Thursday 29 December 2011

Olympic Year - but will the drug cheats win?

I can’t wait till 2012 and getting closer to the Olympics coming to London. I have my tickets and I hope and believe it will be one of the greatest games ever – and that there will be a sporting legacy left behind.

I was disappointed not to get tickets for cycling, as it is a sport that I love to watch and one that Britain has come to dominate but not only on the track as we now are a force in road racing.

I also expect GB to collect medals in a number of sports and for all our athletes to preform to their highest level but I do have one worry and that these games are again overshadowed by the use of performance enhancing drugs.

I have just finished reading the fantastic, ‘Racing through the Dark’ by GB cyclist David Millar. Not only is it a fantastic book on cycling but it gets you close to the seedy world of the sports doper.

We keep coming up with new drug tests, but the chemists keep coming up with new drugs. We catch cyclist, athletes but they appeal and come back but we need to do more.

The reason why Millar’s book is so readable is that he admits he took drugs and in most cases names to doctors, trainers and managers who either advised him to take the drugs or turned a blind eye to the doping.

People will always cheat, always dope but we need to not just catch them and ban but it is those who supply both the drugs and the knowledge of how to use them who need to be caught then both banned for life and if a criminal offence has been undertaken – jailed.

As a young soldier I was on a mountaineering trip in the Italian Alps – one of our climbers had been a promising female hurdler, she was in the top 3 in the UK in the early 80’s but she gave up. I asked her why, she said her coach told her she had reached her ceiling and that if she wanted to go further she needed to use chemicals and he could supply. At that time she was at one of the leading Athletic clubs in the UK, I believed her and remembered what she had told me after a leading British female was caught at a later Commonwealth games – she was a member of the same club!

When an athlete is caught in particular a young g one, we need to find out who supplied him and whilst he is banned his coach should be banned at the same time.
David Millar could soon be allowed to appeal against his Olympic ban alongside Dwaine Chambers. Millar would have far more support than Dwaine because of his honesty but I believe they should stay banned. Millar does not ride for the Sky team as they have a nil doping policy but he was welcomed back by the GB and Scotland teams for the World Cycling Championship and the Commonwealth Games but even so the Olympic ban should stay and all countries should follow the GB lead.

We need to catch not only the athletes but the coaches and managers who pedal this filth – there is a pressure to win, even more so as the host nation. This has been highlighted by the recent bans placed on Indian athletes are the Commonwealth Games.
Let us just hope London 2012 are the games where the cheats do not win – and that will only be achieved if other competitors who do cheat come clean and tell us of those who helped them. A certain Lance Armstrong is one ex cyclist who could help so much – did he cheat?

Saturday 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas

I would just like to wish all the readers of this blog and Rushmere residents a 'Happy Christmas'

2012 will be a difficult year for all of us and I with my Labour colleagues in Ipswich will be trying our hardest to do the best for the people of Ipswich.

But this Christmas I will also be thinking about my friends and comrades serving in Afghanistan, both 2 and 5 Rifles will be away from their families this Christmas. I remember the Christmases I had to spend away from my family and to be honest it is easier for the troops than those who are left behind.

So this Christmas if you wish to help our troops away from home visit the Care 4Casulaties website or Labour Friends of the Forces.


Sunday 18 December 2011

My week ahead- 19- 25 December

Monday 19 December 2pm - North East Ipswich Partnership Meeting
4pm - Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm - Political debate on ICR Radio
7.30pm - Labour Group Xmas dinner

Seem to be packing in all my work into one day!

Last week we had the last Full Council meeting of the year, we did wonder how the Tories and Lib Dems would vote when it came to adopting the Council Core Strategy and Policies Development Plan. I was quite amazed that they voted with Labour! But there was far more to this agenda item that the unanimous vote. Lib Dem Cllr Richard Atkins attacked the Tories for the NIMBY attitude that had plagued the writing of the plan. Cllr Goldsmith the Tory Cllr from Castle Hill did not rise to the bait but did speak on behalf of the Northern Fringe Group. Lib Dem Inga Lockington also spoke and maybe Richard Atkins should have also attacked some of his own party who have acted in a NIMBY way towards the development of the Northern Fringe including Cllr Lockington.

