Local Politics – you could not make it up

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Last week we had a FHDC by-election in Newmarket or to be precisely St. Mary’s ward following the sad death of long standing Councillor Bill Sadler.  And I am pictured here with our candidate Robert Nobbs and my fellow County Councillor Rachel Hood as we finished off the campaign in the evening on on Poll day.

After all the ups and downs of the past few months in politics, it was good to be out on the door steps in what was a very local election.  As we always do, we found a great candidate Robert Nobbs who is the manager of the Heath Court Hotel in Newmarket and who has worked his way up from porter to General manager over the years and is what Conservatives are all about hard work, determination and with skills, business skills, that we try to bring to the Council decision making processes.  With our literature he talked about the changes he want to make and how he go about our business.

On the opposition side of things, we had Labour with the Candidate who has manged to lose 4 general elections as the West Suffolk Constituency Labour candidate and been on and booted off the District Council at the next election, twice to my knowledge.  And what a contrast from our literature which was local, upbeat and full of what we want to do.  Whereas Labours was national, socialist and on two specific aspects quite a surprise!   Firstly, he commented on the Local Secondary school where, as its deputy Head teacher, it was one of the worse performing schools in Suffolk.  Since he left, the school has joined a star Academy group which started here in Suffolk at the Samuel Ward Secondary school in Haverhill and its results are improving with a new drive and determination to deliver the best possible education for its students.  So that was a surprise!

He also put in his literature he said if elected to FHDC he would spend more on the Memorial gardens in Newmarket that Conservative FHDC ever did.  Only two issues here, firstly it’s not the responsibility of FHDC and secondly, and he must know this because, as a Town Councillor he was Chairman of the very committee at the Town Council that has not spent the money on those very same gardens, he says he will if elected to FHDC.  You could not make this stuff up folks!

So to the results:

Conservative 338

Labour 276

Greens 60

Total 680. T/O 16.86%

Accordingly, Robert was duly elected with a 62 majority

Politics s is a funny old game but thankfully even with a traditionally very low by-election turnout our Candidate won the day and on FHDC we have a bright, younger energetic Councillor with great business skills representing the good people of St. Mary’s who has already hit the ground running sorting out issues he picked up during his campaign.

 

 

 

 

Vote Conservative!

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Today is a simple decision, who is best to lead this country over the Brexit negotiations.

Therese May or Jeremy Corbyn in a rag tag coalition.

The NHS and Social Care are massive issues we face and in my role as the County Council Network National Spokesperson for Health and Social Care Integration I know myself and my colleagues are working hard to find how, with a Conservative Government and our MPs, we deliver a fair and affordable system for our Ageing Population.  But the bedrock of the NHS and Social Care is our economy.  The bedrock of funding for schools is our economy.  The bedrock of every single thing we do is our economy and its success. And over the next 5 years our Brexit negotiations will determine our economy for the next 25 years.

So today vote Conservative for a strong and stable Government able to negotiate the best Brexit we can achieve.

Today is really important.

Suffolk Decided – Conservatives

The weekend after a Poll Day is always strange, as you adjust back to normal after weeks of a different regime of delivery, canvassing and talking to people on their doorsteps, ends so abruptly. As a Councillor, you do these things on a regular basis but at election time it becomes your entire focus.

In many ways, it’s been a very different campaign for me for three reasons, firstly there’s the small matter of the General election being called in the middle of the campaign, then there’s social media which for the first time starts to play a part and last but not least, I had to juggle my own campaign with leading 74 candidates as Leader of my Conservative group.

In the end we have won a massive majority and now hold 52 out of the 75 seats on the County Council.  There are of course many reasons this has happened not least the hard work we have undertaken running the Council for the past 12 years, not to mention the position of the Conservative Party nationally as Prime Minister Theresa May seeks a mandate to send a strong message to Brussels that Brexit means Brexit and we will not be pushed about.

But this blog is also about what I think is disgraceful from the other parties.  We won because we fought every single Division to win.  Not to be paper candidates but to go out across Suffolk and engage with voters and talk about the issues we face on the County Council, sadly others did not.

To watch and listen to the Labour party campaign you’d think that Suffolk consisted of Ipswich, Lowestoft and Sudbury.  Even then they got a trashing losing three of their frontline spokespersons. Holding a few seats, 9 out of the 11 in Ipswich, one in Lowestoft and one in Sudbury does not mean you can speak for Suffolk.  In my own Division, the Labour candidate’s campaign consisted of putting an A4 poster in his window!

The Lib Dems were equally pathetic and truly got their comeuppance.  The flooded their own seats with material and as far as we could see they had just 4 targets seats so even if they would have won everything they aimed at, they would have ended up with just 12 seats clearly a position to then slither up to Labour if they won enough.  But they did not achieve even that and lost 3 seats, rather busts the myth that they are such great local Councillors no own would ever pick someone else.  They did and they are reduced to just 5 seats.

