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, January 31, 2015

Chilton Woods; will it fall from the sky fully formed?

'A difficult build out'

On Radio Suffolk yesterday morning I made the comment that, subject to economic conditions,  the Chilton Woods Development could well take at least 15 years to build out.  It will not, I said, fall from the skies, fully formed.

This was in response to the concern expressed by residents about the levels of traffic that will be generated by the development, which will ultimately comprise up to 1250 new homes to the north of Sudbury, together with employment land.

This is of course a chicken and egg situation.  Without new development there may be no need for more infrastructure, but without adequate infrastructure the development will be unsustainable and troublesome for neighbouring areas.  Beyond that which is required within the development, the road network is, rightly or wrongly, almost never improved ahead of the event.   No doubt, as with other development elsewhere,  appropriate road improvements in the surrounding area will be put in place over the life of the construction period, funded as it always has been by developers’ Section 106 contributions and resources from elsewhere.

Following the radio interview,  I have been musing today on the idea of cities falling from the sky fully formed, and remembering that this is something of a Russian notion.

Firstly there are the various legends connected with the magical city of Kitezh.  In one version the city vanishes when threatened by attack from the tartars, reappearing in its entirety on the empty steppe when they have passed by. In another version it disappears under the waters of Lake Svetloya, where, rather like submerged Dunwich, it periodically reappears as a vision to travellers, who hear church bells ringing and  eerie lights shining under under the surface.
The magical city of Kitezh

Secondly there is a legend concerning Peter the Great and the construction of St Petersburg.  The boggy and inhospitable nature of the site made this a difficult build out to say the least.  In the words of Prince Vladimir Odoyevskii:-

‘Construction of the city had begun, but the marsh swallowed all the stone; a great many had already been piled on block after block, but all had disappeared and nothing remained on the surface but swamp.  Meanwhile the tsar…took a turn about the site: he looked and saw that it was still not his city “You don’t know how to do anything” he told his people and with these words he began to lift block after block and assemble them in mid air.  In this manner he constructed the entire city and when it was complete he let it fall to earth’

Consultation on the Chilton Woods site is currently ongoing.  There will be an additional chance to see the plans at Acton Village Hall on 12th February from noon to 8 p.m.  Information is also available on the Suffolk County Council website.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Lavenham Library Hours changing

I have been informed that after a consultation the hours at Lavenham Library are changing.

There are no changes on Monday and Wednesday.  The Library is closed on these days and this will continue to be the case.  There is also no change on Saturdays when the opening hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m, or on Thursdays when the Library will open from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.

In future however on Tuesdays the Library will be open the same hours as on Thursdays above. On Fridays it will close an hour and a half earlier than previously, opening from  2 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Sundays the Library will open one and a half hours later, from 12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

It is believed that these hours will prove more convenient for users, the majority of whom visit the Library during the week rather than at weekends, and for whom an additional  weekday morning opening will be a benefit.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Care Act and Budgeting

Suffolk County Council has now published its budget for 2015/16 and this will be considered by the Cabinet on Tuesday before being debated by full council on 12th February.

We will be seeking to fill a budget gap of some £38m next year and we are aiming to do this largely through a series of transformation programmes.  These are based on radical service redesign, increased use of IT, demand management and partnership working.  We very much hope that these will prove succesful since they are the main hope of maintaining front line services while saving money.

One of the most uncertain and highest risk areas for us over the next year or so is the implementation of the Care Act.  This comes into force in stages this year and next.  The Act involves us in a range of  increased responsibilities in the area of care, particularly in respect of those needing care in their own homes.  We have received an additional £7m or so to help us with this, but we estimate that this sum is not really adequate to do all that is required by the Act.  Demand for care in a county such as Suffolk, which has a disproportionate number of people over 65, rises exponentially every year and it is a real challenge to know how this growth can be contained within current budgets.

If you are interested in the details of the Care Act, there is a useful introductory video available here.

New Parish Clerk needed in Kettlebaston

The small parish of Kettlebaston, which is just to the north of Monks Eleigh, lying between Hitcham and Preston St Mary, is in need of a new Parish Clerk.  This is a paid part time role.

Although an experienced clerk would be ideal, there might be a chance for someone with office experience who is interested in local council work to take on the role.  Full training is available and the previous clerk has agreed to give some guidance.

The council meets about four times a year in the village hall.  In recent years these meetings have been held on a Saturday morning.  There is also a certain amount of paperwork to be done at home.

If you are interested please get in touch with me on


and I will pass your details on to one of the parish councillors.

Shot down in France!

News from Little Waldingfield History Society courtesy of Andy Sheppard.

Len with Susan Moore, LWHS Chairman
 Little Waldingfield History Society was absolutely delighted to welcome Len Manning to the Parish Room last night, not just as a member but also to talk to us about his incredible experience a tail gunner in a Lancaster bomber shot down over France during the second world war.

As we had fully anticipated, he enthralled our member only audience of around 50 people, with his remarkably detailed account of how he managed to escape, with just one of his parachute hooks secured and the chute itself beginning to catch fire.  Len’s story is set out in full in the special tab ‘Len's story’, above.

After many questions, Len was allowed to enjoy the special cake to celebrate his 90th birthday just the week before - a truly memorable evening thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Len's medals

 At our next talk, Pip Wright will royally entertain us with his presentation on the dissolution of the monasteries. Come along to experience the economic jiggery-pokery of 16th century life and hear how Suffolk’s up and coming young men made their fortunes.

