Thursday, April 29, 2010
I heard about Babergh's lovely canteen a few months before I experienced it for myself. This is because my predecessor, Frances Bates, always used to sing the facilities' praises at Annual Parish Meetings.
It is a pleasant place, looking out over a green courtyard. Additionally it is somewhere that gives Members and staff an opportunity to socialise informally, have a low key meeting or just relax with a coffee.
I was therefore rather upset to learn that it may be the victim of the recent cost cutting measures that have been taken to bridge the 'black hole' in the current year's budget.
Yesterday, however, I heard that although hot meals are no longer to be available, sandwiches and drinks will still be on offer. It is hoped that more members of staff will use the facility and this will mean that it may be permanently reprieved.
If you are visiting Babergh it is well worth stopping by and having a coffee.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I have been out and about in this lovely weather doing a bit of work for the Conservative election effort, partly here in South Suffolk, but mainly in Ipswich, where young Ben Gummer is trying to unseat Labour’s Chris Mole.
I very much like Ben. He is clever and also extremely courteous. Some time ago he was supposed to be the guest speaker at a Branch event and was unavoidably unable to come at the last minute. Even though the lunch was not in his prospective constituency he wrote to EVERY PERSON who was there by hand to apologise for his non appearance.
I fear that after 6th May Ben will be too busy for such acts of politeness but it is nice to know that he is capable of them.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Does Babergh need rejuvenating?
This question was asked at yesterday’s Council Meeting at which the issue of whether to proceed with a consultation on a constitutional review was being debated.
Currently we are a ‘fourth option council’. This means that we make decisions through a hierarchy of committees. Although we are allowed to continue in this format because of our size, any new councils that are formed are now obliged by law either to have an elected mayor and cabinet (more suitable for towns), or a leader and cabinet executive. Many Councillors, including me, think that the time has come for Babergh to adopt the latter of these alternatives.
There are diehards, particularly among the independents, who say that they see no need for change. It is clear that they fear loss of influence under what they perceive as more ‘political’ arrangements. It is certainly true that those who are not in the Cabinet may feel more excluded from what is going on than they do at present. I do think however that there are ways of combating this, by having assistant portfolio holders for example. Committees will in any event still be necessary and there will be plenty of opportunities to serve on these!
I also don’t agree that the council will become more ‘political’ since if, as now, no party has overall control, the cabinet will be drawn from across parties...or at least from parties that agree to co-operate!
The big advantage I think is that councillors who hold portfolios will be much more personally accountable for what goes on in their area of influence. At present Babergh’s officers tend to be left to get on with things once they have been decided and, as we saw with the installation of car parking machines last year, some Member involvement in implementation might have been a good idea!
A final advantage is that less of a burden will fall on the Chairman of the Strategy Committee, who at present is invariably the Member who communicates with the press when things are perceived as going wrong. Nick Ridley fulfils the function very well, and is suitably robust, but I believe it would be good if the public realised that other Councillors have talent too!
You will have the opportunity to have your say on this shortly! If anyone wants more information in order to respond to the consultation, please let me know!
The claim that has really irritated me among the many inexactitudes that are being perpetrated by the Liberal Democrats during the election campaign is that they are in some way newer than 'the two old parties'.
I feel that I must remind people that the Whig party/Liberals, from whom sprung the Liberal Democrats, have far older roots than the Labour Party. The date that is generally quoted for their foundation is 1784, when Charles Fox assumed the leadership of the party in opposition to the Conservative, William Pitt the Younger.
The Labour Party, as I am sure that all my readers are aware, only got going in the early years of the 20th century.
The James Gilray cartoon (1783) above, which features leading Whigs of the age, is entitled 'The New State Whirligig'. The picture includes the words 'Poor John Bull's House plundered at noon day'.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
On Monday evening Babergh’s Strategic Housing and Economic Development Manager, Ian Tippett, gave an interesting talk at the Acton Annual Parish Meeting about the possibility of setting up an affordable housing scheme in the village. Babergh has noticed that around 20 of the people on the housing waiting list, which now amounts to 2000 families, come from Acton. It has therefore been suggested to the Parish Council that a housing needs survey be carried out in the village to guage the demand for affordable homes for local people.
Often such a survey discovers that, in addition to those registered on the council's waiting list, there are others in need who have not thought it worth registering. This means that the level of pent up demand in the village could be higher than the 20 already noted.
If a need is established, the Parish Council could decide to agree to sponsor a scheme in partnership with Babergh. Land would need to be identified and a Housing Association appointed to put the scheme into practice.
Acton, surprisingly, does not have that many ‘affordable’ homes in the village*. Of around 750 or so dwellings, only around 70 or so fall into the affordable category. The turnover of families from these properties tends to be very low, so it is not surprising that it is now believed there is a demand for more.
At the moment Babergh is very keen to promote these schemes in order to meet our affordable homes target. Usually a number of affordable homes are provided when estates of over 12 houses are developed. Typically around 30% of the houses built would be ‘affordable’. However, in the current economic climate few developers are making a start on new projects, and, as their profit margins are squeezed, some are attempting to renegotiate the percentage of affordable homes that they provide.
Ian’s talk was listened to with interest by the residents present and a number of good questions were put to him.
Any further news on this issue will be included on the blog. If you have any questions about this please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Babergh's definition of Affordable Housing: 'Affordable housing includes social rented housing and intermediate housing, provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market'.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
As the pictures show the opening of the new play equipment yesterday at Great Waldingfield was a grand event!
The top picture shows the mastermind of the scheme, parish councillor Harry Taylor, encouraging future users of the playing field at the opening ceremony. A large cake was provided and a good time had by all!
Friday, April 9, 2010
This is due to the fact that the picture was taken courtesy of Babergh and during the election Councillors who are in any way connected with proceedings (and that means leafleting etc.) may not use anything provided by the Council on published material.
I rushed off down to Sudbury this morning and had a set taken by the very nice and talented photographer at the bottom of North Street (between the Shoe Zone and Angelo Smith the jeweller). Very good value indeed. I highly recommend them!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
A good deal of interesting crud was found along the verge and in the ditch, including several tyres and various articles of decomposing clothing of dubious provenance. Also collected was the sign below, which dates from 2006, and which Abbots have been asked to remove on several occasions. Time to name and shame I think!
A brilliant effort by all concerned.
Incidentally this stretch of road is part of the route that Suffolk County Council claims to be safe for children to use when walking to school. Spending some time there this morning as cars and vans whizzed past did not convince me that their opinion is correct!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Local environmental group Woodland BATS has done sterling work in clearing out the Horse Pond in Chilton Grove and this is now clearly paying dividends!
In addition to sitings of Great Crested Newts, recently two rather more elegant visitors have been observed as can be seen from the picture sent courtesy of the Chairman, Peter Clifford.
It is worth spending time by the pond which is now a very pleasant spot for contemplation!
A Happy Easter to all readers of the blog.