Sunday 31 August 2014

My week ahead, 1 - 7 September 2014

Monday – 1 September, 6pm – Labour campaigning Central Ipswich

Wednesday – 3 September, 9an – Planning committee

Thursday – 4 September, 10am Labour campaigning in NW Ipswich

Slightly less campaigning this week as I concentrate on catching up with all the case work I have gathered over the last month – and over 90% of that case work involves the state of the roads in Rushmere.

The Suffolk County Council seems to have just given up on Ipswich. It takes a considerable effort by our Labour County Councillors to get any work done and when they finally get a job to be done it then takes many hours of both councillor and Officer time to make sure the job is completed satisfactorily.

I pin most of the blame for these failings on the Tory run County Council and there insistence to farm out the responsibility for highways to a private firm.

Currently in Brunswick Rd, we are having work carried out to repair both the road and verges, the go ahead for this work was only made possible after constant lobbying by Sandra Gage our Labour County Councillor. The work required the road to closed but the County would only send letters to the residents right next to the closure. After further discussions it was agreed to leaflet the adjoining roads who would be part of the detour route. The County printed the leaflets but we had to deliver them.

Residents are now informing us that the road is closed but little work seems to be going on, after checking myself I have doubts the work will be completed by the planned finishing date at the end of week. This could mean the road remaining closed with pupils back at local schools.

The Tory Cabinet on Suffolk County Council seem to have regular meeting with Tory MPs, often leading to a quick change in policy or as with the location of a traveller site- dropped before the consultation even starts, so maybe at one of these meetings Mr Gummer and Poulter should be asking if the same issues we are having over highways are also happening throughout the county. I for one have a feeling that others parts of the county do not suffer like Ipswich residents do when it comes to the service they receive when it comes to highway maintenance.

Saturday 30 August 2014

What a week in politics - exciting, sad and even depressing

What a week in politics – at times it has been exciting, sad, depressing has made me angry and also made me want to keep fighting. And still over 8 months to the General Election!

My thoughts on a few of the topics that have popped up this week and quite often you can see a link in all of them – from the independence debate in Scotland, to Islamic extremism here in the UK and in the Middle East, the rise of UKIP, how the child exploitation scandal was handled in Rotherham, the failure of the PCC and lastly the increase in the terrorist threat – is it real?

I have taken a great interest in the Scottish independence election, not surprising with so much Scottish blood in me but also because I believe in the United Kingdom and as a Labour supporter it is important for us to stay as one. On my travels in the army in particular in the Balkans – I have seen how bloody and also pointless have been some of these fights for independence/separation, I never thought we would have that same sort of battle in Scotland but it seems the campaign has got very nasty and social media seems to have been the weapon of choice, something I can see repeating itself in the election here next May.

Jim Murphy who i like and have met has been touring Scotland on his ‘100 streets tour’ but that has to be curtailed as over the last two weeks there has been a noticeable campaign by the SNP/ ‘Yes’ group to make sure that wherever Jim turns up he is met by ‘Yes’ supporters. Nothing wrong with that even here in Ipswich we had Mr Gummer turning up at a sure start centre to tell Mrs Harman she was lying over Tory plans to close children’s centres (bet he wish he had stayed at home now!!!) but in Scotland it has been more sinister, with a journalist threatened with violence, eggs thrown and ‘no’ supporters intimidated this was made worse by a quite pathetic apology from the SNP. You can see the SNP/No campaign type activity going down quite well with a few of the ‘name calling’ Tory activists in Ipswich.

This leads on how do we deal with Islamic extremism in the UK, It is about working closer with all our different community groups but also not being afraid to comment and act if we thinks something is going wrong- this did not happen in Rotherham. But we also need to look closer at the people who are going off to fight in Syria and also the sort of men involved in the crimes in Rotherham. Young, isolated, feel picked on, pressure from their own community not to forget their own culture, widespread gang culture- drink and drugs, poor housing, fee job prospects – all these factors are causes of what can lead young men and women to head off to Syria but also to get involved in gangs in Rotherham, Rochdale or Oxford.

But the failure of the police and councils to act in places like Rotherham helps fuel the rise of far right groups like the EDL but also groups like UKIP. There is no doubt that UKIP will take votes off Labour in the north and Mr Farage will go on about this and how they are the ‘peoples party’ whilst we will try and convince the voters that they are just Tories in different suits, and that case was certainly helped by the defection of Tory and Clacton MP, Douglas Carswell to UKIP this week. It was at first a great success for Farage but the coup soon unravelled as the former UKIP candidate refused to vanish and has even said he will now fight for the Tories. We now find out that UKIP have little electoral data on Clacton as there was some sort of pact with Carswell in 2010! Farage also called Carswell ‘honourable’ for resigning his seat – so all the previous defectors to UKIP were ‘dishonourable’? last night a leading Tory in Sevenoaks followed Carswell into UKIP but he will not resign his seat as the by-election would be a waste of tax payers money – how much does he think the election in Clacton will cost? So from being a big coup the defection of Carswell has just highlighted that at the top of UKIP you still just have a bunch of euro sceptic Tories.

