Monday 26 February 2007

Ipswich Labour Group Meeting

Attended the Ipswich Labour Group meeting tonight, I am one of the Party observers on the group and have always found them lively meetings with planty of differing views offered.
An important meeting this week as it is full council meeting on Wednesday when the Tories and their Lib Dem partners will bring in their budget and with it a rise in the rent and dividends that the bus company will have to pay the council.
Will be interesting to see how the Lib Dems behave, will they vote for the budget then support Labour in our motion that the Council should run the bus service for the good of the Ipswich people not just for profit.
Will be able to tell you later in the week how the vote went.

Sunday 25 February 2007

BNP Defeated by Labour

All smiles: a victorious Judy Gannon, who won the Illingworth and Mixenden by-election to retain Labour's seat

With my parents being labour activists, I was probably always going to end up in the party but one of the events that helped shape by beliefs was whilst at school in the 70's when I witnessed the "Rock against Racism" campaign. I was reminded of this recently whilst reading Billy Bragg's book - 'The Progressive Patriot'. Reading Billy's book it is obvious that his political beliefs were effected by those concerts and events in 1978. As well as politically they also helped shape his musical tastes, though I like some of the music that was not excited me, it was the bringing together of not only various cultures and organisations but also the bringing together of all ages with one purpose.
Joining the Army in 1978, at the start of the Thatcher era made it difficult to often balance political beliefs with what the Government was asking us to do but as well as being a Socialist, I was also a patriot and was proud that as a country we had stood against fascism in 1939.
It was at this time I also started to read about those who had volunteered to go to Spain in the 30's to fight Franco, how it had been a fledgling Labour organisation that was one of the main supporters of those who went to fight in Spain.
In 1978, I just could not understand how anyone could support the National Front, as they walked round with the Union Jack in one arm and a Nazi swastika in the other.
I was so thankful but also proud that they had never gained any support in Ipswich.

But the last few years have seen the rise of the BNP, a different name, maybe slightly cleverer but still fascists, playing on fear and poverty, using the propaganda and half truths of papers like the Daily Mail as reasons why people should support them.
But we must be honest with ourselves and admit that it is strong Labour areas that are more susceptible to BNP victories than strong Tory seats.

I was so pleased that I saw in the paper yesterday that Labour had held a council seat in Calderdale (Halifax). The BNP had already won a seat in the Ward (Illingworth and Mixenden )and the Tory Councillor for the Ward had left the Tories to join the BNP!
This part of Halifax could have become the first ward in Yorkshire to have three BNP Councillors.
But we must still take the fight to the BNP, the great news of a Labour win was slightly tempered by looking at the full result:
Labour: 1,104
BNP: 1,034
Tory: 525
Lib Dem: 150
Ind: 68

It is still frightening that the BNP managed to gain over 1,000 votes, at the last election they had won with 1,075 - so their vote had held up but a strong Labour campaign had manged to increase our vote from 840 to 1,104.

In Ipswich we have not seen the BNP, but leaflets have appeared in Westgate Ward and they have tried to a hold meeting just outside Ipswich and our own ward in Rushmere St Andrew.

Save our bus service

The title of this item may get you thinking this is just a normal local campaign that only effects the people of Ipswich, true it is just the Ipswich bus service that I am talking about but it highlights many aspects of local politics that people can relate to all over the country.

      • Green issues

      • Getting people to use Public Transport

      • Lib Dem support for Tory councils and policies

      • Getting the local paper to support the campaign (without letting them make it seem that it was their idea in the first place)

      In Ipswich this campaign has really caught the public attention, and the Tories seem to be totally shocked by the public response to the threat of cuts to the public bus service.

      A basic explanation of the situation in Ipswich: We have bus service in Ipswich that many town and cities would be proud of. when the Tory Government de- regulated Public Transport, A Labour run Ipswich council set the bus company up as an arms length company and have run it that way since. the Tories now proposes to move the bus depot and then hike up it's rent and also make the bus company pay a dividend to the council from it's profits.

