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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Babergh's Budget for 2010/11

When times are good and there is plenty of money around for interesting causes and projects, people would find it hard to understand if one charity for example benefitted at the expense of everything else. When times are hard the same applies and pain has to be fairly spread. I voted to support the Budget at Babergh yesterday because I felt that necessary cuts and increases in charges had been reasonably fairly distributed and that no one section of the community was being asked to sacrifice too much.

The 2010/2011 Budget was passed yesterday by 25 votes to 9. As expected, most of those who voted against the package of measures did so because they objected to the imposition of long term car parking charges in Sudbury and Hadleigh. In my opinion the car parking issue has unfairly overshadowed many other cuts that will cause pain to people in the community. For example many charities have lost grants and all will be paying higher business rates. We also should not forget staff at Babergh, some of who are now facing redundancy and many others who will see their remuneration fall by up to 4%.

I did speak in the debate, but said little about car parking charges, although I welcomed the move to see if something can be done to help workers in the town, many of whom are only paid the minimum wage. I did call for the Council to take time in the months ahead to re-examine its priorities in the light of the changed environment in which we find ourselves. I may find it more difficult to vote for the budget next year if I feel that we have not carefully and critically looked at everything that is a ‘nice to do’ rather than a statutory obligation.

Council tax is set to increase by 3%, which was once again below inflation. Babergh remains the second cheapest district council (in respect of council tax) in Suffolk.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Raffle for the pylons

In order to pay for legal expenses the Groton Pylon Alliance is holding a raffle.

The first prize is a trip to the British Grand Prix for four (including lunch etc.) I personally can't think of anything worse, but some of the other prizes such as a pamper day for four at Hintlesham Hall, and lunch and dinner at various hostelries around the County are a lot more appealing from my perspective.

Brian Tora, Chairman of Little Waldingfield Parish Council, has the tickets which are priced at £20 each. If you would like one Brian can be contacted on 01787 247783. The tickets must be purchased by Friday.

Countryside hazards?

As some of you know I am the District Council Representative on the Suffolk Local Access Forum, a countywide body that aims to improve and encourage access to the countryside. This week a number of hazards, or perceived hazards, that seem to frustrate the Forum’s aims have come to light.
In today’s Sunday Telegraph there is an article stating that research has shown that many ‘middle class mothers’ are frightened of venturing into the countryside on foot because they can’t read a map and also because they are frightened that their children will get muddy and might even get lost! Mothers, claim the writers of the report, are ‘obsessed’ about potential injuries and also about dirt.
A spokesman from Natural England comments: ‘Children are being denied the fundamental sense of independence and freedom in nature that their parents enjoyed.
‘Whether through pond-dipping or tree climbing, nature based activities can play an important part in the educational and social development of children’.*
Related to this current conviction that children must be protected from illusory dangers is the fact that the number of children that now walk to school has fallen to less than half, compared with 62 percent in 1989. More staggering is the statistic that in 1971 80 percent of children aged 7 to 8 got to school on their own, a number which had fallen to 9 percent in 1990 and, judging by the chaos outside local schools at dropping-off time, the figure is even lower today.
This all seems very sad to me and is yet more evidence, if it were needed, both of the totally irrational fears with regard to safety that are stimulated by the media and peer group pressure, and also of the sense of increased alienation that our society has from the countryside.
This view seems to be supported by a report I have just received of a meeting held by Natural England’s Livestock and Access Group. This was held to discuss rising concern about incidents related to cattle ‘attacking’ walkers with dogs. There has been increased interest in this since David Blunkett was involved in a case some months ago.
The statistics, it seems, do not show an increase in reported incidents, but there is no doubt that the perception is that the dangers have increased. The best advice seems to be that in the unlikely event that you are caught in such a situation you should let your dog off the lead since it is the dog rather than the humans that are the source of the cattle’s aggression.

