Monday 27 July 2015

Belper News - Bus ban vision to boost town centre

Bus ban vision to boost town centre

This is the front page headline of the Belper News published last Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 with a sub-heading stating, "Council idea to improve access and make King Street area more vibrant for shoppers".

You will not find this article on the Belper News website so once the July 22nd edition has been consigned to the recycling bins this journalistic gem will be but a feint memory. BelperStuff takes no pleasure in returning once again to the ban the buses from King Street issue but this Belper News article just has to be brought to more prominent attention.

The first thing to notice is that the hapless reporter, Dan Hobson, has managed to interview Belper Councilor Dan Ward. Looking at the Belper Town Council website there is no person of that name listed. The first rule of journalism is to get the names right. The reporter must have made a mistake and BelperStuff assumes that he was actually speaking with the only Dan on the council that we can find, the Mayor, Dan Booth though it could be somebody else.

(Edit: 29/07/15 - Belper News have now added the article to their website and corrected the councilor's name. It is indeed Dan Booth: Belper News article online)

Moving on to the content of the article we find that the mystery councilor stated:

  • ".. ...... displays are spilling onto the pavement. At some points, this is making it difficult for disabled people, mother's (that is the Belper News use of the apostrophe) with prams, and so on, to pass safely and easily along the pavement. We don't want to discourage businesses in the high street and we don't want to deter disabled people, or parents with prams, from coming either".

Belper King Street - Saturday mid-day 25th July 2015 highlighting access problems with shoppers desperately searching for a more vibrant shopping experience.

  • "It's just an idea, which may not be feasible. But we're interested to find out more".
BelperStuff can be of help here, try looking up Belper King Street on the Belper News website and you will find this article from October 2008: Local anger over plans to pedestrianise King Street.

The Belper News article (that's from last Wednesday's edition) then goes on:
  • It was suggested (we presume by the mysterious councilor) that buses which stop at the middle of King Street would collect people from the bottom of the street if the changes were introduced.
Lower end of King Street - a few minutes after mid-day, Saturday 25th July 2015. The town council believes that it is possible for more buses to use this bus stop. 
There are a number of the current crop of Tory Town Councillors who were around in 2008; in fact the proposer of this scheme has been a prominent member since well before the Tories took control in 2003. Can they not cast their minds back to previous investigations or have they suffered a collective loss of memory. It is as obvious now as it was obvious back in 2008 that the only alternative for buses stopping in the middle of King Street is the bus garage on Chapel Street. This is the real vision of the town council ................ shoppers who have been lucky enough to experience the new, vibrant shopping experience will then have to struggle with their laden bags to the bus garage to be confronted with this:

Commercial artist's impression of Mr Potato Head on Trent Barton Bus Garage
specially commissioned by BelperStuff (© Ariel Nagar)
BelperStuff had hoped to move on to reality by looking into the real danger of government cuts and the damage they will do to Derbyshire bus services. We will turn to this in the next bus post.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Eagle and Prescott defend Labour principles of democracy

BelperStuff has avoided the leadership debate for one simple reason ............... there was nothing useful it could contribute. This blog's main objective is to shine a light on Teflon Tories at national and local level ............... mostly local because parochial and regional news sources have ceased to question what is really happening at county, borough and town or village level. It's not just the newspapers but regional television and radio are equally as bland, echoing the national media obsession with trivia and bacon sandwiches. There is a shallowness of inquiry which allows unscrupulous manipulation of public opinion by councillors and ministers. My examples being, at local level the whipping up of public opinion in Belper against the Core Plan Strategy amendments for housing and nationally the acceptance of Labour being to blame for the economic woes of the country. In both cases reality was different from the relentless tide of Tory misinformation but a complacent and compliant media did little to expose the falsehoods which in turn denied people the chance to properly debate the issues. These combined elements had a devastating effect on May 7th, the Tories gaining control in Westminster and Belper voting for a one party town council. If the media had made more efforts to winnow out fiction from fact then I believe that the electoral outcome would have been very different.

It wasn't always like that. In the 1980's the media had no hesitation in shining an investigative light on the effects of the Thatcher government with regular television, radio and newspaper features documenting the hardships of the communities who took the brunt of the assault on British industry and the attacks on the welfare state ................ from Clay Cross councillors to the pickets at Orgreave, the rural poverty right across the UK and the abandonment of whole communities in sink hole estates. I can remember reporters such as John Cole trying to get to the heart of complex issues:

For those whose apparatus struggles with embedded video's here is the link.

