Quote of the week

Life isn't about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself'

George Bernard Shaw
If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

Thursday, May 31, 2007

An artistic interlude in Sudbury.

This week I have been busy doing my ‘other’ job, producing On the House, the newsletter for Friends and volunteers at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury. I enjoy doing this very much since working in the office at the museum for a few days gives me a lot of insights into the frantic activity involved in running a museum.

I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to Gainsborough’s House for a while to go in and take a look. At the moment you can see a very interesting exhibition of twentieth century works depicting images of Sudbury, but this will be finishing in a week or so. After that there will be a show that focuses on 18th century prints of personalities from the Georgian era. The great growth in mass produced prints, taken from portraits, during this period is interesting, because it can be seen as the start of the cult of personality that we hear so much about today.

Over the past two years the house has been completely refurbished and the permanent collection, which includes more Gainsborough’s than are collected together anywhere else, is now really well presented. In addition to works in oils, the museum has a very good selection of drawings by the artist. In the past these only came out once a year, but now they can be viewed in the new study gallery where they are kept in drawers and thus protected from the light.

And then there is the wonderful garden! Even if you don’t want to go into the House to see the art, you can, for no charge at all apart from the cost of a coffee, drop in to the coffee shop and then have a wander around. There is an ancient mulberry tree and medlar and quince trees. Some of the plants are quite unusual, and there are often examples for sale.

Incidentally, writing about Gainsborough’s House this week doesn’t mean I’m already running out of steam with regard to life at Babergh District Council. Rather the reverse. Everything is rather new and confused at present for a new councillor and I need a little time to sort things out in my mind. Additionally now that the election is over I feel that I can and should add a little variety to the web-log!

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Decision about Development

This may seem a rather dull post, without the benefit of pictures or conversation, but it contains some important information for those interested in what I, as a councillor, can do for the Ward with regard to the important area of Planning.

A number of people have expressed their surprise when I have told them that, despite my interest in planning matters, I decided not to agitate for a seat (apart from as a substitute) on the Development Committee.

Before the election Colin and I discussed this and came to the conclusion that we can probably better serve the interests of residents of Waldingfield Ward if we do not sit on Development. This does not mean that we will not keep a very close eye on what is happening within the Ward, being sure to use our right to speak (but not to vote) at Development Committee meetings where necessary or appropriate. For example, as I described on the web-log in April, Colin exercised his right to be heard at the meeting that discussed the Gravel Pit at Chilton, when he spoke very persuasively against the proposals.

Before every meeting of the Committee we receive notice of the agenda, and, in addition to being able to ask the Chairman for the right to address the meeting, we can try to arrange to have a particular application ‘called in’ for discussion by the Committee, if it is the intention of the officers to decide the matter using their delegated powers and we feel that the case merits further discussion. This cannot be done on a whim however; one needs to have ‘planning related’ reasons. It is not acceptable to ‘call in’ items for reasons that are personal or particular to the applicant since this leads to unfair decision making. In this connection I want to assure readers that I will be attending all the available training sessions on planning related matters which take place at regular intervals so that I am on top of what can and can’t be done.

Another reason that we may be better placed operating from outside the Committee is that our ability to participate and vote in debates with regard to Ward related issues could be restricted due to the doctrine of ‘predetermination’. This is the situation where one is thought to have already made up one’s mind about a particular issue prior to its discussion. (You may remember the situation that occurred during the last Council where some Members were precluded from voting at the Development Committee due to the fact that they had signed a petition opposing development in Cornard.)

It is a mistake to think that it is only the Development Committee that has input into planning matters. It is a quasi judicial body, which (in theory at least) has to make decisions according to the rules set down by the Government and according to the Local Plans etc. already adopted by the Council. Special task forces are set up for matters such as Chilton Woods, important decisions are made by full Council Meetings, and the Strategy Committee, on which both Colin and I sit has, I believe, significant input into longer term planning policy. I shall find out more about this when I have attended one of its meetings!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Paper trail

A paper machine in Washington State U.S.A, made by the German manufacturer, Voith.

Trying to find something suitable to wear for the first council meeting on Tuesday I came across various items of clothing that I wore when I worked in the City. Needless to say the things that I could actually get into looked horribly dated, (long jackets and power shoulder pads) so Nick and I had to make a quick trip down to the Harrods of the East, Winch and Blatch, to find something appropriately respectable for the council chamber.

