Tuesday 30 December 2008

Tory run Suffolk in a pickle!

The 'do nothing' party seems to be getting ready to start 2009 with some idea's. Now don't get excited, they don't seem to have done much research into them as you will see with the latest one.

The Times online has the story that a Tory Government would cut the salaries of 'fat cat' Chief Executives of Local Authorities. Now you would think that would seem like a good idea, especially to the Tory faithful, and by looking at the comments at the end of the 'Times' story, it seems the blue rinse brigade are keen on this plan.. I am sure they will be joined by all the readers of the Daily Mail. But this is when research may have been useful. Of the eight highest paid Chief Executives in the country, six are at Tory run administrations!

So why wait till after an election, Eric Pickles - get your Tory run councils to cut these salaries now. Oh that is the problem, they like to pay high salaries to the likes of Andrea Hill in Suffolk and at the same time cut services to those who need them most.

Yes it is that Andrea Hill- Suffolk (Tory run) has the second highest paid Chief Executive in the country.

Andrea Hill giving Eric Pickles a call?

So if Eric Pickles can't even get 6 Tory run administrations to cut the salaries of 'fat cats' how the hell are they going to control those in the City!

Back to the drawing board Mr Pickles.

Friday 26 December 2008

Why are we in Afghanistan?

With the number of casualty's we are suffering, it is only right that we question why we are fighting in Afghanistan, but I believe we are right to be there and here is one more good reason why we are needed.

“You have until January 15 to stop sending your girls to schools. If you do not pay any heed to this warning, we will kill such girls. We also warn schools not to enrol any female students; otherwise, their buildings will be blown up.”

This is the latest announcement from the Pakistani friends of the Afghan Taliban. More on this at Harry's Place.

Plenty to read

Just chilling at the moment before the usual Boxing Day football.

It was our turn to entertain the family this year and my wife did a fantastic job with the cooking and we all had a good time. I received some brilliant presents including a pub quiz and some pickled eggs!

But my favourites as always were my varied selection of books. which I thought I would list and then it will serve as a reminder to make sure I read them all.

Two military books: Andy McNab and is latest offering "Seven Troop", I like his factual books and as with "Immediate Action", it has plenty on his time with my former regiment - The Royal Green Jackets. I also got some pre tour reading with a book about Afghanistan and the recent British Operations - "A Million Bullets" by James Fergusson.

My usual assortment of sports books, and this time the more humorous side of football with two books from the "When Saturday Comes" stable. "Learn to speak Capello" by Tim Bradford and "Scenes from Football History" by Dave Robinson. I also had a football trivia book by James Dart, "The Knowledge" and "Ipswich Town - On This Day" by Dan Botten.

My final book this year was my only fiction with Cris Ryan's "Firefight".

Now I just have to find time to read the as I have also three football games to watch this week and I have to start delivering the Chris Mole calenders to the constituents of Rushmere ward.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas from Ipswich to all the readers of this blog.
The cartoon is from Walter Crane, more famous as a contributor to English children's literature, he was also a notable socialist.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Dodgy "Charity collection" on Ipswich streets

I have received information from a number of Rushmere residents about "dodgy charity collections" in Rushmere. Last month we saw these unscrupulous people back on our streets. They put through your door a leaflet asking for old clothes to be put in a bag which they will collect from your door. Once the clothes are sold on the money raised will go to the 'Children's Welfare Foundation'.

Often the leaflets even state they are collecting for a Registered Charity. The Foundation were registered with the Charity Commission but are to be struck off as they have not even filed any accounts for last year. the firm collecting the clothes are 'Fortune International' who hail from Bedford. They blame the charity but when pushed they said all they had given the charity was a total of £600 in a year. Not much when they are out every day collecting over most of East Anglia.

The licensing department at Ipswich Borough Council are aware of this firm and they have not applied for a license, more worrying is that they believe this firm may even pick up bahs from doorsteps that are meant for respectable charities!

Advice= If in doubt when reading a leaflet, contact Ipswich Borough Council Licensing Department or the Charity Commission and pass on this information to other residents. Charities need all the help we can give them and getting rid of firms like Fortune International will help.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Billy and the A13

Last month I blogged about the Billy Bragg concert at the Corn Exchange in Ipswich. As i have already mentioned it was brilliant but!
there is aways a but... He never sang his tribute to South Essex/east London and in particular the A13. Now it may have been because he thought we would have preferred a song about the A12 or the A14 (or A45!).
Well thanks to the brilliant blog, 'The Poor Mouth' - you all now have a chance to hear Billy wax lyrically about that great road!

Sunday 14 December 2008

Granted a 'Leave of Absence'

Last Wednesday the Full Ipswich Borough Council granted me a 'leave of absence' for 11 months. this will enable me to keep my place on the council if I am mobilised in January to join 2 Rifles on a planned tour of Afghanistan.

I thought it may have been a quick decision, and as I had to leave the chamber, I did not think I would be out of the room long. But a debate was had and two of the Lib Dems abstained and one even spoke against allowing me to retain my post.

I can understand some people finding it difficult to vote for me to leave if they are against our presence in Afghanistan but I was surprised that they actually spoke against it.

But I am led to believe that our group leader, David Ellsmere spoke very powerfully for me to be allowed to stay on as a councilor and also from the opposite benches, Steven Wells also spoke up for me and so it was nice to have cross party support.

My Labour colleagues will continue to campaign in Rushmere whilst I am away and take on my ward work and the two Conservative councillors for the ward have also offered to take on any outstanding case work.

I am not sure when I am off, or even if I am definitely going but until I do I will continue to work for my constituents, on Saturday I was delivering budget leaflets in the ward and this week I have 3 committee meetings at Grafton House.

Once I have definite news on my mobilisation I will inform my constituents.

"Magic" Jim no longer?

We all can find it hard to move on, or know when it is time to give up. This afternoon I was conned into playing sevens rugby, and at 46 when the next oldest player was about 26, not the most sensible of idea's! We came second, "The Dueling Badgers" that is. (I know-stupid name) But I have now officially declared that I am now retiring from competitive sport.

But it may not only be me who is finding it hard to give up. Jim Magilton, our Irish manager at Ipswich Town is determined to stay/hang on to his mangers post at the club. But many of us town supporters are coming round to the idea that a new man may be needed.

I loved Jim the player and I still admire his passion for the game and the club but tactics and man management need some work on.

So it may no longer be "Magic" Jim Magilton, but just plain Jim.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Back to the Army

Back to the Army and possibly Afghanistan!

Some of you may have read in the Ipswich Evening Star that I may possibly be off to spend 6 months in Afghanistan . Currently I am going through the process of mobilisation hopefully to join the Infantry Battalion, 2 Rifles in the new year.
The Battalion are currently in Northern Ireland but have been warned off for a 6 month tour of Afghanistan and if deployed will be spending the Summer in Helmand Province.
I left the army 6 years ago so it is with a sense of trepidation that I await to join the Rifles, I had previously spent 24 years in the Royal Green Jackets. The Green Jackets reformed into The Rifles in 2007.
I will hope to keep readers of this blog informed about the training and what it is actually like in Afghanistan, on the front line.