Even now the plan has been approved; I am sure that when planning permission is being sought for the area North of Valley Road we will still have a number of Tories and Lib Dems looking to refuse permission to build in this part of town.
Will be interesting to read Tory/Lib Dem leaflets over the next few months (if they deliver any!) as they both seemed to be anti any development on the Northern Fringe in their leaflets in the St Margaret’s by-election.

The Council meeting also looked at changes to Polling stations in Ipswich, the Tories tried to keep a polling district in Bixley that is not only the smallest in the town but the polling station is situated outside the Borough. As no Tories had turned up for the two Working group meetings on polling stations there was not much sympathy for them.

We also debated setting up Area Committee’s, all seemed to agree that Forums were not working but the Tories were also not keen on area committees, and in the end the Tories and Lib Dem Ken Bates, abstained - the Tories seem to becoming the abstain party - something that Tory Gavin Maclure is not happy about.

After all the debating and arguing the most significant statement of the meeting was when Cllr John Mowles, our Housing spokesman declared that Labour run Ipswich Borough Council is planning to start building council houses again in Ipswich. This development should help a number of young families as they seek their first home in the town.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Street lighting in Ipswich over the holiday period

As you know over the last few months the lights in Rushmere have been turned off between midnight and 5.30 in the morning. In some parts of the town there has been some concern over this.

The vast majority of the lights in the Ward are owned by the County Council. The Borough and the County are working together over the holiday period to change the lighting system times over this busy period, I thought you would be interested in those changes:


Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council over that last few months have been introducing an Intelligent Lighting system.
All street lights managed by both Authorities that are six metres in height and below are in the process of being switched off between the hours of midnight and 5:30am. In many areas of Ipswich this system is already up and running.

Both Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council have recognised that there is always and increase in activity over the festive period. With this in mind, street lights in Ipswich will follow the following regime over this period

Friday 23rd December - On all night (from dusk till dawn)
Saturday 24th December - On all night (from dusk till dawn)
Sunday 25th December - On all night (from dusk till dawn)
Monday 26th December to Friday 30th December - street lights will be left on until 1am.
Saturday 31st December - On all night (from dusk till dawn)

Outside of the dates detailed above, the street lights in Ipswich will continue to operate the normal switching off regime

I hope that is of some use to you, it just leaves me to wish you all a 'Happy Christmas'

Sunday 11 December 2011

My week ahead 12- 17 December

Monday 12 December 6pm - Ipswich Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 14 December 6pm - Ipswich Borough Council - Full Council Meeting

Saturday 17 December 10.30am - Campaigning in South West Ipswich

This week has yet again highlighted that the Tory Group is slightly confused on what to campaign on or even debate at council meetings.

This week at Scrutiny they seemed more concerned in working out how much the 'State of Ipswich' report costs to compile rather than discuss what we can use the report for. They kept going on about "how much does it cost?" They have even asked that when we review the report in 12 months time the cost of the report is looked at. It is only logical and right that we do look at the cost of the report but what the Tories seem to have forgot is that the idea to create this report was theirs! We mentioned this to the Tories but they said they never knew anything about the report which is slightly worrying when one of the Tory members on Scrutiny was also on their executive.

So when the likes of Cenci and Harsant go on about us keeping the public in the dark over such issues as the future of forums, they should remember that they made decisions that they did not even tell their fellow executive members. So who was the Tory who came up with the idea of 'The State of Ipswich' report, any idea Cllr Cenci?

Wednesday gave me a chance to listen to fellow Labour members discuss 'The Purple Book' a book put together by those in Progress, a group within the party. Now Labour has always had a number of different groups within it's ranks and we currently have Purple, Black, Red and Blue books!

But what I do like about Progress is that it is just not about talking, they also get out and campaign not just within the party but also out on the street and always have a big turnout at by-elections. It was great to meet Richard Angell from Progress but also to hear the thoughts of David Ellesmere, Chris Mole and Carina O'Reilly. I had met Carina at the launch of 'Labour Friends of the Forces' and hope to do some work with her on that issue over the next year. Not sure I support all that is in the Purple Book but at least in the Labour Party we have people who are thinking about how we can help improve this country in the future. After what Cameron did this week in Europe it is obvious we have a Tory Party still stuck in the 1980's.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Gummer, interns and knives!

Ipswich Spy led in the local blogging world with a story that first came to prominence in The Daily Mail (so even though it seemed like a story attacking the Tories - I had to check the facts as it came from the Daily Fail).

