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, March 31, 2010

Litterbug fined!

I have to say that I was very pleased to receive the press release below. I am so sick of people littering along the side of roads. At times I see some really horrid sights on my morning dog walks and simply cannot understand why people think it is ok just to chuck litter out of cars and vans.

A commercial vehicle driver has been fined £60 after an offence of littering was caught on a hidden camera.

Babergh District Council’s Environmental Protection Team uses hidden CCTV cameras to deter people from fly-tipping and littering by placing the camera in known hotspots and monitoring the footage.

And while reviewing camera footage recorded at a hotspot in the parish of Freston, in February, Babergh’s enforcement officers witnessed the driver throw litter out of the window of a lorry and then drive off.

The driver was traced with the assistance of the company responsible for the vehicle, and faced with the evidence against him, admitted his actions and chose to accept a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of £60 as an alternative to prosecution.

With litter in mind, there is to be a litter pick in Acton on 8th April. If you would like to participate please contact Margaret Maybury, the organiser, through me on 01787 378310.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring events

It is really great that the weather is getting warmer and that once again Saturday mornings are populated with events around the Ward.
Yesterday morning I went to two fundraising events: an auction in Chilton Church and a Table Sale at Acton.
The auction was the first event to be formed by the newly created Friends of Chilton Church and was a success. Over £200 was raised from the sale of a good many interesting ‘unwanteds’. I managed to pick up an attractive black and white religious plaque which comes from some Slavic country, but I have to say I am not sure which. I also collected a nice wallet, an old leather bound copy of Omar Khayam and a couple of potential raffle prizes for use at future events. Recycling is a wonderful thing.
Chilton Church is officially redundant and is in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, but its own trustees need to raise money for its upkeep. It is a truly beautiful place with some outstanding monuments and an interesting history. If you want to get involved with securing its future, and also meet some new people by joining the Friends, contact me and I will put you in touch with the right person.
Five services are held at the Church during the year, and a concert is planned for early June. The next service is on April 18th at 3 p.m.
The auction was so absorbing that I only had a short amount of time left to visit Acton. I did manage to pick up some more books to read over the summer although I think I missed most of the bargains.
Acton Village Hall is one of the many organisations in the District that now have to find additional money to pay a proportion of their business rates. I would therefore urge people to support the Hall Committee’s fundraising events.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No postcode lotteries?

The other day I was at a meeting at which five Citizen Advice Bureaux were represented. We were discussing future co-operation and at one point someone made the point that the County Council was very anxious to avoid ‘post code lotteries’ when awarding grants. This decoded as ‘it’s better for Sudbury CAB not to try too hard to be independent and work hard since you won’t be any better off as a result’

Well that may very well be the case when the County is distributing largesse, but it is certainly not so when they are trying to penny pinch. In what must be the ultimate example of a postcode lottery, and recipe for social divisiveness, some 13 families in Acton, living to the East of the village, have received letters telling them that the hard won bus passes that mean free travel to All Saints Middle School are to be withdrawn in September. What is more they were told that there was no right of appeal for 5 years! By which time of course it is quite possible that the school will be gone!

It seems that some jobsworth at the County has discovered that these few families in the village live just within the three mile limit which means that transport must be paid for. Acton Lane, the most direct route to the school, has already been judged too dangerous , so our inventive bureaucrat has devised a route of great ingenuity and complete impracticality. This goes along a road with a 60mph limit and no footpath, through Great Waldingfield, down to the Homebase roundabout and up through the new development to the School. They have added that children using the route should be accompanied by an adult! This is completely nonsensical of course; how many parents have the time to walk 12 miles a day to accompany their children to school? More cars and pollution will of course be the inevitable result.

The rules with regard to free transport to school are arbitrary and unrealistic and should be changed. in order to encourage bus travel when appropriate and yes, walking when feasible. What really enrages me about this however is the secret decision making and mean minded discrimination against a small group of families who happen to live 100 yards or so too close to a particular school.

Luckily Colin Spence, our County Councillor, who was not informed about any of this, has moved rapidly to have the decision with regard to the right to appeal overturned. This means that the families affected will now have the chance to have their voices heard so well done Colin!

There is as a result of Colin's actions, some sign that common sense might yet prevail....but it worries me very much that anyone thought that this sort of high handed, secretive, decision making could be acceptable in today’s society.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Keep a look out for lorries!

An alert resident of Great Waldingfield recently spotted a Brett Aggregates lorry on Valley Road, which, as we all know, carries a 7.5 tonne weight restriction. He has written to the management of Bretts to point out the illegality and is now awaiting a reply.
If you see a similar breach of the rules please do get in touch with me or with Peter Clifford, the Chairman of Chilton Parish Council. Records are being kept which should help to support any future campaigns against quarries and other industrial activities in the area.
On this subject, I was very sad to see the report of the latest fatal accident on the A134 at Newton. The Highways Department can hardly claim to be unaware of the dangers of this stretch of road by now and should be looking to make improvements.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Community engagement-at the community's expense

On Wednesday I went to a conference in London on the topic of community engagement...at least I think that was what it was about! It was run by the Improvement and Development Agency which is part of the Local Government Association and which ‘works’ with local councils to ‘improve performance’. In my experience this really decodes as spreading central government propaganda at your expense. The conference was entitled: Future Communities/ Future engagement.

