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June 26, 2009

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RMW

Rules? If the council has not been enforcing the rules ALL ALONG, they have no right to pester an elderly woman about her flowers, which have been there for years. The only reason they are enforcing them now is because planting vegetables is 'cool' all of a sudden. May I suggest that the council find space for, organize and offer MORE allotments? My understanding is that councils are supposed to offer 80 allotments per 1000 population, but most do not because locals have to insist on it. (hint hint)Also, I would LOVE to point out that Mrs. Avery is close to 90, the wait for her allotment will likely NOT be 15-20 years anyway, so enjoy her flowers for the short time she is there with you. Anyhow, good luck to Mrs. Avery and her lovely slice of England.

Carlton Basham

I am inclined to think that the jobsworths on Rogerstone County Council should seriously consider their proposed actions with regard to clearing this allotment. There is very likely to be a backlash of public opinion which affirms that we, the people, do not expect to see Mamgu (Grandmother) victimised. This is Wales, where Mamgu is the ULTIMATE authority. Who says Mrs. Avery cannot grow flowers if she wishes? Who? And with what authority? The Council have risked their own future with this ill-conceived debacle of enforcing the "rules". Rules are made for people who cannot be trusted to make a sensible decision. I rest my case.

Paul Flynn

Thank you Geoff Allen. The reports are entirely accurate. But the sitaution is worse than the reports indicate. This is small-minded, jobsworth bullying by people who are poorly suited for public office. I hope they feel shamed by your entirely justified message.

Paul Flynn

Interesting JD. Is there a 'vested interest?' There are lots of rumours.

Geoff Allen, Somerset

I am appalled at the treatment of Mrs Avery if the Telegraph article is correct.

My response last night was to email the Rogerstone Community Council direct to say that they are acting more akin to a 'community bully' than a 'community council'

My Mum turned 84 last month and I would be furious if her local council acted in a similar manner.

The Community Council meet on Wednesday 1 July. I doubt they read Paul Flynn's blog or the online comments pages of newspapers, but a load of emails which should be read out at the meeting as incoming correspondence may persuade them to see sense.

I have no vested interest other than reading about it online and being appalled at what seems to be a crass decision taken without any sensitivity to the situation.

JD

I think this is an absolute disgrace. Especially when rogerstone community council for the allotments seems to be governed by a local councillor with power, and a vested interest, and not by impartial people with common sense.

Kay Tie

"...it's the paperwork that *should* give..."

Indeed.

DG

Perhaps that should have read:

"...it's the paperwork that *should* give..."

Kay Tie

"When the paperwork gets in the way of a sensible decision, it's the paperwork that has to give, not compassion and decency."

Where have you been living for the last decade? The entire country has been downing in a checkbox culture where targets override any independent thought. From police officers chasing detected sanctioned crime targets (allowing unmeasured crimes to languish) to NHS managers exploiting loopholes in the targets (e.g. if you come to A&E and they suspect cancer you don't fall into the two-week rule to see a specialist - since that applies only to referrals from GPs - and it can then take months to see a specialist, during which time your cancer goes rampant and kills you).

We've been living in an era of rule-based detachment from humanity. And yet you still cling to the idea that somewhere some kind of compassionate intelligence monitors this and overrules the banal evil? You're deluded.

Paul Flynn

Very funny DG. I thought jobsworths like this existed only in comedies. The reaction against this absurd decision has been almost universally hostile. The only exception are from two people who seem to have a very detailed knowledge of the Community Council'ss point of view.

If the council arrive with their 'paperwork' and try to obliterate the garden, they will have a bit of surprise. I have been discouraging excessive publicity from the national press but there is vast interest. The Communty Council must get off their high horse

Steve Watkins

The clue is in the name “Rogerstone Community Council” with the emphasis on “Community”, I the as a council is a democratically elected body it should ask Mrs Avery’s fellow plot holders for their opinion on this rule. I for one would rather see an allotment like Mrs Avery’s than one empty.

DG

"You Mr Flynn seem to be saying that exception should be given to Mrs Avery due to her age, can you confirm that this is the policy of Newport City Council, because it is not in any paperwork?"

John, if you check the area between your ears you should find what we like to call a "brain". This is what most people use to govern their decisions, rather than relying solely on "the paperwork".

When the paperwork gets in the way of a sensible decision, it's the paperwork that has to give, not compassion and decency.

Paul Flynn

Thanks KayTie, the Telegraph story accounts for the large number of phonecalls I have had today. The local papers has had 18 replies on their site all with the same message of attacking the council

Kay Tie

The Telegraph has a piece on the allotment:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5674695/Woman-89-to-lose-allotment-for-growing-flowers-not-vegetables.html

Paul Flynn

Thanks for all these response. The South Wales Argus did a decent story on Mrs Avery. It should make the Community Councillors thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Andrew Cooksey is the present chairman of the community council.

