Sunday, March 30, 2008
The Great Waldingfield Spring Horticultural Show on Saturday was rather less well supported than usual due to the very wet and windy weather that we have been having.
What was on display was of a very high quality however as can be seen from the pictures above. The winning flower arrangements are by Ann Francis and Pat Highton. The hellebores shown were the winning entry in their class. Some hellebores from Newmans Green came second!
Friday, March 28, 2008
As an antidote to recent setbacks Colin invited me yesterday to accompany him to a full Council Meeting at Suffolk County Council.
I thought that the glass and chrome headquarters (pictured above), which opened in 2003, was very impressive, although whoever designed the Council Chamber should have come to see our lovely facility at Babergh, which in my view is the nicest I have seen. Although light and attractive, the Chamber in
It was nice to see some of the Babergh Councillors doing their stuff as
The two debates that I heard were particularly topical. The first was on the subject of the appointment of Andrea Hill, the new Chief Executive. I have written about this on the blog recently, and am not surprised that it has caused controversy. Interestingly today the Taxpayers Alliance has published the fact that at present only six Council Officers in the
The second debate was on the subject of Local Government reorganisation. I had to leave before the end, but I understand that the Council voted to go for a ‘one Suffolk Unitary’ option. I have to say that I am not fully convinced that this is the right way forward, despite the fact that it is undoubtedly the cheapest. We are debating the matter at a special Council Meeting at Babergh on 8th April, and I will elaborate further at that time.
I accept that listening to the proceedings at Endeavour House might not be everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon out. However, I was so riveted to proceedings that I was almost late for the the Little Waldingfield Committee Meeting to discuss the QUIZ NIGHT ON 3rd MAY. (Tickets available from me, or Elizabeth Tora; £7.50 to include supper)
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
If I have seemed a little pre-occupied recently it is because I have been embroiled in ‘political struggle’.
Colin, having served with great distinction for some years, recently decided to stand down as leader of the Conservative Group at Babergh. The only person to put himself forward to take over the role was John Hinton (whom residents of Great Waldingfield will no doubt remember from the Piggeries Site Visit.) In the light of this I felt that, if no-one else could be persuaded, then I had no choice but to stand for election myself.
This was a relatively audacious move, given that I have been a councillor for less than a year. However, I have had quite a lot of experience of team-building and leadership in previous lives, and also do understand the basic ideas that underpin a Conservative attitude to the world. (See posts flagged ‘Ideology’). I was gratified by the fact that some of the more thoughtful of my colleagues were prepared to back me, and also received encouragement from elsewhere within the Group. Anyway it seemed worth a go….
In the event I was defeated 12 – 7. I have no regrets about standing although I have been ejected from the prestigious Strategy Committee, and shall now be serving on Overview and Scrutiny instead. You will notice that the picture at the top of this post is of Joan of Arc. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.
This change will make no difference to my work for people in Waldingfield Ward, which as always remains my Number One priority! Onwards and upwards….
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Pictured above are images from a visit made by Liam Beeton, Education Officer of Gainsborough’s House, to Acton Primary School a month or so ago. With Liam's help Gainsborough’s House organises a good number of these ‘outreach’ events, not just to schools but to pensioners’ groups and also to people with learning difficulties.
A number of workshops were then held at which children created model landscapes using techniques that the artist himself is known to have employed. They used items such a sticks, stones and broccoli to set the scene, and then painted their own landscapes. Some children tried on replica costumes from the House and then painted their own self-portraits.
It seems that the event went down so well that pupils and teachers were inspired to actually visit the House, and an unexpected group of no less than 86 pupils arrived the following week. Luckily there were plenty of staff and volunteers on hand to show them around!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Last night I went to Great Waldingfield’s Annual Meeting, which was held in the School, rather than the village hall due to ongoing repair work. This was my first Annual Meeting as a District Councillor, and I had to give my first annual report!
