January Blog

New year seems so long ago. First engagement as Hawarden community council chair was the celebration of 10 years of the “Hawarden Walks” on 9th January. Walkers have met regularly in Hawarden Institute, their HQ, for 10 years. The walks; ” 60 minutes rapid or slow, or 90 minutes brisk. Something for everyone.

The original pioneers of this remarkable success story, including Colin Herbert, were introduced along with Walk Leaders, sporting Day Glow jackets depicting their names. Colin, the chief Hawarden Walker Supremo & Heather, Institute manager produced a cake. We enjoyed a joint blowing out of the 10 birthday candles.

Over the years, thousands of walks have been enjoyed. No one is too old, dogs are welcome & the spirit of friendship of the walking fraternity is strong.mI recommend anyone who feels lonely, to give them a try. You’ll be impressed.

BLUE BADGE BLUES.

A stressed Mrs S rang just before Christmas. Her very immobile husband learnt, out of the blue, that his Blue Badge,(BB), was to be withdrawn in January. Her attempts to get some sensible response from Flintshire officers failed & she was being bounced from one department to another. Hubby was completely grounded without the badge. She wanted help. She had a strong Liverpool accent. I said, ‘I’ve just failed to get justice for myself on a matter, really important to me’, I quipped, ‘not sure I can get a result for you’. “If you can’t no one can,”she told me firmly.

The trick in solving residents complaints is to find the right officer. Took quite a lot of time but success was finally achieved after being also being bounced from department to department too! FCC’s Occupational Health Unit denied all knowledge of taking responsibility for assessing degree of disability so yet more emails & phone calls were launched before the mists began to clear. Rachel told me Jenni, team leader of Flintshire Connects would solve the problem. Although sympathetic; J had no magic wand. Mr S didn’t have enough points & she saw no way of getting more. Mr S would to have to go before B Assessment Board. Meantime, the stress was growing & my residents were now desperately considering a wheel chair.

After further probing from me, Jenni came up trumps. I soon received a grateful phone call & emails thanking me from my residents. A new BB had been delivered and Mr S was over the moon. A lovely thank you card with several ‘XXX’, soon drooped onto the mat too. I thanked Jenni. She too had realised that my episode had provided a good learning experience in the new & untested situation in which officers had found themselves. It’s little victories for residents that makes the job of councillor all worth while. The BB scheme is now under Flintshire Connects, part of the Housing Department.

All this anxiety could have been avoided. Our blundering, narrow visioned Cardiff Government decided last September to make a life changing decision to recall all Blue Badges without consultation. No thought had been given for the genuine holder who really needed the BB. Officers were confused, the changes had not been thought out & BB training sessions have been rapidly arranged. Lessons were learnt as a result of my residents experiences, albeit painful for them.

SAD FAREWELL.

Cllr Stella Jones died some days ago. She was the nicest of all the Labour Members. Gentle, caring, a friend to all and a good Committee member. Cats were her passion & we regularly swapped stories about our respective moggies, accompanied at times by pictures of her favoured pussies. Rest in peace Stella. I bet it’ll be at standing room only in the church.

What a mix of personalities Labour attracts! Contrast Stella’s integrity & quiet public duty to her former leader, one Tony BLIAR. Despite being a millionaire with a handsome properly portfolio, he is still screwing us by taking huge tax free hand outs from some fund set up to protect former Prime ministers after leaving office. Even Gordon Brown didn’t stoop to such greed. There are the “takers & the givers”. Stella Jones was one such giver! She will be missed by all who knew her.

HE DANCED FOR HIS SUPPER!

As Home Secretary, (1983- 85), Leon Brittan visited the Police Staff College as guest of the Senior Command Course. I was on that course and greatly enjoyed the heavily alcohol fuelled, black tie dinner in the presence of our police boss. Most fun was when the Home secretary climbed onto the top table and led us in a wild & off key rendition of the Jewish favourite ‘Hava Nagila’. We all rose to cheer him on as he pirouetted between the plates & was clearly much at ease. Finally, a rather hot & red Home Sec was helped off the woodwork but he’s shown us another side of his nature & we were impressed. The evening disappeared under an alcohol haze & much black coffee & paracetamol would have been needed next day. Reading his obituary following his death in January, I was amazed to learn that he was only eight months older than me.

PLANNING APPEAL.

I faced a further challenge as on 4th February Cllr. Dave Mackie & had to defend our residents in a totally stressful appeal. It involved building 41 houses on a good quality agricultural field thus breaking several planning policies. Nothing changes. More of this debacle later!

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