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!

Friday, 27 September 2013

No wind power but plenty of hot air!

Today we have found out that ‘Partnership for Renewals’ (PfR) will now only be putting in an application for one wind turbine to be built to the South West of Ipswich.

The turbine that was to be built on Ipswich Borough Council land will not happen. This means that IBC will not raise any revenue from renting the land – disappointing when we have just heard of the massive cuts to local council funding planned by the Tory and Lib Dem government.

Local Tory councillor, Nadia Cenci has (recently) campaigned hard against the building of the turbines and states that the decision today is a ‘partial’ if welcome victory.

When asked if the campaign will continue against the other planned turbine (to be built on the land owned by the family of a Suffolk Tory MP) she seems slightly less committed.

Local Ipswich Tory activist, Kevin Algar informs us that he will continue campaigning against the turbine but Nadia seems less sure, she (in a comment on Ipswich Spy here) seems to imply that the people of Wherstead could have campaigned harder and because they didn’t we should not just look at PfR to wonder why the scheme is still going ahead. But if it is within her jurisdiction she will help!

Not sure jurisdiction matters? She is either a Judge or an MP, and can campaign where ever she likes, of course Mr Gummer did not seem keen to answer the question- ‘was he for or against’ the turbines – quoting that it was up to Babergh District Council – maybe he should have told his own Tory members this, who kept asking IBC questions. But as the turbine could be seen by Ipswich residents, should he not be allowed to comment?

A few months later he seemed to be happy to be quoted about the state of Colchester Hospital.

Now getting back to Nadia Cenci, the Tory councillor for Stoke Park, Ipswich Spy had this to say about her:

Councillor Nadia Cenci, who has campaigned for years against plans to build a wind turbine on Ipswich Borough Council land – despite her own administration supporting it. She always states that she was standing up for her residents, rather than following some party line that she didn’t believe in.

Now this I find strange and it seems, Ipswich Spy has turned into a Tory election leaflet produced on behalf of Cllr Cenci rather than a neutral political blog.
If she did not agree with the turbines, why did she not resign from the executive like her fellow North West Tory councillors did over the agreement to build on the Northern Fringe?

Now I do believe that Cllr Cenci did question her fellow Tory executive members when the agreement was signed – But (unless I am wrong- and I have no evidence to believe I am) she did not at the time inform her constituents that her administration were planning to have a turbine built on IBC land that they would see from their homes? She did not produce a survey or canvass public opinion. None of that happened until she became a member of the opposition.

Of course is not only the Tories who are sending out mixed messages about the need for wind turbines, according to local Tories it was their coalition partners, the Ipswich Lib Dems who were the keenest to have a turbine built – then once the plan becomes public we have a Babergh Lib Dem Cllr advocating civil disobedience in the campaign to stop the turbines being built.

Today we had Mr Gummer use his local paper column to inform us that the lights may go out in the UK, not because of the brave scheme promoted by Ed Miliband this week that would see energy prices frozen but because there has been a lack of thought put into building new power stations, but this is where the Tories have a major problem- they are the NIMBY party, they are the party of ‘climate change deniers’ and it seems Cameron and Gummer- who were happy to promote their green credentials before the last General Election are now afraid to say anything (scared of UKIP?)

Maybe they (and Nadia) should read fully the UN report published today – UN ‘95% sure’ humans cause warning.

If they did they may have been happy to see one, two or even more turbines built near South West Ipswich. Not all Tories are against wind turbines, even locally – when she was in the Executive, Tory Judy Terry had one built in Christchurch Park – trouble is that one never worked!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

My week ahead, 23 - 28 September 2013

Monday 23 September, 6pm – Labour campaigning, East Ipswich

Tuesday 24 September, 5pm – Sidegate Primary School, Steering group

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

A not so busy week as the main two political party’s join the conference season. So it gives us the chance to campaign in our part of town.

This week we will be out collecting signatures for a petition asking Suffolk County Council to change their mind about their refusal to subsidise a bus service in the East of the town. We will also be informing residents about the public meeting to be held next month at St Clements Hospital. The meeting will hear about the latest plans to turn the site into a large scale housing development. The meeting has been organised and will be hosted by the North East Area Committee.

