- a room for musing
- a room in a museum
This one’s a place for random thoughts on life, faith and politics.
This one’s a place for random thoughts on life, faith and politics.
This evening, the Haslemere CLT will be addressing a special meeting of the Haslemere town councillors, on their plans. Their website proclaims that
The Haslemere Community Land Trust is new
It is “not-for-profit”
It works to create affordable housing
It is run BY the community
It is run FOR the community
It works IN the community
I have been interested in the trust since I first read about it. In Haslemere, we are fortunate to live in an extremely desirable location, rich in history and natural beauty, but also in comfortable commuting distance to London – but that very desirability means that property prices are high, and so not always affordable for young people who have grown up here.
Our local Liberal Democrat team are committed to the importance of securing affordable housing – but that means genuinely affordable, particularly social rented housing, rather the legal governent definition, which simply meas a little less expensive than others in the neighbourhood. so not necessarily affordable at all, for those on average or low incomes. Formal housing studies agree: the “West Surrey Strategic Housing Assessment” study states the primary need is in the affordable/social market sector, especially for smaller homes suitable for young couples starting out, and for older people wanting to downsize. These are not the housing types that private developers are likely to prioritise: they are generally more likely to be more interested in larger, more expensive family homes.
My concerns are in general alignment with the aims of the Haslemere Community Land Trust. The challenge will be to find ways to realise these aims. I look forward to this evening’s discussion, and will report back later.
Read more, from the Haslemere Community Land Trust:
“Sarcoma” is a group of rare cancers, alongside the more familiar carcinomas, lymphomas, melanomas and others. The sarcoma group in turn, includes a wide range of different cancers, including GIST “GastroIntestinal Stromal Tumour”, which has been part of my life the past five years. So, I was there to contribute – and also to learn. I offer now some thoughts, on what I learned, or had not previously fully understood.
After cancer, life does not return to “normal”.
Right at the very beginning, I was caught out, in an opening ice-breaker quiz. One question asked something like, “Suppose you have been treated for cancer for some time, and the day comes when your doctor tells you that you are now NED (No evidence of disease), you no longer need treatment, and life can return to normal. Should you be pleased?”
My response was, “Yes of course. Who wouldn’t be pleased that treatment is no longer needed?”, but that completely missed the point. Of course it’s good to be NED – but life after cancer can never go back to “normal”. There will always be some risk of recurrence, so regular physical monitoring may be required, and there will always be some emotional impact remaining.
For this reason, one entire presentation was devoted to a program run by St James for continuing care, after the end of formal “treatment” for cancer. Similarly, several speakers stressed that they exist to serve anyone who has been affected by cancer – ever, now or in the past.
Cancer Care Must Be Holistic.
It was notable that in the entire program, only one contribution dealt with physical care – and that was by a specialist sarcoma physiotherapist, on the importance of regular exercise (which contributes to mental health h as well as physical). Most of the remaining speakers, from Leeds Cancer Support, Sarcoma UK, Maggie’s Centre (and myself), spoke primarily about things like emotional support, quality of life interventions – and financial planning (which is important to ease anxiety).
Carers Need Support, Too.
As patients, we can usually access support and services from a wide range of specialists: GP’s, oncologists, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists and more – as well as our carers (usually, family and friends). Who can our carers turn to for their own care? They too, carry a heavy burden of stress, and do not have any obvious sources of help.
Here too, the speakers all pointed out clearly that their services are available not only to patients themselves, but also to their family or other carers. Even the opening quiz, right at the beginning, included this as a question: “Can patients’ family members who are finding things hard, get help from a sarcoma nurse?” Answer: Yes – they are there to help family as well as patients.
Specialist Nurses are Awesome!
The evening reminded me once again, of just how valuable it is to have specialist nurses to draw on, especially when first diagnosed. I clearly recall how very thankful I was right at the beginning of my journey, to have access to two superb nurses, who were constantly present to offer reassurance and support, and information to guide me through the confusing and bewildering steps I was going through as I was beginning to navigate my way through the process and physical environment. It was obvious to me, that St James have an equally valuable team of nurses available, both within the sarcoma centre, and also working in the various satellite support units.
GIST Support UK – Mission Accomplished.
I was there primarily to represent and promote our own charity, with a display table of our usual posters and booklets. I spoke with several GIST patients, some of whom had never heard of us, but also with some who are already on our Listserv email group and have attended a patients’ meeting. Others took leaflets or booklets without talking directly with me. I left some of the remaing flyers for our own Leeds meeting with the event organiser, who is hoping to attend herself, and promised to display and distribute them. I think we should have a good local turnout for our patients information day on Octover 4th.
