Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Ipswich Borough Full Council Meeting: 29th January 2014

Last Wednesday’s Full Council may well be the last I attend for quite sometime as I am moving out of the area so I thought I’d make an effort to witness the political shenanigans one last time.

I won’t give a verbatim report, as now you can watch and listen to the entire meeting of the councillors who bothered to turn up (the Mayor’s apology list was nearly as long as the attendance list!) courtesy of the Ipswich Spy parish (scroll down for video).

Even with the apologies from all parties, Labour still rule the roost in Ipswich with three long rows occupied by the socialists with the Liberal Democrats (all two of them!) and the Conservative Group shuffled off to the far side of the room. It will only get worse come the May local elections when, as I have predicted before, there will be another bloodbath of the blues. Thankfully, it will be the high water mark for Labour but the Tories will be out of power for up to 20 years (and that’s no exaggeration).

Council Questions covered a broad range of subjects and were kicked off by local Tory blogger, Kevin Algar, who asked questions on tourism and facilitating social media reporting. It was somewhat amusing to hear Mr Algar ask what the council were doing to facilitate filming of public meetings, whilst Ipswich Spy‘s Ben Redsell was filming to his right hand side. A case of being a bit late to the party!

Mr Algar also encouraged the ruling Labour group to have Ipswich Borough Council meetings in Suffolk County Council’s head office because it is set up for webcasting. Rightly, Labour leader Cllr Ellesmere slapped him down and pointed out Ipswich Borough should have their meetings in their Council chamber in the magnificent Town Hall not a corporate office block.

The questions on tourism from Kevin Algar were typically not answered by Labour’s Economic Development chief Cllr Carole Jones. She has a perfect ability to just waffle a reply to any question which – if you can hear her rather grating and whining voice at all – are couched in local government speak to the point of incomprehension. 

For some reason only known to Cllr Kym Stroet, he asked a question to Labour’s culture spokesman Cllr Bryony Rudkin which managed to reignite the Broomhill Pool row. “Does the portfolio holder believe that spending £1 million on a lido, likely to be used by very few people, is a wise use of taxpayers money?”, Cllr Stroet posed. This caused an uproar of heckling from the public gallery. Now, I’m not in a favour of any public money being given to starting up an outside pool business, which very few people want to pay to use, but there are a lot of people in North West Ipswich who are exercised by the Broomhill Pool nostalgia – and most of them vote in seats the Tories are trying to win or hold on to! Baffling.

Labour’s housing chief from the 1970s and also in the year 2014, Cllr John Mowles, was asked a question by former Tory group leader Cllr John Carnall about the decision by the Council to knock two homes together to house an unemployed couple and their (now) thirteen children and why he didn’t listen to the 84 petitioners who were against the move at a cost which is now almost three times the original budget. “I have no intention of discussing this and I am surprised this was raised and it disappointments me and demoralises councillors when such a question is asked – it should not be aired in public!”, Cllr Mowles replied. What on earth is he talking about? The council is spending a large chunk of taxpayer’s money commensurate with the Borough Council’s relatively small budget and Cllr Mowles has the audacity to say it is an issue which should not be raised in public. This smacks of Labour not wanting to discuss a subject they are ideologically influenced by and was boosted by Cllr Sandy Martin saying during the Council Rent Increase report later in the meeting he would prefer to see everybody in Ipswich live in a council house! Well, if he is that keen on living in a council-owned property, why doesn’t he move down the road from his privately rented cottage on Milton Street to the Priory Heath estate?

As was decided at last week’s Executive meeting (the real power-base of the Council), Full Council on Wednesday was asked to rubber-stamp a 5.5% increase in council house rent. Several Tory councillors asked how this policy ties in with Labour nationally always bleating on about the “cost of living crisis” – no answer did cometh from Cllr Mowles or Labour leader Cllr Ellesmere except to say they were “only following Government guidelines”. Conservative Cllr Carnall retorted the only reason rents were going up was to fund the new Council home building programme done to bolster Cllr Ellesmere’s Labour parliamentary campaign. There’s more than a grain of truth in that statement!

