Thursday, 24 February 2011

Battle lost bur War can be won

Last night we had our annual budget debate at Ipswich Borough Council, not my favourite meeting as we normally end up having our annual attack on Gordon Brown and the last Labour Government by John Carnell and he will then be seconded by Lid Dem Cllr Atkins who will spend 10 minutes talking about local taxation, but this year it was slightly different, we still had Carnell’s attacks on the last Labour Government but Cllr Atkins did not mention local taxation (another Lib Dem promise shelved? Or yet another compromise made so they could get their ministerial posts? )

The other big change was Tory and Lib Dem Cllrs (some who I had hardly ever hear speak before) rushing to speak to distance themselves from the Tory led County Council cuts, and explaining why last week (with a big Tory majority) they felt they could vote with Labour ‘Tory rebels’ but 6 days later they were back in the fold voting to scupper the Labour amendment that would have seen all School Crossing Patrols in Ipswich saved plus the 3 libraries that are under threat.

The Lib Dems (especially those who are also County councillors) were also very quick to say why they had also found that in 6 days they had gone from voting to save crossings to voting against the Labour amendment.

Cllr Atkins also used a quote from my blog to show why ‘locality budgets’ are the way ahead, he forgot to mention that the post he quoted was over 3 years old! Also interesting was that Lib Dem Cllr Chambers abstained – maybe being up for election in May was the reason she did want to be seen voting against an amendment that could have secured the future of Rosehill Library.

So we lost the vote, but the war is far from lost, if we win the election in May we will bring to the Council again the plans to save the School Crossing Patrols and the libraries.

Now it is obvious that the Tories and Lib Dems will know that the public will not be pleased with their actions, so we now see a number of panic measures as they try and wiggle their way out of this mess. Cllr Harsant has had the Chief Executive of the Council write to Andrea Hill (half a page written yesterday afternoon) explaining that we are not happy with the proposed closure of the libraries . Not sure why she did not just tell her fellow Tory Cllr Judy Terry, who as well as being a Borough councillor is also the County Portfolio holder for libraries. She maybe could have told Judy Terry that our own Tory MP thought the Library consultation was poor. There is a meeting at Endeavour House tomorrow where Judy Terry will meet those protesting about the closure of libraries in Suffolk, not sure Ms Hill would have had time to invite Cllr Harsant as she may have only seen the letter from IBC this morning.

School Crossing Patrols – we said instead of giving each councillor a locality budget, we should just use the money to save the School Crossing Patrols, They all said ‘no’ they could save School crossing Patrols by….....using their locality budget! But as the rabbits kept appearing from the hat we were told that the Tories and the Lib Dems were close to announcing a sponsor who would save the School Crossing Patrols, trouble is by this afternoon the Evening Star was quoting Cllr Harsant in saying that ‘some’ of the School Crossing patrols may be saved.

So we lost the amendment, but we will continue to campaign with residents to save both School Crossing Patrols and the three libraries under threat.
But what upset me, and left me wondering if there was any hope left was when the Tory Cllr Cenci declared ‘that being unemployed “opens up lots of opportunities” and that “unemployment is the best thing that happened to me”.’

I was still angry over that comment this morning and that mixed with Cllr Chambers abstaining did make me think very long and hard about what I wanted to do, and after talking to those who are close to me it was obvious the only thing to do was fight even harder for what I believe in, so every spare minute between now and May will be spent fighting to get rid of this Tory and Lib Dem Council, with the cuts being forced on us by both the Condem Government and the ideologically focused Tory County Council, this town needs a Labour run Council fighting for it’s residents more than ever before.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Gummer has website up - well sort of!

Local Tory blogs have had a go at me for mentioning how long it took Ben Gummer to open his office, some of what I wrote may have been tongue in cheek, but I am sure that the amount of casework for Mr Gummer will have increased now that he has an office in the town centre.

