,000 reserve funding for the Lengthsman Scheme (a new initiative where parish and town councils invited to bid for funding to organise enhanced highway maintenance works for themselves)
  • £15,000 Implement Parking Review Recommendations
  • £15,000 Jetter hire for 3 weeks to clean drains
  •  £10,000 Ad-hoc signs, bollards, etc by local team
  • Total £60,000

An additional Community Pride fund of £5000 is allocated to each councillor for community enhancement.

Haslemere Vision: Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Attended the Haslemere Vision organising group meeting.

Woolmer Hill footpath link with Grayswood/Hindhead: Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Site visit with Ferris Cowper, East Hampshire County Councillor, to route of proposed footpath for Woolmer Hill pupils walking to school from Hindhead/Grayswood which crosses from East Hants into Surrey.  Agreed to work together to finalise last section of the route, and to liaise on other cross boundary issues, for example bus services between Liphook and Haslemere.

Lower Street/Shepherds Hill railings: Thursday, May 16th, 2013

In response to local residents’ complaints about new railings installed in the Shepherds Hill (and recently in Lower Street) conservation area, agreed with SCC Highways that works should be halted.  Site visit held with John Hilder (Local Highways Manager), Sarah Wells (Waverley Borough Council Conservation, Planning Projects Team Leader) and Daniel Payne (SCC Supervising Engineer).  Concluded although there are real concerns that the railings fail to meet the Haslemere Design Statement requirements that “any development should be sensitive to the quality of surrounding environment”, it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money to remove the new railings. Residents however will choose their preferred colour and SCC has agreed, as a gesture of goodwill, to replant gardens on Shepherds Hill damaged during installation.

It is clear that lessons need to be learnt from this situation, and all parties agreed that in future, proper consultation with residents must be carried out when any proposals are brought forward.

Meeting Mayor, Haslemere Town Council: Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Met Cyndy Lancaster (outgoing town mayor) to discuss matters arising including Highways Localism Fund.

Mayor Making ceremony: Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Attended Mayor Making in the evening: the election and swearing in of the new Town Mayor, Libby Piper, in the Town Hall.  Thanks were given to out-going mayor, Cyndy Lancaster, who has done a fantastic job working for the town during her year of office.

Several Conservative party members commented on how effective the use of social media had been in the election campaign.  The fun party atmosphere on the steps of the Georgian Hotel on polling day, and the number of younger voters was noted. Held firm on my view that HTC meetings to discuss grant allocations should be held in public, not as currently in private/exempt.  A presumption of openness should be upheld for all meetings unless agreed by all to be of particular sensitivity.

Residents’ Association, Derby Road & Weydown Road: Friday, May 17th, 2013

Met Chairman of the Derby Road/Weydown Road Residents’ Association to discuss the need for additional lining on the lower part of Weydown Road.  The current situation, with cars parked on both sides of the road, is causing safety problems. The lining proposed should not result in any significant displacement. Agreed to discuss with David Curl.

Also discussed the dangerous pothole situation on Derby Road in front of St Bart’s school. This stretch of Derby Road is currently considered by SCC to be ‘unadopted’ and so not maintained by SCC.  Agreed to discuss with SCC Highways to find a solution.

Highways Localism Fund: Friday, May 17th, 2013

Discussion with Lynne Martin, Senior Project Manager, SCC Environment and Infrastructure to understand how Haslemere can benefit from a share of a £20,000 Highways Localism fund to be divided among 21 Waverley parish/town councils by the Local Area Committee.  Highways Localism fund is intended for minor highways maintenance such as vegetation clearance, extra grass cutting etc.  Agreed to meet with Lynne and Haslemere Town Council representative to put bid together before May 31 deadline.

Mentor Meeting: Friday, May 17th, 2013

Met with Carmel Millar, my SCC mentor in Haslemere today.  Carmel is head of Human Resources.  Joined by Richard Oldham, Manager Haslemere Hall and Cyndy Lancaster. Agreed investment in building relationships between Haslemere and SCC is needed. Carmel has asked me to give a testimony in SCC training session on organisational Values and Culture.

Discussion also focussed on SCC’s misperception of Haslemere as ‘wealthy commuter town’, I shared with Carmel that a foodbank is starting in the High Lane Community Centre.

Longdene Road: Friday, May 17th, 2013

Contacted by a resident concerned that SCC Highways were planning to stop cars turning left from bottom of Longdene Road towards Weyhill.  Email sent to David Curl for clarification.

Next update

I will aim to write a councillor log at least every two weeks.