Unfortunately due to persistent computer glitches, (which, cross-fingers, have now been resolved after lengthy discussions with charming computer people in
Instead I gave a more personal view of the year, tailor made for Great Waldingfield. I hope that this was interesting for those present. It is an approach which I think I will continue to adopt in future as far as possible. Most of the topics I talked about have already appeared on the blog. However, when thinking about the report, I was struck by the thought, how unique Waldingfield Ward is, due to the fact that the area is so close to the edge of a town. Still essentially rural, the area suffers disproportionately from the threat of over-development, traffic and other pollution, rubbish and fly-tipping.
This is not exactly an earth shattering conclusion, but nevertheless, as the new Council year starts in April, I should make a new year’s resolution to try to resolve rather than exacerbate these problems!
Unlike Babergh, some councils in
For example, there has been quite a furore about the salary that Suffolk County Council is going to pay its new chief executive. According to the EADT it seems that headhunters advised the County that they would have to pay £200,000 or so to attract an appropriate person. The story is reminiscent of my days in the City of
Another feature of the affair that is reminiscent of City Life is the speed at which senior officers seem to move about. I gather that the average period in post for a Chief Executive of a Council at present is only a very few years. What seems to be developing is the sort of merry-go round of talent which did a great deal to bid up salaries in the good old days in the City. The difference was of course that the money that was being dished out to high flyers reduced the dividends of the shareholders, rather than hitting the pockets of Council Tax payers.
To be fair, a factor that has to be taken into account is the uncertainty surrounding the future of Local Government in
Another recent surprise was the decision of another Suffolk District Council, also threatened with extinction, to spend £3m on refurbishing its offices. Goodness me!!! How wonderful it would be if Babergh had this amount to splash out at the present time. We are furiously trying to raise money from various capital sales so that we can get the Hadleigh Leisure Facilities scheme under way before the Council is no longer able to give the project the support it deserves.
On the other hand, Babergh is also cutting back on projects where spending money now would be pointless. The area of IT comes to mind, but there are others. Additionally officers who leave are not always being replaced where work can temporarily be done by others, and this seems right while we wait to see what the Boundary Committee recommends later in the year.
(The illustration is of Freia picking the Golden Apples, which seemed appropriate somehow)
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
This weekend I have been doing one of my favourite annual jobs, helping out at the Sudbury Festival of Music, Speech and Dance. This year I was given a new task writing out certificates. There seemed to be hordes of competitors, all aged between 8 and 16. It was very important not to make any mistakes! Little Polly and her Ma or Pa, are very well aware of the significance of Polly’s marks, and it doesn’t do to give out a certificate which says she has a ‘Merit’ if she actually scored a ‘Commended!’
Pictured above are Audrey Ewen from Little Waldingfield, who has been one of the leading lights of the Festival for some years now, plus some of the older competitors from the Solo Drama class with Ian Wilson, adjudicator for the weekend.
One of the best things about the speech classes is that you get the chance to enjoy lots of extracts from childhood favourites such as Alice and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe without friends and relations wondering when you will grow up! It is also interesting to see how children, and indeed people, of different ages respond to performing in public. The younger ones don’t seem to have to struggle with the self consciousness that suddenly afflicts those of us who are over 12!!
The Festival is a great plus for
Friday, March 7, 2008
I am afraid that this post, reporting a famous victory for the people of Waldingfield at the County Council yesterday, is a little late due to the fact that very frustratingly I was unable to be at the meeting, and then had to travel up to
Anyway, better late than never.
As I am sure many of you know by now, Colin together with representatives of Chilton, Newton and Great Waldingfield Parish councils repeated their success at Babergh on Wednesday by persuading the Suffolk County Development Committee reject unanimously (9-0) Brett Aggregates’s application to extract gravel and do all sorts of other related and unpleasant things on land at Chilton (shown above).
Everyone worked really hard on the campaign to stop the quarry. Representatives from Parish Councils were particularly assiduous in showing that Brett’s figures didn’t stack up, both from the point of view of anticipated lorry movements and accident statistics for the A134 (also shown above).
