Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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I’m back!

Ballot box

Yes and in more ways than one!

Firstly, sorry for the lack of blogging of late.  It’s been a difficult few months but also very hectic with performing in a play, starting a new job and (still) trying to buy a house. We’ll get there eventually.

But I’m also back in the political sense or put another way: I’ve come home. Yes, after being disillusioned by our illustrious leader of the Conservative Party and the painful partnership with the yellow peril for five long years, it’s time to frankly accept that voting for any other party than the Conservatives is, as Iain Duncan-Smith puts it in the Daily Telegraph today, like writing Britain’s ‘suicide note’.

David Cameron might not be a Tory in the Margaret Thatcher sense but then she was not really a Tory either – she was a Thatcherite, clearly. But she was the leader of the Conservative Party, a broad church but with core beliefs in the individual, free markets and removing the dead hand of the state from people’s lives. Conservatism is also about tradition and rejecting rapid change – it is sadly these values David Cameron has ditched in a failed bid to win over the Guardianistas and the BBC. But that will not stop me voting Conservative on Thursday and I’d like to explain why.

There is one thing the Conservatives still know how to do: build a strong economy. Some forget very easily where we were in 2010 after Gordon Brown had spent so much on tax credits and welfare creating his client state utopia where working was an option not an obligation. When the financial tsunami hit our shores in the form of a failed financial regulatory system in the US and here in the UK, the country almost toppled in to the abyss. Thank goodness for an election and the defeat of Labour.

Despite this financial armageddon landing in our towns, streets and homes, David Cameron was still unable to win an election because of his misguided attempt to make the electorate like the Conservative Party rather than respect it. But nevertheless he had enough seats to form a Coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats – a partnership he clearly liked – and with that the Conservative Party could get the UK back on her feet.

The economy is not the system we had in the 1980s which helped so many babyboomers become wealthy in their retirement – capitalism does need reform – but today we have the healthiest economy in the whole of Continental Europe. This is not an accident – it is as a result of policies by Chancellor George Osborne and his team to cut the deficit, to encourage more businesses to start-up and existing ones to flourish, which in turn has created 2 million new jobs in the private sector in the last five years.

Let me be straight: Ed Miliband ideologically does not like capitalism. His Labour Party believes in higher welfare payments for the work shy; they want a large public sector; they do not like private enterprise and given a chance will make life tougher for them to do business. Millions of people rely on the economic model we have in this country; it is far from perfect but it is the envy of Europe. Labour in cahoots with Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond of the SNP would tear it apart to implement their socialist dream.

We can’t let that happen. The nightmare does not have to come true if you join me in voting Conservative on Thursday.


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One year to go: Latest polling and analysis on General Election

Four main party leaders in UK General Election 2015

Four main party leaders in UK General Election 2015

As promised, here’s my analysis of last night’s Weber Shandwick organised debate on the 2015 General Election, which contained in-person analysis from Sky News political correspondent Sophy Ridge.

The event was well attended with people from across the economic sectors and pressure groups, such as the TaxPayers’ Alliance. The debate was chaired by one of the bigwigs from Weber Shandwick with a panel made up of the polling firm ComRes, Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, Priti Patel for the Tories, Natascha Engel representing Labour and Tim Aker, UKIP’s head of policy, and Sophy Ridge from Sky News.

ComRes kicked off the discussion with a presentation on the latest polling figures. This was very interesting stuff with a number of figures jumping out to form a startling yet still very unclear view of the election result come May next year.  I was reminded the Tories actually did quite well in 2010, gaining 94 seats but with 36.1% of the vote – but still unable to win a majority. ComRes repeated their claim that 38% of the electorate who will vote in the European Elections will place their cross in the UKIP box. This would mean UKIP come first in the UK European Parliamentary Elections, triggering the “political earthquake” UKIP leader Nigel Farage has talked often about.

But, when it comes to the General Election, UKIP loses a quarter of this vote. Labour and the Tories will only see 5% of their European election vote switch next year. This gives fuel to Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps’ argument that UKIP voters in the European elections will come back to the Tory fold in time for the General Election. Well, less than a quarter will (once you strip out those who switch back to voting Labour or Lib Dem), which is better than nothing but not enough to risk splitting the Conservative vote. Labour also only need a swing of 2% to them to win an outright majority. As Priti Patel admitted later, her “party has a challenge on its hands”.

