Friday, December 18, 2009
I hope that all followers of the blog will have a very happy Christmas holiday, and that you will all enjoy good fortune and good health in 2010.
Despite some muddle over the date, place and time, the last Babergh West Safer Neighbourhood Team meeting of the year, which took place yesterday in Lavenham, was quite well attended. Representatives from both Acton and Great Waldingfield Parish Councils were there.
These monthly meetings are very much still ‘work in progress’, but I am happy to say that a workable format is now gradually taking shape. The object of the exercise is to prioritise areas of local concern through dialogue between the community, officers from Babergh, the police, and other agencies. All members of the public are welcome to attend and have their say if they wish. Some 36 parishes are included in the Babergh West scheme.
The meeting yesterday heard that in response to public concern, the officers and PCSO’s have been very active in the area with their speed guns and several fixed penalty notices have been issued. Most of the people involved came from outside the immediate area. One individual, who was travelling at 57 mph in a 30 mph area, has received a court summons.
Representatives from Long Melford expressed their satisfaction that anti social behaviour in the village has declined dramatically since officers and PCSO’s have been making regular patrols in the evenings. Problems in Glemsford continue however and the area remains a priority. Recently the army visited the village to engage with young people and give them something other than vandalism to think about!
Several members of the public and representatives of Lavenham Parish Council were present, and a further priority is to look into incidents of anti-social behaviour in the village.
An unusual issue has arisen in and around Leavenheath, where there has been some rather gruesome evidence of deer poaching. One of the PCSO priorities this month is to gather evidence from farmers and local residents in the area in order to combat this cruel and dangerous practice.
PCSO Siobhan Hemmett is continuing to patrol the roads around Great Waldingfield School at dropping off and picking up time to try to encourage responsible parking etc. The police are to contact the school to see if there is some way to reduce the congestion that takes place at these times of the day.
The next meeting will be at Lavenham Village Hall at 11 a.m. on January 21st.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Firstly it was decided to reject Sudbury’s offer to take over the management of Babergh’s car parks, not only in Sudbury’s but also in Hadleigh and Lavenham. This offer would have resolved the vexed issue of car parking charges at a stroke! I can understand the Town Council’s wish to control the town’s car parks, and even to extend their influence beyond Sudbury. However, I was swayed by the argument that it is hardly fair for the citizens of Sudbury to have to suffer a significant increase in precept so that people from the surrounding area can park for nothing!
The second main issue was related to what seems to be the never ending saga, Local Government Review. Once again we were being asked to comment on another set of proposalsfrom the Boundary Committee.
When colours are nailed firmly to a mast then it is hard to pull them down again, so even in the face of new information, many Members found it hard to change their minds. Most of them remain convinced that two unitaries for Suffolk are better than one. The Boundary Committee itself however has, as mentioned recently on the blog, changed ITS mind, and now prefers the option of one unitary council for the whole of the County.
I, who have for some time believed that one unitary council for the whole of Suffolk would be the best option, expressed delight that the Boundary Committee now agrees with me (and at least two of the four Parish Councils in Waldingfield Ward).
I am even more convinced of the logic of ‘One Suffolk’ now that parts of Waveney are not to be included in Norfolk. The inclusion of a deprived urban area such as Lowestoft in a so called Suffolk Rural Unitary makes me even more concerned about the economic robustness and operational logic of such a council. Unlike other Members I am not particularly about the ‘democratic deficit’ that it is believed will occur if there are only 80 to 100 elected councillors, rather than about 400 as is the case now. It is a great opportunity for real power to be devolved down to communities, who are often best placed to know what is good for them.
The debate went on for some time with those of us in favour of One Suffolk putting up a reasonable show, but in the end the vast majority preferred to ‘be consistent’ and continue to support the division of Suffolk into two parts.
The argument may yet prove to be academic since, even if there are no further challenges from disaffected District councils in Norfolk and Suffolk, an early general election may well see the collapse of the Government’s plans. This, in my view, would be a pity. I suspect that a Conservative Government will, despite its current declared stance, ultimately come to the conclusion that a unitary system is the right one for Suffolk, and indeed for the country as a whole. However, even more time will have been wasted and uncertainty prolonged.
