Wednesday 27 February 2013

Labour - one day to go in Eastleigh

A great example why we campaign hard for the Labour Party - because it is about improving our community- the 'one nation' party

Sunday 24 February 2013

Did look and brain was engaged

My post about Mr Gummer and his out of date website drew some criticism from both a Tory councillor and a Tory activist. Cllr Cenci suggested that I – ‘look, check, engage brain ‘

Cllr Cenci then went onto explain that the website did not have up to date data on casework as all records are erased on January 1st.

I explained that this may be the case but no data had been added since February 2012. I also received an email from Mr Gummer’s office and this explained that I had been correct and no casework had been added since February 2012. This was due to the employee who had undertaken that work had left in February and the work would now be done by Mr Gummer’s campaign manager who had not started work till late 2012. I explained to the office that this was understandable but maybe the reason should have been placed on the website. I was told this had not been possible due to the web design. The information should now be updated by the campaign manager (I guess she is paid for by the Conservative Party as the website is not paid for by the taxpayer).

Some may think I was attempting to make a cheap shot at our MP, but I was not – I was just highlighting that an up to date website is a vital tool for the modern MP and that Mr Gummer’s website was failing miserably to do this.

Why Cllr Cenci thought she had to defend Mr Gummer, I do not know and I wonder who gave her the wrong information? I will now look forward to reading an up to date MP website.

My week ahead 25 February - 2 March 2013

Monday 25 February, 4pm – Culture portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 27 February, 6pm – Ipswich Borough Full Council meeting

Thursday 28 February, 5pm – North East Ipswich Area committee, agenda setting meeting

Saturday 2 March, 10.30am – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich

On Wednesday we have Full council where the Council tax rate will be set for 13/14 – expect a very heated debate but we will stick to what we were elected to do – save and protect front line services. The Tories will go on about how the county have not only not raised their part of the council tax but also promised to cap it for the next 4 years. Just a blatant piece of electioneering – how do they even know what central Government is going to grant them next year – let alone in 4 years’ time.

The Tory Police and Crime Commissioner has also frozen the police part of the tax, even though the outgoing Tory run Police Authority proposed a rise – Mr Passmore just decided to spend all the reserves – what is he going to do next year?

Tories may also point to the other district councils in Suffolk who have also frozen their part of the tax, but many of those same Tory councillors have agreed to raise the Parish council part of the tax – and of course we have no Parish councils in Ipswich to use in this way.

How each party gets the message over after Wednesday may help decide the election fortunes of the three main groups come May.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Football on Dumbarton Rd Rec, Rushmere Estate- Ipswich


DURING FEBUARY HALF TERM AT Dumbarton Rd Recreation Ground

Delivered by Suffolk Positive Futures

Thursday 21st Feb 1pm-2.30pm

Activities are FREE and there is no need to book, just turn up and join in.
Ages 10-19

Sessions delivered by Suffolk Positive Futures in partnership with Suffolk County Council
For further information please contact Paul Knight on 07717 290545 or email
Contact Positive Futures through facebook at ‘suffolk positive futures’ or on twitter @suffolkpf

Sunday 17 February 2013

No casework for a year?

Ben ruined my idea for a blog post! I have in the past been quite critical of Mr Gummer for certain administrative tasks – the delay in opening an office in the town and the delay in getting a website up.

One excuse given for the delay in getting a web presence was that he wanted to get it right rather than rush in and the other positive mentioned was that the website would not be paid for by the taxpayer.

When the website went live it (like most MP’s now) gave a link to data on his expenses plus a link to a video clip of every time Ben spoke in Westminster.
One extra piece of information Mr Gummer offered was a record of his performance when it comes to casework. It was this part of our MPs website that was going to be the subject of my blog post.

Mr Gummer introduced the section on his performance date with these fine words:

“I receive hundreds of requests for help and for information every week. Although it is sometimes difficult to give a quick answer, I try to give as prompt a service as possible to all my constituents. I think it is important that you can see how efficiently I am dealing with queries.

So, every week we will update you on the maximum amount of time it takes me to respond to your queries. In time I would like to provide more information on the performance of my office, so you can properly hold me to account. I am the first MP to publish this data”

But as you can see there is not data on the site – here.

But up to last week there was data on the site, but it indicated that no casework had been undertaken since February 2012! Now I know that is wrong as I have spoken to a number of residents who have had or are having casework dealt with by Mr Gummer. This is not the only part of Mr Gummer’s website that is woefully out of date, according to the site he has not spoken in Parliament since January 2012.