So that is one battle over, but will we win the war? It is certain that Bretts will appeal. There is only limited scope to do much to influence the Inspector. I am looking into what possibilities there are, but I do know from experience of an appeal currently underway relating to development in
In this connection I feel I must quote Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, writing the forward to ‘Participation Nation, Reconnecting Citizens to the Public Realm’ (published by Involve, 2007) I have reproduced the quote exactly as it is written. The glaring grammatical error and doubtful use of English are the Secretary of State’s not mine!!!!!
‘These are exciting times for those of us who are committed to community empowerment……Policy making and politics is about finding shared solutions to the shared problems our nation faces. And whether obesity, climate change or terrorism, there are no shortage of issues to be addressed in the modern world. Yet I believe we can also find solutions to these problems by tapping the vast reserve of passion, knowledge and wisdom that resides in the British population……Over the past 10 years ….we have devised wide ranging changes which bring decisions closer to citizens and the elected officials that represent them.’
Well, we shall see…..
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I am really disappointed that owing to a prior engagement we won’t be able to go to the Russian concert that is to be held in Great Waldingfield on 4th April (details in the Parish Magazine). Choral singing in
Some years ago I did a degree in Russian studies, and despite my feeling of despair about what has happened to the democratic process in
At the time of writing there are a few tickets left (£8.00 to include a drink), so let me know, or call into Gainsborough’s House, if you want to come along. Every penny of profit will go to the work of the Museum.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Colin will once again speak out to try to ensure that Babergh maintains its opposition to the plan, which is ecologically unsound and completely inappropriate given the traffic problems on the A134.
Unfortunately, owing to the fact that I have a meeting of the Strategy Committee at Babergh, I will not be able to go to the County Council on Thursday when the application is to be heard. Colin, as County Councillor, will have three minutes to make his case. Representatives from Chilton and Newton Parish Councils are also likely to speak against the plans.
I will report back as soon as I am able to get in touch with those who were able to attend; probably on Friday.
Caroline Spelman, Chairman of the Conservative Party, who is perhaps best known for her Private Members' Bill aimed at reclassifying gardens as greenfield land.
It has been just like old times! I have spent the last three days at a couple of sharply contrasting conferences, (one at your expense and the other at my own.)
The council tax payers of Babergh kindly paid for me to attend the Public Sector Transformation Summit 2008 in Islington on Thursday. I was there in my capacity as E Government Champion and Chair of the Information Technology Task Group. The idea was to see, and take note of, how other Councils are bringing about change and restructuring in their organisations to effect the Government’s requirement that we all save 3% per annum. Of course the productivity improvements that can be achieved by information technology are significant, and it was this aspect in which I was particularly interested.
I shall spare you the technical stuff, but I am pleased to be able to tell you all that Babergh, if not actually racing ahead of the pack in this area, is certainly up there with the competition. In addition to an ongoing programme concerned with better customer access, which has already delivered savings and an improvement in response rates to those who call in by phone, we are currently working on an Information Strategy for the Council that will help us to bring about further improvements. The conference was very interesting, and among other things there was the opportunity to see a presentation on the Public Service Village, that is currently being built at Bury St. Edmunds as a joint venture between the County Council and St. Edmondsbury Borough Council.
Then on Friday morning it was off to Marylebone Station, to take the train to
Contrary to what many people think, Conservative policy makers are gradually creating clear blue water between their policies and those of the Government. They are keen to shift politics away from centrally imposed targets, and to return power to local people. I shall be writing a short report on some of the initiatives that were announced, plus a brief conversation that I had with Eric Pickles. If anyone is interested to see this please e mail me and I shall let you have a copy.
Much was made by presenters at the Conservative Conference of a need to kill off ‘the grey man at the centre with the lever, trying to get results’. It occurred to me as I returned home on the train that I had seen this bugaboo on Thursday at the conference in Islington, in the persona of a very bossy man from the Government Connect Programme, Department for Communities and Local Government.