Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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I am your father, Richard

Christmas spirit: Ipswich Town Hall

I attended the full meeting of Ipswich Borough Council, where all 48 councillors should (but rarely all do) turn up for a good old political ding-dong.

Local Government, and especially district councils like Ipswich, is terribly bloated with councils having probably double the number of staff they really need to do the basics: collect the rubbish from the kerbside and the litter from the street (although this is rarely done in residential areas if at all), tend to the parks, collect the business rates and do the only thing district councils have any real power over: processing planning applications. The rest of their activity on community cohesion, applying for Fairtrade town status, ensuring council house residents eat five pieces of fruit a day etc is merely done to keep people in non-jobs. When did government become a place for people who can’t get any meaningful productive work to spend their days?
Wannabe MP: Cllr David Ellesmere
Anyway, this is why full council meetings are 80% pointless. Motions are put forward which boil down to an hour of hot air which achieve a big fat zero. Take the motion proposed by wannabe Labour MP David Ellesmere, Labour council leader and part-time software engineer on the rumoured closure of the Royal Mail sorting office on Commercial Road. What power has Ipswich Borough Council got to stop it? That’s right, no power at all. Do you think Royal Mail even know a motion was proposed last night? Did they hear it? A few posties turned up but was anyone from Royal Mail management there taking note of this earnest motion. No. Most Royal Mail management wouldn’t even know when or where Ipswich Borough Council met or which political party was in charge.
On a political note, Cllr Ellesmere’s motion backfired on him. He was hoping the Tories would be in favour of the sorting office closure. Not so. The Tory amendment  presented by their leader Cllr John Carnall, went one further and said Ipswich should be the sorting office centre of East Anglia. The posties even clapped Tory John. When the motion ping-pong ball was batted back to the Labour leader he didn’t know what to do with himself. So he proceeded to tie himself in knots by saying he agreed with the Tory amendment but didn’t agree with it and he wanted Cllr Carnall to drop his amendment so Labour could adopt the Tory amendment and present it as their own amendment. Cllr Ellesmere made himself look like a little schoolboy who wanted to have the last word. The arithmetic at the council meant Cllr Carnall had little choice but to agree to Cllr Ellesmere’s childish plan.
Then the meeting moved on to Council Questions. This is probably the only part of the gathering which has any meaning and benefit to the democratic process. It’s just a pity no one hears the questions and answers other than the councillors and two or three members of the public who normally turn up. This is why Ipswich Borough Council’s communications officers should pull their finger out and get on with web-casting council meetings to the wider Ipswich community. 
I love wind farms: Cllr Sandy Martin
Questions about the height (they will each be 130 metres tall) of the proposed wind turbines at Thorington Hall were asked by A Riverside View blogger Kevin Algar to Cllr Sandy Martin, Portfolio Holder for Fairer and Greener Ipswich, who yet again dismissed the concerns of local residents over these monstrosities. Labour love wind farms so why bother standing up for the majority of residents who don’t: it is clear Labour will not represent local residents and in doing so are actively supporting the wind farm development by not standing in the way of energy firm Partnership for Renewables . 
There was also a question from Cllr Carnall on council tax for 2013/14 to finance chief Cllr Martin Cook. Cllr Cook refused to say whether council tax would increase. Labour have form in raising council tax rather than find savings so don’t be surprised if the Ipswich precept goes up in April.
We also learnt at the meeting through a question from Cllr Robin Vickery that emergency repairs to County Hall, the former home of Suffolk County Council, are taking place. The site has been stood derelict since 2005 and is in a bad state. Its listed status and current financial climate seems to be delaying any development. And Cllr Judy Terry got out of culture chief Cllr Bryony Rudkin that the number of performances at council-owned The Regent theatre dropped in 2011. This is typical of Labour: they inherit a revitalised Regent theatre – masterminded by former culture chief Cllr Terry when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats ran the council – and they begin to run it down the moment they get their hands on it. Just like the economy.
Next up was a report on Council benefits and how from April 2013 local councils will be responsible for paying out discounts on council tax to those on low incomes from their own budgets as determined in the Welfare Reform Act 2012. The Coalition Government’s aim is to force councils to find savings in all that non-job stuff like five-a-day coordinators and segregating communities in the name of multiculturalism (didn’t they get the memo from David Cameron?) rather than see their low wage voters miss out on a council tax discount. This got socialist Cllr Keith Rawlingson very excited about people deserving hand-outs. He should try living in Eastern or Southern Europe where they wouldn’t know to laugh or cry if you told them how much taxpayer’s money was dished out to people to top up their salaries here in the UK. Despite all this fuming from Red Keith and for the record, Labour in Ipswich chose to hit people on low incomes rather than scrap pointless activity at Grafton House.
Paternity test: Cllr Richard Pope
The final business item was another motion, this time from Tory Cllr Richard Pope, the Shadow Housing Portfolio Holder. Cllr Pope proposed, in keeping with the Christmas spirit and saying thank you to Father Christmas for our presents, the council should ask the Chief Executive, Russell Williams, to write a thank you letter to the Government’s housing minister, Mark Prisk MP, congratulating the Government on their Housing Revenue Account reforms, which will allow local councils to keep more of the money they collect from council housing tenants. This money is being used by the current Labour administration in Ipswich to build new council houses. 
As amusing as the motion was it served no purpose other than a light political knock-about before the Christmas recess. Cllr Ellesmere questioned why Cllr Pope didn’t write his own thank you letter but instead wanted to get his “dad” to write it for him. A sound of bemusement spread through the council chamber. Was Russell Williams Cllr Pope’s father? 
This little quip from the Labour leader spoke volumes on how Labour councillors see officers as superior to them. Either that, or the chief executive is to tell Cllr Pope: “I am your father, Richard”.


