Friday, 11 December 2009

Roman Circus

I did my bit last weekend in turning out to support the attempts to Save our Circus from the property speculators. The law requires that developers do any archaeological survey when requested, before they are able to commence their building works, in case something important lies below the ground that may prevent the work going ahead. This is exactly what has happened in this instance. The quite remarkable and completely unexpected find of a Roman circus (only bettered by the famous Circus Maximus in Rome) was found, a ban on building work was slapped on the site and the developer has to take it on the chin. He took the risk and he lost. However, what the law does not require is that the developer then gives the site to the Crown. We now have a stand-off situation whereby the developer will not allow access to the public, so the huge potential for tourism is thwarted. What the developer wants is a cool £750,000 for a blighted site' with a severely vandalised Grade II listed building standing on it, with no access road, no electric or water services. So now the fight is on, to raise money from a bankrupt nation, where money for fighting the moslems, money for failed banks, money for fat cat pensions, money for the Olympics, etc, is no problem. I wish the fund-raisers all the best in their endeavours. Just don't expect any money from the government! It's bankrupt. It has been bankrupted by this Labour government of ours. What a legacy we are handing to our children!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Highest Parking Charges in Essex

I went into town today by car, due to a need to use the car. For a little over 2 hours parking at St Mary's, I was charged £4. A similar visit to Chelmsford recently was under £2. The my old dutch had to call in at the court and had to pay £3 for her 15 minute errand. Either we want people to visit Colchester or we don't, but to expect them to pay nearly £10 to park for the day is a bit steep, isn't it? We must surely have the highest parking charges in Essex.

My lady will be shopping elsewhere she says as she refuses to have to pay to shop. Sudbury is free to park, apparently!

....and how many empty shops have we got for this Christmas?

....and why is that I wonder?

Christmas Market

Well, I went into town yesterday to visit the Christmas market in the High Street. Great atmosphere! We bought a few things and later repairing to a favoured hostelry for a cup of foaming ale. Well done the organisers and wasn't it a delight to have a traffic free High Street? Why can't we have it that way all of the time - and the market in its historic location - the High Street?

Friday, 27 November 2009

School Funding

£130 million on the table. In order to get it we must allow two of our schools to close and for a piece of green field land to be used for a new road. That will enable Philip Morant school to be made bigger and to ease traffic in Prettygate (allegedly!). It will also mean that the pupils from the two closed schools will have to travel (bus or Mum's car) across the town to their new, bigger, school, thus adding to the already bad traffic congestion in Colchester. It will also enable the land that the two closed schools occupy to be used for house building (at least that is what I guess will happen - rather than create green spaces for people to enjoy).

Now comes the bits that I don't understand.

1. Labour - are divided on the issue. Cllr Dave wants to save the two schools but Cllr Tim wants them to go. Why don't they agree? The money ultimately comes from their beloved Labour government. Isn't the provision of schools in local areas a fundamental socialist principle?

2. LibDem - are united in the view that the people of Prettygate want to keep their green space in Norman Way, but they would like to have the £130 million please. They naturally don't like Essex County Council (who are insisting on the closing of the two schools) as they are Conservative. So, are they doing this to support the people of Colchester or to stick two fingers up to the Tories?

3. Conservative - are united in their view that Norman Way must be sacrificed for this scheme and that the two schools must go, as nobody wants their kids to go to them anyway. Of course, the Conservatives have big posh houses out of town and there is no chance that their kids would go to the threatened schools anyway.

I have to agree that I wouldn't want my kids to go to the two schools either but, every area should have a school - shouldn't it? People don't want their kids to go to those schools presumably because they are thuggish and give a poor standard of education - due I suppose to the yobs intimidating the good kids and the teachers being powerless to control the situation. So what will the yobs do in a new school? Will they turn over a new leaf?

My biggest concern is that the main players are playing party political games, rather than doing the right thing. What is the right thing to do?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Heads in the Sand

I was interested in a bit of wisdom that I saw written on the Gazette's forum last week. A comment was made that Lord Hanningfield was anti-Colchester. This was answered with a statement that Colchester is anti-Colchester. Sadly, isn't this a fairly true statement of fact? Why is it that Williams and Griffin turned on their Christmas lights last week, the town centre turned on it lights this week and the Christmas Fair in the High Street is next week? Why is that there are so many factions and political groups that cannot get on together or agree on anything? This is all so bad for the town - and ultimately destructive. Yes! I have to agree that Colchester is anti-Colchester. What is to be done about it?

