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, January 31, 2010

Season tickets for Sudbury workers and residents to be considered

Those concerned about the introduction of charges for long stay parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh might take some comfort from an agreement that was reached at Thursday’s Council Meeting. A season ticket scheme for residents and/or workers will now be considered before the introduction of the scheme in October. Of course this might mean that less money is raised, but in fact getting funds into the council’s coffers electronically and in advance would be cheaper to administer than bulky cash collection.

It was further agreed to look into the question of Babergh’s own staff paying to park at Babergh’s offices in Hadleigh. While not wishing to appear to have made up my own mind on this issue, I do feel that people should bear in mind the sacrifices in salary and conditions that Babergh’s staff are already making and weigh this in the balance when thinking of imposing further penalties on them.

Many Councillors continue to be unhappy about charging for parking. However most realise that some charges are really unavoidable if the budget is to be balanced for 2010/11. The result was that at Thursday’s meeting many who have voted against such proposals in the past made quite moving speeches about why it is ‘different’ this time.

And indeed it is different!

Implications for councillors of not producing a balanced budget are very serious. We could all be sent home and the budget would then be set by officers, supervised by a Government Department. At worst, if deemed to be negligent, we could all be personally liable to pay financial surcharges.

It is unlikely that a team of bureaucrats from central Government would think twice about setting a much more draconian parking regime for Sudbury than the one that is currently in prospect!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Site visit in Acton

The Members of Babergh Development Committee certainly earn their corn!
On a very raw and miserable day, the Clerk to Acton Parish Council and I met the Committee which I had invited to take a look at the site of a proposed development on land behind no 6 High Street, Acton. This is just a little behind Bob’s Stores.
It was the fifth visit that the Committee had made that morning and the weather was awful. Some of them looked quite blue! But they were only five minutes behind schedule, and they paid absolute attention to the details of the case. The Chairman even moved a fence so that a better view could be obtained from a neighbouring property, and then, of course re-erected it again. This was, of course, with the permission of the householder!
I can’t think of anything worse than trying to do this sort of thing in the middle of winter on a regular basis. I was really impressed by the energy and diligence of the Committee and of course Planning Officer, Graham Chamberlain, who had to hold the plans steady in the biting wind!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Conservation news from George Millins

Our conservation correspondent, George Millins, has the following timely advice about frogs etc.

'By the middle of February the emergence from hibernation of amphibians and reptiles will be imminent. On emergence adult amphibians will make their way to their breeding pond, this may mean crossing a road which results in large numbers being killed. If you find numbers of amphibians crushed on the road please inform 'Amphibian and Reptile Conservation' formerly 'Froglife' on: 01733 558844 or email: enquiries@arc-trust.org If reasonable numbers are present, that section of road will be identified as an official crossing, and volunteers will be sought to help the amphibians across the road to their breeding pond. This initiative is very important and has doubtless saved many amphibian colonies from extinction.'

Thursday, January 21, 2010

True grit

Due to the recent bad weather this week has been dominated by grit stories.

At Great Waldingfield Parish Council on Monday I was asked to see if something can be done to reinstate the triangle in the conservation area close to the church which has been virtually obliterated due to the ravages of snow and ice, grit and salt. I am happy to say that the County has come back very rapidly to say that these areas are of importance to them and that they will be coming out to see what can be done.

They offered to put a grit bin in place. However the Parish Council have decided to survey the village as a whole with a view to deciding the best places for such receptacles, which I believe they have to fund at least in part.

Today, at the West Babergh Safer Neighbourhood Priority Setting meeting in Lavenham we heard another grit related tale. A member of the public informed the meeting that piles of grit provided by the council for their village had been pillaged. It transpired that it had been carried off by an individual for his own use! I understand that this practice has been quite common in the bad weather. However, as the police pointed out, it is indeed a crime to make off with grit in this way. Perhaps one or two targetted prosecutions might get the message home that grit on the side of the road is not for private consumption!

One does hear quite interesting stories at these neighbourhood meetings. I am very pleased to say they are becoming more and more popular, with some 30 or so members of the public attending this morning to air their views, or just to listen.

The next Safer Neighbourhood Priority Setting meeting will be held in Glemsford on 26th February.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A race against time?

Just when you thought Babergh was swimming along into the future in comparative if inpecunious safety....Local Government Reorganisation rears its head above the waves!

Yes! It’s back. Last week chief executives of all the Suffolk councils received a letter from the Department for Communities in which ‘transitional arrangements’ for a unitary system are set out for consideration and comment. The Boundary Committee is due to report to the Minister, John Denham, on 19 January, and from the letter we learn that ‘ the Secretary of State, recognising the need to end uncertainty, intends to move forward as quickly as practicable’.

Thus it really does appear that the Government is determined to try to push reform through at the eleventh hour, although in what form remains very unclear.

Looking at the information received it seems that if there are to be two unitary councils in Suffolk, the division of Sudbury East and Great Waldingfield will probably have two councillors. If there is just one however the position is less clear.

This means that there might be some promise of political life for Mrs Antill after the death of the District...but it’s a decision to take when all becomes clearer I think.

Car Parking charges...the facts!

