Sunday, 28 August 2011

My week ahead 29 August - 3 September 2011

Tuesday 30 August 6pm - Ipswich Council Executive. Grafton House

Thursday 1 September 4.30pm - Scrutiny Committee, Tour of the Ipswich Waterfront

Saturday 3 September 10.30am - Campaigning in North West Ipswich

This week started with a Labour Group meeting on Monday. Tuesday should have been the highlight of the week, but the 5 mile cycle ride that was part of the media launch for the Tour of Britain was cancelled!! - A severe weather warning put pay to my opportunity to pretend I was Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish!

Bradley Wiggins - not Cllr Ross!

Wednesday I attended a morning meeting at Gainsborough Sports Centre, looking at the plans for the new Ipswich Academy, who will becoming our close neighbours quite soon.

Saturday, saw yet again a large number of Labour activists out in East Ipswich, informing residents of the Suffolk County Council plan to switch lights off at midnight.

Today (Sunday) I got my chance to follow in the cycle tracks of Wiggins, I joined 10 Ipswich residents on the Sky/British cycling local ride. we left Northgate School, dodged the showers and visited a number of villages to the east of the town. But where did they get those hills from!

Friday, 26 August 2011

The Regimental system – under threat from Tory defence cuts

The Regimental system – under threat from Tory defence cuts

Well trained, well-motivated, experienced, battle hardened – all reasons why there is little doubt that the British Army is the best in the world – if not THE best.
But without doubt the current Regimental system is also one of the key reasons that we continue to have an army to be proud of.

But that system is now under threat from proposed Tory defence cuts – talk of up to 8 out of 36 Infantry Battalions being scrapped.

Now here is the funny thing, the Army reduced from 40 to 36 Battalions in 2004 under a Labour Government. The Labour Government plan (that was backed by the Generals), and led to the formation of a number of super Infantry Regiments that were able to keep regional links. But the funny thing was that the Tories did not back the plan, the cutting of the Black Watch was the catalyst for a number of protests and led to Nicholas Soames the Tory Shadow Defence Minister to promise to reform the 4 lost Battalions and return to 40 Infantry regiments.

Anyone heard anything from Nicholas Soames in the last month? No, it is just another broken Tory promise. To make it even harder to swallow, the Scottish Battalion that is under threat is the Royal Regiment of Scotland that has inherited the traditions of the Black Watch. I hope those same Scottish Tory Gentry who led the protests in 2004, return to Westminster this year.

The Generals need to be strong, large Regiments are the answer- more flexable and gives Officer and Senior NCO’s the opportunities to train and operate in different theatres, building up their experience.

I joined the Royal Green Jackets in 1978, but we still took our traditions from the Rifle Regiments that merged into the RGJ in the early 60’s and each of the 3 battalions took a link to a particular Regiment. So those in 3 RGJ were proud to be descendants of the Rifle Brigade. But it was a sad day in 1992 when we were reduced to 2 Battalions (under a Tory Govt) but it was even more galling when the Tories under pressure saved Single Battalions of County regiments like the Cheshires.
Now the Rifles take the traditions of the Green Jackets, The Light Infantry and the West of England Regiments – keeping those traditions alive, keeping regional links but having the flexibility to move soldiers between units and benefit operationally from that movement.

But again we have Cameron under pressure, and leaving instructions that cap badges must not be lost, so it is Regiments like The Rifles, The Mercians, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Scottish Regiments under threat. With other Regiments likely to be saved (including the Guards) because he just wants to save badges.

Cameron and his party lied both to the public and the Army in 2004, this time the Generals must be strong and stick to what they think is best operationally. In reality we cannot afford to fight in Afghanistan and be on call to operate in other theatres if we lose any battalions and definitely not 8. Maybe 2 is nearer the total we could afford to lose, but do not let the Tories just keep cap badges to save face!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

My week ahead 22 - 28 August 2011

Dr Fox and his defence cuts, or the Ipswich Maritime Festival?

