Saturday, 19 May 2012

Warwick rocks...?

Warwick Rocks...?

Well, that was an interesting experience! Those who know me, or indeed those who have been reading this blog from the start, will know that I'm not one to get involved with politics or attend a town meeting. But I did, I just had to... and here's what I thought:

What drove the Portas Pilot - and indeed what fired my passion to start this blog - was the amazing community in Warwick. The camaraderie and energy behind the businesses, shops and eateries in Warwick is nothing short of legendary, and tonight only cemented that further in my mind. Warwick has been struggling lately and I won't sugar coat it. The roadworks have been terrible, the traffic has been awful, and Warwick has become less desirable to visit. I know, it's very unlike me to be negative, but there's no point in pretending everything is fine when it clearly isn't, is there?

Tonight the town's traders had a meeting with the councils to get answers, to ask questions, and to meet the people accountable for the failings that have caused so much grief and heartache for Warwick businesses. Tonight was the council's (County, District and Town) opportunity to explain and answer the burning questions... except they answered with their absence. Not one representative attended, leaving a very potentially positive meeting with a very negative outcome.

So it's all bad and Warwick is on its knees right?

Well, not quite. Held in the ballroom above the Tourism Information Office and over looking the roadworks in question, some very passionate and influential people more than filled the void left by the sheepish councils. Led by Chris White MP, who I must say I have the upmost respect for, for standing there alone stood up by his council peers, the meeting commenced with the promise that everything discussed would be relayed immediately to the accountable people at the council.

The discussion quickly moved to the roadworks and the decisions surrounding it. "Poorly timed and poorly executed," resonated around the room, from traders, to Chamber of Trade, to business owners. The communication issue (or lack thereof) also was a big issue with the majority in the room. Coming from WarwickTweetup, a community built on communication, this is the issue that really gets to me too. Simply responding with a, "thanks for your email/phone call/letter" would be something.

So does Warwick still rock? Do we still have that spark that people came to see? That something that made the Portas proposal headline news...? ABSOLUTELY YES! Passion and energy is stronger than ever in Warwick. The people living, working and enjoying Warwick are doing so because it rocks. You may hear negative reports and argumentative conversations, but the people of Warwick all want one thing:

A better future for Warwick.

The works currently happening in Warwick are on time and will, I think, improve the visitor experience. As the saying goes:

"You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs."

Yes, there's pain and suffering for motorists and traders alike, but when you're stuck in that traffic or worrying about that quiet cash register just look up, yes up, not to God or the heavens, but to the bunting. Bunting? Have I lost my mind? Well think about it. The works are on schedule, the Jubilee is coming and Warwick is getting ready to party. Why don't we get ready to celebrate? As one trader said tonight:

"Let's look to Warwick's future, not the past."

I really hope the accountable people in the council get to read this blog. I hope those responsible for standing us up tonight are listening. We are powerful, we are passionate, and we are the people that make Warwick work...we make Warwick rock. Your absence tonight only cements that vision further, and if we win one of only 12 Portas Pilot places, its because of the people of Warwick. As one trader said tonight:

"Let's spend that marketing budget on helping businesses; we are doing a much better job of it anyway."

Comments as always are very welcome - we do at least read and respond to them!

Feel free to Tweet me @WarwickTweeup and @UnderwoodWines on Twitter too.

NB: Cllr Clare Sawdon (District Councillor for Budbrooke Ward) and Cllr Clare Hopkinson (Warwick West Ward) did attend the meeting but are not the councillors to comment on the matters that were discussed. Cllr Clare Hopkinson vowed to get the message back to those who should have and were indeed supposed to be there.


  1. Hi there, I would loved to know about this meeting last night... I've checked my email from the Chamber of Trade and I can't see anything about it. I'd like to thank those that did go...

    My view is that the future of Warwick depends on everyone in Warwick and not just the traders.

    Members of the other businesses in/around Warwick and its residents have been badly affected too by these roadworks. I have directly lost revenue, and received adverse comment on my professionalism (!) as a result of one of our practitioners being stuck for over 45 minutes in the traffic 'that' week. Which I do not take lightly.

    People moving to this area will keep their eye on the papers. And last year I remember a letter to the Courier from a tourist writing and saying it didn't sound like a place he wanted to visit after reading the Courier's article the previous week (grumpy faces on the front!). That's bad!

    A cohesive plan for the town is what is required and I for one am pleased by the vigour of new groups such as the Tweetup and the Warwick Works breakfast club, pooling positive creativity and thought on future direction. The expertise provided by town planners needs to be matched by that enthusiasm and a drive to get things done.

    That which puts the town and its residents to the fore, and not the tourists or the Castle, will inevitably bring tourists and Castle visitors in: wanting to share in a great place to live.

  2. Hi Rosie.

    I totally agree, Warwick is a lot more than just traders. Warwick is very unique place in that people work live and play here.

    This meeting came about because of a meeting with Chris White and a disgruntled trader, it wasn't a chamber led meeting. We did however have some very good comments and was very well chaired by Chris White, he like us was extremely disappointed with the lack of show from either council.

    I'm with you on the passion and energy. Warwick is an amazing little town with so much drive and enthusiasm from many groups. Gradually we are all working towards one place... a better future for Warwick. Bad PR is definitely never far from my mind. You will note this is indeed the first pessimistic blog post here but things needed to be said.