For the Lib Dems – they are sunk this year and next year having lost three quarters of their vote since 2010. Bye then.

“It’s the economy, stupid”, as Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist once famously said, still resonates today. And ComRes polling on how people feel about the economy does not look good for David Cameron and George Osborne: 51% say they do not see any improvement in their economic fortunes since 2010. Labour’s campaign on the “cost of living” is a shrewd move and it will pay dividends in May 2015.

When the debate switched to the politicians on the panel, we heard some interesting views from all three MPs. Priti Patel kicked off and she immediately proved once again why she has been dubbed the darling of the Right. To the extent Tim Aker later on (whilst Priti Patel was briefly away voting in the House of Commons) quipped he couldn’t speak for Priti but she certainly could speak for him! Mrs Patel lovebombed UKIP saying her party should not be attacking Nigel Farage’s party. The Witham MP also said the Conservative Party’s activist base was at its lowest it has ever been and the party in Government had alienated its members. It’s as if she was rehearsing her leadership speech for Party Conference in October 2015. She certainly ticked the right boxes for me.

Labour’s Natascha Engel was a perfectly nice lady but she really is a bit of a wet blanket. She didn’t say a lot about her party or their policies but did find time to say she doesn’t like asking electors for their voting intention on the doorstep. How on earth did she get elected?

It was then Tom Brake’s turn to say how wonderful the Lib Dems were in Government and that they were the ones who had done all the good things – £10,000 tax allowance was theirs of course –  and the Tories had insisted on all the nasty things. Oh and it was the Liberal Democrats who had secured 1.5 Million apprenticeships too. When questioned on why they were therefore doing so badly in the polls, Mr Brake said he found that concentrating on local issues in his constituency helped keep his base on side. Well that may be so in his seat but it won’t save his wider party from oblivion at the General Election.

And then UKIP’s head of policy – and fellow Essex resident (two on the same panel indeed along with Priti Patel) – Tim Aker launched his rhetoric. Straight off the bat he announced the “Lib Dems are history” (fair point) and that despite David Cameron’s promise to control immigration it was in fact back up to “Blair standards”. He even insisted that he HAD to wear his UKIP rosette whilst canvassing in his Thurrock prospective seat so he didn’t get verbally attacked! Strangely (or maybe not) Priti Patel was nodding along to Aker’s rhetorical beat. Mr Aker rounded off his commentary with “People are fed up of the three main Westminster parties. We are the alternative”.

Questions from the audience were then welcomed. Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, asked a question which summed up how difficult it was to predict the General Election result when he said “What use is a national poll going to be in the General Election?”  ComRes’ head of political polling, Tom Mludzinski, said in reply it was too early to predict the result but they were currently drilling down even further by polling in the 40 most marginal seats. I wouldn’t be surprised if my former stomping ground,  Ipswich, was one of those marginal seats being polled.

Wrapping up the evening, Sophy Ridge provided her analysis and admitted she had been to a UKIP rally recently – for work purposes only of course, she cringed. Miss Ridge homed in on a point Priti Patel made earlier when she voiced deep concern about the direction the Scottish Referendum was taking and there was a serious risk of a Yes vote. As this was a polite gathering, no one pointed out that David Cameron may have made a stupid error in allowing Salmond his vote on independence. Sophy Ridge did point out there was a chance of some strange results whereby incumbent MPs go against their party’s swing and display “limpet-like” quality in hanging on to their seats. There’s hope for Ben Gummer yet! Finally, she identified three “curve balls”: the result of the Scottish Referendum could change everything; UKIP victory at the European Elections and how David Cameron reacts to this – does he take his party to the Right allowing Labour to occupy the centre ground?; the anti-establishment mood in the country: this is what Salmond and Farage have latched on to. Miss Ridge recounted her attendance at the UKIP rally where Mr Farage talked about Europe, immigration etc but it was when he urged the audience to give two fingers to the Westminster establishment he got the biggest cheer of the night.

Interesting indeed and even if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t waste my money – despite us only having one year to go.


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A look ahead to the 2015 General Election

westminster

This time next year will be the eve of the General Election in the United Kingdom, when we voters will pass our verdict on the Coalition Government led by David Cameron of the Conservatives and his Deputy Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.