Monday 22 August 6pm - Labour Group Meeting

Tuesday 23 August 10.30am - Tour of Britain Cycle ride, media launch, Diss

Wednesday 24 August 9am - ICR Radio interview about the Tour of Britain
10.30am - Meeting about the new Ipswich Academy

Sunday 28 August 10am - Sky Ride at Northgate School

This week has been quite varied, starting with a birthday party for one of our Labour Councillors, the event was held at the excellent Reg Driver Centre in Christchurch Park.

Monday saw a number of us back campaigning in Holywells Ward, Ipswich. A number of residents commented that it was the first time they had ever had a councillor knock on their door let alone ask for their views.

I managed to also fill in some sport spectating, but the football was ruined by the inability of the current Ipswich team to actually play football and Essex cricket was cut short by heavy rain at Colchester.

The rain may have stopped the cricket but, even with slightly damp feet the Ipswich Beer Festival did go on! Fortunately the weather improved by the weekend for the remainder of the Beer Festival and the excellent Ipswich Maritime festival. Lets hope this becomes an annual event in the Ipswich events calender.

Boats, beer and plenty more!

Ipswich Maritime Festival -

Just back from a family trip to the Ipswich Maritime festival, a really fantastic Sunday treat. I had made a pre festival visit to the Ipswich Beer Festival which this year had moved to the waterfront. Hundred turned up Thursday night to taste the many ales but we found ourselves under water! Not great for the first night in a new location but the blitz spirit seemed to work (with the help of a few strong bitters) and the main tent seemed packed all night.

Ipswich Beer Festival - in the rain!

Saturday had seen a couple of late showers but from those who went it seemed the whole day had been a success, with a great finale for the day with the firework display.

Ipswich Beer Festival - in the sun!

Sunday also started off sunny and though it clouded over slightly in the afternoon, it remained dry. We started and finished the day at the beer festival, and from the amount of empty barrels, the new location seems to have been a success. But it was not just beer on offer! There were plenty of food stall, historical displays from Georgian England to WW2, with the Spitfire plane being like a magnet to many young lads (and their fathers).

The atmosphere was very continental, drink, food, sun and people enjoying themselves. The large whale seemed very popular, but I did wonder what was going on onside ot as 20 children and mothers appeared from withing it's grey skin! Not many fathers seemed keen on joining in.

Complaints? Seems petty to mention anything after the hard work by our own IBC Officers, Ipswich Central and the various other organisations involved in getting the festival going. But there are always places where improvements can be made and I would like to see maybe more boats for people to visit and clamber aboard, the Orwell lady was doing a great trade as was the Thames sailing barge but maybe we could get the Royal (or Dutch/Belgian) Navy to visit with a mine sweeper on the same weekend.

But lets not take anything away from a well organised, well attended fun event.

I look forward to being involved in the wash up afterwards and lets hope this now becomes a regular Ipswich event.

Visit the Maritime festival website here, and leave your own comments.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The lights are going off in Rushmere....

By now many of you would have started to see orange Suffolk County Council signs appear on Rushmere Ward streets, informing you that your street lights will soon be switched off between midnight and 5.30am.

I believe in principle it is a good idea to turn the lights off, not only saving the County money but also helping reduce our carbon footprint. What I have not been happy about is the way the Tory run County have failed to inform residents and not to have in place a procedure that residents can follow if they believe their street should stay lit.

What has even been more disappointing than the failure of the County to inform residents of the switch off is the way certain Ipswich Tory councillors, candidates and activists have attempted to scare residents with talk of muggings and petty crime but then to say the Labour run Ipswich Borough Council are the ones who are turning the lights off!

Thankfully this week at least two senior Tories have been more honest when talking about the proposed light switch off. In his Evening Star column this week, the Tory councillor for Bixley, Kym Stroet was quoted 'Although we (IBC) are responsible for only a small proportion of the street lights, as councillors we need to allay fears of residents'. Former Tory councillor Gavin Maclure even commented on a previous post by me that Ipswich Tories should not be saying it is the Borough turning the lights off.