We look forward to welcoming guests new and old to the Parish Room on Wednesday 18th February for what is sure to be a fascinating evening's entertainment.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rail in the East.

Marks Tey Station in Essex, with the offending bridge
Driving into Ipswich is a complete nightmare at present because Hadleigh Road is closed 'for improvements’.  I have had conflicting reports with regard to how long this state of affairs will continue.  Estimates range from 11 to 23 working days.  If it turns out to be the latter figure we are talking about problems running into February.

One day last week it took me almost two hours to get to the Council offices, and so I decided to take a look at the options available by train.  These are not particularly encouraging.  Almost all journeys involve well over an hour of travel and two quite lengthy waits on Marks Tey and Colchester stations.  Nonetheless, given the alternative at present, I think I may decide to take this route if my timetable permits.

There is no doubt that, unless you are trying to get down to London, journeys by train from Sudbury are not particularly convenient.  Even the London route necessitates the climb over the bridge at Marks Tey, which is fine for the able bodied, but less so for those who finds stairs difficult. I agree with those who are campaigning for a lift or something similar to ease the burden for the elderly and disabled.  It seems wrong that their access to London should be so restricted.

There is some glimmer of hope that things might improve in the longer term.  Currently there are  no fewer than three rail consultations taking place, all looking at investment options to improve rail travel in East Anglia.  One of these consultations even contemplates a new rail line between Sudbury and Cambridge.  I am afraid however that pigs and flying come to mind in this connection!

A link to Network Rail's 'Improving Connectivity' consultation can be found here . These are the proposals that include the suggestion about a line between Cambridge and Sudbury.  The Department of Transport's consultation on the future of rail services in East Anglia can be found here. Unfortunately the second consultation from Network Rail, 'The Anglia Route Study' can't be accessed from the link that I have been sent and attempts to access the website are not working at present.  Business as usual at Network Rail then!

Council services threatened by cuts in 2015/16?

Having fought a good fight in the face of Government cuts over the last three to four years, it is clear that councils across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to protect front line services.

Local authorities  are now finalising their budgets for 2015/16 and reports from all over the country show that financial pressures are clearly starting to be felt.  Cuts in staff and bureaucracy have already been made, the ‘easy wins’ have been won, but on average spending power next year is estimated to be some 14.5% lower.  

In the Independent on Sunday today here we read about a number of councils who are looking to local communities to take on services that they have been able to provide up to now.  Many of these are ‘non statutory’ and so in theory at least can be outsourced, or even cut completely, without legal challenge.  

 At Suffolk County Council we have already undertaken a good deal of this sort of activity; devolving country parks and rights of way for example and transferring our Library Service into a mutual.   Other activities have been spun off into wholly owned companies, and many of our in house services are now commissioned from elsewhere.    It may be due to this early action, combined with planned service transformation, that the budget for 2015/16 is likely to balance without the need for too much pain.

However, according to another report, Austerity Uncovered, by the admittedly partisan TUC  and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, some councils are now threatening to cut back on statutory services, having done all they feel they can in the discretionary area.  Here they are straying into dangerous territory since a judicial review of service failure can be a very expensive process.

The response of Central Government to this prospect of systemic service failure has been sanguine to say the least.  In part this has to be put down to wilful blindness about what is actually happening outside the Whitehall bubble.   It is also due to ignorance.  I do not say this out of pique.  A recent report by the highly respected National Audit Office found, in the words of the Local Government Information Unit, that while there are signs of improvement, the Department of Communities and Local Government ‘does not gather sufficient evidence to tell whether individual councils are able to cope with expected cuts in funding.  The regulatory constraints have so far prevented any council suffering wholesale financial failure; instead, financial stresses are felt in particular service areas.  The report finds that DCLG’s information is too patchy to identify where particular authorities may be unable to maintain the statutory level of service in some areas.’ 

As someone who now spends a good deal of time trying to balance the budget at Suffolk County Council, I find this ignorance depressing, but not particularly surprising.  We, in common with other local authorities, have tried to communicate the problems that lie ahead both to Government through our MP’s and other channels, and also to local residents .  It seems however that neither central government, nor, according to the article in the Independent ,  two thirds of people have taken this on board.

The real situation in unlikely to be hidden for much longer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Demand high at new Chilton health centre

It seems that a desire to take a look at the newly opened Health Centre in Chilton has caused many to overcome their qualms with regards to getting round to having that overdue blood test. 

Dave Crimmin, the Parish Clerk for Chilton, forwarded the message below yesterday:-

'SUDBURY COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTRE, Church Field Road, Chilton, Sudbury
Inevitably, everyone needing a blood test has arrived at the new Sudbury Health Centre at the same time this morning (perhaps to view the building), so if you are due to go for one please go later this week or next in the afternoon if possible.

If you have an appointment in the next few weeks, please be patient. Inevitably there will be teething problems. The building is as new to NHS staff as it is to us and it will take time to work out new systems and ways of working.

For general enquiries you can ring the Health Centre Reception on 01787 886300 from 8.00am to 5.30pm. BT in their wisdom have changed some local numbers, so Siam Surgery Reception at the new Centre is 01787 886444.