Monday, 23 July 2012

Area Committee Meetings - Labour opportunity for self promotion.

Well, that's done it now for me.

I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and I like to play fair in politics. Those who know me well, know that I care about the community and put them first above any political fights with the opposition.
I work collaboratively and play nicely with Labour councillors especially those that I think have the same mindset as me, but it is becoming more and more difficult to stay out of any virtual spats when I see literature from Ipswich Labour taking the praise for things we Ipswich Tories either did or instigated when we were in administration.

I like to show fellow councillors of all persuasions that they can trust me to work collaboratively with them and some have returned that respect to me and still do.

And so we come to the Area Committees which took over from Area Forums. Area forums were non political and were meetings where the community could come together to talk to their councillors, police and other public servants. We sat with them, not opposite them and joined in without making any political statements.Now however, we are lined up like some sort of political wall with issues that are important but delivered in a stuffy, informal gathering which has seen numbers drop at most areas of the town.

At the last meeting (which is chaired by a labour councillor for Suffolk County Council and Gipping Ward) we discussed the bridge that runs over Stoke Park Road near the entrance of Bourne Park and needs demolishing. We agreed that we would consult all the residents and ask them if they preferred this to doing a repair job on a regular basis.  I agreed that this was a must.

I would like to say here that the chair, Cllr Peter Gardiner, is an excellent chairman and very fair in all the proceedings including allowing me plenty or opportunity to speak and have my say. I have absolutely no issue with this part of the process.

But hey, lo and behold a leaflet goes out with it's usual grainy appearance (in order for them to look as if funds are low in their campaign pot) along the lines of 'Labour want to know what you think'.

So, now I know. Any consultations are not going to go out under the name of Ipswich Borough Council, nor is it going to go out under SW Area Committee.

No, they are going to use the committee meetings to ensure their propaganda is stepped up over the coming months in time for County elections and Cllr Ellesmere's political dreams of becoming Ipswich's MP. (He has  loooooong way to go to match up to the fantastic Ben Gummer who does put Ipswich first and has achieved great things already).

I did guess they would use these meetings in such a way, as did all my colleagues, but I wanted to see it for myself before I decided that this was the case.

So there you have it. The Area Committees took over area forums, not because it would be a better platform for residents to voice their concerns or spend some money locally, but to bump up the chances of winning more votes in the area.

They are trying to ignore me as their Tory colleague but anyone who knows me will also confirm that I never allow myself to be ignored, ever.

My hopes for the success of the Area committees has now changed for ever.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Snippets of News from Ipswich Conservative Website

From our web pages including links.
Don't forget to follow the group on @ica_suffolk or myself @stokeparkcllr

Sunday, 1 July, 2012
Ipswich Conservatives today launched our very own Twitter account where we hope to engage in discussions with the residents of Ipswich and inform them of our activities in and around the town. You can follow us on twitter @ICA_Suffolk. We have also launched our own YouTube Channel.
Sunday, 1 July, 2012
The Department for Transport have this morning confirmed a financial commitment of over £18m to Suffolk for improving the transport infrastructure in the county town of Ipswich, following an application by Conservative run Suffolk County Council, with support from local MP, Ben Gummer.
Tuesday, 26 June, 2012
Local Conservative Councillors in the North East of Ipswich have said ‘Yes please!’ to plans to redevelop the play area at the Cherry Lane Recreation ground off Rushmere Road.
Sunday, 24 June, 2012
A strong Conservative Team joined Ben Gummer MP in Westgate yesterday.
Sunday, 24 June, 2012
It wasn't only Bryony Rudkin who failed to answer questions at Full Council.
Sunday, 24 June, 2012
In another project overrun, reopening the Wolsey Gallery at Christchurch Mansion has been delayed.
According to Bryony Rudkin, Labour's culture portfolio holder, this is due to the fact that 'asbestos was discovered'.
Sunday, 24 June, 2012
Bryony Rudkin, Labour's Executive member with responsibility for culture, was more than evasive when asked at Full Council why the leisure and competition pools at Crown Pools didn't open on time.
Sunday, 24 June, 2012
The Labour Administration at Ipswich Borough Council has just announced that it intends to end the last area of free car parking serving the town centre.
Wednesday, 20 June, 2012
The penny has taken some time to drop but at last the Labour Administration at Ipswich Borough Council has decided to take the advice put forward by the Conservative Group at the budget debate in February to protect front line services by reducing senior management costs

