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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Christmas to all readers of the blog

This christmas tree at Gainsborough's House was kindly donated by one of the many volunteers without whom the House could not survive.

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.

Troubleshooting in Babergh West

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.

Snow in Suffolk

The picture taken of our garden early this morning is to remind readers of the blog in far flung places like Australia, California and Mozambique of what snow looks like!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December Council Meeting

Two issues of note were discussed at today’s Full Council meeting.
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

The Boundary Committee speaks.

I have just received the news from Babergh that the Boundary Committee, hot on the heels of the recent Court of Appeal decision, has now made its recommendations to the Secretary of State with regard to the proposals for unitary local government in Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk.

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.

The 300th post! A good turn out at Chilton Carols

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

Christmas cards and gifts at Gainsborough's House

There are lots of lovely Christmas cards, and art related items that would make good presents, in the Gainsborough's House shop in Weavers Lane this year.

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

Court of Appeal reverses High Court decision on LGR

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.

Stop and think about Wildlife near you!

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

Happy Birthday Uncle Dennis!

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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'.