      The reason why? So the money from the bus service Will enable the Tories to keep council tax down - their holy grail.

      The managing director of the bus company prepared a document to show where cuts would have to be made to pay this new rent and the dividend that the council now required. a number of the less used bus routes will go but also more worryingly at night most bus services will change from two and hour to one an hour. this to me is criminal, especially after the tragic events that occurred in Ipswich before Christmas- we should be looking to increase the number of bus routes at night not cut them - public safety should come before profits.

      When Labour and the local paper went public with this it not only came as a shock to the public but also certain Tory Councillor's- even the Mayor! His own ward would see it's bus service cut- it became obvious to many that this administration is run by about 4 people and that they do not even keep their own group informed of policy.

      A certain Liberal activist- who has bigger aspirations joined in with the attack on the Tory administration (he is currently a Lib Dem County Councillor) but within two weeks had changed his view to one that the Labour Group were "mischief making". His change in view came around when he found out that the Lib Dem's on the Borough Council - had rubber stamped the Tory plan.

      For once we have the local paper on our side, and it has helped us in what we had found a difficult task in informing the people of Ipswich that the council was now Tory run - with support of the Lib Dem's. Up to this point many in Ipswich still thought we were in power. The cuts in the bus service by the Borough and the cuts in Community care by the County Council has at least shown the public of Ipswich and Suffolk that there is still a clear difference between Labor and Conservative- what ever certain papers say.

      Zebra Crossing- Rushmere Road

      Much of local politics is about getting things done for local people. For a number of months myself and the Labour councillor for St Johns ward- Neill Macdonald have been working with local residents to try and get a zebra crossing placed on two busy roads in Ipswich.
      The crossings would be close to Barclay's Bank on both Rushmere Road and Woodbridge Road. A crossing like this has been promised for a number of years and it looked like it would go ahead in 2006. But due to the Tory run County Council suddenly asking for an extra £16,000 the Tory run Borough Council decided to remove the Livability Fund contribution to the crossing.
      Most amazingly, two of the Tories who voted to remove this contribution are Judy Terry who represents Rushmere and John Carnall who represents St Johns.
      It also seems strange that two councils, both run by the Conservatives can't seem to work together- if anything they seem determined not to agree on anything as shown again recently with the County's proposed plans for a new Fire Station.
      Back to the Zebra Crossing, thanks to a residents petition and pressure from myself and Neill (with support from our local MP- Chris Mole) it has been placed on the list of planned works for 2007/08. we should get a clearer idea in April if the work is to go ahead..
      What was so great about these crossings is that they would have helped so many of the community, from parents and children crossing these busy roads before and after school- the crossing is close to St Johns, Sidegate and St Marys Primary schools and is also used by pupils of Northgate, Copleston and St Albans as well as a number of playschools. It also helps keep the local shops in Woodbridge Road in use with many members of the community needing to cross these roads to get to these much used shops, including a number of our senior citizens who live in Morecombe Court on Roundwood Road.
      I am determined to keep working on this campaign and hope we get the desired outcome in April.

      Sunday 18 February 2007

      Making Belvedere Road Bridge safe

      Since November I have with the help of residents from Belvedere Road been leading a campaign to make the bridge near the cemetery safe for both pedestrians and motorists.
      The need for something to be done was highlighted by an incident at the start of November 2006 when a car narrowly missed two residents of Belvedere Rd who were walking their dogs.
      One advantage of living within the ward (unlike the three tory councillors!) is that you can understand the issues that affect local residents better, I actually walk over the Belvedere Rd bridge on my way to Work.
      The good news is that due to our campaign, signs are to be placed on either side of the bridge to make it clearer to motorists that they need to take care when driving over the bridge.
      The chevron sign was put up in January (though at first in the wrong place- but I managed to get it moved) and hump back bridge signs should be placed up soon.