Cllr. Howard Roberts

Cllr. Howard Roberts

Sunday, 30 December 2012


I would like to place on record my thanks to all of the staff at Warwickshire County Council and Rugby Borough Council for their hard work and dedication over this past year. I also salute the numerous volunteers who tirelessly donate their time and effort to our communities.

The combination of council employees and community activism means that Rugby enjoys remarkable services throughout the seasons. It is a pleasure to hear enthusiastic reports from residents who enjoy a level of service that often surpasses their expectations.

I wish everyone in Rugby and the surrounding villages a happy Christmas and prosperous 2013.

Friday, 14 December 2012


Re: Plans submitted to build 50 properties on Rugby Road, Dunchurch

The council’s Planning Office has received an application from agents acting on behalf of Bilton Grange Preparatory School. The submission applies for permission to build 50 properties on the field adjacent to the school’s drive on Rugby Road. Everybody in Dunchurch should be alarmed by this proposed development. I am encouraging villagers to join me in a campaign to fight the plans.

This development would obliterate a green space important to the village. Furthermore, it would blur the delineation between Rugby and Dunchurch and increase traffic onto Rugby Road, Northampton Lane and Cawston Lane, especially at peak times. Parking in the village, already a problem, would become more difficult and local amenities would be stretched at a time of cutbacks.

In addition to these immediate problems, the broader future of Dunchurch is threatened. Residents enjoy living in an independent village, separate from Rugby and with a distinct identity. If this development is approved, the precedent for building on green spaces in Dunchurch will have been set.

Once  development has taken place on Rugby Road, we could easily expect developers to target the fields opposite existing homes on Cawston Lane and Northampton Lane.  Dunchurch could also be expanded in a South-Westerly direction, in the area of Sandford Way and Southam Road. This would see Dunchurch rapidly increase in size, becoming an extension of Bilton to the North and Cawston to the West.

This is very real threat: the government has recently legislated to liberalise national planning laws. Community action is therefore more important than ever.

I urge villagers to join our campaign to fight this development by signing the petition that will shortly be circulated. It would also be very valuable if you could write with your objections to Rugby Borough Council’s planning department. In my role as Borough Councillor I will be making waves in the council chamber and lobbying for refusal. I will keep you updated with any news.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

A Review of the Police Commissioner Debate

From left to right: Alan Stothard, James Plaskitt, Ron Ball, Fraser Pithie and Howard Roberts.

 On Wednesday 31st October I was delighted to host a debate between the three candidates vying for the post of Warwickshire's first Police and Crime Commissioner:  Ron Ball (Independent), James Plaskitt (Labour) and Frase Pithie (Conservative).

The meeting was held in Dunchurch Village Hall. Despite poor weather the candidates commented that the turnout of around 150 was the largest they had addressed so far in the campaign.

The meeting was expertly chaired by Mr. Alan Stothard, Dunchurch resident and chairman of the standards committee at Rugby Town Hall.

Questions ranged from how to finance the police, how to tackle rural crime, whether the post will be free from partisan influence, how to ensure hate crime is addressed and what the general philosophy of the candidates are in relation to policing.

All three candidates were perfect gentlemen who obviously care greatly about ensuring Warwickshire is a safe place to live. I was impressed by their knowledge, commitment and genuine appetite to perform the role.

I hope that the meeting allowed the people of Rugby to form a clearer view of how to vote on the 15th November.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Next month we, the people of Warwickshire, will be voting to elect a Police and Crime Commissioner. The person elected will control local police funding, have the power to employ our Chief Constable and set the objectives for policing in Warwickshire. An important role I am sure you will agree.

Many of the you have raised with me concerns that looming police budget cuts could see rural officer     numbers fall, meaning that crime in our villages increases. The new Police Commissioners will have a great influence on whether our villages remain safe places to live.

With the election to decide who will be Warwickshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner taking place on 15th November I have arranged a debate between the three candidates. The debate will focus on the subject of rural crime. I hope it will give anyone interested the chance to hear the candidates debate issues relevant to our villages at first hand. There will be an open floor for questions.

The debate is free and open to all who wish to attend. Please just turn up on the night. The details are given below. I very much hope you will be able to attend—I look forward to meeting you there.

Rural Policing: The Views of the Police and Crime Commissioner Candidates
Date: Wednesday 31st October
Time: 7pm
Location: Dunchurch Village Hall
Duration: 1 hour

Sunday, 7 October 2012


As you will recall, at the recent election I warned about the threat of major development in our villages. During a recent full council meeting I asked the council leader about projections for house building in the borough; it was revealed that villages will be used by the council in order to meet their target for new homes.

