Tuesday, June 29, 2010
It is no secret that Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are currently in talks to investigate closer collaboration in order to compensate for the fall away in revenues that is being experienced by both councils.
There are various possibilities. We could simply share our top management teams under a single Chief Executive. Alternatively we could go for a fuller merger of activities. We already have a very successful shared Waste partnership with Mid Suffolk. These arrangements have saved a good deal of money for council tax payers over the years and have won awards and plaudits from those bodies who are concerned with such things.
A full merger of the councils to make one authority, stretching from the Norfolk Border to the Shotley Peninsular and down to Bures, is also a possibility. This is of course a more radical solution which raises some of the problems and advantages of the unitary council arrangements that might have occurred under the late and ill-fated Local Government Reorganisation. There would be fewer councillors and larger Wards. Residents might feel remote from decision making, and in order to promote 'localism' it may be necessary to insert additional layers of government in the form of ‘community boards’ and the like. Depending on how these bodies are organised and funded, these may compromise the available cost savings. A full merger would need parliamentary, or at least ministerial, approval, and it is not certain at present how the new Government would react to such a request.
It is certain that this is one of the issues that will occupy Babergh during the last year of the current council (elections are due in May 2011). I am personally convinced that there is no alternative but to release the cost savings available from shared services. I am a little more cautious about rushing into a full merger, but think that in the longer term such a move is very likely. Many uncertainties remain but I will try to keep readers up with events.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Some of the benefits will be offset by the new requirement to publish all local authority expenditure in excess of £500 however, and if the Government forces us to go back to weekly refuse collections the savings will be further eroded. So perhaps it will be swings and roundabouts after all and we will have to continue to look elsewhere to meet our financial challenges.
The abolition of CAA’s should make a difference however. In addition to freeing up Councillor and officer time, statistics from elsewhere speak for themselves.
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government Website, Leicestershire councils, for example, found they had 90 full time staff collecting and processing more than 3,000 individual data items for central government at a cost of £3.7m a year. They also faced 83 different inspections every year.
We need to see more red tape disappear.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Peter Clifford, Chairman of Woodland BATS, the local conservation group, writes:-
'A local parishioner recently brought to my attention a patch of Bee Orchids that springs up in the middle of Chilton Industrial Estate but often gets mown down by overzealous contractors. This year I negotiated with two companies to leave the plants alone and only cut round them. The result is a little forest of over 100 plants - see the photos. So a good result.
What still puzzles me is how did this plant work out to make it seem as though a bee was feeding on it? This is super natural selection surely!
Apart from being an amazing plant, Bee Orchids often disappear for several years at a time and then reappear because they are entirely dependent on a symbiotic relationship with a mycelium in the ground. If it is a bad year for the mycelium then the orchids do not grow. Because of this it is virtually impossible to transplant them and so important to preserve any patches that we find.
If you want to see the plants live, they are adjacent to Mauldon's brewery (just to the right of the rear entrance) on Church Field Road by a post and wire fence.'
Woodland BATS’s AGM is on Sunday 11th July at 6 p.m. at the Pavilion Room at the Bridge Project in Gainsborough Street, Sudbury. In addition to normal business, the meeting will feature a film on the Tatra Mountain Nature Reserve in Slovakia. There will also be a short presentation about environmental issues in East New Britain in Papua New Guinea from Serah Nerius who is a local Chief!
Nothing parochial about BATS then! For more information call: 01787 730674.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Also my son, Matthew, is back from Australia at present, which is great, but also time consuming.
I have stored up some posts for when I am a little cooler, in every sense of the word, and hope to have them up on the site within a day or two!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
At present we have a Committee System, but many Members would prefer to move to a system where councillors are more directly accountable to the electorate for different areas of the Council's work under a Leader and Cabinet or an elected Mayor and Cabinet system.
This is a perplexing choice for the general public to make, and is not really helped by the paucity on information that is included with the voting card.
To find out a little more about the choices on offer you can take a look at the council paper on the subject that can be found on Babergh's website. This paper, in addition to outlining the current consultation, has an appendix in which the advantages and disadvantages of a Cabinet system as against the current arrangements are set out clearly.
If you wish to take a look at this please e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you details of the links.
Pictures from today's very successful Open Gardens event in Little Waldingfield, held in aid of the RNLI.
Over 200 people visited the lovely gardens, large and small, that were on show. According to the organisers over £1000 was raised during the day.
(These pictures are mounted in memory of Martha Amorocho, late reader of this blog and lively correspondent)
It was a real treat yesterday to go down to Acton church to hear cellist Orlando Jopling.
Orlando has been undertaking a ‘Cello Pilgrimage’, playing Bach suites in churches across the country with the aim of raising money to preserve the fabric of these precious places. So far he has raised around £27,000.
Orlando is member of a number of leading orchestras and also conducts. Despite having a bad cold he played with great accuracy and flair, filling the church with marvellous evocative sound. He is expecting to record all six Bach suites for solo cello later in the year.
Orlando is pictured here with Acton’s Chris Moss, who organised a very successful evening.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
As far as I can see from googling, Mr Hollobone, who became an MP in 2005, is on the right of the Conservative party having been a prominent member of the Monday Club when at Oxford.
