Sunday 22 December 2013

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas to all readers of this blog

It has been a hard year for many but as we are getting closer to the General Election in 2015 I for one will be working even harder over the next year to do all I can to help us get a Labour Government in 2015

In 2014 I will continue to work hard in Rushmere, help Ipswich Labour to win more seats in the Borough election.

I will also continue to spend time helping veterans and work with Labour Friends of the Forces to get a better deal for our Armed Forces - the Christmas Card is from my former Regiment, The Royal Green Jackets - the fictional TV soldier Sharpe was serving in a Rifle Regiment

I also think 2014 will be the year we have to unite and stand together as a town against the Far Right - in their various guises - BNP, EDL, Britain First and even elements of UKIP

Thursday 19 December 2013

Three times easier to 'shop local' with a map

Live local, Shop local.

Many residents in Rushmere were disappointed when the planning inspector overturned Ipswich Borough Council and allowed Greene King to turn the Golden Key pub into a supermarket.
One of the reasons people did not want to see a supermarket on the Woodbridge Road site was because of the quality of local shops in the Woodbridge Rd area.

Just after planning permission was granted on appeal, a local resident Swaraj who wanted to help local traders, he came up with the idea of a local map. This was then take on by the North East Area Committee and at one of our meetings a number of young pupils from Copleston High School volunteered to get involved.

The Bally triplets came up with the winning design and that was then taken forward by local Rushmere firm, Ipswich Magazine 24, who produced the final map.
The North East Area Committee have paid for the printing of 5,000 maps and distribution of 3,000 with the remainder being held by local shops.

This was a great example of residents getting together to look after the area they live in, a big thanks to Swaraj, Ipswich 24 and Ellinor, Georgia and Stephanie Bally.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Nastiest Front Bench speech ever?

Today the Labour Party managed to get Westminster to debate the shocking rise of food banks in this country, I have been asking via twitter if our own Tory MP, Ben Gummer was going to attend the debate. Not sure if he did but it seemed at times that only 20 Tories (and very few Lib Dems) were sat in the House - but they did get over 200 to turn up for the vote.

But one of the most telling moments of the debate also highlighted how many Tories just wish to ignore the fact that food banks are needed now more than ever. Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) took to his feet to make a very emotional and passionate speech as he attacked the Tory Minister who had replied for the government but then left the House, not wanting or wishing to listen to the debate - a certain Esther McVey, but he also highlighted the lack of Lib Dem MPs present for the debate.

This is part of the speech, Gerald made:

"It is disgraceful that the junior Minister, having made one of the nastiest Front-Bench speeches I have heard in my 43 years in this House, has now sloped off and not bothered to listen to the views of the House.

Last Sunday I attended a carol service at New Covenant church in my constituency, where a leaflet of activities distributed to the congregation read,

“Food bank to alleviate poverty among the unemployed and low income earners.”

The previous Sunday I attended a carol service at St Chrysostom’s, also in my constituency, at which Canon Ian Gomersall always makes an appeal. In previous years it has been about alleviating poverty abroad—helping a Romanian orphanage, for example. Last Sunday he made an appeal for food for hungry people in the area around the church. He said that the prospect was that there would be soup kitchens—soup kitchens in my constituency! He is not political, but he felt that he had to say that to a crowded congregation.

That is the precise policy of this Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government. I note that the only Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Manchester has not even bothered to turn up to this debate. That will be noted by his constituents."

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Fascist group Britain First, use our Armed Forces to promote their right wing views

Today in Ipswich town centre, I witnessed a Far Right Political Group using the cover of support for our Armed Forces to spread their message of hate, collect information and data on residents who were tricked into signing their petition. But worst of all they were even selling badges, with people probably thinking the money will end up with soldiers or an armed forces charity, but it was obvious to me that the money would just end up in the pockets of this nasty right wing group.

The group involved is the Britain First Party, who I believe are a breakaway from the BNP.

You can see how people are fooled into thinking this is a military backed stall

The stall set up was very professional with an expensive banner promoting a campaign to support our troops, but straight away I was suspicious, a large group of Ipswich residents were queuing to sign their petition, the man behind the desk must have thought I wanted to sign and offered me a sheet and pen, but I wanted to know who was behind the petition, when I asked him, he reached under the table and gave me a glossy leaflet, it did have Britain First on the front of the leaflet but most of the leaflet featured pictures of our soldiers and most disgustingly for me a photo of Rifleman from my own Regiment, carrying the coffin of a fallen soldier.

It was not till you got to the back page did you get the real message that this nasty Right Wing group wanted to get over, a message about fighting back and making sure British families do not get treated like second class citizens.

The real political message they are trying to get across

I then informed the man behind the stall that I was an ex soldier and we did not need the support of his sort, he then got quite aggressive and told me to move on as I was now informing Ipswich shoppers they should not sign the petition.

When I was speaking to him it was then that I saw they were selling badges for £5, but no notice to tell us where the money was going to, it became obvious it would end up in their own pockets.

I find it disgusting that this Right Wing group are using the good name of our Armed Forces to both raise money for themselves and also to get their nasty fascist message across, when I then saw they were using the photograph of the coffin of a dead Rifleman from my Regiment to promote their cause, I then felt anger but also a determination to continue to campaign against the likes of the BNP, EDL and Britain First.

They do not represent, Ipswich, Britain and certainly not our Armed Forces, so if you see them in your town centre – do not sign their petition or even give them the time of the day – they are just fascists who want to destroy everything that this country fought for in the last war.

Sunday 15 December 2013

My week ahead, 16 - 21 December 2013

Monday – 16 December, 2pm – Sidegate Primary School Finance meeting
4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group meeting

Thursday 19 December, 6pm – Ipswich Borough Council, Grafton House

Getting close to Christmas but meetings continue. The last two weeks have also given me a chance to meet with some of our new candidates for the elections in May, we certainly seem to have found some excellent candidates and our average age will drop somewhat if all our new candidates win. They are also very enthusiastic, with many joining after seeing the damage to our country caused by a Cameron/ Tory/Lib Dem Government.

Last week also saw a number of reports on education published, Tory run Suffolk did so badly that even our own Tory MP broke ranks and criticised the Tory administration. I for one believe the miss-handling of our children’s education in Suffolk will be a major issue not only in May next year but definitely at the General Election in 2015.

Friday 13 December 2013

Suffolk Tories fail again to raise education standards in the County

Yesterday saw the publication of at least the third report on education this week and again it did not make good reading for Tory run Suffolk County Council.

The first report this week was by the National Audit Office, concerning the setting up of Free Schools in the UK and in the main the report was mainly negative and this afternoon we have just been informed that the DfE have ordered a Free school to close in April after failing to reach the required standard of teaching.

Though I believe the setting up of ‘Free Schools’ (well not actually free as the Tax payer has had to heavily subsidise their creation) has not helped raise education standards in Suffolk it is the two later reports this week that have shown what a mess Tory run Suffolk is making of education in this county.

What was no surprise to me was the silence of leading Suffolk and Ipswich Tories once the two reports were published, I mentioned this via twiiter and Mr Gummer did then send me a link to show he had commented on the report. The link led to a Star website report that indicated Mr Gummer was critical of teaching but no mention of the failure by Tory run Suffolk to help improve education in the county.
The Ipswich Star and the EADT today both featured the report on Primary School education which highlighted the fact that Suffolk again has been named as one of the worst performing authorities in England. The Star did not include in their report the comments from Mr Gummer but the EADT did. Again they repeated Mr Gummers comment about the need for better teachers but it did also include his criticism of Tory run Suffolk – ‘We need a sense of urgency which the County Council has not yet shown’.

I would like to thank Mr Gummer for once at least putting some of the blame at the feet of the Tory run County but it seems his words have fell on deaf ears, the county according to their leader, Mr Bee and lead on education, Lisa Chambers are just going to continue with their ‘Raising the Bar’ project but Mr Bee warns us that it is going to take time. All good news for parents of pupils who are currently in Primary education in Suffolk then?

