Two losses to our community

I am sorry to learn of two deaths in quick succession in the new year both of people who had given much to their local communities.

corney_m2Marie Corney died on 22 December in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, aged 78.  Loving wife of Alan, and devoted mother to Rachel and Stephen and beloved Nana of Hayden and Sarah.  She and Alan enjoyed rewarding careers which took them round the world.  They moved to Adderbury after retirement, first living in Horn Hill Road and them moving to Lake Walk but they also enjoyed their holidays in Mallorca, the Canary Islands, Spain and Portugal.  Marie was a Friend of Adderbury Library and worked as a volunteer.   More recently she became an editor of the local village magazine Adderbury Contact utilising her computer skills.  She is pictured here with her husband Alan who survives her.

flux_j1Jim Flux died on 8 January 2017 after being taken ill while engaged in one of his favourite pursuits – bell ringing.  Jim had enjoyed a successful business career before retiring to live with his wife Jean in Deddington.  He engaged in voluntary work and was the leading light in establishing the Carers Centre in Banbury, prompted by a visit from the national Carers charity patron, the Princess Royal.  Jim was also a Deddington Parish Councillor and served as Chairman of the parish council for some time.  Jean died some years ago but Jim worked on in his many voluntary roles in great style.

North Oxfordshire will be the poorer for the loss of both of them.

 

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Garden towns and villages

Banner HomesToday’s news of the government’s plans for 3 new garden towns and 14 garden villages are an interesting addition to thoughts for the New Year!  It is beyond doubt that we need more houses in this country and that there is a current affordability crisis with many people priced out of any prospect of owning their own home.  Equally certain is the controversy that individual sites will bring with concerns over the Green Belt – where it exists; green fields – much more  abundant than Green Belt; the potential for coalescence of settlements into suburban sprawl and what it will all mean for affordability.

The three new garden towns are proposed near to Aylesbury in Bucks, Taunton in Somerset and Harlow & Gilston in Herts.  They will comprise 10,000 homes each.  I think the first garden city was  Letchworth, followed by Welwyn after which the idea foundered.  I also seem to remember that Letchworth was teetotal for many years, without a single pub to its name!  Garden cities were the brainchild of a social reformer named Ebenezer Howard.  He sought to combine the advantages of cities and the countryside and wanted to offer working people a better standard of living with low rents.  However public houses were banned when Letchworth was built, with building work starting in 1903.  It was not until a referendum of local people was held in 1958 that they voted for a lifting of the ban and now the town sports as many pubs and restaurants as any other urban area.

The 14 garden villages sound likely to be equally controversial.  They are to comprise between 1,500 and 10,000 houses.  I don’t think a settlement with 10,000 houses and, one would imagine, over 30,000 people could possibly be regarded as a village.  It is a medium-sized town.  There is one garden village proposed for Oxfordshire and it is in the triangle between Witney, Woodstock and Eynsham in West Oxfordshire – what was David Cameron’s old patch!  It is the result of a bid by the district council for a garden village of up to 2,200 houses and its attraction is its proximity to Oxford which has one of the most acute housing crises in the country both in terms of price and availability.

oxon-and-green-beltThis reminds me of the real problem for housing in Oxfordshire.  It is the Green Belt that surrounds Oxford City.  While that Green Belt continues to exist and to prevent the City from growing, there will be huge pressure on surrounding settlements outside the Green Belt to accommodate Oxford City’s housing needs.  Cherwell has suffered from this for some time now and villages like Bloxham and Bodicote have been blighted with urban extensions to help to meet Oxford City’s housing needs.  It is ironic that many villagers in North Oxfordshire believe they enjoy the benefit of Green Belt round their villages but they have increasingly discovered that the nearest Green Belt is miles away, girdling Oxford City and creating the housing boom on the green fields around North Oxfordshire villages that do not enjoy the protection the Green Belt brings.

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Back to the grind …

BALLOTAfter a quarter of a century in elections and local government, with 24 years as a county councillor and eleven as Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, I thought all of that was finally behind me and I was not entirely sorry.  However, I now find myself fighting an election again to be elected to a vacant place on Adderbury Parish Council. How did this happen?

Well, before the elections to Adderbury Parish Council in May 2016, several villagers urged me to stand, citing the disharmony and obstructionism that had become a feature of the  meetings and hoping I might help to restore calm and objectivity.  I gave this some thought at the time but had a pretty full work load in my voluntary and charitable roles so declined.

