Hadleigh Year of the Sheep

Sheep Gambolling 2015Readers of my blog, will be aware that as a County Councillor I have a Locality Budget of ₤12,000 a year to disburse as I see fit on worthy projects and activities in my area. So far just under ₤36,000 has been disbursed ranging from helping Scouts and Guides to attend their world jamboree in Japan to funding Hadleigh’s Loyalty Cards. So my interest was tweaked when I was asked to see what I could do for Hadleigh’s Year of the Sheep (since Hadleigh was a wool/woolen town). I was happy to allocate ₤1,500 to assist in the costs involved in establishing, promoting and underwriting the activities of the Year of the Sheep, which aimed to put Hadleigh on the map as a busy, historic and vibrant wool town. The programme of activities and events aimed to~
attract visitors
promote business
engage the community.
This was a community engagement opportunity to get Hadleigh people to celebrate the town and its heritage, enable local charities and town groups to raise funds/awareness for their work and help businesses develop and attract different customers. The year concluded at the end of September and by all accounts was judged as a very successful community event.
There are a number of legacies from the year, but one I particularly like is the provision of new equipment for one of the public playgrounds in Hadleigh. (My budget also funded some the new equipment). But I just love the sheep which will serve as reminder for a good number of years that Hadleigh was and can be leader in economic adjustment and development.

Hadleigh Library Unfettered

SteacieLibrary7A good example of unleashed creativity is the Suffolk Library Service and Hadleigh Library in particular. Ever since the library service was hived off and mutualised they have got used to the idea that they can influence their own future and turn their operation from a cash starved Cinderella service into a highly valued and widely used community asset. Now being able to focus on their customers and stakeholders, the Hadleigh Library has consulted the community on their needs and wants. The outcome is friendlier hours and a broader spectrum of activities.
The staff and Friends of Hadleigh Library are to be congratulated on their initiative and it’s great to see a community service being proactive in identifying needs and responding to those needs. Here I must declare my interests. From 2007 to 2015 I held my monthly constituent surgeries in the Library. I have also allocated funds from my County Councillor’s Locality Budget to fund contributions to:

  • upgrading the Seminar Room,
  • sponsoring book tokens for the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge and
  • helping to purchase a sofa – thus enhancing a less formal area for parent/child interaction.

It’s incredibly satisfying to see what happens when people are free from the “dead hand of government” and more power to their elbow!


Cock Up, Conspiracy or just Business as Usual?

EaCoxs Park 120915 rlier this month the enquiry into the status of Cox’s Park in Hadleigh was adjourned on its first day after additional evidence was submitted by Babergh District Council. Babergh wishes to build housing on the parkland and since 2013 residents have been trying to have the park designated as a town green.
The inspector quite rightly adjourned the enquiry for four weeks to allow the residents to inspect the 60 pages of new evidence presented by Babergh and this evening (Thursday 25th) there is a meeting of Hadleigh Town Council to review the situation. The meeting is open to the public.
This is all very well, but what were Babergh thinking of dumping over 60 pages of evidence on the enquiry on its first day. Did they think they could disrupt the decision process by denying the residents the chance to review the evidence? Did they think that such a manoeuvre would work in their favour?
No explanation has been made as to why this stratagem was adopted by Babergh. The quotation from Babergh’s Strategic Director (People) merely refers to their awareness “of the strength of local feeling for East House and the surrounding land.” This of course begs the question why did they use this tactic. Was it deliberate? Was it happenstance? Or is it an example of what they usually do –  blunder onwards? Is this Tesco all over again – blindly going forward when the evidence indicates that the well being of the town and the wishes of the people demand otherwise?

Hadleigh Town Council

My very Whiting Rgood friend Richard Whiting has been elected Mayor of Hadleigh for the next year. He is a very experienced Councillor and will bring an appropriate level of gravitas to the job. One of his tasks will be to represent the town at social functions. Judging by the experience of his predecessors he will be invited to over fifty such occasions and will thus become an expert on canapés and outside caterers!
Richard ran on a Lib-Dem ticket and I suspect that he will be the last Lib-Dem Mayor for a considerable time.
Hadleigh Town Council meets monthly and one of my functions is to give a report on my activities and matters affecting the town. As I am no longer a District Councillor I expect my reports to be shorter than heretofore and my report for May is attached. Please see HTC Report 150517

Small Success – Threadneedle Street

I’m grateful to be able to report a small success and an election issue resolved.
Since early 2012 I have been working on upgrading a footpath in Threadneedle Street at the back of the Eight Bells public house. The footpath got missed in the planning process for the houses at the back of the pub. For the last few days the street has been closed off and this morning when I called, the path had been cleaned up and was ready for a proper coating of asphalt or whatever passes as a suitable covering.
What is important is that children and adults on their way to school will have a cleaner and safer path. The job is well under way and it shows what local politicians can do!

