Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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UKIP win by a landslide in Suffolk by-election

UKIP logo

As reported in today’s national press, UKIP continued their march to the European elections later this year by winning a landslide victory in two by-elections in Haverhill, west Suffolk on Thursday.

Nigel Farage’s party managed to get more votes than all the other parties combined. The election was held to fill vacant seats on  St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Haverhill Town Council after former town mayor Les Ager died last year.

Landslide: New UKIP councillor Tony Brown who won Haverhill East ward on St Edmundsbury Borough Council with double the vote of his nearest challenger

Landslide: New UKIP councillor Tony Brown who won Haverhill East ward on St Edmundsbury Borough Council with double the vote of his nearest challenger

Tony Brown – who is also a Suffolk County Councillor for Haverhill – won Haverhill East ward on the Borough Council for UKIP with a majority of 54 per cent, more than double that of his Labour opponent Pat Hanlon with 24.5 per cent. And the Haverhill East town council seat was won by UKIP candidate Paul Firman with 64 per cent of the vote, triple that of the Labour candidate Liz Smith.

This victory follows on the back of the Suffolk County Council elections last year when UKIP gained eight seats – they now hold nine seats at Endeavour House – and pushed the Tories into third place in four out of the thirteen divisions in Ipswich.

Is this a sign of things to come when voters go to the polls in the European and local government elections on 22nd May? In Ipswich, UKIP currently have no council seats at Grafton House and this may well still be the case after the count but based on the County Council results last year they are likely to cause more upset for the Conservative Party in seats like Stoke Park and Holywells, where – if they stand – they could end up splitting the Tory vote and allowing Labour to win. But even without UKIP contention, seats like Holywells are looking very precarious. Back in 2012, popular former Borough Council leader Liz Harsant just about scraped home with a majority of 49 over her Labour challenger. Do we really think Cllr George Debman will hold on to Holywells this time round? If UKIP stand in Holywells he will lose by several hundred votes.

In the European poll, I’d put money on UKIP winning the elections.

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Dead tree press finally catches up with Ipswich Blogosphere: it only took them five days!

Dead tree press finally catches up with local blogs

Dead tree press finally catches up with local blogs

If there was ever an example of how the traditional print media is not able to react as quickly to current news, it is the Morning Ipswich Star. The local rag for Ipswich and Felixstowe took five days to publish a story on three Conservative councillors walking out of an Ipswich Borough Council meeting. Considering thousands of their readers are represented by these three councillors it really is quite disgraceful they did not pick up the story and publish sooner.

As I reported here on Thursday and even quicker on Wednesday by Ipswich Spy, the blogosphere told the story of Tory councillor Nadia Cenci, former Council leader Cllr Liz Harsant and Bixley councillor Richard Pope walking out of a meeting of all elected councillors in Ipswich after Cllr Pope was on the receiving end of disability slur by Labour’s Economic Development chief Cllr Carole Jones.

Only today – Monday – did the Ipswich Star catch-up. Is it political bias, incompetence or the sheer time it takes to get from story to print compared to pixel? Although I can’t see why they couldn’t publish to pixel earlier – that’s what a website is for, surely?

Or is it more to do with the fact the Ipswich Star couldn’t be bothered to send their political correspondent to a meeting of all representatives of the town’s 80,000 electors?


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Ipswich Borough Council refuse to litter pick public footpath

Who do you think is responsible for picking up litter on a public footpath?

Who do you think is responsible for picking up litter on a public footpath?

Ipswich Borough Council have not only shown themselves to be corrupt in recent days they are now finding every trick in the book to not maintain and clean a public footpath which connects Gladstone Road to the shopping parade on Foxhall Road.

Regular readers will recall this is the infamous passageway which took the mandarins at Grafton House three years to pave and required Committee, Executive and Full Council approval before civil servants would consider doing a bit of “community improvement” in a Conservative ward.

Through constant chasing from Holywells ward councillor Liz Harsant and pressure from this blog the passageway was finally paved in October last year after first being approved by the cross-party Community Improvements Committee in 2009!

The path – as was said when the proposal was first presented to Committee – has (in local government jargon) “heavy footfall” throughout the day. Unfortunately, many of the pedestrians decide to discard their litter as they pop to the Co-op or the kebab shop. The shallow trenches (drainage channels would be too strong a description) along each side of the path are now strewn with cans, bottles, and food packaging.

I reported the littering to Cllr Harsant and she diligently took it up with civil servants at the Council offices. What followed was like a sketch from political satire The Thick of It.

Firstly, officers denied the passageway was a public path. How do they account for the Council laying concrete slabs along it last October then? Are the Council in the business of doing private building works now on behalf of the hard-up taxpayer? Perhaps I should get them into my house to do a bit of plastering or maybe get them to sand down and paint the lintel over my front door?

When pressed further, civil servants blamed poor record keeping – showing the footpath is indeed publicly owned – during the “transition of the Highways Agency from Ipswich Borough Council to Suffolk County Council” at the end of March and that it was up to Suffolk County Council to maintain and clean the footpath.

However, IBC changed its mind and said they were still the “principal litter authority” and it was their responsibility to clean up the passageway. Phew, I thought – the council tax I pay might actually benefit me for once! But no such luck. Ipswich Borough Council decided to send someone up to the footpath, not to pick up the litter, but to look at the litter. They then reported back to Cllr Harsant that as they didn’t know who had dropped the litter they are unable to remove it.