Christmas Lights

I managed to make the big switch-on of the lights at the Town Hall at 4.30pm, despite the hundreds of people that had gathered there to see the lights go on. Superbly done. Our joker mayor, Councillor Spyvee, put on a splendid performance - a credit to Colchester. I daresay that the usual maoaners will be whingeing about the lights tomorrow, but my old dutch and I thought that they looked good. A traffic free High Street was another delight. Why is it that we cannot close it to traffic permanently? Then on to Lion Walk, where they were having their own fun with their light switch-on. Not a bad word was heard. All good family fun. Perhaps the low-life were laying low until the bars opened!

Thursday, 12 November 2009


I read that a group are campaigning to stop the owner of Jumbo, Colchester's most prominent landmark, a long defunct water tower, from converting it into a luxury dwelling.

Jumbo is a much loved friend to us all. It has stood neglected for many years and a new life for it is needed. It has been an eyesore for too long. We trod the path that the Save Jumbo group are proposing, some years ago - and failed miserably. I do not believe that there is any alternative way forward, other than to welcome Mr Braithwaite's vision and to allow him, the owner, to convert it for a habitable use. Hopefully that would allow for some degree of public access, whilst preserving its history. There never was any public access before, so why should there be in the future. Sorry, but, apart from keeping a close eye on what is done with the fabric, I am (now) all for its conversion. Colchester should welcome it, as it should welcome any move to restore/preserve our heritage.

Freedom of Speech - Big Brother

The following was sent to me by a member of my church.

Do make gospel freedom a matter for urgent prayer as today the House of Lords votes on whether the free speech clause should remain as part of the criminal law. Lord Waddington’s clause protects free speech and religious liberty in the Government’s homophobic hatred office. This is an issue of freedom for the gospel. Julian Hurst, an evangelist in Chorlton, was handing out invitation cards to his church’s Easter services in a town centre when five policemen surrounded him and took away samples of his literature to investigate. The police had received complaints that he was homophobic. But neither Mr Hurst nor his leaflet had said anything about homosexuality. More recently many will have heard about the case of Pauline Howe who wrote to Norwich City Council objecting to a gay rights march. The next thing she knew two police officers called at her house to tell her that she had committed a ‘hate incident’. No action was taken against Mr Hurst or Mrs Howe. It is perfectly lawful to hold the Biblical view that homosexual conduct is wrong and also to preach it. But in practice the free speech protection is vitally needed to stop false allegations being made. So do pray that Lord Waddington will succeed in the vote today and that gospel freedom will be protected. Pray also that the issues will be fairly reported by the media.

A sad reflection of Blair's Britain?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Strippers and General Low-Life

Haven't we got enough rubbish wandering our streets of an evening without opening up a strip joint (lap-dancing by any other name) at St Botolphs? I thought that this area was destined to become a fabulous new development area. Has this town gone completely mad?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

World Heritage Site

Interesting to read the Standard last week with the call for Colchester to be become a World Heritage Site. What an odd suggestion for a town that clearly has quite the opposite ideas for itself. Our council has clearly demonstrated over many years that its only interest is building houses all over the place, clogging up our roads with more and more cars, having the highest parking charges in Essex to deter shoppers and visitors alike, closing down our schools, selling off our assets, giving nothing to culture or heritage - unless there is a profit in it, etc. etc. What have we got that might possibly qualify us as a World Heritage Site?

The largest Norman castle ever built, standing on top of a 2000 year old Roman temple?


The fact that we are the oldest recorded town in Britain?


The fact that Colchester was once King Arthur's Camelot?


The most complete Roman wall around any town in Britain, with the most intact Roman gateway as part of it?


The site of not one but two Roman theatres - something that occurs nowhere else in Britain?


The location of where the Roman emperor Claudius came in AD43 to the most powerful and influential location in Britain to take the surrender of eleven tribal kings?


The location of the only know Roman Circus - on a par with Ben Hur's Circus Maximus in Rome?

