Sunday, 27 November 2011

300 Suffolk Police jobs axed

This week it was sad to see Inspector Mark Lewis leave his role as head of the North East Ipswich Safer Neighbourhood Team. Mark was one of those who has been heavily involved in the implementation of the SNT's in Ipswich from the start. They have been a resounding success.

Mark will continue to run the South East Team and we will be joined in the North East by Inspector Coe.

We have been promised by the Tory Government that there will be no front line cuts to the police service, but in Ipswich we are going down to 5 inspectors from 9 - according to the Tories, inspectors are not front line policeman. How can running a SNT not be front line?

We also hear that members of the SNT will now be doing some of the work formerly done by the transport division, this may possibly mean that the SNT will be less effective than they previously were.

The Labour Party in Ipswich will continue to campaign to try and stop the Government destroying our police force

My week ahead 28 November - 3 December

My week ahead 28 November - 3 December

Monday 28 November 9am - Radio interview ICR

Tuesday 29 November 5pm - School Governors Meeting, Sidegate Primary School
7.30pm - Suffolk Fabians Meeting, Citizens Advice Bureau

Thursday 1 December 6pm - Councillor training, Grafton House

Saturday 3 December 10.30am - Campaigning in North Ipswich

The highlight of my week was on Tuesday when I attended the launch of 'Labour Friends of the Forces' at the House of Commons and it was an honour to be chosen to be the advocate for the Eastern Region. I have already had some good conversations with Labour colleagues from Cambridge and Colchester about the way ahead.

This week we have had a number of senior Tories (with support from Lib Dem Cllr Ken Bates) moaning about the possible loss of the area forums - possibly to be replaced by area committees. These committees would have real power and also possibly a small budget. So strange the Tories so against it when they were so keen on locality budgets. The Tories talk about there being no consultation, in the North East of Ipswich we had a partnership meeting where the Area committees were discussed - guess what? None of the five Tory councillors turned up!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Labour 'Friends of the Forces'

There has probably been no time since the Korean War that the Labour Party needs to align itself with the Armed Forces. I write this listening to Prime Ministers question time and as often over the last few years it starts with a tribute to the fallen.

Dan Jarvis MP, Alasdair Ross and Jim Murphy MP - 'Forces can join for £1'

For far too long the Conservatives were seen as the party of the Forces, I for a long time saw this was a myth and if anyone else was in doubt the cuts to our armed forces and the future cuts show that the Tories can no longer describe themselves as the forces friends.

So once I heard that Jim Murphy MP, the shadow defence minister was helping set up the ‘Labour Friends of the Forces’ I quickly volunteered to join and have since become an advocate for the group in the East of England.

Last night I was invited to the shadow Cabinet room at the House of Commons for the official launch of the group. It was an honour to be invited to the launch and to enter this famous building but what was more humbling was meeting some of the other veterans who have joined the group including a number of ex Ghurkha soldiers. One of these brave warriors from Nepal has even become a Labour councillor. If anyone has a doubt that this group is not being taken seriously then you only had to see the number and quality of the Labour MP’s present, all keen to sing the praises of our armed forces and also to offer their support.

Dan Jarvis MP, tell us why he joined the party, with Jim Murphy and Gurkha veterans listening intently

But it was not only MP’s and veterans who were present there were other Labour activists at the event and it was great that both Colchester and Cambridge were represented at the event.

Superb speeches were given by Jim Murphy and also Lord Robertson and Dan Jarvis, ex Par Major and now the MP for Barnsley.

The evening flew by and I managed to have quite a long chat with both Lord Rosser and Gemma Doyle MP, both who work with Jim as members of the shadow defence team. Gemma seems to be an MP with a bright future at Westminster.

So what next? Well as the groups advocate in the East, I want to visit troops, speak to them and their families not just to tell them of our vision for the future of the Armed Forces but also to hear their fears and get their thoughts.

Lord Robertson launches the group

We also want to see those who support our forces to join the group, you do not need to have been a member of the armed forces to join but just someone who is a Labour supporter and has a empathy with the armed forces. Join here.

