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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Help for families in Sudbury

A few weeks ago I was invited to have a coffee at Number Seventy Two by its leaders, Tim and Joy Ayrton, who live in Acton. Tim and Joy came to the Sudbury area some five years ago to be family and community workers and the Centre opened in the autumn of 2007 in response to the growing demands of their work.

Number Seventy Two, which can be found in North Street, Sudbury, is a family support centre, combined with a very pleasant coffee shop. You can just visit to have a coffee and a chat if you wish. If however you are faced with family difficulties of all sorts there are resources here to help you. In addition to a wide range of relevant publications there are people on hand who can offer practical help and counselling. Problems and issues addressed by the team include those related to marriage, parenting and bereavement. In addition, the Centre hosts parents’ discussion groups, and, more relevant than ever in these difficult economic times, offers budgeting advice and help with debt problems.
I was very impressed by the welcoming and relaxed atmosphere at Number Seventy Two. There is space for children to occupy themselves and comfortable chairs in a light and bright environment. A bit of a contrast with Sudbury CAB I’m afraid, and something we should be aspiring to in our forthcoming refurbishment!
The Centre has strong links to a number of churches in the Sudbury area, but their services are available to everyone regardless of religious persuasion. If you, or someone you know, has a problem related to the family, this is clearly a good place to seek help.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A quote for the week

'The political class of this country are like the passengers of a Russian sled, hissing late at night through the moonlit forest. The ponies are exhausted, and behind them the wolves are in full cry.'

Boris Johnson in an excellent article in today's Daily Telegraph.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Please vote on June 4th

Having spent several days recently out and about in Sudbury East and Waldingfield canvassing I do agree with the recently expressed view of the Archbishop of Canterbury (with whom I rarely have much sympathy) that the parliamentary expenses scandal is posing a threat to Democracy.
While only a few people that we have met have been actively rude and aggressive, far more, of all political persuasions, are saying that their feelings of anger and disgust are such that they will not go out and vote at all. Now, to some extent I take this with a pinch of salt. The turnout in local and EU elections, in the absence of a simultaneous General Election, is generally pathetically low. One knows that of the people one speaks to on the doorstep possibly only one in three will make it to the polling booth on the day.* Nonetheless the trend is worrying.
Winston Churchill said that democracy was ‘a very poor form of Government, but better than all of the alternatives’. Having spent a good deal of time in Russia, where it is arguable that despite the fig leaf that is the current political system, there has never been true democracy, and observing the current goings on in Burma, I can only agree with this view.
So please, whichever party you support, do go out and vote on June 4th.
*Rather higher in Waldingfield Ward according to 2007 voting statistics.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A message from Tim Yeo.

I set out below the text of a message to South Suffolk Conservative Association from Tim Yeo, the MP for South Suffolk with regard to his expenses.

I hope that this will reassure people who have been concerned that our Member of Parliament might be among those who have abused the rules.

Tim writes:-

'In view of the entirely understandable public outcry about MPs expenses I thought it might help you to answer the questions which you are inevitably being asked if I confirmed my own position as far as expense claims are concerned.

I have personally examined all the claims I have made in the last four years. I am absolutely certain that every single one complies not only with both the letter and the spirit of the House of Commons Fees Office Rules but also with the more stringent standards rightly required by David Cameron for Conservative MPs.

For clarification I confirm that in respect of the second homes allowance my claims relate exclusively to mortgage interest, council tax, service charges levied by the managing agents, and utility bills. I have never claimed for food, gardening, television sets, building works or any of the more exotic items chosen by some MPs.

Furthermore I have never "flipped" the properties on which I claim these expenses. When I was first elected in 1983 I declared that my main residence was in Suffolk and this has remained the case throughout except for the period when I was a Minister when the rules then in force required me to deem my main residence to be in London.

This means throughout the four year period for which claims are now being examined I have only made claims in respect of my London flat. I therefore confirm that as this is my second home for Parliamentary purposes I do NOT deem it to be my main home for Capital Gains Tax purposes.

Please feel free to share to forward this email, or to share its contents, to anyone who asks about this subject. I deplore the fact that some MPs, including regrettably a few Conservatives, have clearly abused the system and the trust that has been placed in them. In doing so they have brought Parliament into disrepute and cast aspersions on the integrity of the majority of MPs on all sides whom I believe to be conscientious and honest.'

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pets' Service at Chilton

The pictures above were taken at today's Pets' Service at St Mary's Church, Chilton.

15 dogs, a brave cat and a giant rabbit were accompanied by 63 human beings for a service of blessing and thanksgiving for animals everywhere.

A good time was had by almost all the creatures present!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mapping the District

Last week I chaired the Babergh Information Management Task Group which meets every two months or so. At the meeting we were given a demonstration of the fantastic new electronic mapping system ‘LAMP’ that is being installed at Babergh at a cost of over £1 million.

