Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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Travel chaos in and out of Ipswich

Major arterial route through Ipswich still closed 24 hours after windy conditions

Major arterial route through Ipswich still closed 24 hours after windy conditions

You really have to question the competence of the public sector on a day like today.

I took my wife to the railway station at 07.00 this morning and found one of the main East-West arterial routes through the town closed. The same stretch of road, Key Street/College Street on the Waterfront gyratory, was closed yesterday due to the wind blowing some fencing down and a lamp post during Monday morning. Almost 24 hours later, the same stretch of road was still closed.

Traffic is being taken down half the Waterfront-side gyratory heading west and then is swiftly diverted north up on to Star lane and through Waterworks Street and Bond Street, taking all East-West bound traffic through the north side of the town centre along Crown Street. As would be expected, this has caused gridlock for traffic coming from the East of Ipswich.

Ok, I understand if a lamp post comes down, it needs to be removed. But how long does it take to do this? I have also received reports the police believe – they don’t know – there is structural damage to one of the buildings adjacent to the road. At the time of writing Ipswich Borough Council’s Building Control team are yet to assess if the building is safe and Ipswich can be re-opened for business.

This question needs a serious answer from Borough Council chief Russell Williams: why weren’t your Building Control team on-site 24 hours ago? Why haven’t they made their assessment yet? Can they not work overnight on some measurements?

It is not acceptable for a bit of wind to bring Suffolk’s county town to a halt. It is regrettable four people died in the storm yesterday across a population of 66 million but we cannot use the weather as an excuse for the public sector to ramp down their work even further than they do when we have calm conditions. Britain’s climate is warm, wet and WINDY! We should be better prepared to respond to our own climate, experienced in these islands for millennia.

In London over the summer, a skyscraper was melting cars and anything else that stood under it’s gaze because the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building in central London was magnifying sunlight on to the road and pavement below. What did the City of London authorities do? Did they close the road? Err, no! They ordered the building owner to put up some material on the windows causing the reflection pronto, which was duly done with no disruption to Londoners, no road closures, nothing. We just pitied the poor man who came back to find his BMW melted.

Why in the provinces do we have to put up with a ‘third-world’ standard of public service? Perhaps, because the majority of people don’t moan like ambitious, confident Londoners would. Either way, it’s not acceptable for Health and Safety to be used as an excuse for the public sector to be even more inefficient than they usually are, which takes some doing!

Oh you pay us £6,000 a year for a train service? Sorry, get the bus!

Oh you pay us £6,000 a year for a train service? Sorry, get the bus!

Things then got worse once I was finally able to drop my wife off at the railway station. Greater Anglia and Network Rail – the paragons of railway incompetents – found 24 hours was also not enough time to lift a few branches off the line and fix some signalling and so Suffolk’s county town still does not have a railway service to London, with all trains suspended to Liverpool Street. Instead, my wife, who pays Greater Anglia £6,000 a year to travel in worse conditions than cattle, had to queue for a bus to Manningtree then a ‘bus on rails’ to Colchester before finally being able to take an inter-city service to the capital. It took her three hours to get to work! This is frankly completely unacceptable and again would seem to be incompetence and inefficiency on behalf of the publicly owned Network Rail, heavily in hoc to the Unions who can’t wait to find an excuse to down tools (look at Grangemouth!) and Greater Anglia who, like the big six energy firms, can do what they like because where else has the hard-pressed commuter got to go?

What is wrong then? Is it all down to ill-judged health and safety concerns? Is it because we have lost our stoicism as a nation which saw us win two world wars? Is it because we have such an imbalanced economy that our infrastructure can’t cope with London being the only place to actually make a decent wage, bar a few exceptions? Or is it just public sector incompetence? I’d love to hear your views in the comments.


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Labour refuse to apologise for disability slur against Tory opponent

Tory attack: Labour's Cllr Carole Jones last night used a Conservative councillor's disability to score a political point

Tory attack: Labour’s Cllr Carole Jones last night used a Conservative councillor’s disability to score a political point

They don’t like it up ’em as Corporal Jones eloquently put it in BBC hit sitcom Dad’s Army. And it was true last night at a full gathering of councillors at Ipswich Borough’s Town Hall when Labour’s Cllr Carole Jones marched headlong into a disability row by publicly ridiculing her Tory opponent over his spelling of the word “embarrassment” in his council question to her.