Little did I know when serving as a young 18 year old Rifleman in 1980 that in 2008, I would be preparing to go on another operational tour.

A young "Councillor -to be" in Cyprus on a UN Tour in 1980

I do believe we are making a difference in Afghanistan, we must not let that county fall back under the influence of the Taliban, you just had to read the recent news reports of the acid attacks on young girls to see why we must stay.
I am sure also that I am re-joining one of the best trained forces in the world and that coupled with the recent experiences of soldiers in Ireland, Bosnia, Kosova and Iraq will serve us well. one thing I know that will not surprise me, and that is the superb example young servicemen set for all the youth of this country.
It is not confirmed that I am going yet, and with army paperwork- anything could happen! Whatever happens I hope to be able to resume my council duties on my return, I will also hope to be able to go to local schools and organisations and give them an insight to life on the front line.

Fix My Street

FixMyStreet - report, view or discuss local problems
You may have noticed a new link on the side of this blog to 'Fix My Street'. This is a website set up by 'My Society' and enables residents to report potholes, graffiti, street lighting not working and damage to pavements via the website to their local council. 'Fix My Street' then send an e mail to the local council and then you can use the site to monitor progress on that issue. and put on updates and even inform the site once the fault is rectified, you can also use the site to see what other issues have been reported in your area.
Now some councils are not too keen on 'Fix My Street' and there are those here in Ipswich who would rather see the back of it-why? well Ipswich has had the most reports sent to them recently by 'Fix My Street'. the current amount of reports sits at over 180, with only Falkirk and Kent County Council anywhere near that total. But Ipswich Borough Council should turn this round and see it as a plus point. A Council in Hampshire has linked 'Fix My Street' to their own computer systems and now can reply to the resident instantly and they use 'Fix My Street' as a public service.
Of course maybe the administration at Ipswich are not so keen as it shows that Ipswich does not get a fair deal when it come to money for road repairs from their friends at the Tory run Suffolk County Council!

Thursday 27 November 2008

Billy Bragg warns the cynical!

Last night my wife and some other Ipswich Labour Party members went to see Billy Bragg in concert. the gig was held at the Corn Exchange and it was over 20 years since the last time Billy played Ipswich.

The night started with the talented and funny American- Otis Gibbs, who was a great warm up for Billy and has also left me with the desire to go to Cawker City, Kansas to see the largest ball of twine. You had to be there to understand!

Billy came on after the break and was still going strong at 10.45pm. A good mixture of new stuff, some old classics, and interspersed with humour and political thought. His last bit left the audience in no doubt that Billy wants to see a 4th term for a Labour government, and in his eyes it is only our own cynical attitude that can stop it.

So as Billy said at the finish-"Keep the faith!"

Sunday 23 November 2008

George W Bush has left the White House

One sunny day in 2009 an old man approached the White House
from across Pennsylvania Avenue,
where he'd been sitting on a park bench.
He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said,
'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'

The Marine looked at the man and said,
'Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here.'

The old man said, 'Okay' and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House
and said to the same Marine,

I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'

The Marine again told the man,
'Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer President
and no longer resides here.'

The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House
and spoke to the very same U. S. Marine, saying
'I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.'

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point,
looked at the man and said,
'Sir, this is the third day in a row
you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush.
I've told you already that
Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here.
Don't you understand?'

The old man looked at the Marine
and said, 'Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.'

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted,
and said, 'See you tomorrow.'

Saturday 22 November 2008

Hitler on BNP list!

And he is not very happy about it! As you can see here.

Friday 21 November 2008

32 BNP members in Ipswich but 32 too many!

' Not many of these to be seen on the streets of Ipswich'

First of all I will say that BNP members should be angry that their details have been released by a disgruntled member of their party, and the Police should take action against that person.

But even so it is interesting to see how many members of this "Far Right" party are in Suffolk and Ipswich in particular. According to local papers we have just over 100 in Suffolk and 32 either in or close to Ipswich. First of all this is 32 too many. But compared to other towns of our size it is a low total. But we must not get complacent, within the last two weeks the BNP have held street stalls in both Colchester and Harwich and earlier in the year held one in Norwich. There are over 600 BNP members in Essex, though many seem to be in the south of the county, with Loughton a surprising "Far Right" stronghold!

The current financial climate is just the sort of opportunity the BNP will use to recruit more recruits- we must make sure that does not happen and to do that we must (and in Ipswich WILL) continue to campaign all over the town and to continue to offer a good service to our constituents. Maybe if the Tories and Lib Dems also got off their backsides and campaigned as well, there would be even less opportunity for the likes of the BNP or UKIP to get out on the streets of Ipswich and peddle their lies.

As an ex soldier I was not happy to see a number of soldiers on the list, when I served in the Army, I was led to believe that you could not be a member of a political party but it seems now you can be a member but not an activist. I wonder what the Fijian and other Commonwealth soldiers feel about having a member of the BNP in their section or platoon!

Thursday 13 November 2008

More old Labour pictures.

Two more pictures from the history of the Ipswich Labour Party,

The first is of Ken Weetch our former MP, campaigning in about 74, alongside him is Lord Elwyn Jones, the then Attorney General (I am led to believe). Behind them is the campaign camper van that my mum (Annie Ross) spent many hours driving.

The second picture is of my late father Peter Ross, holding the Ipswich CLP red flag at a May Day event in the 70's.

Monday 10 November 2008

Giles cartoons: Drawn to Suffolk

I have been critical of the Tory administrations lack of direction when it comes to the provision of both leisure and culture in Ipswich. Examples include the sudden debt at the Ipswich Regent and the complete horlicks they have made of swimming provision where they have told us they were going to save the Broomhill Pool, build an Olympic 50M pool at Portman Road and whilst talking about those two proposals they ran down the Crown Street pool and this week they have now said the 50M pool is dead in the water (sorry about the cheap pun) and that they are going to give Crown Pools a makeover!

But I will praise them for the opening of the Town Hall Galleries, it has given the people of Ipswich a chance to see visiting exhibitions and also to display some of the items that are often hidden away in the depths of the museum or the Mansion.

I enjoy most the items that have a local slant, and was happy that I could contribute to the 'Played in Ipswich' exhibition held 18 months ago. This week we see the opening of another exhibition with a local slant and one of interest to me as Carl Giles was a friend of my Grandfather. The exhibition features the work of the legendary cartoonist, Carl Giles. He lived locally and also created most of his cartoons in a small office above where the statue of 'Grandma' now stands. Because he lived near Ipswich he often produced cartoons for the Football club, local businessmen and charities. From this week through to the 17 January 2009 you have a chance to see a display of his work including a number of items from the Cartoon Museum in London. Get along and see these fantastic cartoons many featuring 'grandma' and her famous family.

Sunday 9 November 2008

We will remember them.

Kohima Epitaph

When you go home

Tell them of us and say

For your tomorrow

We gave our today

Today I made my annual pilgrimage to the Ipswich Cenotaph in Christchurch Park. Slightly different this year, as I am now a Councillor and so I had to march behind the Mayor and found myself close to those laying wreaths.