In contrast to the activities of the County Council, much of Babergh's work can be seen as geograpically oriented, and the relatively high sum invested in this project reflects the importance of being able to capture and understand the physical environment in which we live.

LAMP is an interactive system that will help officers in a number of departments to identify and manipulate individual sites across the District and to retrieve a number of important features , such as rights of way or flood plains, for any given area. It does a lot automatically that was previously done manually, so should save time and cost for the Council. In the short term however the economic situation has lead to a downturn in applications for Land Charge searches and Building Control activity has also been lower. This has unfortunately postponed some of the benefits.
At present the system, which is not yet fully operational, will only be available internally, but in the longer term it is likely that Parish Councils will be able to access it on a limited basis. Also in the future it may well be possible to provide people looking to buy properties in the area with a wealth of information about sites in which they are interested.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Football revival in Great Waldingfield?

To Great Waldingfield Parish Council Meeting yesterday evening...always a highlight of the month!

Having re-elected John Steele as Chairman, and Harry Taylor as Vice Chair, for a further year, much of the business of the meeting (before I left to go and have my dinner) revolved round the discussion of the provision of sporting and play facilities in the village for the young and not so young.

Two young people attended the meeting to request that facilities for football be once more made available in the village. They had put a team together, they said, and had played Acton ‘away’, but had no way at present of playing them ‘at home’. The lads were supported in their request by our admirable new Community Support Officer, Siobhan Hemmett, who has been much in evidence in recent weeks.

All present at the meeting, including Colin Spence and I, supported the idea that a football club should be re-established in the village. Work is already underway on improving play facilities on the playing field. As I have mentioned before on the blog, Harry Taylor and the Playing Fields Committee are working hard on a scheme to replace the existing play equipment and generally improve the area. Provision of facilities for more formal sports events would be a further step in the right direction.

It was thought to be important that any new sports club in the village should be properly regulated and formally constituted. This is essential if the interests of those involved are to be balanced with those who wish to see the peace and quiet of the village maintained. Advice will be sought from appropriate bodies such as the FA and Babergh District Council, whose ‘Be Active’ programme is aimed, among other things, at encouraging participation in sport.

If anyone is interested in supporting this initiative, probably the best person to contact at this early stage is Siobhan through the Sudbury Police Station switchboard : 01284 774100 or by e mail at Siobhan.hemmett@suffolk.pnn.police.uk

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Campaigning for County Council begins as public view of politicians hits new low!

Readers of the blog in Waldingfield Ward, which is part of the Sudbury East County Division, will be pleased to know that there is a candidate on offer to suit most mainstream political tastes! The Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP are all represented.

It will be no surprise to you that I will be campaigning for Colin Spence, the Conservative candidate, and County Councillor for the past four years.

We aim to fight a straightforward, honest campaign, emphasising what has been achieved by Colin personally, and by the Conservative administration at the County Council over the past four years and resisting any temptation to exaggerate the truth or to make personal attacks on the opposition.

I’m pretty depressed about the MP’s expenses scandal. From a personal perspective it is going to make campaigning a less pleasant experience than it might have been. Rightly, people are pretty disgusted with politicians, and this will affect how people react on the doorstep.

Local politicians don't have anything like the opportunities to play the system! For example, as a Babergh Councillor I have to declare any hospitality received that costs over £25, can claim for petrol but very little else. I can only get money back for printing ink cartridges, for example, if my printer is of an approved (and economical) make. This makes my husband Nick quite irritated because there is quite a lot of printing out of agendas etc. to do!

So please don’t associate the people turning up on your doorsteps over the next three weeks or so with the fat cats in Westminster.

I couldn't resist the picture from the libertarian Anna Raccoon website.
I hope it cheers up your Sunday.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An awayday for Sudbury CAB

I spent yesterday attending an awayday for Trustees, staff and volunteers of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Sudbury.

Since I have been associated with the CAB it has managed to struggle along, helping an amazing number of people with their problems, in what must have once been the servants’ quarters (or something similar) of Belle Vue House, pictured above. It has actually been very difficult to operate effectively, given the need for confidentiality and privacy when advising people. Clients have had to wait in a very inadequate spot, and the Manager and her assistant work in the kitchen.

The sad closure of the old people’s lunch club in Belle Vue house at Christmas has presented the Bureau with the opportunity to take over additional space. At the same time a grant from Babergh District Council has enabled us to consider setting up outreach facilities in villages throughout the area.

These exciting opportunities, plus the uncertainties for the organisation engendered by the possibility of Local Government Reorganisation, kept us all engaged in intense conversation for several hours. The challenge now is to put the many good ideas raised into practice.

One subject that was much to the fore was our overdependence on funds from Local Government and the need to find other sources of income in these difficult times. In this connection one of the advisers, Gladys Nott, is going to jump ‘from a perfectly good aeroplane from up to 15000 feet’ in aid of the bureau in September.

If you appreciate the work that the Bureau does, and would like to support this fantastic effort you can donate on line at: www.bmycharity.com/sudburyCAB