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Ipswich Borough Full Council Meeting: 20th June 2012

Shock, horror, Labour have done something I agree with in Ipswich: they have moved the Full Council meetings back to the grand surroundings of the Town Hall Council Chamber overlooking the Cornhill.

It was announced at last night’s Council meeting by Mayor Cllr Mary Blake that all Full Council meetings will take place in the Town Hall from now on. When I was a councillor, I disliked having to use Suffolk County Council’s Council Chamber at Endeavour House when we had a perfectly good Council Chamber in Ipswich’s very own Town Hall. Like a lot things, it was no doubt for the benefit of officers who could just walk across the road from Grafton House when the 6-weekly democratic inconvenience of a Full Council meeting occurred. Say what you like about Labour but if they have a political objective they barge the officers away to achieve it, albeit taking over a year to do so. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition leadership couldn’t even get the photo of its councillors put up in the Town Hall showing the Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration and instead we constantly had to look at the photos from the never-ending Labour years from before 2004. 
Anyway, back to the business of the council meeting. 
Council Questions 

First up was Cllr Kym Stroet who asked Labour’s Economic Decline Development chief, Cllr Carole Jones, if she was unhappy Ipswich had failed to be chosen as a so-called Portas Pilot. For the uninitiated, a Portas Pilot, named after retail guru and champion of the scheme, Mary Portas, is a central government scheme to re-energise the country’s high streets. If chosen, a town gets £100,000 of taxpayers’ money and advice from Mary Portas to improve their local high street. Cllr Jones retorted: “Yes.” Cllr Stroet then followed up with a supplementary asking if there had been a disagreement between Ipswich Central – the town centre management company – and the Council about bidding to become a Portas Pilot in the second round. Cllr Stroet was asking a rhetorical question as he and Cllr Jones had been at the same meeting where the falling-out took place between Paul Clement’s Ipswich Central and the Borough Council’s Cllr Carole Jones. The supplementary question did reveal more detail about the friction between Ipswich Central and the new Labour administration as it was made clear in Cllr Jones’ reply the Council is in favour of becoming a Portas Pilot whereas Ipswich Central are not so keen (possibly because they don’t like the idea of taking advice from anyone else?).
Personally, I don’t believe Ipswich needs the additional support from Mary Portas. Many residents complain about our high street but they are probably the type to moan about anything. Ipswich might have its development issues on the Waterfront but our high street is thriving compared to similar sized towns across the country, most noticeably in the North West which I visited last weekend – the number of boarded up shops there is truly depressing.
Next up was Cllr Robin Vickery who complained that some residents in Castle Hill ward will have to change polling station. I’m always a bit uneasy about councillors getting involved in the organisation of elections – it’s one area I am happy for the officers to handle and take the blame for. We live in a democracy and councillors should be seen to be at arms length from the returning officer and his team as to not do so puts the incumbent councillor in a more favourable position than the humble candidate.
Cllr Debman then popped up to also ask a question to Cllr Jones. I like George Debman’s direct style of communication. Unlike with some councillors, you know what he is on about. He asked: “Is Ipswich open for business this Summer?” with reference to the high number of roadworks around the town, some connected to the major Suffolk County Council transport project – Ipswich Fit for the 21st Century – works. Cllr Jones lived up to her Economic Decline role and refused to answer and said Cllr Debman should ask Labour’s transport spokesman, Cllr Phil Smart. 
