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.
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 ubiquitous 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.
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.
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.
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.