The birthplace of the discoverer of electricity, and who gave electricity its name?


Where 20 Colchester men lived and fought at the Battle of Trafalgar?


Where the jealous Tories in Chelmsford are doing its level best in gradually squeezing the life out of us in every which way it can, to finance its final salary pension schemes for its workers?

Now that's interesting!

Bah Humbug

We have witnessed some very public mudslinging recently concerning who said what about what for a planned Christmas extravaganza. We have accusuations that one of our cabinet councillors pledged public money to assist wealth creating businesses - and then welshed on the deal; was a liar even. Now, my understanding has been for many years now that there are no resources available for anything like this - unless it concerns cricket, in which case there is always plenty of funding available. So, my two questions to the businessmen who have so bitterly attacked our council is, 1. did you get it in writing (rule no.1 in my book - know your enemy/customer/supplier before you trust him)? and, 2. do you realise that you have shot yourselves in the foot with your very publicly reported actions? One of you, especially, manager of one of our principle shopping malls, must surely be in danger of losing his job. What do his bosses say about a manager who has made himself 'persona no grata' with the town's council? Another of you relies heavily for council support with staging profit making events in the town. Perhaps somebody has misjudged a situation; has not done their sums right and has looked for a scapegoat; has a good backup plan that will overcome any need for future working with Colchester Borough Council. I go for the scapegoat theory.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Our Pubs - Use them or lose them.

The government have missed a golden opportunity. Look back 20 years. I used to go into town of an evening, to one or other function. It was very quiet. No shrieking silly girls or mouthy yobs, as we have come to know so well - to our shame. Pubs were well run because they had a publican; somebody who was a professional, knew their trade and their customers and who were licensed by the courts to do their job. They knew that, if they put a foot wrong with the authorities for allowing drunkennes, rowdy behaviour, wrong sort of women, etc. they could easily find themselves out of a job at the next licensing session. We had an opportunity then to bring life to our towns with the granting of different sorts of licences, to create a cafe culture with seated customers only - as they do so well on the continent. It has long been known that standing drinkers are often belligerent troublemakers. Publicans knew how to deal with them and trouble on the streets was almost non-existant. So what happened? Tony Blair and his retinue of social reforming appeasers came along and gave us 24 hour drinking, supermarkets and corner shops selling booze at low cost, banned smoking - and consigned the traditional publican to oblivion. Anybody can run a pub now, in the full knowledge that the law cannot touch them. If you sell alcohol to children or allow drunkenness, you should lose your licence. Period! People are staggering around our town absolutely legless. They got like that in our licensed premises and those premises should be punished in the only way that fits - closure!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Two Park and Ride Schemes?

I learn that those buffoons in the Town Hall are now considering two P and R sites. All we ever wanted was one. Now they are talking about two. Only talking, mind you. That's is all they ever do, talk. Meanwhile, Colchester is fast becoming the place that shoppers avoid due to the traffic congestion and high parking charges. Just look at all our empty shops, if you want proof.

Training Ground for the U's

I was wondering why this project had been turned down as it seemed harmless enough. Having now read the local paper, it is a bit more than a training ground. Like the Tories wanting to close our schools and build a new one on a green field site, thus making a lot of money for somebody, the U's are up to the same thing. Has anybody noticed all the land next to the new stadium? What's wrong with that? It's on their doorstep. Or how about Layer Road, sitting there looking for a good use. No. What they want to do is build houses and a pavilion and concrete over more of our green fields. If this travesty goes ahead, there would have to be a sniff of corruption somewhere. Watch this space!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Cycle Tour Came to Colchester

Well. I went into town to have a look at the cycle race that cost so much money, but which, apparently has been covered by grants and sponsorship. Wow! The town was buzzing. I have never seen the like of it in Colchester. What a great show! And now I understand that they want to do it all again next year. Well done Colchester Borough Council for at last having some vision for what is possible in our lovely old town. I just hope that you can learn from the experience and do more thingts like it. How about getting behind the Colchester Carnival?

