Blimey. What happened?
I never imagined my little rant would bring us to this position; a week on from my original blog I seem to have become a voice of dissent against the Council and powers that be. I’ve read every comment, listened to every part of the debate that I can and even spoken to the local MP about the issues raised. 8 days later this is what I’ve learned.
Radio Northampton and Councillor Bullock.
I was interviewed by Tom on Radio Northampton on a rainy Tuesday morning last week and one of his questions was ‘Am I being harsh on Kettering town centre now in what appears to be a long term plan?’ My answers remains the same – the quality of the town centre remains very low. The market has died and there remain a proliferation of charity shops throughout the town. Following me, as the voice of the Council, was Counsellor Bullock. I don’t think they could have found anyone more inept at putting the Council case across. His claim was that 90% of the shops in Kettering are occupied. This may be true, but what types of shops? We still don’t want to shop there. The question of street surveys has been completely ignored and I feel it’s a valid point. They are a royal pain in the neck to be asked, every day you go into town, if you could give your opinion or get you to sign up to the RSPCA, the Anti-Hunt League or Greenpeace. Please leave us alone – we have survey fatigue. The second point that Counsellor Bullock made was that ‘in real terms parking fees have gone down’. This was the equivalent of pointing both barrels of a shotgun at your head and pulling the triggers. Sunshine, they’ve gone up; they are more expensive than anywhere in the county and there is less reason to park here. One of the counter comments on the Facebook was of a lady who never pays to park when she goes to Kettering, she has found the free parking. Well done to her, but she in in the minority. Parking must be tackled.
The factual stuff.
Some people disagreed with me about Market St and the market square; they do indeed look pretty, but they are completely ineffective. I have been mostly jumped on about the double roundabouts. I didn’t say they weren’t effective, I said I didn’t see why that money couldn’t have been better invested in bringing the town centre up to scratch rather than improve the routes out of the town. I like Philip Hollobone; he works hard as the Kettering MP, he has the odd barmy idea (ban the burkha), but his heart is in the right place. At least that’s how I feel. He gave me a long email reply and we had a good chat at the FSB breakfast on Friday morning. I’ve also received lots of emails and comments on the blog which have filled in things I didn’t know when I wrote my original rant. Between all of this I have learned that Kettering town centre has many owners, not one owner. Corby is very unusual in this aspect of having one owner to make a simple decision. The Labour government decided the road system should be as it is and that no plans to improve it will happen before 2013. They also decided the electronic signs were a good idea. The car parks are mostly privately owned and KBC only gets 7% of the revenue from the car parks. The Newland Centre has new owners and is going to pump many thousands into making it more attractive to shoppers. Having learned all of this I have to wonder. If you sell off all your assets at some point you’re not going to have anything else to sell. If you go down to the gold buyers in the Newlands and sell your jewellery soon you will run out. What do you do then?
Is Whitehall next?
Exactly as I said last week. Get creative. Get entrepreneurial. And find someone to be a spokesman for the council instead of the terrible person they found last week. I’m sure his family love him, but he is totally out of touch with the populace. Kettering is a dying town. Internet shopping is mentioned for the decline of the hight street across the UK, but the statistics don’t bear that out, other than in December. You and I like to feel what we are going to buy, whether it’s a shirt or an orange. There will always be a place for shops, but you have to entice the customer in. Why should they leave their comfortable home to give you hard earned cash – what have you done to get that cash? Why would people want to come into Kettering and spend their money? It seems that shop rates are set by central government as well, so do we take this crusade to Whitehall?
If you don’t like it, it’s time to do something.
Infact, what do you want to happen? I can get a meeting with Cllr Russell Roberts, the council leader, and I can chat with him and tell him how much everyone has had enough, but will anything change? Honestly, I don’t know. It is clear that many people are upset and 95% of the comments agreed with what I had to say. I’ve started the debate, let’s now create some action. Politicians and business owners always react to the public if there is enough of the public to create a fuss. Please share this blog, let’s get some action going and see if we can make a difference. Feel free to add me on Facebook, email me through the website or send me messages. I do get back to everyone. Let’s go for it!