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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Community Engagement 2012

It with some misgivings that I have to inform you that for the next few months and beyond, District councillors from across south and central Suffolk, including Frank Lawrenson and I, will be attending meetings and organising opportunities to listen to the ideas and concerns of local groups, businesses and campaigning organisations.

Many people are disillusioned with the idea of public consultation.  They feel that these exercises are rigged to get the results that are required or, where they are not, that the responses received are ignored.

I felt that the latter objection was well illustrated by the recently published results of the consultation with regard to the development of Harp Meadow in Sudbury by the Primary Care Trust.  Consultees were asked whether there should in fact be a scheme.  This was met with a resounding raspberry. Nonetheless it seems that there is no question of the scheme being abandoned.

The main difference in this exercise from other consultations is, I suppose, that we really are starting with a blank sheet of paper.  We are trying to set aside our preconceived ideas with the aim of listening to you.  We want to know what kind of communities people want to live in, not just in the next year or so, but over the next few decades and more. We want to find out everything we can about residents’ and others’ attitudes, aspirations and challenges for the future as Babergh and Mid Suffolk face a prolonged period of financial cutbacks.  The sort of questions we will be asking are:-

·       What’s good about living here?
·       What do you want to change?
·       What type of people are involved in community activities?
·       Who aren’t so involved – and why not?
·       What community facilities are there? Which are being well used? Which are under-used?
·       What should the councils (Babergh/Mid Suffolk) be doing more – and less – of in the future? What should we stop doing or start doing?  What can communities do more of for themselves?
·       What do communities need from the Council?
·        What is the state of the local economy (How well are local firms doing, what are local job prospects like? What training opportunities are there for younger people?)?

Frank and I, with the help of two council officers,  are being encouraged to meet with people in as many ways as we think appropriate including through meetings, one-to-one conversations, phone conversations, email contacts, social media  and even by just people watching in observing what’s going on in villages and towns for a couple of hours.

The insights gained from these encounters will provide important evidence for both councils as they strive to sharpen their priorities and make a sustained positive difference to the wellbeing of communities even as their staffing levels and financial resources are reduced.

Information about Community Engagement 2012 – including up-to-date facts about meetings and other events at which councillors will be present for a dialogue will be posted up on both councils’ websites – with reminders being provided as needed including leaflets in the neighbourhood and social media updates.

Start of Olympics rung out in Acton

Air raid precaution bell with other equipment
I am pleased to report that the start of the London Olympics did not go unmarked in Acton!

Dr Peter and Mrs Maybury joined other bellringers around the country on Friday morning by ringing their old ARP bell for three minutes.

For those, like me, who were not immediately aware of what an ARP bell is, I understand that was is a bell used by Air Raid Wardens in World War 2 to warn of enemy raids.

We must all be grateful that the Mayburys never throw anything out, and hope that no-one in Acton decided to take cover!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eat cake for good causes in Lavenham

Staff at Lavenham's Tourist Information Centre, which is situated in Lady Street just off the market square, hold annual fundraising events.  This year the Centre is welcoming people from all over to enjoy mouth-watering cakes while raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society UK.

A wide range of homemade cakes will be available from the TIC in Lavenham from 10.30am until 3pm on July 31 2012, and everybody is very welcome.

Rather than the usual raffle that takes place, the TIC has decided to hold a table-top sale and offer tea, coffee and cakes.  Tastings of local Lavenham Apple juice will be on offer and will be available to purchase.

Veronica Cowlin, Manager of the Lavenham TIC, said: “This event is a chance for the local people, tourists and businesses to get together and help raise money for charity.

“We always try to hold fund raising events several times a year and the staff are great as we make all the cakes - it’s a chance to raise money and it promotes all the local businesses too.

Veronica added: “All the staff get involved and contribute greatly to the day, it’s very rewarding and everybody has a really nice time”

More information about the event is available on lavenhamtic@babergh.gov.uk or general enquires on (01787) 248207

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kevina flies free!

Kevina the Kestrel, pictured above,  has been returned to the wild.

Originally thought to be a Kevin, but subsequently reidentified as a female bird, Kevina was making little headway due to being repeatedly ejected from the nest by her two larger siblings.

Rescued and nurtured back to health  by a resident of Waldingfield Ward, I understand that she made her maiden flight at the weekend.

To see the event click here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Home and Abroad at Gainsborough's House

Yesterday I spent some time at the current temporary exhibition at Gainsborough's House.

The show, which was very enthusiastically reviewed in County Life a week or so ago, is a selection of drawings and watercolours from the collection of a local art enthusiast.  Most of the works date to around Gainsborough's time, and many are by his contemporaries.

The title of the exhibition, 'Home and Abroad', reflects the fact that the works range from views and subjects around Sudbury and East Anglia, to London and the rest of Great Britain.  There are also images from overseas, ranging from Europe to as far afield as India and China.

