Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Op-Ed: Sean & Johnny - come on down

What follows is a post from the alternative Active Longdendale blog that has been set up to shadow the posts from Sean Parker-Perry's 'Environmental Clean-Up' and/or 'Community Tool Hire' official blog:

"... Just what is the point of Active Longdendale? What is its role or raison d'etre? What values and/or aspirations underpin its foundation? More intriguingly, how does it differ to already existing groups that provide a similar service?

Trawling the Internet in an attempt to find some answers reveals that information on Active Longdendale is very thin on the ground. What little information that is available tends to be somewhat contradictory.

Nevertheless, buried in the Minutes (paragraph 42) of the Longdendale and District Assembly, which was chaired by Cllr Sean Parker Perry (Labour) held on 07/12/2006, lies the following nugget in which the Town Manager appears to provide a succinct definition of its aims and purpose:

(Active Longdendale is a) "project that provides an opportunity for community groups and members of the public to participate in clean ups in the area". He qualifies this by quoting an example of their alleged work at Hurst Clough on 18/11/2006 which he states was "successful in dealing with undergrowth and flytipping". In a nutshell it's a tidy campaign group.

So far so good. This all seems to be innocent and innocuous enough - in fact it appears to be positively praiseworthy. Unless and until one realises that the local council (Tameside MBC) already provides a Countryside Ranger Service which is responsible for the management of the Borough's countryside and helps the local community and visitors alike to appreciate, enjoy and care for the natural environment.

Moreover, the Countryside Service comprises not only of full time rangers, information officers, admin support and an estate team but also has an additional 60 Voluntary Rangers that provide invaluable support and assistance to the Service.

The work of the Voluntary Rangers is of particular interest since the type and scale of the projects they tackle is quite comprehensive and usually of high conservation or amenity value. This link to the official Tameside MBC website lists many of these projects and explains the scope of their work more fully.

Suffice to say that it includes:

* Litter picking and rubbish collection
* Footpath and bridleway clearance and improvement

...which in itself appears to nullify any reason for the creation of Active Longdendale.

In fact it rather begs the question as to why its only known members Councillor Sean Parker-Perry (Labour) and Councilor. Johnny Reynolds (Labour) don't just simply join the Volunteer Ranger Service where, throughout the year, there is an opportunity to participate in conservation tasks with the countryside rangers and their team of dedicated volunteers (as opposed to showboaters).

If SEAN or JOHNNY would like to get involved they can apply online here or by phoning 0161 330 9613. Alternatively they can snail mail to:

Chief Rangers Office
Park Bridge Heritage Centre
The Stables
Park Bridge

Yes, that's right, they have their own premises (and tools) so no need to lease expensive railway arches or to tap up the lottery for funds! ..."

We have our own take on this, with a little more background info. Firstly, below is a photo of a poster promoting one of AL's clean-ups in July 2006 (click for bigger version):

With this poster, Sean displays for all to see the somewhat contradictory nature of this organisation that scrutineer has identified above. Firstly, as a volunteer you are reassured that you don't need to join, there is "no joining fee or reason to commit to anything", you just register your interest and turn up on the day (that you will presumably be notified of beforehand). In other words, you do as you are told. But when one looks at the poster to find out "who organises the event", we're told "...the volunteers" - is this the same people who "don't have to join" and "just have to turn up"? How will they be able to organise anything in this way?

None of this is transparent. There's no suggestion you can participate in any other way than to simply come along and dig when you are told to do so.

Whether or not anyone turns up is another matter. In fact, we've been told by a reliable source that AL's work to clear Himalayan Balsam from Lymefield was actually carried out by contractors, who were paid for the work they did. Was this because not enough volunteers showed up? And who paid for the work to be done? It can't have been cheap. Or was this activity that was being done by TMBC anyway, and Sean decided to stick his 'Active Longdendale' badge on it? At the time, this work was fĂȘted by Sean's boss, James Purnell, on his website. So he's implicated too.

Watch this space for more articles this month...

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