Monday, 2 July 2012

Torch Relay info Ipswich 5th July

(provided by IBC) 
As of Friday 29th June

Due to the nature of the Torch Relay the information is subject to change - for up to date information please visit

The Olympic torch will arrive in Ipswich at approximately 6:20pm on Thursday 5th July and be carried through the town by torchbearers. If you are travelling home from work on the affected routes at these times, we advise you to seek an alternative route or change your travel time accordingly. It is hoped the arrival of the torch by boat on the Ipswich Waterfront will minimise disruption on routes into the town. The torch will travel along Ipswich Waterfront and up into the town centre via St Peters Street, St Nicholas Street and Princes Street. After travelling through the town centre the torch will arrive at Christchurch Park, through the Soane Street entrance via Northgate Street and crossing Crown Street. The flame is expected on-stage in the park at 6:50pm. Of course there may be delays, as has already been seen in earlier locations. If the torch is delayed it will be publicised immediately on the Ipswich Borough Council Twitter account @IpswichGov and on BBC Radio Suffolk. 
view route in and view route out here.
Road Closures
The following roads will be closed from midnight on July 4 th 2012 until midnight on July 5th2012:
  • Albion Wharf – Complete length
  • Wherry Quay – Complete length
  • Common Quay – Complete length
  • Wherry Lane – Complete length
  • Neptune Quay – Complete Length
  • Orwell Quay – Complete Length
  • Foundary Lane – Between College Street and Albion Wharf
  • St Peters Wharf – Between Foundary Lane and Bridge Street
  • Key Street – Between Key Street and Common Quay
  • St Nicholas Street – Between Cutler Street and Friars Street
  • Cromwell Square – Complete Length
 The following roads will be subject to rolling road closures on July 5th and 6th as the torch convoy passes through Ipswich town centre:
  • Star Lane - Bridge Street to St Peters Street
  • Upper Brook Street – Butter Market to Northgate Street.
  • Handford Road – Civic Drive to Portman Road
  • West End Road – Commercial Road to London Road
  • Tavern Street – Cornhill to Upper Brook Street
  • Princes Street – Friars Street to Queen Street
  • London Road – From West End Road to A1214 Copdock Interchange
  • Commercial Road – Grafton Way to West End Road
  • Portman Road – Handford Road to Princes Street
  • St Margaret’s Plain – Northgate St to Soane Street
  • Princes Street - Portman Road to Grafton Way
  • Queen Street – Princes Street to Butter Market
  • Grafton Way – Princes Street to Commercial Road
  • St Peters Street – Between Star Lane and Cutler Street
  • Butter Market – Queen Street to Upper Brook Street
  • Soane Street - St Margaret’s Plain to Bolton Lane
  • Civic Drive – St Matthews Street to Handford Road
  • Friars Street – St Nicholas Street to Princes Street
  • Bridge Street – Stoke Bridge to Star Lane
  • Westgate Street – Cornhill to St Matthews Street
  • Northgate Street – Upper Brook Street to St Margaret’s Plain
  • St Matthews Street – Westgate Street to Civic Drive
  • Princes Street – Cornhill to Queen Street
There will be no parking of vehicles along the torch route after midnight from the 4 th of July. Any unattended vehicles parked along the route may be towed away. 
Ipswich Borough Council will be providing facilities to lock your bikes in Christchurch Park whilst you enjoy the town and park activities. We highly recommend cycling to the event to avoid any traffic and facilitate easy parking. The cycle park will be located close to the Soane Street entrance of the park close to the Speigeltent.
Whilst kept to a minimum there will inevitably be some disruption to road traffic and we encourage people to walk or cycle to events wherever possible. Please plan your route well in advance and check any possible disruption to bus or rail services with the relevant provider.
Please refer to individual car park operators to openings and tariffs
Please note: The Crown Street Car Park will be closed between Saturday 26 th May and Sunday 15th July 2012 to host the Crash of Elysium event. It will therefore be unavailable for use during Torch Relay events.
 Cobden Place Car Park is also closed for works during this period.
 Park and rides will be open until 8pm on the evening of July 5th and we encourage visitors to make full use of these facilities.