Monday, December 7, 2009
As far as Suffolk is concerned the press release states the following:
In Suffolk, the Committee has made two proposals: a unitary county of Suffolk (the Committee’s preferred alternative proposal for Suffolk); and a two-unitary pattern comprising an Ipswich & Felixstowe authority and a Rural Suffolk authority.
Preference for One Suffolk unitary represents a change of view from the Committee. However, having abandoned the idea of excluding Lowestoft from Suffolk, One Suffolk is really the only coherent solution.
The $64,000 Question is now: Can the Government implement this before the General Election? It will be very tight, but, they claim, not impossible.
In what is the 300th post on the site since the blog started back in February 2007, it is good to be able to report that yesterday's Carol Service at St Mary's, Chilton, was very well attended.
The church itself looked wonderful, having been decorated for the occasion. The winter sun shone through the newly glazed windows, and towards the end of the service the candles came into their own. Due to the fact that there is no electricity in the church, warmth was provided by a portable generator, and the organ was 'blown' manually (and manfully!).
Some 127 people were at the service, so there was standing room only for a few. This was almost, but not quite, a record, over 140 having been present on a previous occasion. The choir from St Gregory's in Sudbury made time to support the singing, and the choice of carols was very good.
St Mary's is a redundant church, but still has several services each year. The next will be an Easter service on Sunday April 18. The Trustees are starting a 'Friends of St Mary's, Chilton' group for those who are keen to help and support the activities held in this lovely and historic building. The minimum subscription is £5. For more information please contact Peter Clifford on 01787 371798.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
In addition to beautiful cards from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, local artist and printmaker, Trevor Sowden, has designed a unique card specially for the House. It features Thomas Gainsborough wandering the streets of Sudbury.
You don't have to pay to visit the museum just to visit the shop or have a drink in the coffee shop, although if you want to see the current displays don't forget that admission is free on Tuesday afternoons.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I have just had an e mail from Kathryn Sayward, Babergh's solicitor. Her message is that the Court of Appeal has rejected the contention of three Suffolk District Councils, which was upheld in the High Court, that the Boundary Committee's consultation process was flawed. This means, in the absence of a further appeal to the House of Lords, Local Government Review is back on the agenda.
I have not seen the judgement, but the fact that costs were given against the three District Councils implies that the opinion of the Court was strongly held.
I am not sure that the Suffolk Councils will be up for an appeal to the House of Lords since this would cost their taxpayers even more money and would not be popular when local services are under threat.
The uncertainty has not gone away however. I have no reason to believe that the Government has changed its mind on this matter. They would like to see unitary councils in Suffolk and Norfolk, but there will now be a race against time if they want to get the necessary instruments 'laid on the table' ahead of a General Election.
Babergh's official view, with which I concur even more strongly now that local government finances are so stretched, is that unitary councils are a 'good thing'. There is some difference of opinion among Members however as to which of the two options on the table represent the best way forward.
The article below is written by George Millins from Great Waldingfield. It contains some excellent advice about what you can do to help wildlife living close to you:
At this gloomy, damp time in the year with so few daylight hours, most of us will hurry to the warmth and comfort of home - just pause for a moment, and spare a thought for all the wild creatures out there. As wild creatures they are certainly a lot tougher than our species and our chosen pets however, they not only need, but deserve some help and consideration from the species that has selfishly rendered most of their habitat inhospitable and incapable of sustaining much of our native wildlife through the coming months.
Amphibians, reptiles and the small hibernating mammals such as bats and hedgehogs are very vulnerable indeed, and will probably die if carelessly disturbed while in hibernation - it is worth mentioning again that as a result of declining numbers the hedgehog is now a 'Biodiversity Action Plan Species' (B.A.P. Species). So, as mentioned in previous articles, please be very watchful if you have a need to disturb compost heaps/bins, any hibernating amphibians or reptiles present will mostly be at the base close to the ground where the temperature is constantly low but normally frost free. Piles of branches and hedge cuttings will attract amphibians and hedgehogs, the latter may also occupy spaces under sheds and other outbuildings. Piles of rubble, slabs and even individual bricks and flat pieces of wood often provide a refuge for amphibians but they are likely to seek a better hibernaculum after the first frosts.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so if seen wandering during daylight hours it is probably a sick or wounded animal and will need care. Vets will usually treat wild creatures for free and most will have contacts experienced in the art of nursing hedgehogs back to health. Under weight hedgehogs will not survive hibernation and such animals may be seen at this time, any hedgehog found at this point in the year should be taken to a vet to be checked and weighed - it may well save their life. These animals have a rather fitful hibernation, so it is possible to find a healthy animal wandering after dark in mild conditions.
