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!