Thursday, 13 February 2014

An Average Month in the Life of a Councillor

I often hear myself saying 'If only people knew how much a councillor has to do'. The reason is easy to guess - I'm not sure and do not believe that most are either interested or understand the full scope of the role of a county or borough councillor and even though some do, many tend to think it's our day job. It isn't -especially for those of us who are not retired yet.

Just to give a flavour of the variety and scope of the average hard working councillor's load, I thought I'd give an insight into my last month, as this is a pretty accurate reflection of the average load but by no means totally comprehensive.

Of course the bits I'm missing out are the various clients I see under my business as a trainer and coach, the marketing of that business and the networking meetings I attend in which to profile my work. Nor does it include Wednesdays when I look after my grandson and often pick up my grand-daughters from school, nor does it include my weekly visit to my mum, going shopping or preparing a meal every night. Then there's football - I go to all ITFC home games - and other social activities.

Note the things that are the most important!

So in the last week, I have taken up 4 new pieces of casework requiring contacting the relevant parties and pushing for a resolution - pretty much average for a week.This also entails chasing up on-going issues that have yet to be resolved.

I have followed up on all comments and help that was requested while canvassing in Stoke Park recently - many have been about trees and potholes and I have also used the SCC online web facility for reporting highway problems - I have found this to be quite efficient and residents have concurred on this recently.. Easy to find if you google.

I have helped a resident with an appeal, worked through all the paperwork and attended court to speak on his behalf - with a successful quasi conclusion.

I have helped and supported a father who has not seen his daughter for 4 years and is fighting bravely for her return.

I have taken paperwork into the benefits centre for it to be scanned and then returned the originals to the owner.

Several meetings have taken place - one to work on the IBC constitution - not my usual arena, but one that is not uninteresting. I still find licensing the most rewarding of all the committees and very varied.

I have read executive papers - scanned some, read others in more detail - and attended Conservative group meetings to discuss holding Labour administration to account on policies we do not agree on and to discuss own policies. I would actually attend the exec meetings but because the members hardly say a word, instead just passing the papers through in record time, there is no more benefit in attending than there is just reading the papers. I refuse to waste my time in this way.

I have written a letter to Babergh district council regarding the proposed wind turbine at Pannington Hall, on behalf of my residents

I attended the SW area committee which I suspect is one of the better ones, as it is very well chaired and has more than a handful of residents attending - but I would still like to see more.

I attended Chinese New year at the Wolsey which turned out to be a great night, even though I went under a duty banner, I came away appreciating that I was invited along and the beautiful talent that was on show - a real gem..

I have canvassed in other wards, delivered leaflets for Ben Gummer and kept myself up to date with most of the global issues, as well as local. I've never felt more grateful for being able to go back to a nice dry house as I do at the moment. Some of the issues are minor in comparison to the floods but, nevertheless, have to be dealt with.

I tweet every day with items that I think will either interest my residents or my followers, who are from all over the world. I no longer go to news channels for the latest. My twitter line will pretty much tell me what's going on all worldwide, within a couple of minutes. This is my favourite social media tool and I highly recommend it if you're passionate about any particular subject matter - you can follow those with the same interest etc and I think it's a great way of communicating with people that would normally be out of our reach. I follow various blogs too, locally and nationally.

And I put together my own leaflet called Nadia's News and deliver it alongside colleagues and helpers.

Oh, and I've been to 10 Downing street to meet the Prime Minister - have I told you that?!

Now I have something to ask of you - please contact me if you see anything in Stoke Park that is of concern. Follow me on twitter @stokeparkcllr if you tweet and most of all, please don't make any assumptions about how we can help. If I'm not the right person, I will point you in the right direction.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Margaret Thatchers Words (and how it's still right today)

Grant Shapps writes an article for Conservatives Home website and I was reminded of the Great Mrs T words from her 1983 manifesto - to be proved right, as we are also proving right this time round.
How history repeats itself when it comes to clearing up the mess after Labour years:

“In the last four years, Britain has recovered her confidence and self-respect. We have regained the regard and confidence of other nations. We are seen as a people with integrity, resolve, and the will to succeed.”
The choice before the nation is stark: either to continue our present steadfast progress towards recovery, or to follow policies more extreme and more damaging than those ever put forward by any previous Opposition… Only if we create wealth can we continue to do justice to the old and sick and the disabled. It is economic success which will provide the surest guarantee of help for those who need it most.”