There are lots of fascinating details in the pictures on show, and visiting the exhibition cannot be rushed.  Do try to find time to visit Gainsborough's House to find see for yourself!

Home and Abroad, Drawings and Watercolours from a Private Collection, 1700 to 1840 continues at Gainsborough's House until 29th September.  The Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Learning about domestic violence

                                               One of the main priorities of the West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership, on which I am Babergh’s representative, is supporting organisations, such as Compassion,  that help victims of domestic violence.

Yesterday  I attended a course, which was really designed for those working in agencies such as social services, the health service and the police.  My aim was better to understand the issues involved and learn more about the sort of people that the Safety Partnership supports.

I was very impressed at the amount of information that was imparted in the course of a day, and certainly learned a lot.  There are many myths surrounding the subject and most of these were well and truly debunked in the course of the training.
The afternoon was devoted to discussion of honour based killings and forced marriages.  These are issues that arise among immigrant families who bring traditional cultural practices with them from their original homes.  Younger family members, educated in the UK, often prefer western ways, particularly when it comes to issues of relationships, and so the trouble starts.  Some of the stories that we heard were unbearably sad.  It is no small thing to be obliged to cut yourself off entirely from your family, never to see them again and, indeed, to be in fear for your life. 

I am pleased that here in Suffolk we are doing well in raising awareness and supporting these very vulnerable individuals

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cockfield Crimebusters

A police initiative, started two months ago at the Babergh Safer Neighbourhood Team meeting in Cockfield has resulted in remarkable success!

The meeting, which I chaired, was attended by a representative from Lavenham Parish Council.  She brought a number of issues to the attention of the Safer Neighbourhood Team, including concerns about the safety of the cricket pavilion and its contents.

As a result, Lavenham became a policing priority, which meant that routine visits to the village by the police were stepped up. 

We heard at this evening’s Team Meeting that one of the extra patrols actually caught an individual attempting to break into the pavilion.  A dramatic car chase ensued, the suspect being chased as far as the Belchamps in North Essex.  A police helicopter was called out and the individual was apprehended.

This arrest has apparently resulted in a number of leads, including those related to the thefts of catalytic converters in the area.

Over the years the Safer Neighbourhood Team Meetings have chalked up a number of successes in promoting community safety and crime prevention, but this is certainly our most dramatic and far reaching result to date.

It does show, I think, that the general public are in a good position to notice, and report, unusual events, and I hope that this will encourage more people to come along and express their concerns to the police when they have the opportunity.

The next Safer Neighbourhood Meeting will, coincidentally, be held in Lavenham on 18th September at the Salvation Army Hall between 6 and 7 p.m.  The meetings, which are attended by the police, and sometimes by officers from other bodies, give members of the public the opportunity to express concerns about all aspects of community safety in their area.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Acton Fete - a success despite the rain

Despite predictably damp and grey conditions Acton Fete on Saturday was well attended and, thanks to the space afforded by the village hall, relatively dry for those who were manning the majority of the stalls.  Only the hardy souls on the plant stall, as far as I could see, braved the weather outside.  Despite intermittent rain,  it was possible to hold some races for children on the playing fields.

Proceedings were commenced by a group from All Saints Middle School, whose green costumes and equally green faces (mostly hidden here!)  lent a somewhat chilling start to the event.

It seemed to me that there were more entries to the flower and produce show than usual.

Perhaps the wet weather has encouraged people to stay indoors and do some cooking!  Also, of course, although the rain this summer has spoilt sitting in the garden, some of the plants are benefitting from the wet conditions.

I understand from the organisers, the Village Hall Committee, that despite the weather the event raised some £1200 towards Hall funds.  A very creditable result.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Braithwaite Trust makes another community grant

Viewing platform and seats
At the recent meeting of the Braithwaite Trust the Trustees decided to make a grant to the First Friends Pre School in Great Waldingfield.  Over the past year a wildlife area has been created outside the facility, and additional funds are needed to buy equipment to enable the children to make the most of the space.  I understand that purchases will include a wicker wigwam or den and magnifying glasses to view bug life.

I visited the Pre School earlier this week to take some photos of the progress to date.  The wildlife area really is lovely.  It is generally used for 'quiet sessions' while more energetic activities, such as the Olympic Games that were in progress during my visit, take place on the other side of the building.  The area has a viewing platform so that the pond, which currently looks like something from the Amazon forest, can be safely seen, and a bank of wildflowers which are currently looking stunning.

The Amazon comes to Great Waldingfield
 The Pre School as a whole is thriving, and, judging from the activities that I saw and the clearly contented and confident children, it certainly deserves to.  I understand that there are currently some places available for new recruits in September, as the older members move on to their first school.