My own case work mainly comes after I have given out leaflets with my contact details on, very little comes from Grafton House or via my council e mail.
It does make me wonder how much case work councilors have who never deliver a leaflet, maybe I should ask some of the Lib Dem Cllrs on the Borough Council?

Nowadays it is very easy to set up a website or a blog and the cost is not high, in most cases blogs are free, and I am sure they are a great way to get your message across and also to get feed back from residents, this is where Ben Gummer is letting down his constituents, his website has been down since mid October- with the by line - of 'My website is currently being redeveloped and will be back online within a fortnight.' - See here
Well, a fortnight was 14 days when I was at school not over 100 days.

As Blinky Ben MP puts it:

Blinky Ben, Ipswich MP (Mini Person)
No job too small
Website very nearly finished

People of Ipswich,

Ben currently has the builders in to sort out his website. Ben was promised that it would be finished by the end of the week, and here we are months later. Promises, eh?

Some of the local political party's are as bad, the Lib Dems have had 2 posts up since June at least the local Tories are attempting to get their site up and running, even if there is not a link to the Ben Gummer MP site. Ipswich Labour Party has kept their site up to date, with good links that allow constituents to contact their local councillor.

But don't worry, while we wait for Ben Gummer MP to get his site up to date (back in a fortnight) Blink Ben MP has come in to fill in the gap, so you can now see when Ben has his next surgery and also see where he has been in Ipswich - well done Blinky Ben!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Labour- the only party in Ipswich that can save our libraries

Labour councillors on Ipswich Borough Council have published proposals which could save every threatened library and school crossing patrol in Ipswich.

In an amendment to the council's budget, Labour are proposing to stop the introduction of “locality” budgets which would see all councillors given £5,000 “spending money” – at a total cost of £240,000.

Instead, Labour is proposing that the money is spent on:

1. Staffing costs of the 15 currently active lollipop patrols in Ipswich
2. The “direct” costs (staffing and supplies) for the threatened Ipswich branch libraries
3. Minimising future cuts and council tax rises

Labour's amendment will enable Suffolk County Council to significantly reduce the running cost of these services while keeping them professionally staffed. It will save the council redundancy costs and avoid adding to local unemployment numbers.

Labour's proposals can be implemented while maintaining the level of council tax proposed by the council.

Councillors will vote on these proposals at a meeting on Wednesday 23rd February.

Labour Leader David Ellesmere, pictured outside Rosehill Library with Ipswich Lollipop Lady, Sally Hawkes, said: “We can’t promise to save everything that the Government is cutting, but this shows Labour is standing up for Ipswich. Our proposals will protect jobs, protect our children's safety and protect our local libraries.”

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Beating Berlusconi!

On Friday night I paid a visit to the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich to watch the one man show (Paul Duckworth) - 'Beating Berlusconi!' The title and part of the play is based on the true tale of one of the many Liverpool fans who went to the Champions League Final in Istanbul in 2005.

This part of the play is hilarious but the whole play is full of comical moments but also at some points the theatre is silent as we remember the tragic events of Heysel and Hillsborough.

The play is not just about football, it is a portrayal of a city that was ravaged by Thatcher and her cronies but still survived, in part due to their own Scouse humour.

I loved every moment of it, for many reasons - as a football fan who spent many away match being treated like an animal both before and after Hillsborough dark days but also a fan who can remember watching those early European Cup finals with Liverpool in, like Rome in 1977. As a soldier, my regiment had our fair share of Scouse's, so very used to their humour and the scally in all of them. But also as Labour supporter as the story spoke of Thatcher, Hesseltine, Hatton and Kinnock.

I came home thinking how fantastic this great game of football is, the only game that a play about another team would go down as well in any city in the world not just Liverpool, but I was also worried, like the film/play 'Billy Elliot' they are great reminders of the Thatcher years, but we must never go back there, and with Cameron and their 'Big (no) Society' I am worried, and watching the video of the great Hessltine idea to rescue Merseyside - The International Garden Show in Liverpool - very worried that we are moving back towards those dark days. Where we will be at the whim of stupid plans by people who have no understanding what it is like to be poor, unemployed and in some cases desperate. Where can we sign up for 'Big society' if libraries and other community hubs are being closed down? Wonder where they will build the International Garden Show this time?

