Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Book Review 'Huddersfield - Official Handbook' published 1960

My eldest son is doing his Duke of Edinburgh voluntary service in the Oxfam Bookshop in Holmfirth.  I went to pick him up a few weeks ago and spotted a book with a plain blue cover with the embossed words ‘Huddersfield – Official Handbook’.  I had a scan through it and saw it was produced by Huddersfield Borough Council and on the inside cover was written “With the compliments of , Mayor of Huddersfield, 1960-61, Alderman Norman Day ”. I bought it on the spot for £39 but even a scan through told me it was a real find. It was published as the modern age was beginning and the second world war was still a fairly recent memory for most people. It was a very different place and every now and again someone of certain age will say wistfully to me “why can’t we go back to the old Huddersfield Borough Council”. Well what I had purchased was a snapshot (as opposed to a moving picture) of that 'Nirvana'.
Huddersfield - Official Handbook' is a treasure trove for Council geeks and particularly a Huddersfield Councillor. Inside there is a fairly detailed history of the Huddersfield area from pre-history to the present day. There are maps showing the Huddersfield area and Town Centre prior to the ring road going in (it was being planned at the time). There are pages of information about the Huddersfield Borough Council and the services they provided. Some things are different but much is the same. There are photographs of the recently completed Salendine Nook Secondary School looking pristine before it deteriorated in the 70s when I attended and the concrete started falling away from the metal window frames. 

What I found particularly fascinating was all the adverts in it. Some from companies that survive to this day, some that I can remember and others that by most people are long forgotten from over half a century ago. There are adverts about how to get yourself set up with gas heating and smokeless coal to comply with the Clean Air Act and where you can purchase radios with the new fangled stereo or ‘3D sound’. There is a photo of an unnamed Huddersfield’s oldest resident of 103. This chap is sitting there with a smile looking healthy and hearty with a pint of bitter and holding his pipe and he must first have been born in Huddersfield I guess around the 1858 mark. There is a large section on the manufacturing and textile industry of Huddersfield and interestingly it is also translated into German and French. I guess this was to stimulate trade with that place called Europe across the sea. There are the names and addresses of all the Councillors and key figures from the time most of whom I never knew or met with the odd exception such as Tom Cliffe who was a Councillor I came across in the distant past.

You really get a sense looking through this time capsule of Huddersfield of the span of years and how it continues and has its own life beyond that of the lifetime of those of us who reside within it. We all experience change in the local environment around us and sometimes its for the better and sometimes definitely not.  My own personal bug bear is how the Burns Tavern with its long wooden bar got demolished to become Burger King.

‘Huddersfield – Official Handbook’ is now a prized possession and it would be interesting to do something similar for someone else to discover 50 years hence. Things are however so very different. The information in this book is probably not stored or accessed easily anywhere digitally. A lot of the same information today could be source from a number of websites. Huddersfield as an administrative area is gone and we have the not very much loved Kirklees Council so the point of doing it might be lost. We can’t recreate the past nor should we attempt to do so. Like those before us we just have to do our best to make a better future and much as I enjoy having a ‘proper gander’ at ‘Huddersfield – Official Handbook’ it is in its own way propaganda showing our town 52 years ago in the best possible light. Still absolutely fascinating all the same.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Parish Christmas Trees - Live is Cheap!

Thurstonland villagers with their new living Christmas tree
The Parish Council helps a number of villages with the funding of Christmas tree each year and this can come to £500 a time, about £350 for the tree and £150 for Kirklees to set up the lighting each year and connect it to a streetlight.  A live Christmas tree costs around the same but if it remains there each year we save £350 a year. Apart from all that we had a good time with the Thurstonland locals digging the hole and getting the first one planted planted. There's also one going in at Lascelles Hall so £700/year saving if all goes to plan.

Cllr Robert Barraclough with the trussed up new arrival
Tree planted with the workers (minus Phil who is shy)

Stirley Community Farm's Passivhaus Barn project launched

 There are exciting developments going on at Stirley Community Farm. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have commenced their Cre8 barn project. One of the old stone barns is being completely refurbished to passivhaus building standards by local award winning company the Green Building Company with substantial support from Veolia following a successful bid by the Trust. Passivhaus standards are where buildings are insulated to a very high standard with air tightness being key to acheiving extremely low heating requirements in the building. The Green Building Company are national leaders in passivhaus design and build and this will be the first time in the UK that such standards have been applied to the retrofit of a non domestic property.(Correction in comments from Green Building Company -oops!) It is pleasing to have yet another high eco spec development in the Newsome Ward. Bill Butcher of GBC is doing a blog on the construction of the barn which you can access here. The launch event featured Barry Sheerman MP who provided his support to the event and told us of his passion for the English poet John Clare. The new barn wuill be used for training a skills development and will have very negligible heating costs.
Still a bit of work required on the roof!
Green Party member Karen Allison in the barn. I'm sure she'll thank me for putting this photo up!

