Taking a break from canvassing a few days ago, I went to visit a Surrey Junior school along with my two brothers, my wife Carol, a cousin, and other family members. Yes, we were invited; my Grandfather had been the first Headmaster of this school. We sat at the front of the hall in front of the assembled children whilst the current Headteacher introduced us; then we answered some searching questions from a group of pupils who were interested in knowing more about the old days. Following a tour of the school we sat down to some refreshments whilst reading some documents from the School archives. We were fascinated by the ‘punishment book’ – I had no idea that my Grandfather wielded a cane! How times have changed! Anyway -it was a thoroughly pleasant occasion – but I was a little concerned as to the amount of time and effort that the Schoolteachers and other staff had put into arranging our visit.
So I was interested to read that one of the priorities of my opponent, Rodney Bates, according to’ Labour Voice’, is to visit all local schools once a term – ie three times per year. Apart from the fact that the time involved in visiting these schools three times per year would involve a time commitment of some ten days, (on top of the time Rodney proposes to spend on his regular pothole patrols), I’m not sure that the teachers & their staff would welcome such a proposal. As Vice-Chairman of the SCC Education Select Committee I know just how much time teachers have to spend interacting with OFSTED, Surrey County Council Officers, Governors etc, as well as doing their job, undergoing training and everything else that is expected of them. There are no more than seventy valuable days in a school term – so to have even one of them interrupted by a visit from a county councillor – albeit a well meaning and worthy ambition, may be just a little over the top.
Surrey County Council recommend that councillors try to visit their schools at least once per year. They also like councillors to sit on a school governing body, -an experience I had (Cordwallis School) some years ago. My wife is a retired school-teacher; I delegated the role of school governor to her -she serves the excellent school attended by our two children – Lorraine School , and Pine Ridge School. The role of a county councillor , spending several days per week in County Hall Kingston , is a very busy role – so Carol does more justice to being a school governor than I can.
Edmund King of the AA is reported to have said that there are more potholes around this Spring than there are daffodils. I’m no expert on daffodils -I do know that we human beings share 25% of our DNA with daffodils – but that is the limit of my knowledge. I know enough about potholes to be able to say that they spring up overnight. Sadly I also know that where a road really needs a completer overhaul – roads have a finite life -then mending a pothole can be compared with putting a plaster on a wound that really needs a stitch or even surgery!
Surrey County Council officers regularly patrol our roads. Even so they rely on residents reporting potholes as soon as they see them. SCC officers are committed to visiting a reported pothole within 24 hours. Once inspected and encircled with white paint, it is easier for a motorist whose car has been damaged by that pothole to make a claim on SCC.
Within Surrey Heath there are 378 km (235 miles) of roads. The SCC Division which I have had the privilege of serving as a county councillor since 2009, is an area bounded by Park Street, The Wish Stream, The River Blackwater, down as far as Johnsons Wax in Frimley Green Road. I’d ‘guesstimate’ that Camberley West therefore has 40 miles of roads. Thus it was with some incredulity that I noted that my Labour opponent, in his Election Literature, has committed himself to a priority of ‘regular patrols of the area so that all potholes are quickly reported and our roads are sorted out’. A worthy ambition – however bearing in mind that potholes appear overnight, this will necessitate a daily patrol if it is to be effective. A daily patrol of 40 miles around Camberley West -even at 20 mph average speed (slower on a bike) will take at least two hours per day. I would suggest with respect that, if elected, my opponent does what I’ve been doing -ie encourage residents to report potholes to Surrey County Council. In that way he will, if elected, be freed up to deal with his other stated priorities.
Oh -by the way: a daily regular patrol of Camberley West’s roads will not ‘ sort out’ our roads. If he has looked at the details of Operation Horizon he will see that the planned SCC expenditure of more than £100m over the next five years will ‘sort out’ some 16% of our roads. It seems that Surrey needs £1b to ‘sort out’ our roads. Since the UK are spending about £200m per day on interest on the debt that the Labour Government left us with, it is highly unlikely that my opponent will be ‘sorting out’ our roads in the near future.
Anyone who has been reading my blogs, emails, tweets etc. or who has spoken to me recently will be know that Surrey County Council are very well aware & equally concerned about the problem of potholes. The extremely wet Autumn, followed by a very cold winter, has exacerbated a problem which in reality been caused by over-use of our Surrey roads, and a failure by successive governments to realise that a road has a finite life – every road needs replacing or renewing at some stage. The recent weather & resultant increase in the number of potholes – it is said the in UK a pothole is repaired every sixteen seconds (no -not the same one) – has hopefully brought the problem to a head; National leaders are now asking for the government to consider increasing funding to repair and renew our existing roads -they are so vital to our fragile economy – particularly in Surrey Heath where we have an utterly inadequate public transport system, and also in Surrey – the county which is second only to the CITY of London in terms of our contribution to the National Exchequer. (I do wish they’d stop knocking ‘The Bankers’! It was Labour who deregulated them!)