So what is the real plan for Education in Suffolk? Even Mr Gummer seems slightly critical of their progress though it is still silence from the other Tory MP’s, Tory Cabinet members and Ipswich Tory Cllrs. I have written to Mr Gummer about what I believed to be the bullying approach the DfE have taken in forcing schools to become academies. One local Tory, wondered why I was criticising academies when they produce better results, not sure that is actually proven in Primary Schools yet but I do agree with him, academies are probably the best way forward but only because there is just a choice between becoming an academy or being left under the control of a Tory council who has no interest in education and just wishes to get rid of their responsibility as soon as possible.

Mr Gummer has passed on my concerns to Lord Nash and I am still awaiting his views on the process that seems to have become normal in that schools are not only being forced down the academy path but also sworn to secrecy whilst doing so.

One of our Labour County Councillor colleagues has written to the County Council after finding out via a resident that one of the Primary Schools in her Division is being forced into becoming an academy, she wanted to know why she had not been informed.

The reply from the County consisted of a number of interesting points, but one in particular I felt gave away more than it should of: The comment was “There is also an expectation that over time all school will become academies. This process is beyond the control of the LA” Now I for one can’t remember that being in either the Tory manifesto at the last General Election or in the Tory County Manifesto last year, can you?

So as many of us thought, this is not about parental choice but it is being forced on us for ideological reasons.
One Tory County Cabinet member did use his blog this week but not to talk about education but how he was proud that they had not raised council tax and how he wished he could lower it – true Council tax has not risen over the last few years but at the same time funding to the School Improvement Team has been slashed and we now hear from the County that their plan is just to get rid of education completely from their remit.

‘Raising the Bar’ has just become ‘let’s just stand at the bar and wait for all schools to leave the authority’
Not for the first time, Tories in Suffolk have let down our children.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Planning for Defence

On Tuesday, I was a Westminster meeting the Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker and his team. The meeting was held in the cosy but still impressive surrounds of the Shadow Cabinet room.

The meeting was arranged so that Vernon could get the views of members of ‘Labour Friends of the Forces’.

As well as myself, there were three other members present, two of who are Parliamentary candidates for next General election the other member is a wife of a serving soldier.

We had a detailed and frank conversation about what we saw as concerns for both current members of the Armed Forces and veterans but not forgetting their families.

Before the last election the Tories made much of their promise to repair the Military Covenant, not that many soldiers I know of actually knew there was such thing as the covenant! But those members of the armed forces who did vote for the Tories based on their promises must have been very disappointed when all they seemed to have delivered on defence is a smaller armed forces and thousands of redundancy notices.

So I find it very encouraging that this meeting was held (a continuation of the good work, Jim Murphy had started) and the promise of further meetings as we approach 2015 and more importantly to me that these meetings will continue after we hope Labour have regained power.

NHS, Education, energy policy – many reasons why this country needs a Labour Government, but now you can add defence to that list. Dr Liam Fox was a disaster at the MOD but from those I spoke to at Westminster on Tuesday, many believe Hammond is not much of an improvement and that view is also held by a number of Tory MP’s in particular those who have close links to the military.

Just before the meeting, I bumped into one of my former officers, he was on a ‘smoke break’ from the Main MOD building, from the short conversation I had with him, I could see the cuts to defence had hit soldiers morale and he for one saw that the army would now struggle to be able to attract some of our finest young men and women as it could no longer offer the career prospects it has in the past.

Sunday 8 December 2013

My week ahead, 9 - 15 December 2013

Monday – 9 December, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday – 10 December, 1pm – Labour Friends of the Forces, meeting at the Shadow Cabinet room, Houses of Parliament

Wednesday 11 December, 5pm – Briefing by the Cabinet Office on electoral registration reforms

Thursday 12 December, 6pm – Area Committee Chairs meeting

Friday 13 December, 7pm – Labour Christmas Party, Roundwood Bowls Club

Saturday 14 December, 10am – Labour campaigning, South West Ipswich

There has been plenty written on the blogosphere and in the local paper about the cancellation of the Full Council meeting in Ipswich this week. Both Ipswich Spy and the local paper were critical of the cancellation, with ‘Spy’ giving it as yet another example of the real deficit in democracy in Ipswich and Suffolk.

But within a day the criticism turned on the weak opposition in Ipswich, the administration were right to cancel the meeting as there was no urgent business, as you can see from above there is still plenty for councillors to do and though the council meeting is cancelled we still have an important meeting the same day for all councillors about electoral registration. That for me is the real concern about democracy, that changes to electoral registration that are proposed to help reduce electoral fraud may also lead to even more residents not being able to vote,making them feel even further away from the democratic system in this country.

Whilst on the Suffolk County Council, the Labour opposition are well organised, highly motivated as so are holding the Tory Council to account in Ipswich the Tories (and their former Lib Dem partners) are just an embarrassment at times, group discipline is certainly not something they know about and there seems to be as many factions as there are Tory councillors. The Lib Dems just seem to spend all their time attempting to erase from history that they used to help run the council and agreed to building on the Northern Fringe. This week we had a Lib Dem complaining that they no longer have a group room. Forgetting to mention that she was on the executive when they came up with the plan to get rid of group rooms!
We would welcome not only a strong opposition but councillors who would like to get involved in working groups, task and finish groups, but the Tories seem to think being in opposition just gives them an excuse to turn up for Full council and that is about it. This week a Housing Working Group was marked again by the absence of Tory members.

Where we would welcome strong opposition, the Suffolk Tories fear it and more decision will be taken by the executive as they fear that their own County Councillors may fail to turn up to vote in the meeting. A recent Tory Cabinet meeting saw almost the whole Labour Group in attendance- striking more fear into Mr Bee.

But there are examples of councils being scared of democracy beyond Suffolk, this week in Kent the Tory Council published a report on the effects that welfare changes are having on Kent residents. The Tory leader, Cllr Carter had signed the report but obviously had not read it till it was on line. The report stated that welfare changes were leading to more homelessness, more crime and more people using foodbanks.

No wonder the Tories quickly ordered the report to be removed; unfortunately a local Kent Paper made a copy before they took it down. Maybe Kent County Council should be with Tory run Suffolk. Read details on the report here.

Friday 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918 - 2013

Mandela - Greatest Post 1945 World Leader

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

Thursday 5 December 2013

'All in this together' More holidays for the PM or more foodbanks for everyone else?

David Cameron finds Mr Osborne has produced a budget that has made him laugh! Not sure he would be smiling if he was queuing up at a Foodbank rather than queuing at an airport for yet another holiday!

Sunday 1 December 2013

My week ahead, 2 - 7 December 2013

Monday – 2 December, 4pm – Culture and Leisure Portfolio meeting
5pm – IBC and LGA Peer review

Wednesday – 4 December, 10am – Ipswich Borough Council Planning and Development meeting

Saturday 7 December, 10am – Labour campaigning, South East Ipswich

This week we had a visit from a Labour big wig, Harriet Harman – a meeting with grassroots members, Harriet was here to speak about changes to the Labour Party but also she wanted to know what members in Suffolk were concerned about and no surprise to me that education was the number one concern for us in Suffolk.

There were a number of passionate speeches about the way our children are being let down by a Tory run County Council combined with the bullying tactics of Michael Gove and the DfE.

Then on Friday, the bully himself turned up to open the new Ipswich Academy, a school that would have been built far earlier if Osborne had not put a halt to Labour plans on school building.

But unlike Harriet, Gove did not have time to talk to Tory members, pity as you would have hoped Ipswich Tories would have pointed out how education seems to be such a low priority to their Tory colleagues running Suffolk.

Gove did find time to speak to local radio and TV, but talking to the public was certainly not on the agenda as the visit was kept as secret as possible, rumour has it that they were not even keen on inviting the local councillors to the ‘grand opening’ . Secrecy and lack of transparency seem to be the way Gove likes the run education in this country – so much for parental choice.

But Tory policy does seem to be written on the bag of a fag packet (you can write more on the back of the packet now, thanks to yet another Cameron U-turn this week)

On Monday, David Cameron changed his position on payday lending, having spent three years resisting calls to cap the cost of credit, and even whipping his MPs to vote against it in Parliament.

Then he changed his mind on introducing standardised cigarette packaging - even though he announced just this summer that he was ditching the policy, shortly after appointing the tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby as his election adviser.

And then at the end of the week we have seen total confusion on energy, with the Tories denying that they had begged the energy companies to freeze prices up until the election. Then the energy companies saying they had been asked/begged to reduce prices- well at least till after the election! David Cameron has shown he can't and won't act on energy bills, because he won't stand up to the big energy companies. There is only one strong and credible plan which is Labour's plan to legislate for an energy price freeze until 2017.

