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.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

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!"