Below is a message that I sent to our Labour members within Surrey Heath over the weekend.
“Firstly I would like to welcome the 120+ new members to Surrey Heath CLP that have joined in the last 4 weeks. These are interesting and challenging times for all of the political parties but thank you for joining and being part of our team. Surrey Heath Labour Party is a friendly and active group with members actively involved in all aspects of political and community life. I look forward to meeting with you in coming weeks and months at future events and socials.
As your only Labour elected rep in Surrey Heath, I do a regular update of my Old Dean Cllr activities so you get to know more about life at the local Council. Feel free to send me your thoughts and local updates. Please be aware that this only covers Surrey Heath Borough Council so members living in Ash, Ash Vale and Tongham come under Guildford Borough Council (who have 2 Labour Cllrs)
On 20th June, it was good to meet many of you at Camberley Theatre when we had a talk from Roger Liddle about the European Union. This was also an opportunity for us to pay our own quiet tribute to Jo Cox MP. Thank you to Murray Rowlands for arranging this at short notice.
On Thursday 30th June, I attended the Surrey Heath Local Area Committee at Portesbury School in Deepcut. I am one of the 6 Borough reps along with the 6 County Cllrs. During the meeting, we received a petition from residents of Gibbet Lane in Camberley concerned about speeding their road and also resolved previous petitions relating to Bagshot High Street, HGV use in Lucas Green Road (West End) and HGV signage throughout West End, Bisley and to Woking.
The next evening, I attended the Phil Collins Annual Dinner at Aldershot CLP which included a very balanced discussion of the national leadership situation from Syd Rapson (former Lab MP in Portsmouth)
On Saturday 2nd July, I attended the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Camberley War Memorial which commemorated 100 years of the start of the Battle of the Somme. This was also attended by other Cllrs including the Mayors of Surrey Heath and Rushmoor and many members of the public and was a moving ceremony. I have always thought it important to try and attend remembrance events as a small way of recognising the huge sacrifice given by others.
On 5th July, Surrey Heath Cllrs received a private briefing on the options relating to fast trains to London from the area before a consultant report was made public. Unfortunately, this has concluded that despite looking at various options, there was little value for money in trying to connect Surrey Heath stations to the Woking fast line to speed up journeys (for example by building a connection somewhere between Frimley and Ash Vale). This means that improvements can not really be done by engineering but by scheduling improvements. There are possible options for this (such as more direct trains without changing at Ascot) and now is a good time to look at this as the train franchise is currently being considered. We will have to wait and see if anything comes from this.
The following evening, we held a members meeting at St.Mary’s at short notice to discuss the national leadership situation. Thank you to those that attended and contributed your thoughts on the night. It was clear that members had strongly held but contrasting opinions and as requested, I since wrote to Tom Watson and to the Regional Chair with our agreed position calling on everyone to work together within party rules. Since the meeting, we now know that there will be a leadership election with the final candidates known in the next week.
The following day, I went to a meeting of the Old Dean Community Group which discussed various local community projects and activities including a future networking lunch and community noticeboards.
On Tuesday 12th July, I attended the Surrey Heath Council Executive where I can speak but not vote. Items discussed at this meeting included a financial update, details of our spending on professional advisors (£402k between Apr 15 and Mar 16) and a proposal to introduce marked parking and enforcement at Frimley Lodge Park as there had been problems with obstructing access roads. However, there were two items of particular interest to me where I spoke namely:-
- Review of Housing Allocation & Homelessness Update
I unsuccessfully objected to changes in the policy that meant that people would have to be in “continuous employment for 12 months” to be eligible rather than settled employment. Unfortunately, many hard working people may not have this luxury in these difficult economic times but may have secured a job more recently and I don’t see why they should be penalised.
2. Camberley Ice Rink
The Executive agreed to hold a Christmas Ice Rink and market at London Road Recreation Ground. This to me is a complete waste of officer time and Council money and I strongly argued against this. Leaving aside the local resident opinion which appears also to be against, Camberley is not a tourist attraction and comparing it to Winchester and Windsor is nonsense. My main concern is that any such attraction needs to be in the heart of the town centre in areas of high footfall such as Park Street or the Mall and not on a out of town tennis court hidden behind an old pavilion. As a result, the Council have now committed to spending £10k on marketing this plus lots of officer time which should have been redirected to hard pressed local businesses worried about the economy or to community projects. I suspect this will be another Council flop such as the Camberley Theatre Café and the large anchor store that never happened but we will wait and see..
Finally and on a much more positive note, it was great to attend a farewell reception for two athletes from Camberley Judo Club that will be representing their respective countries at the Olympics in Rio. This is a fantastic achievement and I am particularly pleased as they are based on the Old Dean. They also had other athletes that narrowly missed on selection..good luck to Szandra for Ghana and Ashley for the UK and please look out for their results!
Cllr Rodney Bates
Labour Cllr for Old Dean”