Bridge ward monthly report 29

20140228-162919.jpgFebruary saw confirmation of a new life for the Portland Leisure Centre; but then the closure of the Clifton Welfare Social Club was announced.
The railway station plans to re-open its main entrance on 31st March and more became known about plans for the renewal of Victoria and Broadmarsh shopping centres.
List of meetings and events available. I chaired City Centre Forum and Area 8 cttee. this month; spoke at OMTRA and attended NEMTRA and signing ceremony for transfer of Portland Leisure Centre to a trust.
Main write up on my web-site.
Monday sees the City Council agrees its budget to meet a shortfall of £25.5m.
As always, any questions or points, just reply or phone.
792 matters have been logged for chasing (drawing from conversations, comments at meetings, phone calls, letters, e-mails, Facebook, Twitter and public comment) since October 20th, 2011.

Fraudulent fraud figures

The Audit Commission claim that every year, fraud costs local government £2,000 million a year.
Now, rule of thumb, Nottingham’s 300,000 or so population represents 1/200th of Britain’s, so pro rata, the fraud hitting Nottingham is £10 million.
Yet an Audit Commission report to our audit committee showing 1,495 cases, valued at £1,070,990 did not prompt reactions of “where’s the other £9 million?”
Which says to me the national report is either wrong or that fraud is worth a lot more elsewhere (presumably London).
It never fails to amaze me that reports (such as that presented by the Audit Commission on fraud in the Midlands and the East of England) don’t seek to improve analysis with pro-rata qualifications and even socio-economic analysis to allow real understanding. Instead – “were 3rd and the big column is obviously Birmingham” – kinda negates the value.
Anyway –
Housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud –
– 178 cases (8th), £586,490.
Council tax discount fraud –
– 950 cases (2nd), £296k.
Disable parking (blue badge) fraud –
– 355 cases (1st, by a mile, 2nd had 10), explained of course by the huge number of wardens we have to keep Nottingham moving (Ben Elton can tell you why that matters).
All followed with lectures why all this matters.

Though not enough apparently to present data in a way that develops understanding.
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Nottingham Midland railway station works

Nottingham Midland railway station works
Glazing is now going in and excitement for the appearance of the new building is growing.
The first phase of the new build is due to open circa 31st March, with the second phase probably in June.
Trying to work out how Victorian engineering to carry the overhanging weight of the decorations can be restored and enhanced to comply with 21st century standards is though more challenging.

Threepenny Opera at Nottingham Playhouse

Civic night for Bertold Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” tonight. I’d been forewarned for over 20 years by Alexei Sayle’s description of Brecht’s “pioneering form of socio-political theatre using pseudo-realistic alienation techniques”.
But I still managed to ask in front of the company of 20 or so why they’d made the lead character of “Mack the Knife” quite so terribly abhorrent.
Threepenny Opera at Nottingham Playhouse
You can imagine their reaction. (Hey, but have a heart, I did physics.)

I understand now of course – Brecht was trying to alienate the audience. Hey ho.
But the play was a hell of a spectacle. One customer described it as the best of its kind he’d seen since “Oh What a Lovely War” in the sixties. With tons of energy. And it shocks. It startles. A mixture of an old plot (with some non-pc values), ’30s tunes and photos of, and some lyrics from, contemporary current affairs.
IMG_1507b0351h The Playhouse Threepenny Opera pre play“If the misery is genuine, no-one will believe it.”
With one beggar collecting £70k a year on Nottingham’s streets, some of the old stuff – Peachum making begging a business – was back in vogue.
The company, Graeae, “integrate sign language and audio description into their productions” and provide opportunities for performers with a range of disabilities.
Reviews elsewhere by the Guardian and the Nottingham Post have been very positive and describe the play more fully.
As for the politics, whilst the play makes a strong plea for the poor, some of the politics have aged – most particularly the classic line that poor people turn to crime – emphatically what has not happened since the crash in 2008.
Perhaps a more contemporary area to explore would have been perceptions of people on benefits, “bedroom tax” (which touched a nerve for the company given the discrimination against the disabled) and food banks. (Perhaps for another play.)
Further reading:

I asked the company afterwards how they’d found Nottingham – loved the public transport, not so good for the car user – so just like everyone else then!

