Thursday, April 7, 2011

Two Horse Race for District Council in Stradbroke and Laxfield

Nominations have closed for the Mid Suffolk District Council elections and you can see a full list of candidates on the Mid Suffolk Website

Here in Stradbroke and Laxfield there are two candidates. Myself standing for the Liberal Democrats and the sitting councillor Stuart Gemmill standing as an independent. On the Council Stuart sits as a member of the "Conservative and Independent Group" who are currently in control of Mid Suffolk District Council.

A total of 128 candidates are standing for the 40 available seats across Mid Suffolk with only one candidate elected without a contest, as Rachel Eburne for the Green Part was the only person nominated for the Haughley and Wetherden ward (which she won from the Conservatives in a by-election last year).

The current composition of the Council is 24 Conservative and Independents, 10 Liberal Democrats, and 6 in the Suffolk Together, Green and Independent group.

37 out of the current 40 councillors are seeking re-election.

The election will be held on Thursday 5th May and polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm. The referendum on use of "Alternative Vote" for parliamentary elections will take place on the same day but as I blogged earlier there will be no elections in Stradbroke and Laxfield for Parish Councillors as they have all been elected unopposed.

There is still time up until Thursday 14th April to Register to Vote or to request a Postal Vote click the links or call the elections team at Mid Suffolk on 01449 724672.

There is an interesting Wikipedia page on Mid Suffolk Election Results showing who has held the Council over the years and by-election results.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stradbroke and Laxfield Parish Councils Elected Unopposed

Both Stradbroke and Laxfield Parish Councils have been elected unopposed as you can see from the Nominatons on Mid Suffolk District Council's website.

Stradbroke Parish Council - 12 Nominations for 13 seats

Stuart James GEMMILL
James Edward HARGRAVE
Gerald Walter JENKINS
Maureen JOHN
Oliver LAST
Velda Kathleen LUMMIS
Mark William PEACOCK
Michael Thomas READMAN
Michael John SMITH
Peter Donald SMITH

Laxfield Parish Council - 11 Nominations for 11 Seats

Wendy Lillian ABBOTT
Alastair CLARKE
Kevin John COOK
Mary Philippa GAGG
Sally Glynis LARKE
Derek William WATKINS
Jenny WATT
Ian Reginald WILLIAMS
Timothy John WOOLNOUGH

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Guy McGregor enters County Council Leadership Race

Guy McGregor receiving a petition of more than 750
local residents to Save Stradbroke Library
Local Conservative County Councillor Guy McGregor who is the county councillor for Stradbroke and Laxfield has put himself forward as the third candidate in the race to succeed Jeremy Pembroke as leader of Suffolk County Council who resigned last week.

Today's EADT reports that McGregor is presenting himself as a "compromise" candidate between Mark Bee and Colin Noble. Guy says:

I think it is important that we stop and think what the people of Suffolk want before we start coming up with too many radical ideas.
I would rather we ran the council as the people of Suffolk want it to be run rather than trying to impress ministers in London.
All of this sounds fantastic and is what many of us have been saying for months. However it is the exact opposite of the way Guy McGregor has been behaving.

Challenged to support Stradbroke Library Guy McGregor refused to sign the petition in support of keeping the library open. He has not provided any support to the campaign to keep the library open preferring to support the planned experimental "divestment" of Stradbroke and Eye libraries as part of a plan that cabinet colleague Judy Terry boasts has the support of ministers in London. This despite being handed a petition of more than 750 local residents, 60% of the population.

I might have missed it but when did the people of Suffolk get asked if we wanted the tip in Eye closed or the eXplore card that provides discounted travel for young people withdrawn?

In the video below you can see local resident Richard Pierce-Saunderson talking to GuyMcGregor and challenging him to listen to the people of Suffolk on issues such as Stradbroke library and the salaries of senior Council Officials. I wonder if he has changed his mind since this video was made?

You can also watch the second part of this video on You Tube

Monday, April 4, 2011

why I am standing at the District Council elections as a Lib Dem Candidate

People don't really notice local government. Until it goes badly wrong that is. That is what has happened in Suffolk over the past year to two years and currently local government has a high profile but for all the wrong reasons. We now have an out of control County Council and there are two years until the elections. Public services are being cut and the council appears to be being run by an unelected and overpaid Chief Executive.

But there are elections to the District Councils in Suffolk this May and whilst these elections won't stop the cuts and out of control behavior of our County Council the results will send a message to the Conservative administration. District councillors can help to stand up strongly against the cuts and campaign for services to be kept in our local villages.

District Councils are responsible for many important local services and decisions such as planning, refuse collection, licensing, housing and leisure centres that make a difference to people's daily lives. This is not the stuff of high party politics but the councillors are all part of political groups and currently the Conservative and Independent Group is in control of the council with 24 seats,  Greens and Suffolk Together have 6 seats and the Liberal Democrats 10.