Oswald Dodds of Veolia , Rob Stoneman of YWT and Barry Sheerman. I promised Barry I'd caption this 'Champagne Socialist'

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Keep Shelley Pyramid win campaign

Flockton Working Mens Club - venue for Kirkburton Parish Councils meeting on Shelley Academy proposals

It has been the major issue affecting our area this year and the Green Party is pleased that the non political and highly effective Keep Shelley Pyramid campaign has been successful. Proposals from the Principal and Governing Body of Shelley Academy to extend their intake to years 7 and 8 were rightly seen as a threat to the future of the middle school system. The proposal was made unilaterally with no consultation with the middle or first schools.

Councillor Robert Barraclough said, “All credit must go to the local people behind the Keep Shelley Pyramid campaign. They organised the meetings, the marches, the lobbying of politicians and the impressive social media campaign. It was local people that won it!”

The end of the Shelley Academy proposal finally came following an Extraordinary Kirkburton Parish Council meeting called on the 15th of November at Flockton Working Mens Club. Passionate speeches were made by members of the Keep Shelley Pyramid campaign defending the middle schools excellent education record for local children. Shelley Principal John McNally was in attendance and after he spoke Councillor Andrew Cooper informed him that the Parish Council were considering holding a Parish Poll, a referendum, to allow people to say whether they were for or against the Shelley Academy proposals. Councillor Cooper went on to ask Mr McNally whether he would advise his Governing Body to abide by the result of the poll. Mr McNally agreed. The following day, as news spread, MP Simon Reevell, having received over a thousand letters from local people, gave his backing to the Keep Shelley Pyramid campaign,

In a statement put out by Simon Reevell MP he said,

“At a Parish Council meeting held last night Mr McNally indicated that if there were to be a poll or referendum on the proposals he would advise his governors that they ought to respect the result of that process. I think that he was right to say that but it was a significant concession. It would mean that the college would not pursue the plan if the majority of those affected did not support it, whatever the college believed the educational advantages to be. In other words, they would not be saying that any educational advantage was sufficient to justify the plan whatever the level of opposition.”

He went on to say

“This morning I telephoned Mr McNally and informed him of the volume of correspondence that I have had and suggested that in light of it there was little point in putting the Council to the trouble and cost of a ballot.”

Shortly afterwards Mr McNally informed the press that he was recommending to the Governing Body that the Shelley Academy proposals were withdrawn.

Monday, 12 November 2012

PRESS RELEASE - Greens call for boycott of Police Commissioner Elections

Please stay in or spoil your ballot on Thursday evening all!
 Kirklees Greens have called for a boycott of the Police Elections scheduled for this Thursday.

Councillor Andew Cooper who leads the Greens on Kirklees Council said,

"The Elections on Thursday will be to appoint a £100k a year Police Commissioner post with no more powers or authority than the existing Police Authority. On top of that the Commissioner will be overseen by a Police and Crime Panel of 12 Councillors each on £11'000 a year for attending 6 meetings. The cost of running the elections will be a total of £75 million nationally."

"The politicisation of the governance of the police force is a retrograde step and I really don't believe that in the UK we should be seeking to impose an American model of policing."

"Holding these elections in November when less people will be willing to turn out on dark evenings shows what a low priority it is for for the government so why should people really take them seriously."

"Whether it is by spoiling your ballot paper or simply not turning up at the Polling Station it is important that these elections are a failure."

"The election deposit is £5000 which seems designed to ensure only large political parties are able to put candidates forward to ensure that these supposedly 'non political' Police Commissioner posts go to politicians from the old establishment political parties."

"I have a postal ballot paper and rather than sending it to the election office I will send it to the Prime Minister David Cameron with some suggestions as to better use of the money such as properly funding front line policing."

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Kings Mill Lodge - New Supported Housing

The old Kings Mill Lodge building at the bottom of Newsome Road has been demolished and is being replaced with supported housing for adults with a range of needs who need a safe environment to enable them to live independently.

The design for the building has been carried out by One17 Design who are based in Armitage Bridge and has very high environmental standards. Councillor Andrew Cooper said, "It is great that a building being constructed in the Newsome Ward has been designed by a company based here as well."