Rogerstone is one of the few community councils in the urban parts of my constituency. They add an extra charge to the local people's council tax for improved decisions that are are close to the views of Rogerstonians. Not this time

delcatto

Contact David Cameron via the Tory websites including Conservative Home, Ian Dale, etc...
I'm sure some direct pressure from those at the top will make these petty officials reconsider their actions.

Kay Tie

"And a final memory which I loved; he had a two and half conversation with Michael Foot in London in 1997. "

Michael Foot's political views are antediluvian (they were formed in the madness of the '30s) yet the current lot in office can't hold a candle to his decency.

Kay Tie

"What has the local MP got to say about all this?"

Very funny. Next!

Chris Carter

I approached Andrew Cooksey the councillor who lives at Great Oaks Park(their addresses are available at www.newport.gov.uk) unfortunately noone was home, I'll approach him later if I get the chance and I'll report back.

Sharon Clephane

And they say Councils are working for us! Sounds as though there is something else going on here. I hope someone, somwhere, sees sense. What has the local MP got to say about all this?

Grant T

Mrs Avery seems a fascinating lady and I look forward to more videos of her wartime memories. The problem here is not whether the council is Conservative, Labour or even Plaid, its just a complete lack of commmon sense. Anyone can see that this is a plot that is well looked after and so what if it has a few flowers on it, I think having that plot for 30 years gives her the entitlement to do that.

What a coincedence, yesterday I went to my friends 17th birthday party, and then i heard his grandfather talking about the war, so of course my love of history and politics drawed me in. We talked for an hour and a half about his memories of the war, Viatnam, Korean War him serving in Malaya, Japan and the bomb. He had the most incredible knowledge and could clearly remember all things memories. We went onto politics talking about different Prime Ministers and the importance of a strong opposition. And a final memory which I loved; he had a two and half conversation with Michael Foot in London in 1997. They were staying in the same hotel and it got evacuated because of a bomb scare, then this man, Orberry Davies, met him and they were suppose to be catching the same train. So Michael Foot had to ring up I believe either Newport or Monmouth constituency to tell them he wouldn't make it. Orberry said; "A tremendous mind but the most modest man I ever met, so modest". Orberry has even writen memoirs of his life and the outside world dating back from the 30's right up till now.

Kay Tie

"One Tory councillor lives at the bottom of my street as I live in rogerstone, He'll definately be hearing from me :)"

Please report back and tell us what he says. I'd like to know whether he thinks there's anything that councillors can do. And if there is, whether he's a curmudgeonly old git.

Chris Carter

One Tory councillor lives at the bottom of my street as I live in rogerstone, He'll definately be hearing from me :)

A.C.

I am bemused by John Jenkins comments. I regularly walk my dog in that area and if he knows it as well as he seems to he will still see many of the other allotments which are overgrown and in a terrible state. From the pictures, Mrs Avery's allotment is well tended and maintained. Surely it's not a question of age Mr Jenkins - just some good old common sense?!

You've obviously spent a lot of time watching Mrs Avery's allotment patch recently John - is this a hobby of yours?

It's good to see John and Sandra being so passionate about allotments - shame they couldn't look beyond red tape and actually consider the exceptional circumstances in this case. You have the audacity to question Mr Flynn's interest in people - do you really want to see a 90 year old lady have her allotment which she has tended for many years ripped up? Even when she is growing some vegetables? Yes. That's really someone interested in people.

Paul Flynn

Hooray to a Community Council John Jenkins? A Community Council that does not answer letters or phonecalls on urgent matters and left a 90 year old lady worried that the bulldozers were arriving on Monday to destroy her work over the past years ? That was the situation at ten o'clock this morning. Even today, they could not give me or the press a straight answer on whether they will reconsider their policy. I believe the vast majority of the people of Rogerstone would agree that this is a case where commonsense and compassion should apply.

Count the overgrown untended allotments and ask why the Community Council has not acted against them years ago?

I've been involved with this because the lady rang me a fortnight ago and again today. The Community Council could have communicated with her, her daughter or me at any time in recent weeks. They did not. Today I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful intelligent dignified hard-working lady who has been bullied by the crude discourtesy of the Community Council.

Her allotment is situated in a place where most of us have back gardens. She has been renting the land for 30 years. Does this not entitled her to a little consideration? She is growing some vegetables and I am sure a reasonable compromise could be reached. Now a well tended attractive plot could be destroyed and occupied by a tenant who might let the plot go to rack and ruin.

Rogerstone is a small place. You appear to know a great deal about this situation. I am sure the Community Council know about this too. Do you agree with the way Mrs Avery was treated?

John Jenkins

Mr Flynns comment 9.04 was posted while I was typing mine above - Mr Flynn - I have no idea what City Councillor you have been in contact with but your comments are certainly incorrect, I dont know how long the waiting list is in Rogerstone, but do you? Are you suggesting that someone be allowed to have a large garden at less than five pounds a year, while other areas have to be found for people wanting to grow vegetables?