I do hope that Tim is successful and becomes the Chairman of this Committee once again. He is genuinely interested in environmental issues and I am concerned that a man of the ‘right’ will not really have the right attitude towards the causes necessary to save the planet.
Having all received training and clearance, the first group of volunteers from Acton, Great and Little Waldingfield, went out with the speedwatch camera a day or so ago. I understand that a good time was had by all.
The reception from most passing motorists was friendly, and only one person travelling in excess of 37 mph was reported to the police. This is a good result since the aim is to deter high speed, not to punish it.
It seems however that one resident is less than happy about the project. Having driven past at an extremely slow speed in his 4 by 4, he returned a few minutes later on a bicycle, cycling as fast as he could go ( although it is not clear whether he was breaking the speed limit!) This would have passed unnoticed I suspect had he been wearing any clothing at the time. Is ‘streaking for the right to speed’ going to catch on I wonder?
If you would like to participate by becoming a volunteer to support the speedwatch campaign please contact your parish council. I understand that clothes are recommended, but not obligatory.
Monday, June 7, 2010
On Friday I went down to the Shotley Peninsular to discuss the establishment of a pilot Community Internet Project in co-operation with Chelmondiston Parish Council .
For some time at Babergh we have been concerned to encourage wider internet useage across the District. It saves money for us if people contact us on-line and opens up all sorts of possibilities for those who at present do not have internet access.
Statistics show that some 30 percent of households still have no access to the internet. A good number of these people are elderly, and some probably are not interested having got along without the facility thus far. However, rather shockingly, some are younger families who cannot afford a connection or a computer, and this lack of access not only inconveniences them but is an additional educational disadvantage for their children.
The aim in Chelmondiston is to access funds to site two computers in a quiet corner of the local pub. Training and support will be provided and it is hoped that this will be a win-win situation, both for the pub, who should sell a few more drinks, and the community. If the project is a success further sites will be explored, funding permitting.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Thursday’s edition of the Sudbury Free Press was remarkable in that every article that mentioned Babergh contained inaccuracies.
In order to set the record straight I thought I should make the following points.
Firstly, the newspaper reported that the Council has decided to postpone the introduction of a season ticket scheme for those parking in the long term car parks in Sudbury. Actually the reverse is the case and a scheme will be introduced in October when the charging regime starts. In this connection, however, I would warn people that the number of permits available will be limited (a mistake in my view), so keep an eye out and if you need a permit be sure to apply early.
The newspaper continually states that Babergh is ‘debt ridden’. Actually, as I have repeatedly pointed out this is not the case. The balance sheet of the council is quite sound, it is the projected difference between income and expenditure that is problematic. In fact councils are not allowed to borrow to fund day to day business, and to call the council ‘debt ridden’ shows a complete lack of understanding of local government finance.
Finally the article about the Local Development Framework was also misguided in a number of respects. Last week, as mentioned below, we received a letter from Local Government Minister Eric Pickles informing us that he intends to abolish the housing number targets set by the Regional Spacial Strategy. This decision means that we have to postpone going out to consultation on the recently completed report on the strategic objectives of the LDF until the situation is clarified. It has no impact whatsoever on the Local Plan that is currently in force. The Free Press did not ask anyone from Babergh for their view on Eric Pickles’ letter. It might have been sensible to do so, since this is a complex area that needs to be clarified by someone who knows what they are talking about.
It really does make one wonder what is going on at the Free Press?
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
It was an interesting evening yesterday for anyone with a mind even slightly interested in technology. National Grid held a seminar for Councillors to demonstrate more fully why they wish to build further pylons across Suffolk countryside to transmit electricity from Sizewell and the wind farms in the North Sea to London and beyond. The company was obliged to give this further information because without it the consultation might have been open to legal challenge. It seems that the company had failed adequately to discuss the other transmission methods that might have been used, such as using an underwater cable or burying the cables in a trench.
We learnt that consultation to date has elicited some 2500 responses from the public and organisations. Members of the public on the whole have been content to comment about the merits or demerits of the four routes on offer, but councillors, it seems, have demanded more information about the alternatives.
In the end of course it all comes down to money...pylons it turns out are by far the cheapest option. This is important, not just for National Grid, which after all will be compensated for the investment that it puts in, but for all of us who will see the level of cost reflected in our electricity bills. I personally believe that the case may not be quite as clear cut as National Grid make out, since it does seem that technology is rapidly changing in this area. However, I can understand that the company do not wish to experiment with new methods in what is a fairly crucial part of the grid.
In what is probably a positive development, National Grid seemed to imply that any cables that might traverse the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Dedham are likely to be undergrounded despite the additional cost. This method in itself is not without problems however.
Company management stated that the preferred route of most respondents to the consultation is Route 2, which of course is NOT the route that affects Waldingfield Ward, but which is the one that goes through the AONB. Although I am sorry that any part of the county is to be subject to this industrial blight, for the sake of those who might be affected in the Ward, I am hopeful that this preference will be translated into the final decision in due course.