Published along with this entry are some interesting photos I took recently of the signs banning BBQ’s on Clapham Common. Lambeth Council don’t seem to have any problem with the duty of care and maintaining of public order in their parks.
The question then is why is it so difficult for our Council and Councillors to see the obvious ? The most obvious answer to that is that they are no longer really in charge of major decisions in NW Leeds. This function has been taken over by the Universities and they have long had greedy eyes on the Moor.
The BBQ’s are just one of a number of ‘attacks’ on the Moor as Councillor Bernard Atha describes it. There is the Multi Use Games Pitch part of a dodgy transfer deal over the old Grammar School site, and the new University Car Park which is suddenly so very necessary. Although one might find it difficult to ascribe direct motives to the recent road widening issue you can be sure it wouldn’t be a proposal if the Universities disagreed with it.
At an INWAC meeting last Summer, after I complained about the anti-social behaviour being allowed to take place on the Moor, Councillor Matthews (Lib Dem, Headingley) claimed that the reports of anti-social behaviour were exaggerated and that if some people had their way they’d stop everyone having fun. I took a stroll across the Moor this morning and was greeted by the site of a bed settee in the middle of the most attractive part of the park. Councillor Matthews would probably regard this as a harmless prank and just people having fun. When our councillors take this attitude to anti-social behaviour, is it any wonder that the police refuse to take these matters seriously and act against the perpetrators. Also this morning, there was litter strewn everywhere and burnt grass from barbeques – all the result of people just “having fun”. And in the photo below, taken yesterday afternoon, you can see two bikers “having fun”.
The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.
The people do not want virtue, but are dupes of pretended patriots.
– Elbridge Gerry
Local councillor John Illingworth has compared the current consultation on a barbeque area on Woodhouse Moor with similar exercises undertaken to produce a “gerrymandered” result.
Elbridge Gerry (1744 – 1814) was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, as well as to the first constitution of the United States of America.
During the years of America’s first constitution, he argued passionately for a stronger government with the power to levy taxes, raise a standing army, enforce law and order, and subdue Native American Indians, whose rebelliousness was devaluing the price of land in the not-yet-quite won Wild West.
So ardent was his support for a new constitution and a powerful single government (as well as for a central bank of the United States) that in 1813 he became America’s fifth vice president. His president, James Madison, was the primary architect of the new constitution.
As governor of Massachusetts, Gerry was infamous for re-drawing electoral boundaries to keep him in office and preserve the power of his party. A caricaturist at the Boston Sentinel, looking at a map of the carefully re-drawn districts, saw in its outskirts the shape of a salamander, sketched it accordingly, and showed it to the editor.
“Better say gerrymander,” was the editor’s reply; and the name stuck.
Gerry was also the first vice president not to run for the presidency; not due to any lack of ambition on his part, but because he died before he got the chance in 1814.
Certainly gerrymandering was not new in the first days of the American Republic; and the spirit of Elbridge Gerry is alive and well in Hyde Park and Woodhouse.
[ Part of this article is taken from the Millennium Edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. ]
It was reported in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post that absence due to sickness costs Leeds City Council £26 million every year. Councillor Jon Bale was quoted as saying, “Supportive management is needed to ensure workers turn up regularly and are supported in whatever problems they face.” Presumably this would mean Councillor John Procter and senior managers at Parks and Countryside listening to their ground staff’s views on barbeques. They are after all the people who have to gather up the toxic ash, broken glass and other litter that’s deposited during the barbeque season.
Also in yesterday’s paper was a letter from local resident Tony Paley-Smith. Tony was responding to a letter from Greg Miller praising councillors for including short term residents in the barbeque consultation. Mr Miller is the deputy head of Leeds University’s community relations department and lives miles away from Woodhouse Moor.
There was also an editorial comment on the consultation process.
One of the council officers who attended the drop-ins told me that the survey forms were delivered by a private company on the 26th and the 27th March. He said they’d decided to use the services of this private company rather than the Royal Mail because their quote was half that of the Royal Mail. It can’t have occurred to them that a company that quotes half what the Royal Mail is quoting might be delivering only half the service. That does now seem a reasonable explanation for why the majority of the local residents I’m acquainted with, haven’t received a form.