Monday 25 November 2013

Gove is a bully

For the last few months, the senior leadership team and the governors at Sidegate Primary School have come under immense pressure from Gove and the Department of Education, some would even call it bullying.

We all know that Sidegate did not do as well as we had hoped for when we had our last Ofsted inspection, but we did not fail and we knew we needed improvement and we had already started dealing with the issues that were of concern.

But Ofsted has raised the bar, in some areas like London there have been big jumps in attainment levels and this has pushed national levels of achievement higher and it seems that counties like Suffolk and Norfolk have failed to see the same levels of progress, in the case of Suffolk not helped by a reduction in funding to the School Improvement Team.

Once we had received the Ofsted report, the school along with the County started to work on an action plan and this has already seen improvements in results, we also at the start of the year got a visit from Professor Pike, who works for Mr Gove at the Department of Education, he came to the school to see if becoming an Academy would be a better route for the school to follow, he was obviously impressed with the work we were doing (alongside the County School Improvement Team) as he went away informing us that we did not have to follow the academy route.

A few months later, he returns but this time it seems he thinks we should look at becoming an academy – he has not looked at data, spoke to staff or seen any negative reports but for some reason (possible pressure from Gove?) he now feels we might be better as an academy.

Then just before the summer he arrives again and informs us we (the governing body) need/have to sign a letter stating that we are interested in looking at becoming an academy. At this meeting we have an Officer from the County with us who is quite frank in her advice – ‘You have no choice’. we as a Governing Body were not happy in particular that we had to keep the process confidential, we were told we WERE NOT ALLOWWED to speak about this with parents or staff, a Conservative Councillor who was then on the Governing body was very keen that we did keep the discussions confidential, I and a number of others were very unhappy about the whole process but in particular the instruction that we had to keep this confidential.

We signed a letter after changing the words slightly but Professor Pike did not seem keen on pour version. We were then told we would be found a number of possible academy sponsors, but come the summer break we had heard nothing and the staff continued to work hard to improve the education for our children.

School starts again in September and Professor Pike is still silent, but suddenly a few weeks ago he reappears to say he had found us a sponsor, it is reiterated yet again that there is NO NEED FOR CONSULTATION with either Staff or parents.

But we then have some good news, the sponsor (and it seems that other academy sponsors) are not so keen on the way Mr Gove has decided to act as they are happy to speak to the governing body, staff and parents.

Active Learning Trust the potential sponsor gave a presentation to staff and the governing body, and we then were informed that was it. They had agreed to come and speak to parents and now it was just up to ALT and the Department of Education (Mr Gove) to decide when we became an academy as again it was made quite clear to us that the governing body has little if any say about the school becoming an academy.

24 hours later and we were then informed we did have to vote to become an academy, the first we had heard of this. I abstained as I stated that I did not believe we should vote till after the parents had received the presentation from ALT

The parents attended one of two meetings last week and were able to question the spokesman from ALT, he gave very clear answers but there was undoubtedly some anger amongst the parents as some did not want to become an academy and also quite a few wanted to know what the County Council were doing to help the school, ALT said it was obvious that the school was improving which made parents question why we need to become an academy then, if we were improving.

So what next?

I think we will become an academy and probably should – not because we are not improving but because Tory run Suffolk County Council have totally abdicated from their role as partners and supporters of the school.

Many will say Labour introduced academies, I was never sure if they were right for Suffolk and definitely there was no need for Primary Schools to leave the local education system. When Labour was in charge of the academy programme, schools only had to change if it was for the benefit of the pupils and only after consultation with staff and parents.

I have complimented our MP, Ben Gummer in the past for his weekly visits to local schools but I am certain that he could not have found many teachers who agreed with the direction Gove was taking education, so it was a surprise to see Gummer has jumped in bed with Mr Gove and become his bag carrier.

I used twitter to ask Mr Gummer, was it right that schools did not have to consult with parents about becoming an academy – his response? Ask Tony Blair!

Hope if parents from Sidegate write to him with their concerns about becoming an academy he gives them a more detailed answer.

It has been hard to write this as I believe we need to rally round and support the school but it is also important that people and parents in particular understand the pressure the governing body has been put under by the tactics, some would say bullying methods used by Gove, Professor Pike and the DfE.

And where have been Suffolk County Council when all this has been going on? You tell me, they have only been noticeable by their obvious absence.

I think Active Leaning Trust will be a good partner for the school if they decide to sponsor Sidegate, and will help accelerate the improvements in achievement that we are already witnessing.

But I would rather have seen all the Primary Schools in Ipswich combine together maybe with the help of UCS, Suffolk New College and even Ipswich Borough Council and take the place of the County Council who have deserted Sidegate and other Ipswich schools as fast as they could.

Tory run Suffolk keep going on about ‘Raising the Bar’ more like ‘run – first to the bar’;

And Mr Gove? The way you and your department have behaved is nothing more than bullying – you have failed (alongside Tory run Suffolk) to give us the correct advice, we have been lied to, bullied, deserted – your behaviour can only be described as disgraceful.

Mr Gummer – can you not only as my MP but as bag carrier to the bully Gove answer me why:

We were told we did not need to become an academy then suddenly we did?

Why we were told we MUST NOT consult with parents and Staff?

Why Suffolk County Council have failed to help and advise us on the process?

And why do you think I should ask Tony Blair?


It is not only in Suffolk that schools are being 'forced' into becoming academies - and it seems that Ofsted now believe it may holding back school improvement! More here

Sunday 24 November 2013

My week ahead, 25 - 30 November 2013

Monday – 25 November, 3pm – World War One Centenary, working group meeting
6pm – Labour campaigning, in North East Ipswich

Tuesday – 26 November, 5pm – Ipswich Labour Party meeting with Harriet Harman – Ipswich Library

Saturday 30 November, 10am – Labour campaigning, North East Ipswich

This week we had another display of Tory Hypocrisy, with local Ipswich Tory Nadia Cenci explaining away the nasty behaviour of the Prime Minister at PMQ’s as just ‘banter’. But this the same Tory who walked out of a Full Council meeting because of joke comment that resulted in a Tory councillor being offended even if that was not the aim of the joke.

With Lynton Crosby running the Tory General campaign it will be interesting is she keeps defending the behaviour of the Westminster Tories as they sink further into the gutter in a vain attempt to retain power in 2015.

Even after PMQ’s Cameron looked embarrassed as he was made to apologise to the House for his behaviour. The other trouble is with the Tories seeking to smear Labour for our links with the CO-OP Bank, is that they have not got their facts right.

Reverend Flowers was the Chair of the bank and his job was to chair meetings, not to be a financial expert and where the CO-OP got into big financial problems with talk of taking over Lloyds Bank in 2011, they were being encouraged by the Chancellor – a certain George Osborne!

It is not just Cameron using ‘Crosby’ tactics- the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve seemed to be following Crosby orders as he attacked the British Pakistani community, but like the Ipswich Tories they can’t even all pull in the same direction (even if it the wrong one)– Grieve was quickly criticised by Tory Chair Grant Shapps, Grant was so angry he even used his own name!

Monday 18 November 2013

Just get rid of the minions!

It was announced today that a further 70 civilian jobs are under threat as the Suffolk and Norfolk police forces continue to advance their plans over collaboration.

80 civilian staff have already been made redundant – but what about those at the top? Their jobs seem to be safe.

One policy issue the last Labour Government did get wrong was their failure to implement the changes to the Police Force in the UK that were proposed by the former Chief Constable for the RUC, Ronnie Flanagan.

The police were against his proposals that would have seen the Suffolk Constabulary merge, who with was still to be decided. But the plan was scrapped and Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex kept their separate identities.

A year into having a Police and Crime Commissioner in charge of Suffolk policing we see further evidence that Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies are merging in all but name. The trouble is, civilian jobs are lost as the forces work closer together, we see more joint police teams but what we still have will be two Police and Crime Commissioners with two fully recruited teams plus two Chief Constables and numerous deputies.

So this is where real savings can be made, but we see a similar story in local government (and again our Suffolk PCC is involved) we saw a merger of the council staff and offices in Mid Suffolk and Babergh but we still see two fully elected sets of councillors, with a similar story about to happen on the East Coast of Suffolk.