For me this is one of the most important days of the year, not only because I am an ex serviceman but because this day was always so important to my late father. Because of that reason it was nice to be able to have a chat with my fathers old comrades in the Ipswich Branch of the Korean Veterans.

The people of Ipswich as usual turned up in their hundreds and it was great to see so many children. But things do need to change, the British Legion are losing members and many of the more recent veterans see no need to join the legion, with most finding it more beneficial to be members of their relevant regimental association. At Ipswich I still get annoyed that the Scouts and Guides wreath is laid by two of their adult leaders, I feel strongly that this act should preformed by children. It was nice to see two school pupils from the town lay a wreath and to hear that a number of Ipswich pupils were attending a service in France to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

This will always remain a special day in my family, even more so this year with my younger brother nor being able to attend as he has just deployed to Afghanistan.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, not the years condemn;

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We will remember them.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Ipswich Labour- helping Obama

Ipswich Labour agent and councillor John Cook is on his way back to Ipswich after spending a week helping the Obama campaign, and whilst there he met Julius, a former Rushmere resident also supporting Obama and Julius even got the opportunity to vote for the President elect!

John, Rushmere resident Julius and Obama poster!

Back on the radio!

I have previously blogged about appearing as a guest on the Naked Football Show on Ipswich Community Radio (ICR), well I was back at the station today making my first appearance on the weekly run "Councillors" show. Each of the three main political parties gets a show and then every 4 weeks they all get together for a political discussion/argument!

Today we were hoping to go live to Ohio, where my fellow Labour Councillor, John Cook has been over in the States helping on the Obama campaign, but we were either let down by a technical problem or John was still out celebrating a fantastic win for Obama. So what did we talk about?

The main topic was Remembrance Day and how as a town and council we need not only to remember those who have lost their lives in previous wars and campaigns but what we can do to help serving soldiers and more importantly what we can do to support their families whist their husbands, (or wives, fathers, mothers) are serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan. We also discussed the Ipswich Bus service and the £5 million that Ipswich Borough Council may have lost after investing in an Icelandic bank. We had so much to talk about that we ran out of time, so it was a pity we could not get through to the USA to talk to John and discuss the Presidential election but we found there were plenty of local issues that were of as much more importance to the Ipswich public.

Sunday 2 November 2008

Soldiers remembered from Belfast to County Mayo

Today in Belfast we will see something that many of us never thought we would ever see, the Army parading through the streets of Belfast. This is the homecoming parade for servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. But as would be expected in Northern Ireland, it can never be that simple and the day will also see a separate parade by Sinn Fein who said their parade was to protest about the British Army presence in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many on the left in Ireland and some in the Nationalist and Republican communities felt that Sinn Fein should have just ignored the parade rather than put in a separate march. There have been concessions on both sides with no RAF flypast and the soldiers marching without weapons and Sinn Fein agreeing to changes in their march route. But why did Sinn Fein march at all? Two main reasons that I can think of, they feared that the loyalist community would hijack the British Army parade and turn it into a re-run of July 12th but I believe the main reason was that when they heard of a planned dissident republican march they felt they had to form some sort of protest. I believe they were wrong and should have not organised their own protest and should not have linked the 'troubles' and the role of the Army in it with the return of British/Irish troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in the Republic the peace process has seen changes to the way those in the Republic remember their war dead. As with Sinn Fein today, the Irish Government has felt it hard to remember the Irish servicemen who have laid down their lives in both the First World War and since. of course those who volunteered to fight in WW1 were doing so when Ireland was still governed by the British, and maybe understandably that in the 1920's and 30's it was not seen right to remember those who had been seen to lay down their lives for the British Empire but many Irish also volunteered to fight with the Allies in the Second World War and many Irishmen have also served since in Korea and even in Vietnam as members of the US and Australian armed forces. Now those in the Republic feel that they can remember those who lost their lives in the conflicts of the 20th century with no concern for whose county they were serving at the time.

on October 17th this year, the Irish President, Mary McAleese performed the official opening of the County Mayo Peace Park in Castlebar, county Mayo. This fantastic memorial remembers all those from County Mayo who have lost their lives in war, whether they were fighting in the 1st World War with the British Army or since with the British, Canadians, Australians or with their own army in such places as the Lebanon.

So it may take a little longer for Sinn Fein to remember that the soldiers we are welcoming home today in Belfast are Irish soldiers who have been trying to give peace to Iraq and Afghanistan and that it should not be seen as an opportunity to make a political statement about their view of the army's role in the 'troubles'. It has taken many in the south over 80 years to realise that the 11th November and war memorials in towns and villages are there to remember those who have given their lives so that we have the freedom to protest on what we want and where we want.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Meeting the Duke

Back in April, I posted about how there was very little wrong with the youth of today, this was after attending a lecture which highlighted the bravery of our young servicemen in the battle for Basra Palace. But it is not only in Iraq and Afghanistan that our young citizens show us that there is very little wrong with the youth of the 21st century.

Yesterday I was fortunate to attend the presentation of Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards at St James's Palace to 350 young adults. It was a fantastic occasion both for the those receiving their awards and also their parents.

It may seem strange a socialist praising the monarchy but I see no problem in praising the Duke of Edinburgh for his patronage of the award that bears his name. I would also praise Prince Charles for his patronage of the Princes Trust. Both the D of E Award and the trust give youngsters the chance to show that they are a generation that has plenty to give back to the community.

I am fortunate to be able to help with the award and it was with considerable pride that I was able to witness Chris Hollins of BBC Breakfast TV present Gold awards to Felicity McNeil and Katherine Harris, two local girls who have both benefited considerably from participating in the award.

Felicity and Katherine with someone slightly taller!

Two other things stood out about the day. the Duke of Edinburgh has a fantastic knowledge of ties! He spotted that my tie was the regimental tie of the Royal Green Jackets and the second thing that stood out was how expensive jars of sweets in Fortnum and Masons are!

Friday 24 October 2008

W. Oliver Stone film

Oliver Stone wanted to get his latest film out before the US Presidential election. W. As in George W Bush, is a film not just about his time as President but follows him from his time at college, via Baseball team owner to the White House. Some reviews in the USA have slated the film but have also said that many have come out of the cinema with more of a liking for Bush. this did not seem to be the feeling of those in the cinema in Union Square when I watched the film.

Powell comes out of the film in a good light but Condoleezza Rice comes out as very dim women, Cheney comes out as dangerous and cunning, and Rumsfeld as dangerous and stupid. Karl Rove was the interesting character, not that well known over here but an important person in both the George W Bush administration and his fathers. A spin doctor that makes Alastair Campbell look like a member of the St Johns ambulance.

The film may be a bit long and drags in parts but I would recommend you go and watch it when it comes out over here, but do not make this a film to be used as an anti US vehicle, this is only a film and the view of one man, Oliver Stone. The USA should be congratulated, for allowing a film like this to be made and for it to be watched in full cinemas. How many good political films have we made over here? In the USA this film will be followed very quickly by Nixon v Frost another strong political film which will open the debate about the power of the President.

