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.