Missed opportunities and your money wasted
This is the first time I’ve written to the paper since, sadly, my ward colleague, Coun Tony Brown passed away.
I had worked with Tony since early 2015 when I was selected to fight the last election with him in Warbreck Ward, for the Conservatives. In those two short years Tony left quite an impression. Tony was full of wisdom and sound words and always had Blackpool in his heart, putting our town first, not least during his recent stint as deputy mayor. I am sure he would have had valuable advice to offer on the following matters.
By the time you read this, Christmas Day 2016 will have been and gone and I do hope you all had a restful and happy time, however, I can’t help but believe that, yet again, Blackpool Council has missed a trick. Many of my friends have reported back about the buzz and excitement of the various Christmas markets they have visited, which have taken place in some of our towns and cities, Manchester and Leeds for instance. Surely St John’s Square is crying out for, at the very least, a weekend event like that. The Alpine Huts, the mulled wine, the continental treats and snacks, the unique gifts and decorations, the German sausages, the opportunities for charities to raise funds by selling goods which their volunteers have made. A market like that would have brought the punters in from far and wide, increasing trade for all the businesses and adding a festive feel and financial boost to the town. So where was it? Apart from the Christmas tree in St John’s Square, there is little in the town to reflect the spirit of Christmas and, as has been evident by the lack of festive shoppers, people are obviously voting with their feet and going elsewhere to do their Christmas shopping.
Instead of putting effort into encouraging and supporting such an economic boost, bringing in money from outside the town, our Labour council continues to spend money it can ill afford, standing by its universal free breakfast scheme. Laudable as it may appear, I think it is now past justifiable to spend money the council doesn’t have, and let us not forget there is no such thing as council money, it is your money, on a scheme that I do not believe has hit its target. Evidence I have collected suggests that many pupils are helping themselves to two or three breakfasts, loading up on high sugar carbs which they don’t then burn off. It is reported that the health of many of our children is at risk, due to their obesity. I have seen no evidence to prove that the few children who may not be getting breakfast at home are choosing to eat breakfast at school. I understand that the council currently spends £1.3m on this scheme
Over a 10-year period, the 1.3 million saved each year by not providing every child in Blackpool with breakfast will provide 13 million which could be used towards a centrally located bus station, which Blackpool desperately needs. More than half the cost of a bus station would be covered by reallocation of the money which the council wastes on free breakfasts.
Our Labour council also has on the table a proposal to redevelop the existing Wilko building and build yet another hotel, in an area that is totally unsuitable, at a cost of £24m, which would, in my opinion be put to better use developing a new bus station
Airports and train stations have already been identified as places that are more innovative in their design and use than the humble bus station. Having said that, there are a few good examples of excellent bus stations around the country and our neighbours in Preston are fortunate to have one of them.
An well designed bus station can increase the use of public transport by creating a brighter, more interesting, better and safer environment for customers.
Safe use through adequate security, good surveillance, bus visibility from all points of the station, good pedestrian flow and ease for the passenger to identify the required bus.
A station where you not only buy a ticket and acquire information about your proposed journey, but also can find out about the town, enjoy a meal or just a coffee, purchase gifts and travel items, recharge your phone, with WiFi availability, an area for relaxation and much more.
Perhaps have the vision to introduce an exciting area that is not just a transport function but an area that fosters a diversity of activities, a place for innovation, continued investment and growth.
All in all, a town centre bus station of the future and one that the people of Blackpool can be proud of, which also links safely and easily to the nearby railway station. We have the ideal location, much better suited to a bus station than another hotel.
War grave young guide scheme was Paul’s
Of course I would say this, but I am always proud of our hard working local MP, Paul Maynard, and the work he does for our towns of Blackpool, Cleveleys, and Thornton, but just recently two of his actions have caught my eye.
A new scheme launched this week by the excellent Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) which I believe will lead to amazing experiences, started off as a germ of an idea from Paul. The CWGC intern scheme will see 40 young people between the ages of 18-25 act as hosts and guides to people visiting initially Tyne Cot War Graves in Belgium, followed by Thiepval on the Somme.
Paul raised this with ministers in a debate in Parliament following a tour of the war graves in 2012 and, noticing that the UK, unlike some other Commonwealth Countries, did not have young guides. Young people are now been encouraged to apply for the four-month placement for what I believe is a fantastic opportunity to do something amazing. More details from cwgc.org.
The second action is Paul’s support for an upcoming Fylde Coast Skills and Jobs Fair. Initiated by Paul, together with the Blackpool North and Cleveleys Conservative Association, this one-day event being planned for May will bring together employers, training providers, and educational establishments with the Fylde Coast’s young people, to help inspire them to a career path they can believe in. The event is in the early stages of planning and I know more information will come out in due course. I am pleased that Paul remembers the past, finding ways to honour the sacrifice of past generations, but also plans for the future by helping provide the tools for future generations to be happy and productive.
Finally, I would like to wish all residents of Blackpool a happy and healthy New Year.