Favourite quote of the film?

Asian Journalist: Mr. President, what place do you think you will have in history?

George W Bush: History? In history we'll all be dead!

Oliver Stone and the 'young' Bush

All over bar the shouting?

Bloomberg- Mayor for a third time?
Just back from New York and other then the TV News channels, there was not much sign of the US Presidential election. There were a couple of stalls in Time Square selling dodgy Obama fridge magnets and badges but you would have thought there would have been more on show with less than 2 weeks to go to polling day. It was only after taking the ferry to Staten Island that I saw my first election posters, two for Obama in a shop in St George on the Island.

The reason why? Obama having a double figure lead? They all now think it is a forgone collusion?

The TV and papers think it it's all over but in the bars there is still a fear that when it comes to polling day there will be many who find they can't vote for a black man. McCain has support as a war veteran he does have the respect of the electorate but it is his links to the Bush administration that hold him back more than having Palin as his running partner though she does seem to be the butt of many jokes as she is over here.

So it was strange to be close to Wall Street and still not here much talk of the election but politics was the talk of many bars but it was Mayor Bloomberg trying to push a change through City Hall that would allow him a third term that was the main political talking point. so even in New York, local issues are often more important to the electorate than national issues.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Wrapping the Corn Exchange

Received a few e mails about my last post. Questions on the history of the Corn Exchange, and what did I mean by talking about a piece of art covering the scaffolding.

At the top of this post you will see the massive covering that I mentioned, this superb item was produced by Les Bicknell who has his own blog that can be found here.

On the history of the Corn Exchange building, it was built in 1882, in 1888 the fruit and vegetable market moved in and remained there till 1970. The last corn market was held in June 1972. The Corn Exchange was reopened as an entertainment venue in 1975.

But it has never looked like it has now - with the corn field on the outside!

Friday 17 October 2008

Up on the Roof!

As the 'Drifters' would have sung, today I found myself "Up on the Roof," whilst on a site visit to the Ipswich Town Hall and Christchurch Mansion.

Ipswich should be and I believe is very proud of both the Town Hall and the Mansion. At present we have a scaffolding covering both (and the Corn exchange) as major repairs and cleaning go on with all three buildings.

Once cleaned the Corn Exchange will look fantastic and we will also see new windows, and they will even get rid of the nasty roof over the entrance to the Corn Exchange. The building also has seen the building and scaffolding covered in a large piece of art work by commercial artist, Les Bicknell this is quite a common site whilst building are being worked on in such places like Rome, but other than a few places in London has not been seen much in the UK so far. Once the £1 million refurbishment of the Corn Exchange is finished it will make the building look even more fantastic and the new roof should mean that visitors to the Corn Exchange and the Town Hall do not have to dodge buckets put in place to catch the drips!

The Mansion is also covered in scaffolding as a new roof is placed on this much older building, this was a fantastic chance to see the roof once the tiles were off. the problem they are finding is that it is hard to date previous restoration and repairs. This will not happen again as the present restoration is carefully record, with a large number of digital pictures to compliment the recording of the work

The view from the roof of the Town Hall also gave us a great chance to photograph Ipswich from 'above'. The picture above is a view of the old Hospital on Anglesea Road and the more modern Ipswich Prep School. The pictures below are of the tower on the top of the Town Hall and the roof of Christchurch Mansion.

Friday 10 October 2008

Ipswich Labour - the sensible proposals for Unitary Ipswich

As I have already blogged, I find it unbelievable that the Boundary Committee wants to put Ipswich in with Felixstowe, even worse would be a Unitary Suffolk (Yes - that is the same authority who want to pay someone about 19 grand to look after the Chief Executive's diary! Well the Chief Executive is only in the top five of best paid Chief Executives- you can't expect her to look after her own diary!!)

A Unitary Ipswich is the best way forward, a pity that the Tories and Lib Dems have now jumped on the Haven bandwagon- read our response- well written and the way forward.

Ipswich Labour Party's submission to the Boundary Committee has been posted on Ipswich labour Party's website here.
After being denied a vote at Ipswich Borough Council on the options put forward by the Boundary Committee, Labour councillors in Ipswich, supported by Ipswich MP, Chris Mole, and local Labour Party members delivered leaflets about the review to Ipswich residents encouraging them to respond either direct to the Boundary Committee or via the Labour Party Office.
Over 1200 individual residents did respond, with all but a handful opposing both Boundary Committee options. Ipswich residents clearly see the "North Haven" proposal as little better than a unitary Suffolk solution. Labour Group leader, David Ellesmere, also contacted every parish council in the proposed North Haven area and asked for their views on the proposals. No parish council that responded wanted their parish to become part of a North Haven council.

Ipswich Labour Party reviewed all comments received to inform its own submission to the Boundary Committee.

This submission was put in to the Boundary Committee ahead of the consultation deadline along with the views of all 1200 Ipswich residents who had responded to us. Responses received after the deadline have also been sent to the Boundary Committee who have confirmed that they will continue to accept late submissions.

Ipswich Borough Council Labour Group and Ipswich Labour Party support a unitary council covering the urban Ipswich area. Full details of the boundaries we propose are in the attached document "Boundary Committee Proposals - IBC Labour Group Response".

Ipswich Borough Council Labour Leader David Ellesmere said: "One of the key tests the Government sets for new unitary councils is that they command a broad cross-section of support. It is clear from the results of our survey that 'North Haven' and 'One Suffolk' overwhelmingly fail this test. The Boundary Committee must come up with new proposals that are acceptable to the people of Ipswich."

Thursday 9 October 2008

Ipswich Tories put up a - 'Wall of secrecy'

Tory 'Wall of secrecy'

Before I was elected, I looked forward to Council meetings, some idealistic idea about this being the 'home of democracy' - instead I have just been met by constant arguments, abuse and having to put up with all this and still have nothing to see at the end, as the administration (well about 3 of them) have already decided on what is going to happen and the last thing they want is debate!

This week they even went further by denying our leader the chance to see a vital document, then trying to throw the public out of the meeting- here is what happened:

Ipswich Borough Council has been attacked over a “wall of secrecy” surrounding plans to make £3.5m “savings” in the council’s housing services.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors took an “in principle” decision to go ahead with the massive savings programme at a behind-closed-doors meeting on Tuesday 7th October. A similar commitment was also made to pay consultants a substantial fee to deliver this programme. Before any discussion took place, councillors voted to ban members of the press and public from the meeting.
The Executive has even refused to release the report detailing what the cuts it plans to make to other councillors. Only those Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors who are on the Executive were allowed to see the report under conditions of strict security. In a bizarre twist it has also emerged that the leader of the Liberal Democrats was not even allowed to see the report.
The only Labour councillor who has since been allowed to see the report, Leader David Ellesmere, been gagged from speaking about the savings programme and threatened with disciplinary action if he discloses the report’s contents.
At a meeting on Wednesday the council even tried to remove members of the press and public from the room while a question was asked about this obsessive secrecy! The council only backed down after protests from Labour councillors.
Labour Leader, David Ellesmere, said:
“I’ve been told I am not allowed to say how the savings are going to be made, which consultants are going to be taken on, nor how much they are going to be paid. This is not the way decisions should be made. Council tenants will be extremely anxious about what these plans mean. If the Tories and Liberals don’t have anything to hide, why all the secrecy?”