Sky News political correspondent Sophy Ridge

Sky News political correspondent Sophy Ridge

Tonight I will be at a special debate in Westminster hosted by PR firm Weber Shandwick. All four main parties will represented on the panel with Priti Patel MP taking part the Tories, Natascha Engel MP for Labour, Tom Brake MP of the Lib Dems and Tim Aker, as Head of Policy for UKIP.  Weber Shandwick have also teamed up with polling company ComRes, who during the evening will take a scientific look at what could be the outcome of the General Election poll in May 2015. Sky News’ political correspondent Sophy Ridge will conclude the discussion with her own analysis of how the political parties will fare once they face the judgement of the electorate.

Even if you can’t make tonight’s debate, you can follow and engage in the conversation online on Twitter using the hashtag #oneyeartogo.

A full report of the evening will be posted soon.


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EU elections campaign kicks off

 

Nigel Farage vs Nick Clegg in LBC EU debate on Wednesday evening

Nigel Farage vs Nick Clegg in LBC EU debate on Wednesday evening

On Wednesday, the leaders of UKIP and the Liberal Democrats debated with each other on whether Great Britain should stay in the European Union.

Hosted by commercial radio station LBC, once London focussed but now broadcasting nationally on DAB radio, and chaired by LBC presenter Nick Ferrari (he does not look very Italian!) the debate was a stark choice between In or Out of the EU.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage came straight from the pub to the central London venue, umbrella in hand and donning a fur collar three-quarter length coat on a cold March evening whilst Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg turned up – sans coat – with a Met Police detective (I presume he was guarding him) after being dropped off further up the street in a ministerial limo.

During the hour long programme, Chairman Nick Ferrari insisted on referring to Mr Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister despite the debate being a party political event between two political leaders. Nick Clegg was merely there as leader of the Liberal Democrats not as a government minister.

Sky News televised the debate and it was also broadcast from LBC’s website. It may have come as a surprise to see Sky and LBC so intertwined. It shouldn’t be as Sky produce LBC’s news slots and veteran Sky newsreader Kay Burley hosts a phone-in on LBC on Sunday morning. It’s a small world…

So on to the debate proper. There was nothing new to the arguments. For political geeks it was a case of ticking off the key points one by one as they were trotted out by Clegg and Farage. 77% of Britain’s laws are made in the EU, said Mr Farage. No, only 7% are according to Mr Clegg (which was even the BBC rubbished the next day). The Lib Dem leader mocked UKIP Nigel Farage for saying 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians would descend on the UK once the transition controls were dropped on 1st January. Mr Farage denied he said they would all turn up but then cleverly stated it wasn’t 29 million who have access to our jobs and houses, it was 450 million: the population of EU countries. And, of course, he’s right.

The cost to Britain of being in the EU “club” was raised by Mr Farage. It’s £55 million a day if you’re interested. The Lib Dem leader had to slip in that the NHS would collapse if we curbed immigration into the UK. *Yawn*. And, of course, Nick Clegg said we’d lose 3 million jobs if we left the EU. Mr Farage batted back that the 3 million figure comes from one academic report written in 1997 and there is no reliable evidence this is true.

You get the point.

It was political candy for political geeks like me but I doubt much of the electorate were watching or read and heard about the debate in the copious column inches, tweets and analysis written and verbalised by the hordes of journalists, bloggers, radio DJs and TV presenters gathered in the “spin room” next to the debating hall.

Emperor public gave Farage the thumbs up after EU debate when YouGov declared him the "winner"

Emperor public gave Farage the thumbs up after EU debate when YouGov poll declared him the “winner”

Who won then? The mainstream media, as Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph, has pointed out today (in contrast to his colleague Fraser Nelson who’s gone all “wet” on the issue of an EU debate), wanted Nick Clegg to win as that was the consensus the London metropolitan journalist elite had decided before the debate had begun. As soon as the debate ended the ‘pundits’ were calling it for Clegg and calling Nigel Farage sweaty. Then once YouGov had crunched their instant poll numbers, they quickly U-turned once the emperor public had shown the thumbs up for Mr Farage by 57% to Nick Clegg’s 36%. 