But perhaps the most interesting aspect was that Colchester clearly doesn't need traffic in the town centre. The lard-arsed car driver will always whinge about restrictions but this cycle race has brought a breath of fresh air to Colchester. Wouldn't it be good if all of the town centre, within the heritage zone, within the town walls, was pedestrianised from 9.00 am to 6.00pm? We have seen that it can be done and I like the result. Quieter, cleaner, safer town for everybody. Let's ban the car from the town centre and buses and taxis from the High Street. Let's claim our town back from the unnecessary vehicles that make our lives a misery.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Cycle Tour Comes to Colchester

Whilst we repeatedly learn that the council has no money for festival activities, having cut its cultural and heritage budgets drastically, we now learn that somebody has decided to spend £95,000 of our money to stage a cycle race around the town. For 3 hours on a Thursday night, road closures, the lot. They could have done it a lot cheaper by riding around the football stadium. What amazes me is that this decision was made out of the blue with no consultation. You can imagine the uproar from event organisers in town who get no help from the council for what used to be traditional well attended events. Our council have happily destroyed our flower beds to save £17,000. They are closing schools and selling off our assets and reducing services generally but - a cycle race around town? £95,000! No problem!

Cast Your Vote

I cast my two votes this morning for the county and European elections. These are indeed interesting times, with so many corrupt politicians pouring out of the woodwork. I hope that my fellow voters have taken this golden opportunity to teach the big three parties a lesson that they will not forget in a hurry. We in Colchester, have been treated very badly by Conservative led County Hall, forcing cuts in our services on us and selling off our assets to pay for lucrative council workers final salary pensions. Who do they think they are kidding by forcing closure of two of our schools and to replace them with a remote academy. There is no earthly reason why the kids that do badly in school would do any better in a school that is a long distance away from their community? Of course, the reality is that County Hall want to close our community schools so that they can acquire the land to sell to property speculators. The sooner that these pension agreements are revised, as is being done throughout private industry, the better. Why should the council tax payer fund such lavish pensions at the expense of services? ....and as for Lord Ninnyfield, the sooner he goes the better! The man's a fool!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Cycling Tour Comes to Town

Sadly, Colchester is not geared up for this sort of prestige event - and we should be. Colchester worships the car and wo-betide anybody who inconveniences the car driver. Years of political ineptitude have allowed this situation to prevail, rather than decisive action being taken to change things. Our politicians have allowed thousands of new homes to be built without any new roads or park and ride or new car parks being provided. The result is regular gridlock, misery all round - and danger to pedestrian and cyclist alike. We call ourselves a 'Cycling Town'. What a bloody joke! What have we done to make Colchester any safer for cyclists? The ideal location for a 'Park and Ride' at Tollgate has been removed by the granting of planning permission to the land owner who spent many months 'lobbying' his mates in the Town Hall to make himself a great deal of money through change of use of the land. The result is that we still have no park and ride, nor are there any plans for it. We have numerous plans for new housing but none for the essential infrastructure. Balkerne Heights now stands where a huge multi-storey car park should have been built. Profiteering is the reason, yet again. When will our politicians do something for the town rather than to line their own pockets? 'Never', do I hear you say? No, they would rather knife each other in the back. ........and claim their full quota of expenses!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Lottery Bid Failure

I have just learned that our bid for lottery funds to build an interpretation centre for our Roman Circus has failed and have to wonder whether the disinterest shown in it by Colchester Borough Council during a recent planning application could have anything to do with it. After all, our council gleefully rubber stamped the segregation of the starting gates (probably the most interesting part of the whole circus) so that the public could not get at it in future. The pathetic terms for access that were agreed would hardly have demonstrated to the lottery board that we had any interest whatsoever in interpreting our heritage. What a golden opportunity - missed!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Politically Correct Crap

