Sunday 31 January 2016

My week ahead, 1 - 6 February 2016

Monday 1 February - 6pm, Labour Group campaigning

Wednesday 2 February – 9am, Media and communications meeting

Thursday 4 February – 1pm, Visit to Sidegate Primary Specialist Support Centre

Saturday 5 February - 10am, Labour campaigning in South West Ipswich

Yesterday it was nice to be back campaigning in Rushmere, collecting signatures for a petition that will attempt to force the County Tories to debate their proposed cuts to the Fire Service at Full Council, for some reason the Tories are not keen to allow even their own backbenchers a say in the future of the fire service.

One resident in Brunswick Rd asked me what does Ben Gummer (our Tory MP) think of the proposed cuts – a good question but all i could answer is ‘don’t know’ as Ben Gummer would rather use his weekly paper column to discuss ‘public art’ than the cuts forced on us by a Tory Council.

But it is not just the Fire Service that the Tories wish to cut, today I received an invitation to our local primary school – Sidegate Primary who face having their specialist support centre closed, the second time the Tories have attempted to close it. Will Ben Gummer comment on this cut?

I would not hold your breath waiting – I believe it is the role of any politician, national or local to keep residents/constituents not only informed of local issues but also to tell the voters where they stand on important national and international issues.

Ben Gummer, allegedly a pro-Europe MP, still has not used his weekly paper column to inform us if he thinks we are better off in or out of Europe, he may use the excuse of not being able to campaign till David Cameron allows Ministers to. But many Ministers have made it clear where they stand. So whilst Mr Gummer remains silent, we do get the opinions of Ipswich Tory councillors and activists, I say opinions, more like Right wing anti EU rants ( here and here). So if even if Mr Gummer will not tell the Ipswich public his views on Europe, he might be advised to at least put his own Tory members right on the facts about the benefits of membership of the EU!

Saturday 30 January 2016

Syrian Refugee crisis - is this Tory Government doing enough to help?

When you think about the Syrian refugee crisis consider these figures & remember it's not mere numbers, it's about people:

But if you want to talk about numbers - Cameron and the Tory Government are going to ask Suffolk to take just 200 refugees, over 4 years - I am sure that most Ipswich people will agree that figure is far too low - This Tory Government should do far more to help those suffering because of the war in Syria.

Friday 29 January 2016

Cameron can't answer questions and Ipswich Tories can't ask them!

At Prime Minister’s Question time this week not only did David Cameron fail to respond to any questions he was asked with a thoughtful answer (on Google, Saudi arm sales) he also managed to demean the role of Prime Minister by describing those who are living in atrocious conditions in Calais as a ‘bunch of migrants’ – remember this the same week we mark ‘Holocaust Day’.

Many believe this was not a slip of the tongue but a pre-medicated move to either take the focus away from the Google cock up or to try and look tough on migration so to appease his Eurosceptic colleagues. Whatever the reason, it was not the sort of comment that a Prime Minister of the country should be making.

Unfortunately his comment looks quite Liberal when you compare it with the right wing drivel (and scaremongering words) that were posted on a blog by the Ipswich Tory leader, Nadia Cenci. Her comments declaring that many stuck in Calais were possibly terrorists on their way to UK, were quite sickening to read and again not the sort of words you would expect or hope to see from an elected politician. – all the infiltration of terrorists (and I bet there's quite a few of them at Calais so frustrated at not reaching our shores as easily as Merkel's now very new and unrecognisable country). “

She then turned her piece into an anti EU rant, using such terms as “EU and all it's horrible socialist experiments” and “if the EU doesn't collapse before then under the weight of it’s own corrupt, poisonous and egotistical head. “

We are informed by many that our Tory MP, Ben Gummer is pro EU – if he is, he should now stand up and inform his constituents that he does not agree with the comments of his local Tory leader.

There are so many rumours and bits of miss-information floating round, it is important that politicians stick to the facts, the comments of Nadia Cenci do not help. Last night we invited a local refugee charity to a Labour meeting so we could discover the truth.