*The Natural England spokesman goes on to say that outdoor play is better than nothing and claims that not enough money is being spent on play equipment. Hats off then to Great Waldingfield Parish Council who are AT THIS MOMENT undertaking a major play equipment project in the village.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Planning decision in Acton

At today’s Development Committee an application to build two houses on land behind No 6 High Street Acton was discussed and ultimately refused by Members. I went along since you can never be sure how these things will turn out but in the event had little to say. The officer had recommended refusal, and Mrs Johnson from Acton Parish Council adequately reflected my concerns and that of neighbouring residents.

Following the recent site meeting, Committee Members felt that two properties on the site would really be a bit of a squash, particularly since the rear wall of one of them would be very close to the boundary of No 16, Gotsfield Close.

Another issue was that of trees. One large specimen on the site is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, and is also the home of a colony of bats! It seems that sometimes the temptation to remove trees that completely dominate the garden becomes overwhelming for developers or householders, and, mindful of this, the officer expressed some concerns about the survival of the tree in the longer term.

It is good to see that planners are now sensitive to this sort of issue. I have no reason to believe that the tree would be lost in this particular case, but it seems better to be safe than sorry.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Babergh's response to pylon consultation

Residents in the Ward who may be affected, and all those who value the lovely open countryside that we enjoy close by, should be reasonably content with Babergh’s response to the consultation by National Grid that was agreed by the Strategy Committee on Thursday.
You can read the text below.
I am a little concerned that, under pressure from the Liberal Democrats whose County Council Leader was sitting in the public gallery to urge her troops on, the Committee majored on the idea of supporting none of the routes. The result was that they failed to support their route preferences with anything in the way of reasoned argument.
No land based pylons at all would of course be best, but is it realistic to expect this? And was this what we were asked? We were not being consulted on the principle of building the pylons but merely on where they should be built. I accept that it is frustrating to have little power in this instance due to the fact that it is reserved to the new Government super-planning infrastructure quango, but I hope that Babergh’s submission is taken seriously and not just seen as an exercise in grandstanding.

The text of the response starts below:

Strategy Committee 11 February 2010 – Agenda Item 7
Bramford to Twinstead Overhead Line Project
That the comments as set out below be approved as Babergh District Council’s formal response to the National Grid on the Bramford to Twinstead Overhead Line Project: Route Corridor Consultation Study (Stage 1):-

(a) National Grid has not yet demonstrated conclusively that the current proposals are the most appropriate means of achieving the required network improvements and the District Council therefore urges that the options for offshore and underground routing should be fully explored before any consideration is given to over ground routing in any form.

(b) In the absence of such a conclusive study the District Council cannot support any of the proposals.

(c) Whilst not to be construed as support at this stage for any of the options under consideration, the District Council makes the following comments on the options:

• Strongly objects to the use of Corridors 1, 3 and 4 in any form
• Were Corridor 2 to be selected by National Grid it is insisted that steps be taken to lessen the impact of any powerline by undergrounding the cables.*

(d) The District Council strongly encourages National Grid to pay full regard to the views of local people and their elected representatives before embarking upon Stage Two of their consultation process.

(e) The District Council strongly encourages National Grid to set up a community forum to support Stage Two of the consultation process.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back to the drawing board for Local Government reorganisation.

So, in theory at least, Suffolk is to be subjected to even more uncertainty about the future of arrangements for Local Government. The Government has today told Suffolk MP’s and Councils to go away , ‘think about it again’ and make up their minds about what sort of unitary system they would like.

Norwich and Exeter, it has been decreed, will be carved out as viable, Labour dominated, unitary authorities. Norfolk and Devon in all other respects will stay the same.

I believe that this has not been possible in Suffolk because the financial case for a unitary Ipswich could not be made out, and any attempt to impose this solution would therefore have been open to legal challenge.

However, since Labour is not likely to win the next election, a postponement at this stage is effectively kicking the unitary issue into the long grass.

So Suffolk seems to have seen off unitary government and Babergh looks saved for now. This is a mixed blessing for us all. Talks with Mid Suffolk DC about cost saving co-operation will now continue with more urgency.