Threadneedle Street May 2013
Threadneedle Street May 2013
Threadneedle Street December 2014
Threadneedle Street December 2014

Brett River Children’s Centre

Brett River Children's CentreEarlier this month my neighbour Jane Basham catalogued the activities and services available at the Children’s Centre. The list is very impressive as follows:
Access To Suffolk Library Services;
Autism Suffolk Parent Group;
Birth And Beyond;
Breast Feeding Workshops;
Career Advice And Support Service;
Child Health Clinic And Sensory Babies;
Child Health Clinic;
From Floor To Four;
Infant Massage;
Made Of Money;
Making & Creating;
Mini Maulers;
Place To Raise Child Protection Concerns
Rise & Shine;
Sing & Sign;
Snap Drop In Service (Housing Related Support);
Swap Shop (For Clothes);
Targeted Family Support Practitioners,;
Targeted Financial Support;
Time For Me;
Time With My Dad;
Walkers & Talkers;
Weaning Group;
And then she tells us that “it all FREE”.
Except that it isn’t. It doesn’t fall like rain from the skies. It must be paid for and if we wish to continue the services then the taxpayer has to put their hands in their pockets. The County’s consultation is about reviewing the way we provide services to the people who need them in the most effective manner possible. It is also about ensuring that residents get the best value possible.
The more responses the County receives to its consultation, the better informed they will be.

Streets Belong To The People, Roads Belong To Everyone – Benton Street

Benton Street 1108301610Over the past two days I have delivered letters to every household in Benton Street as follows:
“For a number of years we have experienced increased traffic on Benton Street using the street as a throughway to and from the A12. The incidence of overweight vehicles seems to have abated with the installation of improved signage at Copdock and at the East Bergholt/Hadleigh turn off, but we are still experiencing goods vehicles and private cars using us as a convenient short cut for the surrounding villages. Worse, drivers seem to think that they can drive on the pavements without regard to the residents.
A number of ideas have been circulating for some time. These include a bypass via Hook Lane, railings and a pinch point chicane/ priority traffic system.
Suffolk’s Economy Skills & Environment Department have suggested that we try a pilot programme of installing a priority traffic system between 50 and 60 Benton Street. The priority system would consist of pavement build-outs on each side of the road (see plan below). This will ensure that drivers are aware that it is not possible to pass each other in this narrow section of Benton Street and formalise the requirement to give way to oncoming traffic. Additional parking restrictions would need to be introduced to allow queuing in advance of the build-outs and approximately 7 parking spaces (including 1 advisory disabled bay, which is currently not being used) would be lost. However there would be facility to offset this loss by revoking some of the parking restrictions further along Benton Street.
If these proposals are pursued, SCC will introduce an experimental priority system, using temporary water filled barriers, for 6-12 months to confirm the effectiveness of the proposed treatment.
If you feel that Benton Street should remain the same, please tell me. Similarly if you want change, then please let me know which of the choices is most acceptable and if you have other ideas please share them with me.
A larger version of the plan will be on display upstairs in the Library at 10 a.m. on Saturday 13th September when this informal consultation will end. “
So far the feed back (on the street) has been positive.
However I would like written feedback so that we can go ahead with firmly based actions.

