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, June 29, 2016

A date for those left standing after the Referendum.

Duncan Brodie
It may be that you are totally exhausted by the Referendum and the continuing fall out from the debate.

However, I know that many are not, and, if not, here is just the event for you!

Articulate's series of business breakfasts continues in July with the opportunity to discuss the likely impact of Brexit on the UK economy and what a new relationship with the EU should look like.  There will be focus on the local economy and what Brexit might mean for your business.

The Guest Speaker will be Duncan Brodie, the Business Editor of the EADT, and the event takes place at the in Yaxley, at the lovely Auberge. on Wednesday 13th July between 8a.m. and 10.30 a.m.

For full details and to book FOLLOW THIS LINK. 

Deadline for bookings is 6th July.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

An unkind cut? When should road verges be mown?

It’s the time of year that I start to receive calls from residents who are concerned that the verges have not been cut.

Full information about the Grass Cutting Programme across the county can be found on Suffolk County Council website HERE   I can divulge however  that on smaller roads the verge is only cut once a year .  The C road programme this year commenced on June 6th.  The whole process will take around 6 weeks, so should be completed by the week beginning 18th July.

It is very important that verges are not cut too early for reasons connected with biodiversity.  The charity Plantlife  has recently launched a campaign to encourage better management of verges.Information on this is available HERE.  If these are routinely cut too early some 700 species of plants are put at risk.  The practice is also bad for insect and birds that rely on plants for food. 

Suffolk’s policy, while better than cutting earlier, does not it seems represent absolutely the best practice.  Plantlife suggest that to achieve the best outcome for nature verges should not be cut until mid July to September.  However, the damage in Suffolk is somewhat mitigated by the fact that only a strip a little over a meter is cut, and a number of areas have been designated as wildlife sites, and are left uncut.  This is OK, but ideally some maintenance should be carried out on these sites from time to time.   I am not sure to what extent this happens, but at the end of the day as always limited resources have to be taken into account.

I spend a lot of time driving on C roads around the Division, and I am aware that one has to take a little more care at this time of year due to the occasional lower level of visibility caused by higher vegetation levels. Of course if a junction or corner becomes dangerous, the team will go out to remedy this as soon as possible.  Problems of this type should be reported on the County Council website.

I actually think that people drive much too fast on country roads, and believe that it is no bad thing if people find they need to slow down and enjoy the countryside at this beautiful time of the year.  In any event, we owe it to wildlife and the planet to go easy with the mowing machines. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Paulo Bernard says it like it is

The Brenta canal in the lovely Veneto region; it's not just Venice that has canals.
Nick and I recently returned from a  trip to Italy.

We went to Verona and Padua, tourist destinations, but more provincial perhaps than Rome, which was the last place in Italy that we visited a couple of years ago.

We found a country, which , while still wonderful in many ways, was in other ways sadly diminished. This saddens me greatly.  I lived in Italy for almost a year when I left school and have always loved the country and its people.

We complain about our roads, but the pothole count in the Venento was of a completely different order, witness perhaps to the fact that public finances have really hit rock bottom.

The country has lost its fizz and confidence, even the food isn't what it was.

I think the reason why can be found by following this link from Paulo Bernard HERE.  This rather exciteable person is described as 'the most censored Italian economist'. 

I would suggest that you might glean more 'facts' about the European Union, and Britain's relationship with it,  from this clip than you did in the entire EU Referendum Campaign. Italy has not been served well by its membership of the EU, and it shows!

I cannot promise that this will be my last post about the EU, but I will do my best to move on now.

Is Brexit the death of Devolution?

It is possible that the decision to leave the European Community will prove to be the death knell of the Government's current so called 'Devolution' initiative. (I wrote about this a few days ago)

On Thursday the County Council is due to debate and vote on the issue.  However, it is possible that the change of Prime Minister and all that this entails will now significantly alter matters.  The project was very much the initiative of George Osborne, backed by Euro enthusiast Michael Heseltine.  It is probable however that very shortly others will be in the driving seat.

Moreover, many of the proposals are predicated on the assumption that we remain members of the EU.  The regions into which different parts of England are being herded look remarkably like the European Economic Regions dictated by Brussels.  The idea of an elected Mayor is copied from European practice.  The 'combined authorities' are needed in order to be the recipients of EU regional funding.

All this now looks somewhat redundant.  I will be urging my colleagues to think about ditching this fraudulent initiative (if it is not halted in any event) and start to consider how we can devolve real power to the people.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A new dawn breaks

View from the window.  24th June 2016 6.15 a.m.

Oh what joy, in the open air

Freely to breathe again!

Up here alone is life!

The dungeon is a grave.


We shall with all our faith

Trust in the help of God!

Hope whispers softly in my ears!

We shall be free, we shall find peace.


Oh Heaven! Salvation! Happiness!

Oh Freedom! Will you be given us?