So now, we campaign in the general election and support our great Candidates across Suffolk.  Then it’s back to it and to use our mandate to implement our Suffolk Conservative manifesto with Strong and Stable Leadership of Suffolk, Caring and Campaigning for all of Suffolk’s communities and tackle the challenges ahead at the County Council.

 

 

Out on the campaign trail

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Being filmed for the Politics Show -East, out on the campaign trail

So as I am out in my Division on the door steps, explaining our Manifesto and how it builds on what people have been saying to our Candidates over the past couple of years.  I also encourage people to go and have a look at Labour and the Lib Dems manifesto’s they are worth the worrying read that they are.

Our manifesto is packed full of new ideas as we seek to drive forward reforms to the council to protect Front lien services to the most vulnerable in our communities and help our communities be better places to live.  We are ever mindful that its your money not the councils and that making sure we plan for the future of services not just today and must taking account of everything that is told to us by Government for the next 4 years and beyond.

But contrast this with the Corbinista’s who’s manifesto is spend, spend, spend, their financial spokesman has even been quoted in the press that the financial outlook for local Government is getting better.  Well maybe it is in Corbyn’s La, La, Land but back in the real world, local government has to be careful with your money not reckless.

Or maybe go and have a read of the Liberals one, over the coming weeks we will see the only the liberals can win here, little yellow leaflets.  At the recent Annual Budget debate their Leader could not be bothered to turn up and their deputy leader did not bother to check how long he had to speak so did not even get through reading half the leaders speech. In the 11 years, I have been a Councillor they have never once tabled a budget amendment a shocking performance in February, yet they are out there telling people how committed they are to run Suffolk.  Truly, truly scary.

The next few years are going to be challenging but us Conservatives are up for the challenge.  Running a great county like Suffolk is an honour and a privilege for whoever you vote for and your vote matters.

You are voting on the careful running of important services like Adult Social Care and how we protect our young people.

You are voting for who can run the budget that truly protect and sustain Front Line services.

You are voting for who can work with our business community to grow our economy and bring higher value jobs and who is best places to deliver on your priorities.

You are voting for the party that respect its your hard earned money and we always do what we can to keep your Council Tax bill as low as is possible.

The Financially Dangerous Labour Party, who when the money runs out will come after yours.  The lazy and lacklustre Lib Dews who can’t really be bothered to have a plan. Or a Conservative group who have the passion, enthusiasm and drive to see Suffolk grow and be the best place there is to live, work, raise a family and retire in.

Vote Conservative on May 4th.

SCC Conservative Manifesto 2017

SCCCG Campaign 2017 - Manifesto Front PageToday Suffolk Conservative’s launch our Manifesto for the Suffolk County Council elections on 4th May.

It’s been 12 months in the planning and every single pledge is costed and has been debates by our candidates going back across a series of meetings starting last September.

Its build on literally thousands of doorstep conversations and online surveys where people have over the past couple of years told us their priorities for Suffolk and what they want us to continue to do and build on.

  • Residents tell us they want us to continue to keep the Council tax as low as possible building on our outstanding 7 years of delivering a 0% rise in the base Council Tax.
  • Residents tell us they want us to spend more of our roads, investing to prevent pot holes from happening and where they inevitably do, be quicker about repairing them.
  • Residents tell us they want us to continue to look after the vulnerable adults and children in our communities and protect the budgets for doing so, just as we have been.
  • Residents tell us that we need to put Suffolk at the forefront of infrastructure spending and I hope last week’s announcements on the two new bridges for Suffolk show that we are.
  • Residents tell us we need to work with Business across Suffolk to provide higher paying Jobs and new homes at the same time as protecting our unique countryside that makes Suffolk such a wonderful place to live, work, raise our families and have a long and enjoyable life in.

Our Manifesto sets this vision out.

https://www.suffolkconservatives.org.uk/news/suffolk-conservatives-launch-may-2017-manifesto

Vote Conservative on May 4th.

 

“Homes have to be built for people”

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I have lived in the village of Lakenheath for most of my life and as I am now 52, no that can’t be right 2017 minus 1965 is…oh I am.  I have seen many of the fields I played in as a child built on, some by my family. I recall complaining bitterly when the company my father worked for brought a field where me and my friends used to play in and on the roof of the two barns on it. He said “homes have to be built for people”, if only we accepted this theory of life today, and “I told you to stop running along the roof of the barn one of you will get killed” so he brought the field and pulled down the barns – we did not speak for days!  Thinking about it, it was extremely dangerous as they were quite high.

