Friday 28 February 2014

Ipswich Tories - a laughing stock

Not a great day for Ipswich Tories or the Tory Suffolk PCC, Mr Pass-more (services to Norfolk)

Expect the usual Ipswich 'Morning' Star shouts from local Tory blogs.

Sunday 23 February 2014

Taking deserved credit or just trying to win votes?

This week the Tory County Council announced that they had decided not to install traffic lights on Bishops Hill in Ipswich. So did Tory County Councillor Graham Newman listen to residents? Was this a victory for people power?

The Tory MP and Ipswich Tories have been quick to take credit for the u-turn with Cllr Newman himself stating that it was the work of Ben Gummer and Tory Cllr Liz Harsant that had helped him make his mind up.

There was no mention of the survey and leaflets put out by us in the Labour Party or the South East Area Committee meeting held last year where Mr Newman was asked to give his reasons for the installation of the lights. He certainly left that meeting knowing that most residents were against any further lights.

Over the last few weeks the County have held a ‘consultation’ on not only this scheme but two further schemes in the town, but we hear that very few people responded to the consultation and as Cllr Newman was already aware of the feelings of local residents from the area committee meeting and also the opposition from councillors of all political groups why has he waited till after this sham of a consultation to tell us that the lights will now not be going in?

At least one local political correspondent was critical of what he believed was squabbling between us and the Tories to claim credit for the u-turn. I for one was annoyed by the way the Tories attempted to take all the credit, helped by the statement by Mr Newman. The tweets by our MP, Ben Gummer seeking to take credit for the u-turn , when asked by myself was he implying that Graham Newman did not listen to Labour he said he was not implying it but we had done little more than deliver a few leaflets. Yes again he got his facts wrong, Our transport spokesperson Sandra Gage has been in conversation since August asking for a consultation, the South East Area committee meeting attended by Graham Newman was organised by the Labour Chair and it was the hard work of Sandra that forced the Tory run county to hold meetings with Borough councillors so we could get over to rural Tories what our residents think about some of the Travel Ipswich schemes. The Tory leaflet mentions that the Holywells Councillors have attended these meetings to get over their views- funny they mention that their candidate for the elections in May – George Debman has attended these meetings, funny because the two that I have attended he has not been present.

Then again he may have been at the public meeting organised by our Tory MP, Ben Gummer. Again I was quite surprised that we never heard about this meeting, Ben Gummer mentioned on twitter that he had organised one but when asked where and when was it held- all we got was silence? Did any of you attend it?

Now where do I stand on the lights option for Bishops Hill? To be honest I am not sure but I am certain that Mr Newman thinks we should have them, what I am certain of is nothing needs to be done till after the consultation on the Nacton Rd/Ravenswood/A12 issue is over and the scheme to solve that problem is in place, it is only then that we can see the real traffic flow results on Bishops Hill..

So did Mr Newman listen to residents? Did he take on the views of the Labour councillors – no, he did just listen to Mr Gummer and Mrs Harsant and he decided to stop the scheme because they are desperate to hold onto Holywells. As a number of residents have already worked out from listening to Mr Newman on Radio Suffolk that when traffic continues to stack up in Ipswich he will blame residents for the u-turn on the Bishops Hill lights.

He certainly did not listen to the consultation as it was just a sham, a few boards in a shopping centre, and if you could understand the boards you could then send of your view on the back of a postcard! The board which showed the details of the Argyll Street junction did not even show two existing sets of traffic lights that are within 50 metres of the proposed new lights. It was just a sham consultation.

So if Mr Newman is going to state that he did listen to residents and to local politicians – then can he tell us when he is going install toilets at the Old Cattle Market bus station? Or as I believe he is making decisions depending on how many votes the Tories can get out of it.

My week ahead, 24 February - 2 March 2014

Monday – 24 February, 3pm – World War One commemoration steering group
4pm – Culture portfolio meeting
6pm Labour Group

Wednesday – 26 February, 10am – Northgate Foundation meeting
6pm – Ipswich Borough, Full Council meeting

Thursday – 27 February, 6pm – North East Ipswich Partnership meeting
7pm – North East Ipswich Area Committee meeting

Saturday 1 March, 10am – Labour campaigning – South East Ipswich

Sunday 2 March, 11am – Young Labour campaigning – South West Ipswich

The main event this week will be the Full Council meeting where we have to set the budget and agree on what level we set council tax. I believe we, the Labour Group can be very proud of what we have achieved in Ipswich over the last few years in what have been difficult times. It has been hard work to retain a level of service that is acceptable for Ipswich residents, a task that has been made more difficult by the savage cuts to local government funding from this Tory/Lib Dem Government.

In Ipswich we are further hampered in this difficult task by the ideological way the Suffolk County Council administration has gone about its own work. They are determined to drive though their policies at the same time as building up huge reserves and all of Suffolk are suffering but in particular Ipswich are being hit the worst.