In this piece John Cole looks back at the issues that dominated British politics through his working life, with a fascinating memory of Clement Atlee through to Tory ministers from Thatcher's government trying to justify their time in office. His basic message is that pragmatic government is better for the people than ideological government. Watch the video and decide for yourself.

I am posting this now because I believe that John Cole embodied a style of journalism that looked behind the cult of personality, trying to bring into focus the issues that mattered rather than the blemishes and vanities of politicians. This is of relevance to us today as we go about the messy business of choosing a new Labour leader. Obviously personality does have some bearing but we should concentrate on the message rather than the messenger. The recent statements of some candidates and their supporters have been unedifying .............. you know what I am on about. The attempt to demonize the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn by his three opponents, backed by the acid comments of Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and many others are deeply resented by many in the party and have had the adverse effect than that intended as support for Jeremy has increased. By steadfastly focusing on issues rather than personalities he is winning over many who fear a drift to the left will deny Labour electoral success for years to come. Jeremy's desire to promote debate within the party has been welcomed by all sides as we attempt to define who and what we are after two general election defeats. Whilst his opponents bang on about being electable he is saying that we must first decide what we believe in then try to convince the electorate that our message defines the best principles that will ensure a sustainable prosperity for our country and all sections of society. This is a natural development from the halfway house of Ed Miliband's shadow years. We failed to convince with our austerity light approach and we are being asked by Jeremy's opponents that the way forward is even more austerity light to the point that there is no distinction between Labour and Tory, the deciding factor for the voter becoming a choice between two leaders, little more than a beauty contest.

Refering back to the John Cole video there is a resonance in the words spoken by Harold Wilson (I think around 18 minutes in) when he talks of issues rather than personalities. It was heartening this week to see two Labour stalwarts wading into the increasingly vitriolic debate. Of course I am referring to the statements made by John Prescott and Angela Eagle:

John Prescott tells the BBC that Tony Blair should calm down


Angela Eagle says the political elite should lay off Jeremy Corbyn in an article on LabourList.

I am wary of endorsements in an election which is one person one vote and I voiced this concern when the idea that our local branch (Belper & Duffield) should poll the membership (now increased since the election from 94 to nigh on 150) and thereby making the majority choice known. One of our most energetic activists countered that a candidate needed the traction and visible support does give a campaign the oxygen of momentum. I was however conscious that at the Mid-Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party (CLP) AGM held last Monday there was a narrow vote to withhold any endorsement of candidate. The vote was evenly split but the chair voted with the noes. My fear is that even at the CLP and branch levels the tension created by the preoccupation with personalities will cause division. I take comfort in Labour solidarity which must be preserved if we are to be seen as credible. The decision by our shadow team to abstain from attacking the welfare cap has caused much damage in the party and no end of heartache for many MP's who were asked to deny their natural instincts. I notice that Angela abstained, choosing not to rebel against the shadow cabinet. I don't think that I could have done that but Angela was demonstrating her choice to abide by the rules of the party. I was inclined to vote for her as deputy leader anyway but her article in LabourList pretty much seals my intent. I did seriously consider her abstaining but in the end have decided to stick with her for a variety of reasons. Who is my chosen leader? I like what Jeremy has been saying but have my doubts that he is electable. That said, I have not liked what the other three have been saying; the odd comment or two perhaps but overall a decided no. My choice is therefore to abstain or vote for Jeremy. At this moment I choose Jeremy; issues before personality in the hope that cometh the hour cometh the man. If he is elected then his shadow cabinet must step up to the plate and give more support than those feint hearts gave to Ed. It goes without saying that it will then become the task of Labour activists and supporters to promote the emerging (I nearly wrote "new") Labour message.

One last small point. I have been searching on YouTube for the video of John Cole travelling around Britian commenting on the social condition following years of Tory rule in the mid nineties. He was on the point of retirement and the BBC gave him free reign to speak freely about what he believed in. It was memorable but I just cannot find it. If you know where it is then please send me details via the comment button below.