Start of a new "Cod War" - Ipswich v Iceland!

Myself and my Labour councillors have today called for an urgent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ipswich Borough Council’s £5m losses resulting from its loans to collapsed Icelandic banks.
Labour councillors want the investigation to focus on:
* Were the council’s investment procedures followed correctly?
* What impact this loss could have on council services?
* What steps have been taken to minimise future risks?

Labour finance spokesperson, Cllr Martin Cook said:
“This is a huge amount of money for the council to lose, equivalent to £125 per band D property. Ipswich council tax payers need to be reassured that procedures were followed correctly and that everything possible is being done to eliminate the potential for similar losses in future.”
So a new "Cod War" or "Cash War" - Lucky for us Herman is now at Portsmouth!

Sunday 5 October 2008

100 Years Strong- Centenary of the TA

As an ex soldier it was very pleasing to be able to attend the drum head service held at the Ipswich Corn Exchange to mark the centenary of the Territorial Army. Horrendous weather forced the service from the Cornhill to inside the Corn Exchange, but it did not dampen the celebration.

I must admit as a regular soldier we did not always have much time for the TA but that has changed over the last few years as they are now closer linked to the regular army. Currently a TA unit from Ipswich is helping on the convoy routes between Kuwait and Iraq.

This commitment to support the regular army will have to continue. The statements this week by Brigadier Carleton-Smith about the situation in Afghanistan have shown that. The Brigadier of 16 Air assault Brigade had this to say about the current situation-

"We're not going to win this war. It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army," he said.
He said his forces had "taken the sting out of the Taliban for 2008" but that troops may well leave Afghanistan with there still being a low level of insurgency.

This is a view held by many in the military and this is one reason why the Territorial Army is as important now as it was when Richard Burdon Haldane reformed the army in 1908.

A vision for sport in Ipswich

As a councilor you do get invited to a number of events, you can't go to them all but I do feel it is my duty to attend as many as possible. As a great fan of all sport, I do try to attend as many sport events in Ipswich as possible. This week I went to town hall to help celebrate the announcement that Ipswich will host the 2012 European Cyclo-Cross Championship. the event will be held in Chantry Park.

The council and Team Ipswich have helped Ipswich get the event but most of the hard work has been done by local Cycling guru, Steve Grimwood.

The highlight of the launch event was the attendance of the BBC cycling commentator, Hugh Porter, who spoke about how proud he had been to commentate on the GB cycling golds at this years Olympics.

It is great news that we will host such a big event in 2012 and this along with the gymnastics centre likely to be used as an Olympic training venue by one of the competing nations are all feathers in the cap of the council and Team Ipswich.

But it did get me thinking- do we have a vision of where sport is going in Ipswich?

I remember as a school kid in Ipswich we had very few facilities in the town but an Officer at the council- Randal Bevan had a vision and with the Labour run Ipswich Borough Council was able to deliver, sports centres at Whitton, Maidenhall, Northgate, an athletics track at Northgate, Crown Pools, a cycle speedway track at Whitton and the Gymnastics centre at Gainsborough.

But now we seem to have promises of more facilities- a cycle velodrome was mentioned by Hugh Porter at this event but Cllr Judy Terry seems keen to make such announcements, as she did over a 50M pool for Portman Road but we never seem to see any concrete proposals. at the same time we have Broomhill Swimming Pool being refused a Lottery Grant, with the lack of council commitment being given as one of the reasons for the failure to get a grant.

At the same time Crown Pools is need of urgent repairs but all we get is statements in the press saying how keen they are on Broomhill, how a cycle velodrome will be built and so on.

What is needed is a proper plan for the provision of sport in Ipswich over the next 20 years, what new facilities will be built and what money will be spent on improving and maintaining present facilities.

I am afraid that all we get at the moment from Judy Terry are some great idea's but with little chance of any being pushed through. Maybe if Mrs Terry can't deliver she should take up cycling or as Norman Tebbit would have told her- "get on your bike!"

Sunday 28 September 2008

Fuel for thought!

One thing that annoys me when talking about Northern Ireland to those who have an interest in the subject but have never been to the Province is how some (mainly on the left) have this romantic view of those in the IRA being some sort of freedom fighters.

I can understand that the political climate of the 1960's and the start of the troubles in the 1970's would lead some to joining paramilitaries on both sides of the divide with what they thought were good intentions such as feeling they were defending their communities but within a very short time both the IRA and the Loyalist organisations were taken over by criminal gangs. When I was in Ireland we often believed that the rival sides were in collusion when it came to criminal activity in Belfast but it seems that even the supposed Republican stronghold of South Armagh are working hand in hand with the Loyalist gangs of West Belfast.

This BBC news story here details recent arrests in Loyalist West Belfast at a suspected illegal fuel dump, with the smuggled fuel originating in Republican South Armagh.

I spent many months watching fuel tankers move across the South Armagh border and we knew that some of the profit from selling this fuel would end up in the IRA war chest but not many of us would have thought it would have also been helping fill the pockets of Loyalist terrorist gangs.

So forget this romantic views of Michael Collins, Freedom fighters, the majority of the members of both the IRA and the Loyalist gangs were nothing more than gangsters.

A fuel tanker leaves the complex owned by Slab Murphy on the South Armagh border, after a raid by Police from both sides of the border in 2006. Slab has been accused on a number of occasions of being a senior member of the IRA Army Council, wonder if any of his fuel ended up on the loyalist Shankill Road?

Monday 22 September 2008

Ipswich show the way in campaigning.

Ipswich Labour Party's efforts recognised by Conference

Ipswich Labour Party was presented with an Award for Best Practice for Community Campaigning at Labour Party Conference. The certificate was presented by Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP and Party General Secretary, Ray Collins. In announcing the award, Conference Chair, Dianne Hayter, paid tribute to the all-year-round campaigning of Ipswich Labour Party, its MP, Chris Mole and of Labour councillors. The community focused work of Ipswich Labour Party had paid off in May, when the Party gained three seats; two from the Tories and one from the Liberals, in the Borough Council elections.

Pictured collecting the award are: Keith and Lindsey Rawlingson, John Cook, Bryony Rudkin and Chris Mole MP.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Vote for Roy Burgon

Tomorrow will see a by election held in Woodbridge, Suffolk. The election is for Town, District and Suffolk County seats. The election was caused by the Tory, Ben Redsell having to resign after being found guilty of serious sexual offences.

On Monday myself and a large group of Ipswich Labour Party members joined our comrades from Woodbridge and Felixstowe in campaigning for the Labour candidate, Roy Burgon.

