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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Go Start News

I understand from the organisers of Go Start that some 180 residents in the area have now signed up for the service, and some of them come from Waldingfield Ward!

This is good news and I look forward to featuring the bright and shiny new vehicles that are to be purchased with S106 money administered by Babergh.

I could not help being amused by the picture above.  I know that local newspapers have a deep seated hatred of Conservative politicians, which is of course their privilege, but I really do think that they should draw the line at cutting us in half!  The picture would have been somewhat improved if I had been entirely excised.   Oh well.....half a photo opportunity is better than none!

Settling into some new jobs

During the last week or so I have been very busy attending meetings related to a couple of new roles that I have taken on at Babergh.

It is inevitable that when you have served one term colleagues start looking to you to take on some extra responsibilities.  As a result I now find myself on the Joint Implementation Board that will oversee the integration of the officer structures at Babergh and Mid Suffolk.  Following the No to Merger vote, this process will probably now be more rapid and intense than it might have been. The need to make significant cost savings has not gone away!  The first meeting was very interesting and news of first steps in the process will be made public in the weeks to come.

Another new role is taking on the Chair of the Babergh Community Safety Partnership.  This body fulfils Babergh's statutory obligations in the area of crime reduction and anti social behaviour, and the role sits well with the work that I have been doing in recent years with the West Babergh Safety Neighbourhood Teams.  In my opinion there is something of a gulf between the strategic planning (done by the Safety Partnership) and the bottom up information from the 'real world' as provided by the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and it will be interesting to see if some joining up can be achieved in this area!

I am determined to manage these extra responsibilities and also continue to support people in the Ward. In this respect I am very lucky to have extra help in the form of Frank Lawrenson, who, I understand, attended the Great Waldingfield Parish Council Meeting on Monday and who has already taken up several problems with the relevant authorities!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Diane and Actaeon

Diane and Actaeon by Thomas Gainsborough,  owned by her Majesty the Queen.
Today I have spent a very exciting day at Gainsborough’s House, generally ‘being in evidence and ready for anything’ while preparations continue for Diane and Actaeon , an exhibition that opens on Saturday.

There are some really marvellous pictures in the show, including the above painting by Gainsborough of the classical scene of the goddess and her unfortunate admirer, together with our own preparatory drawing for the work. The painting, which belongs to the Royal Collection, was purchased by George IV when he was Prince of Wales.

It has been fascinating watching the experts, including our own Museum Assistant, Sophie, getting to grips with arranging and hanging the paintings, some of which are very large indeed.  It has also been interesting to meet representatives from the various galleries who have loaned pictures, all of whom have accompanied the works to Sudbury.

Including works by Renoir and Turner, as well as another ‘borrowed’ Gainsborough from the Tate Gallery, Diane and Actaeon promises to be a wonderful exhibition and I hope that as many of you as possible will manage to visit the House while it is on.

Busy hanging some of the smaller works

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Babergh and Mid Suffolk - a disappointing, if not unexpected, result.

Most people will know that I am disappointed that Babergh’s residents have voted against a full merger with Mid Suffolk District Council.  It is clear that the majority of people found the case for merger unconvincing.  I have to confess that I find it hard to understand why there is such an enthusiasm for sticking with the current, rather unsatisfactory,  status quo.

I'm sorry to say that many people in the District were mislead by ill-informed scare stories regarding Mid Suffolk’s financial strength, and also about the probability of car parking charges being introduced for short term stays in town centres were the merger to go ahead.

I can’t help feeling that Babergh has been denied a great opportunity, not just to save money, but to become a more streamlined, stronger, more effective entity.

We will still be continuing with full integration of officers under our new CEO, who held a very fruitful workshop on the subject last week.  However, as I think was made plain in the documentation that accompanied the poll, the savings that will be achieved by this will by no means fully compensate for the expected loss of our grant from the Government.  This means that we will inevitably now have to think about revisiting the level of charges for all services and, very regrettably, support for community groups may well be cut again.

When I heard the news I was at a planning training course at Mid Suffolk’s offices, and I felt that the Mid Suffolk members were also disappointed by the result.  I have got to know some of them quite well, and on the whole they are friendly and positive and they continue to look forward to closer co-operation with Babergh.*

In contrast to our political opponents, we wanted residents to have their say.  They have done so, and we must abide by their decision.

*I should tell you that I parked my car in a totally free car park, of which, contrary to received opinion,  there are several in Mid Suffolk.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A missing link!

Part of the Lavenham Railway Walk
Off to Lavenham yesterday with Christine Johnson, Acton Parish Councillor, to a meeting held to discuss Suffolk County Council’s wish to divest themselves of responsibility for the Lavenham and Long Melford Railway walks.

In common with a number of the County’s divestment projects their ‘timetable’ has now slipped.  County Council officers have, as a result, had the time to notice that part of the Lavenham Walk, including the larger part of a very interesting Site of Special Scientific Interest, does not lie in Lavenham Parish at all, but in Acton.  This was spotted by Lavenham Parish Council a little while ago, and, as a result, they have been including Acton in their discussions.  However, I honestly think that the penny only finally dropped for some of the County Council officers yesterday afternoon.

It is the County’s clearly stated desire not only to get rid of the railway walks, including the SSSI, by passing them over to local communities, but also to create a public (rather than permissive) footpath along its length such that one can actually link the Lavenham section with the Long Melford part.  At present it is only possible to do this by trespassing (probably) or by going a very long way round! 

I do not wish to prejudge, the attitude of Acton’s Parish Council when County Council officers finally get round to approaching them to discuss their plans.  However there are a few obvious problems.

Firstly the path and the SSSI is a long way to the north of Acton and it is currently inaccessible from the footpath system leading from the village.

Secondly, the cost of maintaining of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (which is incidentally fantastically beautiful) is far higher than that of any other part of the route.  This is because the sides at that point are steep and have to be cut manually and with great care to avoid damaging the wild orchids etc that grow in the chalky soil (yes chalk!).

I do hope that some accommodation can be found through co-operation with Lavenham and Long Melford.  A joined up path would be of clear benefit to their communities.  However, it is hard to see how any benefit accruing to Acton residents would justify a large financial outlay.
Part of the Long Melford walk