Standing back from the parochial for a moment it must be said that, as in so many other policy areas, the mess in which Labour has left Local Government in England as a whole however beggars belief.

Monday, February 8, 2010

First woman parliamentary candidate in Suffolk.

I am very pleased to read this morning that Suffolk at last has the chance of electing a female Member of Parliament.
Therese Coffey, who currently lives in Hampshire and works for the BBC, has won the nomination to be the Parliamentary Candidate for Suffolk Coastal. I see from her website that she used to work for the US confectionary company, Mars. I have a good friend who also worked for the company and know that they do not tolerate slouches so I am sure that she will work very hard for her constituents.
I have been concerned at the failure of female and local candidates to get anywhere in these candidate selection competitions. Now at least the female box has been ticked!
I hope that Therese will find time later in the year to come and talk to the South Suffolk Conservative Women’s Group (organised by women, but men always welcome at meetings!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Frogs in Davis, California

Our Californian reader writes with regard to a recent post:

'Your frog story was of special interest to me. Davis has a "frog tunnel" under one of our main thoroughfares, to make road crossing less dangerous for our frogs. However, no one knows whether any frogs have taken advantage of this tunnel.'

Many thanks Martha for your feedback! It's great to know that the blog is being read in such distant parts.

Pictured above is a Californian Bullfrog.

Cockfield Computer Circle, 2009-10 Programme, Remaining Sessions

You may be interested in these computer courses, held in Cockfield, which I believe are free of charge, although a donation towards overheads would, I am sure be welcome.

(Thanks to David Hodge for the information)

The Cockfield Computer Circle 2009-10 Programme is nearing completion. This is a reminder of the sessions in the final block of topics, for which there are plenty of places available. To book your place, please contact Neil Ashton, neilka@btopenworld.com, 01284 827238, 07900 880888.

Feb 22nd: Buying and selling on eBay Comprehensive guide on how to buy and sell items on eBay, and practical guidance on what to look out for when using eBay.

Mar 1st: Home Networking and Internet Telephony Choosing and setting up a home network, using either wireless or cabling.
Introduction to Voice over IP technology for making internet telephone and video calls (e.g. Skype).

Mar 8th: The PC and Music These days your PC is as much a media centre as a computing device. Your PC can be a CD library with a number of possible applications. These include synchronising with an iPod or similar mp3 player, interfacing to your hi fi for access to your CD library or for multi-room music systems, and just simply using media software and your PC to organise and play CD’s, and to create playlists. The exact content would depend on your specific interests, but the session could range from how to create and organise a CD library on your computer, to a higher level discussion on integrating your PC into a home music system.

March 15th:
Upgrading or buying a new PC Key things to look for when buying a new desktop or laptop. Guidance on upgrading your PC, adding new devices e.g scanner, external hard drive or DVD writer.

The Cockfield Computer Circle (CCC) sets out to help participants improve their computing knowledge and hence get more from using their PC. It is achieved through a combination of teaching and sharing of experience amongst participants in a relaxed environment. Some topics are aimed at beginners seeking to learn new skills and gain more confidence in using a computer, other topics are aimed at the more experienced user seeking to push their knowledge a little further.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hot News on Local Government Reform

There have been a number of rumours recently that Local Government Reform in Suffolk is unlikely to happen unless, of course, Labour win the forthcoming election. Now we have confirmation that Local Government Minister, John Denham, (pictured here) will indeed need to act quickly if he hopes to change the face of local government in Suffolk in the very short term.

Intelligence received by Babergh this morning states that unless draft orders on the issue are laid before Parliament by February 10, next Wednesday, there will not be time to allow for debate and passage through both Houses. The whole process needs to be completed by the end of March when Parliament goes home for the Easter Break, otherwise it will fail because after that time only measures that enjoy party consensus will be enacted.

It is probable that a decision on whether or not to proceed with reorganisation plans will be announced as close as possible to next Wednesday, so watch this space at the beginning of next week.