New Vote Poll on canal maintenance

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Today, Audlem Online is starting a new Vote Poll asking the question: "Should the Audlem stretch of the canal retain its own local lengthsman?" The question arises because British Waterways plan to replace the regular lengthsman, James Stretch, with contractors who will arrive if maintenance is required.

There was a full story on the website yesterday and we announced a campaign would start on Audlem Online, and hopefully in other local media, to reverse this decision which could have a serious impact on one of the most beautiful stretches of canal in the country.

We reported yesterday how British Waterways had been forced into cuts because of problems elsewhere in Defra and the massive fine likely to be levied fine on the British Government by the European Union because of delays in payments to farmers.

MPs have recently said that former Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett should be called to account over the "fiasco" of delayed EU payments to farmers. MPs on

the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called the handling of the new Single Payments Scheme an "embarrassing failure".

In a report, the MPs complained Mrs Beckett and senior officials had not been held "personally accountable" for delays. But a spokesman for Mrs Beckett said: "As secretary of state at Defra, she took decisions in good faith on the Single Farm Payment based on the information and expert advice given to her at the time."

The committee said problems could cost the government up to £500m and in February it was revealed that UK taxpayers could face a £300m European Commission fine for the delays.

Unfortunately, the massive potential fine is having a direct impact on local rural communities as well as the problems suffered by many farmers. The canal maintenance cut-back is just one example but could hit Audlem hard. Hence the new Vote Poll — we expect the voting won't be quite as close as other recent polls! To vote, simply select Yes/No or 'Unsure' and click on 'Vote Now'. Your vote could have an impact on how one of the village's main attractions looks in the future.



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