Thursday 23 July 2015

In my lifetime there have been 265 wars .......... Cameron wants to make it 266

According to the Wikipedia List of Wars by Date there have been 265 wars since I was born in 1950. Yes I am 65 and with my pensioner status comes the time to reflect on those years before I deteriorate to such a point that the fear of incontinence of mind or body start to dominate every waking moment. Thankfully I still have some control of the muscle between my ears even if, Billy Connolly's advice the over 60's, "never pass by a toilet" grows in wisdom with each passing year. I am sorry to be so flippant but I am obviously trying to shy away from the enormity of that number of wars, 4 new ones every year with some of them lasting for decades. I look at our smug faced politicians and wonder how they sleep at night. Come to that, how can I sleep easy; could I have done more to stop the carnage?

Cameron countdown to bombing
Photo credit: David Jones/PA Wire
......... but what has brought on these thoughts of war? It was this article in The Daily Star - Lebanon, a piece about David Cameron wanting to bomb Syria as a way of boosting his image. Remember the bombing Syria debate in 2013, here is a reminder, an article in the Guardian from August of that year. Labour won the argument that day, convincing enough Tories to rebel against Cameron so the people of Syria have at least been spared british bombing throughout the last two years. I was proud of Ed that day. He gave us a glimpse of the statesman that we hoped he would become but the election was lost and it seems that the people of Syria will have to pay the price. What August 2013 revealed was that there was no tangible objective for the bombing, no compelling reason why dropping bombs on Syria would in any way help the situation.

That debate will, as we are informed in the Lebanon Daily Star, be resumed this September but we can expect a number of softening up news items in the meantime to undermine those disinclined to accept Cameron's arguments. The article in the Daily Star brought to mind these famous words of Robert Burns from his poem "To A Louse":

O wad some Power the giftie gie us 
To see oursels as ithers see us! 
It wad frae mony a blunder free us, 
An' foolish notion: 
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us, 

An' ev'n devotion!

As I sit here, at my desk writing the final words for this post I am listening to Lost in a Lost World - by the Moody Blues, from the album Seventh Sojourn released in 1972.

I was 22 when this album was released. My generation had such hopes for the future; science would defeat disease and hunger; reason would triumph over war; education would create equality of opportunity; the welfare state would ensure a decent standard of living for all; the world would become a better place with the first, second and third worlds becoming one ........... the world being populated by humans in harmony with their planet.

How prescient was Lost in a Lost World. John Lennon said it with irony in "Imagine" but the Moody Blues just said it. We should have listened more closely.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Belper Town Council plan to ban buses ............ update

BelperStuff has been investigating the background to the town council proposal to move the buses from the Poundland stop in King Street to the bus garage on Chapel Street by polling bus users and shoppers and questioning Labour Party members who have experience of the history of this issue.

First the history

Joyce was the leader of Derbyshire County Council
and is here presenting a donation to the Strutts Society
BelperStuff consulted Joyce & Randall Sanders (former town and county councillors) who both recall the initial investigations into the pedestrianisation of King Street when Labour controlled the town council. They remember working closely with the people of Belper, Derbyshire County Council and the various bus companies. The result was the emergence of the current one way system, the pedestrian middle and "northbound" buses using the Poundland stop (of course it wasn't Poundland then). They considered that this arrangement had worked well once the initial unsuitable road surface had been replaced in 2003. I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours discussing Belper with Joyce and Randall. Both of them have led councils and their names crop up frequently when researching BelperStuff posts. Thankfully they are both still active members of the Belper & Duffield Branch of the Labour Party.

Then there is this reference in the BTC minutes for 2008

Refer to Item 1180:

Councillor Nelson asked into the County Councils refusal to pedestrianise King Street. RESOLVED An article about the proposal to pedestrianise King Street between the hours of 10.00am until 3.00pm to be placed in the next newsletter. Clerk to write to the business premises on King Street to inform them on the proposal and to request all comments be sent to the Town Council. 

It is apparent that this is not a new initiative by Councillor Nelson but we are prompted to ask what was the result of the survey of business premises and response to the news item? Was any attempt made to consult bus users and shoppers?

Now forward to 2015

BelperStuff has conducted a straw poll of Belper folk, roughly 30 people and not one of them support the town council proposal. Admittedly this is not a scientific poll in any sense but the 30 comprise a reasonable cross section (perhaps a bit light on young people but by no means limited to Labour voters). A common theme was that this would disadvantage the elderly with more than one person wondering if Councillor Nelson ever caught a bus in King Street or for that matter were any of the 16 Tory councillors regular bus users. One very intelligent lady pointed out that exposure to bus exhaust fumes would be far worse in the enclosed environment of the bus garage !!!