In addition, I delivered a short presentation on my own GIST journey, which (as far as I can tell), was well received. Certainly, I had some good direct feedback – one person described it as “amazing!” My slides (in Power Point format) can be accessed by following this link:
It is now not much more than two months since our team of newly elected Liberal Democrat town councillors were inducted, but already we are making a difference – and are keeping promises we made on the campaign trail.
As candidates for the local elections, we promised (among others) to :
● Communicate regularly with residents: We will continue distributing Focus all year round.
We have already distributed one issue of Focus since the election, and are currently preparing the next. We plan to produce one every quarter.
● Listen to your concerns: We will hold regular Councillors’ surgeries to hear your concerns and assist where we can.
We have held our first surgery at the Haslewey Community Centre. The next two are scheduled for August 3rd (10-12 am, again at Haslewey) and August 10th (3:30 – 5pm, Royal British Legion, Hindhead) .
● Attend Council meetings This should be a basic but the record of several Conservative Councillors leaves much to be desired. We pledge to do better.
It’s early days, but our LD councillors thus far have a strong attendance record, not only for the main council and sub-committee meetings, but also for other civic functions and meetings with community groups.
● Consider the interests of ALL residents. We promise to consider all our residents, reflecting our community’s full diversity.
At the Finance and Governance committee, we proposed amaending the existing equal opportunities policy for staff, to cover the full town, in everything that we do. The full council has now approved an amended policy that does just that.
● Be ACTIVE campaigners We will be fully involved in campaigns to protect and improve our community, starting with our efforts to be ready, if necessary, to defend the library from cuts.
We will shortly be announcing the next steps in the library campaign. In addition, we worked closely with our Green and Independent partners in the “progressive alliance” that now leads the council, to prepare a motion for the council to declare a climate emergency. While that did not pass in the original wording, council did adopt a revised motion, again prepared by Independent and LibDem councillors, to accept the principle, and set up a working party to produce a revised motion that will be accepted at our next meeting.
At the meeting of the town council “Finance & Governance” committee last month, one of the documents before us for perusal was our existing “equal opportunities policy”. On inspecting this, I noted that the words contained referred to “staff” – but no more. Our LibDem mayor, Cllr John Robini, suggested that this policy should also apply to councillors, and I responded that it should go even further: it needs to apply to all our residents, in everything that we do.
During the local election campaign, I noted publicly that although Haslemere is widely thought of as a comfortable, middle-class English town, and that is undeniably accurate in general, it certainly does not apply to all our residents. I am well aware from my work delivering medicines for our local pharmacy, that we have many elderly people in our community, some of whom have mobility problems, are lonely, or on limited incomes. We have others too, not only the elderly, who have problems with mobility or have other disabilities. We have young people who have grown up here, but cannot afford the high housing costs. We have a small but visible community of black and minority ethnic groups. On Hindhead Road there is a significant community at an Islamic study centre, and my own immediate neighbours are a Syrian refugee family. While campaigning for the local and EU elections, I also noticed a surprising number of Eastern European names on the electoral register. Inevitably, there is also a significant proportion of LGBGT people – just as there are, everywhere.
I do not suppose that any of our existing policies or practices deliberately discriminate against any of these groups, but in practice, it is all too easy to take decisions that benefit people “like us”, and inadvertently do not include others or take account of their unique needs. We need consciously to consider all members of our community in our deliberations. I was therefore pleased when my proposal was eagerly accepted by the Finance and Governance committee. The revised policy, submitted to the full town council for its meeting this week, now includes the statement:
It is the aim of the Council to ensure that no one with whom the Council interacts receives less favourable facilities or treatment (either directly or indirectly) on grounds of age, disability, gender / gender reassignment, marriage / civil partnership, pregnancy / maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation (the protected characteristics).
This was accepted unanimously, without need for discussion. Haslemere is now stated its clear intention to be a fully inclusive town.
As an openly gay man, it is LGBT inclusion that most directly affects me personally, but it was not this in particular that motivated my proposal. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that after Guildford raised the rainbow flag in June, I made a passing suggestion on Twitter about possibly doing the same next year. Cllr Odell immediately replied that we are the “proud owners” of such a flag, and our town clerk soon after approached me to discuss this. We now have agreement that Haslemere will hoist the rainbow flag for Surrey Pride day this year, August 10th. No doubt, we will make further arrangements for 2020 and future years.
This past week, Haslemere, Godalming and Woking councils followed counterparts across the country, and dealt with motions to declare a climate emergency. Godalming and Woking passed theirs. Haslemere did not, but accepted the principle, and left the detail to a working group, to be dealt with at our September meeting. Was this obviously disappointing – is there a possible silver lining?
MANY IDEAS have been put forward to explain the rise of populism in the West: economic insecurity, a backlash against immigration and fake news, to name but a few. Another on the list might be the lack of shared spaces where people from different walks of life can meet and mingle. If politics has become tribal, perhaps that is a result of people being walled off from others—in some cases literally—eroding the sense of commonality and community.
