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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Feedback about the Royal Mail

Many thanks to all of you who have contacted me again about the problems you are experiencing with the postal service.  Those trying to run businesses are particularly unhappy, which is not surprising.

One local farmer writes about deliveries arriving at 4 p.m., instead at a sensible time in the morning and the post being thrown out of the van into the yard as the post van makes a speedy escape.

I have forwarded these e mails on to the relevant person at Royal Mail and await a further reply.

In the meantime, if you suspect that your mail has not been delivered when it should, or have other post related issues,  please let me know.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A reply from the Royal Mail

I received quite a speedy reply from the ‘High Profile Case Unit’ of the Royal Mail in response to my letter to their Chief Executive, Moya Greene, about the very poor postal service being received in the Ward.
This is in marked contrast to the lack of response I have experienced in other areas recently, notably from the County Council, where at least two outstanding matters raised by me personally appear to have been ignored. (This is not the fault of our County Councillor, Colin Spence, who has done his best to help ).
As I think we already knew, the postal service has ‘reorganised’ delivery routes in and around Sudbury in order to make them as ‘efficient’ as possible. It is this that apparently has caused the sudden and noticeable deterioration in service that many of us have experienced in recent weeks.
Apparently we can read about ‘what change is happening’ in our area by clicking on www.royalmail.com/opsmodernisation *
The writer of the letter expresses his regret about any ‘concern’ or ‘inconvenience’ caused. He was particularly concerned however to read that there have been days when no deliveries at all have been received in certain areas. Of course the Royal Mail has a statutory obligation to deliver to everyone every day and so it is understandable that this is a particular worry for the High Profile Case Unit.
Re-organisation or no re-organisation, the problem is that that services have suffered, and there does not seem to be much prospect of the former quality of service being restored. What we are seeing here of course is an attempt to drive down costs in order to make the Royal Mail a credible candidate for privatisation in due course. It is a great pity that the body does not seem to be embracing the concept of ‘doing better for less’, which will be essential if it is to remain profitable as a commercial enterprise.
Or am I being too harsh? Our deliveries do seem to have stabilised somewhat, in that they arrive at more or less the same (rather late) time every day now. I do not think we have been missed on any occasion recently either. However what is absolutely clear to me is that letters are taking much longer to reach us. I regularly receive a periodical, which is published on a Thursday and which until recently arrived with metronomic regularity on Friday, having been posted first class from London.
It is Sunday today, and I am still waiting for my mag!
I have no idea why this should be. Has the item been held up in Sudbury? Or somewhere else in the system....who knows? Only the Royal Mail itself.
*Don’t bother at the moment however, since the page is ‘being updated’.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A boost for GoStart

A very encouraging meeting of GoSTART’s volunteers and supporters was held yesterday evening. I was able to see at first hand that a good number of people have signed up as voluntary drivers and others have volunteered to do clerical and bus maintenance work.

There is a proposal that Section 106 funds available from the builders of the Tesco Development be used to purchase badly needed new vehicles, specially adapted for wheelchairs. This could be the piece in the funding jigsaw that ensures that a first class community transport service for the Sudbury area is up and running by the summer.

The service's revival would be a great relief for all those who are currently isolated in their homes and are unable to get out and about, not to mention schools and other community groups that have relied on the service in the past.

It is very appropriate that Section 106 moneys be used, since the aim is to compensate Sudbury Town Centre for the loss of trade caused by the out of town Tesco development, and I cannot think of a better way of doing this than making sure that more people can get into the Town centre shops and facilities.

As I have mentioned before, the service will encompass Little Waldingfield, which is to lose all but one Saturday bus service in the weeks to come, so residents of that village in particular should take a particular interest in helping the project to get off the ground. Donations will be gratefully received!

A number of question marks remain, and negotiations continue with the County Council. One important question is ‘Will bus passes work on the new transport? It seems only fair that they should given the fact that the County Council, and the public sector in general, will get a very good deal from the new services which will be mainly run by volunteers.