John Owen
We then asked our Derbyshire County Councillor John Owen for his comments and he duly enquired within the DCC if his own personal view (bang in line with our straw poll) was the official council policy. He told BelperStuff, "there is no way that the DCC will support any change to the position of the King Street bus stop ............ this has been done once and it is in the right place". We liked his no nonsense approach especially, "Bob's your Uncle" which effectively sums up the situation.

Ben Bellamy, who stood as a candidate in the May elections for both borough and town councils made this comment, "Anything that makes it harder for the elderly or people with disabilities to get into the town centre is to be resisted. If there is an issue with ‘creep’  that is causing problems on the pavements, the answer is to speak to the shop owners and make sure that they understand and observe the need for clear unimpeded access by pedestrians and wheelchair users, and if there is non-compliance then to use the legal remedies available to them.
Ben Bellamy
Before coming up with any more hair brained schemes, Belper Town council would do well to think about working with AVBC and others to address and highlight the huge issues that we have in the town. If they need reminding, there is the embarrassing state of the River Garden Tea rooms; the lack of acceptable toilet facilities;  the state of the paving slabs in the Town Centre, the 1.6 million pound unused white elephant of the green lane car park extension and more.  Certainly if Councillor Nelson is serious about reducing pollution in the town, then a reduction in the number of lorries branded ‘Nelson’ thundering along the towns arteries would be welcomed".

So ......... 

BelperStuff has failed to find anyone who supports the BTC on this issue ...... oh except the Tory town councillors who voted in favour of banning buses from King Street. It should be noticed that not one councillor voted against the proposal.

Taking up Ben's comment about Nelson's lorries and pollution prompted BelperStuff to do a bit of digging into this. The results are below:

Heavy goods vehicles and vans account for 29.7% of UK transport sourced greenhouse gas emissions whilst buses only contribute 4.3%. How strange is it that Nelson chose to attack a well respected business such as Trent Barton Buses on the issue of pollution made even stranger as the BTC is currently in negotiation with Trent Barton to place Mr Potato Head high up on the wall of the bus garage on Chapel Street. His comment, "damned Trent buses" might well come to the attention  of the decision makers in the bus company.

Just to emphasise the folly of attacking public transport pollution if you are a road freight operator here is another chart illustrating the relative environmental impact of transport sectors:

Saturday 18 July 2015

Belper Town Council ............ due diligence

This week has proved troublesome as our Belper Town Council correspondent is showing signs of council meeting fatigue. It's not that he has to suffer placing that broad backside of his on the very unforgiving benches provided for the public in St.John's Chapel, it's more the nature of the proceedings that are proving hard to endure. His notes liken it to a french farce where nothing is ever resolved; the actors constantly losing their trousers but never noticing the breeze blowing around their parishional nakedness. Our man has been following events for 2 years but apparently not much has that time. It is not surprising that a Labour supporting correspondent would have such sensibilities but he had hoped to see the BTC learning from its mistakes, to put its house in order and start to concentrate on the real issues that confront the town. He has spoken from the public gallery on a few occasions about procedural issues, trying to bring the council's attention to departures from their own "Standing Orders" or "Financial Regulations". He has described the effect of his words as being like cooking with Teflon .......... nothing ever sticks.

So what can be done? Well there is one way that BelperStuff can be supportive ............ imagine that the BTC is a company that you are interested in buying and you are commissioning a due diligence report that will highlight strengths and weaknesses (already I can see signs of interest re-appearing on our BTC correspondent's face). We can start by defining our objectives and as this is a Tory council we could do no better than to adopt the famous St.Francis of Assisi speech Margaret Thatcher gave in 1979 (I know .... a Labour blog posting a video of a triumphant Thatcher but stay with me ........ this is just in case there is a Tory BTC Councillor reading this blog):

Yes that's what we are going for ...... HARMONY - TRUTH - FAITH - HOPE. Personally I would like to add TRANSPARENCY to that little list but I suppose that can be considered a principle element of TRUTH. Let's start with that one first:


Last Tuesday evening there was an item on the agenda concerning a claim against the council for either a judicial review (nearly wrote revue) or an out of court settlement. This has to be in relation to the BTC voting to suppress the CH&I report, commissioned by the AVBC Standards Committee, in response to the 2013/4 town mayor plus one other councillor being suspended from office; resulting in no end of problems for the council. Our correspondent comments that all that fuss could have been easily avoided if someone on the council had taken the trouble to study the relevant legislation and ensured compliance. Instead of that the two individuals were barred from meetings and a substitute "Working Group" was established to supplant the usual monthly council meetings. Look I could go on about this but I think enough has been written already .......... suffice it to say that the CH&I report has never been made public but the council has made an unreserved apology for their behaviour even though they refuse to disclose what it was they did wrong. In my book, for an apology to have any meaning it has to make some reference to what you consider you have done wrong so that apology is worthless.

