Do you know where this is? Well -I have to confess that I became a little excited when I saw part of this ‘jungle’ being cleared a couple of weeks ago. Recognise it now? You will if you’re a member of Arena Leisure Centre. Did you know that much of the area of woodland between the A30 and the RMA fence is a Conservation Area? This forms part of the Camberley West SCC Division, which I represent as a County Councillor. So -why was I so exited? Well – it occurred to me some years ago that residents in the many flats along A30 between Arena & Meadows have precious few places on their doorsteps to take a stroll or walk their dog, apart from the Recreation Ground off Southwell Park Road. Who can blame them for walking on our beloved Heathland if they have nowhere else close-by to go? So I started to make enquiries, starting with English Heritage, asking if it would be a good idea to use part of this area as an Amenity Area. By clearing some of the shrubbery, creating a few sitting area, paths; perhaps including some wooden exercises (as we have in Lightwater Country Park), we could create a little space suitable for walking small dogs, & generally relaxing – well better than nothing if you live in a flat with no garden! (Bear in mind we’ll probably have even more flats on the cinema & Duke of York sites, and in the currently empty office blocks). Next I invited Natural England to Camberley & showed them the area, and told them of my idea. I explained that this could be a SANG, (ie a suitable alternative green space to mitigate for new residential developments), that people might actually use for walking their dogs, unlike some SANGs that are pretty well unused, like Diamond Hill Woods SANG. Their reply – NO! This unused Conservation Area in the heart of Camberley which is crying out for someone to love it is the WRONG SHAPE FOR A SANG! Never mind, I still think I have the outline of a pretty good idea -which is why I became excited when I saw a space being cleared. Has someone listened to me? Not yet I fear!
…………..Oh Yes! The weather plays havoc with our road surfaces, & I’m pleased to note that Surrey County Council are fixing more pot-holes than ever. However they keep coming -it is just one degree centigrade out there today as I write this in the middle of the day! Sadly we hear that elsewhere in the country a cyclist seems to have died after cycling into a pot hole & falling off his bike. SCC cannot fix pot holes unless our staff now that they exist -so what can we do? Easy – on the SCC Website there is a facility to ‘report a pothole’. Alternatively just call 0300 200 1003.
None of us can control the weather -but we can report pot holes & prevent potential accidents & vehicle damage.
I’ve been meeting business colleagues from Camberley & surrounding areas for breakfast at Pennyhill Park for more than 20 years. The meetings take place every month & provide opportunities for networking, seeking advice,sharing ideas & concerns etc. These businessmen & women are quite possibly personally guaranteeing business loans & overdrafts, leases or mortgages on business premises etc. They strive to be self-sufficient, to provide a reasonable lifestyle for themselves, their families & their employees -yes – they create jobs. Some of them possibly strive to become ‘rich’ – if they succeed, we all gain, since they create even more jobs, pay more tax on their income, pay VAT on their expenditure etc. If in due course they sell the business they’ve built up they pay Capital Gains Tax. When they retire they will live on the pension that they themselves have built up. Sadly many new businesses fail – sometimes the entrepreneurs dust themselves down & start again – & eventually ‘get it right’ & become ‘rich’. Is it not regrettable that the Labour Party seem to be preaching a message of envy? they go on about ‘fairness,’ & most recently have announced their intention to introduce a ‘mansion tax’. Do they not realise how devisive, how counter-productive that proposal is? Why should they want to discourage business people from becoming ‘rich’? The politics of envy will benefit nobody.
On Thursday I was feeling a bit sorry for myself; my wife, Carol, had always wanted to see the Northern Lights & who was I to refuse –so we spent six nights inside the Arctic Circle. The temperature (as low as minus 26) was not a real problem – we had all the gear & if we needed even more it was provided. Carol booked a ride on a sleigh – pulled by ten dogs who had just lunched on whale meat – and we were behind them! (We were not provided with nose-pegs). Perched precariously on the sleigh & wearing cumbersome, but effective Arctic Gear, we were dragged along for ten miles or so. The ride was spectacular – but by Thursday I was feeling the side effects of being in a seated position to which I was unaccustomed.
