THANKS AND APOLOGIES ALL IN ONE CAMPAIGN

For the last few weeks I have been asking people to think about local issues when it comes to this Aberdeenshire Council election on May 4th.

People were clearly thinking that the political messages were about independence, Brexit or national political issues.  Of course that is not what this election is actually about.

I have been clear that people should keep this election about what happens in Aberdeenshire rather than just a beauty contest between political parties.

So thank you for the very kind reception that I have had on the doorsteps.  When asked, people agreed that Aberdeenshire issues are important and agreed that we need local councillors dealing with the issues we have.  Electing councillors from political parties, or even some independents, on simple tribal issues about party politics does not by itself, deliver good local government.

I am glad of the messages of support for my record and campaigns for the future, but it was a long uphill struggle.

Now.  Apologies.  The message has to change because for whatever politically cynical or corrupt reason, we have a general election on June 8th.

All the national issues of which party should govern, what should happen about Brexit, or an independence referendum (or even if this is an independence referendum) can be decided at the June general election.  For all of these things, it is constitutionally the decision of Westminster MPs.  It will be your chance to choose. But not on May 4th.

So that brings us back to Aberdeenshire.  In Scotland there will be 32 separate elections.  Each election is to determine who sits as Councillors on the appropriate local authorities.

Aberdeenshire must elect 70 councillors and this ward of Mid Formartine will elect four members at out of seven candidates.

I hope that people can now re-focus and considered that there is no purpose in considering national issues for the election of local councillors.  The national issues can wait until June 8th and the national general election.

Let’s decide who will be best to represent Mid Formartine on Aberdeenshire Council.  What things do they propose here that are specific for our area.  Not just national political platitudes but practical things that are relevant for this local authority, Aberdeenshire Council.

So I go back to the doorstep hoping that people will ” keep it local” and support councillors that best represent our area.

I hope that my record of action will therefore count towards your choice of who will do the best job for you.  As I say on my leaflets, ” a record of action and a promise of more”

Thank you.


DIGG DUO SEEK RE-ELECTION

The two councillors in Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) – Paul Johnston and Martin Ford – are both seeking re-election to Aberdeenshire Council on 4 May.

Cllr Johnston (Democratic Independent) is standing in and currently represents the Mid-Formartine ward. Cllr Ford (Green) is standing in and currently represents the East Garioch ward.
Both Paul Johnston and Martin Ford are experienced councillors. Cllr Johnston has been a member of Aberdeenshire Council since 1995 and before that served as a Grampian Region councillor. Cllr Ford has been a member of Aberdeenshire Council since 1999.
As the DIGG, Martin Ford and Paul Johnston have had a big influence on Aberdeenshire Council, punching well above their weight for a group of just two councillors.
The DIGG played a particularly crucial role when in 2015 changes in allegiance by other councillors meant neither of the two large councillor groupings on Aberdeenshire Council had enough councillors to form an administration that could run the Council. Rather than join either side, the DIGG reached an agreement to give limited support to the incoming minority administration, bringing stability to the Council. In return, the new administration committed to supporting a range of policies and other changes put forward by the DIGG.
Benefits and other changes secured by the DIGG since 2015 include: a new budget of £100,000 for youth work; for the first time, public consultation on specific budget proposals to inform the Council’s budget decisions; a new budget of £150,000 for ‘traffic calming and speeding reduction’; no cuts to community learning and development funding; additional investment by the Council in renewable energy generation by solar panels on Council building to reduce future energy bills and cut greenhouse gas emissions; additional funding for active travel (cycling and walking).
The DIGG also secured Council support for work to examine the feasibility of re-opening the Buchan railway to at least Ellon, and for the Council setting an annual carbon budget to help it meet climate change targets.
Cllr Martin Ford said: “It’s been an eventful five years since 2012 and the DIGG has made a real difference to what the Council has done.
“Particularly noteworthy locally has been the completion of the major extension to Kemnay Academy and the new Kintore Midmill School. And the Council gave important support to getting the Axis Centre built in Newmachar and The Bothie in Kintore. These are all welcome improvements.
“It has always been a privilege to represent the area where I live on the Council. I’m keen to continue working for the good of the area and so am standing for election again on 4 May.”
Cllr Paul Johnston said: “Thanks to all those who have encouraged me to run again and seek re-election to Aberdeenshire Council.

