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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Pitcures from Great Waldingfield Flower Festival

A little known fact about Great Waldingfield is that the village can claim at least four florists or ex-florists among its residents! Their fantastic arrangements are all on show at St. Lawrence’s Church this weekend, together with contributions from several gifted amateurs. Some of the displays are shown above.

Included above is the contribution from Branchlines, the community woodland organisation. (It is the one with the suspended vegetables). I understand that fund-raising (or strictly speaking re-fund-raising) for the woodland is going according to plan.

Tea and coffee are available in the Church, and there is also a raffle and other stalls. Well worth a detour!

Friday, September 28, 2007

A green week at Babergh

This week at Babergh has been particularly ‘green’. In addition to the ‘Switch it off’ campaign at the Council Offices in Hadleigh, on Wednesday evening there was a seminar entitled Climate Change. How will we respond in Babergh?

A Group of Councillors and officers sat down in Polstead Village Hall to watch Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and there were then presentations, both from Babergh officers and also from local organisations who, in the absence of serious initiatives from central government, are trying to make a difference from the bottom up. There was then time for discussion during which it became clear that not everyone is yet completely convinced about the need for behaviour to change.

However, the evening was very interesting, and I am hoping to investigate some of the local initiatives further in the weeks to come. One of the most fascinating developments is the burgeoning green movement in the village of Sproughton, something that could well be replicated in Waldingfield Ward. Go to www.greensproughton.org.uk for a flavour of what is going on!

The Al Gore film made some good points, but I have to confess that I was most affected by the part that showed very clearly how ghastly it must have been to have been cheated out of becoming President of the US. So near and yet so far! My heart bled for him.

And talking about the US, whatever one thinks about the country’s green credentials, there is one green aspect of US society that one cannot knock and that is the very fine National Park Service. The picture above was taken in the Shenandoah Valley National Park a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Holiday reading!

Well Nick and I have just returned from a two week trip to Virginia. I am still sorting out the photos but hope to post a few on the blog with some thoughts within the next few days.

On our return I received a very nice card from Margaret Shannon telling me that the total raised for Great Waldingfield Church by her heroic sleep-in with bats was £626.50p. (see previous post 'Sleeping with bats'.)

Margaret's exploits came to mind during my holiday since I spent some of the time reading a 'good bad book' called The Historian, which is an up to date version of the Dracula Story. Dracula of course spent much of his time disguised as a bat which has given the species something of a bad name.

They don't deserve this bad reputation! They rarely if ever fly into your hair apparently. I have only had one really close encounter with a bat. A chap on a course that I went on some years ago worked as some sort of conservation officer in the real world and had a tiny injured pipistrelle bat that he was caring for in his room!
It was very sweet, with tiny hands and whiskers. About 4 centimeters long, pipistrelles according to the BBC website, don't drink the blood of the unwary, but they can eat up to 3000 insects in a night!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Where are the boys in blue?

Residents and businesses in Chilton have recently had more than their fair share of problems with what many people call anti-social behaviour, but what I would call theft, hooliganism, drunkenness, criminal damage and traffic offences.

If you are naïve like me you believe that if in a state of desperation you need to call the police, perhaps because it is obvious that a crime is being committed close to your home, then a reassuring flashing blue light would rapidly appear and comfort and help would be at hand even if the miscreants had already fled.

I learnt at Chilton Parish Council meeting last night that this is not necessarily the case. What happens is you find you have telephoned a police call centre in Martlesham (or maybe in Essex if Martlesham is out). The call centre will almost certainly not pass you on directly to an officer closer to home. Instead they will give you an ‘incident number’ and then ask you to do their job for them by peering out of the window to ascertain whether you can see anything that might constitute evidence (such as a number plate for example); and that’s it! That’s it even if it’s the fourteenth time that you’ve called and problems have been keeping you awake at night making you a nervous wreck for over six months.

Apparently the call centre folk in Martlesham do contact the local police by radio to report your call, but this doesn’t seem to result in the actual appearance of a policeman either at the scene of the incident, or later at a community meeting where the problems are due to be discussed. Despite a request from the Chairman of the Parish Council, and others, for a police officer to attend the Chilton meeting, the only police presence took the form of a very pleasant and competent young woman called Jackie, a Police Community Support Officer. Jackie knew very little about anything however, but this was not her fault since her boots were so new that the labels hadn’t yet been removed.