Barry Perrin is an amputee living in Camberley. Knowing that he does some voluntary work for Limbcare I invited him, together with the Chairman & Founder of Limbcare, Ray Edwards, to speak to us. Ray is a quadruple amputee –yet rather than feel sorry for himself he runs his charity to help others, ably helped by people like Barry.
Ray has a story to tell –when I heard it of a sudden my aches & pains disappeared! Please be sure to take the time to find out for yourselves.
Ray Edwards MBE
When I accepted the invitation from Surrey Heath Conservative Association to stand for Surrey County Council I did so as a person with a lifetime’s experience of charitable work, involvement with Chamber of Commerce & other business organisations etc. I felt I had something to offer the community, both locally & throughout Surrey. Having been elected in 2009, I found myself with the title of ‘politician’. Are politicians popular? No! Yet without politicians how could democracy, as we know it, operate? Anyhow, I resolved to be a ‘councillor’ first & a ‘politician’ second; whatever ‘hat’ I happened to be wearing was pretty irrelevant when dealing with the local issues such as speeding, potholes, anti-social behaviour, parking, schools etc. I quite enjoyed the pre-election campaign; if people wanted to discuss National issues I’d happily do so – after all I was well aware that Labour were over-spending & that a ‘black hole’ was being created which the next government would have to deal with – and don’t we know it! Generally I perceived little or no ill-feeling from my opponents.
As we approach the 2013 Election in May things seem to have changed so far as the Labour Party is concerned. We Conservatives are being called ‘The Nasty-Party’. There seems to be an attempt to stir up the ‘poor’ against the ‘rich’. I’m seeing Tweets about Mansion Tax – but the authors seem to concentrate on ‘Mansions’ owned by business people or which have been inherited – they seem never to mention the ‘Mansions’ owned by the footballers, pop stars & film stars etc. who we ourselves have made ‘rich’. Whilst older people in Surrey are shocked to learn that their houses might take them into the Inheritance Tax Bracket, now that the IHT Threshold has been frozen, I’ve seen Tweets suggesting that all Inheritance should be banned. I’ve seen a Tweet suggesting that all ‘Mansions’ should be compulsorily-purchased & converted into houses for the poor. I’ve seen aggressive Tweets about private-sector Landlords who do nothing but ‘trouser £thousands’.
We’ve heard much about the desire for ‘fairness’. I’m all for reducing the tax burden on the ‘poor’, so long as we don’t drive the ‘rich’ out of the country. For example, how much tax was lost because Roger Moore became a tax exile many years ago? What I really dislike are the apparent attempts to encourage jealousy of those that ‘have’, without necessarily asking how they got it.
My parents obtained a mortgage & bought a house at an early age; as a Local Authority employee my Father was able to obtain a mortgage. Nevertheless, the repayments proved to be demanding, especially in those days when ‘Mums’ often stayed at home. Dad cycled to work & often did some work at his allotment before having breakfast & setting off on his bike. His Father gave us his 15 year old car when I was 10; we had our first TV which someone was throwing out when I was 16.
By contrast, my friends who lived in Council Houses often had the best bikes, they had TVs, went on holiday to Butlins etc. At the time I though this ‘not fair’! After leaving school I continued studying & earned no real money until I was 23 – whilst some of my childhood friends & neighbours had been earning reasonable money since they were 16. Later in life I benefitted from my studies & what I inherited from my parents – but what a price there may be to pay for my Care Home Fees or Inheritance Tax.
Fair! I don’t think so!