“I am happy to stand on local issues as this is not a national election. It’s not about brexit or indyref. It is about housing, roads and paths in our towns and villages. It’s about teacher shortages in our schools and protecting our environment and creating great places to live. It’s about improving how our Council engages with its community councils and citizens everywhere. I have fought for all that with some successes, but I recognise there is a lot more to do.”

 


GUERILLAS AT BLACKDOG

Blackdog is a community currently surrounded on all sides by temporary or permanent ‘bad neighbour’ activities.  Everything to the north is a building site for new housing.  Constant dust and noise.  To the south is the construction of the major electricity sub station for the Aberdeen Bay wind turbines’ power coming ashore.  To the immediate east, before you descend to the beach, there is the toxic problem of Blackdog landfill site gradually leaking oils and chemicals onto the beach where there are signs saying to be cautious about your dog because of the pollution.  No mention of humans.  (Blackdog is a community blighted by 11 former landfill sites around it.)  Finally, of course, immediately to the west lies the construction work for the major road junction on the A90 with the AWPR.

In the midst of this there is local resilience.  As I passed 2 members of the local community association were busily doing their volunteer work transforming scrub land into a park. Lush grass was replacing a desolate field of scrub and weeds from 2 years ago.

What struck me most was a sign of defiance against the cacophony of noise, traffic and dust. There was a bit of what only could be described as Guerrilla Gardening.  It was the ‘take over’ of the road verge (the property of the Council) opposite the small row of former council properties along Hareburn Terrace where the construction traffic passed relentlessly. It was previously just un unkempt run of grass next to the road.

The neat planting of flowers and shrubs has been lovingly done to claim that ‘people live here’.  This is not a project site, construction yard or road work….  It’s home to the residents of around 70 houses.

It has the prospect of having 550 more neighbours and being next to one of the busiest roads in the north east.  But this community is beginning to find its place in the world.  It starts with a few flowers and plants, it grows with volunteers and a small park.

If it is helped by a an Aberdeenshire council that cares for its communities then it will flourish.

Let’s work for that.

Aberdeenshire needs more of this sense of community spirit.  Defiance of just accepting what is dished out by the powers that be.  A sense of enterprise.  A feeling that there is a future that can be achieved.

The stirring of awakenings in this community of Blackdog should be in every community.  Every community should be looking for what it can do, as there seems to be fewer politicians looking to help them.

I know there are other progressive politicians on Aberdeenshire other than myself as a democratic independent councillor, or Martin, my Green colleague.  Our challenge will be to see who can step up to the plate to support our communities achieve their ambitions against the odds.

The election for Aberdeenshire Council is not about the national issues.  It’s not about squabbling over taxes or Brexit or ‘indy Ref’ or Nats and Unionsits.

It’s really about our guerrilla gardeners.  Our community volunteers.  Our ambitious communities. It’s about all of the things that will make Aberdeenshire a better place.

 


This will tell you about Guerrilla gardening:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrilla_gardening

(Thank you Edna and Phil)


A947 Still a talking point

Aberdeenshire Council campaigner Paul Johnston has been knocking on doors and speaking to Oldmeldrum residents. The issue of Road safety especially on the A947 remains high on mamy peoples lists of local concern.

“From looks of things the issue remains. The road scares people at times. Traffic speed is far too high”


The concerns are not restricted to the long open stretches of road. Speeding through Meldrum and settlements like Hattoncrook, have also been voiced to  Councillor Paul Johnston.

“While we need renewed efforts to improve aspects of the road – and the council has had plenty of discussion about strategies – we need to use all the tools in the box and consider average speed cameras as part of the mix.”