Later in the same meeting, there was a report discussing business rates and the Government’s plan to let Councils keep most of the money raised (before the Coalition came to power, all of the business rates were sent to Whitehall for re-distribution into Labour heartlands). Supposedly, there has been a few issues with the paperwork and Grafton House mandarins haven’t been able file their documentation to Whitehall yet.

The Labour group naturally blamed central Government and Cllr Ellesmere used the opportunity to let the Council know he was still waiting for Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, to tell him the council tax increase percentage threshold at which the Borough must ask permission of residents in a referendum – no doubt so he can lower it by 0.0.1% and then that will be this year’s council tax increase in Ipswich! Just for the record, Government guidelines stipulate council tax should be frozen but it seems the Labour-run council are ignoring the guidelines when it suits them.

There was an interesting report from Labour’s rising-star and Borough communities chief, Cllr Adam Leeder, where he told the meeting Area Committees were receiving new powers, mainly to do with being able to spend their budget as they see fit rather than always deferring back to the Executive. The points of interest weren’t in the detail of the report but in the debate amongst councillors. Cllr Sandy Martin made the most pertinent point when he told the meeting just one Area Committee represents a greater population size than any parish or town council in the rest of Suffolk, but still Conservative-run Suffolk County Council were not engaging with Ipswich’s Area Committees despite actively engaging with a Parish council in Lavenham or Bury St Edmunds Town Council. You just need to look at Suffolk County Council’s ‘Find your County Councillor’ site, where Ipswich is relegated to a ‘Parish’ to see the point!

This is one of the most powerful arguments for Ipswich being a Unitary Authority. Ipswich Borough Council has very little power, apart from planning application matters. All the roads, verges and any changes to traffic flow in the town are in the hands of Suffolk County Council; earlier in the meeting, Liberal Democrat Cllr Inga Lockington raised the condition of grass verges in the estates of Ipswich since the County Council took away the Highway Authority from Ipswich (meaning no decisions on anything to do with transport are now taken by the Borough Council) and low and behold it is nigh on impossible to get a verge repaired in Ipswich because it is like trying to climb Mount Everest to get it in the hands of a bureaucrat at Endeavour House, who has the whole of Suffolk to look after. Additionally, all the local authority schools are run from Endeavour House and as Cllr Martin made patently clear, the corporate structure at the County Council doesn’t even recognise the main conduit of communication between the electorate and their councillors. It is as if Ipswich is East Germany behind a modern day Berlin Wall, out of sight of County leader Mark Bee and his Cabinet in the “West”.

Despite Labour’s Cllr Martin articulating the raw deal Ipswich receives from Suffolk County Council, it was pointed out by Cllr Carnall that Ipswich has 11 Labour county councillors compared to just the one Tory in the Borough and perhaps they should get on with lobbying the County Council on behalf of Ipswich and its residents.

Another notable aspect of the Council meeting on Wednesday were the number of people in attendance to ask and support questions on the proposed Northern Fringe development. Questions on sewerage, traffic congestion and the New Homes Bonus were asked – all with an anti-development slant. Both Labour and the Conservatives (who cares what the Liberals think!) are in favour of building houses on the northern outskirts of Ipswich’s borough boundary; it was the Tories who approved it in the Local Development Framework when they were in power before 2011 and Labour are naturally in favour of upping the number of social houses built. So it really has become now a Town versus Country issue. As soon as the Council Questions were over, there was a mass exodus of rich baby boomers and their flat caps as they traipsed back to the 4X4s and their pretty villages. God forbid Ipswich will have more houses for their children to live in!

And this was the main thrust of the meeting, all two hours of it filmed below for your infotainment. Next time, Ipswich Spy won’t have to beg the Grafton House mandarins for permission, as the right for public meetings to be filmed by bloggers and the mainstream media is now enshrined in law, courtesy of Eric Pickles’ Local Audit and Accountability Bill which obtained Royal Assent the next day.


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Labour shut door on 900 jobs and £90M investment into Ipswich

Tesco ditch Grafton Way proposal

Tesco ditch Grafton Way proposal

Tesco have pulled out of their Grafton Way development.