Viewing points

Please be sensible about where you choose to view the torch relay, especially if you are bringing young children with you. Narrow streets such as Northgate Street are unsuitable for large crowds. Please take extra caution along the waterfront when standing on the dockside of the road. We advise you select your viewing position up to one hour before the forecasted arrival of the torch. On the day we will be providing updates about the clearest viewing areas via Twitter and local radio. The Presenting Partners will be handing out their premium giveaways on the left hand side of the road in most areas. Please try and situate yourself sensibly and don’t try and cross the road when the convoy is passing your location.
 Please note that it is not advised that people should move try to access Christchurch Park after the torch has passed their location as the torch arrival is the final moment of the Evening Celebration and all entertainment will have finished by the time you arrive.
 Hot spots
The town centre route will feature five ‘hotspot activation zones’. These zones are at; Customs House, Foundry Lane (outside DanceEast), Cromwell Square Car Park, Cornhill and in the lower part of Christchurch Park, inside the Soane Street entrance. Please check the Ipswich Borough Council for more details of acts and times.
 The lower half of Christchurch Park will also feature a ‘Sports Village’ with sporting and voluntary organisations present. There will be plenty of ‘Have a Go’ sporting sessions and musical and dance workshops. Come and try something new and get more involved in your town. Other entertainment in the park, outside of the main event arena, includes a fun fair and concessions stands. 
The Olympic Torch Relay is supported by three Presenting Partners; Coca-Cola, Samsung and Lloyds TSB. These partners will be sending out crews in small vehicles to each of the entertainment ‘hotspots’. They will be providing additional entertainment, alongside our own local groups, and handing out small premium giveaways to the crowd. Please note Coca-Cola will only be handing out their premiums to people over the age of 12 as part of their commitment not to market to young children. Parents may give the samples to their children at their own discretion.
 The main convoy
The main torch convoy is made up of a range of vehicles including police motorcycles, torchbearer drop off and collection buses, Presenting Partner trucks, security and media vehicles and the torch itself, with its police escorts.  Please be aware; there may be a gap of several minutes between the Presenting Partner vehicles and the arrival of the torch itself, as torchbearers travel at different speeds. The Presenting Partners will be handing out premiums to the crowd on the left hand side of the road only. This is a standard practice throughout the entire route to protect the crowds, as there may be oncoming traffic on the right hand side of the road in many locations.
  The route split
On the Thursday evening there will be a split between the convoy vehicles and the torchbearer. Whilst the torchbearer will continue up Princes Street from Giles Circus, across the Cornhill and along Tavern Street, the convoy vehicles will travel along the Buttermarket and turn left onto Upper Brook Street before meeting the torchbearer at the junction with Tavern Street. This is due to problems with turning circles of some of the larger vehicles.
 It is not advisable to try and switch between the two routes as it may result in crowd problems and you risk missing seeing the torch itself.
 Evening Celebration Site
Entry to the Evening Celebration Site in the north of Christchurch Park is strictly by wristband entry only. There are no wristbands available on the day.
Delays have been an issue throughout the earlier days of the Olympic Torch Relay. Likewise there have been days when the torch has arrived slightly ahead of time so please arrive well in advance.
If you become ill during the event please find the nearest steward, who can assist you further. If the weather is warm please consider wearing hats and sunscreen and bringing extra drinks with you.
 Services disruption
We do not expect the torch relay to cause major disruptions to usual services such as postal services or bin collections due to the timing of the event. However, if you are planning on having deliveries on the days of the relay we do advise you to contact your courier so they can plan accordingly. Likewise, if you use a private waste company it is advised that you inform them of possible disruptions.
 Ipswich market will be closed all day on Thursday July 5th and may open slightly later then usual on Friday 6th July to allow the relay to pass through the town centre.
 Friday 6th July Farewell
The torch will leave Christchurch Park and parade through Ipswich town centre on the morning of Friday 6th July from approximately 6.35am. This is a great opportunity to catch a closer view of the torch. 
 The torch will appear on Christchurch Mansion balcony for a photo opportunity at 6:35am and will then leave the park, carried by torchbearers, out of the Soane Street entrance, onto Soane Street, across Crown Street and into Northgate Street. Down Northgate Street, turning right onto The Buttermarket towards Giles Circus. Heading up right onto Princes Street and across the Cornhill. Heading west along Tavern Street and into Westgate Street. Carrying onto St. Matthews Street and turning left onto Civic Drive, right into Handford Road and left into Portman Road
 Ipswich Borough Council is hosting a fun run around Christchurch Park immediately following the departure of the torch. All are welcome to join in. Please bring sensible running shoes and water.

