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Inside Politics with Michael Wilkinson: Incinerators, zany councillors and free breakfasts

By citizenmike  |  Posted: November 13, 2013

InsidePolitics

Inside Politics with Michael Wilkinson, the Gloucester Citizen's public affairs correspondent

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Each week, the Gloucester Citizen's public affairs reporter Michael Wilkinson takes an alternative stroll down the corridors of power.

BURNING ISSUE

NEXT week one of Gloucestershire’s most important planning appeals for a generation will take place.

It will decide the future of £500million plans to build and run an incinerator which will deal with the county’s residual waste.

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A multi-million pound contract has already been signed by Gloucestershire County Council and waste firm Urbaser Balfour Beatty, not to mention we have got to do something with all this waste as landfill quickly become unviable.

So the stakes have never been higher.

The planning appeal, which will run until mid-January, will be crammed with very well paid advisers and lawyers representing all sides. Even campaign group Glosvain stumped up £25,000 to hire a barrister.

It is going to cost the county council a tidy £1million.

So you would imagine that opposing sides would be digging their heels in, preparing for the battle ahead. Not so.

Glosvain and Urbaser Balfour Beatty have been in discussions with each other. The discussions were a requirement of the upcoming appeal.

Not only that but they have actually found common ground on which they can agree on.

Similar discussions have been held between the waste firm and the county council. Common ground was found there too.

Talks between UBB and Stroud District Council and Gloucestershire’s Friends of the Earth have proved less fruitful.

Now I’m not saying Glosvain are about to leap up in support of the plans, because they are not, but they are being cool-headed and smart in stark contrast to the scare-mongering start of the campaign which talked about three-headed babies being created from all the toxic fumes we will inhale.

Campaign leader Sue Oppenheimer told me in the spring, when the incinerator plans were thrown out, that they had ‘won the battle, but not the war’. Well, let war commence.

ZANY BEACON

WHATEVER your politics you’ve got to take your hat off to Pam Tracey.

The county and city councillor is a beacon of light in our community.

I recently called her ‘zany’ when she joined the world of Twitter. And she is.

But, on a serious note, every time I see her speak up for people, she does it with such honest conviction.

Last Monday the future of Llanthony Secunda Priory was at stake and, not only did she set up an urgent meeting of all councillors to sort the matter, but she heralded the priory and the trust that run it as a great asset to our city.

When her five minutes were up, she carried on talking. They switched off her microphone but that was not enough to silence her on this important issue.

She even barked at council officers who were giggling amongst themselves while she spoke.

But Pam is also brilliant on the ground and out of the council chamber. I have yet to find another councillor who is held in such high regard among the public.

Keep up the good work Pam.

FREE BREAKFASTS?

WHEN I was nine-years-old I trundled around my school with a tray of milk cartons and apples for my peers, the good boy that I am.

Each day we all guzzled on our milk and munched our way through some fruit.

I have no idea who paid for this healthy start to the day but I remember it well.

Tuffley county councillor Tracy Millard wants to give every child in Gloucestershire a free breakfast. She argues some kids are starving at home and we have a moral duty to protect our most vulnerable.

And what’s wrong with that? After all, how much does a slice of toast or a bowl of cereal cost?

Well it seems £3million is the answer. Ouch!

Tracy tells me that she might pay for some of that by getting unused council buildings back into use again, arguing that they are costing money to keep them unused.

That felt like a stab in the dark. I think finding the money for this is going to be a little more complicated than that.

But Tracy does speak sense in that, rather than building Rome in a day, we could introduce this great idea in phases.

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5 comments

  • themillard  |  November 14 2013, 8:56PM

    Free Breakfast - Stab in the dark Mike, you may wish to look at the costs of keeping the wilderness centre closed.

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  • truthpaste  |  November 14 2013, 3:55AM

    Actually, Richard, you may have to if the Incinerator goes up (good chance it won't though as rumours - credible ones - are that newts have taken hold down there. Therefore nowt can be built).

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  • Richardburton  |  November 13 2013, 4:33PM

    Well he could have started off with the vote in the house of commons last night regarding the bedroom tax! And as for Pam Tracy well it took her collegue 13 minutes to discuss the selling of the social housing stock! As the priory will have to go into a independent trust as council can't get funding etc ,and as for her being Zany .... yeh really funny...Not I will look forward to some really good information on politics... But i won't hold my breathe!

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  • jackstumps  |  November 13 2013, 11:30AM

    He's right about the incinerator though. Get on with it!

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  • The_Selector  |  November 13 2013, 10:31AM

    This column started off as political gossip, albeit pretty uninformed, intrigue-free and issue-light, but as people clearly aren't talking to him, the correspondent has now resorted to pontificating on a whole host of issues he clearly knows little about. If you want to get into politics Mike, I'm sure one of the main parties would be happy to have you.

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