John Jenkins

As a resident of Rogerstone who has been on the plot waiting list for a while, I am glad the council are finally dealing with people who have no interest in growing fruit and veg on their plot (flowers are fine to a point to attract wildlife and as companion planting - but a garden and so very large!). Why should anyone be allowed to use a food growing area as their private garden? What has the war or age got to do with someone using this space for flowers when there are people out there with young families wanting to grow and harvest their own food? Shame on you Mr Flynn, perhaps instead of trying to score political points by totally inflating this issue, you should help residents to find land to grow crops on. My brother had an allotment with Newport City Council and he was given just weeks notice to vacate when due to an injury he was unable to keep on top of the weeding during the growing season. This was reluctantly accepted as there were people on a list who could start on the plot straight away, but thats fair. You Mr Flynn seem to be saying that exception should be given to Mrs Avery due to her age, can you confirm that this is the policy of Newport City Council, because it is not in any paperwork? Had you visited the allotment site at Cefn on a regular basis as I have you would have noted the improvement in the plots over the past few months and maybe you would also have noted that the 'veg' in Mrs Avery's plot was planted just 2 days ago. Don't pretend to take an interest in people when you see an opening just to score points. Yes Mrs Avery appears to give a very interesting account of her life, and she seems lovely, and I hope you do stay in touch with her on a weekly basis and take more video footage, its fantastic that a lady of this age is such a wonderful narrator, but really whats that got to do with her using land that a young family could make real use of. Hooray to the Community Council. Shame on you Mr Flynn.

Paul Flynn

I was told tonight by a councillor on the city council that there is no great pressure in Rogerstone for new allotments. If there is, the community council can act against those who are not cultivating their allotments at the moment.

If there is excess demand, more unused land can be used for allotments. It happened in the war as Mrs Avery could tell you.

SANDRA

Why is this seen as political - wake up - people in Rogerstone want allotment plots to grow their own food, why should anyone be allowed to hold on to a plot if they do not use it as intended? All over Britain there are people on waiting lists, hence the land share scheme. Come on please be sensible about this, don't make it into a big political story when its about giving people in Rogerstone a chance to cultivate a plot to feed their family. Newport City Council do not tolerate any plot holders using their allotment land for anything other than intended, and termination is swift if you do not adhere to their rules, regardless of race, age, gender etc. why is this different?

Kay Tie

I can't believe people depending on votes would do such an unjust crass and unpopular thing.

Paul Flynn

Thanks KayTie. On the councils on which I have served, the councillors would have ben fully responsible for decisions of this kind.

Paul Flynn

Thanks Craig. Mrs Avery is a joy. She is a mine of information with a needle sharp memory of the war years and their aftermath. I will post some more of my chat with her in a later blog.

Kay Tie

"Rogerstone Council is almost a one-party council. All, except one Plaid Cymru member, are Conservatives."

I think that's where the problem is: not that it's a Tory council, or a Plaid one or even a Labour one (should there be any). No, it's that the councillors have virtually no control over the council officers: the officers follow the regulations laid down by Whitehall, not orders laid down by the councillors.

This is an example of the utter failure of local democracy, and just one more example of the terrible state our politics has fallen into. Neither MPs nor councillors have any real power any more. And if the elected representatives have little power, how much can the citizen have? None at all.

Is it any wonder there's a undercurrent of boiling rage in this country?

Paul Flynn

Thanks. The Argus had great difficulty tracking down anyone in authority from the Council. The Argus reporter rang Mrs Avery to say that his contact on the Rogerstone Council said 'that they could not give any guarantee, one way or another.'

At 4.00 o'clock this afternoon, I had a call from a council representative following the answerphone message I left this morning. There was no apology for failing to answer the letters, but I was told that they will not be attempting to 'clear' the allotment on Monday. Future action depends on the decision of the Council at their meeting on Wednesday.

Mrs Avery has had some of the immediate anxiety lifted. But no thanks to the council for that.

Craig

I just had a look at the video of Mrs Avery that you posted. She's an absolute gem of information! What a lovely lady. I really, really hope that the council sees sense

Craig

This is awful. Shame on them! Sometimes, these jobsworths have far too much time on their hands. It's easier to 'deal' with vulnerable people rather than getting down to the real problems.

Paul Woodward

Its such a shame that these people in the council are being so petty and discourteous to this lady. Unfortunately though this sort of petty bureaucratic behavior isn't limited to one party but to the people who have the power and like wielding it.

DG

Suggest we get down there post-haste and plant a metric tonne of edible flowers - nasturtiums, violets etc - rose hips are edible too.

Let the twatocrats figure that one out.

Paul Flynn

You are too kind to them Aidan. the way they are going, this community council could well become famous. I wrote the blog today with a great deal of restraint. Perhaps next time, I should say what I really feel.

Aidan Byrne

What a miserable bunch of bastards. I'm astonished there are so many Tories in Wales - enough to occupy a council, let alone enough to vote them in. Time for an occupation picnic!

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