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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't leave valuable items in your car!

Do be careful and don't leave things on view in your car!  It is a great temptation to thieves as can be seen from the message below from the police:

Between 6pm Tuesday 29th and 7.30am Wednesday 30th November on the High Street, Acton offenders have smashed the rear window on a silver Volkswagen van parked on a driveway. Three power drills, Bosch jigsaw and three extension leads were taken from within.


Between 11pm Tuesday 29th and 7am Wednesday 30th November on Old Post Office Row, Acton offenders have smashed windows on a grey Ford car parked on a driveway. A Tom Tom satellite navigation system and a Samsung laptop computer were taken from within.

Were you in the area at the time, did you see anything suspicious? Do you know the name of the offender or offenders? If you have any information please contact Suffolk Police on 101 quoting reference SU/11/2668 and SU/11/2667.

Anti social behaviour? What is Babergh doing?

It seems that few people know that District councils have statutory responsibility for community safety.  Unlike dustbin emptying and planning a lot of the work done in this area goes on quietly behind the scenes, and is moreover, done on something of a shoestring.

Having chaired the West Babergh Safer Neighbourhood meetings for some time, after the elections in May,  I became the Chairman of the Babergh Community Safety Partnership. This has been a mixed experience.  Being honest, sitting in meetings reading reports and looking at ‘incident statistics’, I have found it difficult to get to grips with what the relevant officers actually do on the ground.

Accordingly over the next few weeks I have decided to spend a little time meeting the (rather few) officers who are working in the area throughout the District. This morning I started my investigations with a trip to Sudbury Police Station to talk to Babergh’s Anti-Social Behaviour Network Officer, Sally Watson.

Sally’s job specification is very broad.  Working from the Police Station, she has a high level of autonomy with regard to how she chooses to tackle anti social behaviour reduction in the District. With other agencies, such as the police, housing, and social services, she works with problem families, and also with ‘problem places’ (remember the boy racers around Kentucky Fried Chicken a few years ago?)  She also works in and around schools, the main aim being to nip bad behaviour in the bud through education and communication; (What would you think if someone treated your gran like that?).  A success story is the progress made in discouraging underage drinking.  A very striking video has been produced which shows young people at risk the dangers of alcohol abuse, seen through the eyes of three local young people whose lives were almost ruined by the demon drink.

Reading some articles on the subject on the internet I have discovered that many anti social behaviour practitioners are criticised for being reactive rather than proactive when addressing the problem.  I do not think that this is a criticism that can be levelled at Babergh!

Sally has won, and been nominated for, a number of awards for her work and I had a very interesting meeting with her.  I asked her if her life was a bit like painting the Forth Bridge; she might sort one group of young people out, but they would soon be replaced by the next generation.  There seems to be an element of truth in this, but the effective, work done with older troublemakers does have a knock on effect on their younger imitators it seems.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Babergh officers will strike on Wednesday.

 It is very likely that some Babergh officers will participate in the national strike due to be held on Wednesday 30th November.

Over its 30 years plus history Babergh has enjoyed very good labour relations and if, as now seems likely, the strike goes ahead, it will only be the second time that Corks  Lane has witnessed an industrial dispute. Of course the issues at stake on this occasion are not local ones, although many officers will be affected by proposed Government changes to public sector pensions.  There is however no reason to believe that the normal state of harmony that prevails at the council will be upset for long.

Everyone, of course, has the right to withdraw their labour without fear of reprisals, and this right must and will be respected.  Nonetheless at a time when jobs are actively under review it would be natural if some officers at Babergh, and across the public sector as a whole, felt some small hesitation when considering whether or not to strike.    It is also the case that those who wish to work should not be prevented from doing so, and I am sure that any persuasion or picketing that takes place will be reasonable and peaceful.

I understand that contingency plans are in place to deal with any emergencies that occur around the District on Wednesday.   On the whole I suspect, and also much hope, that only a small number of residents will be affected by the participation of Babergh’s officers in industrial action on this occasion.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Open late this evening

The Gainsborough's House shop is staying open late this evening in order to participate in the Christmas Shopping event in Sudbury.

Do go in and have a look at the very special range of cards and other beautiful items for sale!

Volunteering, a way into work?

There is good deal in the media today about Government programmes to help young people who cannot find work.

In the course of meetings this week I have been discussing how, in a small way, two of the organisations with which I work in Sudbury are doing their bit in this area.

