Here’s a first for the Small Town Man blog – a video!
News from Smalltown Beyton in Suffolk where the local parish council strongly objected to a local resident filming their council meeting. Sally Maynard is in dispute with the council because geese on the village green are being killed by dogs and cars. She wants them rehoused.
Since the law changed in August, she has a legal right to film proceedings but the council clearly didn’t like it, tried to have her ejected and dissolved the meeting. Since then, 4 councillors have resigned in a fit of pique. Classic Smalltown behaviour!
Take a look at the video for a view of local democracy in action :
News from Smalltown Bury St Edmunds that the council has flogged off a property they own in Well Street (see left) – a street voted by readers of the Times as ‘one of the top ten most desirable streets in Britain’. One wonders what the other 9 were like – especially when you bear in mind that this top ten street is in a top 100 crap town.
Well Street is a wonderful place. Conveniently placed for the Shopping Mall that backs onto it and the cafes on the corner, it has the added convenience of resident’s only parking and very attractive double yellow lines. There’s also a Samaritans’s call centre for added local colour. Wow, I wish I lived there!
Seems the council have owned the property since the 1990’s and it was used for housing homeless families. For the last 18 months it has stood empty, so presumably Bury is now officially a homeless free zone. One could, of course, make the alternative assumption that the local residents have driven them away because they lowered the tone and property prices. Shurely not! Not in Bury St Edmunds. The people there are so tolerant.
Anyway, whatever the reason the council has trousered a quid under quarter of a million for this high des res, so jolly well done them. And it’s good to know there’ll be no homeless people on the streets of Bury St Edmunds.
Well, not in Well Street anyway.
Here in Smalltown we’re very proud of our tourist business. We’ve a pretty little town and people come from all over to look at our gardens and our churches, visit our market and shop in our quaint, old worldy town centre.
So you can imagine how we feel about the council’s decision to shut down our Tourist Information Centre in it’s lovely old listed building next to the car park. It’s scandalous! Now we have to wander all over town to Information Points when it used to be really easy and a showcase for what we had to offer.
But needs must. Money is tight. We’re all in it together and sometimes these sacrifices have to be made. So the staff have gone – well actually they’ve gone to other locations – but they’re not at the TIC any more. And then there’s the rent saving. £45,000 odd a year in all. That’s got to be worth the sacrifice hasn’t it?
Such a shame that the lease has 4 years to run and the council doesn’t have a new tenant to take it over, so we’re still paying the same rent for what is now an empty building. Never mind. It’s the thought that counts.
Great news for our local hospital here in Smalltown! We’ve got more money to spend!
It seems that we were budgeting for a deficit in the coming year of £8 million but now the Smalltown NHS Trust management team – who are very, very clever people – have approved a new budget with a deficit of only £6.3 million. This means we have an extra £1.7 million in the pot that we can spend. Jolly well done us!
We asked one of the Trustees, Jane Moneyspender, to comment. She told us “It’s really, really simple. The projected deficit for 2014/15 was £8 million but because we’ve been so clever this is now a lot lower so we have an extra £1.7 million that we can spend without being any worse off than we would have been before. This is excellent news for the Trust and it’s customers!”
Seems to us here at Smalltown Man that they have invented new ways of counting money, but then it could be that we’re just not as clever as the people at Smalltown NHS Trust. Oh dear.
Nurse, bring the screens…
Well the economy may be improving, but here in Smalltown we understand the necessity of keeping our costs under control.
We need to save more money so we’re going to do this by investing in a major consultation exercise to get our ratepayers to come up with the ideas we pay our councillors to come up with. Makes perfect sense.
Of course, we have reserves. Quite substantial reserves in fact. But we still need to reduce our costs in order to keep our council tax bills down as low as possible. After all, there is an election coming next year!
So why don’t we spend some of our reserves? We asked a councillor for a comment. He said…
“Yes, it’s true that Smalltown has a healthy balance in it’s reserves. In fact we have so much we could let you off council tax for a whole year and still have some left over. But it’s still necessary to cut our costs because if we used our reserves to subsidise our spending, then we wouldn’t have big reserves and we need those to cover rising costs.”
Well that’s cleared that up, then…
At last, our bright shiney new footbridge is open – and jolly nice it is too!
OK, it was a bit expensive but the government was good enough to throw in a million quid to add to the half million set aside by the local council. Admittedly it ended up costing £2,000,000 but all these sorts of programs overspend after all. Just look at the Olympics!
And it’s jolly good news for the cyclists too. Before the bridge was built, the alternative route had a bit of hill on it if you were coming back into town although, to be fair, you could free wheel a bit if you were going in the other direction. But this new route is nice and level.
Our local Green Councillor, Amerantha Tulip, commented: “Anything that helps promote and encourage cycling has to be good. It’s money well spend. After all, the government money was ring-fenced for this bridge, so if we hadn’t built it we would have had to send it back!” And then we wouldn’t have been able to spend a further million of our ratepayers money on it either.
And on the environmental front, we only had to cut down 33 trees to make room for the new route. The local residents who are now exposed to the additional noise from the road are, of course, fully supportive.
Not everybody is happy, though. One local resident described the bridge as “clumsy looking” whilst another commented “It’s a bit bigger than I thought it would be. It’s absolutely huge. And did they have to paint it that colour? Perhaps they’ll plant a couple of trees in front of it to tone it down a bit?”
That’ll make all the difference…
It official! The recession is over and here in Smalltown we’re leading the way. After all, we’re so wonderful that it’s only right we should be showing the rest of the country a clean set of heels.
We’re bucking the national trend in every department. Oh, yes we are! Our town centre footfall is double the national average at 2.4% better than last year; our car parks have held 2.1 cars last year – up from 1.7 five years ago; only 6.5% of our town centre shops are empty compared to 10.5% last year. We wondered why, so we asked the experts…
Bill Shutter, the head of the council explained “Smalltown is such a lovely historic town full of great people like me and my colleagues who ensure we have only the finest facilities, attractions and businesses! We’re one of the top visitor attractions in the region, you know.”
“Of course, there will always be casualties on the high street but we’ve anticipated challenges from things like online marketing and reacted accordingly. Did you know that there are now over 90 restaurants, cafes and coffee shops in the town centre. That’s double what we had a year ago. It’s been a real triumph!”
And then there’s the twice weekly market. What an attraction that is! As the chairman of the Market Traders Association, Ivor Stall, put it: “Yes, it’s true to say that market turnover has not yet returned to the levels of 2007 but we’re certainly very optimistic about the future!”
So there you have it. There’s plenty of car parking to be had whenever you want to pop into town for a coffee while you browse the online retailers from your iPad. And thanks to the charity shops, money lenders and betting shops the high street is looking a lot better than when we had all those nasty empty shop fronts.
No, we’ll soon be back where we were 7 years at this rate, so no doom and gloom here!