It made a nice change from trampling the streets of Ipswich and we were treated to a beer and some lovely food afterwards- so it was not all work!

It is also important that even in an area that would be seen as Tory- we are sending out a Labour message and not just giving up on places like Woodbridge, that is the sort of policy that has led to the Tory Party still totally missing from area's like Liverpool and large parts of Scotland. After reading the Tory leaflet it makes one even more determined that we should continue to fight all seats in Suffolk. It was a leaflet that on one side made no sense with what looked like an attack on the Lib Dems but making no mention that it was the behaviour of the Tory Councillor that had caused this election. More strange is that the Tories have a different candidate for each different council. On arriving in Woodbridge it was nice to see a Labour poster up in a house opposite Notcutts Nursery.

A good night but one did go away feeling that it is the party members in Woodbridge who are being let down by the behaviour of some of our parliamentary members- I am not asking for MP's to just always toe the party line, but it does seem that once the going gets tough there is little loyalty shown by many MP's.

Maybe instead of going to conference, they should be sent out to campaign in seats like Woodbridge and actually listen to what the voting public and Party members want rather than be panicked by the (a Tory run) press.

Woodbridge- not known as a Labour heartland?

Saturday 13 September 2008

Good and bad politicians.

Politicians get a bad press but in most cases that is unfair and in East Anglia we are fortunate to have a fantastic Labour MEP in Richard Howitt, not only does he do a great job for the Eastern region at the European Parliament but he also campaigns all over the east. He also sends out a very informative newsletter.
Below is an interesting article from his September/October newsletter.

In a recent survey in the East Anglian Daily Times on the openness of our region's Euro MP's in relation to claiming their expenses. Richard was described as "number one" for transparency. But the best bit is still to come! Two of the Tory MEP's and both UKIP MEP's refused to give details of the amount they claimed. But for comic value the Lib Dem MEP, Andrew Duff takes the biscuit, he declined to give amounts for travel or subsistence saying "I have no idea how many days I worked last year." And as Richard answers " neither do we know how many days he works!"

Andew Duff the Lib Dem MEP who doesn't know how many days he works!

To read more abour Richard Howitt and the good work he does, check his website, here.

Monday 8 September 2008


Sabbatarianism , as readers of this blog will know, Northern Ireland and football are two topics that are often featured on this site. So a story on the BBC website caught my eye this week. Glentoran are the main protestant team from East Belfast, and I spent quite a few Saturday's watching football at the Oval, one of my favourite locations for a football ground, with the Harland and Wolff cranes in the distance.

Football and politics are often linked in Northern Ireland but this time the story is not of a link to sectarian conflict, this time it is Sabbatarianism that has reared it's (ugly?)head. Unlike the rest of Great Britain, Sunday is still a day of rest in the Province, very few shops are open and the only football to be watched is from this side of the Irish Sea on Sky TV. But this Sunday saw Glentoran play Bangor in the first Irish League game played on the Sabbath.

Now the Oval is a ground used to political protests and hosting games which need a large police presence, they even have a set of turnstiles that are only used when they play the Catholic supported Cliftonville. But this time the dispute was protestant against protestant, Football supporters easily outnumbered the "Keep Sunday special" gang, about 50 protesters turned up in their Sunday best, handing out leaflets and singing hymns, but they could not stop the fans from coming in for what looked like a larger crowd than normal. Now 50 protesters may not seem many but you need to look at the facts about this game in slightly more depth. The Irish FA changed the rules last year to allow Sunday football but no teams have seemed that interested in 'testing the water' and this Glentoran - Bangor game was hastily arranged after it was only postponed the day before. it will be interesting to see if a club will actually arrange a Sunday game with far more notice, or will the fact that 50 protesters turned up with less than 24 hours notice make them worried how many the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church (whose leader used to be Ian Paisley) could get out with longer time to plan and organise.

The game was nothing special and Glentoran only scraped a 1-0 win over their North Down neighbours. Poor entertainment is probably the best hope of the "Keep Sunday special" to stopping Sunday football. it looks like crowds will be higher than Saturday matches, but that could change when a top English team or one of the "Old Firm" are on live TV on a Sunday afternoon.

Irish football will see itself having to make a number of key decisions over the next 2 years, and playing on a Sunday will only be one of them, moving to summer football and merging with the Republic of Ireland's Football League being two which will have far more influence on the future of Irish football than "playing on a Sunday",

Even so, I just had to get the word 'Sabbatarianism' on this blog!
Empty stands in East Belfast- must be a Sunday?

Thursday 4 September 2008

Would have been the top news story once!

Gerry Adams and his mates- now redundant?

True the arrival of the female bear hunter from Alaska is important but even if the "hockey mom" becomes vice president of the USA, it will not have that much effect on us. But Sarah Palin still is the big news story in the UK and I for one am disappointed by this. I know I may be slightly biased as an ex soldier but there are two other stories that should be above Mrs Palin on TV, the web and in our newspapers.

The announcement by the Independent Monitoring Commission that they now believe that the Provisional Irish Republican Army has relinquished the leadership and structures it used in the troubles. In simple words the Army Council no longer exists. Very soon hundreds of ex soldiers will be in London to remember those who died during Operation Banner (the Army name for operations in Northern Ireland), not sure all of those will think the war is over. I for one do believe that the IRA is not what it was but there is still a big worry about the dissident Republican groups and we have seen this with the murder of Paul Quinn in South Armagh and recent riots by gangs on nationalist estates in some of the smaller towns in the province. So many reasons why this story should be above Mrs Palin.

The other story? also about the Irish and the gun- today it has been announced that another British soldier has been killed in Afghanistan, and this time it happens to be a member of the Royal Irish Regiment. This week the papers have been reporting the success of the British Army of moving the power turbine in Helmand Province. the death today of a British soldier shows that this will be a long campaign but let us all hope that it is not as long as Operation Banner.

Sunday 31 August 2008

Boundary Committee - aka The Stupid Idea Club

Felixstowe Beach huts - soon to be our responsibility?? Let's hope not!

Boundary Committee - aka The Stupid Idea Club, well that is what most of the population of Ipswich thinks! As most of the readers of this blog will know, Ipswich was after unitary status, we even had cross party support, the trouble was the Tories on the Suffolk County Council wanted a unitary Suffolk. The government were not sure that the figures added up so handed it over to the Boundary Committee.

Then we had the Stupid Idea Club- not a unitary Ipswich or even a unitary Suffolk, instead we get North Haven Unitary. where is that you may ask? Well it is Ipswich plus Felixstowe, the Shotley peninsular and the surrounding rural areas. Now no one had thought of that as a good idea (though the Lib Dems now think it is a great plan!)

I can see that Unitary Ipswich may need to be slightly bigger than the present borough, but how can the committee put us with Felixstowe and leave out Westerfield village (which used to be part of the borough)

The government could put a stop to this and you can play your part by looking at the boundary committee website and letting them know your views: this is the link to their site: http://www.boundarycommittee.org.uk/.