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Nice to be thanked

I did not become a councilor in Ipswich just to get a 'thank you' for everything I do on behalf of the community, but it is nice when you do get thanked and also when you can see the result of the assistance you have given.

Last year the Northgate allotment group (Sidegate Lane/Colchester Road) asked for my assistance in getting funding towards a permanent toilet block on their allotment site. I was able with the assistance of Conservative Cllr Eileen Smith to secure some funding towards the scheme. The allotment group came up with a well researched plan and funding of their own and so the installation of the toilet block has commenced.

An example of the Tory 'Big society'? - no, it is just what communities have done for years, getting together as a group and improving a facility for themselves and other users. But it took time to get the funding and then months to get the build started, so how do the Tories expect residents to come up with £40,000 in just a few months and take over Rosehill or Westbourne Library?

A large number of Rushmere residents are keen to help others, but they need support, funding and guidance from all layers of local government - instead of what we currently have - just the threat of closure if some vast sum of cash is not found within a very short time scale.

Well done to the allotment users on the Northgate site, I look forward to the 'Grand Opening' (and thank you for my 'wheel barrow' card).

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Cameron breaks promises to Armed Forces.

The Conservatives have rightly come under some fierce criticism for their failure to deliver the promises they made to the Armed Forces before the election. Both Channel 4 News and the local Ipswich Evening Star asked me for my views on the Tories failure to stick to pre election promises on what they would do to make the Military Covenant law.

Here is my piece that I wrote for the Channel 4 News website:

I am sure today many soldiers will be sitting in their Units feeling they have been used by this Government - not used as in the way they would expect to be used- serving their country in Afghanistan, the Gulf, the Balkans but used by Cameron - as a publicity stunt.

The Tories claimed that Labour had broken the Military Covenant and that they would make sure it became law - yesterday they broke that promise - all we will get now is a report every year about the covenant.

Cameron also probably gained many votes off servicemen and veterans when he increased the operational allowance (an allowance introduced by labour) but what he forgot to say, whilst making his speech in June on HMS Ark Royal (scrapped) is that pay would be frozen and other allowances cut and scrapped. All with far more speed than it has taken to cut the allowances to MP's and the Lords

When I served in the Army, I had a decision to make when my daughter reached 11, would I put her in boarding school or move back to my home town. I chose my home town and I was able to do with help from the army through the 'Over 37' package, this gave me assistance in getting home once a month to see my family, and for them to settle down before I had to leave the forces at 40. that package is to be scrapped and also the boarding school allowance is to be cut.

So the only choice would be to leave your child in a Forces school, and that mean every two years they would change school- so much for looking after Forces families. There was talk from the Tories of paying for soldiers children to go to university, well if a child has to move schools every two years there would be little possibility if any child gained the academic qualifications to get into university.

Today many of my ex comrades feel used- used by Cameron in a cheap election gimmick.

On the Channel 4 News blog here, you can read by piece

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Rosehill Library - fantastic effort by local residents

Today it was privilege to visit Rosehill Library, fantastic effort by a small group of activists, joined by residents, parents, children and book lovers from all over Ipswich (plus 5 Labour Councillors)

you can help by following their Rosehill website here

Well done again!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Save Libraries Day - This Saturday - 5th February

Save Libraries Day - This Saturday - 5th February

Here is your chance to help save the libraries that are under threat in Suffolk - take a few minutes on Saturday, 5th February to visit your local library to show your support to the campaigners fighting to keep this valuable asset open.

Our own local library at Rosehill on Tomline Road would like to see you between 11am and 2pm this Saturday, visit, join, and sign out a book. I will be delivering 'Save our Library' leaflets in Rushmere Ward, Ipswich this Saturday but then I will get along to Rosehill Library to show my support.