The story was about a former intern of Ben Gummer who was caught with 2 knives in his bag as he went to hand in a petition to Nick Clegg as part of a delegation from the Oxford University Conservative Association.

The post by Ipswich Spy - here - concentrated on the fact that Henry Evans had escaped with a caution and that Ben Gummer had made a number of statements both in the Evening Star and in Parliament on stiffer sentences for those caught with knives.

Ipswich Spy then declares they are then surprised that Mr Evans escaped with a caution after what Mr Gummer had said. But of course whatever Mr Gummer or any politician tells us it is the police and the legal system who should decide what happens. Reading further into the story it becomes obvious that Mr Gummer employed Henry as an intern after he had been caught with the knives.

I decided to ask Mr Gummer his thoughts on the matter and also asked him did he know of the caution before he employed Mr Evans. Mr Gummer said he would not discuss Mr Evans as it was improper to comment on someone who he had employed as it would be improper for me to comment on a pupil who may have come under my charge. I understand that but as Mr Evans was over 18 not sure that argument adds up. Mr Gummer is only being asked the same questions as Mr Cameron is over Mr Coulson. Like Mr Cameron, Ben believes in giving people a second chance.

I agree with Ben that the sentencing should be left for the Police and the judiciary but politicians need to remember when they are quoted on sentencing or punishments for knife crime that it will then surprise the public when someone who seems to have treated quite leniently by the police is then employed by Mr Gummer, let alone allowed to work in Parliament.

But what interested me about the story is the use of interns, now after asking Mr Gummer it seems Mr Evans was employed on more of a work experience type scheme than as an intern and possibly would have received expenses from Ben.

But I feel it is wrong that MP's uses interns, they should employ and pay people a decent wage or possibly offer apprenticeships. Interns seem to be only those who can afford to live and work in London and therefore come from a more privileged background. Labour and Lib Dem MP's are also as guilty as the Tories for employing interns. But it seems the Tory Party leads on the number of interns employed.

Guido Fawkes - the Tory blogger is running a campaign against such misuse of the system and states the case of Tory minister Jeremy Hunt as Guido puts it; Multi-millionaire Jeremy Hunt, Cabinet minister's salary £134,565, paid himself £2 million bonus last year. Total pay to 7 interns: £0.00.

The Tories are recorded to have employed at least 125 unpaid interns in the last year. A number will do this so they can say to their constituents “look how low my expenses are?”

Mr Gummer informs me he has employed a number if interns and as he has not got a huge budget, he only pays expenses to those who if they did not have that money would find themselves excluded from looking at how an MP works.

Mr Gummer states he also gives priority to those from Ipswich, I am pleased to hear this as the ‘Evans – knife’ story concerned me because it seems that Mr Evans is an ‘old boy’ of Ben’s former Public School in Kent. Now I expect this last sentence will be seized on by the Tory bloggers, highlighting the fact that I work in a Public School. I understand how the ‘old boy’ network operates but possibly Ben should have put a good word in for Mr Evans with a Kent MP and offered the place to an Ipswich resident – whether they went to Ipswich School or Chantry.

Now Ben may state that he chose the best candidate! I hope not as the Chair of the Oxford University Conservatives stated that Mr Evans was probably saved from jail because he is stupid! You do wonder why someone at one the best universities in the world goes to London to see the Deputy PM, with 2 knifes in his bag, that he had put in there on a school trip to France a number of years ago!

In conclusion, I accept that people should have a second chance and am not concerned that Mr Gummer employed Mr Evans, It does emphasize the point though that when a politician issues a quote in a paper that he must remember that it could come back to bite them.

I am also happy that Ben allows young people to work with him in Westminster to get work experience, but let’s call it that then – rather than an internship.
Interns should be stopped, it should be an apprenticeship (paid) at least.

Choosing those for work experience, where possible they should come from your own constituency but if not they should be at least someone who is going to offer something to Ipswich residents rather than the class clown from your old school.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Do Ipswich Tories talk to each other?

Today the former Tory leader of Ipswich Borough Council, Liz Harsant has blogged about some bollards being placed in Gladstone Road. She was so pleased she even said 'Thank you' to the council - Read more here about Gladstone Road

Liz Harsant mentions that residents have complained about indiscriminate parking - did Liz Harsant ask for the bollards?