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

An Exciting Week with a visit to no 10

Last week was probably the best and most exciting week of my political journey.

It started a few days before when I received an invitation from the Prime Minister, to attend a reception at 10 downing street, via direct mail and totally out of the blue.

I was so delighted - it came a few days before my birthday and I wrongly guessed the envelope was just one of those marketing happy birthday cards with a discount offer - which would've put a little smile on my face. But this? - well I have to admit, my mouth was wide open for a few seconds as I took it in and read it several times in case it was a joke.

It took me a few days to find out why but it seems it was a reward for working so hard in my ward and for campaigning work. There was no way I was going to miss this little treat, so preparations began.

The start of the week was my birthday and although I don't like them coming round so quickly these days, I did decide to treat myself to several things including some nail work - the first time in my life that my hands were professionally made beautiful. I had a great day and that was the start to a really great week.

The Big day arrived and I was looking after my grandson in the morning - I do this every Wednesday and will not change it for anything, we adore one another and I cant bear to be away from him for too long - Plus afterwards, I had enough time to get ready and set off for the station to meet the other invitees, Councillor Liz Harsant, Eddie Phillips, Bob Hall, Paul West and Katherine Parkinson - all work tirelessly for the residents and the Ipswich conservatives.

It was on the train that I was reminded about my invitation card - my heart did a lurch when I realised I hadnt got it! This thing that I had lovingly looked at on a regular basis had passed me by the one time I was supposed to have it!

Being an optimist I wasn't worried, and I knew they had my name on a list, although I was annoyed with myself because I am always so diligent in such administrative things but hey ho, my hubby retrospectively enjoyed the fact that little miss Admin Perfect was human after all (by the way - I am not perfectly organised when it comes to bills - just travel documents, work and council papers. My bills disappear with the socks!).

I was perfectly happy to try my luck and get Ben Gummer to sort but my companions decided that it was a risk too far and started to organise for hubby to pick up the docs and pay for a train ride down to Westminster for me to be reconnected with my invite and proof of identity.

Thankfully, just as he was handing his credit card over to the ticket master, I called him back to put a halt, as Ben Gummer had quickly got onto the event organiser and all was well. My trust in him once more validated.

We met Ben at Westminster and spent some time listening to a debate with Gove and Tristam Hunt - Gove was sparkling with wit, cleverness and knowledge. The whipper snapper Hunt was no match but came across respectfully and with intelligence.

I was pleased to see Nadine Dorres involved in the debate. Apparently she has a good record of attendance and this was borne out again by her attendance in a half empty commons room. I also liked the deputy speaker who had no problem barking orders at Gove et al. She's a lot more pleasing to the eye than Bercow too!

This was followed by a catch up over tea with Ben..

From there we walked to Downing street. Knowing we were not going to be able to take pictures inside, I can only give you this one as proof of my safe arrival through the gates.

I think my best moment of reflection inside the house was walking up the staircase and through the rooms that Margaret thatcher once trod. I imagined her receiving MPs, guests and making our country great once more behind these secretive doors and it was fantastic to remember the first female prime minister whilst waiting to greet the current one.

After some wine and food, and then more wine and food - the PM made his great entrance and it wasn't too long before I found myself in front of him once more (I met him last year in Ipswich and spoke to him about grandparents rights) and this time I chose to speak to him about Ipswich, my upcoming re-election, Ben Gummer and our need to keep him as our MP especially as we are not happy with how Labour are running the IBC administration.

More importantly he accepted our invitation to visit Ipswich again.

I noticed that the PM had a little bit of knowledge about all of the constituencies represented in the room and he was every inch the statesmen.

His speech afterwards was excellent and reminded us all of how much we have already achieved in such a short time. To see the light at the end of the tunnel after only 3.5 years having inherited such a mess, is something to be proud of. I felt totally motivated and inspired.

