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At your convenience

I was delighted today (Sunday 17th March) to officially “open” the new compost toilet at Gallowsfield Wood in Haughley.  The Management Committee, led by Geoffrey Kay (see Gallowsfield Wood ) approached me for funding from the Mid Suffolk Locality Awards and I was pleased to be able to help.  It was rather a cold morning but many volunteers and locals turned up.  I’m sure the new facility will come in useful when there are future working parties at the woods.Rachel Eburne cutting the ribbonQueuing for the loo

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House of Lords reception

Baroness Jenny Jones 130618I was delighted to attend a reception at the House of Lords last night (Wednesday 13th June) to acknowledge the work that the Local Government Association (LGA) has done with the support of MPs and Peers.  I spoke with Baroness Jenny Jones (pictured with me on the terrace at the House of Lords) about local and national issues.  Hopefully she will visit us in Mid Suffolk later this year.  The invitation to the reception was because of the work I do on the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing & Transport Board.  It was good to catch up with colleagues across the country talking about issues such as Government imposed housing targets and environmental concerns that arise with more and more housing developments.

Investing in local communities

The following organisations and projects have received awards from the Mid Suffolk District Council Locality Award and I am very pleased to be able to support them:

  • Wetherden Village Hall – improvements to access and parking
  • Haughley Playing Fields Committee – replacement of safety matting in children’s play area
  • Haughley Bowls Club – updating the bowls green
  • 1st Wetherden & Haughley Scouts – refurbishing the Scout Hut kitchen
  • Wetherden Parish Council and Wetherden Football Club – repairs and improvements to the Pavilion
  • Haughley United Football Club – storage shed
  • Wetherden Townlands Trust – upkeep of village car park
  • Haughley United Youth Football Club – goals (for use at Wetherden Playing Field)
  • Haughley Amateur Theatrical Society – support for the Panto
  • Rural Coffee Caravan – contribution towards replacement caravan

Every Mid Suffolk District Councillor receives an allocation to award to local groups.  A further allocation is expected to be provided for 2018/19 so groups will be able to apply for projects then.  I will publicise it when details are available.Goals H&W

 

How to invest £25 million

In the last few months, Mid Suffolk District Council has made multi-million pound investments in commercial property in central Peterborough (high street coffee shop), Brentwood (retail store) and most recently in Milton Keynes (a car dealership).  Is this what the Council should be doing?  Should they be spending our money in this way?

In 2016, the Council agreed to borrow up to £25 million, set up a company (registered number 10814415) to invest in commercial property outside of the Mid Suffolk area and then, hopefully, invest the profits from this in council services – so-called “Profit for Purpose”.

The Green Group of District Councillors voted against this – for two main reasons; 1) if we have money to invest, let’s invest in truly affordable housing for our residents; and 2) why aren’t we investing in our own area.  (The Council’s HQ has been re-located outside of Mid Suffolk and the ruling party said it didn’t want to invest millions in Mid Suffolk either.)

Conversely, Ipswich Borough Council has borrowed money to invest in commercial property …. in Ipswich.

See the East Anglian Daily Times view on this.

Parliamentary visit – Homelessness

This week (Monday 27th November 2017) I represented the LGA (Local Government Association) giving evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in Westminster.  The session was on the Code of Guidance for councils on the Homelessness Reduction Act.

I sat alongside a representative from London Councils and gave evidence after the homeless charities Crisis and Shelter.  The Minister responsible was questioned after us.

This Act comes into force in April 2018 but some of the legislation relating to it hasn’t been passed yet; Councils have been given some money towards it but not enough (given it is being taken away in other areas) and various aspects still have not been confirmed.

The idea of the legislation is good – Councils have a duty to prevent homelessness rather than just deal with it when it becomes a crisis.  I expect the implementation will go ahead but it would be better if it was more coordinated and complete so that local government could make a success of it.

Select Committee 271117

Why doesn’t the Council spend it’s budget?

Every year since I have been a district councillor, Mid Suffolk District Council has underspent it’s annual budget.  You may think this is a good thing – we all want to save money.  But councils raise taxes and receive funds from Government in order to provide services to their residents and communities – and they should agree what needs to be spent and spend it.

For the year 2016/17 Mid Suffolk District Council announced in July 2017 that the underspend was £528,000 – on a net budget of approximately £10 million.  The year before the underspend was £1,857,000!  And before that £526,000 – and so it goes on.

These underspends are added to a type of reserve called the “Transformation Fund” which the Coucil is supposed to use to “transform” the way it works – thus improving the quality of life for residents in the district.  Yet this fund stood at just over £10 million at the beginning of the last financial year.

My group on the Council puts forward amendments to the budget each year with suggestions (such as employing specialists to help with the 5 Year Housing Land Supply) and each year they are voted down on the basis that we cannot afford them.  I think we need to look long and hard on what we are doing with our citizens’ money.

National Sheepdog Trials – Haughley Park

SheepdogGreat day out at the National Sheepdog Trials this weekend (29th/30th July 2017).  Good to see them locally, for the first time in Suffolk, in the lovely setting of Haughley Park..  Well done to Suffolk on Show for a well-organised event – lots of people seemed to be enjoying themselves and sampling all the great Suffolk food and drink on offer.  Thanks also to all the sponsors and support from Mid Suffolk District Council.


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