Going back to crimes in Rotherham, it is only right that those in authority at the time stand down –elected councillors plus Council officers and police. We have seen some Labour councillors’ resign, a few officers but some hang on and even worse have other jobs involved in child protection both here in the UK and even in places like Australia.

The South Yorkshire PCC has refused to stand down not only over the failings of his police force but also because before he was PCC he was the councillor responsible for children’s services in Rotherham. He has left the Labour Party but clings on to his (well paid) PCC job.

This yet again highlights how ill thought out the whole post of PCC was, you can even be jailed and still keep the job! This was not some rushed in act to elect PCCs, this was a policy the Tories had worked on in opposition. We do not want to go back to the almost invisible ‘Police Authorities’ but I think Labour should announce soon that as of May 2016 the PCC post will be replace with a far better system of running the police force.

South Yorkshire Police may also need to be placed into ‘special measures’ the same force that failed in Rotherham, the same force so badly implicated in the Hillsborough disaster – time for big changes in that force.

Finally we have the raising of the terrorist threat state, is this needed? I am afraid even though I am involved in politics (at a low level) i wonder if the threat has been raised by Cameron, Clegg and May for political reasons. Is the threat any higher now in the UK say compared to the height of the troubles in Ireland? We have talk of removing passports from suspects- is that so difficult- the police have been taking passports off football fans for over 20 years. I am afraid it seems more a case of political posturing rather than acting on any form of intelligence.

Let us hope next week is slightly more peaceful so we can concentrate on local issues, on building houses, developing the Northern Fringe and campaigning to keep children’s centres open in Suffolk.

Saturday 23 August 2014

My week ahead - 25 - 30 August 2014

Tuesday – 26 August, 2pm – Labour campaigning in NE Ipswich
5pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour Group meeting

Thursday – 28 August, 10am Labour campaigning in SW Ipswich

Saturday – 30 August, 10am – Labour campaigning in South East Ipswich

Sunday – 24 August, 10am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

Another week of campaigning planned as we continue to ‘raise our game’ as we head towards the next General Election.

We are now also beginning to see the national party release details of policies that will be part of our manifesto. I hope that we make an announcement quite soon that we will be getting rid of the post of Police and Crime Commissioner. The poor turnout at last week’s election for the West Midlands PCC was yet another example of public apathy over the role. What was more shocking is that the cost of the by-election was in in the region of £3.5 million!

The whole concept of PCC was rushed through, no thought was given to how do you replace a PCC mid - term or as in the case in Norfolk if the PCC finds himself suspended.

I do not think we should go back to the old Police Authority model but I hope the cost of and the poor turnout at the PCC election last week will convince the Shadow Home Office team that we need to be quite radical in our proposals of how our police force is run. Possibly using some of the ideas that were suggested by Ronnie Flanagan (former Head of the RUC) when he produced a report for the last Labour Government.

Our own Suffolk PCC can then concentrate on his ‘other’ job – a councillor on Mid Suffolk District Council.

Sunday 17 August 2014

My week ahead 18 - 24 August 2014

Monday – 18 August, 9am – Ipswich Angle Board meeting
6pm –Labour Group campaigning session

Tuesday – 19 August, 2pm – Labour campaigning in NE Ipswich

Thursday – 21 August, 10am Labour campaigning in SW Ipswich
2pm – NE Area Committee agenda setting meeting

Saturday – 23 August, 10am – Labour campaigning in South East Ipswich

Sunday – 24 August, 10am – Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

Most of next week will be spent campaigning in Ipswich and after reading some of the latest comment from our Tory MP, it seems even more important to me that we replace the Tory Ben Gummer with David Ellesmere.

I do agree with Mr Gummer that Ipswich needs to gain unitary status but I do not believe we need (as Mr Gummer seems to think) that we need an elected Mayor. Even more amazingly (and yet again highlights how out of touch our MP is) Mr Gummer believes we only need a handful of councillors in the town. I will admit that I already struggle at time to take care of all my case work and hold down a full time job and I have two other ward councillors to share the load with!

The only way ( and they would still struggle) to cope with all the casework that would come your way with the town divided into just 6 wards would be to become a full time politician – the last thing that is needed at councillor level.