I read an interesting article in the Gazette this week about some geezer from London who came to Colchester to encourage local businesses to register for work for the 2012 Olympics in Stratford. I'll try for some of that, I thought, so I signed onto the website and filled in me details. What could my company do? How big are we? How many employees? Now I am getting a bit wiser with age nowadays and I know you don't get owt for nowt. Slowly it dawned on me that I was being drawn into a PC world of tree hugger paradise. They never ask those sort of questions at the beginning, just like they never put the fruit and veg at the other end of the supermarket. The questions started to veer away from my company's field of expertise. They wanted to know how many women we employed. How many women in managerial positions? Do we have any lesbians or gays or bi-sexuals and various other categories that me mum never told me about. Do we have any atheists, jainists, buddhists, moslems, and various other categories. Do we employ disabled people, old people, young people, etc? Have we got a health and safety policy, an equal opportunities policy, how many millions worth of insurance, etc? I answered as best I could, not really knowing or wishing to know the sexual or religious proclivities of my employees (but having a fair idea) and completed the questionnaire. On clicking the final button to send my application on its way, I was instantly informed that my company did not meet their requirements as we didn't operate an equal opportunities policy (or something like that) - apparently! Well! I have to put my hand up to simply wanting to know whether potential employees can do the ?*&$? job and that their references are up to scratch. This came to me at a similar time to that when I had learned from one of my fellow business colleagues that they had won a contract from a Spanish firm to provide equipment for the Olympics. Said Spanish company clearly had inflated their bid to allow sufficient profit in the job to sub-contract it to a British firm! So, who needs the Olympics anyway?

Living in a Bubble.

I took time off work yesterday to attend a Colchester2020 meeting at the new football stadium at Cuckoo Farm. It was the first time that I had visited and the place is impressive. If only the VAFiasco had run as smoothly in its realisation. So anyway, the great and good of Colchester were there to put Colchester to rights. They entered the bubble at the door and found themselves transformed into a world where anything is possible, money no object. The ideas flowed and kept flowing. I attended a group session that was entitled 'Transport'. The group comprised council employees, borough councillors, a county councillor, public transport lobbyists, car drivers, local authority workers - and a smattering of business owners. The only bloke who made any sense to me was the businessman who commented that traffic congestion and high parking charges are driving people away from Colchester. He was a voice in the wilderness as we listened to various car drivers who complained about traffic jams, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it is they, themselves, who cause the jams. Another moaned about the inconvenience of the traffic associated with school chucking out time. All we need, apparently, is less cars on the road, 4 lanes through North Station Road roundabout, a monorail from Mile End into town, a travelator along High Street. Then the bus users complained about the infrequency and unreliability of buses and the lack of a bus station, again, seemingly oblivious to the fact that buses are provided by private companies who respond to demand. No passengers, no money coming in, no profit, goodbye. I sat there, with a view of the car filled car park, that also had one motorcycle and two bicycles, having been told about Colchester2020's Carbon Emission plans. No. It was too much for me. I don't do 'head in the sand'. Whilst I would have enjoyed lunch at the borough's expense, I felt that my time would be better spent at work, doing something useful. I left the cosy comfort of the feel good bubble and out into the real world headed for the office - on two wheels!

A Night at the Theatre.

My lady and I went to the Mercury Theatre last night to see Blonde Bombshells. This has to be one of the most enjoyable performances that we have seen at the Mercury. The place was packed. We have also enjoyed several other performances there recently: Richard Digence, Brilliant Baroque, Just a Song at Twilight, The Lifesavers, Fascinating Aida, etc. If it is one thing that Colchester does well it is its theatre. Long may they escape the long knives of those who are responsible for bringing so much upset to our town, the destruction of roadside flower beds being just one of the latest instances. Oh well! We have tickets for Tony Benn next week. That should be interesting!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Who's for a pint?

Our attention has been drawn to the fact that we are gradually losing our pubs. Over 20 have gone in Colchester in 20 years and the most recent, the Sun at Lexden, the Robin Hood, the Bell at Old Heath, face an uncertain future. The Sun especially is a very old building and it would be a tragedy if it succumbed to destruction by the inevitable vandals. But is it any surprise when Labour's Nanny State has been instrumental in this decline? The banning of smoking was the final nail in the coffin. Who in their right minds wants to go to a pub where you have to stand out in the cold to have a cigarette. It's not very welcoming is it? You are better off staying at home with beer at a third the price from Sainsbugs where you can smoke as much as you like. And what happened to all those meanspirited whiners who said that they would be more inclined to go to the pub if smoking was banned. I don't know of one. Do you? No. They are all still sitting smugly at home, happy that smokers have been taught a lesson. They are probably quite pleased too that pubs are in decline - all due to their selfish whining about inhaling people's smoke. Funny old world innit?

What a Circus!

