BUDGET BLOG. (The usual smoke and mirrors annual event)

The chamber was full for Friday afternoon budget meeting at County hall on St David’s Day. Even a sick member had been dragged from his bed to bring out the vote. Setting a budget is a legal requirement and hard choices are inevitable. But the Lib Dems had located a pot of money available to be spent and my group, as part of the Opposition tabled an amendment that offered innovative ways of helping the community. Four really good schemes were outlined by Robin Guest the Lib Dem leader, buoyant from the Eastleigh election result. He had to demand that our amendment was handed out for members to read and he was cross that Labour had already quickly circulated amazing changes to their own budget proposals. These late submissions made a mockery of the official budget proposal we had received within the proper committee time frame.

Our proposals would enable play schemes to continue as before with help from Town and Community councils as grants had been slashed. We would give a swimming subsidy of £23K to help Flintshire compete at all levels, spend £17K on keeping open public loos in Caerwys and Cilcain and give £96K for a one off Genesis project. This scheme helps improve cooking and other important life style skills for people who cant cook a cabbage and live on takeaways.

Labour’s newly circulated document dramatically changed the proposals laid out in our official papers. At a stroke, the highly unpopular plan to charge car parking across the county was wiped out. All those newspaper headlines and all the fury they had evoked, was just a big con. It was a clever ploy to win support. The Holywell member was most highly chuffed to retain free parking for his ward.

I spoke to keep the rural loos. Off I went: remember the cheeky ditty, “Three old ladies locked in a lavatory, they’ve been there from Monday to Saturday, nobody knew they were there”. It was highly unlikely that this would be the fate of old ladies in Flintshire as all the public conveniences were either being shut and the few that remained open would be so heavily used, no one would ever get stuck and not discovered. A few more quips such as down the pan & no relief for Caerwys raised a laugh. I also took a more sensible view that urinary infections can be caused by no place to go when nature demands. Women are particularly vulnerable and there is no hiding place if the urge arrives unexpectedly outside the house. On the subject of public conveniences in the countryside, my pleas were flushed away and the vote for our amendment lost .

So, supporting public loos, money for play and for childrens’ swimming was too much for the ruling group to grasp. Just a big “no” from Labour and chums despite the money having been identified as being a realistic sum for budget inclusion. What’s better value, 20p to park a car or 20p to pay for a much needed pee in the tourist hub of Caergwrle? Its in the heart of walking county, has a regular influx of caravanners and hikers as several footpaths converge on the town. The two pubs or the few shops either cannot or will not share their facilities, so nowhere to go but behind a bush. The popular vote will always be to keep parking free. The demise of the public toilet across the county is not a joke. On Planning Site visits, its not unknown for a member to head for a convenient loo if we’ve been on the bus for a while. It’s really sad. The aged and women lose out again!

NO BEDROOM TAX IN MY BACKYARD!

Back yard nest box Much excitement. A pair of great tits were not only eyeing but popping in and out of an old birch bark nesting box that’s hung in my garden for many years. There have been no takers every season. I took it down a few years ago to inspect its inside. It looked OK but I’m not a bird. I’m not sure the Great tits are going to move in but at least there was a viewing. When I lived on the Wirral, every year a tiny tit box right by the back door always raised a brood. They always seemed to fledge in heavy rain and by good fortune, I was always around to see tiny birds make a dash from the box to the nearest tree. Lovely if it happened again.

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