Thursday, 31 January 2013

Full Council Meeting and Thorington Windfarm

Once again, the administration received questions from the public on why they refuse to nail their colours to the mast and/or do something about the majority concern over the proposed turbines at Thorington, overlooking SW Ipswich.

The leader of the council et al chose to repeat like parrots - 'the contract, which was signed by the previous administration' in other words 'it has nothing to do with us'.

Then up pops Sally Wainman, a real campaigner who challenges any party in administration and has the town in her heart, who wasn't going to let him off so lightly.

She challenged Cllr Ellesmere in a supplementary question, asking him when he was going to stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility for the wishes of the residents in SW Ipswich. Labour are in administration so what was he going to do?

Nothing is the answer.

Nothing of any consequence.

Yes, it wasn't his administration that signed the options contract. Yes, it would be hard for IBC as a council to make a stand against PfR, in fact it would be illegal. However there is nothing legally stopping any of the numerous labour councillors in SW (I am the only Tory) as individuals, in showing they truly represent their people by joining me and SIT in bringing evidence to Babergh that will show lives will be blighted.

I am the only councillor to be doing this. I have learnt much from SIT and Kessingland. This is not what I want for my residents and those in my street because it's not what they want - 92%. So I am choosing to fight hard by collecting evidence along with Ben Gummer, distributing information and attending all relevant meetings.

If other labour councillors did the same, we might get somewhere.

When asked if any labour councillors attended the latest consultation, the leader stated that they all knew the facts by now. Not true. The proposals have been changed and it was useful for me at least to see them, discuss them with PfR and have further conversations with the many residents who attended. Isn't that our job for goodness sake?!

So they do have another get out clause. If Babergh agree at their planning meeting for this to go ahead, we can expect to start hearing them blame Babergh sometime this year. In fact I can already hear it.....

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Thorington Windfarm Consultation

I, along with many Stoke Park residents, attended the PfR consultation at Belstead Brook hotel on Monday to see the new positioning and proposed designs of turbines for Thorington.

They have finished analysing environmental data and are begininning their impact assessment for the planning application to Babergh Council.

There will be 2 turbines - one on Ipswich owned land, just slightly further back from the original site, and one on private land near Jimmys farm. Both fall under Babergh Council jurisdiction.

This is a small improvement to those in Stoke Park but not much consolation to all the residents who really just do not want this next to homes.

I spoke to the management team at length about positioning and residents concerns and of course they are only doing their job. they were extremely knowledgeable and tried very hard to alleviate peoples fears but I'm afraid not much has changed.

Pictures, showing how the turbines will look, were pinned up around the room but we couldnt fail to notice that none of them were at an angle that would truly show the turbines at their most hideous. All of the takes were, without exceptional, at a camera angle that implied the turbines would look much smaller but were partly hidden in dips. If they had mocked scenarios to show them to scale with nearby houses, we would have seen very different pictures!

They continue to state that the common concerns of flicker, noise, lower house prices are not a problem but we beg to differ.

Apparently Kessingland was awful yesterday and Peter Evans of SIT (Stop Ipswich Turbines) has invited people to go along today. That may not be possible but we can take his word on this. We now know that Kessingland residents are in despair.

Will we be able to convince Babergh planning that this is not what we want and give them sufficient evidence to help them reject this? We must try.

Ben Gummer and I have completed a survey which overwhelmingly states we do not want this and so we must put the new Localism Act to test.

Please continue to write to our Mps in Suffolk. All hands on Decks please.....

Monday, 21 January 2013

Road closure for February in Belstead Road Stoke Park

Information received from Anglian Water 

From 18th February

Anglia Water is embarking on a £750,000 scheme to renovate the existing 1500m long trunk main between our Belstead pumping station and Stone Lodge Reservoir. The scheme involves a technique called slip lining – using the existing main as a duct to insert a new plastic main. There are only a few occasions where we are able to reduce the capacity of a water main, but on this occasion we can, and this means that road works are considerably reduced, as we do not need to dig long trenches in the road in the traditional way. However, the technique can only be carried out in sections, so pits have to be dug to be able to insert the new pipe. The distance between the pits varies due to a number of reasons, and in this case, we believe we can limit the number of pits to three in Belstead Road. The pits are quite large though – some 10-12m long and 2m wide, and they have to stay open until pressure tests are complete. 

With the position of the 18” main being close to the centre of the road, this means we have to close part of Belstead Road.

The section to be closed is between Fountains Road and the entrance to St Josephs College. As the side roads, Sandringham, Holyrood and Balmoral Closes only exit onto Belstead Road, we are planning to close Belstead Road in three sections to keep access open for these residents. We will also be able to keep access open for residents on Belstead Road, but the road will not be open to through traffic.