It comes as no surprise that Taylor Wimpey, armed with their planning approved Sergeant's Mess and Roman Circus starting gates, they want to sell it on for somebody else to develop. They are clearly strapped for cash, as are many others in the house building industry at the moment, so they will settle for £800,000. How much did they buy the site for I wonder? Something like £80,000 I am led to believe, so it will not be a bad return on their investment. The problem is, they have managed to get Colchester Borough Council to allow them to section off the starting gates so that they can never be turned into a tourist attraction. CBC positively rolled over on their backs and asked for a tickle when the plans came to committee. It bordered on the sycophantic to hear the reverence given to the applicant. It was almost an apology for inconveniencing them. Not one of the planning committee voiced any concern at this sectioning-off of our scheduled ancient monument. Their names? Councillors: Mary Blandon, Peter Chillingworth, Barrie Cook, Mark Cory, Stephen Ford, Wyn Foster, Ray Gamble, Chris Hall, Sonia Lewis. Remember those names in any future heritage matters. History will judge them.

So, has anybody got £800,000 so that we can buy back the remains of the only Roman circus in Britain?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Our Royal Family under attack - again!

I know that it isn't of local interest but it so irritates me when yet another member of the Royal family is attacked by the gutter press for just being themselves. What is a Brit other than slang for British. Am I offended by it? I can understand that a person from India would be offended by being called a Paki or a person from Scotland being called a Paddy. I shall continue to call a welsh mate of mine Dai. I don't know any Chalkys or other of the names that the tree huggers get so anxious about - but I will continue to despise the pea brained idiots who promote what passes today for political correctness. I mention this here because Prince Harry is a serving soldier and Colchester is a military town and I, for one, am proud of our culture, our boys and of our Royal family. What other country affords the freedoms that we enjoy but which are being seriously threatened by these pacifist appeasers?

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The New Year of 2009

We go into this new year for Colchester with:

1. The VAF in limbo, an empty, unfinished shell, that nobody (we are led to believe) wants, an embarrassment to us all, with no fixed price to finish it or to demolish it, no name that anybody can be proud of that would make it the promised flagship of the arts in Colchester.

2. No permanent bus station or decision as to where there will be a bus station, if/when the Visual Arts Fiasco gets completed.

3. Not one marker as to the location of the Roman Circus that was discovered in Colchester over 4 years ago.

4. No Colchester Carnival or Festival or any promise of funding for such an event in the future.

5. No Park and Ride or any firm decision as to the location or timescale.

6. Lots of political midgets in the Town Hall who clearly derive immense pleasure out of knifing their fellow councillors in the back over things done and said but not achieved over the past few years.

7. Lots of political midgets in the Town Hall who have no balls to take the decisions that would make the real changes that are needed in Colchester to make it a place that people really want to visit.

All Must Go!

The press is reporting the fall of Woolworths. People are saying that they used the shop regularly. Clearly not enough of us did; otherwise it wouldn't be closing - or should they have charged more for their products? Either way, it is too late now so there is no point in crying about it.

More to the point, we should be looking to the future. My family did much of their Christmas shopping on the internet this year. Why? Because its easier, cheaper, more convenient, delivery to your door, etc. Who, in their right mind, wants to drive into town (no convenient buses where we live), get delayed in traffic with like minded people, having to queue to park the car, having to pay to park the car, having to put up with the foul-mouthed shrieks of ill mannered children/parents/youths, having to dodge traffic, having to try several shops for the thing that you want because they don't have what you want or the size (I buy underwear for my wife), to carry my purchases back to the car, pay Colchester Borough Council for the pleasure of parking my car (whilst being informed that all risks are mine), getting back into the traffic jams - and then driving home?

Look to the future. Woolies has gone the way that more will follow. Until CBC realises that our shopping experience (yuk PC phrase) is made easy by either Park and Ride or free parking, people will avoid the town unless they have to. We have lost Zavvi now too and things are looking bleak for a few others. Look at how many pubs have closed in the town when you can buy beer in Sainsbugs at a third the price and avoid a punchup by drinking at home.

It is my prediction that, in 10 years time, CBC will have woken up to reality, the town will be a joyful place to visit, for leisure rather than for shopping, parking will be cheap and easy and traffic jams will be a thing of the past.

The big question is, has this council got the balls to get things moving in this direction - or do we need a new thinking council in place?