Archive Page 2

Council has the cash to help the housing crisis

My letter published in the East Anglian Daily Times – Wednesday 15th February 2017

Here in Mid Suffolk there are over 2,300 planning permissions granted and waiting to be built.  I agree with Fiona Cairns (This won’t fix the housing crisis – Letters 11 February 2017) that this issue is in the hands of the developers however as the opposition group at the Council we have continually put forward ideas to help solve this.

Currently Mid Suffolk District Council has a fund of over £9 million which comes from New Homes Bonus.  This is the money that Government gives councils for each house built and works out at approximately £6,000 per new dwelling (over a five-year period).  A further £2 million will be received in 2017/18.

We are submitting an amendment to the budget for 2017/18 to request that some of this unallocated cash reserve is set aside as a fund to kick-start these developments – and that someone is hired in a “negotiator” type role to help get this done.  We suggested this last year – and the year before – but the money keeps adding up year after year and the problem remains the same.


After years of promises, Haughley Green finally gets broadband

As of today (17th October 2016) residents of Haughley Green can order superfast fibre broadband.  A new cabinet has been installed in the village and after six long years of promises we will finally be able to get a decent broadband service.

Many properties in the village cannot get landline based broadband at all and for others the speed is around 0.5mgb – barely enough to use email.

Local residents and councillors (myself and County Councillor, Andrew Stringer) have been campaigning for over six years fot this to happen.  We have attended conferences, held public meetings, lobbied councils, door-stopped BT, asked questions of MPs, conducted surveys and finally worked with Suffolk County Council’s Better Broadband team to get a service for our area.

Thank you to everyone who has persevered.

Rail Crossing Closures Threat

Haughley Green level crossingOnce again, rail crossings in our area are threatened with closure.  Three immediately around Haughley and Wetherden are at risk – two on the Ipswich to Bury line  (on the Haughley Green to Haughley footpath and at Mutton Hall) and one on the Norwich line (at the Leggetts footpath just north of Haughley Green).  A public consultation will soon be open so please register your views.  From 14th June until 5th July you can go online at or email or phone 03457 11 41 41.  A consultation event is being held in Stowmarket at the Community Centre IP14 2BD on Tuesday 14th June from 3pm to 8pm.  The local press have been covering this (read here) and also a local pressure group ( ) but it is important that as many of you as possible have your say.


The difficulties of investing in social housing

Local councils have the ability to build housing and many have (re)started doing so in the last couple of years. The proposed Housing and Planning Bill will seriously affect their ambitions. The Bill contains a variety of measures that make a complex subject even more so – reducing both funding and certainty for local government.

At Mid Suffolk District Council, the council has over 3,300 homes in its own housing stock and runs a 30 year business plan to ensure there are the funds to maintain these and also to provide funds towards building new ones. Within the Housing and Planning Bill councils are forced to reduce rents by 1% per year. This will knock several million pounds off Mid Suffolk’s plans meaning less social housing will be able to be built.

Other measures in the Bill include greater promotion of Right to Buy yet local government only gets some of the discounted sale price of a council house and further can only use this to a maximum of 30% of the cost of building a replacement. The remainder of the sale price goes back to the Treasury and the council has to find additional funds in order to build the replacement. (And if the council does not spend the Right to Buy receipts within three years, these have to go back to the Treasury with interest.)

Housing Association homes will now be included in Right to Buy, albeit voluntarily, however much of the land Housing Associations built on was gifted by local councils so that more social housing could be built. The idea was that there would be social housing in perpetuity but now this will go into private hands and out of the public estate – further reducing the stock of social housing.

Government is asking councils to sell off their high value housing – funds which will be used to compensate Housing Associations for Right to Buy activity. However it doesn’t matter whether a council actually sells any housing or not (even if they have any high value housing which, outside of London, is not likely) as Government will simply charge a levy on councils payable to the Treasury. There is not yet any information on how this levy will be calculated.

And finally in the Housing and Planning Bill there is Pay to Stay. This is where households earning over £30,000 a year (outside London) pay more rent to stay in their council house. Again there is no detail on how this will work – especially given councils don’t actually collect data on household income.

Councils need the freedom to be able to build housing to meet their residents’ housing needs – whatever their circumstances – not a Bill that will mean they pay more to an increasingly centralising government that gives very little in return.

Joined up thinking

20150925_141016I am at the Green Party conference in Bournemouth and meeting lots of enthusiastic and optimistic fellow councillors. We have talked about solutions to particular issues such as transport, housing and energy efficiency by greater joined up thinking across all levels of government. Hopefully we can see much more of this in the future.

Local Post Office to be re-housed – good news or bad?

2071174_ourlogo_ENGLISH_COLOUR_LOGO_REF3_2The Post Office has just issued a consultation on closing Elmswell Post Office (next to the Co-op) and moving it into the Pharmacy – ie: north of the railway line.  The corporate line is that this is good news, opening hours will be slightly longer (by 30 minutes), it won’t be shut for lunch, with the only difference in servcies that you won’t be able to buy Premium Bonds nor on the spot travel insurance.  However – previous local experience has shown that a new service may be far from better.  In Woolpit, where the Post Office has moved from it’s own building to a counter within the Co-op, villagers complain of longer (and confusing) queues, lack of privacy and simply the fact that two good village services have been squashed into one.

At Elmswell the Post Office will now be in the Pharmacy which is probably not frequented as often as the Co-op is.  It may also suffer from the same problems currently happening in Woolpit.  The change is expected to happen in October or November this year.  Ultimately if it doesn’t work – does Elmswell lose a Post Office altogether?

The consultation has just opened and you can access it via and follow the links.  Elmswell’s number is 063112.  If this is important to you, please take part in the consultation before it closes on 18 August 2015.

2015 Elections – re-elected uncontested

Following the closure of nominations for the 2015 Mid Suffolk District Council elections, as no other candidate has stood against me I have been re-elected uncontested.  I am very appreciative of the support I have received from the communities of Haughley and Wetherden to date and hope to continue to serve residents well.  I will continue to raise any concerns and support local issues that residents have.

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