We do not have much in common with Felixstowe, actually with the state of the roads in Ipswich (partly due to the lack of funding as we do not have a unitary Ipswich)we have more in common with Sarajevo or Banja Luka than Felixstowe or Hadleigh.

Sunday 24 August 2008

And the Tories said the Ipswich bus service was safe!

Tory election leaflets have accused myself and my Ipswich Labour colleagues of scaremongering- to quote their leaflet - "Not for the first time in Rushmere, Labour has tried to alarm residents by scaremongering, this time about local bus services to Rushmere."

Well from the 28th September, the number 11 bus service to Rushmere is being reduced- from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes during the working week and more worrying for me as a parent- to just one service an hour on evenings and Sundays.

So only two years after the horrific murders in Ipswich, this Tory/Lib dem council want to cut bus services in the evenings, so youngsters have a choice of an expensive taxi, an hour wait for a bus or more alarming they may decide to walk home.

So much for the "Green" Mr Cameron! More cars on the roads, reduced bus service. the Tories have someone to blame (as well as themselves) the Tory run County council, who have taken away the Park and Ride contract from Ipswich Buses.

So, remember do not believe everything (or anything) in a Tory election leaflet!

Monday 28 July 2008

Still In darkest Peru

First trip over and now in Lima waiting for the second group to arrive. Lima is far different today than it was 3 weeks ago, though neither day could be classed as normal!

3 weeks ago we arrived at the start of a General strike, we managed to get north before all the roads were closed, the strike was started by the miners but it ended up covering the whole country for 3 days, as a bit of a political spotter it was a good way to start the trip but was quite difficult to work out the level of support for the strike. The unions seemed able to cut off each town by putting in barricades to stop traffic but the demonstartions/ protest marches each day seemed to have little support. Walls were also covered with graffiti, with many of the slogans seemed to be aimed at not wanting the strike to be taken over by the communists.

As you enter each town the walls are often painted with political messages and the names of those seeking election as Mayor or local, regional or national representitive.

Today is different as it is National Independance day- 28th July. Since we have been here, we have noticed that each house has a Peru flag outside it, yesterday we found out that each house/ shop has to fly the flag for a month before Independance day, not that the people mind as they take great pride in this day and many wear a small rosette badge on their clothes to celebrate the day. Yesterday in the main square they changed the fountain from water to Pico, the local drink- large queus formed to get their free Pisco drink! Though it was day of celebration, it was noticable that at the corner of each square was placed an anti-riot vehicle or a water cannon and around the sqaure were groups of armed military style police. Then again Lima is a city of varied life styles, in the beach area an apartment sells for $400,000 and this is for the smallest one available, but at the smae time many of the 9 million population live in small huts placed on sandy hills that are not much more than pre fabricated sheds. But what has been the highlight of the trip is the friendleness of the Peruvian people, from the city of Lima to the northern villages to the former Inca stronghold of Cusco, definately a county to visit.

Saturday 5 July 2008

Off to Peru!

And not to search for Paddington- This weekend I leave for a 6 week trip to Peru - this was planned before my election. i will be taking two groups of young pupils to Peru. we will be doing the Inca Trail including visiting Machu Picchu but we will also trek in the Cordillera Huayhuash, the setting for "Touching the void". The two young groups will also spend some time in local villages, helping put in solar panels alongside the Juniper Trust.

It may mean not much blogging for 6 weeks but I should come back with plenty to blog about!

Rushmere Update

Campaigning has continued in the ward and on Monday we had a walkabout on Rushmere estate and spoke to a number of residents, many of the issues concerned the poor state of the roads on the estate.
Bristo's garage in Woodbridge Road have had two planning applications in, they wanted to demolish a house in Belvedere Road - this was refused. they have gained planning permission to build 14 houses on the site of their old car showrooms - this was passed but after a number of changes to the original plan. I passed on a number of residents concerns to Bristo's and the planners and this new development will see the retention of the wall backing onto Khartoum Road. The developers will also build a bus shelter on Woodbridge Road.
I have also been campaigning in Whitehouse and St Johns.
A number of my fellow Labour activists were in the town centre today to help celebrate the 60th birthday of the NHS.

Sunday 15 June 2008

6 weeks in, finding my feet now!

6 weeks as the Labour Councillor in Rushmere and I am now finding my feet. It has been a busy few weeks but now I am able to help residents far quicker as I learn which Council Officers to ask and which departments deal with what.
So far I have sat on the Planning Committee (as a substitute) had a Licensing training session- did you know that a number of the laws on Street Trading date from 1871? No nor did I!
I attended my first Overview and Scrutiny meeting and I have had 3 sessions of Councillor Induction - with one to go! I have also managed to have a meetings with Officers responsible for roads and also planning. Away from Grafton House, I have had a Long meeting with the Police Inspector responsible for North East Ipswich and I have also attended the North East Forum. With an interest in sport I have also been able to see the Ipswich Wanderers v Antigua and Barbuda game and yesterday I watched the Great Britain women's Gymnastics team take on Romania at the Pipers Vale Gymnastics Centre. So quite a lot for 6 weeks, and of course I have continued to attend Labour party meetings and deliver leaflets. But the most satisfying aspect is that I have been able to help residents on a number of issues, from informing them of the proposed housing development on the Bristo's site, to dealing with anti Social Behaviour, getting some trees pruned and various other issues. the most common complaint from residents has been about the state of the roads not only in Rushmere but over the whole of Ipswich. This issue will be one of the key issues that the Ipswich Labour Party will be campaigning on over the next 5 months. I will keep residents of Rushmere informed both through this website and also by our regular "Rushmere Rose".
It may have been 6 weeks hard work but it all is made worthwhile if I can help the residents of Rushmere make this - "our" ward a decent place to live in.
Not all aspects of council work have been as rewarding as helping residents, I was looking forward to attending my first Overview and Scrutiny meeting, as with the current way many councils do business- with most aspects of policy being dealt with by a small executive, it is important that the Overview and Scrutiny committee make sure the executive are held responsible for their decisions and that the O & S committee ask the right questions. The meeting started with the election of a councilor from the ruling administration, where 'best practice' recommends that the committee should be chaired by an opposition member - so much for democracy there. Then at the end of the meeting there seemed to be a desire by the Tory and lib Dem councilors to make sure the next meeting is kept short as it clashes with the 'Mayor at Home' function. Now I believe that the Civic events are important but not so much that the O & S meeting should be scrapped or the agenda just be limited to one matter. It is as if the executive do not wish any of their decisions to be scrutinised - I wonder why?

Friday 6 June 2008

Out of her depth

The last few years has seen the Tory portfolio holder (and fellow Rushmere Councilor) for Culture and Leisure in Ipswich, Judy Terry, make a number of statements and commitments to swimming in Ipswich- she was for the re-opening of Broom Hill outdoor pool, and she would put council money forward to help the Broom Hill Trust. She is then going to build a 50 metre Olympic Pool next to the football ground on Portman Road. But at the same time the Tories seem to be running Crown Street Pool into the ground- now is she for sport for the people of Ipswich, or is it just words?

