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, March 28, 2009

A plea for plain words

There has been a lot in the press recently about jargon. Government bodies, and local government is no exception, have been criticised for the use of obscure words and expressions that seem virtually meaningless to normal human beings. In my view it’s not just the use of ‘government speak’; in reports the meaning of words is sometimes horribly abused and contorted.

I am afraid that Babergh officers sometimes fall into the trap, often when copying something directly out of a paper written by an apparatchik in central government. Recently I couldn’t resist picking someone up on the expression ‘a modern and diverse community’. What on earth does the much misused word ‘modern’ mean in this context? Modern does not really mean ‘up to date’, although people often use it in this way. Even if this were its meaning the use of the word in this context would be hard to decipher. Babergh’s worst sin however is the constant use by officers of acronymns, LDF*, AONB*, etc etc. which serve to confuse and delay anyone watching a presentation or reading a document.

A correspondent from Little Waldingfield feels the same! He writes:

‘After reading todays Mercury....Page 2, re: expenditure on various Sudbury projects, whatever happened to the Tesco money? That seems to have gone a little quiet.
Also who on earth came up with the name "Market town partnership steering group"
honestly, what council speak twaddle.

Anyway, yours in a stakeholding, strategic, consultative, pathfinding, digitational, diversifying, accredited, frameworking, supportive, engaging, sustainable, partnership, cascading, assessing, consolidating, standardising, vibrant, aware, community, factfileing, responsive, foundational, co-ordinating, structured, restructured, quality, targeting, neighbourhood, principled, projected, key, surgery, workshop, addressed, commitment, benchmarked, focused, projected, team, cabinet, implemented, accessible, emphasising, in an extrapolated, interpolated kind of way.’

The writer adds a postscript challenging Suffolk County Council and Babergh to try to make up a sentence including all the words above. Perhaps someone could be specially employed, he says, or perhaps someone already is!

*All readers will of course know that these mean Local Development Framework and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What does the future hold for Sudbury Bus Station?

I sense that there is a storm brewing with regard to the proposed redevelopment of the Bus Station in the middle of Sudbury.

I have received two letters from Sudbury based organisations , The Sudbury Society and the Market Town Partnership Steering Group. Both are concerned that their carefully researched and planned ideas for the site already appear to have been rejected in favour of other options.

The main bone of contention seems to be whether or not the bus station should be moved from its current site, or form part of the new development. It seems that the proposals from the Market Town Partnership Steering Group, which are supported by the Sudbury Society, would involve re-siting the facility.

I am not privy to their deliberations on the matter, but reading between the lines, the local authorities concerned (Suffolk County Council and Babergh) appear to be doubtful as to whether moving the bus station is feasible. Speaking to a Babergh officer yesterday I was assured that ‘nothing has been ruled out or in at this stage’. However, there must be some basis for the local organisations’ concern.

I am not an elected representative for Sudbury. However, arrangements in the centre of Sudbury, particularly with regard to car parking and transport, are in some ways more important for the people in Waldingfield Ward who have to travel into town one way or another, than for those who live closer in. Therefore I think it is important to keep a close eye on what is happening to the transport system and car parking arrangements.

Additionally I do think that despite recent growth, Sudbury remains a very charming and unique place, and that it is essential that any plan for this important central site is well designed and complementary to the rest of town centre.

Once built the new development will have to last for many years (perhaps centuries!) It is so important to get it right! As regular readers know I do not think a lot of the new development in Bury. The style of architecture is very strange, the scheme does not merge seamlessly into the old part of the town and it presents a very ugly frontage to the world. I personally don’t want anything like that to be built in Sudbury.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Local Environmental Projects Update

It was such a lovely day today that Nick and I decided to go and have a look at the latest planting at Old School Wood, the community woodland project in Great Waldingfield . The final batch of trees was planted a couple of weeks ago, and the site now looks very impressive as can be seen from the picture above. I have to admit that I did not turn out to help on the day. I am really not a great enthusiast for physical effort, and my gardening endeavours at home can best be described as taking place in ultra slow motion.