I was shocked how little Cameron intends to do- in the next 5 years, the Tories propose to allow 200 Syrians to settle in Suffolk- just 40 a year, so expect about 10 families at the most – whilst at the same time Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have millions of refugees living in their countries.


If Cameron can’t answer questions it seems Nadia Cenci and the local Tories can’t ask them! On Wednesday I attended Ipswich Borough Full Council Meeting, and as always at the start we have a series of questions, mainly from the opposition and sometimes the public. This week we saw 10 questions from the local Tories and even independent observers had to admit via social media that the quality of questions was very poor. In fact even being very generous only two were worth asking, one from Cllr Pope about IBC working with the college and Cllr Debman on the number of football teams now using park pitches.

Even then Cllr Pope failed to follow up his questions with a good supplementary whilst Cllr Debman is correct that park football now does seem a thing of the past, it is not IBC who are to blame, the FA for one should look at their own actions quite closely and Ipswich dies provide quality facilities at Gainsborough, Whitton and now Ransomes.

Cllr Pope is right in questioning how much work has gone on between the council and the college but his timing was poor as this week the college has launched it’s own ‘vision’ document which will see more cooperative work between the organisations.
Then we had the really  bad questions starting with Cllr Cenci! She asked how much to council spend to cover their union facilities agreement, but she could not help herself and turned it a pre-election statement and asked how much does it cost the council tax payer. The amount is £45,00 but she was quickly informed that only a small percentage of that comes from council tax, we could have added that Tory run Suffolk spend more on when the Tories were in power in Ipswich they did not try and stop paying this money- which is probably the most economical way to run Human Resources at the council.
We then had Cllr Phillips ask how much our legal costs were for work on the Ravenswood inquiry, seeming to forget the fact that we were only having an inquiry because Pickles and Gummer called the project in as a blatant piece of electioneering.
But that was not the end of it, we had Cllr Vickery ask about the Olympic 2012 legacy, only weeks after the local paper had published a report that lavished praise on Labour run Ipswich for all the work we had done with sport but he made even more of a mess of an earlier question when he asked why groups such as the Friends of the parks were no longer invited to the Culture and Leisure working group, he did not seem to realise that parks had not been part of the culture portfolio for the last 8 months.
What the night did highlight is that this group of Tory councilors and candidates are not capable of running a council, and let us make sure in May that they never get a chance.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Good way to help save Ipswich 'Park & Ride'

The two Ipswich 'Park & Ride' schemes in Ipswich are under threat from cuts to be implemented by the Tory County Council - they mention under use, well hope they read the Ipswich Star today, in a great article by regular columnist, Lynne Mortimer she asks if all our County Councilors are taking full advantage of the 'Park & Ride' when they come to Ipswich to attend meetings.

As Colin Noble and all his Cabinet are from outside Ipswich, it would be a good way of backing the scheme plus reducing congestion (if only by a few cars ) in the town.

I guess that the answer may be none of them use the scheme as they have a free car park in the town! Maybe sell the car park and use the money to invest in our Fire service rather than cut it and at the same time help keep the 'Park & Ride' schemes.

Over to you Mr Noble and the Tory (non-Ipswich) Cabinet!

Sunday 24 January 2016

My week ahead, 25 - 30 January 2016

Monday 25 January - 6pm, Labour Group meeting

Wednesday 27 January - 6pm, Ipswich Borough, Full Council meeting

Thursday 28 January - 7pm, North East Ipswich Labour meeting, speaker from the Refugee support centre - Old Times Guest House, Cauldwell Hall Rd

Friday 29 January - 8am, Culture portfolio meeting

Saturday 30 January - 10am, Labour campaigning in Rushmere Ward

A fine sunny Saturday and great to join 20 other Ipswich Labour members back on the doorstep, we have been campaigning all year but now their is an added bounce in our step as we start to focus on the elections in May (with a possible Euro referendum in June also on our minds).

Yesterday we were in North West Ipswich, and as well as canvassing we were also collecting signatures for our joint campaign with the FBU to stop the savage Tory cuts to our fire service.