Surrey County Council are doing their very best to tackle these problems. Hopefully by now you will have read about Operation Horizon -if not you will find details on the SCC website. The link below should also be welcome news. Do be sure to report potholes or suspected potholes -information once again can be found on the SCC Website -or just ask your county councillor for help. Do look out for my next Pothole Blog- coming soon!
** Sorry -I could not resist this! I’ve just read ‘Camberley West & Frimley Labour Voice’. To Quote ” you can either have a political party stooge or someone who was born here and went to school here, ” Well! Like both of the St Michael’s Borough councillors and of course Michael Gove, I was born in Scotland. So we are all ‘political stooges’ in St Michaels Ward? I did go to school in Sunbury-on-Thames which is in Surrey – but later I went to Hampton Grammar School (oops -that will upset the lefties) which was in Middlesex but is now in London. If anyone would like to see this edition of Labour Voice I will gladly send you a copy.
I have more important things to attend to now -but I will get back to Labour Voice again. So tell your friends please -more to come along with the important information I try to disseminate.
Last Friday evening I attended the Annual Dinner of the Surrey Heath Ramblers Association – as ever a very enjoyable and successful event. Before becoming a Surrey County Councillor in June 2009 I spent seven years as the Honorary Treasurer Trustee on the Board of The Ramblers Association, Having been a founder member of the Surrey Heath RA Group. The Ramblers Association largely originated from the mass trespass on Kinder Scout in The Peak District in 1932, when the factory workers, wishing to ramble, were protesting about the lack of access to the countryside. Whilst I was on the Ramblers BOT, the Countryside Rights of Way (CROW) Bill went through Parliament & was enshrined in law; thus much of the countryside previously inaccessible to the general public was designated as Open Access Land. As you can imagine, I was one of the few members of the Board of The Ramblers with ‘right-wing leanings’ – in fact some of my colleagues might have made Ken Livingstone or Tony Benn appear moderate. Nevertheless we respected each other’s views & worked towards our common goals; rarely if ever did any bad feeling emerge as a result of our political differences.
Similarly I have, over the past four years, always respected the views of my seventy-nine colleagues on Surrey County Council. We’ve worked together on various committees pretty successfully, as councillors, particularly when ‘politics’ have not got in the way. If I’ve wanted to argue a point from a ‘political ‘perspective I’ve tried to base my arguments on the facts, not on incorrect information or rumour. Similarly, during the weeks leading up to the County Council Election, I’ve endeavoured to be sure, on the doorsteps etc., to discuss ‘political’ differences between the Conservative party & our opponents in Camberley West, based on the facts.
In my opinion, for a large county council such as Surrey CC to operate efficiently, it must be run on a business-like basis. Therefore I was not at all concerned when the ten members of the Cabinet, plus sixteen senior officers, locked themselves away in Farnham Castle to hold an uninterrupted Strategy Meeting. Farnham Castle offers 3-Star accommodation. Had the event been held in the 3-Star Lakeside International Hotel rather than in a castle it might not have led an opposition county councillor to inform the national press & local press. Sadly the press reported that twenty-six Conservative councillors attended the event, which incorrect information then appeared in a Surrey Heath Labour Party publication. I immediately advised the Labour Party of their inadvertent error and asked them to please correct the error in their subsequent publication. So far as I was concerned that was the end of the matter. ‘Farnham Castle’ had been debated and was ‘history’.
Thus I was saddened, when I received my copy of the more recent edition of Labour Voice, to read their report that twelve (not ten) councillors attended Farnham Castle. The article made no mention of the sixteen senior staff members. The Labour Party knew the correct numbers. They also, in their article, divided the full cost of the meeting between the fictional number of twelve attendees , rather than the correct number which is twenty-six.
In my view this is a dishonourable way for local political activists to try and score points, and to presumably try to discredit the very successful Conservative led county council and some of their hard working staff. Before having sight of this latest edition of Labour Voice it was never my intention to argue my case & contest the election other than on policy, my record and the record of the county council over the last four years –with the emphasis on accuracy, honesty and decency.