Will that see an improved service for Suffolk residents? Possibly so and at less cost but today we also hear accusations that democracy is shrinking in Mid Suffolk so not all has gone right there.

Like Turkeys voting for Christmas, I can’t see the PCC’s, Chief Constable's or the Police Federation agreeing to the merger of the Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies but when Labour get into power in 2015 and look at all the different sections of the constabularies that have already merged, we then need to ask why we still have so many at the top whilst many at the bottom are losing their jobs.

Sunday 17 November 2013

My week ahead, 18 - 24 November 2013

Monday – 18 November, 9am – Culture and Leisure portfolio holders meeting
6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday – 19 November, 5pm – Full Governing Body meeting, Sidegate Primary School

Friday – 22 November, 7pm – ‘Stand up for Labour’ fund raising comedy event, Westgate Ward Club

Saturday 16 November, 10am – Labour campaigning, North East Ipswich

This week, our Tory MP, Ben Gummer voted against the Labour motion to get rid of the ‘bedroom tax’. I highlighted this fact on twitter as our MP failed to mention it on one of his infrequent visits to his twitter site and as his website is still indicating the last time he spoke in Westminster was in January 2012, I knew it would not be mentioned there.

A number of local activists used the ‘bedroom tax’ vote to highlight the number of Labour MP’s who did not attend the vote. It became quite obvious that they were not aware of the ‘pairing’ system that is used in Westminster. A system that of course is open to misuse but in the main, one that works well. You can’t expect David Cameron to be at every vote so this week whilst he is in Sri Lanka playing cricket/apologising/talking to his arms dealer pals he will at least know the Government will not lose a vote because his Labour ‘pair’ will not be able to vote.

When a number of Tories were informed on twitter of the ‘pairing system’ they then mentioned as many of those from Labour who missed the vote were very critical of the ‘bedroom tax’ they should have been there. Trouble is IDS, the minister who is bringing in the benefit changes was not even in Parliament to defend the tax – he was in Paris – something the Tories on twitter failed to mention.

A more interesting list of MP's is the list of Lib Dems who voted against the government or made their excuses for not attending – more worried about keeping their seats in 2015 than supporting their government.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Get the facts right - Allotments and Ransomes

On Tuesday we held our latest North East Area Committee, and though a smaller audience than we have had recently, there was still a good debate between residents and councillors about local issues. We also heard good news about the printing and distribution of the 'Woodbridge Road' traders map and we were informed of the competition date of the improvements to one of our local parks.

We also had in the audience, a couple of local Tory activists but if you read the report on the meeting written by one of them, you would not have been made aware of the issues mentioned above.

Instead in his report here, he concentrates on the draft allotment strategy with a significant inaccuracy!

Allotments in Ipswich are a story of success with 98% of plots being cultivated and a very high level of satisfaction, the new strategy seeks ti improve on the good work that was started with the 2005 strategy. When talking about the document I indicated that North East Tory, Judy Terry had been heavily involved in the 2005 piece of work (I was complimenting her) but Tory activist Kevin, decided to write his own inaccurate version of events .He wrote:

What the allotment strategy is, is the work done by conservative Councillor for Rushmere, Judy Terry in 2003 with a new date on it to make it look like this current administration are actually doing something. At the North East Area Committee, Rushmere Councillor for Labour, Alasdair Ross acknowledged that the strategy was the work of Councillor Terry.

The Tory activist must have enjoyed the meeting so much that he wrote a second report here, and then went to the South West Area Committee the following day and wrote a report on their meeting! In his second report he makes the mistake of listening to Judy Terry, When I informed residents that Ransomes was now back under the control, Cllr Terry muttered loudly that there was no budget to improve Ransomes.

Kevin decided to write:

The subject of Ransomes Sports Club came up where certain councillors attempted to score political points from the issue with little success. Councillor Terry’s statement about there not being a budget for Labour’s plans being the only good point.

Both Cllr Terry and Kevin Algar must feel stupid after reading the press release issued by Ipswich Borough Council today. It shows we are spending money on the site and that we also have the support of the sports teams using the club, as one footballer commented on another blog, the place had been unsafe for at least 10 years!
As I have always stated, we are determined to make Ransomes a success and it is only the Tories who have ever mentioned building houses on the site, the same Tories who also wanted to knock down the pre-fabs and build a care home!

This is what Ipswich Borough Council said:

New facilities for clubs at Ransomes sports ground are on their way, Ipswich Borough Council pledged today.

The announcement came as safety experts discovered that the electrics in the old club house were unsafe.

The discovery means that temporary changing rooms will be put in place before Christmas and alternative changing facilities found before then. The site will remain available for matches throughout the period of changes to the changing facilities and other repair work.

The Council remains committed to improving Ransomes for a variety of sports and stressed that since it had taken over the running of the facility on 1st November improvements to the site can start. The Council has now completed safety and structural surveys which showed the dangerous state of the electrics.

Councillor Bryony Rudkin, portfolio-holder, said: "We now know the extent of the problems with the building and can take immediate action. Safety remains our top priority but I want to repeat our determination to improve the site and widen its attraction for a number of sports "

Ransomes Sports Football Club Chairman Alan McDougall agreed. He said: "This is disappointing news but the issues with the building have to be addressed and the safety of the club's users has to be paramount. We are committed to working with the Council to secure the future of the Sports & Social Club and its facilities as the home of the Football Club. It is a challenging time but I am confident we can come out the other side in good shape and with improved and sustainable facilities."

Sunday 10 November 2013

My week ahead 11 - 17 November 2013

Monday – 11 November, 11am – Remembrance Day with the Mayor and Ipswich school children, Ipswich Cemetery

6pm – Labour campaigning

Tuesday – 12 November, 9am – Suffolk Military Covenant Meeting, Rock Barracks – Woodbridge

7pm – North East Area Committee – St Johns Church

Saturday 16 November, 10am – Labour campaigning, South East Ipswich

The main remembrance service was today but tomorrow is also important as primary children join the Mayor at the Military part of Ipswich cemetery to remember those from Ipswich who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

On Tuesday, I will also be attending a meeting to look at how Suffolk are implementing the Military Covenant, it is important that we take today to remember our Armed Forces but many of our veterans need help all year round and as a council that has signed up to the military covenant we will be doing all we can to help both those still serving and our veterans.

On Tuesday we have our next Area Committee meeting, now it does seem that the Tories are now attempting to get more involved in the workings of the committee but at the same time they are still critical of them in public. One complaint is that some meetings see little participation from residents and the attendance can be low. But over the last few weeks the Tories have put out leaflets in Bixley and North West Ipswich but no mention of area committees or advertising future meetings but what they are willing ro do is take the credit for actions that the area committee have undertaken. In Bixley they have mentioned the St Clements public meeting but no mention that it was organised by the area committee, similar to work being undertaken at local parks and activities for both our young and old that have been funded by the area committee.

So why not advertise future meetings in their leaflets? Scared that if the public see them in action they will soon realise that the local Tories are like a rudderless ship , no leader, no political direction.

Friday 8 November 2013

The last Tory MP for Ipswich is leaving from the Station

Much has been made of the announcement yesterday by the Chancellor, George Osborne that we are about to see a great improvement in our local rail network – but are we? And if we are to see an improvement, when?

Mr Gummer has been campaigning for an improved railway system from even before he was elected and he should be congratulated for getting the Chancellor to promise…. Well.. something – but what exactly?

The local paper here in Ipswich has run this as the main story today, with praise for Ben Gummer plus the Tory MP’s from Norwich and Witham, and Mr Gummer is also keen to mention Ms Smith and Patel but no mention of Dan Poulter or even the regional Lib Dem MP’s – but the official statement from the Government does credit the campaign to the three Tory MPs and the Lib Dem MP for Norwich. Even the Lib Dem for Colchester gets a brief mention, though he can’t be too happy as any plan to speed up the trains to London will probably mean less stopping at Colchester.

Mr Gummer was not happy with a number of my responses on twitter, and accuses me of (yet again) being 100% wrong but I have been looking at both the Government statement – here and other information on the rail infrastructure and am not sure Mr Osborne is announcing anything more than a task force being set up to look at ways of making it Norwich in 90 and Ipswich in 60.