Tory Group leader Cllr John Carnall asked further questions to Cllr Jones with one around the lack of consultation with market traders on the Cornhill prior to the Labour council’s decision to take the management of the market back in-house. Cllr Jones waffled on that consultation did take place – during the Town Centre Masterplan consultation – several months ago and that the market managers were happy. Well, they are not exactly ecstatic if you read their tweet on the subject:

Former Conservative Group leader Cllr Liz Harsant asked South East Area Committee Chairman, Labour’s Cllr Keith Rawlingson, what he was doing to improve the communication of Area Committee dates and venue details to residents and how he thinks the new Committee structure is performing. She told Cllr Rawlingson there was no information on the last South East Committee venue on the Council’s website and that the format of a Committee meeting in a ward venue was too formal and restricted the involvement of residents, something which runs contrary to the Council’s policy.

Cllr Rawlingson took a defensive stance and ruled the Area Committees were “working reasonably well” and in typical Keith-style he got a tad angry and said the last Committee meeting WAS advertised on the Council’s website. Yes, it was – just not on the South East Area Committee page! Area Committees were brought in to try and bring decision-making closer to the public but they do the complete opposite by keeping residents at arms length, with a barrier (literally, there is a long table!) between Councillors and residents at the meetings with only one slot available for residents to put their hand up and ask a question. Straight out of the Stalinist text book!

One of the most interesting topics raised was by Cllr Judy Terry who challenged Labour’s Culture and Leisure chief, Cllr Bryony Rudkin, on the delays to the Crown Pools swimming pool improvements. It has recently been revealed the contractor has had problems with the tiles and many have had to be re-fitted. Cllr Terry asked who was going to pay for the additional work: the contractor or the council taxpayer? Unsurprisingly, Cllr Rudkin did not have an answer and suggested there were “many lessons to be learned” from the way the project has been managed. That was almost attack on their beloved officers!
Cllr Rudkin also childishly said her Labour administration would also be trying to learn from good examples of council project management which took place 8 or 10 years ago – conveniently before the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition was formed in 2004.

Next up was Tory Shadow Housing Portfolio Holder Cllr Richard Pope who laid into Labour housing supremo Cllr John Mowles with a question on refurbishment contracts for council-owned homes. Cllr Pope asked: “Why is it that priority for refurbishment is not given to the homes of the most vulnerable and elderly residents?” Cllr Mowles could not give an answer but told us the Council regularly holds discussions with its contractors. Hardly reassuring to residents I am sure.
Cllr Pope then quipped: “My next question is simpler so hopefully we will get an answer!”, which sparked laughter throughout the chamber. His supplementary asked Cllr Mowles if council house building in Ipswich was now possible because of changes by the Coalition Government to local government housing finances and should he now write to Housing Minister Grant Shapps MP thanking him for making his “dreams come true”. Cllr Mowles dodged the question and instead took a swipe at Tory MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, accusing Mr Gummer of saying council house building was a “vanity project”. It didn’t take long before this was denied on Twitter by Ipswich’s MP:

