|Remember to vote on 5th May 2016|
Peterborough has yet to have a Green Party Councillor.
That hasn't stopped us Greens from coming to your streets and asking you about the things that matter to you in your part of our city.
I've had the privilege of hearing from many of you (and I hope I'll hear from many more). I've listened and you've told me that these should be my priorities if I'm elected to serve you as a member of Peterborough City Council.
1. Street Safety
There's way too much pavement parking on the streets of Orton Waterville ward and it's making our residential roads dangerous. The pavements are meant for pedestrians, not cars. Cars parked on the pavement are a hazard in particular to blind people (with RNIB in our ward we have a high number of blind and partially sighted neighbours), older people and children. No one should have to step into the road to avoid a poorly parked car.
You're also concerned about the speed of traffic, particularly on Dunblane Drive in Orton Southgate, Loch Lomond Way in Orton Northgate, Brimbles Way in Orton Brimbles, Wistow Way in Orton Wistow and Goldhay Way in Orton Goldhay and you would like to see traffic calming measures in these locations. You've also noticed that cars and, in particular, delivery vans, drive too fast down our residential cul-de-sacs. While in other parts of the ward, such as Orton Waterville, heavy goods vehicles have mounted the verge and made a mess of the grass there.
2. Grass Cutting & Litter
The recent reduction in the number of times the grass is cut by the City Council has had a negative effect on people living right across the ward, including Orton Goldhay, Orton Brimbles and Orton Wistow. Those of you with dogs have been frustrated by the height the grass has grown to at times, making it difficult for your dogs to walk on and harder for them to do their doggy business in comfort! While efforts to create habitats where wildlife can prosper are to be commended, you don't want all grass verges to look unkempt and wild all the time.
On the subject of dogs, many of you feel there are insufficient dog bins in the Ortons, those we do have aren't used correctly and there are still too many instances of fouling (even a few thoughtless dog owners bagging the poo then throwing the bag into nearby bushes!). We want to sort this mess out (literally) by making the Council policy on dog poo very clear and providing the resources needed to manage the natural function of dogs that has been allowed to become a menace.
General litter is a problem that seems to affect people in all urban areas. The situation in our ward isn't helped by the brisk Peterborough wind or the lack of litter bins. Thankfully, the Council recently replaced the post-mounted bins (that could easily be raided by foxes and crows!) with larger, multi-use floor-standing bins. Everyone seems to agree that these are a vast improvement but you'd like more of them.
3. Crime, ASB & Noise
While crime is pretty low in parts of our ward, whenever a crime is committed (burglary and anti-social behaviour (ASB) in particular) you tell me that you feel more anxious about your personal safety. Anxiety and stress have a detrimental effect on general health, leading to sleeplessness and low mood, which can also affect your relationships at home and your performance at work.
At the Green Party, we're keen to support initiatives such as Neighbourhood Watch and Residents' Associations that promote the feeling of community. While not everyone wants to know their neighbours the way they know their family and friends, that feeling of being part of a community and knowing you can turn to someone close by when you want to is really important.
For example, people living in Orton Brimbles, Orton Southgate and Orton Goldhay have expressed their frustration about the amount of noise created by the illegal and unregulated 'car meets' that have taken place in the area during the summer months. Those of you who have to be up early for work the next day, have young children or who would simply like to get to sleep at a reasonable hour have said how stressed out you feel when the screeching of tyres can be heard well into the small hours some Saturday nights.
4. Somewhere to be
It isn't only our younger people who need somewhere to hang out. Residents of Orton Northgate and Orton Southgate don't even have a place on their own estates to vote! While the number of houses in these Ortons continues to rise, shared public facilities, such as a multi-purpose community hall, are nowhere to be seen. When you vote on 5th May, Orton Northgate and Orton Southgate residents need to go to Matley in Orton Brimbles to do it. You can get there on foot via the footbridge, but it's a bit of a walk if you live at the far end of either Northgate or Southgate and the last thing we want to encourage is going by car (although you may have little option).
A community centre isn't just for voting. It's a place where we can hold community events of all kinds and share information that's of benefit to each other.
We are really well served in the Ortons by the 'Orton Sellers & Stuff' and 'OSRA' (Orton Southgate Residents' Association) Facebook pages (the volunteers who run these pages are my personal heroes, and I'm sure many local people feel the same way). But as a community, we need a place to meet. Orton Wistow and Orton Brimbles both have Community Centres. Older parts of Orton, such as Orton Waterville, have a Memorial Hall (memorial halls were established across the country after the First World War). This is a fantastic facility if you live in that area, but we need more like this so everyone across Orton has a place to be within our community.
Many of you have told me that you don't see your local councillors enough (and don't see your MP at all!). You are also concerned by the lack of police visibility on our streets and would like more PCSOs and Special Constables in our area. I agree with you. We need more peace-of-mind patrolling and availability, while at the same time the resources to provide these are shrinking. It is becoming more and more obvious that we all have a role to play in bringing our communities together, watching out for each other, caring for those around us.
As a Parish Councillor, I already make it my business to be visible and accessible around the Ortons, not just at election time, but all the time. If elected to the City Council I will make myself available to you at times that suit you. In particular, during that crucial 10am-2pm weekday timeframe, when parents of young children are more likely to have time to come and see me.
You will also be able to contact me on social media and email and can expect a very fast response from me. Most Councillors have to fit their duties to you around a full-time day job. If elected, I will treat my role as Councillor as my full-time job to maximise my availability to you. My availability to you is of key importance to me and if elected I invite you to hold me to that.
"But we told our Councillors about these problems already and they haven't done anything about it!"
All Councillors work hard to address the issues you raise. However, your current Council all represent the same political party. On 5th May, you have an opportunity to change this when all three Council seats in your ward become open and candidates from different parties have the opportunity to stand for election.
As your Green Party candidate I can provide an alternative voice for you and add much needed pressure and fresh thinking to the current closed shop of councillors from the same party. You will have three votes - this means you can still vote for a candidate from your preferred party and also vote for the candidate from the Green Party (which is me, Julie Howell) if you want to. A diverse council gets more done.