But is that the main issue? Is it not the crowded carriages, the reliability, cost of tickets? Ipswich is already only 70 odd minutes to London and one train already 59 minutes – it only took 73 minutes to get to London in 1961!

There seems to be from research, three ways to speed the route up and the task force has just been set up to look at the three possible options- no mention of secured funding other than funding that was already in place for track improvements.

The three essential ingredients are,

1. A more modern fleet with better acceleration capability and 'automatic' doors. The announcement only happens to coincide with the start of the program for refurbishment of existing trains, good news is that they have not just gone for the East Coast cast offs, but it seems Government policy is when it comes to rolling stock it is for the train operator to determine. Which means after the cock up over the West Coast line we might still be two and half years from the franchise in East Anglia being sorted out.

2. Rail infrastructure design. There are several places where the overhead lines would need re-engineering and this is not only costly but will cause major inconvenience when this does happen.

3. New Track - The faster you run trains, the sooner they catch up the ones in front (if they are 'stopping' trains). There are 2 ways to solve this. Either you make the 'stopping' trains stop in fewer places (not a good idea) or you create extra track capacity by putting extra tracks in. This was already planned in Chelmsford – linked to new housing development and here in Ipswich we have the Bacon Cord, which should reduce freight trains.

So all the above have to be looked at by this ‘task force’ but it seems to be for all the talk by Mr Gummer it will only be when the franchise is sorted that we will see any progress.

Then we get back to the A14 Toll road- what we also need is an improved cross country service, Cambridge in an hour and very infrequent trains to Peterborough means that people are forced onto the A14 – no plan there, yet again we all seem focused on just London.

So I welcome the announcement by the chancellor, but let’s see the real details before we start getting too excited- how much will be spent? How much of that will come from the treasury 9not the passenger)? And when will we see it start? Plus how many trains will be London in 60?

Sunday 3 November 2013

Use the Plough

This week I have been out helping Labour colleagues collect signatures for 2 petitions - one is a petition showing support for Ed Miliband's campaign to get the energy firms to freeze their prices and the second petition has a more local appeal, as we gather signatures to help persuade the Tory run County Council to provide a toilet at the recently opened Old Cattle Market bus station in Ipswich.

No bins!

On Friday lunchtime, I joined a large group collecting signatures at the bus station, most passengers were very keen to sign and also to chat about other issues. When I was one side of the Old Cattle Market, I missed our Tory MP Ben Gummer who walked past and spoke to a number of our members. He seemed sympathetic with the idea of getting a toilet installed but would not sign our petition, he did suggest that passengers could use the facilities at the 'Plough' Public House. Even he probably thinks that only Usain Bolt could make the Buttermarket facilities in 90 seconds. Travel Ipswich did suggest that the Buttermarket was only 90 seconds away.

Our petition was signed by a member of staff from the pub, who said she had counted 64 people coming in to use the toilet in just a short period - with none purchasing a drink, so they are not that keen on their pub being used to cover up a lack of planning by the County Council. Maybe a suggestion for our MP is not to hold one of his 'Ben in the Pub' sessions at the Plough, as he may not be that popular then again it would be a good opportunity to meet residents as they traipse in and out after looking to use the toilet.

Seriously, would you expect a young family to have to walk in to a pub on a busy Friday night if they wished to find a toilet? Mr Gummer has tweeted since that he did not exactly say use the pub toilets, but I ma happy to print what he does think his actual suggestion was.

If Mr Gummer had spoken to the passengers at the bus station he would have found out that energy bills are a concern of many, and as Mr Gummer is now one of the few MP's who did not claim for his energy bill he will have seen the rise in the cost of heating ones home, and as many of those at the bus station come from rural Suffolk he will have heard that it is a very big issue in the country side, one resident from East Bergholt had to claim £979.68 in expenses to heat his home (actually his London flat!) - a certain Mr Yeo!

It was not just energy bills or the lack of toilets that passengers wanted to comment on - they also mentioned the lack of bins, a clock, no smoking signs. The drivers we also spoke to were concerned that the bus station was still a hazardous place to walk through as passengers and Ipswich residents still continued to walk behind the buses on what still seemed to be a 'Public Right of Way'.

The lack of bins and 'no smoking' does not leave me with any sense of confidence in the work the Travel Ipswich team and the County Council are carrying out. The lacks of bins in particular are helping make the place look very untidy and of course it is
Ipswich Borough Council that has to foot the bill for cleaning all the litter up that is left blowing round the area.

Even Port Howard Airport had a bin!

There have been improvements made to the bus station but the lack of bins and toilets and the 'real time' passenger information still not working does mean that most people will just see the whole development as a waste of money. I have a feeling that airport at Port Howard in the Falklands had better facilities than the Old Cattle Market Bus Station.

My week ahead 4 - 10 November 2013

Monday - 4 November, 4pm – Culture and Leisure portfolio meeting, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Wednesday – 6 November, 9am – Northgate Foundation Meeting
7pm – Art Show – Native American/ Lame Deer – Town Hall

Thursday 7 November, 10am –Meeting with Sport England

Sunday 10 October, 11am – Remembrance Service – Christchurch Park

As you can see above, there are plenty of meetings for myself to attend this week and it can be difficult to attend all functions whilst working full time and also finding time to spend with the family let alone find time for other activities outside politics. I am not moaning as I had an idea of what I was getting into but I mention it as whilst I was away the question about the number of councillors we have, when we have elections and even an elected Mayor came up for discussion.

For once I find myself agreeing with Tory Nadia Cenci, and I do not want to see a reduction in the number of councillors, that is not to mean I do not want to see change.

I would like to see Unitary and that then would see a reduction in the number of elected persons, but I can’t see that coming round for a while. But as money needs to be saved, it would mean more work but a reduction from 48 to 32 would be manageable but not one councillor per ward. I certainly would not be able to then continue as a councillor and work full time. We would just end up with only the rich or retired being able to become councillors.

Ipswich Spy then mentions that Los Angeles has just 15 councillors well then they must have no planning controls or licensing or if they do these tasks are carried out by un-elected officers or as i think is more likely, by elected representatives of districts within the city.

Currently I could not be a County Councillor as most of their meetings are during the day at least on the borough we have a number of evening meetings but the two most important (in the eyes of many) planning and licensing are held in the day so to help the public who need to attend these important sessions.

Ben Gummer our Tory MP, then congratulated the council on looking at the number of councillors and he favoured just one per ward but with councillors receiving more Officer help, not sure that would end up saving any money and would actually cost more, he has paid help and he still can’t get his website updated.

He was also keen on an elected Mayor – again to me it seems like more cost and would only work if it was combined with unitary status – unless of course he is looking for a future role for himself after May 2015!

The local Tory Group leader seemed to favour a reduction in councillors but also a move to elections every 4 years and not just annually, he stated that councillors could then concentrate on helping residents rather than spending all year campaigning – unless he can combine the General Election plus European, SCC, PCC and IBC elections, can’t see a reduction in time campaigning, well at least for us as it was obvious that the Tory Group did little to help Passmore in his bid to become PCC.

It does not mean I do not think there are possible occasions where the number of councillors could be reduced, in the districts where they have merged Officers it seems strange that they have kept two councils (all Tory) it could almost become impossible for the Chief Executive and the Officers to work effectively if the two councils they support were pulling in opposite directions.

So my preference for the future would be Unitary, followed if cuts need to be made a reduction to 32 councilors but continuing to have elections each year, I gather most of my case work from when I am out campaigning or after I have delivered a leaflet – elections only every 4 years could mean that certain groups would not bother doing anything till the final few months of the 4 year cycle.

Friday 1 November 2013

No Credit due!

Back from Budapest and straight into a Full Council meeting, the agenda was short but there were two motions being put to council.

As is usual at Full Council before the meeting a briefing is held for all councillors on a topical subject, this week it was a talk on the Ipswich Credit Union. With the rise of the pay day money lenders, it is important that councillors area ware of the Credit Union and the services they provide as we see a rise in the number of our constituents who need come to us seeking financial advice.