Benton Street Chicane Proposal 140805

Faux Sans Culottes

Sans-CulottesReaders of this blog will be aware that Suffolk County Council are reviewing the provision of Children’s Centres and are consulting on the proposal to merge the Hadleigh service with that of East Bergholt and close the building in Hadleigh.
A number of Hadleigh residents contacted me asking me to vote against the proposals and Jane Basham, Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for South Suffolk has criticised me for not speaking at the Council meeting and for voting for the proposals to consult.
Now to anyone who is interested I will explain how democracy works. Basically every lead party holds pre meeting meetings. These are for the members of the lead party to ask questions particularly those which might be awkward and which could provide unnecessary comfort to the opposition. The system lets matters of concern to be dealt with, so that the necessary majority can be obtained. For the lead party the Council Chamber is for decision making. For the opposition parties it is a forum to advance their views and where necessary embarrass the lead party. The purpose of opposition is to become a lead party. The purpose of the lead party is to retain the voters’ confidence and hold on to office.
Thus the criticism of me is unwarranted. To anyone who asks I will tell them that prior to the pre-meeting meeting and the Council meeting itself I obtained from the Leader of the Council a firm undertaking that the consultation would be genuine and not an exercise in giving democratic legitimacy to a decision already made. I received the same undertaking from the Portfolio Holder.
I like criticism of me to be unfounded in reality. What I do not like is for the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for South Suffolk complaining that the documentation has been hard to find. Why not then ask the County Councillor where the documentation is to be found and if necessary obtain hard copies? Instead we have a campaign based on noise and dust. Beyond saying that the Centre should not be closed, there are no arguments or articulated facts to substantiate that view. Instead a large number of parents and families are destabilised and unnecessarily stressed.
I am more than willing to work across parties. With the help of others I obtained the restoration of the later evening and Sunday bus services to and from Ipswich.  I took a major role in resisting (and defeating) the application from Tesco to build another supermarket in Hadleigh. And so on.
There is an on line petition and last time I looked it had 189 signatures. The Bus Service team gathered over 4,000 signatures. The petition complains about the consultation taking place over the summer holidays. Well, if your summer holiday extends to the 16th October then you probably don’t need the services of the Children’s Centre. Then again the petition support preamble states “I am going to speak to Suffolk County Council and find out how to make representation to a consultation which does not appear to have any point of access”. But page 12 of the Consultation Documentation clearly states that you can respond on line or by Freepost Mail (and gives the addresses concerned).
And what of the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for South Suffolk?
I can find no trace of her having ever held elected public office. She ran for the office of Police & Crime Commissioner in 2012 and was a candidate in this year’s European elections. She was unsuccessful in both contests. She was Chief Executive of ISCRE (Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality) in 2010-2011 during which time the organisation ran a deficit of  £77,907 by spending £496,556 when there was only £418,649 coming in.
So I won’t be taking criticism or advice from Ms Basham. She is not my kind of politician as she obviously prefers to shoot from the lip rather than from the hip.

Brett River Children’s Centre

Delivering the ConsultationHow to have your say
• Visit: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/consultations and complete the online questionnaire
• Hard copy questionnaires are available from local children’s centres from the beginning of August, or on request by calling: 0845 603 1842. They should be completed and returned it to:
Children’s Centre consultation
If there are difficulties in obtaining a paper copy of the consultation document please let me know.Delivering the Consultation 140725 b
• Email: ChildrensCentre.feedback@suffolk.gov.uk
All responses must be received by the end of Thursday 16 October 2014.
What happens after the consultation?
Once the consultation closes, all views will be analysed and the results reported to Suffolk County
Council’s Cabinet at its meeting in December 2014.
In the meantime I have delivered a copy of the consultation to the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for South Suffolk so that she can be fully informed.


Brett River Children’s Centre

Hadleigh Corn ExchangeIn an ideal world, politicians (on behalf of the people) would set the policy, civic officers would work up proposals and then with everything being synchronised the world would march on to a new and better existence. But mankind are not angels and we are not perfect and quite often there appears to be a mismatch between what was said, what was heard and what was produced.
We can all agree that the Council’s functions include striving for continual improvement in servicing the needs of the residents and the concomitant mandate to provide value for money. Thus the provision of children’s services is scheduled by Suffolk County Council for review and remodelling as necessary.
And then the mismatch occurred between desire and action. At the Council meeting on the 17th July it was proposed that the Council would consult on merging the Brett River Children’s Centre with Cherry Blossom Children’s Centre, East Bergholt and close the building currently used by Brett River. When I first read the document at home there was an outbreak of expletive driven thunder and lightning and got ready to ride off into battle.
I subsequently obtained from my Council Leader an unequivocal undertaking that this was to be a genuine consultation and not a cynical move to give democratic legitimacy to a decision already taken. I promised a robust response to the consultation. Similarly before the main Council meeting I obtained the same undertaking from the Portfolio Holder. And at the main meeting he stated that he did not become elected in order to reduce services and close buildings.
The consultation period will run for two months to get us over the Summer holidays. The consultation document will be available on line and in hard copy. I am arranging to obtain hard copies of the consultation document so that it is fully available to all concerned.
If a hard copy is required then please respond to this posting
Am I bothered by all this? Yes I am – because officers cannot know my locality as well as I do. Similarly I am not as familiar as they are with their areas of expertise. That is why they are employed. But I am elected to front up for Hadleigh’s residents whether they vote for me or not.
There are a number of flaws in the consultation document and the ideas on which it is based.
My role is to protect and promote the well being of our town and I am always open to ideas. To support me in my endeavours I need as many people as possible to respond to the consultation. Responses can be by email or letter to the Assistant Director – Early Help and Specialist Services. Responses can be short and pithy or they can be as detailed as an E.U. regulation. What matters is that we show that our needs cannot be met by merging with East Bergholt.
As soon as the consultation is published, I’ll put details on Facebook and on this blog – then we can go forward together towards the smell of smoke and the sound of gunfire. What we should not be doing is responding to half truths and the hysterics of the ignorant whose agendas may not be in chime with our own.