I was very disappointed in the quality of BBC Radio Suffolk’s coverage of Babergh’s proposal to introduce limited charging for car parking in Hadleigh and Sudbury.
It was not made clear that the idea is to introduce a charge of £1 50 per day for people staying more than three hours. People who park for less time, to go shopping for example, will still not have to pay.
Nick Ridley, Chairman of the Strategy Committee, speaking later, made this point well, but the initial impression given was very one sided.
It is clearly right to keep short term parking free for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is unfair to introduce such charges in the town centre when supermarket car parks continue to be free. Secondly Sudbury certainly needs all the help it can get to maintain the vibrancy of the town centre in competition with the larger centres such as Colchester and Bury. This will be true I think even when the recession is past.
As far as the proposed long term charges are concerned, while they are regrettable, I fear that they may be unavoidable. To raise the same amount of money by increasing Council Tax is simply not an option. This is only one proposal out of many that are being taken in order to bridge the funding gap the council faces. Every one of these proposals will be painful for someone.
A correspondent has raised the fact that the measures will be a problem for people who go to London overnight and cannot get back to put another sticker on their car. In fact the way things will work, I believe, is that they will have a three hour grace period the next day, but I am not sure of this.
This is just one of very many potential unintended consequences that will inevitably arise from the new charges. I hope that Babergh will have learnt from mistakes that were made when ticket machines were installed in the short term car parks last year, and react swiftly to address any problems.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Acton Parish Council Meeting

It was good to see our PCSO, Siobhan, at the Acton Parish Council meeting on Monday, along with quite a few members of the public, which always enlivens things!

The news is that the community speed camera has now arrived and training will begin shortly. The camera is being shared by a number of parishes in the area. I am going to have to redouble my efforts to watch my speed around the Ward now! I DO try hard, but sometimes I get a bit distracted and edge up over 30 m.p.h.

The most staggering fact to emerge from the meeting is that it would cost an enormous £209,000.00 to create a footpath between Acton and Great Waldingfield, so it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Such a path is, it seemed, considered a pretty low priority by the County Council....number 190 out of 230 potential improvement schemes.

Mrs Christine Johnson, the Clerk to the Council who has been in post for longer than she cares to remember will be retiring later this year (although I will believe it when I see it), and her replacement was at the meeting. She will start training for the role, which is more difficult and onerous than it looks, in April.

I was asked to request a site inspection in respect of a planning application for a proposed development just behind Bob’s Stores at 6, High Street, so look out for a gaggle of councillors wandering around one Wednesday morning soon!

It was disappointing to hear that, despite conditions being put in place which should have prevented it, specimen trees were removed from a building site in the village within hours of the contractors' arrival. I am writing to the Chief Planning Officer about this and will let you know what he replies!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A few minutes to close ones eyes and imagine....

As the Christmas period comes to a close and the snow continues to fall, I have not been out and about much recently, preferring to stay by the fire with a good book.

When out walking the dog I have taken some good shots of the snow and ice which in some cases has been spectacular, but I think that everyone must have seen enough of the winter weather.

I would therefore like to brighten your new year with a picture of a tropical desert island.

I have to say that it would be nice to be there!

A time to help ourselves?

The media is full of complaints at the moment about how the government , rail companies and various other large bodies have failed to get their act together during this period of snowy weather.

It is of course a pity that planning for the extraordinary does not seem to be very well developed in the UK, despite all the risk assessments etc. that we routinely carry out to try to pre-empt these very problems.

However, even when things return to normal we are going to have to accept that as far as government, national or local is concerned many things that we have taken for granted are no longer going to be available. (Given the state of government finances debateable how many were actually affordable in any event!)

We are facing a time when we will have to lower our expectations with regard to what government is able to do for us and fall back on our own resources, whether it be increasing fund raising activities and trying to give a bit more to good causes, trying to spend less to made provision for contingencies, and looking out for our friends and neighbours. In the current snowy weather, at a trivial level and health and safety permitting, we might think about doing what is generally done routinely in Europe and clear the snow from the area outside our homes. As Melanie Reid writes in the Times on Saturday, there are many who continue to firmly believe that this is the job of the local council and nothing to do with them. This is an attitude that has to change.

In this connection I was last week contacted by a resident of Great Waldingfield concerned that the elderly and disabled have been having difficulties getting out for provisions etc. He points to the fact that in the winter of 1963 a scheme was in place under which volunteers were on hand to help, each elderly person being given contact numbers of two people to call in the case of need.

No such scheme exists now, but I have ascertained that members of the Church have been checking up on many residents in an informal way, and I am not aware of anyone who is experiencing difficulties. I am sure that everyone is keeping an eye out for their neighbours but please let me know if anyone needs additional help and I will see what can be done.

Some months ago now I wrote on the blog about how I had been researching Good Neighbour Schemes that have been set up in Long Melford and Glemsford, mainly with a view to seeing how these organisations might help people with internet access to access council services on line. No such schemes currently exist in Waldingfield Ward, but it has occurred to me that as formal help from government bodies falls and charities become more and more stretched, the time may be right to look at the idea.

I have already had some expressions of interest and have effected an introduction with Suffolk Acre who support such schemes. Many may think that a less formal approach to good neighbourliness is more appropriate, but I think something more organised could at least be considered.