Gainsborough’s House has applied for, and received funding from the European Community to run a six month volunteer development scheme for the economically inactive.  This will involve some younger people, in addition to older people seeking to get back into work such as young mothers with children, and even pensioners.  Participants will learn about how the museum works and get practical experience as room stewards in the office and in the shop.  I understand from the organiser, Nick Winch, that the level of interest has been high.

The CAB has for a long time tried to attract young people as volunteers.  Often we train them and then they move on to paid work, sometimes within the CAB service.  This can be rather frustrating, but they do make a contribution while they are at the Bureau and it is gratifying when, having gained some confidence, they can move onwards and upwards.

Some people are cynical about such schemes and see them as exploitation. Of course since we are talking about volunteers no payment is involved. However, the people involved do get something to add to their CV, and it could be that that makes all the difference to that crucial job application.

Weed in the Ward

Yesterday I received the following press release from the police:

Suffolk;  cannabis factory found in Acton ,Sudbury
Police in Sudbury  have seized around 50  cannabis plants following the discovery of a  cannabis factory  in Daniels Close Acton  on Thursday 24th November 2011.Officers entered the address at 3am this morning
Police picture taken at the site

A 32  year-old man  was arrested at the scene on suspicion of production of a controlled drug. He was taken to the Bury St Edmunds  Police Investigation Centre

Inspector Crick would like to  encourage anyone with information or concerns around possible cannabis factories or drugs in general to contact Suffolk Constabulary on 01473 613500.or speak to officers at Sudbury police station.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another important article from local conservationist, George Millins

At the risk of being repetitious, here is a summary of things to do which will help our wildlife through the winter.
Rotting trees..a winter refuge for reptiles

Providing food and water for birds will be at the top of most people’s agenda but keeping feeders clean is equally important. In recent years large numbers of Greenfinches were lost to a disease which, at least in part, was passed on via dirty feeders and water containers.

Please be aware of hibernating amphibians, reptiles, bats and hedgehogs.  Reptiles are less likely to be found in gardens and will usually hibernate safely below ground in old mammal holes, beneath rotting tree stumps and established rubble piles. Amphibians are often in far less secure hibernacula, some choosing to over-winter at the bottom of ponds. Bats will use lofts, barns and other roof space, and where available, holes in trees. Hedgehogs have declined dramatically over the last decade or so and are very vulnerable indeed, they may be spending the winter months in a pile of leaves under a hedge, in a bush, under low garden shrubs or under an old outbuilding - all these locations may ultimately be where they will create a nest and produce young next season. If any hibernating animals are accidentally disturbed please call one of the numbers below or the County Wildlife Trust for help and advice.

There are three major factors involved in the continued rapid decline of wildlife. Modern intensive farming methods have had a great impact on all groups of wildlife including amphibians. A vast number of ponds on arable land have been back filled and lost to the plough, and where they remain, are usually surrounded by trees and scrub, shading out aquatic plants, consuming large amounts of water and causing the pond to progress to just a damp hollow. Even if the pond remains open to sunlight, in an arable field it lacks the terrestrial habitat required to support amphibians, this should be about ten times the area of the pond and consist of rough grazing meadows, hedges, marshland, scrub or woodland - the clue is in the name amphibian, when not engaged in breeding activities most of the population will be terrestrial.
The Silver Studded Blue...sacrificed to Sainsbury's
The second factor which has been even more destructive over the last decade is of course the urban sprawl which includes many new road structures dissecting and isolating habitats. New developments have destroyed vast amounts of habitat, those rough Brownfield sites were excellent habitat for a whole range of mammals, birds, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles - the impact on the latter three groups has been very severe as they have nowhere else to go. True, reptiles and some amphibians are protected and efforts are made to remove them to chosen receptor sites such as Cornard Country Park and Old School Wood at Gt. Waldingfield, but no new sites have been allocated  and any maintenance of such sites depends largely on unpaid volunteers - they are a bit thin on the ground! The laws created to protect our wildlife are very weak indeed enabling those who should implement them to easily find a loophole. The reptile populations in the Sudbury, Haverhill and Ipswich areas have been decimated in recent years along with other attendant species - a good example being the Silver Studded blue butterfly. This is a heathland species which has been eradicated from a section of heathland in Ipswich occupied by Sainsbury's, This store carries a large image of the butterfly on the front of the shop, but efforts to translocate this rare and beautiful insect failed so the image is now tragically, just a memorial.