I got an interesting response on the doorstep and one that highlights a problem Labour has got nationally. Everyone was keen to sign our petition against the Tory cuts to our fire service, even Tory voters and that is the issue. Many people are happy to vote Tory in the General Election are are very unhappy with the Tory County Council and would not want a Tory run Borough Council. What they seem to be unaware of or happy to ignore is the fact that many of the proposed cuts are due to the way the Tory Government are slashing funding to local councils.

I can understand their concerns about the Tories taking control in Ipswich - they would look to freeze council tax (even if the Tory Government is expecting councils to now raise council tax by 2%) so without Government support a Tory council in Ipswich could lead to the closing of sports centres, swimming pools, cuts to to grants to local charities and a start to charging for your bins.

What we have to do as the Labour party is to persuade voters that they can trust a Labour run Government just like they already trust Labour Councils over Tory run administrations.

This week we also saw one more Ben Gummer column where there is no mention of Europe - with a possible referendum under 6 months away, is it not about time our MP tells his constituents if he wishes us to stay in Europe?

Sunday 17 January 2016

My week ahead, 18 - 23 January 2016

Monday 18 January, 4pm – Culture portfolio briefing
6pm – Labour Group training

Tuesday 19 January, 5pm – Early Warning Group

Thursday 21 January, 7pm – North East Ipswich Labour campaigning

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

On Thursday at the North East Ipswich Area Committee, we had a briefing by senior Fire Officers on what can only be described as a plan for savage cuts to our Suffolk Fire Service with Ipswich seeming to be facing the brunt of the cuts.

The tow senior Fire Officers were very honest in the answers they gave the public and councillors (not surprising but most of the questions came from the Labour councillors as only one Tory councillor out of the 4 present asked a question – are they happy with the planned cuts?)

We had been promised that the Tory Cabinet Member responsible for the Fire Service would attend but he had ended up remaining at Endeavour House trying to explain the cuts to the Fire Service Staff, but we would have hoped to have seen at least one Tory County Councillor present but we had none. Cllr Murray the only Tory County Councillor in Ipswich sent his apologies and there was no sign of Cllr Hudson.

Who is Cllr Hudson you may ask, well he is the supposed Tory solution for Ipswich having no representation on the ruling Tory Cabinet but not sure he spending much time on Ipswich matters, he has been given the dates of all the 5 Ipswich Area Committees but so far has failed to attend any and I am almost certain that he been at no other meetings held in the Borough – Full Council, Executive or Scrutiny.

So maybe he should just give up the role as it becomes more obvious by every meeting he fails to attend that his appointment by Tory leader, Colin Noble was just a simple PR stunt and even more evidence (if it was needed) that the Tories have no interest in what happens in Ipswich – the County town of Suffolk.

One test of the County will be the building of the Wet Dock Crossing, the original plan by Mr Gummer did not seem to me to stack up and just seemed all talk as I could not see how a crossing involving the Island would help alleviate traffic congestion in Star Lane, but I do see some merits in the new plan that was presented this week but Mr Gummer may not be so keen on the new price tag, over £100 million and almost twice the original budget - £100 million may seem cheap when you try and work out what the Tories spent £20 million on with ‘Travel Ipswich’ budget!

The new Wet Dock project would require a financial contribution from local Government, not sure how Mr Gummer will have to cheek to ask for anything off us when his Government has just slashed its direct grant to us. The Tory County Council may also struggle to help pay for the crossing when it also has to contribute to the second crossing in Lowestoft which seems to be above the proposed Ipswich Wet Dock crossing in the major project pecking order.

Sunday 10 January 2016

My week ahead, 11 - 17 January 2016

Monday 11 January, 5pm – Briefing on cuts to Suffolk Police Force
7pm – Labour Group campaigning

Thursday 14 January, 6pm – North East Partnership Group meeting
7pm – North East Area Committee, St John’s Church – Cauldwell Hall Road

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

Sunday 17 January, 7pm – Labour fundraising curry night

It was great to get out campaigning again on what could be a busy year, we know we have council elections in Ipswich in May and they will be combined with the vote for the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner and it now seems that David Cameron is keen on a Summer vote in his proposed European Referendum, leaving little time to campaign after he has completed his re-negotiation with our EU partners. Also giving little time for the splits in the Tory Party to surface and possible destroy his hopes of a further 4 years as Prime Minister.