As a councillor Paul has been pressing for pilot studies on the benefits of average speed cameras on principle roads other than dual carriageways.

Cllr Paul Johnston has welcomed the announcement from Transport Scotland that the A90 from Stonehaven to Dundee will be fitted with ASC (average speed cameras) in 2018.


PLANNING AND THE CRISIS IN HOMES PLACES. LISTEN HERE.

One of the things that new media such as Facebook and Twitter can do is remind you of something that was in the archives or you may have simply overlooked. I am therefore grateful for a friend’s “timeline” that reminded me of Will Self’s radio essay on The 1947 planning act. Sounds dry…but is far from it. Its a programme about a battle that should have been won by the 1947 act but is a running sore ever since. Its thoughtful.

This is worth a listen.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08k15lh
The architecture of this planning act is still there but its key element of sharing land values has been gutted.

Why do I raise this? Its not just some passing interest. This comes up time after time in planning; even today.

When its raised, my councillor colleagues of all political persuasions tut and splutter. Indignant about suggestions of better planning and shared values or better design or place making. It does not match their current conventions, unaware of the purpose of what they should be doing.

Yet here is the argument, well put together, that illustrates why these Councillors need challenged. If not rejected. This needs to happen in order to seek, not just innovation, but renewal of planning as an essential objective in delivering better places. They continue to advocate a market approach.  That, with the current planning system, devoid of meaning, brings planning and its purpose (which unfortunately appears to be all about helping developers) into disrepute.

Will Self offers no solutions other than governmental renaissance in planning.

I would love that to be the case. That government reforms it, but Labour, Liberal, and crucially SNP politicians fail to address this so it is to be left to pressure alone to change them. Against the commercial power of housebuilders in financial servitude to funding banks, there seems little chance.

Like most things, if one thinks in slightly parallel terms, it could be left to other non governmental social and enterprising mechanisms. Why not?

I am working on that. Its one reason I am still wanting to remain in local government.


NEW LICENSING FEES 2017 IN ABERDEENSHIRE

Aberdeenshire Council have agreed a new set of licensing fees. These were consulted widely with interested parties including many voluntary groups and Hall committees.

Click on the document link below and you can see the original proposals and the eventual decision.

If any of these continues to cause a continuing problems for voluntary organizations and halls, please get in touch and contact me at:

cllrpauljohnston

Paul Johnston
Democratic Independent

Agreed New Fees 10.2.17.doc


WELCOME FOR YOUTH WORK REPORT TO EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES COMMITTEE

Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) councillors – Paul Johnston and Martin Ford – have welcomed a report on ‘Augmented provision for young people’ to be considered at next Thursday’s (23 March) meeting of their Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee. (Note 1)
The report recommends how to use the additional £100,000 for ‘youth work’ included in Aberdeenshire’s 2017/18 revenue budget passed on 9 February.
The DIGG included £70,000 for youth work (re-allocated from within the community learning and development budget) in its draft 2017/18 budget proposals published last November. Following budget discussions, £70,000 of new money for youth work was included in the Aberdeenshire administration’s 2017/18 budget proposals published on 2 February.
The amount for youth work was then increased from £70,000 to £100,000 after the Scottish Government announced additional funding for councils on 2 February and further discussions took place between the DIGG and the administration regarding the extra Government grant.
The DIGG argued that new Council funding for youth work was required to support activities that now fall outside the scope of community learning and development, and suggested either direct provision by the Council or grants to community groups would be appropriate.
Both direct provision and grants are now being recommended by officers.
Cllr Martin Ford said: “The DIGG identified funding for youth work as a budget priority and we are very pleased £100,000 has been included in the 2017/18 revenue budget.
“The report to the 23 March meeting of the Education and Children’s Services Committee means a decision can be taken on how to use the additional money before the financial year starts at the beginning of April.”

1. The report is here: http://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/FunctionsPage.aspx?dsid=90891&action=GetFileFromDB


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