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.

Elmbridge agrees new waste contract with Amey

waste_managementResidents in Elmbridge, Mole Valley, Surrey Heath and Woking are to receive an improved waste and recycling collection service thanks to a new joint waste collection contract.

As well as a better service, the contract with Amey will save taxpayers more than £2 million a year. It is the first contract of its kind in Surrey, and was part-funded by the Surrey Waste Partnership and supported by Surrey County Council as the waste disposal authority.

The contract covers all aspects of waste collection including household waste, recycling, garden waste, recycling banks, clinical waste, replacement bins and the opportunity to introduce a commercial waste service. It will also include street cleaning and associated activities including street sweeping, bin emptying, weed control, graffiti removal, and fly-tipping and fly-posting clearance. The contract will last for 10 years, with the option to extend.

Improvements, which will be introduced when the new contract begins in each area, include:

  • A weekly collection of clothes, home textiles and small electricals.
  • An improved bulky waste service, including a collection from inside homes.
  • New collection vehicles with enhanced safety features like 360 degree cameras
  • New technology which will give residents the latest information on their collection.

Additionally, food waste will still be collected on the same day each week as waste or recycling, but it may be at a different time as it will be collected by a separate vehicle. If other changes are necessary, such as altering collection days, they will be communicated well in advance to avoid any confusion or inconvenience.

The contract will begin in Elmbridge in June 2017 when the current contract comes to an end. Other Surrey councils have the opportunity to join as the contract progresses.

New Weybridge Conservation area

templemereElmbridge is proposing to designate a new conservation area in Weybridge. In recognition of the unique 1960s built Templemere Estate, the borough has produced a Character Area Appraisal and Management Plan consultation document and is keen to hear the views of local residents and organisations.

A conservation area is defined as, “an area of special interest; the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”. The character appraisal document provides written definition, analysis and appraisal of what makes an individual area special and identifies actions for protection and improvement. The final document will be used by planners and the local community as a basis for understanding the area, informing decision making, monitoring and management.

There are 25 conservation areas designated in Elmbridge and these include historic town centres at Esher and Weybridge, village greens at Giggs Hill in Thames Ditton and The Tilt in Cobham, a 1920s philanthropic retirement village at Whiteley Village, motor racing circuit at Brooklands and 17th century river navigation channels along the River Wey. Lakeside Drive in Esher was the first example of modern 20th century architecture which was awarded conservation area status by the borough in 2014.

Community involvement is an essential part of any appraisal and the consultation document has been produced as part of a collaborative process involving local residents, amenity and conservation societies and planning officers and was co-coordinated by heritage consultants. There is now a six-week period of public consultation, which will run from 5 December. The appraisal document is available to view on the borough’s website and printed copies can also be viewed in the reception area of the Civic Centre on Esher High Street.

Extra support during a power cut?

power-cutAlthough power cuts don’t happen very often when they do they can be worrying.  UK Power Networks is the electricity network and it provides a ‘Priority Services Register’ for people who might need extra help in a power cut.  Older people, families with very young children, and people with specific medical conditions are among the many people who are eligible to register for free support.  You can find more details and register by visiting the website or calling 0800 169 9970.

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

Support the Weybridge Singing Group

singingThe Weybridge Centre for the Community is looking for a volunteer to lead a fun and informal singing group who is comfortable with leading all types of songs. The group runs fortnightly on a Wednesday morning from 10am to 11am.

The centre is  also looking for more singers of any ability to join the group. If you are interested in joining or volunteering, please get in touch by calling Chris, Weybridge Centre Manager, on 01932 844391 or email weybridgecentre@elmbridge.gov.uk for further information.

Does your home still suit you?

Older people in Elmbridge can get free advice and support from the housing options officer. They can help people adapt their current home, assist with a house move or offer advice on residential care. Help with applying for grants and sourcing contractors can also be provided. To find out more about your housing options go along to the drop-in sessions:

  • Weybridge Centre for the Community
  • Monday 14 November, 10am-12 noon.

For further information call: 01372 474645 or email: careandrepair@elmbridge.gov.uk