Now you might say why should we be bothered when the website is not costing the taxpayer any money, well it is getting some updates including pictures of ‘Ben in the Pub’ and I would expect that work is being done by staff who are paid by us – the taxpayer and I would not be concerned if the website was paid for out of Mr Gummer’s allowances if the site was up to date and gave out relevant information.

Now some of you may think why I have not taken up this matter with Mr Gummer directly, but unfortunately our MP is not replying to my emails. I had contacted him to ask why he had blocked me on twitter. I have not been rude to Mr Gummer through social media and know we do not agree on many topics but I have enjoyed debating with Mr Gummer via twitter. I also think that twitter is a good way for residents to find out what their MP is up to or what his views are on national topics and for the MP to gauge the thoughts and concerns of residents, councillors and those in commerce in his constituency. Twitter should not just be a one way form of communication.

A concern for me now is that if a constituent approaches me with some casework that would be better dealt with by our MP – I will not be sure that any email communication that I submit will be read by Mr Gummer. If I do get any casework that needs my MP's support I would phone his office or post it but I do not think it asking for much to receive a reply to my emails - even if just to say that he would continue to block me on twitter.

So I would suggest Mr Gummer either keeps his website up to date, or removes the sections that show it is woefully behind the times.

My week ahead 17 - 23 February 2013

Monday 18 February, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 20 February, 9am – Labour campaign day in East Ipswich

Thursday 21 February, 11am – Meeting about area committee at Grafton House
1pm – Youth football activity at Dumbarton Road

Saturday 23 February, 10.30am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

This week we saw the Tory run Suffolk County Council inform us that they are not going to raise council tax this year but are also going to freeze the tax for the next 4 years – blatant electioneering!

Ipswich Spy has stated that I have taken the comments of Tory Cabinet member Cllr Storey out of context –
"most people don't use council services" so why should they pay council tax?

Ipswich Spy and a number of Tory bloggers have been critical – this is what Cllr Storey said “The majority of the Suffolk tax-paying population do not use our services – apart from roads and perhaps schools”

So only roads and schools? So 80% of Suffolk have their own home fire service? Of course we hope that very few of us need the Suffolk Fire service, but we sleep safe at night knowing the service is there. But will it be as an efficient service next year? – Let alone in 4 years’ time. To keep to a 0% tax rise for four years will mean more cuts (unless this Tory/Lib Dem Government are going to suddenly support local Government?? )

The budget this year will see a reduction in uniformed firemen, so how many more will we lose over the next 4 years – so Ipswich Spy and Cllr Storey – are roads and education the only council services that most tax payers use?

Friday 15 February 2013

Most people do not use council services?

Yesterday Tory run Suffolk County Council, made their ‘big decision’ – as expected a 0% Council Tax rise for 2013/14 but then they went further and said that tax will be frozen for the next four years! At first you would think residents would be happy with this – but what about services?

How do they know what the Government will give them in grants over the next 4 years? We did not even know this year’s settlement till a few weeks ago. Of course the County is fortunate that they will not face the uncertainty caused by bedroom tax and benefit changes that District Councils will.

So will the County just drain the reserves over the next four years or is the truth that New Strategic Direction is still alive and that the County will continue to sell off/ close down and cut local services?

So we are at the bottom of league tables for Education, but Tory run Suffolk are not intending to increase education funding over the next four years?

Highways – the plan to hand over to Balfour Beatty is in pieces – but the County still know that extra funding for roads will not be needed?

Libraries – Community Groups are already struggling to find the £100,000 they need to keep the library service open – will there be even less county funding over the next four years?

Mobile Library service – down to just one stop in Ipswich (in Tory run Bixley ward) – sign of things to come?

But as leading Tory Suffolk county Council Jane Storey stated yesterday;

"most people don't use council services" so why should they pay council tax?

This epitomises Tory selfishness! So no residents drive on roads, walk on pavements, send their children to schools, call trading standards (horsemeat?), have elderly relatives in care homes?

Maybe we should just be glad that it is Borough and District Councils that empty our bins, look after council houses and even though it should be a County task – in Ipswich run the museum service.

They have decided on a 4 year council tax freeze – because they have an election in May – and are so happy with that they have sent a letter to Eric Pickles – to say ‘look at us, we are just like you’ – maybe they should write to another Tory Minister – Mr Gove – and tell him how they are going to improve education standards but at no extra cost to council tax payers!

Pembroke may no longer be leader, Andrea Hill may have gone, Mr Bee may be more PR savvy but that is just a smokescreen as Colin Noble, Judy Terry, and Guy McGregor are still pushing through the ‘New Strategic Direction’ and why not as Cllr Storey tells us – residents do not use council services!