On top of that members of the armed forces and veterans can join the Labour Party for £1.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

My week ahead 21- 27 November

Monday 21 November 2pm North East Ipswich Partnership Meeting
4pm - Culture and Leisure Portfolio Meeting
6pm - Campaigning

Tuesday 22 November 7.30am - Breakfast briefing with TA and Reservist soldiers - Bury St Edmunds
7pm - Launch of Labour 'Friends of the Forces' - House of Parliament

Saturday 26 November 10.30am - Labour campaigning, North West Ipswich

This week I have been the target of a number of personal attacks, some would say if you 'live by the sword, you die by sword'. I understand and enjoy the rough and tumble of politics, I understand that when you say (or write, or tweet) something it may be used against you in the future. But when it is just out and out lies it can make you angry. I was accused this week of having my mind set on being the Mayor of Ipswich - rubbish!

More serious were the accusations made about how I have acted as a Governor at Sidegate School - this was most hurtful.

Even more strange was the timing of theses attacks, they came in the same week that the Tories in Ipswich were up in arms after Ipswich Spy had published a post highlighting the current in-fighting in the Ipswich Conservative Constituency party. Maybe they should look at the posts they publish themselves first.

A true friend of the Armed Forces

I am looking forward to Tuesday when I am the launch of the Labour 'Friends of the Forces' at the Houses of Parliament, it will be an honour to walk into that building and then meet and talk to Dan Jarvis, Jim Murray and Lord Robertson - men who really care about our Armed Forces - unlike a certain Liam Fox.

Liberals leaving a sinking ship

Whilst looking at recent local election results came across this interesting set of statistics.

Since the May 2011 local elections there have been 28 instances where councillors have defected from one party to another:

Labour have had 9 councilors Join them from other political parties and had one member defect to another group.

The Tories, have lost 3 to defections but gained seven from other groups, but it is no surprise to us involved in local politics that it is the Lib Dems who have seen the most defections since May. they have gained one councillor from another political group but have had 16 of their councillors leave for other groups.

Liberals leaving a sinking ship?

Have edited this post after a Lib Dem complained- I was just using a common English term used when anyone flees what has become a lost cause . Apologies for any offence caused.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Knives out For Cameron

Under two years in Government and certain Tory MP's have already got the knives out for their leader and Prime Minister, David Cameron.

There will always be politicians in any party that do not like their leader and even at times let the public/press know they are not happy. But I am sure many of us are surprised how quick his own party has turned against Cameron.

I don't think Cameron is either a great leader or Prime Minister but the Tory MP's are not rebelling because they are concerned about the state of the country it seems that most are just bitter as the junior minister posts they were expecting have ended up in the hands of Lib Dems. So many posts that at times it seems that the Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth and Bob Russell at Colchester are the only Lib Dems still on the backbench.

The latest attack by a Tory MP came this weekend with Patrick Mercer accused of calling the Tory leader an 'arse' it makes interesting reading - more here

Cameron would have expected a small rebellion on the Europe referendum but he would have still been surprised by the size of the mutiny, the Tories still confused on where they exactly stand on Europe. Some of those who rebelled will be well known Euro sceptics, others would have been in 'disgruntled because Lib Dems got my job' band and a third group would be those who will state that they rebelled because their local association members expected them to vote for a referendum. Note 'what their association expected' rather than their constituents.

Where does this leave Gummer and his fellow Suffolk Tory MP's? All voted with the Government and all are seen as ultra Cameron loyalists and it could also be said that they voted for what is best for their constituents. We must remember that 60% East of England trade is with EU, one-third more than other UK regions.

I expect our Tory MP's to stay loyal to Cameron, Coffey is allegedly rated highly and may be close to a junior minister post, Dan Poulter seems to be in the Evening Star every day and has taken the role of 'saviour of Ipswich Hospital' from Ben Gummer. But Gummer does seem to have a problem with his own association and in particular the Tory activists.

Gavin Maclure makes it quite clear that he has fell out of love with Cameron and some of his posts have more of a UKIP feel than Tory Party but he at least states that they knew Ben Gummer's view on Europe before they elected him but will Ben find it hard to get people to campaign for him when so many seem anti - Europe? James Spencer their habitual Bridge Ward candidate has made a number of attacks on Ben Gummer and as usual his 'follower' Kevin Algar also seems keen to join the anti Europe brigade. Ben Gummer was probably not surprised that may of his association are so anti Europe but I am sure that he is disappointed that at one of their flagship lectures they have invited Mr Campbell Bannerman MEP to be the guest speaker. Now Gavin describes Bannerman as a Conservative MEP, but in fact he was elected as a UKIP MEP and that there is a call for him to resign as we elect political groups as MEP's rather than individuals - more on this at the Ipswich Spy site.

