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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

District Councils to move to Ipswich

Babergh offices, closing shortly?
Following their recent Council meeting it is now public knowledge that Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils will be closing their respective offices in Hadleigh and Needham Market and moving to Endeavour House in Ipswich, the home of the County Council.

This decision has not been universally welcomed and I do not find this surprising.  Firstly, there are legitimate concerns about the economic impact of closing two reasonably large offices in the centre of two market towns. Bearing in mind the enthusiasm of many District councillors for stimulating economic growth in their areas, almost to the exclusion of any other goal, the decision on the face of it seems perverse.

Secondly it could be regarded as inappropriate for a District Council (the clue is in the name!) to move its headquarters to premises outside its district.  We are assured however that residents will not be inconvenienced.  It is the plan to locate ‘satellite offices’ in towns around the districts.  Only time will tell if this will give residents adequate access to officers.

In any event the decision has now been made and, barring accidents, there will be an influx of District Council officers into the offices currently occupied by Suffolk County Council.

Many people, including myself, have for some time been in favour of scrapping the distinction between District and County Councils and forming one or more unitary authorities for Suffolk.  The move of the Districts into SCC offices could throw up some interesting worked examples of the benefits of this idea.

In this connection, coincidentally, yesterday I was contacted by a resident about a planning matter which concerns both Babergh and the County Council. Some difficulties had arisen with regard to drainage (a County Council responsibility) and inevitably there had been some considerable delay as e mails were exchanged between the two teams of officers involved.  Then one of the key officers at the County Council went on holiday resulting in further time wasted.  When I was speaking to the manager of the County Council drainage department, trying to move things forward, he commented that once the Babergh officers are sitting in the same building, a lot of this to-ing and fro-ing ought to be avoided.

Let’s hope that he is right, because if he is the move to Ipswich may quicken things up in the short term and, possibly, lead to greater things in the long term.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lavenham Children's Book Festival

 Lavenham is a great place to be if you are a young reader!

Today I was very honoured to be asked to present the medals and certificates at the Lavenham Library Reading Challenge awards.  This year some 40 children completed the task of reading 6 books during the summer holidays.  Congratulations to all of them!  After the presentation ceremony we were entertained by an excellent magician, and a good time was had by all.

Literary activities for children in Lavenham will continue during Half Term, when the first Lavenham Children’s Book Festival will take place. The Festival is being arranged by the organisers of the very popular Lavenham Literary Festival.  Events will take place in the village hall or at the Swan Hotel over the 28th and 29th October.

The programme looks very enticing and includes opportunities to meet the authors of children’s books,  storytelling sessions, creative writing workshops and also workshps for budding artists and illustrators.

The Festival is open to all, but all children attending must be accompanied by an adult (whose entry is included in the child’s ticket).  Some of the events may well be of interest to unaccompanied adults too, and they will be very welcome.  For example the author of the highly acclaimed Viking Sagas, Kevin Crossley Holland will be talking about his work, and I happen to know that his books are certainly read by people of all ages.

Full details about the Festival and the opportunity to purchase tickets can be found HERE.

Friday, September 16, 2016

LWHS Winter Season 2016/17

Come and hear about our Angel Roofs.

Little Waldingfield History Society has recently published its very enticing programme of events for the 2016/17 season.

A summary is on the LWHS tab above.

The sessions start on the evening of Wednesday 21st September with a fascinating talk by Roger Green who will divulge all about a 19th Century family scandal involving a local clergyman in Sudbury.

Other highlights include a talk about the USAAF in the region, ‘Overpaid, oversexed and over here’, and there is another later in the year about the magnificent Angel Roofs of East Anglia.

In May Mark Bills, the Director of Gainsborough’s House, will talk about Thomas Gainsborough, and I expect he will not miss the opportunity to tell the group about the exciting developments that are expected at the museum in coming years.  The season concludes in June with a talk about Joan of Arc.

All talks are held at the Parish Rooms in Little Waldingfield at 7.30.

Information about the Society can be obtained from Diana Langford on    01787 248298

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September harvest!

My patch.
Last year, as an antidote to council activities,  I decided to have a go at growing a few vegetables and I have been astonished at the results!