Sunday 10 February 2013

My week ahead 11 - 16 February 2013

Monday 11 February, 6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday 12 February, 6pm – Culture Working Group

Wednesday 13 February, 9am – Visit Sidegate Primary School
11am – Walkabout in Bixley Ward, Ipswich

Thursday 14 February, 6pm –Scrutiny meeting

Saturday 16 February, 10.30am – Labour campaigning in North West Ipswich

The week ahead seems quite varied with visits to schools, walkabouts, culture working groups, and scrutiny.

Finishing on Saturday with campaigning, all Suffolk County Council candidates now selected and so we continue to get out on the streets to get our message over. A number of Labour councillors will have been in Nottingham this weekend, debating on how to save locals services that are under threat from the savage Tory (Lib Dem supported) cuts. Labour takes local government very seriously and the councillors would have heard speeches from Ed Miliband .

I am sure those councillors will come back inspired, and it is not just in Ipswich we want to get our message across, we need to reach into every town and village in Suffolk. As a county we have been let down by this Tory run county council. Andrea Hill and Pembroke may have gone but the likes of Colin Noble are still pushing through their ‘sell everything off’ plan. Suffolk along with Barnet seems to be the leading Tory authorities bent on a very right wing way to run local government and with Colin Noble we seem to have an Eric Pickles clone.

So we have a county promoting ‘Free Schools’ selling off care homes, and we even have Tory cabinet members who are happy to say they will not even vote for their own Tory MP as he does not seem right wing enough with his views on gay marriage.
In Ipswich we could see most Tory County councillors lose their seats – can you see Ipswich getting a good deal off a rural controlled county council? That is why it is important that we win seats all over the county – and we can do it.

Sunday 3 February 2013

My week ahead 4 - 10 February 2013

Monday 4 February, 6pm – Labour campaigning

Thursday 31 January, 6pm –Ipswich Area Committee Chairs meeting
7pm – Councillor training

Saturday 2 February, 10.30am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

The two main events this week were Full Council on Wednesday followed by the North East Area Committee meeting on the Thursday. Full Council was the first with Chris Stewart as the new Tory leader and it was not the most auspicious of starts for him. The questions from the Tory group were both poorly researched and seemed opposite to his first statement s Tory leader when he stated that “I would not be opposing everything for the sake of it. We need to choose which issues to fight on.”

In the end it was left to the former Tory leader Councillor Carnall to attempt to save the car crash of Tory questioning from his new seat on the back bench.

Maybe one of the first things Cllr Stewart will need to do is to get his front bench to research their shadow portfolios. It was obvious from the question that Cllr Pope asked and then his comments on the proposed council rate rise that he does not have a strong understanding of the housing portfolio, a worry when he used to be the Tory Housing Portfolio holder. On two occasions he mentioned that tenants were being let down as IBC do not visit each house each year, what Labour have decided is to concentrate on working with tenants whose homes are felt to below the required standard. I then had to inform Cllr Pope that the frequency of visits and the change in inspections had been fully discussed at the Area Housing Panels, meetings attended by Officers, councillors and tenants. Before I could finish Cllr Pope was on his feet to say that the meetings were for administration councillors only - so it quickly became obvious that he did not know that Cllr Debman is the Tory member on the panel – then again both Cllr Debman and the Lib Dem Cllr Ken Bates have failed to attend the last three meetings of the East Housing panel. At least Cllr Bates sent in his apologies! So if Cllr Debman had attended and then briefed Cllr Pope we maybe would have had a question that challenged our running of social housing in the town rather than yet another example of the lack of Tory knowledge or interest in council housing in Ipswich.

Then we had Cllr Stroet talk about the lack of help we have given to small businesses in Fore Street, seeming to forget both the Fore Street market that we put on and the help we have given to over 100 small forms in the town that has enabled them to claim business rate relief (strange he had forgot this as six days earlier he had joined other members of the scrutiny committee in thanking officers for the work they had done on this project)
So Cllr Stewart may need to control some of his front bench or at least get them to do their homework before the next council meeting.

Thursday was a much more pleasant meeting and away from the slightly partisan arena of the council chamber, Cllr Pope and Stroet willingly contributed to a successful North East Area Committee.

At our second ever meeting of the area committee, a number of residents from Orwell Road had attended, lobbied and spoke about traffic measures they believed were needed to make their roads safer and on Thursday the committee unanimously voted for an experimental traffic order to place on Orwell Rd for 18 months. After the decision was made the room gave the residents a round of applause in recognition of all their hard work. We also heard the latest updates from another local resident in his campaign to improve one of the local parks, another scheme that is being supported by the area committee.

