Sunday 20 December 2015

My week ahead 21- 26 December 2015 - Happy Christmas

Monday 21 December, 6pm - Labour Group campaigning/training


Thursday 17 December 2015

Walking Home For Christmas - done it!

A few months ago I decided to participate in the #walkinghomeforchristmas charity campaign organised by the veterans charity, 'Walking with the Wounded'.

I also decided to make it very challenging for myself, so came up with the idea of walking back to Ipswich from Fulham, well not exactly West London, I decided to get the train to Chelmsford and then walk back over 60 miles, solo, starting at midnight and cross country via the Essex Way.

Good news is that I have raised over £2,000 so far bad news was that it was harder than I thought, not helped by falling a mug bog up to my waist after only just 40 minutes! But by Wednesday evening i was home if slightly tired!

You can still sponsor me here

Find out more about 'Walking with the Wounded' here

Sunday 13 December 2015

Whitehouse Estate and Ipswich remember two of their own

In 1979 the British Army suffered one of its worst losses of life when 18 soldiers were murdered by the IRA at Warrenpoint, this was in the time  before the days of 24/7 news and also when the troubles in Northern Ireland seemed to many of us to be deliberately ignored by both the press and politicians.

But in one part of Ipswich the Warrenpoint atrocity would not be forgotten as one of those from the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment murdered that day was 18 year old Gary Barnes.

Gary was from the Whitehouse Estate and a former Westbourne School pupil.

There is a memorial at Warrenpoint, a bench in Aldershot (the former home of the Paras) and a further memorial in Palace Barracks, Belfast. Gary was not forgotten in Ipswich and his name was added to the Cenotaph in  Christchurch Park, Ipswich.

27 Years later, another young man left Whithouse Estate to join the British Army  as a member of his local regiment, the Royal Anglians. Aaron McClure lived close to where Gary lived and went to the same school as Gary and was even in the same year at school as Gary’s nephew. Whithouse is a small estate where everyone knows everyone, a village within the town. In 2007, Aaron was to lose his life in Afghanistan, just north of Sangin in a ‘friendly fire’ incident.

One town, one estate, one school and now they had lost two young brave men fighting for their country.

I became a councillor in 2008 and then had a year away as I returned to the army in 2009 to serve in Afghanistan, on my return I was keen for a lasting memorial to be in the town to Aaron and David Ellesmere the council leader agreed and we both thought a street named after Aaron would be a fitting tribute.

We had a number of opportunities to name a street after this brave man but we were keen for the new road to be in the area of the Whitehouse Estate. Over the last few years we have been building more council homes and one new development would be behind the Whitehouse Estate shops on Ulster Way, so we saw Mrs McClure and family join us to place the McClure Way sign up.

The council was then approached by one of the areas more senior residents who thought it would also be an ideal opportunity to also honour another Whithouse lad, Gary Barnes.

So on Friday all those ideas and plans came to fruition as we unveiled Barnes Square, a new development of flats on McClure Way. It was an event that I will never forget, the three sisters of Gary, were joined by Lorraine the mother of Aaron plus other family members but they were not the only people there to honour the tow lads, also in attendance were friends, pupils from Westbourne School, local Ward councillors , veterans and the Mayor – also a Whitehouse boy.

I was very happy that I was also able to facilitate the  involvement of  the regiments that Gary and Aaron served in and it was fitting that the families were joined in the unveiling and the photographs by serving members of 1 Royal Anglian and 2 Parachute Regiment.

It is important in my mind that Ipswich remembered these two young lads who left our great town to serve in the British Army, now their names will always be part of the Estate that made them – McClure Way and Barnes Square on Whitehouse Estate.

Ipswich will never forget them.

My week ahead, 14 - 19 December 2015

Monday 14 December, 4pm – Culture Portfolio meeting
7pm – Labour Group Christmas Dinner

Tuesday 15 December, Midnight – Start of my 64 mile walk home to Ipswich, for Walking for the Wounded – more info here and sponsor me here #Walking Home for Christmas

Wednesday 16 December, Still walking!! #Walking Home for Christmas

Saturday 19 December, 10am – Labour campaigning, North East Ipswich

This week is just about one thing really – my walk home from the ITFC game at Fulham (only walking from Chelmsford!) 64 miles for the ‘Walking with the Wounded’ charity, still time to sponsor me!!

Thursday 10 December 2015

Tory run Suffolk still treat Ipswich as the poor relation

Tory run Suffolk do seem to have a real issue relating to Ipswich – their County Town. They work in in, travel to and through it but that seems to be the only real link they have.

No Ipswich County Councillor in the Tory Cabinet, but then again they only have one Tory County Councillor in the whole town and he walked away from his Cabinet post. So they appointed a member from outside the borough to represent our views.

But last night we saw yet another example of how little they seem bothered to interact with both Ipswich politicians and residents.

The County Council have held a number of budget consultation meetings throughout Suffolk, attendance has varied but number between 20 and 30 residents attending each meeting were the figures quoted.

On the 30th November, Suffolk tweeted that they would be holding the last budget consultation in
Ipswich on the 9th December at 4pm. No further tweets were issued, (surprising as in the summer we had an almost constant twitter update on what Tory leader Colin Noble was up to), we then had a small piece in the local paper and that was it for publicity.