Our wearied correspondent could sense that this issue was not ended by the election of a new council in May when John Morrisey spoke at the BTC AGM in May:
with John Porter speaking on the same issue the following month:

Their concern was that this matter would dog the new council (as it has) so urged that the CH&I report should be published so that the council could put this matter behind it and concentrate on the real issues that affect the town. This is a very serious matter because if a council has the power to suppress reports about its behaviour there is no route for a complainant to take. In this instance the publication of the AVBC Standards Committee report is controlled by those who were the subject of that complaint so the two individuals have been left with no natural justice. The only recourse left to them is to take legal action against the BTC.

It is not too late for the council to reverse it's decision and publish the report. Such a gesture would be seen as providing natural justice to all. The public acknowledgement of wrong doing by all parties would I am sure lead to HARMONY in the town. Well we can but hope.

One of the new councillors commented at the last meeting that he had no idea what this was all about but was then asked to vote upon the request for a judicial review. I sympathise with that poor chap; he is in the same boat as the rest of us.


Now where does Faith come into our due diligence? I'm sorry to disappoint those blog readers possessing a more trusting nature but Faith is in short supply on BelperStuff. We have no faith that the BTC will manage compliance with the "Local Government Transparency Code" issued in 2014. It has long been a frustration that the BTC website is not reliable. To illustrate this we undertook an audit of published agendas and minutes of full council meetings. Between January 2013 and June 2015 there have been 36 meetings, 33 agendas and 27 minutes uploaded to the website. This is a serious matter when any public record is suppressed and was brought to the attention of the council earlier this year but nothing has been done to improve things. This means that we have no record of proceedings at 25% of full council meetings.

Add to this that there are no published minutes of committee proceedings and we cannot find any "Declarations of Interest". I feel sure they exist on paper but why not on the website?

Then there are the year end accounts that should be audited and approved within one month of the end of the financial year at the start of April. Formal acceptance has not yet taken place so we have to wait until the BTC meeting in September before they are available ..................... we hope this year online. Contrast this with the AVBC State of Account 2014/5 which is online here: Amber Valley Borough Council year end financial statement.


All we are left with is HOPE. Hope that meetings will be run in compliance with Standing Orders, hope that proposals will be placed on the agenda backed by some modicum of research and background information (or is that what is contained on those fabled pink pages?).

Oh and is there any hope that this new council will not waste months planning in secret to buy new council premises as they did last year or decide at an inquorate meeting to hatch the plan to forgo the annual precept (that's basically the element of council tax we pay for BTC).

BelperStuff thinks that there is hope

I know that is something of a shocker ............ a Labour blog with hope that a Tory council can improve ............ but that is the nature of due diligence, you highlight not only the bad but the good as well. We have hope that some of these new councillors will start to scent the fact that the preoccupation in this town with blooms is really an attempt to cover up the smell of CH&IGATE.

For example, the performance of the two councillors tasked with facilitating the Neighbourhood Plan for Belper (NP4B) has been good so far despite them receiving an initially testy reception at the setup meeting last Wednesday evening. BelperStuff has to admit that they did well  (despite being Tories) and we have the hope that they will soon acquaint themselves with the relevant legislation, codes, standards and guidelines so that they can influence conduct in other areas of BTC business.

It would help them if they took a look at this: The Seven Principles of Public Life @

In conclusion:  I wish I'd never started the Margaret Thatcher 1979 speech motif for this post. Now all I can think about is the devastation of the 1980's.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Belper Town Council plan to ban buses from King Street

Our town council correspondant attended last night's Belper Town Council meeting and reports that the council voted to approach the county council with a plan to ban all traffic from the middle of King Street with buses being diverted from the stand outside Poundland to the stop adjacent to Iceland or via the Trent Barton bus garage on Chapel Street.

Poundland bus stop
The proposal was introduced to the meeting by the Tory leader Councillor John Nelson during a debate concerning shops on King Street encroaching on the pavements. The solution, said Councillor Nelson, was to completely pedestrianise the middle of King Street to increase the footfall in the middle of the town and open up the possibility for attractions such as "Punch & Judy" (yes he actually said that). He went further, saying that, "damned Trent buses" should use their bus garage and not King Street.