I may now change my mind and see if I can play silly games. Watch This Space
Over the four years that I’ve served as a county councillor I’ve found that parking issues are the issues that can cause the most stress, harm, neighbour disputes & worse. Many houses in Camberley & Frimley were built before the majority of residents had one car, let alone two or more. When I was growing up most of the Dads in my road cycled to work. My Dad cycled from Sunbury to County Hall Westminser. Today, especially given the unsatisfactory public transport we have to tolerate in Surrey Heath, thousands of commuters drive in & out of town. In the case of the poor residents of Gilbert Road the situation is all the worse because Frimley Park Hospital operates on a shift basis. Thus residents can be woken up in the early hours by a hospital worker starting his car after completing a night shift. Click Gilbert Road (below) to access video
Quote from ‘Comment’ in Camberley News & Mail, April 11th. ‘ Perhaps it is time we saw the politicians on our ballot papers looking to serve their communities first and foremost, rather than party leaders in Westminster.
Question: how may candidates did C N&M actually interview before reaching this conclusion?
Question: where & what is the evidence to support the above statement?
Speaking for myself; I envisaged the role of councillor as a logical progression from that of my previous role a president (apologies for the grandiose title) of Surrey Heath Chamber of Commerce. CoC collegues will recall that I frequently viewed the councils, and indeed the government, as the ‘enemy’. Is there anyone out there who is not aware of my utter loathing of the A30 bus lane? Is there anyone out there in Frimley who is not aware of the work I did with Pauline Hedges and others on behalf of C0C , attempting to persuade SHBC not to sell off part of a Free public car park to Waitrose. Since becoming a councillor I’ve berated SHBC for charging in Burrell Road CP – thereby inflicting more misery on my Station Road residents. I mock some of the the EU directed ‘sustainability’ projects. Has anyone travelling on A30 near the Fire Station ever been stopped by a Red Light at the new cycle crossing? £140,000. Was that Value for Money? How many pot holes would £140,000 have filled? The Coalition Government are hamstrung by rules dumped on them by our lords & master in Brussels & Strasbourg (I always say both names now just to remind people that, every month, the entire EU parliament moves from Brussels to Strasbourg, costing us £millions. Thankfully DC at last has seen the light & has promised a referendum.) Whilst on EU directives: HMG & SCC have to abide by the law in connection with the Habitat Legislation signed up to by Labour & resulting in the TBHSPA, SANGS etc. Has anyone out there heard me leaping up & down supporting SANGS?
In the February Edition of Labour Voice one of their candidates referred to the eyesores on the A30 – ie the derelict buildings. Surely a would-be county councillor should know why they’ve stood derelict for so long? Surrey Heath are short of SANGS of course ! We cannot build more than ten units of housing without a mitigating SANG.
Siemens in Frimley, were they a stand- alone UK company, would rank very high up in the FTSE 100 list. Most of Europe would welcome Siemens if their Frimley operation was transferred abroad. Would their government or local authorities have insisted that Siemens staff left their cars at home & came to work via a useless rail service? Of course not. Yet I -little one-man Denis Fuller – had to go against the policy of HMG, SCC & SHBC & help Siemens obtain planning permission for their staff to park cars on a derelict building site in Lyon Way.
Incidentally, where I’ve be believed the law to be wrong, I’ve campaigned to get it changed ; because of what happened in Cedar Lane (cruel clamping activity) -clamping was banned on private land, in October 2012, acrosS the entire country!
Still in troubled Frimley: I’ve railed against a stupid SCC rule that forbids residents having a dropped kerb & parking their small car in their small garden in case the next owner of the house decides to but a Centurian tank or Fire Engine & try to park it!
OH Yes! Following HMG/EU/SCC/SHBC rules, there was recently a proposal that to enable the KIER development in Lyon Way Frimley to proceed, the residents of Station Road should have a cycle & pedestrian ‘LINK’ imposed on them -the proposal was that the residents, already with insufficient parking spaces, should be forbidden from parking on one side of Station Road. My reaction – ‘Over my dead body’. Last week the councillors – NB – COUNCILLORS -on the SHBC Planning Committee, went against party policy/government policy & allowed the Kier plans to proceed without the ridiculous LINK. OF COURSE COUNCILLORS CAN PUT COMMUNITIES FIRST!
SCC are badly funded by HMG. In 2010 our SCC Cabinet decided it might be a good idea to have Parking Meters in my Division. I consulted with my residents -then told my Conservative colleagues to please think again. They did.
Someone recently said “Denis, you have the ability to put yourself in the place of your resident when helping them resolve a problem”.
I could give other examples of where I’ve made myself pretty unpopular with Conservative colleagues by putting the interests of my resident first. I cannot recall every saying to a resident ” sorry -I agree with you but I cannot say so as it is against party policy”
CN&M -sorry -I cannot agree with your statement!
Also see my interview on podcast at Paul Deach’s website. Just click on the link below.