The new building is yet another in our area with solar panels on the roof making the Newsome Ward an area with the highest concentration of solar panels in the country.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Police Commissioner Elections - Lessons from Gotham City

When trying to think of a suitable frame of reference for what a Police Commissioner might be like you have to go to the USA where they have them already. I only know of one example of someone in such a position and that is of course Commissioner Gordon from Gotham City. I am not thinking of the Gary Oldman version here but the hapless bloke who played him in the 60s version of Batman starring Adam West. Gotham City was obviously starved of public funding as every time there was any sort of crisis at all (usually involving Mr Freeze, Catwoman, the Joker etc) Commissioner Gordon and his Chief O'Hara would be straight on the blower to some masked vigilante to get him to help them out. Has the Gotham City Police Department actually solved any of its own crimes without having to outsource/commission someone else to sort out the bad guys and probably at a premium. Bruce Wayne isn't an eccentric millionaire for nothing I'm sure. So for the Police Commissioner system of governance to have any chance of working we are going to need a West Yorkshire equivalent to Bruce Wayne to supplement a cash starved police force. An eccentric millionaire, a 'do gooder' with a penchant for fast cars and a flamboyant taste in costumes. A reasonable runner as well and a former wrestler who might be able to hold his own in a scrap would be handy. There are just two problems. The chap who fits the 'Bruce Wayne' profile died last year and the other problem is that he was Jimmy Saville.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Make do and mend - Road resurfacing the retread method

Birch Road being retread resurfaced
Kirklees Councils roads are in a notoriously poor condition and no party on the Council has ever grasped the issue and addressed it. All of the larger parties have talked about it and said what an important issue the poor state of the roads are  but there has always been precious little difference in the amount of funding put into the roads. That was true before austerity hit and if more Kirklees money went into social care and good works then all well and good. Now we are up against the wall of massive cuts in local funding, the poor state of our roads is becoming ever more evident and they will get worse as each winter goes by. It is not for nothing that the Councils pothole budget has been used up well before the year end.

In Newsome Ward we've had similar issues and 2 local roads, Birch Road and Templar Drive,
which are in a very poor condition have just been resurfaced using the 'retread' method. Under this technique the old surface is broken up  and crushed, mixed with tar and a layer of gravel put over the top. This is significantly cheaper than conventional resurfacing and can last up to 10 years dependent on usage and conditions. We have had to use up the small amount of local ward funds to ensure Templar Drive was completed and we are keen to find funding for the adjacent Broadgate Crescent  which is also in a poor state.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Kirkburton Parish Council backs Keep Shelley Pyramid Campaign

Packed Parish meeting in Burton Village Hall
 Kirkburton Parish Council formally backed the Save Shelley Pyramid Campaign last night. Green Party Parish Councillor Peter Pankhurst proposing the motion said,

"We regard these proposals as an assault on the middle school system which has provided a high standard of education for thousands of local people for many years"

The motion was seconded by Kirkburton Green Party Parish Councillor Rae Thomas

It was a packed meeting with many members of the public present. James Crowther of the Save Shelley Pyramid Campaign spoke about the concerns many parents and the wider community had regarding Shelley Academy's intentions to establish a selective intake of year 7 and 8 pupils.

Councillor Andrew Cooper also spoke in favour of the motion and stressed the importance of getting the Governors at Shelley Academy to immediately withdraw the proposals

"The Principal and the Governors should recognise that their attempts to restructure the education system in a predatory top down fashion are directly opposed by the vast majority of local people. They have bitten off more than they can chew and should immediately withdraw these proposals."

Parish Council Motion on Shelley Academy proposals

Kirkburton Parish Council opposes proposals from Shelley Academy , in principle prior to the consultation being formally released, to increase its admissions by introducing a selective intake of Year 7 and 8 pupils and supports the Keep Shelley Pyramid campaign

We regard these proposals as an assault on the middle school system which has provided a high standard of education for thousands of local people for many years

We are concerned at the knock on effect of year 6 being forced onto the First School with additional costs for classrooms and facilities should the middle school system become unviable

We oppose the restructure of the policy which may not guarantee entry places to children from the Kirkburton, Almondbury, Grange Moor and Denby Dale areas.

We are very concerned at the potential impact on local roads and infrastructure if hundreds of additional pupils are admitted to the Shelley College site.

Kirkburton Parish Council resolves to:-

Respond to the Kirklees consultation on the Shelley Pyramid expressing our views to the Academy’s proposals

Write to the Principal and Governors of Shelley College detailing our views to both the proposals and the manner in which they have been tabled.

Request that Shelley Academy immediately withdraw the proposals.

Write to Simon Reevell as the local MP for the area calling on him to publicly back the Keep Shelley Pyramid Campaign