Sunday, April 26, 2009
Yesterday the spring Horticultural Show was held in Great Waldingfield Village Hall. I don’t know whether it was the difficult growing conditions this spring, or the impact of the gloomy economic environment, but the Show was quieter than usual which is disappointing. The next event is on 12th September and I hope that more people will come along to see the exhibits or even consider submitting an entry. It is all good fun, and one really never knows what is going to take the judge’s fancy!
The prizes were given by John Steele, the Chairman of the Parish Council, who is pictured above.
John has been working very hard recently with other members of the Parish Council, to bring the Hall up to scratch. A major refurbishment, likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds, is now underway.
Filling in the forms to obtain grants towards the completion of the work is a complex and sometimes frustrating business. Quite a lot of progress has already been made. Babergh has already promised £25,000, and Colin Spence has used some of his locality budget from the County Council to help with the scheme.
An exciting development is the decision to use environmentally friendly technology to provide a new heating system. The current system costs almost £3000 a year to run and is not very environmentally friendly. It is hoped to use a combination of improved insulation, solar panels and a bore hole ground sourced heat pump to heat the hall in future. In addition to cost savings, and the possibility of actually generating surplus electricity for the grid, carbon emissions should also be significantly reduced.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I am not sure how many times we have debated the issue of Local Government reform at Babergh.
Yesterday’s discussion at the Council meeting must have been the third occasion on which a paper on the subject has been presented to us. As those who watch this matter closely will know the consultation period, which was supposed to end with a recommendation on the future of Suffolk to the Secretary of State in February, has been extended and Ms Blears is now expected to make her decision before the time of the Parliamentary Recess in July.
I for one am getting a little weary of the subject, but nonetheless debate continued on the merits of ‘one or two unitaries’ for well over an hour. Despite the clearly expressed indifference of the populace of Hadleigh, some of the Lib Dem councillors for that area persist in insisting that Hadleigh should be included in the fast growth urban ‘North Haven’ unitary as opposed to the sleepier ‘Rural’ authority that it is planned will include all of Suffolk apart from Ipswich and Felixstowe. An amendment on this was accordingly tabled, but heavily defeated. The Boundary Committee have made it plain that they do not believe that a case has been made for this option and have already discounted it. One can only assume that the tactics of the Lib Dems has little to do with reality and more to do with positioning themselves in advance of the forthcoming elections in June.
I continue to believe that One Suffolk is the preferable way ahead for the county, but at Babergh at least I am in a small minority. Although having two authorities looks superficially attractive, I simply do not believe that splitting the County Council’s services in two can possibly offer better value for taxpayers. I also have deep concerns about the long term viability of ‘Rural Suffolk’, given the lack of an area of fast economic growth to help to pay for the services needed by a widely scattered and ageing rural population. The addition of Lowestoft , one of the most deprived areas in the Country, to the mix has in my opinion made matters worse.
So I was among the seven or so Members that voted against recommending two unitaries for Suffolk as the best way ahead.
If I had to guess, and reading between the lines of their most recent report, I would say that the Boundary Committee will in the end go for the One Suffolk option. Even if they do so however, given the instabilities at the centre of Government at present, and the potential for more legal challenges, it is by no means certain that the project will not run out of time.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Residents of Little Waldingfield, some of whom are pictured above, chose a beautiful morning to embark on a village-wide litter pick yesterday.
Everyone who participated received a certificate endorsed by the Radio Suffolk ‘Don’t be a Tosser’ campaign, and I understand that a surprisingly large number of sacks of debris were collected. Information about the campaign can be found on the BBC Radio Suffolk website.
A number of communities in the area are taking direct action to combat the really serious problem that littering has become. Walking around Newmans Green with Rendle I despair at the number of items, large and small, that have been carelessly thrown into ditches and hedgerows. On one occasion I actually had to duck a flying cigarette packet chucked out of the windows of a speeding car. In the end I hope that improved education will lead to better behaviour. It was certainly drilled into those of us who went to school in the 1950’s and 60’s that we took our litter home with us, and even today I am filled with a terrible feeling of guilt if I allow rubbish to fall out of my pocket and it then blows away!
Although Babergh does what it can to control flytipping (see below), local litter problems tend to fall on the shoulders of the parish councils and local activitists. In this connection I have been made aware of an ‘adopt a mile’ scheme that has been arranged by residents of Lindsey. I have got in touch with the organiser, who is keen to champion similar projects throughout the Babergh area so if you need more information I hope to be able to let you have some in due course.
Large cases of flytipping should be reported direct to Babergh, who have an above average record of dealing with them. The number to ring is 01473 825890.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I notice in this week's planning list that the County Council has already put in a planning application to Babergh for the new classroom at Great Waldingfield school for the use of the pre-school playgoup. It is good to see that action is being taken quickly to sort this matter out ahead of the autumn term.
I will be keeping an eye out to see that all goes smoothly with the application process, but since this is largely a formality, do not anticipate any problems.
