At the start of his second term, mayor of Buckingham Mike Smith looks to the year ahead.
At the start of his second term of office, mayor of Buckingham Mike Smith looks forward to the year ahead.
As reported in The Advertiser on May 27, we start the year with worrying uncertainties about the future of our local day-care service provision. The town council will certainly be pursuing this, and for appropriate facilities at our community hospital, with vigour.
The forthcoming Localism Bill will inevitably produce a lot more work for town councillors, but this is to be welcomed as it should enable our views about how Buckingham develops to be given far greater accord than hitherto by our county and district authorities.
In the meantime, housing growth in Moreton Road and Bridge Street, the massive development south of the by-pass due to start building in the summer, and outline proposals in Tingewick Road, all have implications for our town infrastructure. We are led to believe that our existing sewers are at (or very near) full capacity and the impact of 1,000-plus households will have severe implications for other services and our already congested roads.
In addition, there are areas of Buckingham that have no play provision for our youngsters – a sad reflection on our planners, we shall need more burial space as Brackley Road Cemetery reaches full capacity and demand for allotments is also increasing.
Local discontent about the Cornwalls Meadow car park layout is still rife, and there are still fears that the introduction of charges has affected local trade. I have a feeling that the last has yet to be heard on this matter.
More recently, there has been an increase in graffiti in and around the town – unsightly vandalism that costs a fortune to remove. The police have recently caught a couple of the culprits, who undoubtedly regret their actions as they were made to clear up their mess. The better weather has also seen a return of evening anti-social and rowdy behaviour in our parks, which the police are also looking into. It may well be that closed-circuit television is the only means to identify such hooligans – and again, it will be the council tax payer that has to pay for it.
There is, however, plenty of good news. We have, during the past year, seen slightly improved economic development funding for the town. Mainly centred on our trader association’s town branding exercise, the roll-out of the Thoroughly Modern Traditional Buckingham brand will help attract more visitors to our historic town – and buoyant trading conditions and new business opportunities can only be good for us all. Hopefully, the new district council will ensure that Buckingham receives a more balanced share of resources, rather than continuing to commit a disproportionate share of the pot to Aylesbury. Perhaps that trickle of funds we have seen in recent months will become a steady stream of improvements for the Vale’s second town. Despite misgivings about their preoccupation with Aylesbury, the past year has seen a closer working relationship between town and district officers, which can only pay long-term dividends for Buckingham.
The fact that two long-standing town councillors, Robin Stuchbury and Howard Mordue, are now also district councillors will, I am sure, improve the political decision-making balance in Buckingham’s favour.
Our Tourist Information Centre continues to offer local advice to visitors, newcomers and residents alike. It also provides a useful National Coach and theatre ticket booking service, and holds tickets to all major local events. Now funded by Buckingham Town Council (readers will recall that our district council withdrew its funding last year), our TIC is now managed by Tourism South East.
If I were a cynic, I might suggest that The Big Society is all about getting volunteers to do the work previously undertaken by paid professionals. In Buckingham, we are blessed with a small army of volunteers who enrich the lives of many by their selfless devotion to causes close to their hearts. My three charities – Project Street Life, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Buckingham Old Gaol Trust are all run by volunteers, as are around a hundred other local bodies. Where would we be without such people?
The general economic climate is far from favourable, but your town council continues to provide a wide range of entertainments for the enjoyment of us all – including the splendid new Buckingham Fringe from June 18 to 25 (see the programme to be circulated shortly with this newspaper, or pick one up from the library).
Without increasing your council tax precept for the second successive year, we have nevertheless managed to increase our staff to better provide our statutory responsibilities and many of those things that our residents aspire to. Our office has now moved to the Buckingham Centre in Verney Close, which provides accommodation more suited to our ever-expanding role. It also means that you can call on all three councils under one roof.
The coming year will have some tough challenges, but Buckingham is up to it. I’m even mildly optimistic…