CHOR DER GEFANGENEN (Prisoners Chorus, Fidelio)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Devolution, a deal emerges

Yesterday the shape of the so called 'Eastern Powerhouse' devolution deal emerged.

It seems that differences with Cambridgeshire (who thought that an alliance with the backwoodsmen of Suffolk and Norfolk would 'hold them back') have not been resolved.  So what is now proposed are two separate devolved areas, once including Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and one for Norfolk and Suffolk.  Each area will enjoy the privilege of their own elected mayor and each will see the creation of a new 'combined authority'.  In the case of Norfolk and Suffolk, a representative from each of the 23 local councils will sit on this body.

Thus, as I have been warning for some time, devolution = an additional layer of government.

Quite detailed information about the deal can be found HERE.

In preparation for a meeting tomorrow at which the new deal will be discussed I have been looking at this, and my preliminary conclusions are as follows:-

1. This is less about devolution (which to me involves tax raising powers as well as devolved decision making) than local government reorganisation (again).  The amounts of money being devolved from central government directly are tiny and any local taxation will come from levies on business rates.  It is questionable however whether business can actually cope with much higher rates.  Also, reading the small print, central government is retaining a strong level of supervision over the activities of the new combined authorities.

2.  Any talk of increased localism is eyewash.  The people making the decisions will be sitting in a new combined authority which is no nearer to a parish council for example than the Government is now.

3.  The new combined authorities have the potential to become quite expensive, representing as they do a new layer of government with various attached committees and boards. (I have counted about nine of these while going through the relevant information).  In theory the funding of the combined authorities is supposed to come from 'existing resources' .  I have my doubts about this concept for a number of reasons.

4.   Potentially the County Councils are likely to be diminished in power and influence at the expense of the Districts, who will be relatively unaffected.

I hope that some of these doubts will be allayed by the proponents of this so called 'devolution' in the days to come.  A vote on the matter will take place at full council at the end of the month.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Quiz for Compassion yesterday

Well the staff at Newton Green Golf Club, and particularly the catering manager Hannah,  certainly did us proud at the Quiz for Compassion yesterday evening. The Quiz was well attended, and everyone very much enjoyed the comfortable venue and delicious hot supper provided.

The event was aimed at raising funds, and also the profile, of Compassion, the charity which aims to combat domestic abuse and support victims in the Babergh area.  Charity Administrator,  Elaine Jones, who worked really hard to make the evening a success,  is shown here with the Volunteer co-ordinator Caroline and two of her colleagues.

I am not really able to comment much on the quiz itself.   About two weeks ago our preferred Quiz master, Bryn Hurren, was taken ill, and we had to decide whether to go ahead or cancel the event. Since, after a slowish start, ticket sales had picked up strongly I took my life in my hands and offered to act as Quiz Master.   Nick devised an excellent electronic scoring display on the computer and we decided to give it a go.

I enjoyed making up the questions, and I don't think anyone found them impossibly hard, although those who were hoping for questions on pop music and sport would have been rather disappointed.  I was troubled in advance by a couple of e mails from well wishers warning me of the dire consequences of making the questions too difficult.   I did however try to make the quiz a little different by creating rounds where the emphasis was broader than the usual categories of ' History' 'Geography' etc.  I hope this made the process more interesting and instructive for all.  It certainly made playing the joker more tricky for some.

Two teams were very close in the end, both scoring over 50 marks out of a possible 70, but the team seen below, Alison and David Carse, Frances and Roland Bee, Fran Gregor Smith and Tim Harbord (temporarily absent from the table), just pipped Elaine Henson's team to the winning spot.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Doom mongering forecasts taint arguments for Remain.

‘The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable’ 
John Kenneth Galbraith.

I have been shocked and surprised by the wildly pessimistic forecasts that have been produced predicting economic meltdown were the UK to leave the European Union.   I have been even more shocked and surprised by the confidence with which these forecasts have been bandied about.

I wonder how many of you remember the Millennium Bug?  This was the glitch that, at the stroke of Midnight on December 31st 1999 was going to send all our computers into meltdown and, using the inimitable words of Donald Tusk, mean the end of Western Civilisation as we know it.

I was working as an investment analyst in the City at the time, and I spent hours phoning companies and trying to assess which were most vulnerable to meltdown as their computer systems imploded. Armageddon was expected on a daily basis.  The end of the world was nigh.

Of course it never happened.  One or two companies had a bit of trouble changing their clocks, but on the whole life went on as normal.  The whole thing was forgotten within weeks.

We are now faced with the same sort of hysteria with regard to the possible implications of Brexit.  Those of us who spent most of our careers attempting to forecast the economic future, whether macro or micro, know that almost all predictions, and in particular the extreme warnings of catastrophe that are emanating, particularly from the Remain side, will almost certainly turn out to be wrong.