As a result of a mumbled question (which I have to admit I didn’t catch) from Liberal Democrat Cllr Inga Lockington to Cllr Jones, the Northern Fringe – the council-owned land between Ipswich and Westerfield – raised it’s head. Cllr Jones gleefully told Cllr Lockington that the Council had a legal principle to develop the Northern Fringe for housing as stated in the Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF). Cllr Lockington should know considering the previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration she was part of pushed through the LDF!  I personally think building houses on the Northern Fringe would be a great step forward for Ipswich as long as the house builders are carefully chosen so poor quality housing stock which was built on the Ravenswood estate is not repeated. But considering the need to have 40% affordable housing, I can see the same mistake happening again.

Mrs Sally Wainman finished off Council Questions with – you guessed it – a question on Broomhill Pool where she brazenly asked for two million pounds. Cllr Rudkin’s answer was spoken so fast I didn’t catch all of it but needless to say the answer was “No!”.

New Code of Conduct Arrangements under the Localism Act 2011


A report to revise the code of conduct for Councillors as a result of the new Localism parliamentary act was tabled by Council leader Cllr David Ellesmere. The headline from this report is the hated Stasi-like Standards Committee will be abolished and councillors will not have the thought police breathing down their necks in future as the rule of ‘pre-determination’ – whereby a councillor could not have a view and could not represent his/her residents – is also being scrapped. You guessed it, these were measures brought in by the last Labour government to suppress Tory dominated local government.

Cllr John Carnall passionately defended the Localism Act and told us that out of 6000 complaints received by the Standards Board for England only 28% were worthy of investigation with the vast majority of complaints from councillors about councillors being vexatious and malicious. Cllr Carnall made the best point of the evening: “The local electorate judges councillors not unelected bureaucrats!”. Quite right.

The report was unanimously carried.

Corporate Health & Safety 


This report was unanimously carried with hardly a whisper from councillors. 


Treasury Management 


This report looked on paper to be a rubber stamping exercise but due to the content referencing the money still owed to the council by Icelandic banks and the changes to housing finance it sparked passionate rhetoric from Tories Cllr Carnall and Cllr Pope. Cllr Carnall pointed out that the report said the Council expected to “receive all of their investment back” from Heritable Bank and Landsbanki but Finance chief Cllr Martin Cook had said only a moment or two ago during his tabling of the report that the Council did NOT expect to get all its money back. Cllr Carnall then asked Cllr Martin Cook to apologies on behalf of the Labour Party for putting out a leaflet in the local elections in 2011 stating the former Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration would lose £1.5M from their Icelandic investments. Cllr Cook refused to apologise for this propaganda and again contradicted his own report by saying it was still possible the council would lose money and it may even be up to £1.5M. 

Cllr Pope pointed out that the Housing Revenue Account reforms enacted by the Coalition Government have enabled Labour-run Ipswich Council to build council houses and that the HRA rules under the last Labour government meant Ipswich Borough Council never had the money to build houses.

Postscript

Interestingly, there was no report on the slashing of senior posts at Grafton House as reported by Ipswich Spy earlier this week. This is going to save the Council £500,000 a year. Surely, the size of the savings means the decision should be debated at Full Council. 


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Ipswich Borough Council Meeting: 21st March 2012

The last gathering of all 48 councillors of Ipswich Borough Council before the local elections was a short affair.