I decided to contain my efforts by buying a raised bed, which somehow made the whole idea less daunting.  I could persuade myself that this was little more than a large window box!  I also told myself that I should not get too downhearted about failure.  I had little clue about what I was doing but no doubt would learn from my mistakes.

I sowed three crops in a space that is 4 feet by 6.  Almost half of the bed is taken up by some french beans. I actually prefer these to runner beans. I think they are more versatile since they can be eaten hot or cold.  They also don't need support in theory, but the plants are a bit floppy.  I am not sure what to do about this and any suggestions would be very welcome.  They have cropped well though giving us enough beans for several meals, and really do taste better than the shop bought ones.

I have also grown some rainbow chard, which can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. The taste is a bit soapy when raw, but it mixes in well with other leaves, and the plants keep on giving more,

Finally I have some beetroot coming on.  At present results are a bit patchy, with some plants clearly forming a good root but others still looking a bit skinny. I do love beetroot however, and  I am looking forward to enjoying some borscht later in the year, and also mixing the beets up with horseradish for eating with roast beef and smoked fish, just like my granny used to do!

I am thinking of getting another bed in order to try some carrots and strawberries next year.

A tale of two polls

Lavenham, where the Neighbourhood Plan Referendum took place on Thursday.

Last week we had news of how two very different sorts of community engagement turned out, and the contrast is interesting.

On Thursday we heard that Lavenham’s community referendum had approved the village’s Neighbourhood Plan.  91.6% of those who voted were in favour of the proposals.  The turnout was 36%, above the average for such referenda, which to date has been 32%.

Earlier in the week we received some initial numbers from the community engagement exercise on the Norfolk/Suffolk Devolution plans.  The number of responses received was a little over 10,000.  Since the population of Suffolk and Norfolk amounts to roughly 1.6m souls, even allowing for the fact that some of these are children, this is a pretty paltry response, amounting to well under 1%.  This is a very small sample by any reckoning.

Moreover a deeper look at the numbers show that of this small group of people  around 50% had any knowledge of devolution within England, with just over 8% claiming to know ‘a good deal’.  In contrast, given the length of time that it has taken for the Lavenham Neighbourhood Plan to evolve, those who voted in Lavenham were well informed about the issues involved. Unlike the Devo proposals which were handed down from on high, the Neighbourhood Plan was built from the bottom up; an example of local democracy in action.

It is not too late to have your say on the Devolution question.  However, if you are going to do so, do take time to look at the actual proposals and don’t just read the superficially attractive headlines.
You should the ask yourself:

  • Is this really devolution or is it just another layer of Government?

  • Is this really democratic?  Do smaller parties, for example, get their say?

  • Is the money on offer particularly significant in the overall scheme of things?

We will be voting at the County Council on these proposals on Wednesday 2nd November.  I am happy to discuss the issues with anyone who contacts me.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Public v private: customer service compared.

I am regularly struck by the difference between the ways of the private and the public sector.  In Local Government we pay lip service to ‘becoming more commercial’ and ‘taking a more business-like approach’; moreover we aspire to treat ‘residents as customers’.  However it saddens me how often these aspirations fall short of reality.

For reasons too complex to detail here, we have to find a safe parking space for our car in the City of London for three days in November.   Accordingly we have been researching the matter. 

There are effectively two choices:  the private car parks run by NCP and those owned by the Corporation of London.  The Corporation of London will not allow one to book in advance, will not guarantee a space even if one has a season ticket or residents’ parking ticket, and relies for payment on elderly ticket machines at the exit at the time of departure.  In contrast NCP has invested in number plate recognition equipment, will allow you to book a space in advance and pay for it, and will guarantee that that space will be available when you turn up.  Furthermore an early booking results in a useful discount which reduces the price below the Corporation’s daily rate.  No contest really, NCP here we come!

But why does the Corporation of London, which is in many ways an exemplary authority,  compare so woefully  with its direct competitor?  NCP’s  more user friendly approach does not exactly involve rocket science.  The Corporation’s officers are bright people capable of devising and putting a comparable system in place. Can it really simply  be the case that the profit motive  alone provides a spur to innovation and good practice in a way that a local government officer’s genuine desire to serve the community does not?