The diversion route for all vehicles, including busses, is Fountains Road and Stoke Park Drive and vice versa.

The college are aware as we are carrying out similar work across their land now. They have requested that we complete early so as to give maximum time for recovery of the grounds in time for the cricket season. I have agreed with Ipswich Borough Council that the road work follows the college section.

 Ipswich buses have been advised and they are aware of the above planned date. However, the intention is to close the road for the minimum time possible to minimise inconvenience to all, so if we are not quite ready, we will delay by a few days. The bus company have asked to be advised with a confirmed date with a minimum 7 days notice to advertise a diversion. 

Letters have been sent to those directly affecte

There will be an Anglian Water Engineer visiting the site frequently, if you find yourself unable to obtain assistance locally, please contact myself on the above number during office hours, or our 24-hour help line on 08457 145145.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Minimum Alcohol Pricing

IBC are about to respond to a consultation on government alcohol policy.

There are 5 key areas that are set out and whilst 4 seem pretty straightforward and was welcomed by councillors at the last committee meeting, the idea of a minimum alcohol price is one that has the jury out for me personally.

A sub committee is meeting next week, of which I am one, to go over all the areas with a fine toothed comb but I would really like your opinion on what you think the government should do about pricing.

So let me outline the proposals (and they are just proposals!).

Introduction of minimum price - around .45p per unit as this has been justified in an impact assessment.
The Off trade would be most affected by this minimum price
Based on evidence, there would be a reduction in 'harmful' use of alcohol
Ban on multi buy for the off licensed trade (on-trade was dealt with in 2010) which would be on on promotions that allow people to buy multiple products for cheaper than if they had purchased each one as a single item
Promotions for half price single items will not be banned (this is probably because people will not be so likely to buy, for example, several cans or bottles of wine, in single promotions whereas multi buy would result in more cans/bottles being bought and consumed).

The reason I am on the fence is because I believe that many responsible drinkers who can afford only cheap alcohol just once or twice a week, will be penalised. However all parties seem to want this and there is the upside of reducing alcohol intake as a real benefit - if it works. I always prefer to not have a nanny state when it comes to policy but this is a serious issue and this measure will be one of many to combat misuse.

Of course like anything it will be reviewed - so what do you think?

Is 45p too high, too low?
What other factors should be considered when setting a minimum price?
What groups of people do you think will be affected by this?

Of course we are liaising with all the relevant associations who have to deal with the effects of alcohol misuse but I really would like to hear your opinions.

Over to you... You could comment below or email me on

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Civic Engagement in Schools

attended phase 3 of the Civic Engagement in Schools programme presentation last Friday where a group of year 10 Students from Suffolk New Academy, Stoke High and St Joseph’s College had been working together on a Civic Engagement activity.  

There were several events where they learnt how democracy works and exploring how they can effect change in their local community, including a trip to Westminster with Ben Gummer MP. One of the lead up events was to help them speak in front of people and on that occasion I was there as a pro bono trainer to coach them on being confident..

But if we go back a couple of years, it was under my portfolio that I introduced Cheryl Phillips who is the leading officer on this project, to endeavour to form a youth council or at the very least encourage young participation. Young people are often consulted with but there is a huge difference between consultation and actually participating so I really looked forward to seeing the 3 presentations from the mixed school groups.

First up was a wonderful idea to create an amphitheatre at Gyppeswyk Park near the Red Rose Chain building in Birkfield drive. They envisaged that this could be 'the next best thing' and that the venue would be used for bands, comedians, plays and joint ventures with Red Rose, who have already shown their interest.

Last up was another good idea, regarding a space within Maidenhall Sports Centre for a Hang Out where young people could play games, eat food and participate in themed nights. A membership fee would be sought to cover costs etc.

But my favourite was the second presentation and one that could have fantastic potential, called Appswitch. 
I had remembered these young boys on the training day as bright, enthusiastic, passionate and capable and they didn't let me down. What fantastic speakers and I laughed out loud when one Ben Lockwood said 'If this is what I can do in a day, imagine what I can do in a month'. Oh how my coaching mind loved that one!
The other team members were (and apologies if I've spelt your name wrong as I know you are waiting to read this blog!)
Tom Beardwood, Kieran and Charlie Heal, Adam Broadbear - between them they have created an app for Ipswich. I told them afterwards that they could do this all on their own and actually just needed some support from techie experts. 

They will have at least one customer as soon as its launched, as I'm really looking forward to downloading it onto my Ipad.