This is the second public meeting that the Area Committees have organised after one was held in the South West about wind farms. The ability of area committees to be able to organise these meeting is just one more example where area committees are far more beneficial to residents than the old area forums.

We held a very successful Area Committee in the North East this week, we managed to agree to fund a number of projects, but what was more of a surprise (after previous meetings) was how all the councillors agreed on most subjects and even if views differed were willing to listen to others and come up with a compromise. So at St John’s we had held a meeting which was very different in its feel to the Full Council meeting held the night before. At Full Council we had a series of very poor questions from both Tory councillors and Tory activists. Such questions included should we let Bury St Edmunds be the County town and why is Ipswich closed on a Monday. Other questions were just repeats of questions already asked (and answered) at both Scrutiny and Human Resources. I am sure that the Tories soon realised that the questions they were asking were both poorly researched and in many cases meaningless. They were also not very clear and in most cases the Labour front bencher had to use his first answer to ask the opposition to explain the meaning of the question! I am sure the tone of questioning may have led to Cllr Pope reacting in the way he did when he was pulled up about his spelling. Richard Pope quickly informed us all that in fact he had dyslexia, this was the first we had heard of this and of course if we had known beforehand we would have not highlighted the spelling errors. I know that Cllr Jones has since apologised to Cllr Pope.

But you do wonder why the Tory questions are not checked by the Leader of the Tory group in the first place. The comment on bad spelling and then the revelation that Cllr Pope suffered from dyslexia was not handled well by all sides but was certainly blown out of all proportion by Cllr Cenci and her ‘attention seeking’ walk out. Best thing was once she left all other council business went very smoothly with the opposition happy to second a number of Labour proposals. The following day at the Area Committee, Cllr Pope was very involved in all aspects of the meeting and his views and comments were all of high quality and I for one took on board a number of his points. Then again I feel the North East area meeting was far more productive than normal due to the absence of Cllr Judy Terry – her not being their made the meeting run much smoother in fact her absence had the similar effect that Cllr Cenci had when she walked out of Full Council!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pricing fans out of 'our' game.

Away from Party politics, one of my main interests is sport and in particular – Ipswich Town FC. I still love the game but still very concerned about the way those who both run the game and those who own the clubs behave.

Recently the Borough Council supported us, the Independent Supporters Trust as we submitted an application to make Portman Road an ‘Asset of Community Value’ – this was successful and we are still waiting for a response from the Club.

The club also came under the media spotlight for the cost to watch football at Portman Road. Some of the criticism was unfair as it focused on our highest season ticket prices for certain sections and the club does offer some good discounts for season tickets in certain stands and the child’s season ticket is very good value. But where the club do let themselves down, is the extra cost to buy a ticket on the day, categorising games and the price away fans pay.

All the above concerns were highlighted this week as the BBC released its annual survey on the cost of watching football, but as a Trust we had already highlighted many of the issues back in July.

We will continue to seek to start a dialogue with the club as we believe the club is being very short sighted in their ticketing policy.

Back in July, we released this statement:
“Supporters understand that the club needs to make as much money as it can, but it’s saddening to read that the club is saving money by making staff redundant, whilst increasing ticket costs for matchday supporters and reducing the level of customer service by removing telephone sales.

“The high cost of matchday tickets at Portman Road means that many supporters, who perhaps can’t afford to commit to a season ticket but still want to support their team as often as they can, are put off from attending. The ‘grading’ structure complicates things further – we believe that this is unnecessary in a division with few ‘big’ teams in it and no local derby fixtures for Ipswich.
“Additionally, making tickets available only to personal callers or online sales will make it yet more difficult for supporters who don’t have easy access to a computer – a number which is relatively high in rural Suffolk – to get tickets for games. The website itself has some limitations in terms of flexibility and choice of tickets, despite the fact that it adds a ‘web sales fee’ onto the cost of the tickets.

“Going to football is a habit and Ipswich Town should be doing everything it can to encourage local people to get into that habit at Portman Road. Sadly, we feel that these recent developments will only serve to exclude and alienate potential supporters. The club needs to consider its pricing model not only in terms of the current balance sheet, but also with a view to the long-term – if people are put off from attending matches now, how much future revenue might the club be losing?”

The Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust requests answers from the Club to these specific questions:

1. What research was done to establish whether the increased ticket prices would deter supporters from attending games?

2. What research was done to establish how many supporters would be prevented from buying tickets by removing the telephone booking facility?

3. What’s the justification for “grading” fixtures in a division which lacks any real stand-out fixtures or local derbies?

At a time when many fans are feeling optimistic about the new season under Mick McCarthy, it’s a shame that the club have missed the opportunity to capitalise on that enthusiasm by being more innovative with ticket pricing.

What we do need to have is a strong independent supporter’s trust so we can put both pressure on the club where we feel we need to and also work with other supporter’s organisations on nationwide campaigns.

It only cost £5 to join the Trust > more details can be found here.

The club do seem to have a PR issue currently, whilst I was being interviewed by the BBC on Thursday, we were approached by the Stadium Manager to ask why we were filming, they would have been better off agreeing to be interviewed themselves by the BBC rather than just release a bland statement.

Ipswich Are ‘OUR’ team and will continue to be long after Marcus Evans (and his joint MD’s have left) and so it is left to us, the supporters to make sure we have a say in how our club is run.

My week ahead, 16 - 21 September 2013

Monday 16 September, 6pm – Labour Group Meeting

Wednesday 18 September, 6pm – Ipswich Borough Full Council meeting, Ipswich Corn Exchange

Thursday 19 September, 6pm – North East Ipswich Partnership Group meeting
7pm – North East Area Committee meeting, St John’s Church, Cauldwell Hall Rd

Saturday 21 September, 10am – Labour campaigning, South East Ipswich

It may be the start of the Party conference season 9if you can still count the Lib Dems as a party) but it is till busy back here in Ipswich, on Wednesday we have Full Council and Thursday our latest North East Area committee meeting.

All the talk this week has been about the Town Centre with both the competition the design a revamped Corn Hill and the view of consultants that we should concentrate on the Westgate end of town and decide that both the Mint and Merchant quarter are not suitable for retail alone. I for one have always been sceptical about linking the town centre and the Waterfront, but no surprise to find the local paper and Ben Gummer still keen on linking the two (the main development in the Merchant Quarter is based on the sale of the Archant offices. Slightly more surprising was the negative response of Ipswich Central.

We can all argue about which scheme we should focus on but I would expect all those involved to agree that we need to concentrate on just one scheme rather than 3 or 4.

Here in the North East we have our own potential new development with the NHS submitting a planning application for the St Clement’s site – we have been expecting this for a while and I am sure it will be a topic at this week’s area committee.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

My week ahead, 8 - 15 September 2013.

Monday 9 September, 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group Meeting

Wednesday 11 September, 6pm – East Ipswich area Housing Meeting, Reg Driver Centre

Thursday 12 September, 6pm – Overview and Scrutiny meeting, Grafton House

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

Now we know the summer is over! Meetings almost every night with the big one being scrutiny this week. We will be looking at a report on the refurbishment work at Crown Pools.

But even though most of the week is spent on meetings it is important that we continue to campaign and meet residents, it seems that Ben Gummer and (some) Ipswich Tories realise that they have not done much since the last General Election and are now belatedly going out and talking to residents, not sure a fleeting visit to the multi- cultural event counts!– they have continued to lose council seats, on both the Borough and County and did very little campaigning in the Police Commissioner election last year. We are also looking at new ways to campaign and meet residents but when it comes to knocking on doors, we have a 3 year head start on the local Tory lot.

The Lib Dems? Your guess is as good as mine!

Away from that Ipswich was blessed with another great event this weekend with the Sky Ride, the Suffolk Coastal Pro race and a Sportive- all just a few weeks after Maritime Ipswich and with the Ipswich half-marathon also this month to look forward to. We do have a fantastic events team and glad to see that they will be involved over the 4 years we will be remembering the sacrifices many made during the First World War, their expertise will be of a great help.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Syria - listen to our retired Generals

Last week Cameron and the Government lost a vote on military action in Syria. Much has been written, tweeted and blogged since.