The following extracts illustrate the UK's failure to take adequate steps to reverse the decline in Great Crested Newt populations and habitats, which automatically indicates big problems for ALL our native amphibians - indeed wildlife in general.
- In 2005 European courts ruled against the UK for not adequately carrying out surveillance and monitoring of European Protected Species such as Great Crested Newt, this being a crucial aspect of G.C.N. conservation activity (Langton T. 2009).
- Up to an estimated third of UK GCN sites have disappeared since 1979. The 2010 UK GCN target to make replacement ponds has an estimated 95%+ shortfall. Less than 1% of UK breeding sites have designated protection (Langton T. 2009).
So, UK governments have an abysmal conservation record, pampering to the need and greed of the selfish, insensitive masses - how can the more caring among us help? In a practical way you can create wildlife habitats, even in small gardens - if two or three adjacent gardens allow a little space for wildlife it becomes a significant habitat. It is also very important politically to subscribe to a major conservation organisation such as the County Wildlife Trust, Froglife, British Trust for Ornithology or R.S.P.B. - contact details available on line or by request. The greater the membership of these organisation the greater their political clout.
A quick reminder to clean out bird boxes before the end of Jan 2010. As the keen observer will know, some birds will show an interest in a potential nest site well before egg laying.
George Millins 01787 374874 mob. 07534263629
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Nick and I have just recovered from what can only be described as a great knees-up on Saturday evening, to celebrate the 80th Birthday of my dear Uncle Dennis, pictured left.
Dennis shows no sign of flagging. Only a few years ago he cycled across Costa Rica..not a flat place...and plans for further trips are well developed. All Dennis's family, including his six children and eight grandchildren, are already looking forward to his 90th. Most of them, plus husbands etc. are shown below singing 'Always look on the bright side of life'.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
On Tuesday afternoon the Chairman of Babergh, Councillor Jennie Jenkins, cut the ribbon to open a 'self help' advice kiosk at Babergh's offices. This is the latest step in a long term partnership between Babergh and the Bureau.
The kiosk, which is supplied by Sudbury CAB, aims to help people who need information and who, for whatever reason, prefer not to make the trip to the Bureau at Belle Vue House. Many issues dealt with by advisors can be resolved by looking at the internet, but this is not always an option for people. According to research 30 percent of households have no internet access, and this facility should be particularly useful for them. Not every problem can be resolved in this way, but a client can often get a long away and at least receive some sort of suggestion regarding the next step.
The kiosk is particularly useful because it offers access to sites that have been chosen because they offer reliable and safe sources of information. It can be dangerous to go on line to resolve problems, particularly those related to money matters and debt, since many websites are commercial operations masquerading as information sites.
I went along in two capacities really. Firstly I have been working with Bob Southgate of Babergh, who is pictured third from the right in the picture above, to try to improve access to Babergh's services through the internet, and the kiosk certainly ticks a number of boxes in this respect.
Secondly I am a Director/Trustee of the Sudbury CAB and we are anxious to disseminate our services beyond the bureau in Sudbury and into the rest of the District.
In addition to Bob, the picture above shows a number of other Babergh officers who have been instrumental in organising the installation, including Mike Hammond, Deputy Chief executive of Babergh, (second from the left), Jennie Jenkins (seated at the terminal), the Chairman and Manager of the CAB, Jeremy Osborne and Ann Furlonger (standing immediately behind Jennie) and John Sayers and Nigel Bennett who are Suffolk County Council and Babergh's Trustee representatives on the CAB Board.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
On arrival the scene was strange and mysterious. A stream of muffled figures walked through the blustery night towards the remote barn. The door, open just a crack, threw a shaft of dim light onto the muddy ground. A burly man stood inside checking credentials. It felt like a scene from a novel about the Russian Revolution (apart of course from the steady stream of people carriers and shiny cars coming down the driveway).