Tory Cllr Richard Pope demanded an apology from Cllr Carole Jones over disability slur

Tory Cllr Richard Pope demanded an apology from Cllr Carole Jones over disability slur

Conservative Cllr Richard Pope, who was on the receiving end of Cllr Jones slur, stood up on a point of order to state Labour’s Cllr Jones knew he was a registered dyslexic and to use his disability to make fun of him at a public meeting was in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. Cllr Pope then demanded an apology from Cllr Jones. She refused. The Mayor also refused to sanction her from his Chairman’s position.

The Labour Party are always banging on about minority rights, as if they have a monopoly for standing up for the vulnerable in our society, but when they slur a Tory they refuse to apologise. You can hear them thinking “We don’t REALLY care about standing up for discrimination, it’s just a cynical ploy to win votes!” “And let’s face it, they’re TORIES – they don’t count!”.

Say what you like about Conservatives, as a political tribe they stand out as showing common courtesy and decency towards their opponents. I suppose you could call it the the best of British that is prevalent within their ranks. But Labour councillors and MPs have no such qualms when it comes to doing battle with their political adversaries. It wasn’t the first time last night Labour had resorted to personal attacks and defamation to skirt around answering the questions put to the Executive. Cllr Ellesmere decided he didn’t like Tory Blogger and former Conservative candidate Kevin Algar’s question on the status of Ipswich as the county-town of Suffolk and so just blurted out he found Mr Algar’s question “bizarre, just like the person”.

Transport chief Cllr Phil Smart’s immediate response to an earlier question – coincidentally from Cllr Pope – was to give his Tory opponent a less in grammar and the use of the word “infer”. He spent more time admonishing the Conservative councillor’s English language skills rather than answer a question about a bus route in his ward.

Once Labour took their personal attacks up a gear with the disability slur against Cllr Pope, several members of the Tory Group had had enough. Cllr Nadia Cenci rose to her feet and told the Mayor she could no longer continue to partake in a meeting under such conditions where personal attacks against a member of the public and Conservative councillors, including possible illegal action by Cllr Jones, was being condoned by Mr Mayor and the Monitoring Officer.

Cllr Cenci proceeded to walk out of the meeting and was closely followed by former Tory Leader Cllr Liz Harsant and Cllr Pope.

IBC chief executive Russell Williams

IBC chief executive Russell Williams

Sources tell me a formal complaint over Cllr Jones’ behaviour will be sent to Chief Executive Russell Williams. It is important he orders a thorough review and investigation into last night’s exchange (the audio is recorded by the Council) as from the public gallery where I was sitting it sounded like a contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, the Disability Discrimination Act and possibly the Equality Act too.

This blog will be watching carefully for the response from the Council over the next few days.


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Ipswich Borough Council breaks political impartiality rules

For all the world to see, a civil servant or civil servants thought it was appropriate to re-tweet several Ipswich Labour Party propaganda tweets from the official Ipswich Borough Council twitter account.

Ipswich Borough Council re-tweets Labour Party propaganda

Ipswich Borough Council re-tweets Labour Party propaganda

As reported first in Ipswich Spy, Ipswich Borough Council civil servants seem to have a habit of re-tweeting Labour councillor tweets and even a tweet the Labour Party had sent out advertising a canvassing session. And then yesterday they decided to not only promote Labour councillors but the Labour parliamentary candidate (and Council leader), David Ellesmere, who is fighting sitting Conservative MP Ben Gummer at the next General Election in less than two years time. The re-tweet linked to an article Cllr Ellesmere had penned for the Ipswich Labour Party website. The re-tweet has since been deleted but the internet remembers everything (see left)…

Now forgive me if I am wrong but isn’t the cardinal rule of being a civil servant to be politically impartial? Doesn’t the civil service pride itself on its impartiality thereby ensuring mandarins can be trusted to implement the policies of the day whichever political party is in charge at Grafton House or Downing Street?

It seems Borough Council Chief Executive Russell Williams needs to ensure his staff are fully up-to-date with their mandatory training. And perhaps the Council needs to limit the number of people with access to the Council’s official Twitter account.