Here in Ipswich a Tory blogger called Labour traitors for not support Cameron (forgetting to mention the Tory rebels or the Tory MP’s who did not even turn up but within days he was blogging that he agreed that military action was not the right way forward.

Ipswich Spy seems more concerned that Labour candidate David Ellesmere will not say how he would have voted. (since taken down) I would have thought more of a story was to ask why Tim Yeo did not even vote – but Ipswich spy said they do not chase stories beyond the Borough boundary (their next story was about a Tory councillor from outside Ipswich claiming hundreds of pounds for food- quail’s eggs?)

I do not believe military action was the right course to follow, I say that with some level of knowledge as a former soldier, for 6 months every morning when I looked out of my room I saw the remains of the Serb special police headquarters- a building that had been hit by a cruise missile – the inside were a mess but the outside of the building was intact – but if you had been hid in the cellar you would have survived. So in Damascus, there is little chance of hitting Assad or his senior henchmen, those who will be killed by a missile strike will be the lowest of the low – conscripts, civilians – not the Generals.

But what if a cruise missile hits a dump of chemical weapons- will that not cause the spread of those chemicals?

If I want my car fixed, I ask a garage not the Minister of Transport, so if I want to know if a cruise missile strike on Damascus would work I ask a General not Hammond or Hague – serving Generals are not known for giving out their opinion publically but only one former general could be found who agreed with the Government, General Rose, ex Guards and SAS – every General who got up to speak in the House of Lords spoke against attacking Syria, so why was Cameron so keen?

There is also the problem of the Syrian opposition – many factions a number who are seen as the enemy of the west – Iranian backed, Shia’s from Iraq - many who would like to attack the west. If Assad did go now it would leave a power vacuum – similar to what we had in Iraq.

Something of course has to be done about the use of chemical weapons, more pressure has to be placed on China and Russia and the use of the veto on the UN Security Council needs to looked at seriously to stop the UN becoming just a talking shop.
So I agreed with Miliband – Cameron made a big tactical error, his whips got it wrong it seemed almost arrogant to allow ministers to stay on holiday being so sure he would win the vote- he should have supported the Labour amendment but maybe he thought defeat on Thursday was better than being defeated on a second vote on the use of force this week?

The Tories accused Labour of playing party politics but as opinion polls showed that the country supported the stance of Ed, they are now saying that Cameron showed the way by letting Parliament decide and that Obama has since followed his lead in the USA- Clutching at straws.

Mr Gummer used his Star column last Friday to give us some indication of how he would vote, he also seems to blame Blair and the Iraq situation – even before Cameron lost the vote- saying how the mistrust of politicians (all Tony’s fault) has caused the drop in the number of people voting – He then (correctly) describes the Syria debate as a very important issue- the issue of waging war. Well what made me wonder if I could trust MP; s Mr Gummer was not what happened about Iraq but in the debate on waging war in Syria last Thursday – which you correctly declare an important issue is that over 100 MP’s did not even bother voting, many did not turn up and even a number of Government Ministers stayed on holiday.

As a soldier on a number of occasions I had to cancel leave because we had been warned that we might be needed, in 1998 we spent 6 months in Bosnia and expected to spend more time at home in 1999 – it never happened , instead we trained for Kosovo and deployed there less than a year after returning from the Balkans – we all deployed – all 650 men and women – none missing because they stayed on holiday – that is one of the reasons the public do not trust MP’s nothing to do with Blair or Iraq.

On Saturday I and a large number of colleagues spent the morning canvassing in Bridge Ward, Ipswich – and not one person mentioned Syria on the doorstep – instead it was the bedroom tax, immigration, lack of jobs and the mess the Tory run county were making of the roads in Ipswich. You can’t blame that on Toy Blair!

Portman Road becomes an Asset of Community Value

Portman Road has joined Old Trafford and Anfield in being officially recognised as an asset to its local community.

I was pleased to be involved with the Trust approaching Ipswich Borough Council to make Portman Road an Asset of Community Value, this seemed even more important when Ben Gummer the Tory MP for the town suggested selling it off cheaply. Fortunately for us the Council were happy to approve the Trust application.