Disappointingly, though 18 Labour councillors attended, there were no Tory or Lib Dem councillors present. When I tweeted this, I was accused of a taking a low shot as a Tory activist informed me that all the Tory councillors were at work!! He was wrong, as their absence was due to them attending a group meeting – you would have thought (as they had plenty of pre-warning about the Credit Union talk) that they would have arranged it a different time.

Once the meeting started we had very few questions from the opposition, with for once the Lib Dems taking the tile for ‘pointless question of the week’ when Cllr Lockington asked about who was responsible for the fences in Ipswich Cemetery – why she had to ask that at Full Council was beyond most of us in attendance, as was tweeted later were the fences damaged by the Lib Dems always sitting on them!

The two motions were on the Government plan to toll the new A14 and about the closure of HMRC Valuation Office in Ipswich. For once there was all party support for a motion, with all sides critical of the plan to toll the A14. With the majority of the Tory MP’s in Suffolk also now against tolling the road, you do wonder why the Government are to continue with the plan. Maybe to help with this show of solidarity, no mention was made about the Tory County Council voting to still contribute a million pounds of our money towards the cost of the new road – strange also that when it went to the County Council the Lib Dems supported the Tories but this week Inga voted with Labour. I wonder if she has raised her concerns with Nick Clegg

This show of unity soon vanished when we went onto the second motion about the closure of the valuation office, Cllr John Cook gave a powerful speech when proposing the motion but instead of a reply from the Tory leader, Chris Stewart we had the usual anti Gordon Brown rant from John Carnall, he blamed everything on Gordon, no mention that it was an international financial meltdown. The only thing he did not blame our man from Kirkcaldy for was the storm last week, but I am sure he wanted to! We then had a number of comments from both sides with the Tory Nadia Cenci feeling she had to say something even if it did not seem to add to the debate. But after allowing former leader John Carnall to reply to the motion, Chris Stewart did feel he should speak and said that if something is not being used or not needed it should close, strange after his deputy Cllr Vickery had earlier asked a question about the partial closure of sports centres – does he now think if they are not being used they should be closed?

Both motions were passed and the meeting closed, though the Tory Group did seem more united, having a group meeting just before Full Council did not seem to have helped make them any more effective than previously – well at least this time we did not have three of them walking out! Then again as one left early and three did not attend the meeting, if any had walked out the Lib Dems with two councillors may have become the official party of opposition!

Terror from both Right and Left - Budapest remembers

Last week I was in Budapest and visited the Terror Museum on Andrassy Boulevard, last year I had visited the Stasi Museum in Berlin and though there were some similarities this centred more on the suffering of the Hungarian people from both the right and the left.

Hungary attempted to keep out of the last war by supporting the German regime but also keeping them at arm’s length. The Hungarian Government had passed a number of anti – Semitic laws but the Jewish community had continued to live in Hungary but with the tide of war turning against the Germans, they eventually seized Hungary in 1944 but they were welcomed by many Hungarians and so the rounding up of the Jews was taken on by the German Adolf Eichmann with the assistance of the Hungarian Nazi Party – the Arrow Cross. Their headquarters was the building on Andrassy Boulevard.

On the banks of the Danube, is a line of shoes, to mark where the Arrow Cross pushed the Jews out, firing into the river as the last Jews were sent to the camps and their deaths.

The museum covers the time the Arrow Cross, terrorised the population before they fled with the Germans to Transdanubia. But by that time the frenzied terror of the Arrow Cross thugs had swelled the number of war’s victims by tens of thousands.

As many of those killed by the Arrow Cross are not known, most of the museum centres on the era from 1946- 1956 when the building was the home of the Hungarian Secret Police – AVO and then the AVH – who were supported by the KGB and sued by the Hungarian Communist Party to control the Hungarian population.

After 56, Hungary was one of the more affluent Eastern Bloc countries and the envy of those living in East Germany, Bulgaria or Rumania, but persecution continued but no longer from this large building in Andrassy Boulevard,

It is interesting to walk through the rooms, to see where the secret police worked from and visit the cells where the political prisoners were kept and the room where the gallows still stand.

The most chilling part of the visit is when you take the very slow lift down to the cells in the basement, the lift is dark and on comes a video, an interview with the cleaner who used to have clean the cell after the prisoner was hung.

Hungary is still a country that is trying to find its way in this new free world, Budapest it quite affluent but many struggle to survive and recently the Far Right have gained considerable support. The logo of the Arrow Cross is now even used by some on the Far Right, many remember the cruelty of the Communist era but maybe the Hungarian people need reminding of the terror imposed on the local population by the Arrow Cross in 1944.

Istvan Eros 1913-1958

According to the charge he took part in the siege of the Koztarsasag Square Prty building and in the lynching of an AVH man on the corner of Aradi Street. He was also charged with arson and having disrupted the December 6 Red Flag demonstration, though the court could not prove these charges.

He was sentenced in the first instance to life imprisonment, and to death in the court of the second instance. He was executed in the building on October 10, 1958 at the age of 45.

Thursday 31 October 2013

No Toll Tax on Suffolk

At last nights Ipswich Borough Full Council meeting, councillors unanimously backed a motion proposed by Labour Council Leader, Councillor David Ellesmere, in opposing the Government proposals to toll the A14.

In moving the motion, which welcomed improvements to the A14, but rejected tolls, David described the toll proposals as a tax on jobs in Ipswich and Suffolk. He criticized the government for its failure to understand that the A14 improvements represented more than a bypass for Cambridge, but had wider implications along the route of the A14, but especially for the economy of Suffolk.

David's position received cross party support with all councillors voting in favour.

The full text of the motion was:

This Council notes the Government’s recent announcement of its proposals for the upgrade of the A14 Trunk Road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

This Council believes that there is a need to upgrade this important transport route, this Council is extremely concerned about the economic impact the proposed toll charge would have on Ipswich, Suffolk and especially at the Port of Felixstowe, given the lack of a viable alternative route for road users who do not want to use the toll road.

This Council resolves to oppose the proposed tolling of the A14 and to support Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign.

It is a pity that the Tories and Lib Dems did not support the motion put forward by our own Rushmere Cllr, Sandra Gage and the County Labour Group at the Suffolk County Council meeting last week - and that they voted to still give £1 Million pounds of Suffolk money towards the building of the Toll Road. They seem to be the only groups not fully behind the work of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, even Mt Gummer has got behind the campaign (but like Dan Pioulter does not seem to be that vocal in his oppostion to the Toll Tax)

Inga Lockington, who is both a Lib Dem Cllr on the Borough and on the County Council voted with us yesterday but did she support the County Lib Dems stance last week?

Sunday 20 October 2013

Hills and goulash

A few days away from Ipswich coming up so no ‘my week ahead’ today.

In the morning off to Wales taking a group of teenagers to Wales to train for their Duke of Edinburgh Gold award. Returning Friday just for a few hours then off to Budapest for what I hoped was a weekend off football and goulash, but the Hungarian FA have decided to play the MTK – Upjest Derby game on a Friday night. As most Ipswich fans will know the MTK ground was used as the setting for the climax of ‘Escape to Victory’.

The MTK ground was used to replicate a ground supposedly in Paris as the Nazis played the Allies in a football match. Both sides had a smattering of Ipswich players in their ranks, with Pele getting the winning goal, a bicycle kick beating the German (Ipswich) keeper, Laurie Sivell.

Still hope to visit the MTK ground and maybe see a Hungarian third division game in the ground next door.
Getting back to politics, been a quiet week that saw Ben Gummer move to education and bag carrier to Mr Gove, I did wonder (and tweeted) if this meant we would hear nothing from Mr Gummer about the proposed A14 Toll road, this led to Mr Gummer to give one his seemingly patronising answers. He said if I had been paying attention, I would have noticed he had been talking about it for a while.
Funny I hadn’t noticed – will be interesting as it now seem everyone in the county is against the idea of a toll road if the Tory run County Council still provide the funding for the road that they had promised.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Gummer and Gove- new best mates?

As many may know and sure to understand, I am not the greatest fan of Ben Gummer, our Ipswich MP. But one action I will credit him for, his is almost weekly visit to a school in Ipswich, I know he has visited the school I am involved in- Sidegate Primary and was at my local High School- Northgate- on Monday.

I am also sure that at every school he has attended, the majority of teachers and staff he has spoken to have been critical of the measures that Mr Gove is bringing in.

