Here are excerpts from the maiden speeches this week from two former local councillors elected to represent their patch in the Commons.
“I am concerned about the long-term quality-of-life issues arising from new build development. In the 10 years in which I was a councillor, I represented a predominantly new build area. When I was first elected in 2000, we had just 3,000 houses—I was very grateful when it took me just a few hours to deliver leaflets to all of them—but when I stood down, there were nearly 10,000 houses, and it took many weeks to deliver leaflets. I saw lots of examples of good development—I live in the area myself—but there were examples, too, of things that were not good, and we are storing up problems for the future, predominantly arising from the increasingly high density of new developments.
“The first area of concern stems from the lack of open spaces and parks. That was partly down to the changing classification. Green space was taken into account, but it included hedges and heritage spaces—basically, places where people could not put down jumpers for goal posts. I have a great fear that future generations will miss out on the inspiration of sport. When I was young and Wimbledon was on for a fortnight, we would play tennis. When the Tour de France was on, out came the bikes. When the World and FA cups were on, out came the football. When the Ashes cricket was on, out came the cricket bats, and I was proud to emulate the failings often of some or our national sporting icons.
“Without those open spaces, it is no surprise that child obesity has increased. Too often, we look at improving leisure centres, which is a commendable thing, but the lion’s share of sporting activity takes place in open spaces. I am concerned that the lack of such space will fuel antisocial behaviour, as young people’s endless, enthusiastic energy will not be burnt off.”
“The size of household gardens has shrunk by a third since 1960. In fact, 3.3 million people do not have access to their own private garden, so it is no wonder that the amount of time that children spend in their back garden under parental supervision has halved since the 1960s, fuelling child obesity. I enjoyed the outdoors, but too often children nowadays miss out on that.”
“As we move into the stormy waters ahead caused by the deficit left by the Labour party, I commend to the House the actions of the local High Peak borough council which, when it entered a strategic alliance with the neighbouring Staffordshire Moorlands district council, has driven out over £1 million of saving, yet managed to maintain and improve front-line services for its residents.
“The strategic alliance continues to make strides forward under the leadership of Councillor Tony Ashton, together with his team of Conservative councillors and supported by the excellent and determined staff of that council. This small borough council has shown the way to us all. The savings are there to be made, and we should heed its example.”