Well done to all the pupils. They were a great example of bright young things that have a bright future. Their parents and teachers would've been proud.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Ben Gummer MP - Business in suffolk

Business is a priority for me. for this town. I know only too well how hard the last few years have been running a small business, as I have done exactly that for the last 8 years..

I have said before that until red tape is reduced and things made a bit easier for employers, I will never have any staff but choose to use 3rd party virtual assistants and experts if the need for extra resource arises. This means that others benefit from my business as I do from others. Its important that we remain optimistic for the future, as it's not all bad news for this area.

Ben's latest column shows that he is on the ball on this one and also sees it as a priority. I show it here in full:

Business in Suffolk

Back in November I addressed the new Ipswich Chamber of Commerce, which I launched with the Exchequer Secretary David Gauke (a former pupil of Northgate, as it happens) back in 2011.  It is clear that while business people are marginally more hopeful than a year or two ago, there is still much trepidation about the future - in UK but especially in Ipswich.

My impression then was that 2012 was a year of treading water for so many businesses, something borne out by a Barclays survey of their small business customers back in the late summer.  They found that activity had dropped very slightly, although Suffolk had done less badly than Norfolk and - surprisingly - Cambridgeshire.  A great deal of the decline was down to a significant reduction in agricultural revenues, a result of the poor weather and the pressure on food manufacturers at a time when most households are trimming their budgets.

The good news is that new companies in the east of England are achieving the fastest growth of any region other than the south-east, which is only just ahead; both are significantly in excess of the national average.  So we are producing good companies that are growing quickly, which is an encouraging sign for the future.

The trick now is to get some of that dynamism into our town, which was the central concern of the business people I spoke to in November.  As the Borough Council has identified, we have some of the lowest average weekly wages in the country here in Ipswich, a result not of benefit cuts or anything to do with the government but because we do not have enough better paid, high-skilled jobs in the town.  That is something we must all work together to put right.  It will take longer than a year but we must re-make a start in these first few days of the 2013.

Contact Information

phone: 0845 634 9197

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Budget - Council Tax Needs to Freeze for years to come

I remember the days when water rates and council tax were just one bill and a tiny part of my monthly outgoings.

I can't remember when the two were split but the council tax debit sitting proudly on my bank statement focused my mind to think about how my money was being spent on public services.

I don't think any of us begrudged paying our fair share but

That was until Labour in Ipswich decided that several good hikes was just the ticket.

If I remember rightly it went up by about 18% altogether, in a very short time, and of course any percentage rise on top of this was compounded to a point I became rather resentful.

The monthly bill became a shocker and so big that it's irreversible now. Furthermore I believe much of it was wasted. In Cyprus and Italy where I travel to most for holidays and to see family, council tax is tiny in comparison to UK. Cyprus average is something like £ 18 per month and the bins are emptied a couple of times per week!

I found this shown below, on the Conservative Homes by local government minister Brandon Lewis and it sums up my feelings exactly. But more importantly than my opinion, is what the residents of Ipswich think so please I invite you to comment on this page on how you think, going forward, we should tackle council tax in the yearly budget. should we even consider reducing it by a 1 or 2 % & find further savings? Or are you happy for it to be raised every year. Would a freeze for a few years really help your own household budget?


"No excuse for Council Tax rises

Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis says councils will become less dependant on funding from the centre
The priority for councillors and their officers, over the next few weeks, will be the preparation of their final draft budget for the next financial year. These decisions will determine whether residents face council tax increases when the new bills drop through the letterbox in late March.
With the Government providing funding for another council tax freeze, most people can look forward to no change in their bill. In real terms, under this government, council tax has been able to fall, following year-after-year of eye watering increases that saw the household liability double under the last Labour government.

Obviously, I hope that every Conservative Council across the country will deliver a council tax freeze – there is no excuse not to. Of course, with County Council elections only a few months away, there is an additional incentive for councillors to deliver this key Conservative election pledge. At the General Election, this policy was extremely popular on the doorstep. It continues to remain popular as people face other rising household bills. I know some Conservative administrations plan to go even further, having calculated they can do so, by pledging a freeze for four further years.

Many councils were left a financial time bomb by the last Labour government. Eric Pickles, and the DCLG team, found additional funding to assist them in making changes to put them on a firmer financial footing. The government invested millions, to assist with a move to cut back office costs, share management and provide shared services. All aimed at providing a better long-term deal for the local taxpayer.

Many council leaders relished the challenge and drove forward massive reform in their councils; others dodged the responsibility preferring to blame central government for all their problems.

To be fair, some continue to suffer from Labour’s botched local government finance structure, that is why we are giving them an additional two years efficiency grant funding. My own council is one of these and I hope they will take advantage of almost £2 million to move away from a “silo management structure” that is unsustainable in a small local authority."