Anyone wanting to help out, either as a volunteer, supporter or donor should contact John Phillips on

01787 310840 or


E mail


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Golden goodbyes

I did wonder how long it would take for the newspapers to catch up with the fact that Babergh is, like every other employer in the country, obliged to pay redundancy to those it makes redundant.

Additionally, in common with every Government body, we are contractually committed to pay a lump sum to into the pension funds of those who take early retirement when they are 55 or more.

So yes, it is true, that we are paying our outgoing Chief Executive Officer, Pat Rockall, what she is entitled to as far as redundancy goes, and we are also paying a lump sum into her pension. This amounts in all to around £260,000, roughly two thirds of which relates to her pension.

We have no choice in this matter, and it is part of the not inconsiderable investment that we will have to make in order to achieve savings in the medium term. I would like to make it clear however that the savings are such that full payback will be made in two years; a good return by any measure,

It should be added that there is no question of paying more than we need! No additional golden goodbyes.

We have made no secret of the fact that these payments will have to be made, every councillor at Babergh is well aware of them, and most have voted through publicly available papers on several occasions in which they have been a clearly spelt out component of the business plan.

Now, you can say that it is wicked and wrong that public servants are entitled to this generous treatment, and indeed the Hutton Report seems to imply that the current system is far from perfect. Until the law changes however, and there is little sign of this happening in the short term, we have to play by the current rules.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Another scoop for the blog..Babergh's new chief.

Since it is hot off the press, I believe that I can claim to be the first to display to the world a picture of our very exciting and capable new Chief Executive Officer Charlie Adan.

Prior to coming to Suffolk to act as joint CEO for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council, Charlie was deputy Chief Executive in Hereford. She is a lawyer by training, and has considerable experience in change management. I was lucky enough to be on one of the panels responsible for the selection and am confident that she is the right person for the job.

She has family ties to Suffolk too, which is a bonus.

I am not at liberty to disclose her salary but I can tell you that, due to the fact that she is a 'shared resource', she will cost us less than half than Babergh's last CEO.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Can't wait for your fortnightly blog alert?

I have managed by some miracle to install a device whereby you can now get an alert by e mail every time I post on the blog!

At present only my husband Nick and I have subscribed to this service, but I know that you will be very keen to do the same!

Just subscribe by entering your e mail address in the box to the right and follow the instructions.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lib Dems' action threatens local poll on Council merger

‘I for one do not want to see one community grant reduced, or one service for residents cut, just to pay for a plethora of surplus to requirement District Councillors desperately hanging on to office and confusing the issue, while money is squandered, and Babergh and Mid Suffolk staff take the pain of job losses and redundancy.’

I suppose that it was too much to hope that yesterday’s extra Council Meeting would all be over by coffee time. I was rather hoping it would since I have developed a nasty cold and wanted to go and sit by the fire.

There were only two papers on the agenda. The second was a ‘Part 2’ item and therefore confidential so I can’t say a word about that. Suffice it to say that mercifully it didn’t take too long and I did get home for a late lunch.

The first looked innocuous enough, so I felt I was safe in expecting to be home by noon.

No such luck.

The proposals asked members to approve (or reapprove) the business case for both the merger of officer structures of Babergh and Mid Suffolk and also the potential constitutional merger which would form one council out of two. This sounds a bit dull, but stay with me reader, for you will learn much about the nature of political goings on at Babergh District Council if you do.

In their wisdom the Liberal Democrats had asked that this business case be verified by an outside auditor some time ago. Although I had faith in the scheme as prepared by our officers, since much of the scope for cost cutting is very transparent, I had no real issue with having a third party take a closer look.