Lots of new homes are proposed for our village over the next 10-year period and 250 to 300 of those will be given to Affordable Housing Providers who will rent them not sell them at below market rents to our young people and families not able to afford the rocketing cost of homes.  I have watched our village grow over 50 years but have despaired that in the past 18 years there has not be one major new estate built since an estate called Biscoe Way and hardly any socially rented homes built.  And in my time as a Councillor countless young people have complained to me they can’t afford to rent a home here and have moved away against their wishes or been forced to live at home with their parents for years after they want to leave home.  Shockingly the average age of the first-time buyer in this country and in my lifetime, has risen from 21 to 37.

Last week I had the chance to look at the Housing White Paper with the Prime Minster Theresa May and whilst a quick chat as she is an extremely busy person I thanked her for what she is doing and how her government is setting about tackling some of the biggest problems our country faces and one of those is housing.

There are those that simply don’t want new housing near them, they cite traffic congestion, they talk about the difficulty of getting a Doctor’s appointment and that housing changes a place.  All of these are important and we must work hard to address the infrastructure needs of our communities.  In my home village, I have secured the funding to build a much need second Primary school some £6M but we await the outcome of planning decisions to decide where it will be built.  We work hard to ensure development brings road improvement and engage with the NHS to improve primary care provision, that’s more Doctors to you and me.

The planning process is complex and the local Councils are blamed for its complexity yet it is laid down by government statue and it would be sheer folly for any Council not to follow it to the letter of the law, as they would lose Appeal after Appeal in the courts. It’s a long running process where numbers and allocation of numbers of homes is one part of the process that rarely, despite efforts by councils, engages many residents, but once the sites are proposed and applications start coming in people react.  The challenge for councils and Councillors is to listen to everyone from the vocal and angry about new homes being built in ‘their’ community to those residents struggling to afford a private rent or get on the property ladder or worse still have been made homeless for various reasons and are trying to get their lives back together in a bed sit accommodation. Across this country, here in Suffolk and in the communities I represent, far too many people are struggling to get a decent home and we have to address this.

This country has to build more homes, this county has to build more homes, this District has to build more homes, my Division has to built more homes and so does my home village of Lakenheath, it simply is not a solution to these serious problems to then say ‘ah yes but obviously not here’.  Do new homes bring challenges, of course they do, but what my dear old father said to me 45 years ago still rings true “homes have to be built for people.”

Please take my survey www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RowHeath

 

Council Tax rises?

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My Row Heath campaign 2013 and Conservaitve Pledge of 0%, 0%, 0%, 0% Council tax rises

Last Thursday the DCLG SoS Sajid Javid put some flesh on the bones of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and made a series of announcements about the funding for next year for Local Government.  This is slightly strange as, most, some 97% of Councils signed up to the 4 years funding deal announced earlier this year in the previous Chancellors, George Osbourne’s Annual Budget Statement.  So you’d sort of think that was it for the year but that’s not how it works!

Confused? – well you should be as it is confusing.  When I first became a Councillor, I read a lengthy book called ‘A guide to Local Government Finances’, its sits on the shelf opposite me as I write this blog.  It was a difficult read but I got through it just, but I now know that the nature of the finance of Local Government is far more subtler than that book lead me to believe!

Essentially the revised offer centres around Adult Social Care and to some extent having worked on both the LGA lobby position on Health and Social Care Funding, given evidence to the Commons Local Government Select Committee on Social Care Funding and helped edit several County Council Network papers and letters lobbying government on this issue these past few months I am pleased that the warning are perhaps being heard.  Pleased not ecstatic as what was announced hardly amounted to the fundamental reforms we want to see.  Given the scale of the rising cost of an Aging population and the significant cuts all councillors are having to make a percentage point here and there, whilst welcomed is not going to address the fundamental point about money.

In the various press reports and comment this week I have tried to stress the government allowing Councils to charge you more, is not the same as your permission to charge you more.  I have also tried to get across that we the Conservatives at SCC are philosophically reluctant to take more of your hard-earned money than we absolutely must.  At the same time, local government is not the NHS where the cheques will be honoured irrespective of the massively overspend budget if we as a County Council do not have reserves and cash flow then the wages bill would not get paid.  So, it’s a balance and we carefully plan and check our budgets and reserves.

So we are planning to stick to our budget proposals and this coming year at the January Cabinet meeting and the Full Council in February we shall be proposing some savings, the modest use of reserves, the 2% National Adult Social Care Levy to pay for the increased costs of the National Living Wage and for the 7 year running a 0% rise in the base County Council tax. Making the council live within its means, protecting front line services and most importantly not treating your earned money as a pot we can simply dip into, is what we are about.

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