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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saving the planet starts in Suffolk

International attempts to protect biodiversity seem to be held back by politics, but locally it is possible to make a difference.

Failure to husband the world’s resources may well be catastrophic for human beings in the years to come. However, when it comes to trying to reduce one’s carbon footprint it is often hard to relate one’s own paltry efforts to the global situation. This is particularly the case when one considers the growth in carbon emissions from the third world. It feels that anything we do is less than a drop in the ocean.

There is one area however in which we can make an immediate and tangible difference, and that is in conserving the biodiversity of our surroundings. Next year, for example, with this in mind, Nick and I are hoping to increase the amount of our garden that is left to run wild, and we hope to plant more bee and insect friendly plants. We are also hoping that the pond that we created last year will see the arrival of some amphibians.

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, but I have to say that I have barely noticed any activity taking place at a national level, let alone at an international level, to support this. As the campaigning website AVAAZ* states:

‘By now, our governments were supposed to have "achieved a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss." They have failed, consistently caving to industry when given a choice between narrow profit and protecting species. Our animals, plants, oceans, forests, soils, and rivers are choking under immense burdens from over-exploitation and other pressures.’

Against this background the International Year of Biodiversity does not really seem to have caught the attention of the media. This week a major international conference on the subject has been taking place in Japan, but I would have been unaware of it without the AVAAZ campaign aimed at saving the whale! Yesterday’s final communiqué speaks of great progress being made, but since none of this is backed with any money, and the US has not signed up at all, it is possible to be a little underwhelmed.

However, here in Suffolk we should not be too downhearted. Several local conservation groups are actively promoting the cause of biodiversity and those interested can get involved in a number of different ways. There are even plans for a biodiversity trail around Sudbury.

One local group, Woodland BATS (Biodiversity around Town) holds regular work parties, including one in Acton tomorrow. Another group of activists is working to protect a population of some 6000 toads on a site on the edge of Ipswich.

For more information on BATS workparties, visits to sites of ecological interest, and other activities, contact Chairman, Peter Clifford on


*To learn more about AVAAZ , and get the chance to sign petitions on a broad range of environmental and human rights issues click on


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No news good news?

It seems that there will be no decision on the National Grid’s plan to march pylons across Suffolk until next year. I am indebted to the Stour Valley Underground Newsletter for this information. The Government has, I understand, told National Grid to ‘go away and research the cost of undergrounding the cables properly’, rather than keep repeating their unsubstantiated mantra that it is ’17 times more expensive’ to hide the offending wires underground.

For news and views on the pylon issue visit:


and click on ‘news’ for the latest newsletter.

The photograph above is from the organisation’s website.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What has George Osborne done to Babergh's finances?

First indications are that the Comprehensive Spending Review has made little difference to Babergh’s need to find savings quickly. Delay of a full merger with Mid Suffolk until 2013 reduces cost savings and is likely to threaten council services.

What impact will George Osborne’s spending review have on Babergh?

Well, firstly, the cuts to our Government Grant are just as bad as anticipated. We will lose £1.5 million in the next four years. To put this into context, this year our total budget is around £16.5 million, of which the Government Grant was the largest component at £6.2 million. Receipts from Council Tax amount to £4.6 million.

Scarily the cuts to the Grant are front end loaded (presumably to concentrate our minds). Although on average the reduction will be 7 percent per annum over four years, or around 28% in all, the first year (2011/12) will see a cut of around 10 percent.

The Government has made it clear that if we freeze Council tax, we will receive a 2.5% grant. In the case of Babergh this will amount to an offsetting plus figure of c. £150,000. However, the 2.5% grant will very probably be lower than inflation and overall we will still need to find c. £470,000 in cost savings as a result of the Spending Review.

Other measures mainly concern our housing activities. On the face of it it looks likely that Babergh will have more resources and flexibility to deliver better homes for people in the District. This is much to be welcomed. However it must be remembered that the financing of housing is quite separate from the rest of the budget and cannot be plundered to pay for other services!

Uncertainty remains with regard to the loss of funds from the administration of concessionary fares, and a number of other matters. Further clarification will be received in November and December and I will update interested readers where changes are significant.