What’s in a flag and a name?

I love the Union Flag cos it is so unlike those boring tri-colours, bringing a number of flags together with a clever geometric design.
Graphic from Wikipedia.
The problems with it though include Wales not being directly represented (whatever the constitutional point might be), and Ireland getting such a piece of the action, when there’s only a fraction of what there was when the flag was designed.
Fascinating to see a charity with responsibility for these matters come up with twelve designs for a new flag if Scotland leaves, and thanks to the Guardian for their article on it
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Well, perhaps it’s as well that Scotland appears to still be set on staying in the union.
Cos the designs are all awful.
Seemingly forgetting that the blue field, the rampant red lion and the unicorn are all symbols that Scotland bring.
20140226-130214.jpgWorse, given the use of flags used to represent Saints George, Andrew and Patrick (though I understand this flag was artificially created for the Union Flag), the Welsh flag to be drawn from should be the yellow cross on the black field of St.David.
So I’d suggest, drop the blue, bring in some yellow and work something out with that.
(And in fact, Guardian readers did, picking the design that used black instead of blue – though perhaps as a twist on “there ain’t no black in the Union Jack.)
But it all prompts a bigger question of just what would you call a union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? Untied Kingdom in such a circumstance would seem ironic.
The fear with the current mentality for economic development is that someone will suggest Greater London.

1,000 posts – why I blog …

… yeah, alright, who cares? 

1,000 posts in 737 days (since October 7th, 2012); or 10 a week. 

Made possible cos there is so much going on in The Meadows and Nottingham city centre. 

Done in part cos of the Nolan principles, which includes “Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. …”  And it’s good to practice. 

Embraced cos of the ease of posting photos.  Able to say more than Twitter, read more widely than Facebook. 
I had hoped this entry might have something more interesting to say. Still. I was struck by a web-site on 1000 “totally true useless facts”, which after listing the first – the definition of trivia – appears to have given up! So some marks for persistence, eh?
Finally, welcome to the first reader from Bolivia.

Conservative Workers Party launch

Clause 4 of the newly founded Conservative and Unionist (no, not that kind of union) Workers Party launched today – 20140226-042125.jpg
4. To secure for the workers by hand or by brain those fruits of their industry not taken by corporations and the most market-driven distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the private and elite ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the most compliant, buck-passing, climate change denying, low wage and unaccountable system of administration and control of each industry or service. 
Launch advertised by The Guardian

City Centre Forum February 2014

The Forum began with silence in memory of Jim Taylor, who died on Sunday; he showed ambition for Nottingham in his time as a employed planner, and after.
The Nottingham Post has published tributes.

Three main issues discussed at the forum.

Creative Quarter achievements
43 photos of energy and achievement, highlighting in particular Cobden Chambers, a business incubator project set to start in May.
A new web-site has been launched –

Plans for a new Broadmarsh
So open are the designs on this that there are no drawing to realistically show off what’s envisaged in a £150m redevelopment to take place in the forthcoming years.
The Nottingham Post has highlighted the glass roof over part of Listergate that was once planned to be a full return to an open street.
The feasibility of pedestrianising Collin Street was tested, but this has been a long term ambition for the council and it’s why the Southern Relief Route was created.
There is no intention to wind down the access the buses have to the two shopping centres or their interconnectivity.

Consultation about a night time levy for businesses in the City of Nottingham
A levy that will seek a contribution from all businesses to the challenges brought by firms opening late and selling alcohol late. A counter concern that the scale and range of what firms offer at the moment is not understood.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning, ‘a city centre bar has had its licence revoked after “violent disorder”.’