Frequently asked questins
Will the torch stop for me to take a photo?
No. Please do not attempt to hold up the torch or get in front of its path to take photos, as you will quickly be moved by the torch’s police guard. There is a dedicated photo opportunity in Ipswich on the morning on July 6 th at 6:35am on Christchurch Mansion balcony.

Can I hold the torch?
No. Torchbearers were selected and informed several months ago by a public nomination process. You will not be able to hold the torch on route. Wristband holders for the Evening Celebration Site will have the opportunity to have their photos taken with a torch at the Presenting Partners showcasing locations.

Who are the Ipswich torchbearers?
You can find out details and profile of all the torchbearers in Ipswich

Who are the presenting partners and what is their role in the Torch Relay?
The presenting partners are the Relay’s sponsors. They are Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung. The Torch Relay would not be possible without the support of the Presenting Partners as they fund the whole event. They provide the entertainment around the Olympic Flame and the Torchbearer and substantial segments of the Evening Celebration. 

Can I bring my dog?
We strongly advise that you leave dogs at home, other than assistance dogs. Even the most sociable and relaxed dogs can find large crowds and moving vehicles stressful and upsetting.

What is being done to ensure the Relay route is kept clean and tidy?
The event sponsors are providing giveaways, which are keepsakes so that spectators will keep them rather than throw them away. Coca-Cola is providing a recycling van for plastic bottles. Ipswich Borough Council will be providing appropriate street cleansing and recycling facilities to support the Torch Relay. You can also come along to Christchurch Park where we will be hosting a stand promoting recycling in Ipswich. Please try and take your rubbish home with you to dispose of wherever possible.

How can I get more involved?
If you would like to volunteer to assist with Ipswich Relay events, or indeed any Ipswich events please log onto to find out more and submit your details.

If you are thinking of organising a street party or other community event to celebrate the torch relay please logon to where you can download a handbook full of useful information and ideas.

Can I watch the torch relay on TV?
The BBC is the official media partner for the torch relay and will be covering most of the route live on their website. It will also be showing parts of the journey on their interactive red button as well as using regional and national news bulletins to show the torch arriving and leaving daily destinations. There are also live feeds of the torch relay on the BBC News and Official London 2012 torch relay websites.

Where else will the torch be in Suffolk?
The torch is expected to arrive in Lowestoft shortly after 10am on the morning of July 5th. It will travel down the eastern side of the county, taking in villages and towns en-route, arriving in;

Wrentham at 11:10am
Reydon & Southwold from 11:30am
Kelsale & Saxmundham from 1:30pm
Aldeburgh from 2pm
Wickham Market from 3:05pm
Ufford from 3:20pm
Melton and Woodbridge from 3:30pm
Felixstowe from 4:45pm

The torch travels to Ipswich from Felixstowe and will stop overnight in Ipswich. The torch leaves Ipswich at around 7:03am on the morning of July 6 th before it enters Essex. The relay comes back into Suffolk on July 7th, travelling through the west of the county, arriving in;

Haverhill from 2:45pm
Bury St Edmunds from 3:45pm
Newmarket from 5:30pm

Please note when the torch is in convoy mode, travelling in a vehicle from one community to the next, it is not visible to the public. We strongly advise you to check that your planned viewing position is whilst the torch is in torchbearer mode to avoid disappointment. You can find out more infor mation about the torch’s exact route and timings

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Staying up (late) for a Private Member's Bill

Staying up for a Private Member's Bill by Ben Gummer

If nothing else, the job of your MP is to vote on legislation on your behalf. That is what representative democracy is all about. Almost everything we do is focused on public bills - voting on the legislation that the government wants to see enacted.

But there is also a special kind of proposed law called a private member's bill - a piece of possible legislation put forward by an individual backbench MP. These ideas are discussed every Friday when parliament is sitting, which is the day when almost all MPs have returned to their constituencies. So there are not many people around when they are debated in the chamber of the House.

That does not mean that they are not important. Some very big legislation - like the 1967 Abortion Act - started life as a private member's bill. Many of them are of pretty niche but nonetheless significant interest - often 'tidying-up' ideas that the government wants to see happen but does not want to expend precious time debating elsewhere in the week. So for instance, my neighbour, Thérèse Coffey, had a bill passed last year concerning who pays for the salvage of shipwrecks, whilst my predecessor, Chris Mole, got changes made to the law on collecting by the British Library to ensure that they captured internet records as well as journals and books.

