Prayer Breakfast & Nell Lane Clean-Up

First thing this morning I was off to St James' for the constituency prayer breakfast. These events are held every few months at a different church around the Constituency. Today was the turn of St James', and Nick Bundock had the opportunity to let us know about the work going on at St James and around the wider Didsbury Community.
After the prayer breakfast I went to join the Lib Dem Councillors in Chorlton Park for the Nell Lane clean-up. We've been doing these clean-ups for about 15 years, and once again we managed to remove 20 odd tonnes of rubbish from Nell Lane, Weller Ave and Houghend. The clean ups really help to cut down on fly-tipping in the area.
Thanks go to Ian, Dave and Andy for their help, as well as the two guys from the Council who had to work on a Saturday!

Chorlton Campaigning

Spent this morning & afternoon campaigning in Chorlton with Victor Chamberlain and Cllr Paul Ankers as part of the Action Weekend, the turn out was brilliant and the response we had on the doorstep was very positive indeed.
It was great to get out and meet so many Chorlton residents to listen to the issues that matter most to them.
I was particularly impressed with the amount of volunteers that gave up their Saturday to come out and help today, we even had a couple of reds with us in the afternoon. Lets just hope City can put in a better performance tomorrow than United did today!

Bingo Mad!

Had a really enjoyable evening with the office staff at Buckingham Bingo, Parrs Wood last night. I was sweating on a number for the National link game; really thought it was my lucky night!
Bingo Halls have been struggling recently with the recession, resulting in falling revenues and membership. I had previously raised the issue with the Chancellor of the Exechequer, voting to oppose an increase in tax that bingo clubs pay on their gross profits.
Bingo provides a great deal of enjoyment for many people in the local community to have a cheap night out, particularly the elderly. The industry has been hit hard by the Government in recent years and hasn't been helped by having extra tax placed upon them.

Is it ever acceptable to be offensive?

On the way to my office this morning I was listening to a debate on 5 Live about the decision of the Press Complaints Commission not to uphold the 25000 complaints made over the article written by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail, the day before Stephen Gately's funeral. Peta Buscombe, the PCC Chairman defended the decision claiming that the Moir column "just failed to cross the line".
During the debate, Matthew Parris, the former MP and openly gay journalist, was arguing that while he considered the article to be offensive he defended the right of Jan Moir to write the article.
So it is acceptable for a journalist to be offensive, but compare this to the reaction to David Wright, the Labour MP for Telford, allegedly describing Conservatives as "scum-sucking pigs" on Twitter. (He has denied it, and has claimed that someone had hacked into his Twitter account). I also remember the understandable outcry when my colleague Cllr Norman Lewis was likened to Frank from Shameless, and the residents of the Barlow Moor estate were likened to the inhabitants of the Chatsworth estate by a well-known Manchester Labour blogger (and Council election Candidate).
It's all very well talking about freedom of expression, but where do you draw the line? I was contacted today by a constituent who had read a tweet by Labour Councillor Val Stevens. She has claimed that I'm so worried about losing my seat that I've taken to 'comfort eating and losing my temper at random moments'. Personally I'm not worried by silly comments like this, and as a politician you have to be a bit more thick-skinned.
Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but there is no need for it to be done in an offensive way. The Jan Moir piece the day before Stephen Gately's funeral was offensive, both in its content and in its timing. If it had been written by a politician they would have been rightly hung out to dry. Why should a journalist be treated any differently?