In Suffolk you just have to look at the place the county sits in the education league tables and in Ipswich we have roads and verges that remind me more of war torn Sarajevo that a prosperous town in East Anglia.

It will be interesting on Wednesday to see if the Tory group offer any workable alternatives to our proposed budget.

I believe our budget is the best for Ipswich residents, and we should also thank the Officers and the employees at the Borough who have helped us over the last three years in providing an excellent service to Ipswich residents in very testing times.

Sunday 9 February 2014

My week ahead, 10 - 15 February 2014

Monday – 10 February, 4pm – Culture portfolio meeting
6pm Labour campaigning

Tuesday – 11 February, 5pm – Sidegate Primary School, Full Governing Body meeting

Thursday – 12 February, 7pm – Talk on ‘Sangin – Afghanistan’ to the Sidegate Lane Community Centre Women’s Group

Friday – 13 February, 7pm –Labour Party fundraising quiz

Saturday 14 February, 10am – Labour campaigning – South East Ipswich

Politics can be a ‘dirty game’ and at times the petty name calling can get you down but there are also often moments that make you realise why being an councillor can be so rewarding.

Two weeks ago whilst attending the first ‘Activ-Lives’ session at Dundee House a number of residents mentioned that the organ they own which is used for their monthly ‘Songs of Praise’ events had seen better days.

Later that day I was a guest on the Mark Murphy show on BBC Radio Suffolk and I mentioned that Dundee House needed a new organ, 20 minutes later we had been offered 7!

This Monday, I drove to Woodbridge to pick the organ up from a lovely couple. They were so happy that their organ was going to good home.

When I arrived at Dundee House, I was met by Peggy, one of the residents plus the lady who would play the organ (from St Andrew’s Church) within seconds tunes were being played and the residents were left overwhelmed by the generosity of Suffolk residents.

A great start to the week and so it is nice then to finish the week by writing a positive post.

Sunday 2 February 2014

My week ahead, 3 - 8 February 2014

Monday – 3 February, 3pm – Deliver an Electric Organ to Dundee House
6pm Labour campaigning

Wednesday – 5 February, 10am – Ipswich Borough Council Planning meeting

Thursday – 6 February, 5pm – Area Committee Chairs meeting, Grafton House

Friday – 7 February, 5pm – North East Area Committee, agenda setting meeting

Saturday 8 February, 10am – Labour campaigning – South West Ipswich

This week we had our latest Ipswich Borough Full Council meeting, the Tories accused us of hypocrisy as we put up council house rent. These attacks have been continued by our Tory MP Ben Gummer and he has joined other local Tories is also attacking us over housing developments in Ipswich. They are accusing us of putting in too many obstructions to developers and demanding far too much money from the same developers through 106 requests.

They call us hypocrites as we have campaigned about the rise in the cost of living and that of course will not be helped by us having to put council house rents up. We are only following government guidelines on the rent increase, of course we could have ignored them but we already struggling to make ends meet with the severe cuts being made by Pickles –and it is hard to plan our budget as we still have not had the details from Pickles on what rise we could put on council tax without needing a referendum. It is very difficult to make these important decisions when you are not given the full facts.

So on Wednesday we had the Ipswich Tories and Lib Dems voting against their own government, so will they support us at the next council meeting if we have to raise council tax to secure front line service?

So they call us hypocrites – but when their government introduced the ‘Bedroom Tax’ did we hear them attacking their government – of course the answer is no.

No one in Ipswich is going to be fooled into thinking that if the Tories were still in power in Ipswich they would not have followed the governments guidelines and raised rents, you just have to remember how much they raised them in their last year running the administration.

Tory MP, Ben Gummer mentions that some Labour run administrations like Doncaster did not raise the rent as much as Ipswich but he forgets to mention that two neighbouring Tory run districts in Suffolk are raising them.

But even at the meeting the Tories were showing their own form of hypocrisy, Mr Gummer was concerned that us building council house may become a vanity project but at the meeting Mr Carnall was keen on us buying the St Clements site and turning it into a park – when houses are needed in Ipswich. So we have some Tories blaming us for stopping the St Clements development because we asked for the developer to pay a large amount of 106 money but at the same time we have one speaking against the development at the planning meeting and another senior Tory wanting to turn into a park!

On the Northern Fringe, the Tories and Lib Dems seem to be getting cold feet about building on there. We should not build till all the infrastructure is in place – well who is going to pay for it? Their own government or Tory run Suffolk County Council? I do not think so – 105 moneys is the only way.

Again this week our neighbouring Tory Mid Suffolk just turned down a development after the developer would not pay the full 106 request or build a set number of affordable homes. So OK for Tory run Mid Suffolk but not Labour run Ipswich.

There are hypocrites on Ipswich Borough Council – but they are in the blue corner.