Following on from this revelation was the Government’s announcement that it is to consult on allowing the greenbelt to be built upon and house extensions of up to eight metres deep be acceptable without planning consent.

Nearby Wolston is the first village to be targeted by developers. I successfully persuaded the planning committee in February to throw out a plan to build 92 houses on green fields in Wolston. However, now the  developers are back with a plan for 80 houses. In building a case against the plans, Wolston Parish Council have asked me for advice and guidance.

Whilst Wolston is not in my ward, I have been happy to help their Parish Council because if they lose their fight to save green fields near them it sets a precedent that could see villages in this ward being under threat.

I am not against all development, but there are a number of brownfield sites in the town that are being ignored, some already have planning permission.  The developers know that clean rural sites are cheaper to build on and command higher prices. Nationally there are 400,000 prospective homes that have planning permission but are not being constructed.

I am pushing for our local planning officers to meet their targets by forcing builders to focus on urban sites that really need regeneration. The urban brownfield sites can offer affordable housing to help address the shortfall. It should not be the case that companies automatically seek planning permission for properties that will impact upon our beautiful rural areas—that should be a last resort.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Tidying up Stretton's railings

In early summer Stretton-On-Dunsmore Parish Council (a really well run Parish Council) requested that Rugby Borough Council repainted the railings along Brookside in the centre of the village. I visited the site and agreed that there was a serious problem.

After speaking to the Environment department at the Borough Council I was pleased to see that the railings were painted shortly afterwards: 

The rusting railings before action was taken
The gleaming railings after action was taken

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Backing The NFU Campaign for a Fair Milk Price

At AJ Welton Dairy farm. Picture taken from the Rugby Advertiser

Dairy farmer, who work their fingers to bone to produce the milk we use, have been once again told they will be paid less for the milk they sell to retailers.

In the last two weeks Robert Wiseman Dairies, owned by Müller Dairies, Arla Foods UK, the UK subsidiary of Arla Foods Amba, as well as Dairy Crest, announced cuts to their milk prices paid to farmers as of August 1 of 1.7ppl, 2.0ppl and 1.65ppl respectively, following further significant cuts in recent months. 

Dairy farmers lose on average 11p for every litre of milk they produce. This is not sustainable especially since retailers make on average a profit of 34p per litre of milk they sell. I am backing the NFU as they call on the retailers to ditch their plan to cut 2p per litre from the price paid to milk producers.

Dairy farmers rise at 4am everyday, 365 days a year to milk the cows that provide the milk we use in our tea, baking and cereals. All we are asking is that the retailers pay them a fair and sustainable price.

The NFU (National Farmers Union) have declared that a failure to stop the rise will result in targeted demonstrations outside processors and retailers. They are also threatening to mobilise the public with a concerted consumer campaign to help them understand the crisis facing the dairy industry.

All of this co-ordinated action would be designed to put pressure and bring shame on the retailers and processors who have caused this crisis in the British dairy industry.”

I am calling on Rugby’s MPs (Mark Pawsey and Jeremy Wright) to raise the issue with Government and push for a voluntary code of best practice in contracts, to bring some balance to the relationship between farmers and processors.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My thoughts on High Speed Rail

By omitting it from the recent Queen’s speech, the Government has quietly kicked their flagship transport policy, High Speed 2 (HS2), into the long grass. I’m reluctant to call the ditching of this policy a U-turn, as trains find that particular manoeuvre impossible.

HS2 was always destined to fail. Per mile, the £29bn cost equates to five times that spent by the French on the Paris-Strasbourg line in 2007. Money would be better used for electrification of the Midlands main line and improving our creaking road network. For Rugby, HS2 means reduced frequency of existing trains while it bypasses our town completely.

The arguments over transport speed and service are of course secondary to the massive destruction of the Warwickshire countryside HS2 would bring. Ripping asunder historic landscapes and obliterating communities as it goes, areas of outstanding natural beauty and historic woodland would be lost forever.

The imminent death of the HS2 project shows the power of democracy. Although the nation shows no enthusiasm for this vanity project of the metropolitan elite, the building of HS2 is still official policy for all three main political parties. Fortunately the power of strong, reasoned arguments seems to be winning out and HS2 is hitting the buffers.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Big Thank You

Dear All,

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for re-electing me as your Borough Councillor on Thursday, 3rd May. I am naturally honoured and delighted to have been given the chance to act as your voice at the Town Hall for the next four years.