Trim Trail in Cavendish Park

This morning I was out delivering leaflets with Cllr Norman Lewis and Cllr Bernie Ryan in the West Didsbury part of Chorlton Park ward. While I was on Cavendish Road I went into the park to have a look at the trim trail that is being installed. The trim trail has caused some controversy because a number of local people were unaware that it was being installed and they woke up yesterday morning to find parts of the park being dug up.
The trim trail has been organised by the Friends of Cavendish Park. They had spoken to Leisure Services about consultation and had questioned whether they needed to send out leaflets about meetings to consult as widely as possible, but had been told that the notices that went up in the park and the South Manchester Reporter were sufficient. Unfortunately this has meant that some people didn't know what was going on.
A similar problem occurred some time ago in Cavendish Park when the children's playarea was installed. Four years earlier, as local Councillors, we had consulted with residents about local facilities and what people wanted to see. A lot of people had responded, saying that there should be play equipment for younger children, but unfortunately there was no money available at the time. However when the the redevelopment of the hospital site was going through the planning process I negotiated for some of the s106 money to be spent on the play equipment. By the time this money came through there were some people living in the area who were not aware that this was already in the pipeline (because they had moved to the area more recently) and questioned why they had not been consulted.
Of course everyone at the time had been consulted, but this was several years earlier.

West Didsbury Residents Association AGM

Last night I went to the West Didsbury Residents' Association AGM at the Albert Club on Old Lansdowne Road in West Didsbury. It was good to see Barry Aelion there for the first time since he stood down as Secretary and Planning expert at the AGM last year after a 20 year stint!
One or two of the faces have changed over the forteen years that I've been going to WDRA meetings - many people will remember Doreen who passed away and Vanessa who moved to Cumbria to fight "foot and mouth" - but what is more amazing is the number of people who are still there. Pam is still the Chair, Jenny is still collecting subs, Paul is still the Treasurer and Niall (who is soon to move) has been involved in organising social events in the all time that I've been there. Others like Alison have become involved during my time, and I'd be willing to bet that she will still be defending the local environment against developers in another 10 or 20 years time.

FA CUP Quarter-final Draw

Away to Chelsea if we beat Stoke in the replay. I seem to remember predicting that. Never mind, time to concentrate on the very slim hope of finishing 4th in the League.

Valentine's Day Shopping

After delivering some leaflets first thing yesterday morning in Chorlton, I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon (with my surgery sandwiched in between) shopping for Catherine for Valentine's Day. Romano in Chorlton is always a really good choice for perfume, because they always seem to know the sort of stuff you're looking for (or am I just a sucker for the sales technique?). I also ended up getting a necklace as well, so guess I am just a sucker!
After my surgery at the Mosque on Burton Road I went to a few of the Burton Road shops, which are always good for unusual bits and pieces that blokes would never think of buying until you see them on the shelves. That's why I never buy online, because I like to see things on the shelf that shout out "buy me".
Happy Valentine's Day everybody!

Man City 1 Stoke City 1

Stoke are good at home, but they're supposed to be ordinary away. City started well and scored a goal with some assistance from pantomime defending by Stoke. We were all over them for the first 15 minutes, but then we sat back and the inevitable happened. We should have had the game killed off in those first 15 minutes, but we always seem to let the opposition get back into it.
I suppose that we are at least still in the draw for the quarter-final, but I fully expect us to get beaten in the replay. If we get through, knowing our luck, we'll be away to Chelsea! That would be an interesting contest, given the revelations about John Terry and Wayne Bridge's former girlfriend.

St Werburgh's Metrolink Stop

This morning Cllr Norman Lewis and I attended a meeting with the traffic department to discuss parking issues around the proposed metrolink stop at St Werburgh's Church. As there were changes to the proposed stop and planning permission had to be sought, £40,000 was allocated to help address parking problems associated with the new stop, through a s106 agreement.
In terms of traffic regulation orders or residents' parking you don't get a lot for £40,000, and at this stage nobody is sure exactly what extra parked cars the stop will generate, or which local streets will be affected.
There is certainly concern from residents on Sandy Lane and Corkland Road, and the roads off these two roads, as well as along Nell Lane, Caddington Road and Elladene Park. Across the constituency boundary, there is also concern about the impact on parking near to the shops on Egerton Road South (particularly outside the Post Office). Residents are to be consulted, but whether the money will be sufficient to introduce a suitable scheme remains to be seen.

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