It was an astonishing leap from an agenda item concerning some complaints received by Councillor Joe Booth about shops taking up too much space outside their premises. Two councillors with retail experience cautioned about the possible harmful effects of full pedestrianisation and mentioned that other councils used the threat of legal action to manage pavement encroachment but our town council voted instead to investigate what is the procedure they must follow to ban all traffic.

Iceland bus stop
This plan would constitute a radical change in the life of the town not least for the shoppers who await their buses, sitting comfortably on the 4 benches outside Poundland, The council would move them to the Iceland stop at the foot of King Street where there is no room to provide the same level of seating nor could the bus stand accommodate the combined number of buses that currently use both stops(5 routes outside Iceland and 4 routes via Poundland) . The northbound 6.2, 6.3, 6.4/X, 7.1 & 7.2  would have to be diverted via the bus garage thus inconveniencing both passengers and the flow of traffic on Chapel Street.

Councillor Nelson mentioned the pollution caused by buses in King Street, a valid point but surely the emphasis should be on tackling the issue of diesel engine fumes throughout the whole of the town, not just in King Street; simply moving the existing buses to another bus stop merely moves the place where passengers and other pedestrians inhale the exhaust fumes. The obvious way forward would be to adopt hybrid buses on the routes through Belper: link to diesel/electric hybrid buses on Wikipedia. This type of bus is designed to run in electric mode through town centres and would become increasingly popular if only our national Tory government had not reneged on the UK carbon emissions target. This is the 21st century, a fact that seems to have escaped the notice of Tories at both national and local level.

Hybrid bus demonstrator - adopted by the city of Hanoi, Vietnam

For the sake of completeness it has to be mentioned that not only did the council vote to contact the DCC on this matter but they want it to be included in the Neighbourhood Plan for Belper which, as BelperStuff posted yesterday, is the subject of a meeting being held tonight at St.John's Chapel (18;30 - a bit early for some).

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Belper Neighbourhood Plan - - - Public meeting at St. John's Chapel tomorrow (15/07/2015)

Yesterday evening I attended a Belper Civic Forum (BCF) meeting, specifically their steering group for the Neighbourhood Plan for Belper (NP4B).

During a lively and interesting session a consensus emerged that the BCF saw it's role as a facilitator and conduit for information to assist in the creation of the NP4B. The conversation was focused on the initial task of being an informed and useful participant in the Neighbourhood Plan for Belper public meeting which is being held at St John's Chapel, The Butts, Belper, DE56 1HX - 6:30 in the evening of Wednesday 15th July ......... that's tomorrow. This is a public meeting open to all.

Click on this sentence to open up the Belper Town Council notice of the meeting where you will find this agenda:
1.       Outline the situation regarding neighbourhood plans
2.       Elect a committee/working party
3.       To discuss items for a forthcoming agenda and date for subsequent meeting to take place

Whilst at the Civic Forum meeting I picked up one of their relevant leaflets and tried to paste it on this post but failed miserably so I have copied elements from the leaflet as you can see below:

Belper Civic Forum Leaflet

Why does our town need a neighbourhood plan?

King Street Belper (photo extracted from Belper Civic Forum leaflet)
A carefully assembled plan gives the community the chance for the first time to endorse and work with a set of guidelines for physical developments here for the long term - the next 20 years –
To work out where we want facilities such as retail, employment, leisure and housing.
A plan will mean we can avoid a repeat of some of the piecemeal and opportunist developments we have seen in recent years –

Green Lane car park - Deb chemicals - Derwent Street - Ward’s warehouse - Field Lane car park

A plan allows local people to add the fine grain of extra detail to the higher level strategic plans of the Borough Council – to enhance the unique character of Belper and Milford, and to give their seal of approval through a democratic vote on the Plan.

Your NP4B can provide a blueprint for Belper which includes (among other things) –

 Quality and location of building
Belper Mill complex (photo - Belper Civic Forum leaflet)
 Social sustainability
 Community well-being (inc allotments)
 Economy, jobs, tourism energy
 Transport
 Retail and town centre
 Energy

Further information -

Thursday 2 July 2015

Iain Duncan Smith scraps target for raising children out of poverty

Just as BelperStuff predicted in the last post the bad news just keeps on coming in the build up to the Summer budget.