The election was tough and competitive. Despite this, the contest was fought amicably, never once descending into personal attacks or mudslinging. I thank all of my fellow candidates for fighting fair campaigns. I believe the last few weeks have been a good example of democracy in action.

Election campaigns are never fought alone. I was fortunate enough to have help at this election from generous members of our community. There are too many of them to list here, but they know who they are, and they should also know just how grateful I am for their contribution. I also must thank my wife, Deepah, who has been unwavering in her support as I have spent the last few weeks working around the clock on my campaign.

The benefit of an election campaign is that I get to meet more of you than I would do normally. Many of you raised important local problems and I will now be using my re-election to address your concerns. I will report back on my progress with my regular UPDATE newsletters.     

Remember, I am your Councillor, elected to represent your interests. If you have any issues that you would like to discuss then please feel free to email or telephone me on the contact details given below.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr. Howard Roberts
Independent Councillor for Dunsmore Ward

Election Result - Dunsmore Ward

Dunsmore Ward - Declared

  • COX Doreen - Labour Party Candidate - 460
  • DAVIES Suzanne Louise - Liberal Democrats - 324
  • FRANCIS Graham Lawrence - The Conservative Party Candidate - 1058 - ELECTED
  • LOWE Ian Stanley - The Conservative Party Candidate - 1033 - ELECTED
  • O`DWYER Beatrice Josephine - Liberal Democrats - 304
  • ROBERTS Howard David - Independent - 1281 - ELECTED
  • SPIERS Ian - The Conservative Party Candidate - 868
Turnout - 39.48%

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A letter to my electorate.

Dear Elector,

Since you elected me four years ago to represent Dunchurch and Knightlow, I have done my very best to deserve the trust you placed in me, by working hard and reporting back to you regularly with newsletters. I have very much enjoyed doing battle on your behalf, whether in minor skirmishes: like fighting to retain post offices in Dunchurch and Stretton; pushing to have brownfield sites built on before Greenfield ones; developing an award scheme to honour the unsung heroes of our villages; or major campaigns like fighting to save services at St. Cross Hospital or the battle to stop a national change in the planning meaning a presumption in favour of development

None of these issues have been even remotely party political. In fact, as most of you know, party is an irrelevance in Local Government. You elect someone who takes the job seriously and can do it effectively and I can fairly claim to have dealt promptly and positively with every general and individual case brought to me. So I hope to have repaid the trust that many of you placed in me.

Being a Borough Councillor is not about waving a party flag. It carries serious responsibilities and requires sustained hard work, because the quality of the lives we lead in our beautiful villages depends on pro-active, determined representation. In addition, being your voice is impossible in practice, unless I tell you what I am doing and give you means to contact me. For that reason I  personally deliver every newsletter to over 2,500 homes in 8 villages.

Please note that there are three seats up for grabs in this election. You can exercise party preference whilst also electing an effective Independent Councillor who will ensure rural power and influence remains within the community.

Naturally, I should be very honoured and delighted if you chose to re-elect me, because I very much enjoy the job, but my chances are 50-50 and so it really boils down to a case of “Choose me or lose me” and on May 3rd that choice is yours.

Yours sincerely,

Howard Roberts

The election campaign so far...

It's been a hectic few weeks as I have written and produced my literature, delivered leaflets, knocked on doors and dealt with the inevitable casework that comes from a campaign.

The response has been very positive. Voters in this ward know me; again and again I have been told, "you're the only one who does anything around here" which is always great to hear.

The fact I am an Independent candidate has also gone down very well. There is an appetite for non-party representation in order to give the rural areas a strong voice at the Town Hall.

Whether I am successful on May 3rd depends on transferring the positive noises I am hearing into real votes. It's always difficult to guess an outcome at this stage, but I'll keep working hard and see what happens.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Trust in politics is often described as being at an all time low. In order to try and combat this "trust deficit" I am offering the people of Dunsmore a contract as a basis for my re-election. This contract sets out six promises that I will keep if the voters stand by me on May 3rd. If I do not keep to my promises then I invite the electorate to pass judgement at the next election.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Sometimes it isn't a dog's life in Rugby

At the beginning of Crufts week, the biggest event in the canine calendar, I called for action after it was revealed Rugby Borough Council is euthanasing many more dogs this year than it did last.