Almost a year later, my largest voluntary/charitable role is ending in February so I will have some time for a different interest and I know I can bring a lot of experience and personal skills to democracy at the lowest level.  I make no pretence that Adderbury Parish Council has any significant powers to change the world but it is the closest democratic body to the people it represents and this is a fine large village with plenty of potential.  I have heard of the problems that persist in this council and have therefore put my name forward as someone who is willing to represent the whole of Adderbury village and not a sectional part of it and who will do his best to maintain its quality and improve its facilities.

I would be foolish to pretend that the Parish Council has the power to prevent further housing growth.  If the county and district councils are increasingly powerless in this respect, Adderbury Parish Council certainly is.  However, I would ask you to look at the new housing that has come to Adderbury recently and I think you would accept that it is of a better quality and better suited to our village than that which has been imposed on Bloxham or Bodicote.  I regard Adderbury as the premier, quality, ironstone village of North Oxfordshire and, if elected, I will do all that I can to ensure that future housing growth in the village is of a high quality, appropriate in style and supported by adequate infrastructure investment.  That will be a hard enough battle; anyone who pretends they can prevent any more growth or prevent it in their favoured part of the village is not being honest with you.

I have never had a huge personal interest in sport and dislike the growing commercialism we see in cricket and football and, increasingly in other areas.  We have absurd salaries for players and their managers and, it seems, endemic corruption at the national level.  Against this, I see the value of sport at a local level and believe strongly that local communities should be supporting young and old alike to enjoy sporting activities of their choice and close to where they live.  I am therefore strongly in favour of promoting better local facilities for footballers, cricketers, runners, athletes and other activities within what can be afforded and what housing developers can be expected and persuaded to support.

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New Year Honours

coronation-crownYou may judge me a sad nerd but I always download the Honours listing in the early hours and run a check to find anyone from local government and from Oxfordshire who has been listed.  I have never had a great interest in sport and have always favoured the local and traditional (cricket in whites and hunting with hounds) over the (in my view) inflated and overpaid national sports scene.  So, I say “well done” to the various sporting personalities who have been featured and hope they will enjoy their day at the Palace or Castle.  They will have to forgive me if I sometimes forget their chosen sport when I hear their name on the media.

Having received that letter from No 10 and having to keep it quiet for several weeks, I know what that is like but it is manageable and I am sorry that the Beckham lady seems to have been unable to respect this rule.  Sorry but, I suppose, not entirely surprised.

Those who live in the political bubble that is Westminster and Whitehall will always be well placed to reward those who have supported them in their work and whom they have got to know well.  You can’t change this but I think the failure to recognise the vote-leaveachievements of Nigel Farage in winning back this country’s freedom is a disgrace.  I have never been a fan of UKIP but I think we owe them a huge debt of gratitude and, recognising that Nigel Farage drove the campaign almost single-handed, he deserves recognition. Given that he effectively brought about the downfall of David Cameron and that Theresa May was a Remainer, I suppose it is inevitable that he should have been ignored but it is still a disgrace.  There are two options to correct this national failure:

  • HM the Queen has in her personal gift the Royal Victorian Order.  This is an order of Knighthood at the higher level and recognises distinguished personal service to the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, members of the monarch’s family or to any viceroy or senior representative of the monarch. It would be a brave Queen Elizabeth who made up for the failings of the establishment to recognise the service Nigel Farage has given to this country but someone needs to do it;
  • The Liberals have 142 peers in the House of Lords despite having just 9 MPs in the House of Commons.  Elevating Nigel Farage to the House of Lords would go a very small way to correcting this gross imbalance and would give him a voice in monitoring our exit from the EU.

I am not holding my breath but the New Year’s Honours list is one short of justice and merit.

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Why Putin envies Trump!

I can’t resist this one with thanks to PB who sent it to me:

trump

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Cherwell elections – what’s the choice?

We have a by-election in Cherwell District Council, following the shock resignation of Nigel Randall who had represented Adderbury & Milton when this was a single member ward from 2012 to 2016.   I have discussed Nigel’s decision to resign the seat and his Conservative Party membership in an earlier Blog.   In this Blog, I will look at the candidates.  There are four and I list them in alphabetical order:

Sue Christie

Sue Christie

Sue Christie (Labour) – a solicitor by profession and, until recently, a legal officer employed by Cherwell District Council. Married to John Christie, a Labour Oxfordshire County Councillor and another retired council officer. She has also worked in a legal practice and in the voluntary sector.  Politically, I would put her on the Jeremy Corby spectrum or at least well to the left of Labour.   She lives in Barford which is close to but outside the Adderbury, Bloxham & Bodicote ward.

