Monday, 29 September 2014

Ottery St Mary and sewage... and politics

There has been a lot of noise made of late about 'overdevelopment' and under-provision of sewerage:
Futures Forum: Limits to development: Feniton and sewage

There has also been a fair amount of politiking over the sewage system:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth and sewage

... with MP Hugo Swire stepping in to help Sidmouth's badly-functioning works:
Town's arteries clogged with fat | Hugo Swire
Sewage shock for parading Sidmouth scouts - News - Sidmouth Herald

A bit of a stink has arisen over the MP's visit to Ottery to inspect the sewers there - as reported by Cllr Claire Wright, who will be standing against MP Hugo Swire at next May's general election:

MP Swire: ‘Problem drains must be cleared’

Friday, 26 September 2014 by Claire


The story below is published on page 3 of today’s Ottery Herald, accompanied by a photograph of Mr Swire peering into a drain .....

East Devon’s MP has stepped into fast-track the clearing of drains in Ottery town centre in a bid to reduce the risk of further flooding this winter.

Following a meeting with mayor, Glyn Dobson, Hugo Swire spoke with highways officials at Devon County Council (DCC) to request that the blocked drains and gullies be cleaned as soon as possible.

Mr Swire said: “Although I am happy to help with this problem, I would have thought that Ottery’s county councillor would have sorted this by now. Unfortunately, I felt compelled to intervene as no such progress has been made. The blocked drains that Cllr Dobson showed me are so obviously causing a number of problems for residents.”

A DCC spokesman said this week that highways officers had cleared 12 gullies and drains in Silver Street and Broad Street.

Claire Wright, Ottery’s county councillor, said: “Thanks very much to Mr Swire for his efforts on helping to get the drains unblocked.”

She added that she trusted residents could expect their MP to become active on issues including keeping the hospital beds open, retaining services like the youth centre and library and opposing damagingly high levels of development in and around the town. “Mr Swire has been rather quiet on these issues so far.” said Cllr Wright.

1. At 12:54 pm on 26th Sep Roger Giles wrote:

Good to see Hugo Swire in Ottery. Look forward to his second visit. Perhaps at the public meeting Claire has called for Tuesday 7 October to fight to stop Ottery Hospital losing all its in-patient beds as well as its minor injury service. Pity that Hugo didn`t know that Ottery`s Mayor is Glyn Dobson; in his press release he twice referred to “Glyn Donson.”

2. At 05:13 pm on 26th Sep Janet Beddall wrote:

I hope the gullies down from Patteson’ s Cross will receive similar attention

3. At 08:55 pm on 26th Sep Chris Wakefield wrote:

One of the great joys of an election run-up is watching incumbents demonstrate their intimate savvy about their constituency and its concerns. Or not, as the case is with Hugo Swire MP who, once he’d worked out where Ottery St Mary was, paid us a visit to inspect our drains. In company with his pal the mayor (whose name he wasn’t quite sure of) he set off for a photo opportunity - and what could be more appropriate, given the context of the mission, than a snap of him looking down a drain - there is surely nothing so evocative of concern for drainage than looking intently down one of them - in Ottery. It was all a rather sad effort to conjure a negative comment about our estimable local county and district councillors.

Now clean drains are good - there’s no doubting it, but Ottery’s main preoccupations are a tad more on the surface than that - hospitals, children’s centres and libraries spring more readily to mind, there being an inclination on the part of the authorities to close them - all of them. And then there’s the overdevelopment issue- where we are set to grow by 25% against our better judgement and without the resources to cope. All these things keep distracting us from proper attention to the state of the drains.

But maybe we do need to start somewhere - and luckily - under the Government’s ‘buddy’ scheme (where all ministers are teamed up with a big business to make sure our neoliberal agenda doesn’t slip out of gear and lose momentum) Hugo, I hear, is teamed up with Proctor and Gamble - a giant among cleaning agent manufacturers - so maybe we can rely on a few backhander bottles of Mr Muscle or whatever to dose our errant drainage system. If that fails perhaps he can dash us some discount packs of P & G’s cosmetic offer from the HUGO range (Oh yes, this is a close relationship).

It has famously been noted that while we are all in the gutter, some of us are facing the stars. Hugo is clearly not - he’s irredeemably a downward looking drains man.

4. At 07:41 am on 27th Sep Sandra Semple wrote:

Surely it is no coincidence that there are markings on the road in the picture on his website that show that utility companies are already planning work in the area and that he chooses Ottery St Mary to suddenly pop up in his constituency where his biggest threat can be found (and it isn’t drains)..

And my BIG question: who put the large “mugs” sign in the shop window behind them: naughty!

5. At 09:34 am on 27th Sep Tim Todd wrote:

I believe that the county councillor for Exmouth’s Colony area, long beset by flooding problems, is a Tory - so they needn’t expect any interest from Mr Swire as there will be no opportunity for cheap point scoring.

6. At 03:33 pm on 27th Sep Paul wrote:

So, if we ignore what Hugo Swire said and look instead at the facts (perhaps in a more chronological order):

1. “A DCC spokesman said this week that highways officers had cleared 12 gullies and drains in Silver Street and Broad Street.”

2. “Following a meeting with mayor, Glyn Dobson, Hugo Swire spoke with highways officials at Devon County Council (DCC) to request that the blocked drains and gullies be cleaned as soon as possible.”

So, being the cynic that I am, my interpretation is that:

a. Hugo Swire’s team asked DCC when they would be clearing the drains.

b. A week or so before, he met with fellow Tory Glyn Dobson and then organised a press event in order to appear to have made something happen with the drains.

From my own experiences with Hugo Swire, I cannot believe that he had either the time nor the interest in really doing something for OSM. In the several months I have been following Hugo Swire’s speeches in the Commons he has not mentioned East Devon once. He only did something with a letter I wrote after I chased his secretary persistently, and has ignored most of my other communications with him - but he did send me a reply that should have gone to a different constituent!!!

If he is worried about Claire beating him in next year’s general elections (and he certainly should be worried), then he is smarter than I previously thought - though if he thinks that the electorate can’t tell the difference between genuine caring and scoring cheap points, then maybe he isn’t so smart after all.

MP Swire: ‘Problem drains must be cleared’ - Claire Wright.

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