So what does Ben Gummer do? Turn up to the lecture to confront Mr Campbell Bannerman, to tell the association members the benefits of being part of the European Union, or does he just keep a low profile, and hope that come the next General Election, the activists will forget his pro Europe stance and get behind him in his fight to keep Ipswich as a Tory seat?

The good thing about so many Tory activists now tweeting or using blogs - we will soon find out.

The Tory MP's, the Tory activists and the Tories in Ipswich- all falling out of love with David Cameron, Gavin Maclure even suggested that putting Cameron on their leaflets in St Margaret's Ward may have been a contributing factor to their defeat last Thursday.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

My week ahead 14 -21 November

Monday 14 November 6pm - Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 16 November 11am - North East Ipswich Forum, Ransomes Sports and Social Club - Sidegate Avenue

4pm - Polling Stations Working Group, Grafton House

Thursday 17 November 5pm - Sidegate Primary School, Finance Meeting

A number of reminders of my schooldays this week, Monday I was at Fore Street Swimming Pool for the launch of our free i-card for members of HM Forces residing in the town, this was where I learnt to swim when I was at St Helens School. Then on Thursday at the St Margaret's by-election I found myself knocking up voters in Devereaux Court off Bolton Lane. Before becoming luxury housing this was once part of Tower Ramparts School.

Talking of the by-election at first it seems a disappointing result as we worked tirelessly to increase our vote. But it was not to be and it became obvious during the day that many of our voters were returning to tactical voting as they would rather have a Lib Dem Cllr than a Tory. But all our good work will not go to waste and it will be of enormous benefit to us when we come to getting David Ellesmere elected as our MP at the next General Election.

Wednesday gave me the opportunity to represent residents at the Planning Committee. The good news was that the planning proposal for the Golden Key pub site was turned down. More strange was the Tory decision to all abstain.

Today (Saturday) I was provisionally selected to stand again as the Labour candidate in the Borough election for Rushmere Ward next May.

North East Ipswich Forum - 16th November

The North East Ipswich Forum will be held next week, the 16th November. The forum is normally held in the evening but this is our annual daytime forum.

The event starts at 11am on the 16th and the location is the Ransomes Sports and Social Club in Sidegate Avenue.

Topics up for discussion include the Suffolk County Council budget and we will also get an update on police priorities for North East Ipswich.

I will be attending the forum and hope some of you can join us on Thursday morning.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Golden Key - planning application refused

Good news for Rushmere residents – the planning application to build a supermarket on the Golden Key site on Woodbridge Road was refused by the planning committee in Ipswich this morning.

Greene King has stated that the retailer was not Tesco and that they may still open a shop in the existing building.

I was allowed to speak for 7 minutes at the meeting, I emphasised the traffic issue and also the detrimental effect that a supermarket may have on our small independent shops.

Greene King may appeal, in my conclusion I stated that if they wished to build a shop then a joined up plan with the BP garage would be a better option as that would put less pressure on the traffic as they could share entry and access. We will see what happens next.

It was disappointing that the Tories and Lib Dems spent much of the meeting having a go at myself and the local Labour Party for delivering our leaflet about the plan for the Woodbridge Road site. I thought this was because they were for the proposal but only the Lib Dem councillor eventually voted for the plan. The Tories all abstained, (including our own Tory councillor for Rushmere – Judy Terry) so we are not really sure where the local Tories stand on this issue.

I am sure this was not be the last we will hear about this plan but at least for now we will not see a large supermarket on the site.

I must thank all those who supported our campaign; it was an honour to represent the views of Rushmere residents this morning.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Everest - every mountaineers dream

As a young soldier I was fortunate enough to visit the Himalaya's as part of a mountaineering expedition. A team of 20 including 12 soldiers who were under 18 climbed Mera Peak. The young soldiers also visited Everest Base Camp whilst a smaller team (including myself) climbed Lobuje Peak.

I had read some books about climbing in the High Ranges, by the likes of Bonnington but I also took two books with me about the successful 1953 expedition. One by the leader John Hunt and one by a former Officer in my Regiment, Wilfrid Noyce. Reading those two books whilst following their long walk in was an unforgettable experience.

Made even better when I found out that they climbed Lobuje as a training peak for Everest. It is amazing how they climbed it with ease in 53 when we had difficulty in 1989 even with all the latest equipment. I even came close to death after falling on the decent.

