Derbyshire Times Column Article, 22nd November
Last week saw the election of Derbyshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner based on a terrible turnout of 14%. While wishing Alan Charles well, speaking as one of the MPs who dealt with the legislative scrutiny of this bill the decision, based on Liberal Democrat insistence, to move the elections to November was a disaster. Fortunately the next of these elections is schedule for May 2016 so we won’t see a repeat of the particular mistake.
Many issues were raised about the point of these elections and the cost of both the election and the Commissioner. Derbyshire Police last year spent just over £170 million policing Derbyshire, providing a service of great importance dealing with an issue of real concern to local people. We now have a direct say over how the Police, quite rightly, choose what issues are their priorities and what areas to focus on.
In comparison the 8 District/Borough Councils in Derbyshire had a combined total budget last year of just over £100 million. We elect 352 councillors to those 8 councils at a total cost in allowances of £2.4m a year. I served as a Borough Councillor for 7 years so I know how important their role is but if we want to tackle the cost of local government we should start here – after all the City Council manages an £800 million budget with 51 councillors and the County Council £1.2 billion budget with 64.
An issue that my constituents regularly raise with me is the level of noise from the A38 – noise that is getting worse with increasing traffic. For those living near the A38 including in Alfreton, Swanwick, Ripley, Rawson Green and Coxbench, the noise is excessive and measures should be taken by the Highways Agency to tackle it – through noise barriers and a quieter surface.
The Agency have now designated 2 sites in Alfreton, plus Rawson Green and Coxbench, as first priority sites. Sadly this only means that some measures will be taken by 2021! Given the existing problem, and the scale of potential new development along the A38 corridor, I believe the Highways Agency should be taking action sooner and in more places. We should also consider whether or not, as a condition for major new developments in the A38 corridor, funding should be put towards delivering these measures more quickly.
The Highways Agency are currently consulting on these issues – if any of my constituents want to contact me with their views I’ll ensure they are passed on.
Finally I would like to congratulate the Amber Valley Borough Council planning board on their decision to reject the application for a crematorium at Swanwick. The land was specifically protected in the local plan and the site was too close to housing and business developments to be suitable for a crematorium. The local residents fought a strong campaign and I hope no planning inspector will overturn this correct, local, decision.