We have our own well documented splits in the Labour Party and I can’t see a total truce between both sides of the party but there are enough local members willing to work hard for the party and actually use campaigning to show that we are united in our refusal to accept that the Tory way is the best way.

In fact local Ipswich Tories know that the Tory way is not popular as they are quick to distance themselves from unpopular Tory policy by shouting “it’s not us it the (Tory run) County Council” seeming to forget that the proposed cuts to the Fire Service and rural transport are down to Tory Government cuts (plus a large dose of ideological reasons).

Any bad news in Ipswich seems to just be ignored by local Tory politicians, their leader is quick to comment on the terrible events in Cologne (as she has the right to) but total silence from any local Tory over the very critical Ofsted report that Thurleston Academy received this week.

We also hear very little comment from any local Tory councillor (or either MP in fact) over the cuts to our Fire Service, Police Service, and transport budget or highway fiasco.

Maybe the local Ipswich Tory party should be renamed the Tory ‘Head in the Sand’ party?

We will campaign on our great record as a Labour Borough Council – Council homes built, investment in town centre, grants to cover cuts to education by Tory County Council but it is only right for us to highlight what you get from a Tory run council – cuts, cuts and cuts all with little consultation!

Sunday 3 January 2016

My week ahead, 4 - 10 January 2016

Monday 4 January, 7am – Labour campaigning
4pm - Culture Portfolio meeting
7pm – Labour Group campaigning

Wednesday 6 January, Culture working group

Friday 8 January, Lecture to Public Service students at Suffolk New College

Saturday 9 January, 10am – Labour campaigning in the town centre

For many work in 2016 will start tomorrow and many will start their day by using a train, our Tory MP, Ben Gummer has banged on about the great improvements that he and his fellow Tory MPs from Witham and Norwich have provided for us on our local railways – what a load of rubbish – most of us have just seen the system get worse but fares increase.

It has become obvious for many that all Mr Gummer is really interested in is the Ipswich-London line, the cry of ‘Norwich in 90 and Ipswich in 60’ but in fact tat will just mean a worse service for those who just want to travel to Colchester or Chelmsford, maybe Mr Gummer is becoming more like the former Tory MP for South Suffolk – Tim Yeo and just more interested in making it back to London as fast as he can?

What i think most commuters and occasional passengers would rather have is a guaranteed Ipswich to London in 75 minutes but with a clean train, seat, wif-fi and maybe a buffet.

Yet again yesterday there were no trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe, but if it is not going to London, Mr Gummer does not seem interested – actually I maybe wrong as he was keen on the varsity line for Cambridge to Oxford , but not sure how it will help those of us in Ipswich when the Ipswich to Cambridge line is so slow. We have also not seen the promised improvements to the Ipswich – Peterborough service, an important link to trains to the Midlands and the North East. Only a few weeks ago we had no trains on that line but thankfully Tory MP for Suffolk Coastal did give her constituents the advice that they could o go via Cambridge! A tweet that indicates how out of touch Therese Coffey is with her constituents, at least it was a tweet giving some sort of advice as most of her tweets seem to be written by Tory HQ (something she has in common with Mr Gummer).

It might not be all pain sailing for Mr Gummer on his rail crusade, the latest franchise deal was thrown into chaos when one of the bidders pulled out of a joint bid and the new MP for South Suffolk may have realised that ‘Ipswich in 60’ may not mean a better service for his constituents, who in fact may see less trains from places like Marks Tey an important junction for many from South of the county.

Mr Gummer mentioned the railways and the town centre in his ‘New Year’ message but no mention of Europe – strange when it now seems that Mr Cameron may even want to go to the country with the Euro referendum in the Summer. I believe Mr Gummer is pro the EU but we hear nothing from him whilst the local Tory Leader is anti EU and one of their candidates for the local elections in May even blamed the flooding in the North of England of Europe. So I for one think it is about time our MP tells us his constituents what his views e on Europe and the EU referendum .