Now we do have "Team Ipswich" and in that we have our own Ipswich swimming Olympian in Karen Pickering- and "Team Ipswich" seem to be doing a good job in attracting sporting teams and competitions to Ipswich in the hope that a number of counties will choose Ipswich as their pre-Olympic base in 2012. Last week we had the Antigua and Bardbuda Football team and next week we see the Romanian Gymnastic team arrive. Now I am all for this initiative and I want to see top sports competitions in Ipswich and I want to see visiting teams train here but I also want to see the facilities for sport in Ipswich improve so that the people of Ipswich benefit. I want to see the 2012 Olympics leave a sporting legacy in Ipswich as well as in London.

Now this is where Labour and Mrs Terry differ- today Labour Minister - Andy Burnham announced that the Govt is to spend £80 million in getting more of the public swimming- not just talk of a 50 metre pool but an initiative to get people in the pool. free swimming for over 60's at first, then Under 16's and eventually free swimming for all. Now I have met Andy a few times as he was heavily involved in Supporters Direct, the umbrella organisation for Football supporters Trust's that the Govt has given a lot of support to, and who themselves have helped set up Football Trusts at a number of clubs (including Ipswich) and in many cases it is Supporters Direct and the Trusts that have saved a number of clubs from crashing out of the game. So Andy is a man of action not just words. Unlike Mrs Terry, he is not out of his depth.

Sunday 1 June 2008

And I thought I was being offered a trip to Trinidad

And I thought I was being offered a trip to Trinidad, but no- a Councilor does not get all the free perks you may think we do! But you do get invited to a varied number of functions and so it was this Saturday. The morning was spent out delivering (that is one constant that has not changed- Councilor or campaigner- still need to deliver) then the big invite, a chance to see a National FA side from one of the West Indian Islands- no it was not a free trip to Trinidad to see England play but a trip far closer to home. Ipswich Wanderers were entertaining the 127th best national side in the world- Antigua and Barbuda! Ex Ipswich player, Bryan Hamiliton is the technical Director to this cricket mad Island and has appointed ex Town Coach Willie Donnachie to assist the side in preparations for a World Cup qualifier against the mighty Cuba. Best preparation for this? A week in Suffolk training at Ipswich Town with two games thrown in, one at Lowestoft and then the "big match" v Wanderers.

The reason for the invite, the match was being sponsored bu Team Ipswich, the Council department that is not only about increasing sport played in Ipswich but also aiming to bring Olympic Teams here to train in the build up and during the 2012 Olympics, being held 60 miles up the road at Stratford.

Though we had a free invite, myself and tow fellow Labour Councillors paid as for one, I would have gone to the game anyway and secondly, I know how short of funds many non league football teams are.

The game was played in front of a good crowd who were entertained by a steel band and the attendance of a number of ex Ipswich players- Hunter, Beattie, Woods and Bramble. Wanderers started the strongest on what was a very poor pitch but the West Indians fitness came to the fore in the second half and Antigua ended up winning 2-0.

Hopefully this will be the first of many visits by national teams of various sports in the build up to 2012. Still we might get an invite to the return fixture!

Monday 26 May 2008

The Armed Forces- Why can't we get the Labour message over?

Last week saw the publication of the Independent National Recognition of the Armed Forces study by Quentin Davies MP. This saw some excellent initiatives and also highlighted what this Labour Government has already done for our Armed Forces. The report makes 40 recommendations, the key ones being:

  • Greater encouragement for the military to wear uniforms in public where circumstances and Service rules allow;

  • Creating a British Armed Forces and Veterans Day;

  • Supporting extra Local Authority engagement for Homecoming Parades;

  • and Strengthening cadet organisations by expanding combined cadet forces in Comprehensive Schools and introducing a Cadet Ambassador in London to encourage schools to get their pupils involved in cadet forces.

Now I agree with all these, the Cadet issue has already been raised by Gordon Brown and I see it as a good idea- as long as the funding is there and some of the NUT do not get too upset! The uniform one is a funny one, much was made of the instruction by senior RAF officers for their personnel not to wear uniform in Peterborough- now as an ex soldier- we actually like to get out of our uniform after work, but it would be great if you could stay in uniform just to pop to the bank at lunchtime, but also as an ex Sergeant Major- you do not want to see soldiers in some sort of half uniform/half civilian shirt which is what we have at present in many garrison towns.

The report also highlights what has already been done and what is already in the pipeline- again, much as been made by the Tories about the state of Married quarters, but it was the Tories who sold off the Married quarter estate management! Secondly, times have changed and many servicemen now look to purchase their own homes much earlier. What this Government has already done for servicemen and their families includes:

  • Labour agreed one of the highest pay rises in the public sector for all servicemen and women following on from last year's 9 per cent pay rise for the lowest paid private soldiers. For those on operation abroad we have introduced a tax-free monthly bonus of almost £400 and have extended council tax relief.

  • Over the next ten years the Labour Government will invest over £8 billion on improving our armed forces' accommodation. This will lead to a further upgrade in accommodation after years of neglect under previous Tory governments

But why can't we get our message over? the Tories and Cameron came out with a Military Covenant Commission, who we have not been heard from since it's launch but who got far more press than Labour did last week with the publication of Independent National Recognition of the Armed Forces study. Was it because the Tories had a famous (if right wing) novelist on their commission or because they had a famous ex soldier in Simon Weston- or was it because our study was led by a Labour MP who jumped the Tory ship? What ever the reason is, we need to get it right, as an ex soldier I know the Tories did little for us when in power but you can't expect many ex Generals to say that once they are out of the Army and looking for a directorship at some bank/ institution. The treatment of our Armed Forces is an important matter to all the public- much can be learnt from the poem"Tommy Atkins" by Kipling on how not to treat your Armed Forces and maybe we should remember the Labour poster from 1945- that helped us to that great election win!

Lets us again make us the party that both servicemen, their families and the general public know look after their armed forces the best. As the reports states:

"Our Armed Forces are the best in the world, putting their lives at risk to protect Britain and promote peace around the world."

Saturday 24 May 2008

Back delivering!

Less than a month since the election and it was back on the streets of Rushmere delivering a leaflet. This time I could put down Councillor rather than just campaigner!
Two leaflets went out, the first on the proposed housing development on the site of the old Bristo's Garage on Woodbridge Road. 14 Town houses are planned for this site, I had submitted concerns from the residents of Khartoum Road, Brunswick Road and Stuart Close in December and this helped lead to the planning application being withdrawn in January. The new application has addressed many of the residents earlier concerns.

The second leaflet gave residents information about my meeting with the local Police Inspector for North East Ipswich, the meeting was to discuss a number of matters including the concerns of residents from one street who have become the target for a group of youngsters who have been acting in a very anti social way.

A reminder to all residents of Rushmere Ward, that you have an opportunity to discuss issues that concern us all at the next North East Forum, you will be able to speak to the local police, Councillor's and other agencies. the meeting takes place on the 5th June at 7pm, the location: Ransomes Social Club in Sidegate Avenue

You may even get a chance too see some cricket, if you come to the forum meeting!