I left the financial world eight years or so ago now. In the eighties I spent some time specialising in Scandinavian companies many of which operate in the paper and pulp industry. A concern often raised by potential investors was what the impact on demand for paper and paper would be from the increased use of computers. Surely electronic mail etc. would lead to a slump in demand? Would that this were the case! In fact demand for paper has risen exponentially as we all print out what we see on the screen. Fortunately this is not too great a concern for the environment; trees when grown correctly are a renewable resource, and recycling has meant that much paper can be re-used.

I have been reminded of the demand for paper issue over the past fortnight. No sooner has the Returning Officer announced that one has been elected to the council, than one is presented with a large envelope, stuffed full of forms and requests for information. Further large envelopes have dropped into the letter box with monotonous regularity since, and on Thursday I staggered back to the car-park with a mammoth ring binder full of more information- all on A4 wood-free paper.

In fairness to Babergh this should be a temporary situation. Once linked electronically to the council server I shall receive a lot of information electronically, and then it will be up to me to decide what, if anything, I need to print out. There remain problems with simply reading things on the screen, so the paper pile is likely to continue to rise albeit a slower rate.

As it happens it turns out that responsibility for reducing paper use by electronic means could in future be part of my new responsibilities. For some reason best known to my colleagues, I find myself appointed to the role of Champion for E-Government at Babergh, concentrating on the introduction of computerised systems throughout the Council. Issues of customer service and increased efficiency are clearly involved, but I shall learn more about it all on Tuesday when I am having a briefing with officers working in the area. I’m wondering if my appointment to this role has anything to do with being the only member who currently writes a blog? Perhaps I should have told someone that the technical skills required for this are rather limited!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Prayers at St Mary's Chilton.

Had I known about the Rogation service at St. Mary’s Church, Chilton I would have attended it before now. I have for some time been rather curious about the Church, which I have seen while taking the dog out on paths that lead to lovely moated Chilton Hall. St. Mary’s which is managed by the Redundant Churches Fund now only holds three services a year, at Rogationtide, Harvest and Christmas, and I was alerted to today’s event due to receiving a copy of Chilton’s Parish News as part of my new job!

The church, which stands rather poignantly in its well-tended churchyard, on the cusp of industrial estate and open countryside is largely 15th Century, although the brick tower is probably later. A highlight is the chantry chapel which has three fine monuments to members of the Crane family, the earliest dating from 1491 and the latest 1626. There is no electricity, and the church retains the timeless atmosphere of a true country parish church. The service, using the Book of Common Prayer, was movingly simple and cheering.

Rogation Sunday is the day in the Church year when one is told in the Gospel ‘ask and it will be given to you’, and so is traditionally a day for praying for something one wants, be it rain on the crops or deliverance from catastrophe. I am really pleased therefore that this event was the first that I have attended since my election to the council. I would like to say ‘as a District Councillor’, but I have not yet signed the Declaration of Acceptance of Office. I expect to be doing this next week when I attend some training seminars in Hadleigh, and also my first Council Meeting.

Friday, May 4, 2007

First and second past the post!

This is just a brief post to say that Colin and I were both elected as councillors for Babergh District Council today. The count was terrifying but exhilarating when it became clear that the biggest piles of ballot papers were for us. It was a very weird sensation seeing that people had actually voted for me! I have had one of the most enjoyable three weeks of my life since Easter when we started campaigning in earnest, and even had I not been elected the experience would have been marked down as a good one.

Many many thanks to everyone who helped us to achieve this 'famous victory'. We could not have done it without you.

I very much hope that I will be able to live up to the expectations that people have of me. I will do my very best.
We are going to France for a few days, returning next Friday so the blog will go quiet for a while. Rest assured however that I will be updating it on my return and hope to continue to use it to communicate with you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I really hope that you will all come out and vote on May 3rd. Of course Colin and I would be particularly pleased if the many people who have said that they will support us do so. Even if you intend voting for the opposition, however, I hope that you will take the few minutes necessary to visit the polling station. Democracy is not a perfect system but it is probably the best system that there is.

This web-blog has been very successful in that it has been read by a good many people in the Ward since it started in January. If I am elected to Babergh it is the intention to keep it going in some form.

This is part of Colin's and my commitment to remain open and accessible to everyone in Acton, Chilton, Great Waldingfield and Little Waldingfield. We very much hope that after tomorrow we will, as a team, be able to both keep you in touch with what is going on, and look after your interests as far as local matters are concerned.
The post below, which I wrote earlier in the week, is a round up of some of the issues that have been raised by voters over the course of the campaign.