    I too am annoyed by bad publicity given by our local press but of course they merely report what is happening. If only they would concentrate on promoting the good things and leave the negatives for the back pages... but that's newspapers for you.

  3. Hi Todd & Rosie -

    Good blog again Todd, by the way mate.

    I also agree with you. Although I spend more time in Kenilworth, I was born in Warwick and so spent about 30 years of my life living there. I bet Kenilworth will be the next to have "Road Improvements"

    Why don't the Council ask the ones that have to put up with their "Road Improvements" what THEY think ?

    It is only the opinion of the Council whether what they have done or are planning to do is necessary. They never seem to supply any solid evidence of the requirements for anything.

    Did Mr & Mrs Jones at number 23 say they wanted the road narrowed with horse jump sized speeding cushions all the way down it, and bollards in the middle - no of course they didn't.

    What angers me even more is that several Councillors do not even live in Warwick, so it won't affect them as much. They can shop at the "Local Store" in the village. They do not need to come into town quite so often.

    Now the council are supposed to be broke. they keep telling us they have no money, and are under pressure from local Government to make cuts. if you don't believe me ring up your Council Tax department, tell them you can't pay and just see how quickly they're on your back.

    Funny how they still have the cash to Wine & Dine the likes of Bristow & Sutor et al. at Warwick Racecourse almost every year then isn't it. Members Enclosure please !

    Anyway back to the plot, i'm starting to believe that the Council might not be quite as broke as they would have us believe and obviously have the money available for Warwick's High St. Folly.

    They had a lot of practice doing this when they decided to ruin Royal Leamington Spa. These works must cost a small fortune and I am certain that they are not necessary and I would question the council's definition of the word "Road Improvement".

    Surely a "Road Improvement" is something that everyone is balloted and agrees upon, otherwise it is just an opinion of a few elected people, who are not necessarily affected by it.

    The sad truth about a lot of Councils is that they bear out what Lord Acton said.

    "Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely"

    The truth is that the Councils are NOT there for you or me. They do a good job of trying to make that case though. They are there for themselves yet we were stupid enough to vote them in.

    If nobody voted they would not stand a cat in hells chance and they'd be begging us to put them in power.

  4. One thing you could do is to identify someone who shares your views re warwick and get them to stand as an independent councillor :-)

  5. Hi everyone

    Please may I confirm something for you & anyone who may read this. The money for the Roadworks has come from a thing called "Section 106" Please don't ask me to give the complete details of 106, because I don't know. However I do know this. Section 106 relates to a levy that is placed on developers when they build large developments such as Chase Meadow. The levy which was, I understand about £3-4000 per house built.
    This was then collected by central government & finally re distributed to the local authority. I don't know what the criteria is for spending the monies but WCC appear to have decided to spend it on the "Traffic Calming" measures.

    You & I may not agree with it but that's where the money came from. I suppose Councillors will argue that it's not taxpayers money.

    On Mr Wheatcroft's point of councillors voting on issues in areas where they don't live. I agree, how can this be, to make decisions in areas where this no effect on their environment, economically or otherwise. For example a Kenilworth Councillor was one who voted against the Racecourse Hotel planning application. Did he really care of the impact it may or may not have on the local economy. i'm not sure he did.

  6. Good point Anonymous, I was not aware of Section 106, so I am more enlightened now. Thanks

  7. A quick search led me to this document about it though

  8. Good blog, and good comments too.

    Having worked for a local authority (not in Warwickshire) I know there can be an attitude of non-consultation with the public as 'there are always moaners and groaners with too much time on their hands so let's just get on and do it'. Obviously I can't say whether that's the case in Warwick, but the lack of representation from the council may indicate that they believe that non-consultation is the path of lease resistance. If people care about this, they should take it up with their local councillor...

    ...and as has been suggested, if your local councillors aren't doing what you want, get one voted in who will. :-)

  9. I am extremely disappointed that the 'committee' members/elected representatives of the people of Warwick could not see fit to attend what should and could have been a very constructive meeting. As a life long resident of Warwick and a member of the Warwick Tweetup group I know that there is a lot of pride and passion for the town. I often wonder what the motivation is for the 'elected' council members? My view is that they should be there to be the voice of their wards, of the people they represent and to do the best they can for the town. However, the apathy towards such an important subject would suggest the much more pervasive view that they are there for the the status and vestiges of office or as a stepping stone to 'greater' political things. Perhaps it is time, as suggested by an earlier comment, for those with a passion for the town, not their own status and political career, to stand as independents? Perhaps under the banner of Warwick Rocks, with a manifesto much more in line with the wants and needs of the community, not of the political paymasters.

  10. I'm afraid the attitude of these 'elected' representatives just seems indicative of many who hold a political post today. I tend to side with the comments of Rob above. Many seem to be in the position solely for their own gain and NOT to represent those who have elected them to the post they hold (be it a councillor or MP).

    It is absolutely despicable that people who are meant to be accountable to the electorate have such low regard or respect for them that they deem not to attend an important meeting of business people from the town they (allegedly) represent.

    I wonder if we would be discussing the same scenario if these same council members had been up for imminent election.