We are told on the Home Office Website that

‘Police Community Support Officers particularly work to reassure the public and to tackle the social menace of anti-social behaviour.’

It is quite clear to me that what PCSO’s actually do is attempt to distract the public from failures of policing due to lack of resources and political will. They are also very useful people to be able to send along to Parish Council Meetings so that a real police officer doesn’t have to eyeball the people in the community that they are letting down.

If official crime figures are down, (which is debateable), then this is due to the fact that, disheartened by this sort of failure, people are failing to report crime since it is a pointless exercise. Diligent readers of this blog will remember that this is not the first time I have banged on about this issue and probably won’t be the last.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Long View

Well it is four months since I was elected as a Councillor. That’s almost 10% percent of my allotted span in the job!

I have felt as though I have been kept pretty busy but looking back at the blog it is hard to see whether I have actually been doing anything! This is despite the fact that I find myself on four separate committees, and am actually the Chair of a very small (but financially and operationally quite important) one.

It is actually all rather strange. One goes to Hadleigh and sits in meetings. Things are discussed. There is a feeling that ‘out there’ in the real world things are happening, and we can feel happy about that. The Council is getting on with all sorts of excellent work such as ensuring that affordable houses are built, repairing social housing, running holiday sports events for kids etc. etc. In addition phone calls from anguished constituents prove that the Council is having an impact on their lives.

However in the meetings held within the four walls of the council chamber and the adjacent committee rooms there is little sense of rush or urgency. A matter is raised, perhaps at one of the Members Seminars. When will it see the light of day again? Who knows? One of the task groups discusses a matter. Maybe then it is scrutinised by one of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees. Finally it gets to the Strategy Committee or if important enough finds its way to discussion by the full Council. So far with the exception of planning and licensing decisions, which are obliged by law to be made at speed, nothing that has been initiated since May 3rd has actually come to fruition.

Councillors speak. They speak again. Hang on? Wasn’t that what they said last week? I speak (yes! I do). I feel moved to speak again…but hang on! Wasn’t that what I said last week? Should I bother to say it again? Is there a mounting sense of frustration? Well perhaps….

Contemplation of the process is not helped by the feeling that in four years’ time everyone may have to pack up and start again…but strangely this thought doesn’t seem to fill anyone with a sense of urgency.

Of course this all probably misses the point. What we are doing is grinding very slowly through the very long term decision making process that is called ‘making policy’. It can take years to get anything done or decided! In addition one is hedged about on all sides by restrictions, whether they are the force of decisions already made, or decisions made by a higher force.

The message must be that if one wants to bring about change, one has to be patient and think in terms of the long term. Meanwhile one has to live with decisions and policies made by others, often of a different political persuasion and opinion.

A simple example of this has arisen this week. A controversial planning application has been lodged in respect of 93 homes at the Piggeries site at Great Waldingfield. The rules and policies under which this will be resolved took years of pencil chewing and teeth sucking to gestate and create. In addition to Council policies there are the (constantly changing) diktats of Central Government to take into account. (They do not seem to have as much problem changing their ideas when it suits them!)

One has very little room to manoeuvre when trying to bring about a sensible decision here, because the parameters were established years ago. The time for real debate was then, not now. The message is actually pretty clear. If you want to make a difference in the community START EARLY and STICK WITH IT.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Sleeping with bats

Congratulations to Margaret Shannon (pictured) from Great Waldingfield and also to her friend Lesley Mitchell from Sudbury who braved the bats and things that go bump in the night to undertake a sleep-over in Great Waldingfield Church to raise money for church maintenance.

As can be seen from the picture above damp has started to damage the walls of the church. Margaret alone has raised over £500 for the cause. Lesley’s total is not yet known.

The vigil commenced at 7.30p.m.on Monday evening and finished 12 hours later. Supporters held a ‘Songs of Praise’ with coffee in the evening to encourage the intrepid pair, but they were then left alone from 9.30 to take their chances with whatever might manifest itself.

Tents were erected to ensure that Margaret and Lesley were untroubled by unwanted offerings from the bats, and Margaret said that although she had a rather restless night on the whole she had been quite ‘comfy and cozy’!