Unfortunately I had to miss the council meeting but asking the PM to come to Ipswich again, talking to him about some of the issues in Ipswich was a far more important role, and one that I wouldn't have missed for anything. After nearly 8 years as a councillor it was a reward that will not come my way easily again. Listening to the labour administration, offering papers and policies that have already been decided by them at executive and outside council and being patronised by some of their members, is something that has been there and will continue to be there many times to come!

The evening ended in a pub near Liverpool St station before boarding a punctual train back to my beloved Ipswich.

And the whole affair is now safely stored in the memory bank.....

Monday, 3 February 2014

Ben Gummer MP latest Newsletter

Ben Gummer MP Newsletter
In This Issue
Ben attacks councils rent rise
Ben's article
Financial Ombudsman
Ben Gummer attacks councils rent rise

Ben has expressed his frustration with the Labour- run borough council for putting up council rents by nearly three times the rate of inflation.

Ben described the council as 'ripping off the working poor' and 'subsidising their own political ambitions off the backs of those that can afford it the least'. 
Campaign 2014
Join Ben in south-west Ipswich on Saturday morning. Ben will be chatting and running through concerns with local residents. 

Afterwards you can join Ben and your local Conservative Association for a pub lunch at The Brewery Tap  from 12:30pm. 

Help is needed with stuffing and delivering leaflets. Please contact Bob or Olivia for details. 



Ben in the Pub
Next Ben in the Pub dates are:

Thursday 6th February

Tuesday 18th February

Thursday 27th February


January 2014

We are always told that what happens in the USA soon enough comes to the UK.  But we also seem to be in the drag of a far less conspicuous nation, one that shouts little but spreads a lot of ideas: the Netherlands.  Their famous policies on marijuana are now being adopted, in different forms, in several US states as well as in Portugal.  I could go on - whether in education, health and social policy - the Dutch are quiet trailblazers.

Take housing.  The Dutch have rightly been long-proud of their record on social housing: they have built some of the most interesting and well-designed new social housing estates, and have worked hard to ensure that everyone has a decent home.

So you can imagine the reaction when Amsterdam's Labour mayor said recently that troublemakers should be moved to special "correction units", outside their communities, where they can receive intensive support away from the people whose lives they have made a misery.

The row was immediate and worthwhile: it forced people to face up to the fact that in every estate there are a few people who make life intolerable for everyone else - from late-night shouting, door-slamming and music to petty crime, drug-dealing and prostitution.

I am not going to propose something similar here, nor do I think it would necessarily work.  What I do know is that many estates in our town are plagued by just one or two families, who make a mess, destroy the peace and quiet, and worst of all make people afraid.

We have made progress in dealing with some, but not with all.  Perhaps it is because the word of the housing officer does not carry the weight it once did: some will remember that when they told you to clean up your front garden, you did it sharpish or lost your house.

Let's have a debate here.  Write to the Star and say what you think.

Financial Ombudsman

I received an email from the Financial Ombudsman a little while ago.  Now, before you skip to the next article, let me say that there is already one interesting thing to say about that first statement, and that is 'ombudsman' is the only word from modern Swedish to be assimilated into the English language.

His email revealed a few facts more.  During the last financial year (2012/13), 1,269 people living in Ipswich contacted the ombudsman's helpline - an increase of 69% on the previous year.  He took up 721 complaints which required investigation from Ipswich, up from 412 in 2011/12.  And here is the killer point - he is upholding more than half the complaints he receives - around 52% are found in favour of the consumer.  As a result, not a few businesses have been told to pay some form of compensation.

The breakdown is also quite interesting.  The top five most complained about products from people living in Ipswich were: PPI - 553 (up from 280 in 2011/12), credit card accounts - 28 (up from 21 in 2011/12), current accounts - 27 (up from 17 in 2011/12), house mortgages -13 (which was the same in 2011/12), and motor insurance - 10 (down from 14 in 2011/12).

By way of a diversion, we passed a new Consumer Rights Bill on Tuesday, which will - I hope and
expect - deal with some of the root causes of the problems highlighted by these complaints.  So hopefully, the poor old Ombudsman will have less of his work to do.

All of which, I hope, makes you feel like the last minute of reading was worth your time.  You see - never judge a sub-article by its title!