Thursday 22 October 2015

Press those apples, food, gardening and education

Today I visited Britannia School in Ipswich as they started an educational project with East Feast . Eastfeast is a team of professional gardeners, artists and teachers that helps schools deliver more effective learning based on working a school allotment through the seasons, culminating in a community feast. 

East Feast have been working with Copleston School for a while and I had witnessed the great work they had done there so was happy to help secure funding from the North East Area Committee so they could start working with local Primary Schools.

The children seemed very keen to start with having an attempt at apple pressing was of the most sought after activities.

I am sure this project will be a success and anything that helps promote healthy eating is going to be very welcome. As we saw today with the comments from David Cameron about ‘sugar tax’ it is important that we have as many facts as possible at hand when we decide what we are going to eat and to give our children to eat. It was just disappointing that it has now become obvious that Cameron did not have the full facts about a ‘sugar tax’ – as he had not even read the report!

Good news is that with the help of East Feast and local schools it will be our children who will be telling their parents what to eat!

Shackleton - Solo - a hard way of marking leaving the army

When I left the army, I did not really mark the occasion with any sort of event and definitely not a physical challenge - that does not mean I turned myself into some sort of couch potato, since I left the regiment I have trekked and climbed in Morocco, Ethiopia, India (twice) Borneo and Peru and at the end of the year in support of Walking for the Wounded, I am walking solo back from Chelmsford to Ipswich, cross country at night – solo – more details here

But one of my former officers is marking his leaving the army with what may be the ultimate physical challenge, Lt Col Henry Worsley has decided to become the first man to walk across Antarctica – solo and unsupported!

Henry is no stranger to similar challenges as he can already be described as one of the top living Antarctic explorers. His hero (and mine) is Shackleton not only one of the greatest ever explorers but without doubt one of the best leaders of men this country has ever seen. Henry is a distant relative of the captain of Shackleton’s ship. For me it was when i was in the Falklands that I discovered Shackleton and his book ‘South’ was my constant companion when walking over the Falklands.

Henry (boss) Worsley has just arrived in South America on his way south, and you can keep up to date with his exploits on the expedition website – Shackleton Solo

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Even some Tories have hearts - but!

Yesterday Parliament discussed the impending cuts to Family Tax Credits, and two new Tory MPs gave passionate and well received speeches against the planned cuts by George Osborne - Heidi Allen was praised by many commentators and Labour MPs for her speech and former soldier and now Tory MP, Johnny Mercer spoke against the cuts that will hit 22,000 of his residents in Plymouth.

As a former soldier, I quite like Mr Mercer and have been impressed how he has raised a number of issues in Parliament that at times have been critical of the Government and in particular his work on soldiers with mental health issues. and interesting to read that as a soldier he had no allegiance to any party and when he left the forces he decided to be an MP before he chose the party.

Even closer to home the new MP for South Suffolk spoke against the cuts - but for all their fine words, we must remember this - They still voted with the Government in support of the proposed plan!

In Ipswich there seems to be no Tory opposition to the cuts, Ben Gummer will defend the Government plan no matter how many of his residents will suffer whilst the Tory Group leader Nadia Cenci, does not even believe there is any poverty in the UK, well  most people do and there seems no doubt that there will be even more cases of child poverty once these cuts hit - and who will they hit most? Working families, just weeks after Osborne attempted to market the Tory Party as the true 'workers' party!

Sunday 18 October 2015

My week ahead, 19 - 24 October 2015

Monday 19 October, 4pm – North East Area Committee agenda setting meeting
6pm – Labour Group meeting

Tuesday 20 October, 7pm – North East Ipswich Labour meeting

Wednesday 21 October, 5pm – Culture Portfolio Working Group

Thursday 22 October, 10am – Labour campaigning in Holywells Ward, Ipswich

A number of leading Tories including some ex-ministers are making their concerns heard about the cutting of Family Tax Credits. Not sure many Tories realise how many families receive help through Family Tax Credits, I certainly received it when I first left the army as my new employment saw me take a cut in wages.

What is disappointing that when senior Tories are voicing their concerns about the cuts, the local Ipswich Tories seem very supportive of the cuts to Family Tax Credits – then again their leader Nadia Cenci does not believe there is any poverty in the UK and she also seems to be one of the few politicians who still does not believe in climate change!

We also had some strange comments from senior Ipswich Tories about the latest planning application for Chantry Vale  - hypocrites  and NIMBY are certainly words you could  use to describe a number of the Ipswich Tory Group.

Sunday 11 October 2015

My week ahead, 12 - 17 October 2015

Monday 12 October, 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
6pm – Labour campaigning 

Tuesday 13 October, 5pm – Early Warning Group

Wednesday 14 October, 5pm – Housing Working Group

Saturday 17 October, 10am – Labour campaigning in East Ipswich

My first meeting as a substitute of the Housing Working Group this week, I have a big interest in housing – and know we have a major issue with the lack of housing in this country. Of course the Tories and Mr Cameron are going to solve it! Starter homes for £250,000!! The only people happy about that will be the house builders and developers who will make even more money, but who can afford quarter of a million for a starter home? My two daughters are both trying to get on the housing ladder , my oldest has a house in Ipswich with a mortgage but my youngest who is a teacher in London struggles just to pay the rent on a one bedroom flat – and she is a lucky one as she has a job.

The Tories just don’t understand the issues that concern residents – we were hoping to help over 2,000 families in Ipswich with their fuel bills by installing solar panels on their council homes (and do our bit to help save the planet) but the Tories pulled the rug from underneath us with the cuts to the feed in tariffs.  More concerning was that Ben Gummer and Tory leader Nadia Cenci both agreed with the Government decision that has seen these residents lose the chance to get solar panels.

With his re-election Mr Gummer seems to have become even more distant from his constituents, we cant all afford two homes – one in London and one in Ipswich (if he has a home in Ipswich?) subsidised by the taxpayer. Those solar panels could have helped residents with their fuel bills and made life a bit easier for them. People are struggling and any help we can give them we should. Bus as the Ipswich Tory leader indicated this weekend that she does not believe there is any poverty in the UK it is no surprise that they are not bothered about helping others.

Sunday 4 October 2015

My week ahead, 4 - 10 October 2015

Monday 5 October, 6pm – Labour Group campaigning
7pm – Labour Executive

Thursday 8 October, 6pm – Area Committee Chairs meeting

Friday 9 October, 11am – Talk with students at Suffolk New College

Saturday 10 October, 10am – Labour campaigning in North East Ipswich

Busy week ahead and we are all checking our emails to hear what the latest on devolution plans for Suffolk (and Norfolk) with  Suffolk Tory leader, Colin Noble away in Manchester at the Conservative Party conference, it makes you wonder if much of what is being decided is taking place in Manchester rather than in Suffolk, Norfolk or Westminster – would also be interesting to hear what our Tory MPs think about the plans.

This week we will continue to campaign about the proposed family tax credit cuts, even a recent Tory Minister is saying that the plan should be delayed/changed but from what David Cameron spoke about on TV this morning, there seems little hope of him changing his mind, so it will be up to those Tory MPs who know that this latest Tory policy  will hurt many working families to vote with Labour and defeat this disgusting policy/

A Tory candidate in Ipswich has accused me of ‘cyber bullying’ but fails to mention the true facts and the accusation that I was not respecting our armed forces by not singing the national anthem. As the only two councillors in Ipswich to serve in the Armed Forces are both Labour – including myself, not sure they are in any position to lecture me.