As there is only limited time, you cannot just propose a law and hope to have it debated. You have to win a place in a ballot held at the beginning of each session. Failing that, there is one other way, however, to get space on a Friday to have a bill debated: to put your name down on a given day. Demand for this is normally quite high, so people queue. Not for twenty minutes but for a day - a full 24 hours. It is, if you like, a test of endurance to see how badly you want your bill put before the House.

My idea was one I've wanted to see happen for some time: a cap on the debt that a government can run up, hopefully making sure we can never get into this mess again. Having failed in the draw, I knew I had to queue. I found out the day I had to present my proposal and the day before made my way to the corridor, in a distant upper corridor of the Houses of Parliament, where the clerks work who organize these things. On arriving at the clerk's office, I was shown a book-lined room, with a table and enough space for a couple of sleeping bags on the floor. There I made camp: lunch, laptop and a good supply of chocolate bars.

Soon I was joined by some fellow queuers: Charlie Ephicke, who wants to make the Port of Dover in his constituency the property of the local community; Thomas Docherty, a very nice Labour MP who had a whole series of bills on water and energy charges; Matt Hancock - my near-neighbour in Suffolk - whose bill was on horse racing; and Caroline Lucas, parliament's only Green MP.

For twelve or so hours it was all good fun: we chatted and gossiped and got some work done. But past midnight we'd had enough and came to a gentlemanly agreement to take turns saving each others' spaces. So I was able to turn in until the morning, returning in time to present my bill - as first in the queue - to the clerk at ten AM. The result is that yours truly has will be presenting his proposed law on 9th November.

Housing Crisis - by Ben Gummer MP

Our housing crisis

A while ago someone gave me - I think it may have been Father Christmas - a funny little book that is simply called 'Men and Sheds'. The publisher's description says it all: 'It has been said that a shed is to a man what a handbag is to a woman - both contain all the essentials for surviving in the modern world and in the same way that no decent man would ever consider looking in a woman's handbag uninvited, so no reasonable woman would dream of setting foot in a man's shed.'

Housing is the biggest immediate problem facing this country. Across Britain, and especially in the south and east, people cannot find somewhere of their own to live. Even those with good jobs, on good money, struggle to collect the deposit banks now require, let alone find somewhere they can afford. For those on very low incomes the situation is worse still: affordable and social housing is in massive demand but the supply is very short. The result is that many people are living in unsuitable private rented accommodation and sometimes worse: for these, the B&B or even a mate's sofa is their home. It is a hard reality that I see every day in my inbox and every week in my surgery. By far and away, housing is the largest part of my postbag and surgery list.

For most young people now a decent home is getting beyond reach. That simple fact crushes hope and dents aspiration. It is a terrible state of affairs. How did we get there?

First up is our old favourite: our ageing population. As people stay alive for longer, and healthier for longer, they are not moving out of their homes, even when their families are grown up and have long since flown the nest. It means we now have many older people living in family homes, homes that should be lived in by young families that need the space. The situation is made all the worse by a growing population and the continued move of people from Scotland and the North to the South.

Secondly, with half of all marriages now ending in divorce, and an even greater rate of separation amongst couples who have children but do not marry, couples all over the country are having to use two houses where previously one was needed. Where parents have joint custody, they need the space for the children even if they are only staying with them every other weekend.

Both of these challenges - ageing and ruptured families - could have been accommodated had we built enough houses. But we did not. We have not been building enough houses for forty years. Anything to do with the recession? Absolutely not. House building hit an all-time low in the best years of the 2000s, when credit was almost limitless and interest rates low. The people to suffer most were - as ever - those with the least, as affordable and social housing slumped also to an all-time low.

What's the solution? Well, the first thing is to change planning law to make it easier to build and better for the communities that must accept the developers in. I voted on that last year and we will begin to see the fruits very soon. Housing completions - reflecting decisions taken some years before the last general election - are still very low, but housing starts - actual work beginning again - is picking up nicely as a result of what we've done. But it will be some years before we see people move in.

For those on the most limited means we must act fast. Ipswich Borough Council says it wants to build new council houses, not possible under Labour but made possible again by the Coalition. Frankly, I do not care who builds these new houses, just that they are decent and come as quickly as possible. It would be a crying shame if our Borough, for its own prestige, chose to build a few council houses itself when far more could have been put up by housing associations in much less time. If they prove me wrong, I'll be the first to congratulate them. The proof, however, will be in the building.