Thus it can be seen that the future for Babergh remains tough, and no relief is currently being achieved by improved levels of fee income from planning applications and the like. Income from Long Term Car Parking charges, newly introduced and still controversial, must be seen as a welcome addition to the sadly depleted budget, as will the initial savings from the merger of our Revenues and Benefits operations with those of Mid Suffolk and Ipswich B.C.

I do hope that residents (and those councillors who voted against the idea) will now have a clearer idea of why the savings that will be achieved by a merger with Mid Suffolk District Council are so vital. As things stand, even the money saved by a full merger will not be enough to completely fill the gap between income and expenditure, and further cost cutting is inevitable, putting pressure on services.

What a pity that, following the outcome of meetings at the end of September, we cannot effect a full merger of the councils from 2012 as originally envisaged. There is no doubt in my mind that the delay, was brought about by lack of courage on the part of some Liberal Democrats and Independents (or perhaps unwillingness among some to relinquish their seats in a slimmed down council?). The postponement will mean that valuable savings will be postponed, running into several hundreds of thousands of pounds; funds that would have gone some way to seeing us through this difficult period.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Local star and diva Elaine Henson is once again appearing in a classic opera production at the Quay Theatre from 25th to 27th November. A performer of many talents, she takes on the small but important role of Flora, in addition to providing the alto chorus line and fulfilling other duties to support the production.

Verdi's La Traviata is a great opera, with many wonderful tunes. It tells the tale of a courtesan who gives up all for love and then makes a great sacrifice before expiring at some length in the last act. Based on 'The Lady of the Camellias' by Dumas it is riveting from beginning to end.

Do try to get along if you can!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Councillors encouraged to focus on ICT

As 'E Government Champion' at Babergh I am keen to see the Council move itself further into the 21st century by focussing more about the role of Information and Communication Technology.

In the State of the District Debate at the Council Meeting yesterday I made three points:-

Firstly, we must try to encourage the County Council and others directly involved to improve the situation with regard to internet reception in the more remote (and in some cases not so remote) settlements and villages in the District. At a recent workshop to discuss the Babergh Development Framework in Bildeston, every Parish Council present complained that internet speed is a real problem. If we are to encourage small local businesses, working from home and other desireable and environmentally friendly results then a decent broadband connection is essential.

Secondly, Babergh itself, and ultimately Baberth/Mid Suffolk, should make more use of audio and video conferencing facilities. This can be a real money saver for relatively small investment, and also stops people burning unnecessary petrol driving all over the District.

Thirdly, we must persevere in our efforts to encourage public access points, training and support, for those who are currently unable to access the internet. Those without internet connections are becoming increasingly disadvantaged. For example, they may be unable to access all public services, and are very disadvantaged when it comes to on line shopping, access to information etc. Between 20 to 30 percent of all households still have no connection, and it isn’t just the elderly who are in this situation.

My comments went down quite well, although some of the members present were alarmed at the prospect of video conferencing. This has been commonplace in the private sector for many years however and can work really well in practice. The picture above shows how 'realistic' it can be.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day one of Car Park charges in Sudbury

Well, life in Sudbury will never be the same again! Motorists now have to pay if they leave their cars in the Long Stay Car Parks for more than three hours. However the first three hours remains free of charge which should be long enough for most people to do their shopping.

If you need to park in Sudbury very regularly for long periods it is probably worth considering buying a season ticket. There are only a limited number of these available, but I understand that they are not all spoken for.

I was near Waitrose this afternoon and could see the new ticket machines. Unlike the introduction of the machines in the short term car parks a couple of years ago, they do seem to be quite clearly marked, and to avoid confusion large explanatory notices were standing prominently at the entrances to the relevant car parks. Let’s hope that all goes smoothly and that no one receives a ticket for not realising that they should pay. The front page of the Sudbury Free Press last week should act as a reminder for many!

I suspect that all will not be one hundred percent straightforward for people from the start however. If you have a problem and receive a ticket do get in touch with Babergh (and if necessary contact your councillor) if you feel that there is a fault in the system. Even the best laid plans go wrong; it is simply not possible to aim off for every circumstance.