We also took time to visit the Woodland BATS tree nursery in Chilton, which has been enhanced by the donation of a number of new trees, including some evergreens. We admired the nearby pond which has now been fully cleared and looks quite transformed.

We were very struck by the bench on the site donated by Waitrose. It is made entirely out of recycled plastic bags!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Local Government Reorganisation latest news

The most interesting thing about today’s revised consultation document published by the Boundary Committee on unitary options for Suffolk is the increased prominence given to the One Suffolk model. This is now promoted to a full option, rather than simply being described as an alternative which ‘had merit’.

My take on this is that One Suffolk is likely to emerge as the favoured approach, particularly now that the Rural Suffolk unitary’s 'green and pleasant' raison d’etre has been somewhat undermined by the inclusion of Lowestoft! (The town’s marina is pictured above. Built in 2003 the yacht club interestingly houses the Royal Suffolk AND Norfolk Yacht Club! Perhaps that's why the Committee thought it wouldn't matter if they shoe horned the town into Norfolk!)

Otherwise much remains the same, although the previously very sketchy comments on community engagement at a lower level are now more clearly worked through. It does beg the question as to how much these additional arrangements will cost compared to the status quo. I can’t believe that these local arrangements will be cost free, particularly if they are actually responsible for some service delivery.

The future remains very uncertain for Babergh and it is still a distinct possibility that none of this will actually happen. I have mixed feelings about this. One thing is certain however and that is that Babergh will now run its full four year term in some form or other.

Monday, March 16, 2009

View my 'tweets' if you can bear it

I have now added my 'Twitter tweets' to my blog. If you scroll down below my picture you can find them.

I am not entirely sure that readers will find this running commentary of my activities of interest, but will keep the feature on the blog for a few weeks and then decide whether to continue.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The way ahead at Gainsborough's House.

Not a lot of time is left if you want to catch the current exhibition at Gainsborough's House.

A selection of the outstanding collection of drawings and other works on paper is currently on show in the Back Gallery. Normally these works are hidden away in the dark because too much exposure to light is bad for them. Since the refurbishment of the house however it is always possible to view a selection in the drawers in the Study Gallery.

Gainsborough's House owns some really wonderful drawings by the artist, and also some by his contemporaries and predecessors. It is worth going along to see them on the wall and to appreciate Thomas Gainsborough's wonderful technique. The picture of the Woodman shown here is one of my particular favourites. Entrance to the House is free on Tuesday afternoons, but a donation is always appreciated!

Yesterday the Trustees of the House held an 'away morning' to discuss the way ahead for the Museum. Finances are always a little tight at these sort of organisations, and Gainsborough's House receives less public funding than many arts organisations in the area. That having been said Sudbury Town Council are always generous, understanding the value of the house to the Town, and even Babergh increased the small grant this year...(many thanks to them/us!) What is really needed is an endowment fund to secure the House for the future, but in the current economic environment it does not seem feasible to launch what would be another major appeal.

In the interim, as a fund raising exercise, as I think I have mentioned here before, my husband Nick is planning a sponsored walk between Gainsborough's home in Ipswich, which was in Foundation Street, and Gainsborough's House in Sudbury. This is a trip of around 22 to 25 miles depending on the route. This afternoon we are off to try to walk part of the path between Hintelsham and Hadleigh.

Do let us know if you would like to take part in all or a phase of the walk which will take place over the weekend of 12th and 13th September.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

No more hanging on the telephone

We are constantly hearing about Government IT projects that have lost millions of pounds and never get off the ground. I am therefore delighted to be able to report that a major scheme, the £1.3 million Customer Access and Service Transformation Project (‘CAST’), that has been introduced by Babergh over the past five years, has been completed on time and under budget. It has also delivered significant ongoing cost savings while improving customer access to services.

Since becoming a Councillor I have sat on the Task Group that has been responsible for the oversight of the project’s implementation and it has been very fascinating . An over-simple way of explaining the scheme is to say that what are effectively call centre practices have been introduced into a number of departments in the Council. This has meant that many queries can be resolved, quickly, and generally in the course of one phone call.