I have not been back to Nepal but after today I am determined to return. I visited the Hooper Gallery in Clerkenwell, London. They currently have (till November 25th) on show a number of photographs from the early Everest expeditions right up to the 53 trip. The faces of those mountaineers seem to have so much to tell, Hunt, Hillary, Shipton, Mallory and Tenzing Norgay, each picture has so much much detail. So if in London get along and visit and just a couple of doors down is the pub, the 3 Kings - try the French sausage sandwich - completes a great day out.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

My week ahead 7- 13 November

Monday 7 November 11am - Launch of i-card for HM Forces, Fore Street Swimming pool

6pm - Campaigning in St Margaret's Ward

Tuesday 8 November 9.15am - St James Palace, Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award presentation.

Wednesday 9 November 9am - Planning committee, speaking on behalf of residents.

Thursday 10 November 7am - St Margaret's by-election

Saturday 11 November 10.30am - Campaigning in East Ipswich

Sunday 12 November 11am - Armistice Parade, Christchurch Park.

Seemed to find myself spending every spare minute this week talking to residents in St Margaret's Ward. There is no doubt that speaking to residents is the best way to find out what people care and worry about in this great town. I am sure all three political groups would agree that talking to residents is the best and right thing to do, but even if they do agree the Tories seem to be carrying on from the Borough election in May and only attempting to talk to their own supporters.

The other big event this week for me was representing the council at a conference looking at building closer links between the military and civilian communities - more on that here.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Tory Veterans Minister- out of touch with Armed Forces

David Ellesmere , soldiers and tickets to watch Jools

Tory Veterans Minister - out of touch with Armed Forces? - Some would say no surprise that a Minister is out of touch with those who he is meant to represent, but I was surprised how much Tory Minister, Andrew Robathan was out of touch with not only veterans but serving members of our Armed Forces. Why surprised? Mr Robathan is a veteran himself. Without being seen to be playing the class card it may be as an ex Guards Officer he does not understand the pressures that both serving soldiers and veterans are living under.

Andrew Robathan - out of touch?

I attended the Local Government Association sponsored conference in London on Tuesday. It was attended by councillors and council officers from all over England plus representatives from the Ministry of Defence, serving soldiers plus representatives from Service charities.

Most of the councils represented were County Councils and the idea of the conference was to get councils to sign up for the Community Covenant Scheme. Hampshire, Oxfordshire and North Yorkshire have led the way. By signing up you are able to access grants from the MOD to help both the local and Military communities.

Disappointingly Suffolk County Council did not attend but I represented Ipswich Borough Council and we will be looking at joining the Community Covenant Scheme. We have already started working closely with our local military units. On Saturday a number of troops from Wattisham received free tickets to see Jools Holland at the Regent and next week those who reside in Ipswich will get access to our sports facilities. Most of the troops residing in Suffolk live in our more rural districts and the County Council would be best placed to set up a scheme with the military. But as Suffolk seem more keen on getting rid of the services it is already responsible for it seems unlikely they will want to commit to the scheme.

I was fortunate to be able to ask the Veterans Minister a question and then get into a discussion with General Rollo, the senior soldier presentm both my questions led to further debate.

General Rollo, waiting for my question?

Most of the councils were Tory run, and I expect that Mr Robathan expected an easy ride but that did not happen. Mr Robathan was quick to boast about how the Tory Government had doubled the Operational Allowance, a Tory councillor from Huntingdon (and a veteran) was quick to tell the Minister that this increase had come at the same time that many other military allowances were being cut, including Disturbance Allowance and grants for education.

The Minister was then warned by Dawn McCafferty, chairman of the RAF Families Federation, about the impact of redundancies and cuts to allowances on service personnel.

She told the Local Government Association conference on the covenant that many were "keeping their heads down" in an attempt to avoid the next rounds of job cuts.

"Families are hurting and actually the covenant doesn't mean a great deal to those who have just received a redundancy notice," she said.

This was disappointing to hear and I hope the Minister took note but as he did not stay for the afternoon session, I am not sure he understood how many in the military and those working for military charities feel totally let down by the Tory Government.

What was good, is that many in the Ministry of Defence are keen to work with local councils to improve the lives of those in the military, veterans and their families.

You can be certain that Ipswich Borough council will be playing it's part.