The third reason for excessive losses to our wildlife, in particular bees, butterflies and other invertebrates, reptiles and small mammals, all of which are food sources for other creatures such as the Barn Owl and most other bird species. This reason is actually quite unnecessary and adds to our council tax bill, it is of course the creation of green deserts by repeatedly mowing every bit of amenity grass-land. Given the serious declines in all grass-land species, given the cost, and the fact that grass-land removes more carbon from the atmosphere than woodland, this is absolute MADNESS! Man continues to display a total lack of wisdom; yes we are innovative, can journey to the moon and beyond but lack the simple common sense to preserve our own planet and the treasures it contains, which incidentally, are essential to our ultimate survival, and all in the name of tidiness, a human perception only.

Can we do less of this?
 If anyone has the slightest inclination to help wildlife in and around your garden, or help with habitat work on local sites please contact me. A small group are currently working on Shawlands Wood and Bank with the aim of improving the habitat for existing species and attracting a wider variety of wildlife. There are a variety of tasks, something for everyone, this work party is scheduled for the second Sunday in each month starting at 10-00 and finishing 12-30 to 13-00. Our aim is to achieve Local Nature Reserve status so we need to record species present, in particular, birds and invertebrates. We are currently creating a butterfly area which requires careful management and the planting of native butterfly food and nectar plants. If interested just turn up on the day or call one of the numbers below.

George Millins  01787 374874 mobile 07534 263629


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Drums and cutters

Well the councils were listening, but no one was saying anything....

A public meeting was held yesterday evening at Sudbury Upper School aimed at seeking community views on the hard pressed budgets of both Babergh District and Suffolk County Council.  It looked at first sight as though it was going to be something of a non event.

Of the 10 people huddled in the gloomy lecture hall, which would have accommodated at least 300 people, only two, stalwarts from Citizens Advice and the Bridge Project, were not elected representatives.   The Mayor of Sudbury, Tony Platt, who always takes his job seriously, was in attendance, and apart from him only a handful of Conservative Councillors from Babergh and from the Town Council had turned out to listen.

This was, of course, a disappointment.  I know from my many years as an investment analyst that a lot of people find financial matters pretty tedious, and the finances of local authorities only really arouse people when they are being asked to fork out for some service or other, or are facing a substantial increase in council tax. I wonder what would have happened if the meeting had been billed as a chance to ‘have your say on short term car parking charges.’ ?.  Even this, I fear, might not have brought out the crowds on a chilly November evening.

All was not lost however, and the evening was not without its amusements.  Babergh’s Director of Finance, Barry Hunter, is always an entertaining speaker.   He boldly addressed the rather sparse audience as though the hall was full, and pointedly ignored the fact that many of us were already well aware of the tale of financial woe that he was telling.  At one stage someone started to have what sounded like a rather loud drumming lesson in an adjacent room.  This enlivened the proceedings somewhat.

Also, after the presentations, since councillors love to talk, we all had a jolly good chat among ourselves about the issues.  Some interesting ideas were aired.  It was good to engage with representatives from the County, and I think we should take time to do this more often.  I do envy the County councillors the flexibility that a budget in excess of £1bn gives when it comes to taking hard decisions!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Help to prevent metals theft

Two people have forwarded an e mail to me suggesting that I might like to sign a petition seeking to amend the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964.

I am normally rather careful about signing petitions. As several councillors found out a few years ago, doing so can restrict your ability to vote in the council chamber.  However I don’t think that there is any issue in this case and I have in fact already signed.

The aim of the petition is to try to stop the rising amount of thefts of metal, including cable and lead from church roofs, by making it illegal for scrap metal dealers to pay for metal in cash.  It is thought that this would go a long way to stopping the thefts since it would be very much easier to trace the seller (apparently).

Bearing in mind the fact that both Acton and Chilton churches have recently suffered the theft of lead from their roofs, and a number of local commuters have been seriously inconvenienced by cable theft from along the railway lines, it seems to me that anything that can be done to help stop this sort of crime must be a good thing.
If you would like to sign the petition go to
and follow the instructions!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Time for old friends, and a few seals too.

Norfolk Seal, just visible!
Two years or so ago my cousin Jean died. We were close, but she lived in the Cotswolds which is a little way away. At the time we had been meaning to go up to see her.  The trouble was that we were both busy and  so we kept putting it off.  And then, all of a sudden she had gone and I was really sorry that I had not managed to make the time to take the trip.