This verification has now been done. The excellent work that was prepared by officers from the finance departments of both councils has been unequivocally endorsed by representatives from CIPRA. This body has been very active in recent years examining plans for corporate activity between local authorities in the UK and are generally considered to be the number one experts in the field. ‘Robust’,’ sound’, ‘conservative’, ‘accurate’, were some of the adjectives used by the man from CIPRA who came specially to the Council chamber to present his findings to us. Even if the costs of implementation of the scheme increased by 100%, he said, the business case was a sound one which would meet the Boundary Commission’s ‘Value for Money’ parameters.

This means that from a financial standpoint what we are doing, and what we are planning to do, is A VERY GOOD THING.

It seems however that the Liberal Democrats, despite the ringing endorsement of the scheme from people who, I would have to say, know rather more about the issue than they do, have now decided that they have lost their enthusiasm for a full merger. This is despite the fact that just five months ago all but two of their number voted, in principle to go ahead subject to the business case being verified. (See blog for Tuesday September 28th 2010 which describes the debate).

It was hard to grasp what was troubling them now that didn’t trouble them five months or so ago, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that with an election some weeks away , and with their own party doing even worse than the Conservatives in the opinion polls, they have been panicked into an attempt to create some political difference between themselves and the Conservative Group.

In the debate I urged Babergh members to consider the financial benefits to their constituents of a full merger (additional savings of at least £800,000 per annum for the new council), to put politics behind them, and to ‘do the right thing’. I for one do not want to see one community grant reduced, or one service for residents cut, just to pay for a plethora of surplus to requirement District Councillors desperately hanging on to office and confusing the issue, while money is squandered, and Babergh and Mid Suffolk staff take the pain of job losses and redundancy.

I don’t know if my words made any difference but the outcome was, in the end, just about satisfactory, as the motion to approve the business plan was carried by 19 votes to 15 with one abstention. The names of who voted which way have been recorded*

What is really frightening about the Liberal Democrat’s flip flop on this issue is that they risked bringing the whole discussion of a full merger to a full stop. If they had prevailed that would have been it, finished, the end. The residents of Babergh and Mid Suffolk would have been denied the right to vote on the question in the planned local poll that is due to take place immediately after the Local Government elections in May.

Not much liberal about that....or much democratic either.

*Three Independents voted for the motion, and three against, with one abstention. Our one Labour member voted against, but to give him his due, he has been entirely consistent in his opposition to the scheme, preferring to support a more fundamental unitary solution. Were this to be an option at present I would agree with him.

Flying the flag

On a windless drizzly morning yesterday councillors, who had supported the erection of a flagpole outside Babergh's offices in Hadleigh, were able to see it in action for the first time.

While the flag was not exactly 'flying' in the damp and airless conditions, nonetheless the flagpole is a fine feature, and it will be good to see the Union Flag on show on appropriate occasions.

Thanks are due to Peter Holbrook, the councillor for Bures St Mary, who is pictured below (with umbrella). Also pictured from left to right are councillors Brian Riley, Nick Ridley and Gerald White.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not as bad as it looks.....

Misinformation appears to be in danger of piling on more misinformation in today's Sudbury Free Press.

The report of Babergh officer Mike Hammond's presentation to the Sudbury Annual Meeting on the subject of Babergh's proposed merger with Mid Suffolk District Council does not make it clear that it is only the Babergh portion of Council Tax that will rise for Babergh residents if a full merger goes ahead.

It will not be a 1 percent increase on the total council tax bill (which might give people pause for thought!)

The increase will actually be under £2 per household per year, and amount to about a £6 to £7 increase over several years. Anyone receiving Council Tax Benefit will, of course, not pay.

This should be contrasted with the potentially far greater increase in council tax and other charges that are likely if the merger does not go ahead!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deterring oil thieves

We were very pleased to see PC Chris Garrod, from the Babergh West Safer Neighbourhood Team, at Little Waldingfield Parish Council yesterday evening.

There were two crimes reported in the village in the last month, which is well above average, and both involved thefts from oil tanks. As the price of oil has risen over recent months it seems that this has become a common problem.