Hopefully that message will get over to former Tory Candidate James Spencer who believes the streets of Bridge will become more dangerous because of Labour and Kevin Algar who also blogged how it was a Labour plan to turn lights off.

As both these Tory supporting blogs often get their facts wrong it is no surprise they got the 'lights off' facts wrong, but there was little excuse for the Tories in Holywells ward to put out a leaflet that was very unclear on who was behind the plan to turn them off (even if the Tory County councillors from Ipswich voted for the plan).

We will see how the 'switch off' goes, but if any Ipswich resident feels that they need to have their street stay lit up, please contact your Labour councillor and we will take the matter up with the County Council.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

My week ahead 14 -20 August 2011

Monday 15 August 2pm - North East Partnership Meeting - Listening to our local SNT Police team, on how they dealt with the events last week.

6pm - Campaigning in Holywells ward, Ipswich - Getting the views of and informing residents about the plan to switch lights off in streets from September

Tuesday 16 August 7.45pm - Football at Portman Road - Someones has to go!

Wednesday 17 August 9am - Planning Committee - Grafton House

Thursday 18 August 11am - Essex cricket at Colchester

Saturday 20 August 10.30am - Campaigning on the doorstep in Ipswich

Last week I spent most days delivering the new Rushmere Rose in Ipswich but also managed to find time to knock on doors in Holywells Ward. Most residents did not seem aware that their street lights will be turned off by the County Council in September. As I have stated before, I agree that it is a good idea to switch off lights between midnight and 5.30am in the morning. what the county should have done is informed residents of the plan with at least an information leaflet. At least they are now putting signs up in the streets in the weeks before the lights are switched off. Hopefully with the Suffolk County Council logo on the notice, it will stop the Tory supporting blogs telling all who will listen that it is the Borough Council who are behind the light switch off.

I also attended a meeting about the plan for the building of the new Ipswich Academy with Labour councillors from South East Ipswich, it will create a fantastic environment for learning, even if the budget is almost half of what was initially promised in the 'Building Schools for the Future' scheme.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Helping to restore peace and calm to the capital

A message from Suffolk Police to Ipswich residents

Helping to restore peace and calm to the capital

Suffolk Police is continuing to support the Metropolitan Police restore peace to the capital by sending further officers to London.
A number will be travelling this afternoon and overnight to help arrest, identify or deter people from rioting and looting.
Police would like to dispel fictitious and malicious rumours which are circulating, particularly on social networking sites about disorder on the streets of Suffolk.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Marshall said: “We would like to inform residents of Suffolk that there is no unrest here in the county. We understand how distressing these rumours must be to residents of Suffolk and can assure people there is no substance in them.”
Despite the assistance being sent to London, Suffolk Police has a significant number of resources still on duty and a high-visibility presence will continue throughout the day and night to deter any disorder as well as offering reassurance to residents who are worried by the events unfolding in the capital.
ACC Marshall added: “We are working hard to ensure the county remains safe and we have sufficient-trained police officers on duty to deal with any situation should it arise.”
Suffolk Police understands that business owners may be feeling concerned following the recent events in London and are subsequently issuing advice.
Retailers should conduct regular checks outside their building for any suspicious activity, identify any areas of their property which are vulnerable to forced entry and ensure CCTV is fully-operational.
As a precautionary measure additional officers and PCSOs will patrolling main towns to provide high-visibility reassurance patrols. They will be visiting businesses, community venues and other places where people gather to engage with local people and provide advice and guidance.
Police in Suffolk are reiterating the words of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Tim Godwin and would urge parents to be aware of and ask their children where they are and who they are with.
If anyone has information about any possible daytime disorder they can contact Suffolk Police on 01473 613745 or in an emergency call 999.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Lack of leadership

"What riot?"

I write this as riots have now spread to Croydon and even Birmingham. No doubt this is copycat actions and has no other link than that to the original incident in Tottenham.

What is needed now is leadership, community support and parental control.