The bank of wildflowers
 The Braithwaite Trust was set up by the Braithwaite family after the First World War. Its primary purpose is to manage the allotments, and some other land, that was give to the vllage in memory of members of the family who were killed in the conflict.  From time to time the Trust has surplus funds which, under its trust deed, it is able to make available for projects that benefit Great Waldingfield.  Applicants must be village organisations rather than individuals.   Enquiries should be made to the Rector, Caroline Hallett, who is the Chairman of the Trust.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spotted out and about in Great Waldingfield today

Jane Bartlett out for a walk with her eight month old son and two lovely dogs, Mossop and Iska, the Russian Terrier.

Light Work

At yesterday’s Parish Council Meeting in Great Waldingfield we learned that street lighting costs the Parish Council £7500.00 annually, which represents some 18% of its budget.  Constantly rising energy costs, combined with the fact that many of the lights are getting rather long in the tooth, means that this proportion is likely to increase in the years to come.

Help is at hand however. Richard Webster, Electrical Services Manager at Suffolk County Council was at the meeting, and he spoke about current developments in street lighting that are being supported by the council across the county.

As in many villages, ownership of the lights in Great Waldingfield is a complex issue.  The vast majority are owned and maintained by the Parish Council, but the County also owns 12 and Babergh just 4.  The reasons for this ownership muddle are lost in the mists of time but are thought to be due to changes in Local Government made in 1974.

Savings for the Parish are likely to come from three areas:  the replacement, and possible removal, of some lights, investing, through the County Council in an intelligent lighting system, and following the lead of the County Council in turning off lights for a period in the middle of the night. 

Since a ‘dark period’ has been introduced in respect of their own lights, the County Council reckons that it is on track to save £550,000 annually.  These savings will rise as energy costs increase.  Contrary to the expectations of some, crime levels have not risen, and overall there have been relatively few complaints and problems. 

Until recently there was little flexibility with regard to controlling the lights.  However, investment of £2.5 million in an intelligent lighting system, where each individual light can be controlled centrally by computer, means that where lights do need to be kept on in a certain area, this can easily be achieved.  The hours of switch off can also be more easily altered.

 Suffolk County Council has, for a one off cost, offered to link Great Waldingfield’s  lights to this system.  This means that the village will be able to turn off the lights at will, but keep individual areas lit when required (for a special event for example).

In the light of what they heard from the County Council Officer, the Council has taken the decision to undertake a review of the lighting across the whole village.   In coming months a business case will be prepared by the Clerk, Dave Crimmin, which will look at the extent of the savings that can be achieved by bringing the system up to date.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Newmans Green is proud to present its lovely new notice board.

Acton Parish Council in my experience has generally kept in mind the interests of Newmans Green despite the hamlet's distance from the heart of the village, and it has certainly come up trumps on this occasion!

I think that the board is a very elegant addition to the post box and the (increasingly dilapidated) telephone kiosk that currently grace the Green.  I hope other residents agree with me.  Funds for the notice board were secured, I understand, from County Councillor Colin Spence's locality budget.  So thanks to Colin too!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Heavy rain expected! Emergency number to call.

Flood warning – midnight tonight 5 July until mid-day tomorrow 6 July affecting all of Suffolk

Babergh and Mid Suffolk have been contacted by The Environment Agency and the Met Office. They have issued warnings for torrential rain overnight in the Mid Suffolk and Babergh districts, which is likely to cause some localised surface water flooding. The warning covers the whole of Suffolk and the wider East Anglia, but exact locations cannot be predicted.

It is thought likely that areas affected during the previous floods on May 3 could once more be affected. If this is the case, we should prepare for potential flooding in Needham Market, Rattlesden and possibly Onehouse. This event may see very localised flooding elsewhere, including places not previously flooded.

If you have problems in the next 24 hours the number to call is 01473 265321 (The Joint Emergency Planning Service for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Walking the old ways

I have been very much enjoying listening to readings on BBC Radio Four from Robert McFarlane's latest book, The Old Ways, about the ancient footpaths and routes around Britain.

In yesterday's extract,  which focussed on the Peddars and Icknield Ways, we heard about how in times gone by it was the habit in Suffolk to leave small sythes along the route of paths.  This was so that travellers could clear them themselves during the growing season.

This year the paths are particularly hard to traverse, in part due to the weather, and in part due to the fact that the County Council, understandably, I suppose, due to financial cuts,  seems to have finally  given up on their statutory duty to keep all rights of way open.

As McFarlane writes in his book paths need walkers, but walkers are unlikely these days to wish to spend their time cutting their way throught the undergrowth.  Every year Nick or I take our secateurs down to a little overgrown footbridge between here and Long Melford and cut back the brambles to make our walk a little easier.  Unfortunately the sides of the fields on either side of the bridge are now also currently virtually impassable, and there is no little sythe available!

Thank goodness the Parish Councils do take time to keep the most frequently used footpaths clear, which is, I suppose, something.

The readings from The Old Ways are at 9.45 a.m. every morning until Friday, and can be heard again through the BBC website here! for the next seven days.