I think Nigel Farage spoke with passion and sincerity – you can see he really believes what he says. Whereas smarmy Clegg just parroted the Brussels line and showed faux shock at the Ukip leader’s views. It was interesting to hear why the Westminster journalists thought Clegg had won (especially as they go against public opinion): he spoke directly to the camera unlike Farage (except Farage did); unlike the UKIP leader, Mr Clegg called audience questioner’s by their names (except Mr Farage also did); Mr Clegg showed he’d done a few of these debates before (you mean he looked bored and drank too much water); and Mr Farage looked sweaty and shifty (errr, HD TV has been around for a while now and even this picture didn’t show a bead of sweat on Mr Farage’s brow).

In short, no one really won. The views of both contenders were not a surprise. However, most people in the country will have not heard the key points on either side of the argument before so – for the electors who tuned in – it was very worthwhile having the debate for that alone. I applaud LBC for organising this debate and for Sky News broadcasting it on a free national TV platform. Mr Clegg and Mr Farage now do it all again on the BBC next week, when audience numbers will be far higher.

This was Nigel Farage’s first national TV debate. David Cameron is still resisting sharing a platform with the UKIP leader in the 2015 General Election debates but he may have no choice if the public’s verdict on Mr Farage translates into real votes in the European Elections on 22nd May.


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Osborne helps savers in Budget

Chancellor George Osborne and his Treasury team outside Number 11 Downing Street before he delivered his fifth Budget today

Chancellor George Osborne and his Treasury team outside Number 11 Downing Street before he delivered his fifth Budget today

First up, I’m sorry for not blogging for over three weeks. I have recently had a big change in my life as I moved away from Ipswich, where I had lived and worked (in business and politics) for nearly thirteen years, to Chelmsford in Essex. It was sad to leave Ipswich but it was time for a change and since stepping down from active politics as a local councillor and Tory activist the opportunity was there to open a new chapter in my life.

But (unfortunately for some I am sure!) you won’t stop hearing from me in the electronic world as I will continue blogging on politics, mainly nationally and internationally until, perhaps, I feel the need to comment on the shenanigans of local politicians in the county town city of Essex.

So here goes with another post..

George Osborne has today announced his fifth budget for UK plc, with key headlines for me being the increase in the income tax threshold to £10,500 (delayed until next year) and the big one: increasing the ISA allowance (in either cash or shares) to £15,000 from July this year. This is great news for everyone (as all are entitled to earn up to £10,500 without paying income tax) and savers, who have suffered far too long since the banks and the Labour Party wrecked the economy in 2008.

It was interesting to see two MPs who I personally know – and have campaigned for – standing on the doorstep of Number 11 next to George Osborne at the customary photo op when the Chancellor of the Exchequer holds up the red box before driving off to the Commons to deliver his budget. Both Nicky Morgan (Con, Loughborough), who is Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Rob Wilson (Con, Reading East), who is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor, were in Downing Street with Mr Osborne for the group shot of the Chancellor’s team before he took centre stage.

We had the announcement at the front-end of the income tax system on the personal allowance but Mr Osborne also told us the higher rate tax threshold will rise from £41,450 to £41,865 next month and by a further 1% to £42,285 next year. Not a lot but it will help the 1.4 million (since 2010 alone) who are, frankly, on modest incomes (especially if they are the only breadwinner) but have been dragged into the 40% bracket. Let’s not forget the LOWERING of the 40% threshold was a deliberate Coalition Government policy since 2010 to pay for the increase in the personal income tax allowance. So all in all higher rate taxpayers are still losing out – some (in fact most) will say “so what?”, as the majority do not earn enough to pay 40%, but I remind you hundreds of thousands earn just over the threshold and their increase in salary due to a promotion is then swallowed up by HM Treasury – hardly fair.

I’m no where near about to retire and won’t be able to afford to do for many decades thanks to the out-of-control housing market and Gordon Brown’s raid on pensions back in 1997 when he removed the tax relief available to pension funds. But I am pleased George Osborne has started to recognise the huge problems being stored up for those on defined contribution pensions, which, if they have a pension at all, nearly everyone in the median working age group (i.e. my Generation) has rather than the gold-plated salary pension schemes (also known as defined benefit) my parents’ generation enjoy. I won’t begin to try and understand the detail (not yet anyway) but the Chancellor has removed tax restrictions, meaning defined contribution pension holders won’t need to buy an annuity if they do not wish to, and the taxable part of pension pot taken as cash on retirement is to be charged at normal income tax rate, down from 55%.