I turned up to hear what was going to be said and found a room of empty seats- no public turned up, not surprising with so little publicity (they had not even told their own County Councillors) and holding it during the working day.

Taken last night at the meeting - a row each?

Eventually we had an audience of 6, one Lib Dem Cllr, 4 Labour councillors (including me) plus the Chief executive from the Borough.

The Tory Cabinet member responsible for Ipswich – Chris Hudson - did not even attend – then again he still has to show his face at any of our Area Committee meetings.

So we have the largest population in Suffolk but seem to get less attention from the ruling Tories than in a small Parish Council in West Suffolk!

Of course the Tory Cabinet may have had more important meetings to attend and as I checked my twitter feed, I saw that the Tory Cabinet twitter account was tweeting about the poor train service from London to Ipswich, complaining about dirty carriages and that top price had been paid for the ticket. They did not say if they or ‘us’ the council tax payer had paid for the ticket! Surprised to see them moaning about the trains as I thought Tory MPs Gummer, Patel and Smith had overseen a dramatic improvement in our rail service over the last 5 years! So it seems at least one Cabinet member was on their way back from a meeting in London - but where were the others?

So what did the Ipswich public miss? Quite a lot and it was not good news, for those setting the budget it seems that savings have to be made at ‘Ipswich Park & Ride’ and that could mean giving 6 months’ notice to the bus company and closing the facility. Savings from the savage cuts to the Fire service are in the budget, so it does make me wonder why they are even holding a public consultation on those planned cuts, also bad news for rural transport, schools and recycling.

Good news is that the training budget for councillors will be retained so that the Tory Cabinet can have further media training at a London Film Studio.

So the budget is bad news, the consultation a farce and the only thing that was confirmed was that Tory run Suffolk have very little interest in Ipswich and its residents! 

Wonder if the Tory MPs for Ipswich, Gummer and Poulter plus the Ipswich Tory leader, Nadia Cenci are happy with the way their Tory Party colleagues treat Ipswich?

Sunday 6 December 2015

My week ahead, 7 - 12 December 2015

Monday 7 December, 4pm – NE Agenda setting meeting
6pm – Labour campaigning

Tuesday 8 December, 6pm – Audit Committee

Wednesday 9 December, 10am – Planning Committee
6pm – Early Warning Group

Thursday 10 December, 6pm – Area Committee Chair’s meeting

Friday 11 December, 11am - Opening of Barnes Square , with members of the Barnes family and soldiers from 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment
6pm – Ipswich Labour Christmas Party

This week we have our last surge of council meetings before the Christmas break, there will also be a good opportunity to meet Labour members and discuss our plans for 2016.

There is no hiding from the fact that the last few months have been very difficult for the Labour Party and there are a number of internal battles within our ‘broad church’ and i will be blogging about those battles and discussions over the next few months.

But whilst the party may be split on an number of topics the Tories are not having a great time themselves, climb downs on police cuts and Tax Credit cuts are two examples where they have not been in step with the public.

On Saturday it was great to join Labour comrades campaigning in North East Ipswich, I found myself with our Suffolk group leader, Sandy Martin. We ended up in Britannia Road collecting signatures for our joint petition with the Fire Brigade Union to try and stop the savage cuts being imposed on our Suffolk Fire Service by the Tory run County Council. What we found was quite interesting, residents were very keen to sign the petition and also talk about other concerns, with the main topic being the cuts now facing Suffolk Police that are being imposed by our Tory Police and Crime Commissioner.

In brief residents did not mention once to me;

1.         Jeremy Corbyn – good or bad points
2.         Syria (surpisingly)
3.         Railways
4.         Town Centre
5.         Europe – in or out

What they did mention, and often in long conversations;

1.         Cuts to Fire Service
2.         Planned cuts to Police, lack of PCSOs and why do we have so many senior Police officers
3.         Threat to NHS
4.         Poor education results in Ipswich
So that may be a foretaste of what the May election will be about, but there is no doubt that by May we may find Europe ripping the Tory Party apart, on Friday the Tory ant- Europe group were out at Ipswich railway station. Unless you recognised the people you would have found it hard to realise they were a Tory run group- they wore uniformed red t shirts and there leaflet, was anti EU but the leaflets said leaving EU was the best way to save the NHS, not sure many of those present were in truth great defenders of the NHS!

Good to see that almost all Labour MPs and the whole Front Bench have signed up for the Pro Europe campaign that will have the indomitable Alan Johnson as our lead. I am also pleased we will be running our own Labour campaign not a joint one with any other pro Europe group. But you do wonder if the Tories have any pro-Europe group, we believe Cameron, Osborne and Ben Gummer are pro Europe but there is no evidence in Ipswich that Gummer has had much luck encouraging his own Ipswich Tories to join him, as the Ipswich Tory leader seems like many of the local activists very keen for us to opt out. No wonder the Tory Vote Out campaign thought Ipswich would be a good place to start their campaign! Wonder if they told Ben they were coming (the Tory Vote Out and Ben Gummer campaign seemed very similar – railway station venue, bright t shirts (change of colours) and giving out leaflets but not really wanting to talk to residents.