Over the years I have attended several ‘Away-Days’. I’ve worked for multinational companies, I’ve served as a Trustee on the Boards of several charities, & since 2009 I’ve been a Surrey County Councillor -our Conservative
Group hold ‘Away-Days’ but so far we’ve not actually stayed overnight. My involvement with charities goes back over many years & one of the things that has concerned me is that some of ‘the public’ expect charity staff to
work at a lower rate than their counterparts in business. I’ve often pointed out that a Charity is a business that happens to be a Charity. More than 600,000 people are employed by Charities; the work force is fortunately
augmented by many more unpaid volunteers. Why, I’ve asked, should a person employed by a Charity be treated differently to a person employed by a Business? As I’ve become accustomed to involvement in the public
sector I’ve noticed that some members of ‘the public’ have a similar attitude when it comes to the treatment of local authority staff. It seem to me that some people regard them as an inferior type of worker who perhaps
should receive a lower rate of pay than their counterparts in the ‘real world’. My experience is that the Surrey County Council staff are industrious, efficient & helpful. I confess to being just a little envious of their pension
entitlements, & I suspect that until fairly recently most of them did not experience the stress & demands that I experienced whilst running my own business for more than 30 years – the work was interesting & challenging;
however having to chase for payment of my fees for work done in order to be able to pay my bills, & waking up each morning knowing that my family’s home was serving as the security for my business overdraft was not very
pleasant! If I was ill, or on holiday, I did not get paid, & the work was not done. I’ve also come to realise that not everyone appreciates that SCC employs over 23000 staff, including the schoolteachers, who, together with the
80 elected county councillors, serve the 1.1 million Surrey Residents. When reference is made to ‘The Council’ , strictly speaking it means the 80 elected councillors -perhaps this is why some members of the public become
concerned when they read of an Awayday at Farnham Castle -possibly memories of the MP’s expenses scandal are stirred. The SCC leadership are committed to helping Surrey businesses. I believe that the decision to bid
for the Olympic Cycle races to go through Surrey raised more than £600,000,000 for Surrey businesses. SCC are involved with FSB, Chamber of Commerce etc. in Surrey – & do bear in mind that Surrey ranks second only to
the City of London in terms of our net contribution to the the National Exchequer. So -given that SCC is a large organisation, employing ‘normal’ people, why is it a problem that an overnight Awayday for a group of senior
staff & councillors to be held in a reasonably priced facility offering privacy & enabling the participants to be focused? I’ve attended an ‘Awayday’ at County Hall -instead of continuing discussions over lunch there is a great
temptation to nip off & make a few calls or see’how things are going’. It will not take too big a problem to take one’s mind off the purpose of the Awayday. Far better to actually be away from it all. Out of curiosity I’ve had a
look at how the conference rates at Farnham Castle compare with other venues, & nothing has made me concerned about the cost of the recent much discussed event. There are venues in Surrey where the cost would be
several times that of Farnham Castle. One similarly priced venue near Dorking has on its’ website a separate sections for Public Sector & Charity Clients. Farnham Castle boasts Frimley Park Hospital as one of its’ conference
clients -I’ve not heard of a furore about doctors locking themselves away in a castle – presumably to discuss how to treat our ailments -yet, like a Local Authority, the NHS is funded by the taxpayer. Perhaps people have
been stirred up by the word ‘Castle’. Were I ever to be asked to attend an overnight event on behalf of SCC, away from the comforts of my own home knowing that alcohol would be banned, I’d expect to be accommodated in
a reasonable hotel; Farnham Castle I believe has a 3-Star Rating. Finally, are Surrey Taxpayer really concerned that our SCC leadership wish to support one of our historic treasures, & help to ensure that it survives for the
benefit of future generations?
Should parents be allowed to park outside schools to drop off and collect their young children? In Surrey we are experiencing an increasing number of children with a resulting extra demands on school places. The days of mum staying at home to look after the children are long gone; the economy demands that women are a vital part of the workforce and why should women not have careers? In addition, every household expects to have a flatscreen television, computer, probably a car, annual holidays etc.: money does not grow on trees. Thus mum or dad may have to drive their child to a school and possibly even drive a second child to a different school before going on to their own place of work. Few schools offer facilities within their boundaries for dropping off and collecting the children; thus the parents often have to run the gauntlet of traffic wardens – one parking fine can equate to their net pay for that particular day.
Is it unrealistic to expect parents to walk their young children to school and then go on to their place of work? Many parts of Surrey lack the adequate public transport necessary for them to be able to do the drop off and pick up and hold down a job. I regularly visit Combe Martin, North Devon for business purposes. The Combe Martin Parish Council allow parents to park free of charge in the car park in the mornings and afternoons for a sufficient period for them to drop off and collect their children from the school. Should we face up to reality in Surrey?