Gerrymandering

This morning’s discussion at the Cafe One in Baker Street could not help but include the recent inauguration of the American President.

I was surprised, perhaps I should not have been, how unaware British people appear to be regarding the nature of American democracy.  Unlike in Europe, elections in America are often heavily manipulated.  In Europe, where most states have proportional representation, manipulation is almost impossible.  In England, unlike the rest of Britain, we almost exclusively use the first-past-the-post election method and so manipulation is possible but guarded against by the use of an arms-length boundary commission.   Not so in America. The lower house of the America parliament has constituencies and each one elects one member.  To protect the incumbent the political parties change the make-up of the electorate.  If a neighbourhood votes the “wrong” way it is excluded from the constituency and if it votes the “right” way it is included. Over time this produces constituencies with bizarre shapes. The example below. Illinois district 4, shows a constituency that almost entirely surrounds another one.

In some American states the situation is so bad that the state could not pass the basic democratic conditions required to join the European Union.  North Carolina below.

This gerrymandering does not affect the election of the America President.  However, other methods are used instead.  Collectively they are know as voter suppression.  The main types of voter suppression are:

  • Spurious removal of voters from the electoral role
  • Unequal spread of polling stations – poorer areas have fewer stations
  • Misinformation for postal voting – making voters miss deadlines
  • Unequal polling station opening times
  • Unequal voter identification techniques – requiring a driving licence
  • Banning convicted criminals for life
  • Arduous voting registration requirements

Elmbridge staff put a great effort in trying to get people on to the electoral role.  In America there are many organisations that help people to get registered.  However, some American organisations do their best to make sure people never get registered or once there try and remove them.

Some American academics have suggested that the total effect of voter suppression in the recent presidential election was sufficient to change the result in the electoral college.

What are your priorities for Elmbridge?

When the new Liberal Democrat / Residents’ coalition became Elmbridge borough’s administration we set four tasks for our first year – all of which are on target.

 

The municipal year begins in May and in readiness we want to engage with all residents in developing our priorities for next year and beyond.

As part of that ongoing communication we have arranged a meeting for you to share your views and ask questions about key issues for your borough.

‘Prospects and Priorities’ is a public meeting to be held on Wednesday, 18 January at the Civic Centre in Esher.  Elmbridge councillors and staff will be available to discuss the current concerns of residents, from planning to recycling, affordable housing to traffic management. Make sure you arrive early for the drop-in session from 6-7pm, when you can chat informally with councillors and officers, after which, at 7pm, there will be a presentation and question and answer session with Councillor Stuart Selleck, Leader of Elmbridge Borough.

Registration for the presentation part of the evening is advisable because there is a limit to the seating capacity. Email  or call 01372 474 376

Planning Consultation

Your chance to see and shape the next twenty years of planning in Elmbridge

At 7pm, Tuesday, 10 January in the Library building on the first floor

Weybridge will see the first of six public exhibitions outlining the borough’s proposals for providing more affordable and social housing.  This is in response to the national government’s call for local government to produce proposals for meeting housing needs in their areas.

Key documents will be available in hard copy and officers and councillors will be there to talk with you about the proposals.  Key features for residents to consider are around what happens to existing Green Belt boundaries.

The public consultation on these proposals closes on 10 February.

This is the first of several public consultation meetings, so if you cannot make it tonight, there are others you can attend.  Dates and venues to follow.

British Government orders Green Belt Review

Green Belt CountrysideAs many of you will know, the British Government has told the English boroughs to review their Green Belts with a view to opening land for development.  If a borough refuses to do so then the British government has said it will take direct control.

This has left the Liberal Democrat led Elmbridge administration little option but to revise our own local plan.  We wish to built a broad local approach and the Conservative opposition has been very much involved in every stage of the development.

Before we can agree a new local plan we have to pass though a number of stages and we need you to help in that process so we have published a strategic options consultation.   The document asks many questions and raises a number of issues.

We want to consult as widely as possible and will use every available means to engage with the public.  Part of this process is to have a number of consultations at various stages in the drafting of the plan.  The first drop in sessions will be at:

7pm – 9pm, Monday, 23 January at the Playhouse, Walton
7pm – 9pm, Thursday, 26 January at the Civic Centre, Esher
10am – 2pm, Saturday, 4 February at the Civic Centre, Esher

The events will consist of exhibition boards where the headlines of the consultation document will be displayed.  The evidence base documents supporting the consultation will also be available to review and representatives from Elmbridge’s planning policy team will be on-hand to answer any of your questions.

Your can attend any of the events.  The exhibition will be borough-wide, that is not specific to any particular town.

This process is subject to the agreement to the borough’s council  on Wednesday, 7 December

Surrey’s Parking Proposals For Weybridge

I have just been told that Surrey is to publish its proposals for parking on Friday.  Do give your views on Surrey’s Plans.  Look at Surrey’s proposals with its reasons for change.  Two sets of maps: north and south.

Double-yellow-lines-on-a-road-and-pavement-curb-2101582Surrey is advertising its parking proposals for Weybridge on Friday, 30 September 2016, by way of a press notice published in the Surrey Advertiser.  There now follows a four week period during which anyone may object, support, or comment on the proposals.

Surrey staff will be on site on Friday erecting street notices at the locations affected. Surrey will also send postcards (with a copy of the street notice on the front, and the relevant drawing on the rear) to properties fronting any proposals (about 460 in total), and make hard copies of the plans available in the library, borough and county offices, as well as on it website.

Surrey will also be writing again to all the residents that it consulted in May/June 2016 regarding the permit area F. This includes Cedar Road, The Crescent, Dorchester Road, Gascoigne Road, Elmgrove Road, Holstein Avenue, Monument Green, Mount Pleasant, Oakdale Road,  St Albans Avenue  and Thames Street.

The deadline for comments is 28 October, and people who would like to object, support, or comment, may do so via Surrey’s online form (from Friday), or in writing to

Weybridge Parking Review
Surrey Parking Team
Rowan House, Merrow Lane
MERROW
GU4 7BQ

surrey-parking-plans-2016

Resurfacing

Digger’s Bridge.  The bridge by Weybridge station has been resurfaced – big improvement.  However, even when driving across it I noticed that it was very bumpy. This worries me because it seems that it was a full resurface and not a skim.  When a highway is given a full resurface it is usually very smooth – like Holstein Avenue where I live.  Even a cyclist cannot feel any bumps because the surface is as smooth as glass.  Because bridges are difficult to resurface given their location, I would have thought one would not want to maintain the location too often and therefore a full resurface would be provided.  Is the recent work a poorly done full resurface or a halfway measure?

Weybridge Point.  Place where Walton Lane, Weybridge meets Thames Street was been recently resurfaced.  Could this be an opportunity not to replace the overly “main highway” road markings used in the past?  I know that it is a bend but it is in a 20mph zone.  If it has to have markings could they at least be minimal?

Lost Tree

Monument Tree websiteRemember this tree?

One of the trees planted by Morrisons to replace it has been removed because of damage and needs to be replaced.

Monument  New Tree website

Condition nine of the original decision notice relating to the Morrison store clearly states, inter alia, that:

If within a period of five years from the date of planting any tree, that tree, or any planted in replacement for it, is removed, uprooted or destroyed or dies, another tree of the same species and size as that originally planted shall be planted in the same place, unless the borough gives its written consent to any variation.

I have had this followed up with the borough’s planning enforcement team.