Once inside the barn however it was clear that it was just a public meeting, the second held by the Groton Pylon Alliance which has been formed to try to co-ordinate responses to National Grid’s plans to march pylons across the countryside of South Suffolk.
Some 240 people were present, many of whom who had not gone to the previous gathering of the Group. There were representatives present from around 20 villages, 13 of whom have signed up to the Alliance. Representatives from Little Waldingfield and Great Waldingfield Parish Councils were there, as was Jeremy Pembroke, the Leader of Suffolk County Council (in a personal rather than official capacity). There too were representatives from other local groups, the Suffolk Preservation Society and also from ‘Suffolk Underground’, a group committed to the routing underground of electrical wiring.
The Alliance, which sees itself as a conservation group, is keen to be a constructive rather than nimbyish organisation. The aim is to try to present the electricity company with a united view about what is best for Suffolk. Jeremy Pembroke claimed that this is also the aim of the County, which, despite only being a consultee in the process, are taking a group of interested Councillors on a bus to see the four potential options for themselves. Representatives from the area around Dedham Vale, which is affected by routes 1 and 2, were also present and it seems that they themselves favour Route 2, with the important proviso that the wires that affect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are hidden underground- an expensive option. This seems the favoured option of all present, who do not wish to see ‘virgin countryside’ destroyed by intrusive objects.
The planning authority is the new Government quango recently set up to decide large infrastructure issues, and, I notice, currently advertising for highly paid staff. In common with the County Council, Babergh is only a consultee. I was the only Babergh Councillor present, and heard Jeremy Pembroke call for the District and the County to co-operate in trying to form a combined view. I will be passing his message onto relevant people at Corks Lane. Unity is strength in these matters!
It is important that those who feel strongly put pen to paper and write to National Power. The Groton Pylon Alliance is urging people to do so, and also, if possible, to make a donation to the Alliance to help to hire legal and technical experts to assist with the campaign.
Further information can be found on the National Power website and also on
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Many of you will have seen our local PCSO’s around and about in the village. The acronym stands for Police Community Support Officer.
The West Babergh Safer Neighbourhood Team of which these officers form a part has made a real step forward in community communications in recent weeks by throwing open its monthly Tasking Meetings to the general public. In order to make the process more community lead I have been asked to take the chair of these meetings, which at present take place at the police station in Sudbury, but which may well move to more ‘neutral’ territory in due course.
The aim of the Tasking meetings is to hear from members of the community about the problems on which they feel that the Safer Neighbourhood Teams should be focussing, and then to set an action plan by prioritising these concerns. Progress made on previous actions is also reviewed.
There has been a lot of hostile comment about the PCSO’s since they were created some years ago. Some characterise them as ‘police-lite’ or claim that they represent ‘policing on the cheap’. People point to the fact that they have no powers of arrest and believe therefore that therefore that they can have no real value.
This, I think, massively misses the point. The Safer Neighbourhood personnel, some of whom are in fact police constables and sergeants with full police powers, are not the same policemen who respond to calls about crime, and they have a different function to perform. Their aim is not to run around arresting people but to try to prevent crime and anti social behaviour by working in the community. Listening to the concerns of local people, they try to engage with potential troublemakers at an early stage, and to make sure that existing troublemakers know that someone is keeping an eye on them. They are also involved in encouraging the Community Speedwatch programme, and concern themselves with issues such as under-age drinking, littering and drug taking. All of these matters are things that the public, when asked in surveys, claim to want to see addressed. The walk around Acton described on the blog recently was a Safer Neighbourhood initiative, and there will be another similar event in Great Waldingfield in early December.
The police are not the only people involved in the Safer Neighbourhood exercise. Babergh has community support officers who also attend the Tasking Meetings, as do representatives from the Fire Service and youth workers. It is already possible to point to some success stories in areas that have been prioritised and targeted by the Team.
The Babergh West Safer Neighbourhood Team covers 36 individual parishes around Sudbury, but does not include Sudbury and Cornard. I am hoping that representatives from the parish councils will come along to the meetings as often as they can, but the meeting is open to any member of the public who has a local problem that they wish to bring to the attention of the Team.
More information about Safer Neighbourhood Teams and future meetings and events can be found on the Suffolk Constabulary Website. Or go to:
The first site gives information about Safer Neighbourhood Teams in general and the second information about the West Babergh team in particular.