The writing was on the wall since current Tesco chief Philip Clarke announced a dip in profits last year and said Britain’s largest supermarket was rethinking its expansion plans.

Hotels, a piazza and other shops were set to be built

Hotels, a piazza and other shops were set to be built

Immediately, I feared for the future of the Grafton Way site, which once was earmarked for not only a huge Tesco supermarket (bigger than Copdock) but also a hotel, other shops, a piazza in front of the waterfront etc. The previous Conservative administration at Ipswich Borough Council, apart from one local Tory butcher, were wholly in favour of the new development which would have brought £90 Million of investment into the beleaguered Ipswich economy.

But Labour were dead against Tesco from the start, voting en masse against the jobs and infrastructure investment (the Novotel roundabout was to be scrapped and this junction vastly improved) at Planning Committee. Once they regained power in 2011, they threw up the ‘Closed for Business’ sign and made it quite clear they detested enterprise, only half-heartedly welcoming Waitrose and John Lewis At Home to Ipswich on the former Cranes site off Nacton Road.

Tesco had already downscaled their proposal for the former B&Q site, which led to former Conservative Group leader, Cllr John Carnall, putting it to Labour that since they took over the reigns at Grafton House they had lost £20 Million of inward investment in “one fell swoop!”

This was more than just a quick jibe at Labour. Business is not some abstract world – it is about personal human relationships. Do you think Mr Clarke’s team looked at Ipswich when they were deciding where to axe expansion and thought “oh yes, we can do business with Ipswich Borough Council easily?”. Nope, me neither. Believe me Labour’s anti-business rhetoric would have been heard at Tesco HQ in Hertfordshire and would have been a major deciding factor in Tesco pulling out of Grafton Way.

So Labour managed to lose 900 jobs and £90 Million investment in two years. Good work, Cllr Ellesmere!


Ipswich Borough Council Meeting: 30th January 2013

Ipswich Borough Council Town Hall

Ipswich Borough Council Town Hall

Whilst the borough council continues to keep the webcams firmly switched off, I and fellow bloggers trundled down to the Town Hall last Wednesday to witness another meeting of all the councillors on Ipswich Borough Council.

Sorry for the late publication of my musings but David Cameron needed some more money off me.

New Tory Group Leader Cllr Chris Stewart

New Tory Group Leader Cllr Chris Stewart

Anyway, it was the first council meeting for the newly elected leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Chris Stewart, who defeated Nadia Cenci for the top Tory job at the borough council. As regular readers know, I backed Nadia for the role. Unfortunately, Cllr Cenci was not given the deputy leader post by Cllr Stewart, instead that went to Cllr Robin Vickery.

It didn’t take long before those who backed Cllr Cenci had their heads in their hands. Smack bang in the middle of Council Questions, Cllr Stewart, for reasons only known to himself, hurled himself out of his seat and decided to interject. It was the first time I had seen that done and was toe-curling embarrassing. The Mayor, Cllr Mary Blake, responded by asking under which Standing Order (the rules of council meetings) the new Tory Group leader was interrupting proceedings on. Cllr Stewart didn’t have an answer and to groans from those present he was told to sit down by the Mayor. Not a great start to Cllr Stewart’s first day at the office.

Council Questions were on a mixture of topics but there were four on the now Time to bust open the Energy Cartelubiquitous subject: Wind Turbines in south west Ipswich. Until now I have not been too fussed about the policy by the council to allow Partnerships for Renewables to build two wind turbines on their land at Thorington Hall. But as I have learnt more about the facts I’ve become firmer in my view: the Conservatives were strong-armed by their coalition partners the Lib Dems into agreeing to this policy when they were in power during the noughties and now Labour have no intention of representing Ipswich residents who are madly against having two 130 metres tall windmills roaring over their heads for the next fifty years. You see the turbines will be sited in the Babergh District Council area but the lands happens to be owned by Ipswich Borough Council. The people affected by their monstrosities will live in Ipswich Borough Council and, therefore, you’d have thought it reasonable for their local councillors (mostly LABOUR councillors) to represent their views to planners in Babergh. But Labour don’t want to do this because they love anything with a Communist Green tinge. Wind turbines, as I have written before, don’t actually work very well: they either can’t turn because the wind is too strong or won’t turn because the wind is too weak. There only purpose is to stand as monuments to anti-capitalism, hopefully blighting the view of Tory country-dwellers or causing ill health to the “peasants” in urban estates. And that’s another reason for the public being so mad with Labour over this decision: the windmills are going to be a few feet away from hundreds of people on Ipswich estates. Even hardcore environmentalists suggest it might be good to put the wind turbines offshore but the borough council wants them erected in the back gardens of Ipswich residents! Crazy.