So I have decided to stand for election to the District Council as a Lib Dem candidate. I will publish a full election leaflet shortly but if elected I will:
  • Act as a strong voice for all the people of Stradbroke and Laxfield in defending public services provided by the District Council and campaign actively against cuts to vital village services such as libraries, post offices, medical services, transport links and youth services
  • Work closely with both Stradbroke Parish Council (which I have just been elected to) and Laxfield Parish Council and support decision making at a parish level wherever possible
  • Work to ensure that the planned merger between Mid Suffolk and Babergh District provides value for money for council tax payers and continues to maintain local accountability
  • Work to ensure that the joint venture company "Customer Service Direct" owned by BT, Mid Suffolk and Suffolk County Council provides value for money
  • Work to support affordable housing whilst maintaining the character of Stradbroke and Laxfield
  • Ensure that information is provided to the people of Stradbroke and Laxfield about the the District Council through parish magazines, the Stradbroke and Laxfield parish websites and through my own Blog
If you would like to help me in my campaign please Contact Me. Any help would be appreciated and you don't have to be a Lib Dem member or anything to help out.

Stradbroke Primary School's "Outstanding" Ofsted Report!

Stradbroke Primary School where I have been the Chair of Governors for the past 4 years was inspected by Ofsted recently. The inspection report has been released today and I am delighted to be able to say that we have been judged to be "outstanding" which is the highest category.

This is a huge achievement for the school and I would like to congratulate Mrs Melanie Barrow the Headteacher and all the staff of the school. What makes an outstanding school is outstanding staff teaching and supporting outstanding lessons and that is just what the school has.

The report says:
Stradbroke Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary School is an outstanding school. It has improved considerably since its last inspection owing to the relentless drive of the headteacher, whose dynamic and innovative leadership has built a very strong team of outstanding staff...Parents and carers are delighted with the work of the school. One, speaking for many, said, ‘Mrs Barrow and her team never stay still! The school isalways moving forward and the children are excited and ‘pumped’ about school and learning, week in, week out. That is an accomplishment indeed!’ 
The quality of teaching and learning is outstanding. Lessons inspire the pupils because they are fully involved in their learning, work is pitched precisely to meet their needs and there is a high level of challenge.
In respect of the way the school is governed the report says:
The senior leadership team is constantly looking for solutions rather than finding problems, and they are joined in this by the highly effective governing body, whose strategic view has placed the school on a firm financial footing and whose expertise has supported all aspects of the school’s development. Governors display considerable levels of challenge, like everybody else,expecting the best from the school’s leaders.
Melanie Barrow, Headteacher of the School commented in a letter to parents today:
This really is a very significant and important achievement. It is validation that we have a high performing and successful school and it is one which I am very proud to be Headteacher of. As the report states “Stradbroke Primary is an Outstanding school”.
There is a copy of the full report attached below for you to read or download. Please see the Stradbroke Primary School website for more about the school.

View Report on Scribd

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Save Suffolk Libraries March

Saturday 2nd April saw hundreds of people take to the streets of Ipswich to march to Save Suffolk Libraries. People came from all over the county to join the march organised by Rosehill Readers against the planned "divestment" of library services by Suffolk County Council. This could see libraries closed or outsourced.



There is still nearly a month to reply to Suffolk County Council's consultation just fill in Section 7 (What do you think about our overall proposals for the library service?)  if you want to have your say but don't want to offer to run your local library! It's OK just to fill this part in. The consultation closes on 30th April.

You might also want to complete section 1 (What library services do you want in future for your community?). If you like the services that are currently provided just say so!


If you have't already signed a paper or online version of the Save All Suffolk Libraries petition and live, work or study in Suffolk please sign the petition now!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Speech at the Save Suffolk Libraries March

A big thank you to the fantastic Rosehill Readers for organising the march today, they did a great job!

I’m James Hargrave and live in Stradbroke and have been part of the campaign to save the library in our village.

Back before Christmas there was a deal on the table between Stradbroke Parish Council and Suffolk County Council. The County Council would give the Courthouse building to the Parish and the Parish Council would contribute around £900 a year towards running the library. That was the agreed deal.

This would have meant increasing the parish council element of the Council Tax - effectively “double taxation” but Stradbroke would still have a library and it would be affordable.

All that changed on 18th January when Suffolk County Council produced their so-called consultation document that listed 29 libraries that would be closed unless they could be, in Suffolk County Council’s Orwellian language “divested”.

Stradbroke was on the list and after many enquiries from the Chair of the Parish Council it was evident that SCC has reneged on the agreement. Subsequently Roger McMaster, Head of Suffolk libraries (who has since resigned) ended up apologising to the Parish Council in front of a packed meeting room with hundreds of Stradbroke residents for - HIS WORDS- “misleading” the parish.

The full extent of the situation became clear. Suffolk would still give the building (and all its bills) to the parish and would pay for the IT and books. The parish would “only” have to pay staffing and other costs of some £17 000 to £20 000 a year. The whole council’s budget is only £24 000!!

This was clearly impossible.

Then a group of Stradbroke residents became aware of the “National Day of Action” for libraries on Saturday 5th February and we realised nearly 500 libraries across the UK were at risk. We met in a pub and planned a day of action, set up websites, Facebook groups, Twitter accounts and printed good old fashioned leaflets and then we turned up on the day with no idea how many people would be there.