The reason why I ask, is that former Tory Councillor Gavin Maclure has also put up a post about the same issue here. Now Gavin lives in Gladstone Road along with his wife who is also a Tory councillor and former portfolio holder for transport in the Borough. He seems to have a slightly different opinion about the bollards, he states; "However, the Council has still found time to put up five bollards on a pavement on my road, supposedly to stop cars parking on the pavement (although I only ever saw one car), but it is totally unnecessary as there are already double yellow lines...pure incompetence and waste!"

So are the bollards a good idea like ex Tory leader Lz Harsant states or "pure incompetence and waste"? The senior Tories in Ipswich can't seem to make their mind up!

Also on Liz Harsant's blog she mentions that she is happy that the council may put a stop to their new grass management plan, as the residents were against it. What surprises me is that at no stage has Liz Harsant mentioned that the new Grass Management idea was one her administration (when she was leader) came up with. Plus the savings this new scheme would make were already included in her budget! So it seems the Tories were happy to come up with all these schemes to help cut Council Tax by 1 % and then once they lost power say how stupid the schemes were. Double standards?

My week ahead 5 - 11 December

Monday 5 December - 4pm Culture and Leisure portfolio meeting
6pm Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 7 December - 7.30pm Labour Purple Book Tour, Ipswich Library

Thursday 8 December - 6pm Ipswich Borough Council Scrutiny meeting, Grafton House

Friday 9 December - 9am Sidegate Primary School Panto
7.30pm Ipswich Labour Christmas Party

Saturday 10 December - 10.30am Labour Campaigning, North Ipswich

A visit to Sidegate Primary School this week,it was good to hear how the school continues to advance , also I was able to pass on my concerns about the payment for the School Crossing patrol. The Head Teacher and the Chair were able to inform us that the sponsor had made his initial payment to the County Council. It seems the sponsorship deal was not as simple as the Tories initially made it out it to be.

On Wednesday I joined those on strike at the rally at the Cornhill, David Ellesmere and the union leaders all spoke with David empasising that this is not a Public sector v Private sector dispute, all workers should be able to benefit from good pensions.

On Thursday I attended a training session at the Borough Council, the session was centred around the proposed changes to the benefit system. Never have I left a meeting at Grafton so angry and also depressed.

The Tories (with the help of the Lib Dems) are planning the biggest attack that I have ever seen on the poor and vulnerable in this country.

We all know that changes are needed to the benefit system and that the public would also like to see those who are making illegal claims are caught and punished but of all the changes planned I could only see one that would help the public. the remainder are just attacks on the poor, disabled and to be blunt - those who are not seen as Tory voters.

The good bits? Councils will be able to levy a full council tax on second homes - but up to Councils, so do not expect to see this happen on the Suffolk Coast, more tax can also be placed on empty homes. This may be of use in Ipswich as currently we have about 800 plus empty homes in the Borough with over 70 being empty for a number of years.

The remainder of the changes were horrific, a conservative estimate is that in the first full year of the changes, Ipswich residents will lose over £3 Million in benefits.

For instance the bereavement benefit will no longer be assessed locally but you will have to phone a call centre in Scotland! The Government has been clever, most of the brunt of the anger of those who will find themselves homeless will be aimed at local councils and once the changes are complete the benefit staff will be made redundant and the payments will be made by Central Government.

The Labour Councillors in Ipswich asked the officer a number of questions whilst the Tories and Lib Dem's sat quietly, were they ashamed of what their Government is planning?

The two Lib Dems in the evening session just sat quietly, making no contribution to the exchanges. At least from the afternoon session, the Lib Dem Ken Bates seemed worried enough about the changes to say that he will write to Mr Clegg, will be interesting to hear what Nick Clegg has to say on the matter.

The two Tories at the evening session also sat in silence but if I was an Ipswich resident I would be more concerned that they were the only two Tories out of 14 who even turned up for the training - Carnall, Harsant, Cenci and Terry all failing to attend a session that highlighted changes to a system that will cause havoc for many Ipswich residents ( but maybe not many in Bixley)

Will the changes happen? Many Labour members present hope that the Tory and Lib Dem MP's will listen to the Church, CAB, Councillors and stop a number of their plans, their is also the belief that they will not even have an IT system ready in time to implement a number of them, but I fear the worse. so all I can do is campaign harder to make sure we get rid of this Government as quick as possible.