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Love Where You Live

On my runs and dog walks around our beautiful City I pick up a LOT of McDonalds litter. Unlike much of the other pieces of litter I collect, McDonalds’ wrappers are often to be found in the road. They’ve been thrown out of car windows. I really don’t get it. It’s completely moronic. Perhaps these people need to eat more fruit, vegetables and oily fish to improve brain function?
love-where-you-live-logo

Anyway, I digress from the point of this post which is to let you know about three community litter picks on Monday 18th July at 11am in Ashley (along the Alban way), Batchwood (the Oysterfields playground at the back of the hospital) and Sopwell (nunnery and the Alban way) wards hosted by McDonalds. Click here for a pdf containing the locations.

I was delighted when a member of the St Albans McDonalds team approached me to help her organise a litter pick for their annual staff volunteering day they call ‘Love Where You Live.’ Given the number of staff she thinks will be coming along it seemed a waste (ha ha!) to stop at one pick, hence three. I am SO excited and do hope that Oysterfields residents in particular will get involved. I’m going to do another pick there with my flying litter squad from Verulam on Saturday 3rd September.

Should the Government subsidise veggies?

Fresh from watching an edition of Countryfile devoted to veggies*, my mind is turning over the problem of the price of carrots and to a lesser, extent Jersey Royals. One farmer talked about the new national minimum wage meaning he’d have an unsustainable business in four years time and that the most viable option would be to ship out from Essex to Eastern Europe. This is absolutely shocking and when a chap from the Retail Consortium taled about consumers putting downward pressure on prices and retailers being unable to pay our producers more for their crops, my first thought was “why can’t we pay more for our veggies?”

According to the programme buying British is important to people but if it means higher prices, we won’t do it. I’m wondering if there’s a current petition I can sign to encourage all supermarkets to pay producers more and pass the costs onto consumers.

Lettuce-Seascape2

Plant life is vital for good health so should the Government subsidise arable farming? Or could we whack an even bigger tax on highly refined treat food and pass that along to farmers? Or should we just pay more? I am a prudent food shopper who has reduced her family’s meat intake over the past year because it’s better for our bodies, planet and our purses.

I was in Cambridge for work on Friday and I paid 75p for an apple at an innovation centre. I could have bought a packet of crisps or a Mars bar for less I dare say (I don’t know because I don’t buy them – call me out of touch or smug if you like). I paid 75p for the apple because it was a better choice than anything else on offer but I did wonder why on earth a pure, unrefined product cost more than the aforementioned (as I have wondered for many years). Perhaps, I wondered to myself, it’s because they throw a lot a way each week so the price charged factors this is in?

Incidentally, Transition St Albans is showing “Just Eat it,” a film about food waste on Tuesday 7th June at 8pm at St Paul’s Church Complex, AL1 4JP (suggested donation £5). It’s in my diary.

So back to this question of cost. Public Health England’s 2014 Health Survey for England found 61.7% of adults are overweight or obese and our NHS (which was set up in 1948 in part as the most cost effective way of creating a fit workforce after the war, not to deal with lifestyle diseases) can’t cope. We’re not taking enough exercise and we’re eating too much calorie-dense food that doesn’t satiate us, so would it be prudent for the Government to intervene and make veggies cheaper?

I used to believe markets should be left to make themselves but in this scenario it would seem prudent for the Government to intervene and make good food cost less. Here’s my thinking: the people who are over-eating and under-exercising aren’t being given the bill for their healthcare so it’s costing all of us more to fund the NHS. If the Government spent money advertising fruit and vegetables (with as much gusto as the companies who peddle their treat food on bus stop poster boards for instance) and made plant products eye-poppingly cheap then wouldn’t it follow that our health would improve? I know this is incredibly simplistic but the main principle holds: make something attractive enough and people will go for it. Or instead we could charge a fee for access to care and medications related to lifestyle diseases?

Big questions. I feel a debate coming on – perhaps in the SuStAinable St Abans week later this year?

* This is the first time I’ve watched an entire Countryfile (BH Mondays at home are great) and it was absolutely brilliant – social issues, political issues, art, food and farming all blended into an interesting 60 minutes. Cuddle with my dog under a blanket was a bonus. The picture above is made entirely of veggies by Carl Warner who appeared in the programme.

People Power

Rock Choir sings on George StreetSomeone once told me there are two types of people in this world: radiators and drains. Radiators radiate a can-do attitude and drains will sap your energy. I think there are more than two types of people in the world but even if there weren’t there’s a place for both radiators and drains. Personally though, I like standing next to radiators.

In the summer I was invited to a meeting of George Street businesses to put a plan together to get the area lit up at Christmas. It was full of radiators. It was absolutely brilliant to watch and listen to the collaboration in the room. Jane from Maison Hartley and Sean from Dylans deserve special mention for galvanising and hosting respectively.

Fast forward to the festive period and I look at those lights and think ‘people power.’

I twisted the arm of local Rock Choir leader, Abigail Smith, to bring her St Albans singers down to George Street to create a fanfare on Saturday 28th November. More people power with passion! It was terrific. (I sang with them for six years so I’m biased).

Also, whilst I’m on the subjects of choirs and lights, a sing out to all the residents who pledged money to fund the new Christmas tree lights outside the Town Hall and outside the Alban Arena. This crowd-funding project was led by my colleague Cllr Alun Davies (St Peters ward).

Given the results of a poll I ran at the monthly St Albans Conservative Association market stall this Saturday just gone I think crowd funding (including pledges from businesses) is probably the way forward for funding new Christmas lights on St Peters Street.