It would be interesting to cmpare how much case work Mr Gummer delas with compared to the former Labour MP for the town, Mr Gummer did say he would be bvery transparent with what he claims and what he does but as his websitre is so out of date it seems from reading that he does very little.

Plus how would we deal with planning and licensing plus scrutiny with just a handful of councillors? If Mr Gummer wants to save mone and get rid of politicians that are not needed, tell Mr Cameron to get rid of the House of Lords – oh, I forgot the PM has just made a a number of Tory donors members of that House! Worry about that Mr Gummer before preaching to us how many councillors we need.

Tonight I witnessed the climax of yet another great Ipswich Maritime festival – the climax being a great (and free) firework display. I watched it from the packed beer festival whilst drinking a nice pint of Kiwi!

I did find it strange that the lead blogger on an Ipswich political website seemed to have a quick pop at myself for not attending the beer festival before tonight! I must have missed his tweets that asked why our Tory MP did not turn up to the event Ipswich held to commemorate the start of World War One or a tweet wondering why the Lib Dems failed to attend the latest culture working group. He may think attendance at a beer festival is more important that turning up at the cenotaph to remember the events of 1914!

Sunday 10 August 2014

My week ahead 10 - 16 August 2014

Monday – 11 August, 9am – Rushmere Ward Councillors meeting, Woodbridge Road
6pm –Labour Group campaigning session

Tuesday – 12 August, 2pm – Labour campaigning in SW Ipswich

Wednesday – 13 August, 2pm – Labour campaigning in NW Ipswich

Thursday – 14 August, 7pm – Culture Working Group

Saturday – 16 August, 10am – Labour campaigning in North East Ipswich

Back from India and also a short break at the Commonwealth Games and it is straight into full time campaigning. Some see August as a non-political activity month with many at the council on holiday and Westminster also away on one of their many long breaks but with the General Election now under 12 months away many will use August to campaign hard.

Even Ministers are making official visits, with the Tory Minister for Coastal Protection in the region this week, even the local news programme indicated that it was rare to have a ministerial visit in August, also indicating that they believed the visit may have been official and not a campaigning visit but it was only taking place because of the time of the General Election now getting closer.

The local political blog even indicated that they would be concentrating on national issues in their ‘Diary’ column this week as August was always a slow month – I thought possibly the non appearance of any of our local MPs at two recent civic events – a medal ceremony for local Reservists and the Monday night event in Christchurch Park to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War would have been a newsworthy story. In particular after the clumsy way Tory spin doctors and the Right wing press attempted to make Ed Miliband and the Lib Dem leader look uncaring after they were handed wreaths that had already been labelled, but the labels looked the work of a small child.

What that action by the Tories did show is that as we get closer to the General Election they will get more and more desperate.

It has not been a great week for the Tories and in particular David Cameron, Baroness Warsi storming out and then Boris telling us all he was coming back and that he had suddenly become slightly Euro sceptic! Many may have hoped that Boris announcing that he was coming back to save the Tory Party may have knocked Warsi off the front pages – it did for a day but many papers this Sunday have carried further interviews with the Baroness, none of which will make good reading for Mr Cameron and his (Boris’s ) party.

On international issues, I do think that Westminster and in particular MPs can get a bad press that is underserved at times but I do wonder that with the Gaza crisis, the situation in Iraq (that now has the RAF involved) plus the public health issues caused by the Ebola epidemic that there seems to be little mention of a recall of Parliament!

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Ipswich remembers - those who fought in World War One - and more recent conflicts

Over the last few days Ipswich has commemorated the centenary of the start of World War One, last night a poignant event was held at Christchurch Park and it was an honour to hear the stories of those who served in that time, not just soldiers but also the woman munitions worker from Ransomes, the Red Cross volunteer from Woodbridge.

On Sunday Ipswich honoured those who have served in a more recent conflict- hosting a medal parade for local reservists who have just returned from Afghanistan. The event was held at the Mansion, the sun shone, the Mayor spoke to every single reservists and it was a pleasure to see the visible pride in the faces of the relatives who attended to see their sons and daughters receive their medals.

Two very different events, but it emphasised the point that World War One was not the war to end all wars that many thought it would be. The current hostilities in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya and the Ukraine show that many of the world still live in a state of conflict. The major concern to many should be the similarities between the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine to those conflicts and arguments that caused the outbreak of war in 1914.

I think it is very important that we do commemorate the First World War and hopefully learn lessons from studying that conflict, it is essential that we include as many young people in events over the next 4 years. As civic leaders I also feel it is important that we play our part and on that note I was very disappointed that none of our local MPs attended the event in Christchurch Park to commemorate the start of World War One or the medals parade on Sunday for our reservists, most of the local MPs were able to attend the event at Bury Cathedral on Sunday afternoon but I do not think it is too much to expect at least some of them to attend events in Ipswich. I must admit last night at first I felt anger in their non-appearance but that soon changed to disappointment and I hope that though they may not have been at Ipswich they may have attended another local or even national event.