What do we know about this company? Their website claims, “All of our staff are fully employed mature, professional distributors – they are highly reliable, dedicated to customer service & will NOT let you down”. Really? Then where are the missing survey forms?
What I’d like to know is what checks does Leeds City Council carry out to determine whether private companies like this are actually delivering the goods. And what checks do they make into claims such as the one made by this company that they only employ “fully employed, mature, professional distributors” before they actually enter into a contract with the company.
An undetermined number of the 10,000 survey forms that were to have been delivered to every household within 800 metres of the park’s perimeter have instead disappeared into a black hole. The council used a private delivery firm to deliver the forms rather than Royal Mail on the ground that this was cheaper. But the Royal Mail has a reputation for reliability and to not use them for this important survey may turn out to have been a false economy if the survey has to be abandoned on the ground that not all local residents have received their survey forms as promised.
Local resident Chris Webb pointed out recently that 10,000 is more than the total number of households in Hyde Park and Woodhouse (the actual number in 2001 was 9705). Given this, how is it possible that Chris and so many other people haven’t received a form ? Chris had a letter published in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post on this issue, and so did North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association chair Martin Staniforth. Martin pointed out in his letter that it’s high time the council started to engage with the local community.
The above image of a black hole is published courtesy of thebadastronomer.
Martin Staniforth has had a letter published in today’s Yorkshire Evening Post criticising the slanted nature of the barbeque consultation. In it he makes clear that it’s been targeted at students and designed to elicit a “yes” to the question “Do you want to barbeque on Woodhouse Moor?”. He calls for further drop-ins that are accessible to local people. Martin is a local resident and chair of North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, our longest established community association. You can read his letter by clicking on the words above highlighted in green. Thanks Martin for speaking out on our behalf.
When I got home last night from the barbeque consultation, there was an email from one of the Friends informing me there was a bonfire on the Moor. I went up there and found a large group of people gathered round a blazing fire.
Some of the people gathered around the fire weren’t too pleased that I was taking a photograph. One came up to me and pointing to my camera asked “Are you going to use this as evidence?”. I wish. But this is Hyde Park and Woodhouse 2009 where it seems that the only crime left is murder. I am right aren’t I – murder is still a crime here? On my way home, I flagged down a passing police van and told them about the barbeque. They said they’d look into it. The next morning I found that not only had the barbeque-ers burnt the grass, they’d also torn off the seat from one of the park benches.
We’ve precious few park benches as at is. When you think about it, the lack of park benches means that older people are being discriminated against. If there’s nowhere for them to sit how can they properly enjoy the park ?
Woodhouse Moor was packed with people yesterday afternoon enjoying the glorious sunshine. Unfortunately, many of them never bothered to take their litter home with them, which is why the park looked such a mess this morning.
Leeds employs people known as “Civil Enforcement Officers” to ensure that the city is kept neat and tidy. They have the power to issue on the spot £75 fixed penalty notices to anyone dropping litter. A friend of mine was fined a couple of years ago by one of these people for dropping a cigarette butt in the city centre. And there’s the problem. These enforcement officers don’t appear to operate in Hyde Park and Woodhouse ward. If they do, I’ve never seen one. Why is it that the rules that apply to other parts of the city don’t apply here ?
There were five barbeques burning yesterday afternoon, and this morning I took this photo showing the damage caused by one of them.
I find it amazing that these dangerous contraptions are freely available in supermarkets and corner shops. There’s no age limit restricting their sale. Last year I heard at work that someone’s child had stood on one. She lost all sensation in the sole of her foot because of nerve damage.
I suppose I should be writing to the Times, for today I spotted my first barbeque of 2009 on Woodhouse Moor (see photo below). There were five actually. And that’s the problem. For unlike nightingales, barbeques are a very common species in these parts, and they’re likely to become even more so, if Leeds City Council is able to persuade students to vote for barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor.
Also on the Moor this afternoon, was a large police van with about five or six policemen and women inside. My companion went up to one of the policemen, and asked him to tell the barbeque-ers to desist. But he refused, repeating over and over again, “It’s what students do.” It left me wondering what the police van was doing on the Moor. It also left me wondering why I pay council tax. Can anyone suggest a reason why that police van was on the Moor ?