 

Naomi Kanetsuka

Naomi Kanetsuka

Naomi Isobel Kanetsuka (Green) – has been and may still be an undergraduate in psychology at Oxford Brookes University. Her address is registered at Quarry Close, Bloxham, within the ward and sharing the address with Ceri Fielding who may have a medical background and seems unconnected with Green politics.  Not sure she has ever had a proper job but wait to be proved wrong.  You can trust the Green Party to put up a candidate with an easily memorable name!

 

Andrew McHugh

Andrew McHugh

Andrew McHugh (Conservative) – has a military background, followed by working on overseas healthcare development and, most recently, a practice manager in a Banbury GP surgery.  Makes a lot of the Horton Hospital which will, no doubt, enhance his ratings but I fear is a lost cause. Lives in Epwell which is a bit of a drive from the ward.  I suppose I am disappointed there was no one from Adderbury to take on the challenge and am unclear who selected him to stand and who were the other candidates?  No-one from Adderbury?  He needs to say where he stands on housing development in the villages around Banbury.

Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas (Liberal) – lives in Meadow View, Adderbury so an obvious replacement for Nigel Randall were he not a wet and leftie Liberal and a bit invisible as well. Add to that, he claims to have been an Adderbury Parish Councillor at the same time I was their County Councillor but I do not remember ever seeing him at a meeting.  I think he was busy working in London where he still works.  It is just as well the Liberal Party has died a death and I think the photograph they have chosen for him demonstrates their expectation of success!

Those are the runners and riders!  Not a lot of doubt about the result.  Three lefties and a Conservative in three Conservative villages and a hamlet!   I just hope Andrew McHugh takes the job seriously and listens to the villagers he represents about the appalling housing developments in terms of scale and style that have been imposed on Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote.

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Cherwell elections – where’s the logic?

Nigel Randall

Nigel Randall

I am completely baffled to read Nigel Randall’s open letter in Adderbury Contact where he explains his reason for resigning as a District Councillor just 95 days after he was re-elected and with 1,364 days of his term still to run.  Nigel had represented Adderbury & Milton since 7 May 2012, taking over from Rick Atkinson who was District Councillor for Adderbury & Milton from 2008 to 2012.  Before him, John Harper was the local member from 2000 to 2008.

Like his predecessors, John Harper and Rick Atkinson, not to mention the redoubtable Aline Griffiths before them, they all represented the village of Adderbury and the hamlet of Milton on Cherwell District Council.  However, before the 2006 elections, the Local Government Boundary Commission gave Cherwell an ultimatum.  They had to accept:

  • three-member wards across the council or
  • change from elections in thirds to one-up elections every four years.

The Conservative ruling group elected to go for three-member wards.  This was a decision supported by the town members but not by the rural ones but the latter were out-voted.  As a result, we have a new Cherwell ward comprising Adderbury, Bloxham & Bodicote and not to forget little Milton although it does not feature in the ward name!  In the 2016 all out election, Nigel Randall, Christine Heath and Michael Bishop were duly elected. They are all Conservatives as are the vast majority of Cherwell councillors.  It so happens that Nigel lives in  Adderbury, Christine lives in Bloxham and Mike lives in Bodicote so the imposition of a three-member ward offered a simple solution with the resident member representing the relevant parish and with Adderbury including Milton under its wing.

Now, if Nigel had thought the new arrangement was a nonsense – and I think it is, he could have chosen not to stand for election in May 2016 but he clearly did not think so and chose to put up for election.

We now find that, 95 days later, he decides to stand down citing the Conservative Party’s decision to Brexit.  Well, what nonsense!  The Conservative government, led by David Cameron and George Osborne, did their best to bully and browbeat the nation into voting to Remain.  The nation thought better – and I was one of them – and voted to Leave and thank goodness we did, despite the doom-sayers.  So, for Nigel Randall to quit his recently-won Conservative council seat and the Conservative Party seems to me to be somewhat disingenuous.  It was the nation as a whole that voted to leave and that included a good number of Labour voters, possibly including Jeremy Corbyn!  I really do not understand your reasoning Nigel. I am sorry for this because we have shared council surgeries in the Black Boy when I was still a County Councillor and continued to meet there after I stood down – you with a coca cola and me with a pint!

The outcome of Nigel’s resignation is that the electors of Adderbury, Bloxham, Bodicote and Milton need to be leafleted and canvassed and polling stations in all four locations will open on polling day to find a replacement for Nigel who always and only represented Adderbury & Milton.  What a nonsense!

Nevertheless, some good may come out of Nigel’s decision.  He has stated his desire to continue to be active in the community.  While he was a District Councillor, he consistently declined to take up the Cherwell place on the Adderbury Library Friends Charity. Now that he has more time on his hands, I hope he might be willing to join us?

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