There is never a full year of Council meetings in local government because of something called purdah, which basically means elected councillors can’t be seen to be influencing the bureaucrats at the council during the election campaign period, which runs from now until 3rd May. It’s another way for Sir Humphrey to really run the show. 
Council Questions

The first question was to Labour’s transport chief, Cllr Phil Smart, from Cllr Nadia Cenci of Stoke Park ward. She queried the service performance of Ipswich Buses on the route from the town centre to Asda supermarket in her ward. A simple enough question but one which Cllr Smart managed to overly complicate by feigning confusion about which route Cllr Cenci was referring to and then he proceeded to mumble about performance statistics. Somewhere in his answer was the obligatory Labour line that “Ipswich Buses are brilliant” and how they were the “most reliable operator”. He didn’t say if their pension fund was going to be propped up by Ipswich taxpayers – I guess we’ll have to wait for that denial or confirmation another time.
Portfolio Holder for Economic Decline Development, Cllr Jones, then received a question about the derelict former Kwik-Fit garage site at St Margaret’s Green from Tory leader Cllr Carnall. He asked what the Council was doing to encourage development on this eyesore. Cllr Jones waffled on about the owner being out of the country, that the Labour dominated Planning Committee had turned down a car washing venture on the site and that local residents had told her they wanted to take over the site and turn it into a “little park”. Ah, how nice. And who will pay for this? 
Cllr Carnall then asked another question to Labour’s Economic Decline Development chief about empty shops in the town centre. Cllr Jones said there were few empty units that remained empty, which to be fair is true. I am big advocate of Ipswich town centre and do not see the doom and gloom said about the high street from local people. As I’ve said before, some northern cities would cut their right arm off to have a town centre like we have.
But then Cllr Jones entered her little fantasy world again and suggested her Economic Development team at the Council had negotiated the sale of the privately owned Tower Ramparts shopping centre and that they had single-handedly filled empty shop units with the likes of the shoe shop Office and the Apple electronics iStore. She really needs to get a grip on reality: the Economic Development department may have promoted the empty units (but the Overview & Scrutiny Committee found they were not very good at that during our analysis in 2010/11) but they certainly did not ensure they were filled – that was very much the result of the private market and investors only.
If the Economic Decline Development Portfolio Holder really wants to encourage investment into our town she should encourage the Labour dominated Planning Committee to give permission to private companies to set up shop in Ipswich, for instance on the Golden Key public house site.
Cllr Judy Terry then asked a question to Labour leader Cllr Ellesmere on what value his Administration puts on the Council’s policy on Consultation. Cllr Ellesmere took the opportunity to read extracts from Cllr Terry’s maiden speech to the council back in 2004 when she said: “…the council should get on with things, not consult.” Very well put Cllr Terry. What is the point of electing councillors to make decisions on behalf of residents if they then just pass the buck back to them? That’s not called leadership.
Next up was Holywells candidate Pam Stewart who asked two questions to Cllr Phil Smart about the topic which interests this parish greatly: the Gladstone Road/Foxhall Road footpath scheme (approved by councillors nearly three years ago!). 
Mrs Stewart asked a somewhat technical question on if “Section 26 of the Highways Act 1980” had been complied with. I am not sure this was the best way of confronting the incompetence and delay of Ipswich Borough Council on this issue – I would have probably asked what the council had been doing since August 2009 when the decision was made by councillors for the footpath creation order to go ahead, but we all have our own styles. Predictably, Cllr Smart said “Yes” to Mrs Stewart’s answer.
Mrs Stewart’s second question was far better when she asked: “When will the process be completed and the path surfaced?”. Cllr Smart shuffled on his feet and and mumbled that the order “had been sealed” and that the next milestone was 19th April when the deadline is reached for any objections to the footpath being created. But then Cllr Smart pretty much summed up this saga when he said if there were objections the process could become “very elongated”, as if it hadn’t been already! The only reason the order for the footpath has been issued and advertised is because myself and Cllr Harsant have been pushing for action from the faceless bureaucrats in Grafton House. Sir Humphrey really is in charge.
Council’s Pay Policy