Ipswich Spy's Sally Wainman

Ipswich Spy’s Sally Wainman

The Gavin Maclure’s Musings award for “standing one’s ground” at the council meeting on Wednesday must go to Sally Wainman (of the Ipswich Spy parish) who asked one of the Wind Turbine Development questions. Mrs Wainman took her position at the podium and began asking her primary question, which must be approved by the council’s top lawyer (the Monitory Officer) prior to it being read out. Sally Wainman had hardly finished her fist sentence when the elf-like major, Cllr Mary Blake, shouted out “ask a question!”. Mrs Wainman thought she was, I thought she was, fellow bloggers thought she was and as Mrs Wainman forcibly told the mayor the Monitoring Officer had approved the question as well. Cllr Blake back in her box, Mrs Wainman proceeded to make chief of wind Cllr Sandy Martin uncomfortable, comparing him to Pontius Pilate. Very apt.

The arrogance of Labour can’t be quantified. They even have an arrogant script now for responses to anything wind-related, which basically says it’s nothing to do with them, it’s a planning matter for Babergh District Council. In other words nothing to see here, move along peasants. Just like the behaviour of the politburo of the USSR.

There were other questions, most too boring to mention. It was left to Cllr Inga Lockington of the Liberal Democrats to ask something of substance which dovetailed into the Economic Strategy report later on in the meeting. Cllr Lockington asked what the council was doing to ensure the Greater Ipswich’s biggest employer, BT, would be continuing to invest in the area over the next twenty years. Cllr Carole Jones, who couldn’t sell water in a desert, mumbled something about senior council officers talking to senior managers at Adastral Park. I really hope chief executive Russell Williams keeps Carole Jones away from Martlesham as much as possible for everybody’s sake in Ipswich. If BT were to leave their base in the East of Ipswich (highly unlikely considering the new housing, hotel and school development taking place over the next few years) Ipswich would economically collapse overnight and would experience what real austerity looks like, a la Spain-style.

Cllr Stroet helpfully mentioned new Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore would not be increasing the police precept on our council bills in April, unlike the Labour Administration who are rumoured to increase the Borough Council precept by 2% in the spring.

Then we moved on to the council reports. As Labour have such a huge majority, there is never any risk of these reports not getting approved for implementation by civil servants unless two thirds of the Labour group collectively dropped dead just before the vote. The Housing Rent Increase report (yep, LABOUR are putting up council houses rents to pay for their new council houses) was approved. Regrettably, the Tory front-bench lost their backbone and abstained. Even the yellow peril voted against. The debate around this report was noticeable for Conservative Cllr Richard Pope and Shadow Housing spokesman exposing Cllr George Debman as a serial meeting absentee: supposedly he is the Tory representative on the Housing Panel but has never turned up.

The report on the Council Tax Base is purely administrative. It is just a calculation of how many households are going to have to pay the tax so the council can work out how much they will rake in. As I learnt in GCSE maths, there is only one right answer. The report was duly approved on the nod.

The next two reports on the Agenda were waved through as well.

Then the business-end of the meeting arrived. Cllr Carole Jones, Labour’s economic decline development chief, introduced the Council’s new Ipswich Economic Strategy. It was fair to say it was torn apart by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The Tory economy spokesman, Cllr Kym Stroet, asked about a million questions, highlighting gaps in the report. His speech was a bit Jackanory in places but Cllr Stroet had clearly ready every word, which was impressive.

For the Lib Dems, Cllr Andrew Cann was scathing. Cllr Cann told Cllr Jones it was a document written for the sake of it. “Take it away and write it again!” he thundered.