Straight after the budget, Sky News went to Wakefield to interview two local businessmen (and yes, they were men!). Both interviewees were positive about the chancellor’s announcement with the key word “confidence” being used. Most ordinary workers are yet to feel the benefits of the economic fixes the Conservative-led Government is putting in place to rectify the monumental mess the Labour Party, of which Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were very senior members, left the country in 2010. But I sense a warming amongst the electorate towards the Conservatives when it comes to the economy, which will be THE most important aspect of the General Election in 2015. “It’s the economy, stupid”, as Bill Clinton said.

However, David Cameron’s Conservatives have an uphill struggle if they are to actually win a general election for the first time since 1992! The constituency boundaries are skewered in Labour’s favour, thanks to the cry-baby antics of the Liberal Democrats when they weren’t given Lords Reform (something not mandatory in the Coalition Agreement although boundary changes were if Nick Clegg’s party got their referendum on the Alternative Vote system, which they did) and the general feel in the country that the Tories are still the party of the rich, which Labour leader Ed Miliband focused on again today during his budget response in the House of Commons. The surge of UKIP, to be boosted further when they may indeed win the European Elections in May, will also be a major factor on whether Mr Miliband takes the keys to 10 Downing Street or not. The yellow peril for all their puffed out chests in government (despite losing seats in the 2010 election), are an irrelevance.


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Dave finally comes round to my way of thinking

Now Coalition is bad David Cameron says

Now Coalition is bad David Cameron says

Well, well, the Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, has today “made it known” to the Daily Telegraph he now doesn’t want to enter into a second Coalition Government should the Tories fail to secure a majority in next year’s General Election and will commit to this in the Conservative Party manifesto for 2015.

I’m delighted Mr Cameron should say this. I never wanted the Conservatives to enter into a Coalition in the first place back in 2010. It was a grubby deal done for the sole purpose of David Cameron being able to tick off “been Prime Minister” on his to-do list – and, of course, so smirky Nick Clegg could slip into power via the back door. The Lib Dem leader actually LOST seats in the 2010 General Election but Mr Clegg still ended up as Deputy Prime Minister.

But I wouldn’t trust David Cameron. His views blow like the wind, just like a certain Mr Bliar’s did. Whatever the focus groups want, Mr Cameron will slot straight in behind. It seems the general public don’t like Coalition Governments much, with a poll by Ipsos MORI last month showing that 65 per cent of voters believe that a second hung parliament would be bad for Britain. This is hardly surprising as our entire political system, endorsed by the Great British electorate over centuries, is deliberately geared so we don’t end up with coalitions, like our European cousins are so fond of. The reason we ended up in this blue-yellow mish mash in Westminster is because the electorate still hadn’t fully warmed to the Conservative Party – borne out by the fact the Labour Party had imploded and still David Cameron wasn’t able to win a majority.

This is a shrewd move by the Prime Minister. He knows many of his Tory backbenchers hate having to share a bed with the yellow peril and thousands of his party members and activists are demotivated by the ease at which David Cameron brokered a deal with Nick Clegg. By painting a stark choice between either a Conservative Government or a Labour Government at the 2015 election, this may well help persuade Tories who have defected to UKIP over the last couple of years to come back to the fold to ensure Ed Miliband doesn’t end up with the keys to 10 Downing Street.

Not all so-called Conservatives were demotivated by their party forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Apart from the obvious examples on the Tory frontbench like Michael Gove and George Osborne, many from the voluntary party were strong advocates of David Cameron’s decision to form a Coalition Government. I found this deeply suspicious and it helped me understand the difference between a true-blue Tory and those just along for the power-trip. But I expect these Coalition apparatchiks will, just like the change in direction of the wind, soon be flag wavers against forming Coalition Governments. The problem for them this time is we now know who they are.

Since I joined the Conservative Party in 2003, my goal has been for the Tories to form a majority Government. We lost a fourth general election in a row in 2010 (the Coalition apparatchiks said we won – what planet are they on?). I really hope the Conservative Party wins a majority in 2015.


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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.