And finally, if you’re feeling cold and can’t find a radiator I wholeheartedly recommend giving Rock Choir a try in 2016 – it’s open to all, no auditions and IMHO gives you a high almost as good as running.

No Flies on Me

The Local Services Scrutiny Committee meetings are one of my personal highlights of being a councillor, not least because they are so well chaired by Cllr Anthony Rowlands. At our first meeting the committee members discussed what should go on the work programme and last night we had a report on fly-tipping (I was delighted to have ‘my’ topic listed so early in the year). About a month or so ago I was invited to suggest the questions I would like the officer (Luke Neal – well done, good job, thank you) to go away and investigate on the committee’s behalf. You can read his findings here (scroll down for item 12).

As I thought, Bedmond Lane (in Verulam ward)  is the district’s hottest spot and I am pressing for police action in our area. (The picture below is not of a luxury ‘bathe for two’ outdoor hotel experience but of fly-tipped baths just off Bedmond Lane – perhaps you dog walk or run round there and have seen them?).

My husband and I alerted the Council’s ‘Cleaner District team’ to 72 instances of fly-tipping over 16 weeks on Bedmond Lane and surrounding areas last year: that was our attempt to get the council to see that a police sting operation is merited.

Bedmond_2015_08_11

 

In July 2014 the Council carried out joint fly-tipping operations with the police where the police would stop vehicles that appear to be carrying waste. Over four weeks 85 vehicles were stopped but no vehicles were seized and only ‘warnings’ were issued.

I also sit on the City Neighbourhoods Committee (a committee that represents the wards that don’t have a Parish Council – meets next on 22/9 and all are welcome to attend at the Council chamber, 7pm) where we have a police update each time. All councillors are asked if there are any particular issues they would like an update on. My response? FLY TIPPING.

I have asked that the police respond to the following questions on 22nd September:

  • When are the next fly-tipping operations happening in conjunction with SADC officers (see 4.19 in the Local Services Scrutiny Committee papers for 3/9/15 for more info)?
  • (When) can I accompany the police and officers on one of these operations?
  • What more do the police think they could or should be doing to deter, catch and prosecute fly-tippers – and any concrete plans?
  • When could there be an operation carried out to stop and search vans travelling down Bedmond Lane (the ‘hottest spot’ in the district for fly-tipping and it is in my ward)?

To my disappointment, cameras do not do much to catch fly-tippers so putting up more of them won’t help us. One solution that I think could have a significant impact is each of us asking everyone we are inviting to tender for work in our homes and gardens/disposing of our waste “please can I see your waste carrier licence?” If they don’t have one, don’t use them. It’s false economy to save a few quid by using someone without a licence as you would liable if the waste was traced back to you and we all pay more in council tax because of the cost of clearing it up. We could soon drive fly-tippers out of business if we all asked that question.

And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do report all fly-tipping you see as the more data we collect the easier (I hope) it is for me to make the case for more effort to be put into deterring and catching these criminals.

What do you think?

Final thought – I’ve asked for the Council’s communications team to include a reminder of the Council’s bulky waste disposal service in the next Community Matters publication (they’ll take six items away for £25.50 – a relative bargain me thinks)

[From St Albans City & District Council website: If you spot someone in the act of dumping waste, please make a note of their vehicle details and call the police on 999 if the crime is in progress. Alternatively, call the non-emergency number 101. If you discover fly-tipped waste after the event, please call our hotline on 01727 819598 or email the details to a.cleanerdistrict@stalbans.gov.uk.If you are able to take a photo of the fly-tipping, this will provide useful evidence to help us with any prosecutions.]

Living The Dream

Whoah, what a Saturday night the 8th of August was. At the Alban Arena around 100 local youngsters aged 5-18 showed off their hard work as part of “Living The Dream” performing arts school’s bi-annual showcase. Along with my six year old, I was blown away watching the creativity, the energy and the love of performing. The children on stage hadn’t auditioned, they’d simply been part of weekly classes where all are welcome – and many are not ‘typical’ performers. It was a sensation!

LTD

The founder of Living The Dream is as amazing as the showcase. Zoe Jackson MBE is just 25 and started the business when she was 16 to fund her own career in the performing arts. In 2011 in the wake of the London riots she set up a charitable arm, The Dream Foundation, which provide subsidised or free access to education, training and performance opportunities for those who would otherwise not be able to take part due to financial hardship, lack of positive role models, or lack of opportunity.

Zoe Jackson

I am so proud to live in a city that is home to people, businesses and charities such as Zoe and Living The Dream. Councillor St Albans Geoff Harrison made a great choice to select you as his charity in his mayoral year, 2014-2015.

Towards the end of the show I found myself wanting to get out of my seat and sing and dance too (I remained rooted but swayed and yelped and sang!) A ticker tape thought ran through my head, “I want to do that…I want to do that….!” Then lo and behold a surprise act ended the evening: a group of mums and dads whose children go to LTD classes did a terrific street dance routine. Terrific in both absolute terms and because they’d only had two evening’s worth of practice. It just shows what you can do when you’re inspired, motivated and got a great teacher.

 

Jessica Chivers


13 Jerome Drive,
St Albans,
Hertfordshire,
AL3 4LT

01727 856169

Twitter: @JC4SADC

cllr.j.chivers@stalbans.gov.uk

Disclaimer
The views expressed on this website are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Conservative Councillors' Association or the Conservative Party.