There is no doubt that education needs both improving and changing, but that will not be possible unless you take the teachers with you- as we see more industrial un rest in our schools, low morale and staff leaving the profession - it is obvious that Gove is not gaining the support of the teachers who have to implement these changes.

So will Mr Gummer tell his new boss - his plans are not working? Have a feeling the answer will be no. Will be interesting to see if Ben Gummer continues with his weekly visits.

Mr Gummer also mentioned that Education now has a number of East Anglian MP's in the Department- strange when Norfolk and Suffolk are two of poorest counties when it comes to education our young people, with a report this week highlighting the poor attendance record at Suffolk schools.

If Mr Gummer continues his visits, and when teachers mentioned to failing OFSTED inspections - they will now expect a detailed response and not 'I will take it up with the Minister'.

Suffolk schools need as many friends and allies in the Education Departments as they can get, lets hope Mr Gummer can now help deliver the improvements that are needed. First thing Mr Gummer needs to tell his new mate Mr Gove is - you have not yet persuaded teachers that you are right and without their support your plans are doomed to fail and it will yet again be the pupils who will suffer.

I will expect the usual Tory blogs to attack me as I work in Private Education - but I am also a Governor at the largest Primary School in Suffolk and my daughter is currently training to be a teacher.

Monday 14 October 2013

And then there were four Tory blogs

This Saturday the once neutral but now obviously Tory Supporting blog, ‘Ipswich Spy’ mentioned myself twice in its ‘Saturday Diary’ column.

The first was a result of my post where I commented about the accusation made by Ipswich spy and a Tory councillor that I had regularly attacked Lord Deben (John Gummer) in order to get at his son, Ben. I indicated that I had only mentioned John Gummer in 4 posts out of over 500. Ipswich Spy did apologise (in a way) for using the word regular:

Spy blogged this: “I would like to retract the accusation that Cllr Ross regularly attacks Ben Gummer MP by using his father, Lord Deben. In fact, as Cllr Ross tells us, he has only done that four times, out of more than 500 posts. In contrast the Daily Mail only smeared someone through their father twice out of more than 500 articles a week.”

Now there is an apology the Mail would be proud of, still trying to link me with the way the Mail attacked Ralph Miliband! My four mentions of John Gummer were not 4 attacks on him, if fact you could hardly call any of them an attack on John or Ben Gummer. Then to say the Mail only attacked Ralph Miliband twice out of 500 articles in a week, trouble is the other 498 articles were probably attacks on other people or made up facts on ‘global warming’ ‘how to catch cancer’ or their latest ‘fact’ telling us how many EU nationals are in the UK working- a fact they got wrong as it included the grandparents, spouses and children of working EU nationals!

So to repeat, I have not regularly attacked John Gummer to get at Ben.

Then I was mentioned again in a comment about a leaked council document, I had foolishly it seems replied to a tweet by Ipswich Spy after they ran a story about the possibility of part closure of some of our sports centres.

My tweet mentioned that the ‘Spy’ story had missed an important fact in why Maidenhall Sports Centre was the main topic of much of the discussion.

When we were in opposition at Ipswich Borough Council (but the largest group) we were not included in any discussion on how the budget was set or what money would be spent on. Since we have regained the Council we have included opposition councilors in discussion on the budget. Asking them to be members of Working Groups covering each portfolio. These groups are set up to work out where savings could be made. With the current state of the economy, there is no secret that savings have to be made and some quite difficult decisions especially after the quite savage cuts to our grants being imposed on us by Pickles and central Government.

Some Working Groups in the past have failed to see opposition councillors turn up but on the Culture and Leisure Group we have not only had opposition councillors attend but also participate in meaningful discussions, that is why it seems very disappointing to me that someone it seems decided it was best to leak the budget document. There were a number of cost saving (and in fact revenue producing) measures discussed at the meeting and all those that went forward from the meeting seemed to have all party support.

Now, I will not go into detail on what budget proposals were put forward but where I do believe ‘Ipswich Spy’ to be correct is that I have no doubt that staff were upset when they read of some of the proposals in Ipswich Spy, But that blame should lie at the door of the person who leaked the document and then again maybe Ipswich Spy should have asked the person for more details before just publishing the list of money saving measures that were in the document and they were just that- topics for discussion not concrete measures to be taken.

Going back to my ‘tweet’, I indicated to Ipswich Spy that they had missed an important fact out from their post which concentrated on the discussions about Maidenhall Sport Centre. As I was at a Charity Event on the time, I did not want to mention something that may not have been public knowledge so on Saturday, I put Stoke High School (location of the sports centre) in google and the answer came straight up!

On October 1st, Stoke High school joined the Ormistion Trust as an academy – this is public knowledge but what it does mean that currently Suffolk County Council are handing over the premises to the Trust and that will include the agreement with IBC about the sports facility, so the line that Ipswich Spy put in their blog is far from accurate: Spy wrote this: “It is run on behalf of Suffolk County Council, who own the site,” A simple bit of research would have shown Spy that this will no longer the case, it will be owned by the Ormiston Trust so this may mean changes in how we operate the centre- so this why Maidenhall was discussed in depth.
Now Ipswich Spy I am sure will reply and ask me a number of questions about what was discussed – he will not get an answer from me, proposals have gone forward and will be looked at again by Officers, managers and councillors of all political groups. Then savings will have to be found from all parts of the Borough operation, these will be laid out in the final budget, again a piece of work that we hope to see all political groups get involved in, then that budget will be put to Full Council.

Just remember this that when Labour took power we found that the Tories (and Lib Dems) were in a very advanced position in their plans to offload both Whitton and Maidenhall sports Centres – we stopped that and have since seen improvements made to all our sports centres- that would not have happened under the last administration – and we get far less money from central government than they got!

So is Ipswich Spy still neutral or just another local Tory blog? There used to be a time where the blog did seem to attempt to be neutral and attack what they thought was wrong and that still occasionally happens but far less than on the past. This week it rightfully attacked those who had jumped on the bandwagon over IBC having to knock two council houses together to house a large family (it seems that Mr Gummer ignored the criticism on Spy has he again today uses the issue to attack Labour over the benefits system) but more often or not the posts (and tweets) seem to be anti Labour- so often that a large percentage of Ipswich Spy posts are now re- blogged on two further Tory blogs- 'A Riverside View' and the new ‘ A Political Overview’ – not sure they would be re-posting so much if Spy had kept to its original aim of being politically neutral.

Sunday 13 October 2013

My week ahead 14 - 20 October 2013

Monday - 14 October, 4pm - Meeting with Suffolk County Council on ‘Travel Ipswich’

Wednesday – 16 October, 11am – Meeting with the Managing Directors of Ipswich Town Football club

Friday - 18 October, 4pm – North East Area Committee agenda setting meeting at Grafton House

Saturday 19 October, 10am - Labour campaigning in South East Ipswich

A good variety of meetings this week plus more football and a trip to the New Wolsey – but it is important even with all these meetings to continue to try and get out and meet residents – and not just in your own wards, but to campaign all over the town.

New ways are always being found to connect to voters, social media is now well established as one way of connecting and twitter in particular is both effective as a way of getting our message over but also to listen to the concerns of residents.

But the best way still is and always will be just getting out knocking on doors. Yesterday I was in Gipping and the other bonus of being out on the streets is discovering new sights and also some hidden gems. One tip is to look up – in particular in some of the older parts of the town, you will see reminders of local shops that have now been turned into homes.

Yesterday it was the old bakery sign on Elliott Street and Gibbons Street corner. 30 or 40 years ago, residents would never have thought these corner shops would close, proving how hard it is to decide how you think the town centre will look in the future.
Now the nights are drawing in, the weekends still give us an opportunity to get out round the town but even on dark nights we plan to talk to residents by phone.

I also have a meeting at the football club this week, not in my role as a councillor but as a member of the Supporters Trust. Ipswich are playing better, Mick has managed to put smile back on the face of the fans, but attendances are still disappointing – why? The cost of tickets seems to be the answer that most fans come up with. It will be interesting to hear what the joint MD’s have to say.