One of the successes of the Coalition Government is the Localism Act which, amongst many measures, forces Councils to reveal how much they pay their senior staff. This was actually the policy of the former Conservative-led Council before the Localism Act received royal assent but the law has now forced Labour to continue with the policy and reveal what their chums are paid at Grafton House. The headline is Russell Williams, the Chief Executive, is paid tens times the lowest paid member of staff, which is a pretty good ratio. And as Cllr Carnall said: “Ipswich Borough Council is not one of those councils that pays their CEO more than the Prime Minister!”.
Cllr David Ball took the unusual step for a Labour politician and stood up to criticise the writing of the Pay Policy report. To be fair the report was a bit of a shambles with officers lazily duplicating text throughout the document to pad it out and not summarising the content of the report correctly on the front sheet. 
Socialist Cllr Sandy Martin shot up to defend his friends in the civil service and said they were doing a great job on a low wage. Well if £60,000 a year isn’t enough to ensure a report is written correctly, I am in the wrong job!
The report was voted for by all councillors.
Contractors Standard of Behaviour Policy

Labour’s Finance chief Cllr Martin Cook presented a report which said contractors must not bully or harass employees of Ipswich Borough Council. Fair enough.
But I have to say, from my experience, an employee’s knee jerk reaction is to say they are being bullied if a manager tells them they need to improve their performance. But Labour love a policy that keeps people in work but not actually working.
The report was voted for by all councillors.
Ipswich Heart Town

This was a report that shows you how peaceful and prosperous Great Britain is that councils are allowed to bid to become Heart Towns to promote healthy living. This is up there with employing five-a-day coordinators. It’s jobs for the public sector boys and girls to get paid to fill out out paperwork so the council can say we are a heart town, whatever that is.
But this report gave the loony-left on the council the excuse to ramp up the Communist rhetoric. Firstly, we had Cllr Alasdair Ross of Rushmere ward get on the bandwagon of footballer worship and crocodile tears we have seen since the sad incident where a normally healthy young man collapsed on a football pitch having suffered a heart attack. As sad as this is, the gushing grief which it triggered is only comparable to the Diana hysteria or when Michael Jackson popped his clogs. Cllr Ross said Ipswich Town Football Club would be having a minute’s applause in Fabrice Muamba‘s honour later that evening. I’m sorry, what a load of sentimental tosh. It is sad a young man is ill but so are thousands of other young men across the country. A sixteen year old boy collapsed on the school playing field and died only this week. Where are the footballers with their “Pray 4 Luke” t-shirts underneath their football shirts, ready to expose in an ecstatic thrall after kicking a football into the back of a net? Please, less of the tears. There are plenty more serious issues to get worked up about. While Christianity is trashed on a daily basis the worship at football stadiums continues apace. In the words of G. K. Chesterton: ‘When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.’
The Liberal Democrats chose the Ipswich Heart Town report to advocate the banning of everything: cigarettes, alcohol, fun etc. I wish we could ban the Yellow Peril.
For what it is worth, the report was voted for by all councillors. It was difficult to tell though, as some voting intentions were little more than raising the index finger off the desk a couple of centimetres.
Post script

Labour Mayor Cllr John Le Grys, wearing a scarlet red waistcoat just in case his political allegiance had gone unnoticed (chance would be a fine thing), thanked councillors who would be stepping down this year. There are only a handful but he couldn’t be bothered to name them. My wife is one of them so well done to her for serving her constituents for four years – longer than most people spend in one job!


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A report from a meeting of Ipswich Borough Council: 25 January 2012

After Kevin Algar’s excellent report last time round, I was back on ‘blog roll duty’ this month.

The meeting of all Ipswich Borough Councillors in Endeavour House began in a sombre fashion as all sides of the chamber paid tribute to Russell Harsant who died on Tuesday. I still can’t believe I am writing this. My tribute to Russell is here.

Cllr John Carnall, Conservative Group Leader, was first to speak and he recalled how Russell always stood up for Ipswich, even if it meant going against the County Council leadership. Cllr Carnall also spoke about Russell’s devotion to the Conservative Party, something I was very familiar with from my time as constituency chairman, and he reminded us how Russell was an aficionado of leaflet delivery organisation!

Labour Leader Cllr David Ellesmere said Russell was respected by every councillor, whatever their political colour. Cllr Ellesmere recalled how Russell loved the political process and council chamber debate and how he enjoyed a good point being raised even it was made by the opposition at his own’s party’s expense. This is very true: Russell had time and respect for everyone – friend or foe.

Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Nigel Cheesman spoke about how Russell was “dapper” and always had a “twinkle in his eye”.

It was clear from the speeches how much Russell meant to his political colleagues and friends. We will dearly miss him.

The Mayor then moved on to the evening’s business.

Council Questions were up first. Cllr Judy Terry asked Labour Portfolio Holder for Culture and Leisure, Cllr Bryony Rudkin, how negotiations were going with potential Broomhill Pool developers. Not very far was basically the answer. No time-scales were committed for if and when a developer will bring the pool back to its “glory days”. My bet is it will never happen as the business case just doesn’t stack up.

Cllr Kym Stroet asked how the town centre fared in the Christmas shopping stakes. Cllr Carole Jones, Economic Development Portfolio Holder, said footfall was up 7% on last year, which is good news! Cllr Stroet then asked a somewhat pointless question about how the council can improve service standards in our town centre shops. Sorry Kym, but what has the council got to do with customer service? We don’t run the shops, even though the Socialists would love to.

Cllr John Carnall then swooped in to take a bite at Cllr Jones: “Does Cllr Jones welcome the news Tesco are due to start developing the Grafton Way site in the next few months and does she now regret opposing the planning application, which will create 900 jobs and bring millions of pounds of investment into Ipswich?” Cllr Jones stood up and said no she didn’t welcome the investment and that she “very strongly” opposed the planning application.  But then said we are where we are so she does welcome it. Classic anti-enterprise clap trap from a Socialist – I thought she was meant to be in charge of Economic DEVELOPMENT!

Cllr Nadia Cenci raised an interesting point that charity ISCRE had received more money from the Council this year than was awarded by the Community Working Group under the last Conservative-led administration. As ISCRE is stacked full of Labour cronies it is hardly surprising Labour portfolio holder for Communities Cllr Sandy Martin found some extra taxpayers money to put their way.

Cllr Tanya Maclure raised an important point about the cost of setting up the ill-thought-out Area Committees. Why have Special Responsibility Allowances been handed out to the new chairmen of Area Committees without the Independent Remuneration Committee making a recommendation on the amount paid? Cllr Ellesmere waffled on that the Remuneration Committee will still review SRAs for Area Committee Chairmen but they were entitled to an allowance now under the existing rules. Unfortunately for the Conservative Group, the Labour Leader revealed Deputy Tory Leader Cllr Chris Stewart was the first to take up the additional money. If only Cllr Stewart had been at the Conservative Group meeting on Monday to tell his colleagues that!!

Tory Cllr Paul West rounded off the questions by challenging Cllr John Mowles, Portfolio Holder for Housing, on the renovation work at Cumberland Towers, a Council owned block of flats in North West Ipswich. Residents have been complaining of excessive noise, work taking place out of hours, lifts out of order and general mess on the landings. Cllr Mowles said he was aware and that senior officer Joe Howarth had been in touch with the contractor. Cllr West shot back to say this was not good enough and that residents needed a straightforward way of contacting the Council to complain if the works continued to have an unreasonable impact on their lives, such as – shock, horror –  a single point of contact! Typically, residents were having to speak with multiple council officers about the same problem in true public sector bureaucratic style. Cllr Mowles promised to tighten up the communication flows.

There was then only one report on the main agenda: Council Houses Rent Increase.
Labour Cllr Mowles announced rent would increase by 5.6% and blamed the Conservatives for it being necessary. Cllr Carnall retorted by saying it was not necessary to increase housing rents in a recession because the Housing Revenue Account in Ipswich was in surplus! So why does Labour need to put up rents? Perhaps because they are addicted to taking and spending public money!

Unfortunately, my Tory friends chose to round off the meeting by deserting their duty to actually vote on behalf of their residents. At the Council Houses Rent Increase vote, Labour naturally voted for it, but instead of voting against the move the Conservatives all abstained despite criticising the increase during the preceding debate. I’ve given my views on abstaining before here so I won’t go on about it again but just to say the electorate don’t elect councillors to NOT represent them.