Cllr Stewart advised Cllr Jones to introduce free parking in the town centre. The new Tory Group leader didn’t elaborate how that would be paid for? Increased council tax perhaps?
Cllr Stewart continued his lesson by saying all would be well if we turned the clock back thirty years and had a thriving manufacturing industry once again in Ipswich – again, he didn’t elaborate on how he was going to overhaul the entire national economic model which now means Britain’s economy is based on the service sector. The Tory leader ended his lecture by declaring Ipswich had the “blitz look” about it. Nice.

Rescue: Former Tory Group leader Cllr John Carnall

Rescue: Former Tory Group leader Cllr John Carnall

At this point former Conservative Group leader Cllr Carnall had heard enough. The Tories’ big beast rose from the backbenchers to explain to his own group never mind the ruling Labour administration the key points to make. As in every economic development taking place in Ipswich right now is a result of Conservatives:-

1. The Tesco development on Grafton Way, set to bring in £50 Million of investment  – APPROVED by the last Conservative Administration, voted against by Labour councillors. This is down from £70 million as a result of anti-Tesco Labour taking back control of the council. As Cllr Carnall put it, Labour managed to lose £20 Million “in one fell swoop!”.

2. Travel Ipswich £21 Million investment: road layout improvements on Princes Street and other roads, new cycle facilities, re-developed bus stations etc – PUSHED for by Conservative Suffolk County Council. Lobbied for by a Tory MP, Ben Gummer, and APPROVED by a Conservative Secretary of State for Transport.

3. Flood defences – £6.6 Million: Lobbied for by Conservative Ipswich MP Ben Gummer and approved by Conservative-led Coalition Government

4. New Waitrose and John Lewis on former Cranes Site – supported and APPROVED by the last Conservative Administration. Also the little Waitrose in the Corn Exchange was also APPROVED by the last Conservative Administration. Cllr Carnall forgot to mention the Giles Circus re-development, which was dragged kicking and screaming to completion against fierce Labour opposition by former Tory councillor and transport chief Tanya Maclure.

5. University Campus Suffolk: Supported since conception with lobbying to central Government for grants back in 2007 by Conservative-led Ipswich Borough Council.

6. Culture economy: Masterminded by Cllr Judy Terry, the Regent Theatre was turned from a dilapidated failing operation into one of the most successful publicly-owned theatres (not easy to do when civil servants are involved) in the region.

We miss you Cllr Carnall.

This was a masterclass from John Carnall and encapsulated perfectly that it is the Conservatives who bring economic development to our town, whereas Labour in Ipswich are anti-enterprise and would rather see everyone living in a council house working in a nationalised industry. They are a dangerous bunch.

MP wannabe: Cllr David Ellesmere

MP wannabe: Cllr David Ellesmere

The Labour leader Cllr David Ellesmere’s response was to bang on about the “shocking skills deficit” referring to Suffolk’s appalling position on the GCSE results league table, announced last week, which Cllr Ellesmere is doing his damndest to pin on Tory Suffolk County Council ahead of the County Council elections in May. He was almost Bennite in his rhetoric. I have never seen so much passion in his speaking. I thought Mr Gummer has a real fight on his hands in 2015 then a fellow blogger reminded me the Labour candidate didn’t really need to fight for victory in two years’ time – in fact, Cllr Ellesmere might as well go and sit on a beach for the campaign and then fly back just in time for the count.  Unless Ben Gummer finds a hospital-esque subject to hook on to that is.

But just like with Tony Benn, once you have come down from the soaring rhetoric, you realise what utter rubbish Cllr Ellesmere was talking. It is the Labour-infested teaching unions which have caused the horrendous GCSE results with their anti-aspiration rhetoric in the classrooms. Funny how the independent sector doesn’t have such miserable results.

When it came to the vote on the Economic Strategy report, the Administration pushed it back to Executive for further work. I.e. a re-write.

And that was the end of another full council meeting, attended by three bloggers, some windfarm protesters and dead tree press Morning Ipswich Star Paul Geater, who had to stay to the end of the meeting because Labour cleverly put the Economic Strategy at the end of the agenda.

And with that, we headed off to the pub.