What we also know is that when things change, the world adjusts to that change more quickly and with less fuss than people expect.  Take the concerns that have been expressed by the Remainers with regard to sterling weakness for example.   Yes, it is likely that the pound will continue to be weak while uncertainty prevails.  Markets don’t much like uncertainty, but once the outcome of the referendum is known, the currency is likely to stabilise, and if this is at a relatively low level this should be good both for our manufacturers and exporters and also for the stock market which is dominated by so called ‘overseas earners’.  Both these factors will contribute to rather than detract from economic growth.

The other thing we know is that economic models produce results that are only as good as the models themselves.  By all accounts the models being used by the many ‘experts’ who have been terrifying pensioners and others with fables of economic collapse are not up to much and suffer from inherent bias.

I am not clever enough to illustrate this in any way scientifically, although I do confess to producing some fairly 'optimistic'  financial models myself in my youth.   However,  those of you who are interested in the subject should read a report by David Blake, the award winning Professor at the Cass Business School.  His subject is the reliability of the two Treasury forecasts that claimed we would all be £4300 a year worse off in the event of Brexit.

The report is called  Measurement without Theory: On the extraordinary abuse of economic models in the EU Referendum debate’  and subtitled: ‘ grossly exaggerated impact of the economic consequences of Brexit and no analysis of the risks from remaining in the EU from the Treasury’s two ‘dodgy dossiers’   The report can be found here

Professor Blake comments: ‘There is doom-mongering on every page of the two reports.  It’s no different from the way children are frightened into doing what their parents want. We are all being treated like children. 
Both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister have used the reports to ramp up the scare-mongering.’

You really should take the time to read this very clear and interesting report for yourselves.  The Professor makes two very important points in the course of the paper.

Firstly, none of the Treasury economists who produced the report were brave enough to identify themselves, and secondly, no report was produced that modelled the implications of staying in the EU.   The only focus was on coming out.

I would suggest that it is not difficult to guess why this might be!  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Time to speak out

On the edge?
Now that Donald Tusk has predicted the end of Western Civilisation as we know it if we leave the European Union I feel that the time has come to speak out!

I wll be posting my thoughts (for what they are worth) on the forthcoming referendum over the next day or so.

I apologise for adding to what has already been an over long debate, but given that some believe that our green and pleasant land is likely to fall into a large black hole and never re-emerge the time has come to speak out!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lavenham Post Office closed without warning.

I am disturbed to hear the the Post Office in Lavenham suddently closed over the weekend.

The Parish Council is seeking to find out more information, and a letter expressing concern has been sent to our Member of Parliament James Cartlidge.  I know that the Council is seeking to find a solution to the problem but this may not be easy .Having had various disputes with the Post Office as a councillor over the years I know that they are a law unto themselves and appear to be accountable to no-one.

No notice of closure was given, and I am aware that the sudden loss of the facility has already caused inconvenience and distress to residents.

If anyone has any news or further information about the matter I would be pleased if they would get in touch with me.

No HGV's in Verona!

View of Verona, an HGV free zone
We have just come back from a short break in northern Italy, visiting the beautiful cities of Verona, Vicenza and Padua.   It will, I am sure come as no surprise to readers that in the historic centres of these lovely places there was no sign of the heavy goods vehicles that blight our mediaeval towns here in Suffolk.

Illustrated below is the largest van that we saw delivering groceries in the historic centre of Verona. Most delivery vehicles were smaller.  It is clear that the fragile built environment of the city is protected by rules that insist that goods are decanted into smaller vans before they are delivered to the town centre.

When I try to argue the case for a similar system here in the UK, I am told that it would be 'bad for business'.   But here was no sign that business in Verona is being in any way adversely affected.  Indeed, it is clear that government. both local and national, in Italy has taken on board the fact that if historical heritage is not preserved, then their tourist dependent economy will suffer.

We really do need to think again about how we cope with the increasingly large vehicles on our own roads, and can take some hints from the Italians.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Forthcoming events at Chilton Church

 If you have never visited the lovely church that, despite the fact that it is officially 'redundant', remains very important to the small parish of Chilton here are two opportunities to do so:

Summer evening music

Close-harmony choir Times and Seasons which sings in cathedrals, will be downsizing to the small retired church of St Mary’s, Chilton, on Saturday, June 11, at 7pm, The programme of music for a summer evening chosen to both thrill and amuse is intended to raise funds for the church. No tickets, just donations on the night.

Hand bell celebration 

The age-old art of ringing hand bells will be celebrated at St Mary’s Church at Chilton on Sunday, July 3, at 3pm with demonstrations and the opportunity to have a go. It will showcase the hand bell team from St Gregory’s Church, Sudbury, led by Sue Pollington. Canon Lawrence Pizzey, who is a former master of the Suffolk Guild of Ringers, will talk about the history of the bells many of the surviving sets having been in use for centuries. No tickets just donations at the event.