I went because I was keen to find out what Babergh and I can do better to reach out to people in the District who don’t go to meetings but might be encouraged to, or who might want to let us know what they think in some other way. I am not sure I came away any the wiser.

There is a real confusion between the concepts of community engagement and community empowerment, a confusion that was not resolved at the conference. It is one thing as an elected representative to make sure that one engages with the people that have elected you, but, in my view it is something quite other to cede the decision making powers of elected representatives to the community as a whole (or at least those members of the community who shout the loudest). The idea of community empowerment was very close to the heart of Hazel Blears (remember her?), and it is clear that remnants of her enthusiasm remain with the current lot. We moved seamlessly from engagement to empowerment in the course of the day, to the point where we were being asked whether there was any need for elected councils at all. (You may well think not of course!)

As a Russian scholar, I am reminded immediately of the Bolshevik call for ‘all power to the Soviets’ (The word Soviet roughly translates as local party committee, but can be taken to mean ‘the people’ in a wider sense.) In Soviet Russia the call to empower people with this different sort of ‘democracy’ actually meant an awful lot more concentration of power at the centre!

Anyway I spend a happy day surrounded by a few fellow councillors from around the country and an awful lot of very pleasant and intelligent local government officers with titles like ‘Service Development Lead Specialist’, Locality services Area Co-ordinator’ ‘Localities officer’ ‘Engagement officer’ etc. etc. Most had spent a happy night at their council tax payers’ expense in the rather elegant central London hotel at which the conference was held.

I hasten to reassure readers that since the conference was ‘free’, and I was in London anyway, my attendance cost Babergh nothing, but I fear that the taxpayer was probably picking up quite a hefty bill overall.

Surely this sort of nonsensical event represents one of the last gasps of this over-bureaucratic, over-meddling, over-spending Government?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Clean at Chilton

Peter Clifford, Chairman of Chilton Parish Council, tells me that the Chilton Spring Clean that took place on Saturday was a great success.

‘42 large black bags of rubbish were collected plus assorted sheets of plastic, car parts and planks of wood. 15 volunteers from around Chilton took part over three and a half hours and we cleaned up all the way from St. Mary's Close to the Carbonels at Chilton Corner, a distance of 1.1 miles. Also thanks to our first class Community Warden, Bradley Smith, who helped me organise things and provided the equipment.

‘We also recovered a wallet containing a driving licence and credit cards and this was passed to the Police. The Police have already notified the owner and while the credit cards have been long since stopped he was relieved that they had not been used for illegal purposes.

‘What interested me was that the youngest person taking part was 44. Whilst it was not an activity for small children next to the road, I do wonder whether all the environmental messages are really getting through at the schools and where were all the younger generation?

‘ I also read in my news magazine this week that that floating island of rubbish in the Pacific now covers a continuous area of 540,000 square miles - that's six times the size of the UK! Now that's a growing horror story that is reflected in our own environment where part of the population continues to foul its own nest!

Food for thought there I think! Our excellent Community Warden, Bradley, is pictured above with the rubbish and the scene below shows some of the volunteers working along Waldingfield Road.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bells and Books at Acton Church next Saturday

Next Saturday, 20th March, between 10 am and 4 pm, there will be a book sale at Acton Church . There will be the opportunity to hear the Church's fine peal of bells ringing out from time to time during the day.

Last year the quality of the books on offer was very good. My husband Nick was delighted to be able to acquire a complete set of the memoirs of the great lover and confidence trickster Casanova. There are six volumes of the set and as can be seen from the photograph above arranging them in the correct order on the bookshelf creates an exotic impression that always elicits a comment from visitors!

Do go along. I’m sure you’ll find some reading for the Easter holidays.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Help offered with car park patrols.

I could not help but be amused when I, presumably along with other councillors, received the advertisement above on my Babergh e mail within days of the Council's decision to charge for long term parking in Sudbury and Hadleigh. The e mail's title was 'Do you suffer from Car Parking Problems?' a question that must have struck a chord with many of us.

Hexagon Parking Control were certainly quick off the mark in asking a very timely question. However, I do not expect Babergh to be using wheel clamps or dispensing with the services of the 'Terminator' any time soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Boris rallies the troops

I have spent most of today at the Conservative Local Government conference in London. The mood was reasonably upbeat although I thought that David Cameron’s voice was a bit hoarse. He probably needs a rest from constant speaking engagements.

David Cameron’s message was that an incoming Conservative Government would increase the transparency of local councils by obliging them to publish every item of expenditure over £500 on the web. He acknowledged however that, unlike MP’s, councillors allowances etc. have been publicly available for some years. He also promised to increase the power of elected representatives by doing away with non elected decision making bodies such as the East of England assembly and other quangos and moving decision making closer to the local community.

I hope we will get the chance to see these commitments become reality.

The star of the conference was inevitably Boris Johnson, who, while expressing complete confidence in a Conservative victory at the General Election, likened the party’s current position to Odysseus’s arrival home to Ithaca after 13 years of travel, Hilary’s ascent of Everest in 1950, or the last few minutes of the 1966 World Cup. Of course everything could have gone horribly wrong. The Greek hero might have found Penelope in bed with one of the suitors, Sherpa Tensing might have dropped a crampon at the crucial moment, or England might have scored an own goal...but they didn’t!

This optimism, together with his description of Liberal Democrat policies as ‘cake...they are pro having it and pro eating it’, enlivened the assembled councillors no end and they really looked quite animated as they made their way to their break-out sessions.