With this in mind we have been spending a lot of our spare time this autumn visiting friends and family who live a little way away.  We visited my uncle in Leigh on Sea a week or so ago, and this weekend we went up to Norfolk to see Seb and Jez, two old friends who have recently moved to East Anglia from Kent.

They live just inland from Bacton, which apparently is a less fashionable part of the county than the 'fashionable' north coast.  It is wonderfully quiet and there are some nice sandy beaches, although they are rapidly eroding in places.  We were dispatched to a place where seals are often in evidence.  I gather that these shy beasts are getting fed up with being stared at by boatloads of people in Blakeney and that many have migrated to the quieter east coast. They find that the offshore sea defences attract and trap a lot of fish for dinner! We were lucky enough to see quite a lot swimming out at sea, and although one came very close,  none came up onto the beach.
Nick and Rendle on the Beach with sea defences just visible

Friday, November 4, 2011

A New Waste Transfer Station for Sudbury?

At yesterday's Strategy Committee Meeting Members agreed, following the recommendation of the Suffolk Waste Partnership of which Babergh is a member,  that officers should investigate adopting a joint approach to contract procurement in the area of waste transfer and recycling (i.e. rubbish to you or me).  This would mean that Babergh would join with the other 6 District Councils in Suffolk, together with the County Council in order to get the best possible value in contract negotiations.  The combination would also enable us to take a truly ‘county wide’ approach  to waste and make sure that the logistics of the service are optimised.

At present all the rubbish lorries that collect refuse in the Sudbury area are obliged to drive separately to Great Blakenham so a local collection point  would, on the face of it, seem to be a better way of doing things.   
Where it goes now.  Recycling at Great Blakenham
However at the meeting I did ask a question about a potential increase in overall traffic movements locally.  The answer I received was reasonably reassuring but none the less this is something to be alert to.
Traffic control around the new site would need to be carefully organised to minimise nuisance to any nearby residents.  Furthermore, at the transfer station the rubbish would be transferred into larger vehicles for onward transportation to the County Council's proposed energy from waste facility (a computer generated image of which is pictured below).  This is scheduled to come on stream from December 2014.  It is important that the route these vehicles take from Sudbury is carefully prescribed and does not include driving through vulnerable village centres, or along country roads!
Where it will go after 2014

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Over 9000 jobs, but for whom?

Homes?  Should they have been built here?
I am indebted to my colleague Brian Riley who has written today on his blog about the Babergh Development Framework consultation event at Hadleigh yesterday evening.

Of particular interest was a question about the vast number of jobs that the plan envisages being 'created' in Babergh over the next 20 years.  I quote:

'One of the anomalies thrown up in the briefing was that we are providing for about 9,700 new jobs in Babergh by 2031. The question was asked how come we are creating four new jobs for every home to be built. We were told that the figures were not directly comparative – but by pressing the point we were told that some of the jobs were to be created on the Ipswich fringe for Ipswich people, since there was a shortage of land for job creation in Ipswich. The reason for this shortage is because Ipswich had encouraged businesses to move outside their boundaries to be replaced by housing. Businesses bring no direct monetary benefit to the local authorities – instead it goes  to the Central Government and is then redistributed. So where is the logic in providing for jobs which have no direct benefit to our tax payers and which instead leave us with the pollution and other costs associated with providing business infrastructure. We were later told that some of the 9,700 jobs were associated with previously approved planning applications. However the underlying questions were not answered – instead we were told that it is not a simple as that. Fortunately/unfortunately we ran out of time before simple answers could be provided.
Perhaps those going along to the equivalent event in Acton tomorrow evening might ask some questions about this?
The only point that I would make is that Brian is right about Business Rates as things stand at present. If however the Government's proposals to allow local authorities to keep new business rates generated become a reality this could be a nice windfall for the council.  However, the proposals are not at all straightforward and there is a high level of uncertainty with regard to how they will finally be implemented.

Also, to the extent that the jobs are filled by Babergh residents, this would reduce the 'commuting out problem' that seems to worry some people so much.
To read more from Brian go to his blog (A better way for Hadleigh or 'abwfh')

New health centre set to go ahead

Just an update to say that Babergh Development Committee today unanimously passed the plans for the new Sudbury health centre in Church Field Road.

This was done at some speed by the officer concerned, and with a high level of co-operation and flexibility from the applicant so congratulations to all concerned.