Community leaders are right to highlight the poverty, lack of opportunity and the feeling of being outside society but they must also be brave enough to see that most of these incidents are just occurring as they wish to copy other area's, get a quick buzz and line their pockets with looted goods- all damaging their own communities.

Parents need to know where their sons and daughters are, get them home, keep them at home.

Leadership is what is needed most, I have just watched on BBC as an ex Senior Police Commander from Fulham criticise the Government and senior management in the Metropolitan Police. I have then seen the acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police show true leadership in asking for the support of the people of London.

I have seen and heard controlled comments that show a true understanding of his community by David Lammy the Labour MP from Tottenham. I am at this moment hearing measured comments by Simon Hughes the Lib Dem MP. But where are those who pull the strings? Those who control this country?

Cameron, Osborne, May and Johnson all on holiday at the same time. we are told it is OK as William Hague is in charge. Third day of riots and not heard from him once.

Boris Johnson said yesterday there was no need for any one to cut short their holiday, less than 24 hours later the Home Secretary, Theresa May does come back. Johnson then back tracks and will be back by lunchtime Tuesday!

Theresa May was hard line in her words but as the police stated, the yobs are not worried about being caught, they know the jails are full, they will be out in a few hours. In the days of football hooliganism, the thugs knew that in London they were unlikely ever to end up in court. so strong words from Mrs May but no real substance. No show of unity with the police, OK to praise them, but not sure many would have felt any elation when hearing her comments as the same Home Secretary is making thousands of them redundant.

Then we have Cameron and Johnson - the real lack of leadership by staying away the true Tory meaning to - "We are all in it together"

A Tory blogger from Ipswich asked me why should they come back? Maybe he should ask the leader of Tottenham Tories who has criticised Boris Johnson for his (chosen) absence.

Gavin Maclure has even blogged that Cameron may not be the leader he thought he was but even he states that the PM and Osborne deserve and need their overseas breaks.

Brigadier Radford - true leadership

But when I was in Afghanistan in 2009, under the command of 19 Brigade we were facing the bloodiest Summer of fighting the British Army had seen since Korea in the 1950's. What did our leader do? Brigadier Radford refused to take his two weeks leave, he spent the whole seven months in Helmand Province. More than that he knew that his men needed the rest and recuperation so he made them all take their R & R but he chose not to take his - true leadership in what was a difficult time for many of us.

So Cameron and Johnson may be able to keep in control from Italy (and where other Boris is)but there is no way they will get a true feel of the fear that London is living under. The PM wherever he is would be spending time in contact with Downing Street what ever was happening but what about the extra cost that Johnson is running up by constantly being on the phone with London, especially at the time when the Met Police has only a stand in leader. He needed to be on that plane home on Sunday.

When I was in the army, we had to sort out our leave that meant that leaders were always in place, this meant that none of the leadership ever took leave at Christmas or New Year. Even last week, the leader of our own Ipswich Borough Council informed us that he would be away for a week but whilst he was away (he would still be contactable by phone or email) that his deputy would be in charge. So if IBC can do it, why couldn't the Government - so I ask again where is the leadership? How can it be that one of the leading countries in the world can allow the PM, Deputy PM, the Chancellor, the Home Secretary (and London Mayor) all be on holiday (and out of the country) at the same time? Answer- Incompetence.


At 4 this afternoon both Cameron and Johnson said there was no need to end holiday earlier, by 6 we heard Johnson would be on a plane and home by lunch Tuesday and now we hear Cameron (9.20) is coming back- trouble is for mamy it is not when he should have come back- incompetence

Rest of the week - 14 August 2011

Back from a short break and straight back into campaigning!

This week I will be delivering to and calling on residents in Rushmere Ward, Ipswich.

I will be passing on good news to residents that it seems likely that we will be getting parts of Renfrew Road re-surfaced. We also should see this month a new bus shelter being built outside Dundee House in Renfrew Road. Very good news for our Senior residents who live in this great council home.

This Saturday I will be joining a number of other Labour members both in Rushmere and Holywells, as we continue to talk to residents about their concerns and interests.

Then it is off to Portman Road for the first home game of the season.