Even more important than involving our your people in events it is important that the centenary of World War One is used to remind politicians on the horrors that war can bring to all our communities.

Friday 1 August 2014

World War One - Ipswich commemorates the centenary of the start of the war.

The Mayor of Ipswich, Bill Quinton, will lead the town as it commemorates the centenary of the start of World War One this weekend.I have been involved in the steering group for these events and for further events over the next 4 years.

It is important that this is not seen a celebration, it is important taht the correct tone is set. it is to commemorate, to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice but also to remember the part Ipswich played in Worl War One, from the Suffolk Regiment soldiers to the Zepplin attack on Ipswich. Every familiy in Ipswich wil have a connection to events taht took place between 1914 and 1919.

My own grandfather lost his leg towards the end of 1918, and the training that he undertook after the ward was the raeson that he chose to settle in Ipswich.

There will be an exhibition at the Town Hall, which will include Ipswich hero Sam Harvey’s Victoria Cross dress medals, items from Ipswich Museum, Ipswich School, Suffolk Records Office, maps and old photographs. The event will open at noon on Friday 1st August and will be open on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I will be attending this event this morning.

On Sunday 3rd August there will be a march through the town centre as the Reservist Regiment 202 Transport Squadron, 158 R.A Transport Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, exercise their right of “Freedom of the Borough”. The march will begin at 10.30am and will be followed by a medal presentation on the lawn in front of Christchurch Mansion at 11am.

Also on Sunday 3rd, there will be a commemoration service at St Matthew’s Church at 5pm to which all residents and visitors are invited.

On Monday 4th August, Ipswich people are invited to attend a civic parade at the Cenotaph in Christchurch Park where a candlelight event will be held with readings, hymns, poetry and music to mark the beginning of the war. Veterans, cadets and civic leaders will process from the Town Hall at 8pm for the hour-long service. Guests from Arras in northern France will travel to Ipswich to stand shoulder to shoulder as we remember the terrible conflict that engulfed so many nations. Arras suffered terrible damage during the war.

The Mayor said: "We reflect and we commemorate; we do not celebrate. And we remember the sacrifice of so many from so many nations. This is not just about the British Tommy; it is about former allies from 26 other countries and former enemies – and now friends – from across the globe. Like us they, too, believed in the justice of their cause. I am not an historian. I am not here to argue who was right, who was wrong or whether our generals and politicians took good or bad decisions. I am here to lead Ipswich in commemoration … to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Meanwhile, Ipswich Borough Council has joined towns up and down the country to take part in the LIGHTS OUT programme. LIGHTS OUT is an invitation to everyone in the UK to turn off their lights from 10pm until 11pm on 4th August, leaving on a single light or candle for this shared moment of reflection. A single light will be lit in the Town Hall. The campaign has been inspired by the words spoken by British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey as war was about to start: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

LIGHTS OUT info is here

There is also an "Ipswich and Suffolk in the First World War" display within the existing “Ipswich at War” gallery in Ipswich Museum showing the different ways local people contributed to the war effort. This includes archives of photographs, documents and objects that belonged to men from Suffolk who went off to war. Some of the kit and other objects they took to equip, protect and comfort them are also on display.

Brunswick Road repairs on verge of completion

Rushmere resodents are celebrating success after the date for works to improve the state of the verges and repair the footways in Brunswick Road have been confirmed to take place in August.

Kier MG has confirmed that the works will take place between Monday the 18th and Friday 29th August. A diversion for traffic will be in place, via Whitby Road, Sidegate Lane, Colchester Road and Kingsgate Drive. The project includes the reinstatement of several sections of grass verge, with over-run areas for some off-road parking, and all footways between Beverly Road and Somerset Road to be repaired too.

Our County and Borough Councillor for Rushmere Sandra Gage has been working hard over the last year to get this much needed works undertaken, as part of a programme of verge improvements. Further work that she is lobbying for includes improved verges and footways in Inverness Road, and verge improvements in Renfrew Road. She said; “It is fantastic that the work is going ahead, I have consulted with the residents and pressurised the County Council to undertake this much needed work. The verges in much of Rushmere are in dire need of repair and I am obviously delighted that I have been able to use my Councillor locality funding to secure additional County highway funding to get these improvements for Brunswick Road. She added “residents across Ipswich regularly complain about the state of the roads and footways in their streets. These works should be done as a matter of course and should not take almost a year of pressure from the local Councillor to get on the county councils radar”.