Sunday 19th April: Additional information. Having contacted the officer at Babergh I understand that the District Council is simply a consultee on this application which will be handled by the County Council. Babergh still has to give its opinion and the site will be inspected next week.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
At the request of some of the Councillors at Babergh I have over recent months been investigating the issue of access to the internet in the community. In the course of my research I have come across a county wide scheme that is being promoted by the charity, Suffolk Acre which encourages the creation of ‘Good Neighbour’ networks in villages. The idea is that an organised group of volunteers offer services such as lifts, shopping, small repairs etc. etc. to those who need them. Many people say when the idea is floated that the village already has a good network of support for others, but once a formal scheme is initiated it is generally discovered that this is actually far from true.
Although help with the internet has not been at the forefront of people’s minds when these groups have started up, I have pointed out to them that help with internet access could be one of the services on offer. There are a few technical problems, and issues of privacy that need to be addressed, but with the right sort of computer literate volunteer there are many ways that people can be helped to help themselves on line.
I have met the organisers of Good Neighbour Schemes in Long Melford and Glemsford and have been very impressed with what is being achieved there, and what still might be achieved.
If there is anyone out there who would like to consider starting a group in Waldingfield Ward please let me know and I will put you in touch with the people who can help you get the project off the ground.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
A programme of bulb planting and improvement over recent years means that the churchyard is a pleasure to visit. The daffodils are very impressive and there are many other flowers in bloom too.
There are two services being held at the church this Spring.
An Easter Week celebration is to be held on the afternoon of Sunday 19 April. The service starts at 3p.m. The event is actually on Russian Easter Day, which is a little later than our festival due to the use of an older calendar, but this need not frighten folk from Great Waldingfield who, following the recent concert, may now make rather doubtful associations between Russians and churches.
On 17 May, there is to be an additional service at 3 p.m. This is to be a Pets' event, and Rendle is already planning the purchase of a new collar.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers of the blog a very happy and restful Easter.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The plans developed by the Market Town Partnership, which would involve resiting the bus station, were, it appeared not being considered by the officers working on different options.
At the well attended AGM of the Partnership that I attended on Tuesday evening it was announced that Babergh's Malcolm Firth has given his assurance that the plans, which are supported by the Sudbury Society, will be given full weight. This is good news.
I continue to be concerned that the right solutions are found for those of us obliged to travel into Sudbury from surrounding villages.
Great excitement yesterday afternoon when I noticed that a lot of smoke was coming out of the chimney when the fire in the grate below was barely alight!
Having sought a second opinion from my neighbours, I phoned 999 with a sinking heart. Visions of burly men with large hoses dowsing our lovely house flashed through my mind.
Within 7 minutes or so the Fire Brigade from Long Melford hurtled along Mills Lane with blue light flashing, attracting most of the local children and the attention of several dogs.
We’re not quite sure what caused the chimney fire. It was right up at the top of the stack and apparently was pretty hot. The cause was probably a bit of bitumen from the small amount of wood that we burn which had attached itself to the inside of top of the chimney over time.
I have to say that the service from the emergency services both on the telephone and from the firemen (all part timers) was absolutely fantastic. The five men did their utmost to do as little damage as possible and were totally supportive. They made some good down to earth suggestions about how to avoid a similar fire happening again, recommending throwing a glass (no more) of water on the fire below as first aid when a chimney fire is suspected. Once the fire was out we all had a cup of tea and the fire engine returned to Long Melford.
I won’t say that it was a totally stress free experience, but I do think we are really lucky to have such a great fire service. A big thank you to you all!
Sunday, April 5, 2009
During the spin-fest that was the G20 Summit last week I was really bowled over by one event. This was the speech that Michelle Obama gave to pupils and staff at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington. Her advice to her mostly female audience was basically that it is ‘cool to be smart’, to work hard, not to skip classes. If you do this, she implied, you too could become the First Lady! (or even perhaps the first President of the USA).
You can hear some of the speech if you click on the link below:-
Michelle Obama concluded part of her speech by saying that once you have followed her advice, worked hard and done well then you should:-
‘Reach back and help someone just like you to do the same thing’.
This really resonated with me because so often women do not help one another to get on in life, and I find this disappointing. Actually when I worked in the City we were so few that it wasn’t really an issue. Women there seemed to understand the old saying from Tobago that ‘Blowing out the other person’s candle will not make yours shine brighter’. However, the world of politics is something different. Women have seemed adept at extinguishing other women’s hopes.
The Conservative Party in this country has a reputation of being the home of a cadre of formidable ‘blue rinses’ in the shires who regularly fail to select women as candidates. The number of women MP’s in the Conservative ranks is disgracefully low. At Babergh District Council there are only seven women out of 43 councillors (and it shows!).
However things are changing, at least at the national level. David Cameron has worked hard to make sure that a good proportion of women candidates are elected. Vicky Ford, number three on the list of MEP candidates, was actually selected in the number 4 position. You may not think that this was right, but she was actively promoted because of the need to field some women who had some chance of becoming Members of the European Parliament.
I think some people are aware that I am the Chairman of the South Suffolk Conservative Women’s Organisation. On Thursday of last week we had our AGM and we were lucky enough to be addressed by the Chairman of the National Organisation, Pauline Lucas. She gave an inspirational speech too, telling us how the Conservative Party in general, and the Women’s Organisation in particular, is encouraging women to participate in political life.
It would be really nice to find some women out there who would like to put themselves forward for public office. Of course, if you are a Conservative that would be even better.
Do give it some thought.