All hasn’t been entirely plain sailing. A culture change has been needed among the members of staff who have retrained to operate the new system. This relies heavily on computers, and in addition to giving the public a faster response, it also supplies management with very useful information which can be used to drive on further efficiencies. One positive aspect of this is that if Local Government Review goes ahead, the operators of the system will have learnt some good transferable skills!

There are also still some glitches during periods of very heavy demand. We decided against the queuing system that plays Mozart to you while your telephone bill clocks up the minutes. This means that when all lines are busy people get the engaged tone. Some have found this frustrating, particularly since I do not think that you can use ‘call back’ on this system. This is being looked into and it is very possible that an answer-phone will be installed which means that during busy periods a message will be taken and an officer will call the enquirer back.

Now that the project is more or less complete the CAST Task Group is to be wound up. Today’s meeting was the last one. I am quite pleased about this in one way since I seem to be chasing my tail these days trying to keep up with everything. On the other hand it has been nice to be involved with the project and the hard working officers at Babergh who have delivered it successfully.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Russian concert, and other matters

Russia is at the forefront of my mind at present!
Firstly, I am delighted to have found a new Russian teacher, Marina. She lives in Bury St Edmunds which isn’t too far to travel. It is amazing how having a teacher gives one the incentive to try a bit harder! It’s just so embarrassing when one mumbles and stumbles over words which one knows one knew once but which now seem to have disappeared into the depths. Marina comes from Siberia so she isn't phased by the cold winter we seem to be having.
Secondly, at the end of last week, Nick and I drove along some very winding roads to Chevington to entertain a very well attended WI meeting with a talk about the sights of St Petersburg, with particular reference to its foundation by Peter the Great. Hardly anyone in the audience fell asleep, and no one took great exception to some of the rather lurid stories that seem to be an inevitable part of any talk about Russia’s colourful history! Illustrated above is the Church on the Spilt Blood in St Petersburg which marks the spot of the assassination of Alexander II.
And now some Russians are coming closer to home.
On Thursday 2nd April the Hermitage Ensemble of St Petersburg is making a second visit to St Lawrence Church in Great Waldingfield following a very successful concert last summer.
You really should try to go along. Those who heard the group last year could not praise them highly enough and I know that the evening will be very entertaining. The ensemble comprises five male singers who perform a wide range of music (unaccompanied as is the Russian tradition), including sacred hymns, folk songs and a cappella works.
Entry is by programme which can be obtained from the Post Office in Great Waldingfield, from Mike Stone at the Bures Business Centre or Chris and Ann Francis tel: 01787 370734.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An evening in Bury St Edmunds

Off to Bury St Edmunds earlier this week to the tapas bar, La Tasca, in Abbeygate Street, to celebrate Nick’s mother’s birthday.

We had a bit of a stroll around before dinner and took the opportunity to look at the new shopping development that has been built on the Cattle Market. Well, I have to say that we didn’t find it very appealing. It looks like a line of beach huts on stilts all painted battleship grey! The powers that be have called the precinct ‘Arc’. This very strange and inappropriate designer type name was probably developed by a focus group of London property developers and architects. In my view the name is unlikely to catch on and the area will still be called the Cattle Market for many years to come.

This redevelopment was a great opportunity to do something interesting in Bury. In my opinion it has been an opportunity missed . The new area seems to have no proper relationship to the rest of the town, which has not been in any way enhanced. Immediately facing onto the former shopping area is a hideous blank wall with strange gabled ends, also painted an indeterminate shade of grey. I gather that the Suffolk Preservation Society is none too pleased about how the scheme has turned out.

I feel sorry for the good people of Bury. I hope when the time comes to redevelop the bus station site in Sudbury that a more sensitive and less self regarding scheme is decided on.

Supper was a success. Although part of a chain, the food at La Tasca is not at all bad and at present one can order all the tapas one can eat for a tenner, which has to be good value!The bar feels quite authentically Spanish, with nice warm colours and glossy tiles. It quite took me back to our holiday near Madrid last year, which I have to say seems a long time ago. On the whole, the evening brought a bit of southern cheer to a gray March evening.