I’m grateful to a resident who took the trouble to enquire into my attendance record and then ask me why I’d only attended 75% of meetings. I’m still trying to find out where the figure comes from & what it means. Of one thing I’m certain – my attendance at the committees I’ve serve on well exceeds 75% – it is probably 90% or better. I get very cross when I sit at a meeting & see the empty seats – after all everyone is entitled to send a substitute. I’ve served on the Health Scrutiny Committee during the last 4 years as well as the three committees I currently sit on. Most back-benchers only serve on two committees. I’m an official, trained substitute on the Planning and Regulatory Committee; I’ve enjoyed attending most of the other committees. For a back-bencher like me attendance at the full Surrey County Council meetings is interesting -but most of the work is undertaken by cabinet members, committee chairman & more experienced members. It is important that we are present to vote – but it is not impossible for a back-bencher to serve four years on SCC, be very busy & involved, yet never speak at SCC!
So when I received an email from a resident wanting to know if I was working hard enough it dawned on me that most of us county councillors are invisible most of the time -yet very busy! How would a resident know what we do, for whom, where & when, unless we are involved with them in some way or other? We usually only go knocking on doors at election times – even then there are thousands of doors to knock on. Were I to knock on your door at any other time & say “Hi, I’m Denis, I’m your county councillor – let me tell you what I’ve been up to this month….” how long would it take before you shut the door in my face??
Thus, having replied to my resident, I thought I’d better ensure a few more of you are aware that I actually work pretty hard as a county councillor. Somebody observed the other day that they’d vote for me because I put myself in their position with their problem & tackle the problem as if I were them. Nice! And true! Do please read on…………………………………
Many thanks for your enquiry (refer your email entitled “Time spent on Councillor Duties”. I am delighted that you do vote Conservative; Surrey County Council has fared very well over the last four years under a strong Conservative leadership and under very difficult circumstances, in particular the fact that we are one of the Councils receiving the lowest funding from central government.
I don’t actually keep a record of the time I spend on my duties – I retired from full time practice as a Chartered Accountant in 2008 since when it has been very nice not to have to record my time each day in units of 6 minutes. Perhaps if I had recorded my time since joining Surrey County Council in June 2009 I might have decided not to be standing again ! I would estimate that I spend at least 50 hours per week in my role as a councillor.
Apart from attending full meetings of Surrey County Council, I belong to the Audit and Governance Committee, the Community Select Committee and the Education Select Committee, of which I am Vice-Chairman. I am also a substitute on the Planning Committee – indeed I substituted on March 27th (you can watch a recording of the webcast via the Surrey County Council website if you wish). In addition to those responsibilities I have sat on three Public Value Review committees and various sub committees; I attend several agenda planning meetings and other meetings as necessary. Each month there are several training sessions for members, consultation meetings etc. For example, I have recently attended meetings on Operation Horizon and the Surrey Rail Strategy. Suffice to say that not infrequently I have to attend meetings in County Hall, Kingston three days per week, not including private meetings of the Conservative Group which are not regarded as councillor duties. Then there is the Local Area Committee of the six county councillors plus six borough councillors which meets three times per year in public, in addition to several private meetings.
I also serve on various committees involving the “at risk” young people in the Borough. I represent Surrey County Council on Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership; the Lifetrain Trust and Age Concern Surrey Heath. I recently stepped down from the Board of Surrey Historic Buildings Trust, there being many buildings of historic interest in Surrey Heath.
Over the last four years I have attended countless meetings with residents and officers in connection with potholes, yellow lines, parking problems, flooding etc. etc. Between December 2009 and August 2010 I estimate that I spent approximately 300 hours dealing with the clamping problems in Cedar Lane Car Park, Frimley. By working with Borough councillors, residents, businesses and, not least, Michael Gove, we were able to remove clamping from private land not only in Cedar Lane Car Park, but also throughout England. In October 2012 clamping on private land was made illegal.
I have also worked hard to ensure that potholes and other faults are repaired as soon as is humanly possible. Where necessary I have ensured that residents requesting improved parking controls etc. get what they want. For example, I was approached by the management of the sheltered home accommodation on the junction of The Avenue and London Road; the approach road currently only has single lines; thus visitors to the nearby Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Church and the Mosque regularly park on the yellow lines, making it difficult for a fire engine and/or ambulance to get through in an emergency. Emergency vehicles are called to this area several times per month as you can imagine.
In connection with the actual state of our roads, can I refer you to my recent blog.
I would not offer myself for the residents of Camberley West to serve a further 4 years if I was not prepared to commit the time necessary to the role, both locally and as one of the councillors ensuring that we achieve the best possible education, adult social care, etc. etc. for the residents of Surrey.
I do hope this answers your questions – if not, please be certain to let me know.