Rugby Borough Council has a statutory duty to euthanase stray dogs if they are unclaimed for over 7 days, not adopted or are deemed dangerous or ill. In the municipal year 2009/2010 the Council paid for the destruction of 7 dogs, in 2010/2011 it was 8 dogs but this year the number if projected to be nearer 20.

On unearthing the figures I thought it was such a desperately sad situation to see healthy dogs put down purely because the owners have decided they do not want them anymore. As a dog lover I feel that the system is broken if we reach a stage where the only solution is to destroy healthy animals.

The economic downturn has seen animal charities like the Dogs Trust and RSPCA faced with an avalanche of dumped dogs. Whereas before, dogs seized by the Council may have found new homes, due to the sheer number of dogs being released by their owners supply is vastly outstripping demand. In 2011 6,000 healthy dogs were put down in the UK.

One of the other worrying facts I found is the predominance of one breed in the list of those put to sleep: the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As of March, over 60% of the dogs destroyed by the Council were Staffordshire Bull Terriers (also known as “Staffies”).

I recently lost my own dog that I took on from the Dogs Trust. I have been looking around rehoming kennels for a new dog and the sheer number of Staffordshire Bull Terriers is astounding. I know that these dogs can be brilliant pets. Unfortunately they seem to have become a status symbol for some, and people are taking them on and sometimes, once the novelty has worn off, they then decide to dump then. It’s so sad.

I have written to Sean Lawson, Head of Environmental Services at Rugby Borough Council, to ask that for a trial period dogs are kept for 1 week longer than the statutory week if they are considered suitable for rehoming. If this trial period enables more dogs to be saved then I would like the Council’s standard time for holding dogs to be 2 weeks.

Microchipping is an excellent way for the identity of dog’s owner to be verified and the dog to be reunited. It can also allow the authorities to ascertain any reason why a dog has been dumped – potentially finding a solution to the causal factor. I have written to the Minister responsible, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, to add my voice to the call for compulsory chipping.

I would add finally that there are no such things as bad dogs, only bad owners.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Anger at Crafty Councillor Allowances awarded by Warwickshire County Council

As a Borough Councillor and someone who also works full-time I rarely have time to hold the Conservative-led Warwickshire County Council to account. After all, I expect my own County Councillor to be doing that for me. However I have been so incensed after discovering their devious and crafty methods to increase the allowances paid to members that I have decided to speak out.

The figure that the County Council publicises as being the standard County Councillor Allowance is £8,975. This isn’t a bad figure when you consider that the Council’s constitution notes that there is ‘a voluntary element to the work undertaken by elected members and therefore [the basic allowance] does not set out to fully recompense all work undertaken’. However I can reveal that approximately 87% of County Councillors also receive a Special Responsibilities Allowance (some of up to £22,500 p.a.). On unearthing this figure I did wonder whether an allowance could be described as “special” if nearly 9 in 10 Councillors enjoy one?

Central to my anger is that twenty-eight of these Special Responsibility Allowances can be awarded by political parties directly for being party “spokespersons”. These individuals have no executive function and do not hold ranking positions on any committee. The approximate total cost to the County Council for these spokespersons is £36,000 p.a.

The three political groupings on WCC each have a pot of money to allocate to their Councillors for being spokespeople. The Conservatives have £14,000, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats have £11,000 each. There is no formal job description for what these spokespeople do and they are not accountable to the Council.

I don’t want to condemn all of these Special Responsibility Allowances, of course some Councillors have important executive functions or committees to chair and they should be compensated accordingly. However when around 87% of Councillors receive the so-called Special Responsibility Allowance it would seem to undermine the whole system.

From what I can gather, the spokespeople perform no real task other than what they should be doing anyway as Councillors. The chosen Councillors do not have to fulfil any criteria to receive this money and the Council would not fall apart if they were not paid this expensive top-up to their allowance. Every politician is a spokesperson, that’s the whole point of our existence: to speak up for the people we represent.

This crafty and devious method for increasing Councillors’ allowances is a good example of why politicians are generally held in such low regard. At a time when the County Council is cutting bus and library services to the people I represent, they shouldn’t be engineering ways to slip Councillors thousands of pounds. If the County Council is serious about trimming the fat from their operation, distinctly wasteful expenditure like this should be first on the cuts list rather than starting with libraries and buses.

I think with budget-setting on the horizon, the County Council should move quickly to end the “spokesperson” role and use the savings to protect frontline services. I don’t want to engage in hyperbole here, but watching the County Council withdraw my Village’s library funding while discovering they are giving County Councillors a sly bonus for being spokespeople makes my blood boil.