The response was amazing and an estimated 250 people turned up to pack the tiny library and be the first of over 750 signatures we got on our petition. This 60% of the 1250 residents of Stradbroke.

On this day we made two videos that you can still see on our website at one video was asking simply why the residents came along and why they wanted to save their library. It is an incredibly powerful and moving film.. Ordinary people talking about why they love and rely on their library.

The other video is also very powerful but for different reasons! It is a video of myself and the Chair of Stradbroke Parish Council talking to our local County Councillor Guy McGregor who is a member of Suffolk County Council’s cabinet and voted for the cuts. He didn’t want to speak to me and had no real answers to how the library could be kept open and where the money would come from.

So we pressed on and held a big public meeting to which Guy McGregor and Roger McMaster were invited. The Community centre was packed and we showed the video of residents speaking at the start of the meeting, The mood of the meeting was clear. Stradbroke residents wanted to keep their library and everyone present thought Suffolk County Council should fund it.

At that meeting Ann Kerr the Chairman of the Parish Council gave a moving speech. Annie is here today and she has been a fantastic member of the campaign to save the library. I want to end by reading a portion of her speech (which you can read in full on the Stradbroke website) which she addressed to the Head of libraries, Our County Councillor and the residents she represents. Annie began by saying:
I think Suffolk County Council is threatening and bullying the small towns and villages with the closure of their libraries. The whole process is essentially undemocratic. If you happen to live in a relatively affluent community it maybe that a benefactor will come forward to provide some or all of the funding required. If not your library could close
But what got the biggest cheer in Stradbroke were her words on the so-called “big society”. Annie said:
Finally, I would like to comment on the concept of the ‘Big Society’. I call this an absolute insult. Villages, towns and cities all over England are more that capable of being a big society. We have been doing it for centuries…we do not need any lectures from the Government or Suffolk County Council about the big society. It happens here every day, every week and every year.
What the people of Stradbroke, and everyone here wants from Suffolk County Council is for them to listen to the thousands of people who have signed petitions and gone on marches to fill the “gaps” of their flawed consultation. We don’t want our intelligence insulted by claims to be empowering communities and “doing things differently” when in the real world on the ground these are fancy words for cutting services and closing libraries.

We want Suffolk to remove the threat of closure and to continue to fund the library service that is a lifeline to many and part of what makes for, never mind a big society, but a civilised society!

Thank you.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Save Suffolk's Libraries March in Ipswich Tomorrow 2nd April 11am Endeavour House

Join the Save Suffolk Libraries March in protest at the planned divestment of Suffolk Libraries.
11am Saturday 2nd April (tomorrow)
Endeavour House, Ipswich

Jeremy Pembroke quits as Suffolk County Council leader as Andrea Hill sends incredible two page rant to staff

Andrea Hill and Jeremy Pembroke
Photo: EADT
This morning Jeremy Pembroke confirmed that he is to quit as Suffolk County Council's leader. In a live interview with BBC Radio Suffolk's Mark Murphy he claimed that he had been planning to "retire" since December. He denied that his resignation had anything to do with recent problems facing the County Council.

Pembroke claimed that he wanted a younger person (he is soon to be 70) to take over and give them chance to get established before the 2013 elections.

He insisted that the "New Strategic Direction" will remain in place and defended the appointment of Andrea Hill. Listeners to BBC Radio Suffolk did not sounds so convinced with one describing his departure as "rats leaving a sinking ship".

Sandy Martin, Labour Group Leader on SCC expressed serious concerns that politicians are not in charge of Suffolk County Council and pointed to the departure of Graham Dixon and EricWhitfield as being especially worrying. The clear impression is that Andrea Hill is running Suffolk County Council with the elected politicians essentially "nodding dogs".

Crossing with Pembroke's departure Andrea Hill's monthly missive to staff was published. Last month this prompted my open letter to "Misunderstood" at Endeavour House but this month a whole extra page has been added to the magazine to accommodate an incredible two page rant about how unfair the attacks on her and Jeremy Pembroke are.

You really have to read the full text on wikisuffolk to appreciate this but some highlights are the suggestion that that this is "the politics of envy" and:
Let's be clear, Suffolk County Council is now at the leading edge of new thinking in the public sector. We have an inspiring and bold Cabinet who have placed us there. It's not an easy or comfortable place to be because we are challenging the old ways of doing things; we are developing a new model that will unsettle the status quo and, as we all know, any change makes ordinary people uncertain (my emphasis)
On Pembroke Hill is especially glowing describing him as:
the most honest, visionary, trustworthy politician I have ever worked with, is, in my view, being unfairly attacked by a local newspaper. But we also have advocates and supporters both in central government, and local government, who are looking to Suffolk as a future role model. You won't see them in the media - and you might well ask why - but be sure they exist.
 Having worked in IT for many years, being on the "leading edge" is something the wise avoid. One might suggest the reasons that others are not mentioning their interest in the Suffolk "experiment" is so they can disassociate themselves from it when it all goes wrong or "crashing high speed off the edge of a cliff" to quote Sandy Martin.