That is the intriguing message of a recent book by Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University and the author of “Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life” (Crown, 2018). The title comes from a phrase used by Andrew Carnegie, an American steel baron of the early 20th century, to describe the thousands of public libraries he helped build with his donations.
I’ve been researching the facts about the need for housing in Haslemere. So far, my conclusion is “not much”.
Waverley Borough Council has posted on its webite a document called the “West Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment, September 2015“, which covers the whole of West Surrey, with assessments broken down by borough. More importantly for Haslemere, there is also a “Waverley Addendum” to this document, which includes some detailed figures for Haslemere (alongside Farnham, Godalming, Cranleigh and “others”). Continue reading “How Much Housing Does Haslemere Need?”
Lord Ashcroft polls has released a post-election poll of voters’ intentions for the next General Election. Based on his results, Flavible Politics has produced a map of likely results by constituency – and this shows Waverley as a LibDem gain:
Not only SW Surrey either, but also Guildford, Woking, Mole Valley, Esher & Walton and Reigate in Surrey (and a very narrow loss in Elmbridge), and eighty more gains across the country.
Is this even credible? At first glance, clearly not – but let’s look a little deeper.
In the local elections for Waverley borough three weeks ago, the Conservatives took only 38.7% of the total votes cast, against 27.3% for the LibDems, 20.5% for the Farnham Residents Association, 6.8% for Labour and 4.1% for Greens. But there was in effect a “progressive alliance” between the LibDems, Greens and Labour, taking the total progressive vote to 39.2% – just a fraction behind the Conservatives.
Then, in last week’s EU elections, Liberal Democrats topped the poll on 35%, followed by Brexit on 28.8%, Greens on 14.5%, and Conservatives on only 11.5%! Conventional wisdom is that the EU results were distorted by the dominance of Brexit, but – “it ain’t necessarily so”. Lord Ashcroft’s poll, on which the projection is based, did not only ask about future voting intention, it also enquired about, and analysed, past voting history, in the last general election, as well as last week for the EU. His analysis showed that while yes, some of those who has switched from Labour or Conservatives to LD, or to Farrage’s Brexit, would return to their original party for a general election – not all of them would. Hence, Conservatives would not recover to their earlier level of support – and Liberal Democrats would retain a substantial share of their newfound (or newly returned) supporters.
If this projection turns out to be sound, that would create the extraordinary situation where nationally, just 4% would separate four parties:
Of course, it’s not that simple: what voters tell pollsters they will do, and what they actually do, are often very different – especially when the next general election could be a long way off. Circumstances will change, new events will get in the way. But what is surely true, and will remain so, is that we are in a period of remarkable fluidity in British politics, where extraordinary developments have come to seem almost commonplace: who would have predicted just three months ago, that we would end up with 16 MEPs?
The idea of Liberal Democrats wining SW Surrey in the next general election may well be just too fanciful to be taken seriously – but the possibility of getting at least much closer, is surely not.
My first formal Council business was an induction meeting on Monday evening, with a presentation by a guest speaker from Waverley on the councillor’s code of conduct, some further information from our town clerk.
Thursday evening was the first real business meeting for the new council, We elected Liberal Democrat John Robini as our new mayor (with Jacqui Keen as his mayoress), and Conservative Simon Dear as deputy mayor. and the business of allocating councillors to the various council committees and working groups, and as council representatives on a range of outside local bodies. I have agreed to serve on the planning and finance committees and the neighbourhood plan working group. I will also represent council on the Charter Fair committee and Haslemere Health Group.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I (and the other incoming new councillors), was given a Haslemere tie, which I now wear when attending any meeting as a town councillor.
In between meetings, I had a reread of the proposed Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan. This is a document that has been six long years in the making, driven by Haslemere Vision – a local voluntary group. It was adopted by the outgoing council earlier this year, and must now go to a public consultation, followed by a referendum. If it passes the referendum, it becomes the formal Neighbourhood Plan, which must be taken into account by Waverley Borough for their planning decisions affecting Haslemere. If not – back to the drawing board. Hence, the need for careful study. I have now gone through it twice, and will do so again.
Also important for planning, is the controversial proposed new development in Scotland Lane, on the Red Court site – which the developers prefer to refer to as “Scotland Park”. For months, I’ve been aware of intense opposition from the local Haslemere South Residents Association, largely on the grounds that this is declared AONB land (“Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”) which they believe should not be developed. There are also concerns about the impact on traffic through Scotland Lane. I’ve taken a first, cursory look at the glossy brochure given to me at the end of last week, but will need to give it much more careful study, and have a good look at the site, before I can reach any conclusion on this.