Apparently the thieves follow oil tankers to try to identify when oil tanks are being filled, and the police are keen to hear from anyone who sees a vehicle that seems to be doing this.

The best way apparently to deter thieves is to fix an alarm to your oil tank. Padlocks can be a deterrent, but thieves have been known to drill through the side of the tank if their efforts to extract oil through the normal pipes etc. are frustrated. Apparently these alarms can be purchased from the oil companies, and they work by detecting sudden falls in the level of the liquid within the tank.

Another good idea is to screen the tank from the road so that it is less obvious. Wooden trellising is recommended, since this is attractive, can be covered with foliage, and also can be very uncomfortable if it collapses under someone’s weight!

However, I did find a screen made from wattle hurdling below on the net, which would be an attractive alternative. It can be obtained from:


Friday, March 11, 2011

Restarting GoSTART

Using Sudbury Community Transport, or GoSTART, is one way that residents of Little Waldingfield might be able to mitigate the loss of their daily bus service. The scheme, if it gets off the ground once again, will provide dial up transport for people within an eight mile radius of Sudbury, so people in Little Waldingfield should be able to benefit.

There is a determined move afoot to revive this service, which was forced to shut down last year owing to a lack of volunteers. Recently, having visited some elderly and infirm people in and around the Ward who relied on the service in the past, I wrote to the Cabinet Holder for Transport at the County Council, Guy Mcgregor, pointing out how the loss of transport has seriously impacted on their quality of life. Even where there is a regular bus service, many find it hard to walk to the bus stop and have become prisoners in their own homes.

GoSTART has recently managed to attract a number of new volunteers, but like so many other organisations, cannot survive on volunteers alone. Some small funding from the County Council is needed to provide a robust and reliable service.

I do hope that Councillor Mcgregor is sympathetic to this vital organisation, which as a true example of the Big Society in action, will provide at very reasonable cost the very services that the County Council is supposed to support. I will let you know what Councillor Mcgregor replies.

So far I am afraid I have not even had an acknowledgement

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Check the envelope...

This week everyone in Babergh will receive their Council Tax Demand for the coming year. You will be pleased to see that the Babergh portion at least is unchanged from last year thanks to a grant from central government.

Once you have absorbed the Council Tax message, don't just throw the remaining contents of the envelope away since also enclosed will be vital information that you will need to make up your mind when deciding whether or not to vote for a full merger of Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils from 2013 onwards. The local poll, which will be conducted by post and electronically, will take place immediately after the District Council Elections on May 5th.

Both councils have already decided to share a Chief Executive Officer (on which more soon), and also to go as far as they can in combining their officer structures. Taking the further step of actually merging the two bodies into one however needs the support of the public.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wait a minute Mr Postman!

In addition to concerns about rural transport, in recent weeks a lot of people have been complaining bitterly about the sudden deterioration in our postal services.

(The picture above is a throwback to happier times, when the postie had time to stop and pass the time of day, and also deliver the mail at a reasonable time!)

The time at which the post is delivered has been changed without warning, deliveries have become very erratic, and sometimes the post is so late that it is barely possible to respond, if necessary, by return of post. One resident received a letter at 4 p.m. in the afternoon informing him of a hospital appointment the next day which was extremely inconvenient. Letters have been mis-delivered, seem to have gone missing, and instructions to redirect have not been adhered to. There is also the suspicion that no post is actually being delivered to certain areas on certain days, which I believe is in contravention of the Royal Mail’s duty to deliver on six days of the week.

Since there seems to be a systemic problem across the whole Ward, I see no point in going through the ‘complaints’ procedure. I therefore am writing a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Mail, Moya Green and copying it to the Chairman, Donald Brydon.

Believe it or not it was very difficult to find the address of the headquarters of the Royal Mail on the website. Or perhaps, on second thoughts it’s not so surprising. I am sure that they don’t want to risk receiving letters, or wish to entrust their replies to the postal service in its current state.

I will report back.......