Ipswich Town First, the independent Ipswich Town Supporters’ Trust, has announced that – following representations it has made to Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) – Portman Road has become an Asset of Community Value (ACV), recognising its importance to the town and its people. The ground is owned by Ipswich Borough Council and leased to the football club.

Colin Kreidewolf, the Secretary of Ipswich Town First, said “Supporters’ Trusts at Liverpool, Manchester United and Oxford United have recently been successful in having their club’s stadia recognised as ACVs, reflecting the value of those grounds to their respective local communities. Our view is that Portman Road is just as important to the people of Ipswich, and to Ipswich Town supporters generally, as Anfield is to the people of Liverpool. We’re delighted that the Borough Council agree – this is a fitting way to mark the 125th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s move to Portman Road on 1st October 1888”.

What does becoming an ACV mean for Ipswich Town?

ACV status means that the ground cannot be sold without the local community being told about it, and that they will be given the opportunity to bid for it themselves. Today’s announcement means that any future IBC administration would be required to consult the local community before selling Portman Road, and allow six months for the community to raise the money to buy it themselves.

Mr Kreidewolf added: “We appreciate that the current IBC administration have no desire to sell Portman Road, and are pleased to see it remaining in public ownership. Having ACV status means that any future administration at the council wouldn’t be able to change that situation without involving supporters and local people. It helps to safeguard the future of Portman Road as a part of the Ipswich community. We hope that the current owner of Ipswich Town will also recognise this as a positive move for the football club”.

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “The current council administration has no intention of selling Portman Road. We are very happy to support listing Portman Road as an Asset of Community Value to give supporters the reassurance they need that ITFC will remain in the heart of Ipswich.”

Tom Hall, Head of England & Wales at Supporters Direct, the governing body for supporters’ trusts, said: “Ipswich Town First should be congratulated in their work to make sure that Portman Road takes its place alongside Old Trafford and Anfield, and the first two, Oxford United and Nuneaton Town, in having stadia successfully listed.

“We are seeing this trend escalate, and many more applications are being lodged from across the pyramid. This and all other successful listings are demonstrating that our view that clubs and their stadiums should be seen as community assets and not simply as part of an investment portfolio is being widely accepted.”


Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011 and the Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012, were approved by resolution of both Houses and came into force in England on 21 September 2012. Since the scheme came into force over 360 Assets of Community Value have been listed, of which five – the Kassam Stadium (Oxford), Liberty Way (Nuneaton Town), Anfield (Liverpool), Old Trafford (Manchester United) and now Portman Road – apply to football grounds.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

My week ahead, 2 - 7 September 2013

Monday 2 September, 6pm- Labour campaigning in South East Ipswich

Friday 6 September, 4pm – World War I centenary events , Steering committee - Grafton House

Saturday 7 September, 10am - Labour campaigning, North West Ipswich

What a week in national politics, Cameron and the government losing a vote on intervention in Syria, large Tory rebellion, Number 10 accusing Ed Miliband of succour to Assad (but not the Tory rebels who he invites to a BBQ at Chequers the day after!) and the ending of our ‘special relationship’ with the USA.

As an ex-soldier I have some strong opinions on Syria and the stance taken by Cameron over the situation. I intend to do a separate post on the issue later.

But there is no doubt in my mind a number of the Tory rebels and certain Labour MP’s voted against Cameron because of public opinion was against attacking Syria – you might say that is what they should do – but what I believe is that many did support intervention in Syria but were more concerned about votes and losing their seats in 2015.

The press, politicians, political commentators have not stopped , blogging, tweeting and writing about the events of last Thursday but out campaigning in south west Ipswich yesterday with a large group of Labour colleagues, not one resident mentioned Syria – wonder if the Tories found the same situation when out in Stoke Park yesterday? What I did hear about were the Tory attacks on the benefit system and the much discussed ‘bedroom tax’. It seems from the papers today that Ed and Labour will announce their policy on ‘bedroom tax’ this week with rumours that being that Labour will scrap it- if that is the action to be taken – well done Ed. Because many mentioned this loathed tax yesterday but no one mentioned Assad.