Even before I became a councillor I was involved in supporter’s organisations and currently I am contributing to a new Ipswich ‘fanzine’ – Turnstile Blues. But back in the late 80’s I stated a fanzine- Dribble! Portable typewriter and some pritt stick- seems very amateur now but it was fun and also helped get the message over in those ant-football days of the Thatcher government that not all fans were hooligans. So it was great to see today that a copy of Dribble! Is on display at the National Football Museum in Manchester. Part of a new exhibition – ‘State of the Zine’.

Sunday 6 October 2013

What is regular? - Yet another 'pop' at Ben Gummer! (Not John)

Recently, Ipswich Spy has started a regular Saturday Diary column- I say regular because as the name of the column indicates it comes out each Saturday - you could call that regular.

In this weeks column, Ben Redsell mentions that I do not have the best working relationship with our local MP, the Tory Ben Gummer. That point I can't or would not want to argue with but where I will be critical of Ipswich Spy is their comment which seemed to wish to compare my criticism of Mr Gummer with some of the attacks the daily Mail has made on Ed Miliband in the last week.

Ipswich Spy wrote: "Cllr Ross used to regularly target his father, Lord Deben, in an attempt to get at his son. He doesn't do that anymore, which is just as well given recent events."

Now I know I have mentioned John Gummer in the past but was certain that I had not made a regular habit of targeting Lord Deben.

Now Ipswich Spy is not the first to accuse me of this act this week, Tory Councillor Nadia Cenci, used twitter to say that I had attacked John Gummer to get at Ben, this tweet was in a conversation about the attacks on Ed by the Daily Mail - which Nadia Cenci seemed to be defending.

I did email Ipswich Spy, as I thought they would have checked all my blog posts to see how many comments I had made about Gummer Senior. No answer so I decided to check myself.

I first mentioned John Gummer in a blog post in 2007 and since then have mentioned him another 3 times, so that is 4 posts that John Gummer is mentioned in, the same period has seen me post 530 blog posts - so is 4 out of 530 regular? Two of those mentions were in 2007, one in 20010 and I repeated a 2007 post in 2012!

Now did Ipswich Spy just take Cllr Cenci's tweet and think there had been a series of posts about John Gummer? Now I have not checked all my 18,000 tweets or comments on other blogs but I would think you will find that even on twitter the number of tweets mentioning John Gummer would be less than 20 (out of 18,000)

The other point on the blog posts the four posts were not all attacks on John Gummer. One did show a picture of him feeding a burger to his daughter and in another post it mentions that Ben Gummer was one of the few Tory candidates attempting to get elected for the first time who did not mention the expenses scandal- I indicated this maybe was because Chris Mole was never accused of mis-using his expenses whilst John Gummer did seem to spend considerable amounts on looking after his garden, including a claim for removing Jackdaw nests!

So I think the comment from Ipswich Spy is wrong- and to try and link it to the attacks by the Mail on the Labour leader is just in poor taste. So the only real link with the Daily Mail is the poor research that has taken place with the original Ipswich Spy post, something the Mail might be proud of!

Looking back through all the posts that mentioned Ben Gummer there had been critical posts, and even apologies plus a well done (for getting Chantry school back on the rebuilding programme.) The attacks on Ben had been on various subjects, from his silence on NHS matters, use of interns and his own attacks on the capabilities of councillors. But there was one recurring theme and that was the poor quality of his MP website. Now in his defence it is not paid for by public money but I for one would be happy if it was - as long as it provided Ipswich residents with a service and source of information.

In the past I have criticised him for the website being so out of date, when I mentioned that his performance data was over a year out of date this then caused Cllr Cenci to attack me, claiming it was due to all information being wiped clean at the start of the year, not for the first time she was wrong. We were then told that his campaign manager was going to take the role on and we did suddenly see the data on casework updated but she never did get round to updating the information on 'Ben in Westminster'. But since August they now seemed to have again stopped updating the performance data on the website, maybe his campaign manager is now spending time campaigning?

But maybe it is time for Ben Gummer to either tell his staff to update the website, or remove the sections that have not been updated, or even inform people reading his website that it is not up to date as he saving public money by not spending on it. Ben can be congratulated for not using any public money on his website but I am sure many residents would be happy to see public money used as long as it is correctly claimed for and the website provides a service to Ipswich constituents - something it current does not - and I can't even blame John Gummer Senior for that!

My week ahead, 7 - 12 October 2013

Tuesday 8 October, 5pm - Sidgate School Finance meeting
6pm - Culture and Leisure Working Group

Thursday 10 October, 6pm - Area Committee Chairs meeting at Grafton House

Saturday 12 October, 10am - Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

We are now back into the full flow of meetings with an extra meeting last week as the North East Area Committee hosted a public meeting about the NHS Trust proposals to develop the St Clement's Hospital site into a housing estate. Over 100 residents attended and the Trust, IBC and councillors were able to answer a number of questions from residents. IBC Officers and councillors will now also be aware of the many concerns residents have when the proposal comes to the Planning Committee in November.

The ability to get this meeting arranged quite quickly was yet one more reason why the Area Committees provide a better service to residents than the previous area forums - I am certain that most Tory councillors are also agreed on this but not many are prepared to say that in public as they keep up a display of opposition to the idea of area committees, how much longer they will keep up this futile battle is anyone's guess as there still seems to be little direction or leadership coming from the Tory group.

This week we start a series of working groups where we look at the budgets and spending plans for next year. We have the Culture Working Group on Tuesday evening. these working groups are all party - so councillors can work together to make sure the best decisions are made for residents in what are difficult times as we face yet again a massive cut in our government grant. Previous years we have seen the opposition contribute in the discussions at the Culture Working group but in other working groups the opposition have not even attended.

When the Tories and Lib Dems were in power, the Labour Group were not asked to contribute even though we were the largest group- but we have always wanted contributions from all three groups, but again the Tory response seems not to be inconsistent, with some councillors willing to join in with meaningful discussions whilst others can't even be bothered to attend the meetings.

We will not know for a couple of weeks what the Tory stance is this year.

Sunday 29 September 2013

My week ahead, 30 September - 6 October 2013

Monday 30 September, 4pm – Culture portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour campaigning, South East Ipswich

Thursday 3 October, 7pm – St Clements Hospital Housing development, Public meeting – Ramsey and Robson room at St Clements

Saturday 28 September, 10am – Labour campaigning, North West Ipswich

This week it seems we will see a number of Tory proposals emitting from their annual conference – and seems many are being rushed out- why? Because the Tories seem rattled by the performance of Ed Miliband last week. The first two announcements seem to have been met by a luke warm response from both the media and the public.

Even there Lib Dem coalition partners are not happy with announcement of tax breaks for married couples.

Back here in Ipswich local Tories were interviewed by Radio 4 as our town is significant marginal seta. The two senior Ipswich Tories interviewed gave very different answers, Former Councillor and Tory Chair, Gavin Maclure is no longer a Cameron fan and would like to see him go, whilst former Tory leader Liz Harsant would be happy to see a further Tory/Lib Dem coalition! I would think that is not a view held by Gavin or many other Ipswich Tories, and nationally a recent survey indicated that the vast majority of Tory councillors (those who replied) would like to see an election pact with UKIP.

This indicates tow points, for all his attempts to take the central ground, Cameron still leads a party whose activists would rather a more right wing stance and secondly when it comes to politics many Tory councillors will see self-interest above party policy and the proposed UKIP pact is more about saving their own skins than helping Cameron.

On Thursday we have a public meeting to be held at St Clements to give residents a chance to listen to the NHS present their proposals for the hospital site. Their recent submitted planning application proposes that 227 housing units will be built on the site.

The public meeting has been organised and hosted by the North East Area Committee, a number of Tory councillor have admitted (in private) that the committees are an improvement on the 'old‘’ Area Forums – this public meeting just another example of the good work the committee has done – wonder if it was now time that the Tories stopped their public opposition to Area Committees and started working with all Ipswich Councillors to promote the benefits of Area Committees to their constituents.

Campaigning continues, even though the is it is now getting dark earlier, two highlights of campaigning this week were yesterday in Holywells where a 19 year old informed me that he would be voting for the first time next year and it would be for Labour after being inspired by what Ed Miliband had to say last week in Brighton. The second highlight was a conversation on the doorstep in Rushmere when a family they would always vote Labour as their parents had informed them when they were made homeless from their home in Wherstead Road in the 1920’s and the family were just left sitting by the road it was only the Labour Party who came forward to help them. Some things never change!