Yesterday, predictably, it was the turn of Ian Duncan Smith (IDS but here we think of him as ODS - just say ODS out loud) who stood up in parliament and announced that the government was scrapping the definition by which child poverty is measured, which effectively means that they are reneging on their election promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020. This target is enshrined in the Child Poverty Act passed by Parliament in 2010; one of the last acts of the Labour government under Gordon Brown who spoke passionately in parliament thus winning the approval of all parties in the house. The Tories included a commitment to this Act in both their 2010 and 2015 manifestos but only 54 days after this last election ODS announces that the Tory government is reneging on those promises.


The definition of child poverty is that a child living in a household with an income less than 60% of the national median average income is deemed to be impoverished. The latest figures state that 2.3 million children in Britain live in poverty. The graph above shows clearly the astonishing rise in poverty under Thatcher and then the relentless fight back against poverty waged by the Labour government post 1997. This study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) is illuminating because it shows what would have happened if Labour had not brought in measures (the green line) to support the impoverished immediately after taking office and subsequently introducing Working Tax Credit and then Child Tax Credit in April 2003. The IFS projection up to 2021 (the brown line) is driven by a calculation of the effects of ConDem policies and does not include what may be announced in the Summer budget next week ............ so if £5 billion of Child Tax Credits is cut then that forecast will become considerably worse resulting in a much steeper rise in child poverty.

According to a new report by the Children’s Commissioners for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the number of children living in poverty is predicted to increase to 4.7m by 2020, I urge you to read this article in the Independent (yes the very same newspaper that advised voters to choose the Conservative/ Liberal ticket at the election ........ some of us do not forget).

The list of broken promises is growing; in less than 7 days we have had the scrapping of investment in railway infrastructure and the abandonment of the promise to end child poverty by 2020. There will be more u-turns to come but expect them to be coddled with weasel words like this from ODS yesterday, "Eradicating child poverty is an absolute priority for this Government, and I have consistently argued that it is not enough to tackle the symptoms without also tackling the underlying causes ............. Governments will no longer just focus on moving families above a poverty line, instead we want to focus on making a meaningful change to children's lives by extending opportunity for all so both they and their children can escape from the cycle of poverty and improve their life chances.
"This process marks a shift, I hope, from solely measuring inputs of expenditure to measuring the outcomes of children focused policy."
I suppose that might mean something to a febrile Tory mind but we know what we know what he was really saying. It was succinctly put by the Shadow work and pensions minister Stephen Timms who described the ODS statement as the "obituary notice for compassionate Conservatism" (as if it ever really existed - editorial comment).
Take a look at this informative article in the Mirror. Or you might find this well written article by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian says it like only she can. I think Polly summarises the governments intent very succinctly in this paragraph: 

Other things will be targeted instead – worklessness, family breakdown, addictions, debt and educational success. In doublespeak, the very meaning of the word poverty disappears when to be poor no longer means to lack money. To be poor will from now on mean to fail, to be poor apologies for human beings, people in error, in need of correction not cash. That means 64% of children formerly known as poor will now vanish from the government’s reckoning because their families are not failing, but “hardworking” – just earning too little to keep afloat. Morally they are just fine, so they are no longer poor even if they queue at food banks at the end of the week.
Barbara Castle
BelperStuff goes further than that. We do not forget all  the hoo-ha (apologies to those of you who read the initial unchecked post where this was spelt huha ....... apparently a completely different meaning) surrounding the creation in 2004 of the Centre for Social Justice, (link to the CSJ) founded by ODS and Tim Montgomerie (a so-called Tory thinker). This was at the heart of "compassionate conservatism" with the stated aim of lifting people out of poverty. In an early report the CSJ advocated setting the level of Child Tax Credit at £32.06 per week which should be borne in mind if it is abolished next week. Only 7 years ago ODS's own think tank advocated Child Tax Credit as the most effective means of alleviating child poverty.  In subsequent reports the CSJ has advocated the abolition of Child Benefit by merging it with tax credits. Surprisingly, there is a sort of logic to that approach as it would indeed target cash towards those most in need. That said, I cannot forget Barbara Castle's powerful advocacy in the 1970's for a universal benefit targeted directly at women so that, no matter what class or income bracket they would have money of their own that could be spent on the welfare of their children irrespective of the behaviour of the father/husband (National 1942 - 1986). I do not believe that the social conditions that drove Barbara to champion Child Benefits in 1975 have changed in the interim 40 years.