The Council laid the slabs but deny the footpath is their responsibility

The Council laid the slabs but deny the footpath is their responsibility

Apart from having my wheelie bin emptied once a fortnight, what do I pay over one hundred pounds a month to the Council for? Ensuring your local streets and footpaths were kept clean used to be a basic “service” from the council. Now it would seem all the money is spent translating documents into forty languages or dishing out grants to made-up charities and not on picking up litter in your local neighbourhood.

No wonder people are fed up with the political establishment in this country.


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Full Council report: Labour increase your council tax bill

Labour increase council tax

Labour increase council tax

As reported two weeks ago, last night Labour easily carried a vote to increase your council tax bill from 1st April.

The Labour Administration at Ipswich Borough Council used their massive majority to increase the borough’s part of the bill by 1.98% claiming the Coalition Government are “taking an axe” to the council’s funding. In fact, the Government had continued their scheme to offer a grant to pay for a council tax freeze – but Labour turned it down.

More please: Labour's Cllr David Ellesmere

More please: Labour’s Cllr David Ellesmere

Council leader Councillor David Ellesmere introduced the borough’s budget for the next financial year telling the chamber his party were forced to ask hard-pressed taxpayers to cough up more money – for no new or improved services –  because of the “gathering economic gloom” and as a result of Westminster treating local government as the “whipping boys again”.

In fact, the reason Cllr Ellsemere gave for needing the extra money was to meet Labour’s ideological goals. He will use the extra money from you to build new council houses and to increase pay for council staff, many who find it very difficult to hide their sympathies for the Labour Party. Gordon Brown’s client state is very much alive and kicking in the People’s Socialist Republic of Ipswich.

The Labour council leader foolishly tried to claim credit for the economic development which has taken place in the town over the last two years. This prompted former Conservative council leader Councillor Liz Harsant to respond with a tour de force of political rebuttals.

Former Council leader Cllr Liz Harsant

Attacking: Former Council leader Cllr Liz Harsant

The former Council leader tore apart Labour’s statements in the budget report where they claimed credit for Little Waitrose setting up shop in the Corn Exchange, despite opposing the planning application. Cllr Harsant pointed out there was no mention of the transformed Giles Circus in the report, which she was not surprised about as this expanded pedestrianised area using high-quality materials was driven through to completion by former Tory Transport portfolio holder, Tanya Maclure, against fierce opposition from the Labour group at the time. Little Waitrose sits on the corner of Giles Circus and undoubtedly the revamped area attracted this major retailer to the town centre.

Cllr Harsant went on remind the meeting what Conservative Cllr John Carnall said last month about Labour being against £70 Million of investment into Ipswich by Tesco through their development on Grafton Way. The new ruling Labour administration made their reluctance to take Tesco’s money so abundantly clear, the supermarket giant reduced their inward investment to £50 Million. Cllr Harsant echoed Cllr Carnall by saying Labour managed to lose £20 Million “in one fell swoop!”.

Labour were floored by Cllr Harsant by daring to suggest they attracted John Lewis Partnerships to open a John Lewis At Home store and Waitrose supermarket on the former Cranes site off Nacton Road. She reminded the Council this was achieved through the hard work of her former Administration, in particular the Economic Development portfolio holder at the time, Councillor Richard Atkins.

And the punches kept raining down: “The £6.6 Million flood defences weren’t achieved by your Party, they were secured as a result of lobbying by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer”. “The Regent was turned into one of the most successful publicly owned theatres in the region by the former Culture chief, Tory councillor Judy Terry”. “And the reason you can build council houses, is because of changes to the law made by the Tory-led Coalition Government!”.

Cllr Harsant rammed home her points: “Labour left this country bankrupt. This year they will rise council tax by 2%, next year they will raise it by 2%, the year after by 2% on so on.  I shall not be voting for this budget!”

This was undoubtedly the best speech of the evening and quite possibly Cllr Harsant’s best speech of her political career.

The soaring rhetoric was a needed boost to a flagging Conservative Group. Unfortunately, there was no alternative budget offered up from new Tory Group leader Cllr Chris Stewart. Firstly, let’s not forget Labour never put up an alternative budget in the seven years they were in opposition, displaying arrogance encapsulated by one Labour councillor who said the Tories “were just keeping our seats warm”.

But Cllr Stewart should have been better prepared for this budget as Labour announced in a press release on 12th February they would be increasing our bills by 2%. However, the Conservative group leader did not present an amendment to officers until 21st February, hours before the cut-off at noon on Friday 22nd February.

Sources tell Gavin Maclure’s Musings, the civil servants at Grafton House, for some reason, didn’t get round to viewing the Tory amendment. To compound matters, it has been alleged the S151 officer (the legally required local authority civil servant responsible for proper administration of the council’s financial affairs)  was off sick and the council had not made any provision to cover his role. This is potentially illegal under the Local Government Act 1972.

The upshot is the Conservatives did not get an approval for their alternative budget prior to the deadline and the start of the council papers print run. This gave plenty of ammunition to the Labour group with Cllr David Ellesmere branding the Tories “financially illiterate” and leaving the Conservative Group somewhat embarrassed they had not put aside enough time to navigate the civil service machine. I am sure lessons have been learnt.

Let’s just hope Ipswich residents learn quickly why their council tax is going up this year. Not because of Tory-run Suffolk County Council, who have frozen their precept and not because of the Police & Crime Commission, whose new Commissioner, Conservative Tim Passmore, has ensured their budget stays the same. The reason more of your income – in the worst economic climate since the 1930s –  will be spent on government is because Labour now run Ipswich Borough Council again. Get used to it. Until they leave office, it will go up every year, guaranteed.