Ipswich Tories and planning

Ipswich Tory Councillor Cenci used a comment on a Tory blog to criticise Ipswich Labour for our stance over recent developments by Tesco’s.

What some may find funny that the comment was on a post claiming that Labour knows little about economics because the comment proved that some Tories know little about the rules around planning.

Cllr Cenci stated: “You missed out the bit about Tesco’s and the fact Labour voted against the new proposal for Ipswich even though it would bring in new jobs and homes to a run down area. Counc Carnall pointed out that originally it was a 70million pound project but now will be a 50million stating that Labour admin had lost us £ 20million in one swoop. The portfolio holder responded by saying that Tesco’s didn’t do very well last year. “

First of all members of planning should vote on what they believe is right after hearing the application, group members should not have the whip used on planning. So Ipswich Labour members did not vote as a group against the Tesco’s application for Grafton Way – unless Cllr Cenci is telling us the Tories did vote as a group for the proposal?

Cllr Cenci indicates that the application was to bring in new homes and jobs – well we have plenty of empty flats and unfinished tower blocks within 400 metres of Grafton way – are more homes needed here? Plus will a large supermarket this close to the Town Centre take away shoppers from our main stores – Ipswich Central seemed to think so. Then there is traffic, similar to the Golden Key application I feel again we were let down by a County Council transport report that thought all those extra cars would not increase traffic on an already busy roundabout by the Nova Hotel.

Of course if she wishes to see lots of new homes (not flats) and jobs, I hope she will be supporting fully the development of the Northern Fringe as certain Tory councillors now seem to prefer the start of building new homes being delayed as long as possible

She seems to also blame Labour for the delay in the start of the project and also that it has now been downsized. The delay was due to legal proceedings taken out by the developer who owns the old Civic Centre site. Understandably they were unhappy, the Tory Lib Dem administration sold them the old council HQ and then within weeks were supporting a rival development less than half a mile away! What we are left with currently is two empty sites. Cllr Jones is actually right last year was not one of Tesco’s best and they do seem to be slowing their expansion plans.

They still do seem keen on smaller Express shops, and are currently looking to turn the Emperor Pub on Norwich Rd into an Express Store – and residents plus politicians are all unhappy about it – with Mr Gummer feeling it better the pub remains and has offered his support to campaign that also involves Lib Dem and Labour councillors. Rather strange to me when Lib Dems and Tories were quick to attack Labour activists for trying to save the Golden Key.

The Golden Key was turned down on traffic issues plus the design of the extensions they wished to build, and let’s look at the vote on this – Labour Councillors’ voted against the proposal – but not all of them unlike the Tory Group who all abstained on the first application and then joined the majority of Labour councillors on voting against it the second time. We have been informed that is was just a coincidence that the Tory councillors all came to the same decision to abstain, no group whip.

Certain Ipswich Tories may accuse Labour councillors not knowing the technical description of recession but it certainly seems that leading Tory councillors do not understand the planning process.

Friday 1 February 2013

Education in Suffolk is a mess – says who?

The Tory run Suffolk County Council is being accused of letting the children of the county down. Graham Newman the Tory Cabinet member is being left on his own to carry the can – Bee, Noble and Terry and other Tory Cabinet members have been silent ever since a second set of poor results were released.

But before Tory bloggers – shout – ‘You would say that’ – here are other comments about the Tory run County Council:

“Do I think SOR has been well handled? No I do not.”

“Register your protest – you have the Council County elections in
May. “He continued: “The concerns you’ve raised are impressive, and I’ve had my eyes opened. It is a mess.”

"If you’re saying that they [SCC] made a dumb decision and it’s ended in a plane crash, then yes, I will say that. In the last ten days we have seen disastrous performance. This is a great county with great kids and teachers. Why a county like this is a tail end Charlie is a scandal.”

“I will be seeing Mr Newman and he has to make himself accountable.”

Who made all these comments? Was it some left wing teacher or a Labour politician? – No – these comments were made last week by a Suffolk Tory MP, Mr Ruffley MP

But maybe the best comments have been made by parents, and have included: “Graham Newman and his cabinet colleagues do not listen.”

And what did the HM Chief Inspector for Schools say in 2001 when Labour run the County?

‘Suffolk is an outstanding local education authority, with many strengths. Under the excellent leadership of officers and members, the LEA is clearly focused on continuous improvement and is a credit to the community it serves.’