I was in Hatfield in Hertfordshire this morning. Elections can be really bizarre, one of the leafleting volunteers had been visiting some flats and noticed incredible heat and blinding lights behind the otherwise empty letter box... He then dropped into the local nick - is this going to be another cannabis factory bust?
I've been there a few times this year. We started off by visiting the town centre - it was market day but other than ASDA its not exactly drawing the crowds - the shopping area is a throw back to the 1950s and desperately in need of regeneration. The local council had agreed a huge regeneration plan that was weeks away from being signed when the credit crunch hit.
The Government was asked to put its money where its mouth is and help fund re-development as well as the new homes they force on areas like this from a regional master plan - but they anti-ed up less than a third of the cash that is needed even to paper the cracks and less than 3% of a regeneration plan.
The local community are doing what they can. A youth club had recently re-decorated a graffiti strewn area with some of the best "street art" I've seen.
I heard local traders talk about the quandry they now face... they cant afford increased rent or rates that a new development might need but are also desperate for something to be done. The two local councillors I was with are also leaving no stone unturned to try to find a solution - traders, residents and local politician are all working together... but the system doesn't support them.
Over the past year I have seen many examples of British tax-payers money being poorly spent by our UK government and quangos under an EU flag and then imposed from a massive regional height - yet when local people want support for a project they know is right for their area they find that the bureaucratic box ticking just doesn't help them. Solutions to development issues like this are never going to be easy but as far as I'm concerned the sooner we get rid of regional planning targets and use what little money there is to support local decisions the better.