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

 

Devolution

National Local signpostLast week I had two principle things on my plate, seemingly in conflict but actually very similar in their principle regard.  Firstly I was in North Yorkshire to do a LGA Corporate Peer Challenge for North Yorkshire County Council, something I committed to before Christmas as a part of the role of LGA Leaders who help provide the LGA’s sector lead improvement work.  At the same time, I played my very active role in the final discussions on the first stage of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Peterborough and Suffolk Devolution know in short hand as either CNPS or increasingly ‘East Anglia’.  For both there was many conversations, and complex papers to read and consider, and packed days of numerous meetings and teleconferences.

The devolution deal is embargoed until the Chancellor’s Budget speech and if announced, even then it is but a broad set of headings, a first stage in a process if you will.  I and others have been extremely clear that this ‘deal’ is a first stage. Some people always say ‘done deal’ but as we have seen from Manchester this is a process and journey.  Of course Manchester have, in reality, with the Greater Manchester Authority been on this journey for many years but we can learn from that and use it to inform us as we collectively across our communities, businesses and councils now have a period of real debate to refine and put the ‘flesh on the bone’ of what this means to us, and I am determined we will do this over the coming months.  Then and only then it will be debated by every council to be democratically backed, to move forward. But hey if councils don’t back it then that democracy in action either way.

For me that would be a great shame, for me Devolution has always been built on a simple premise I have long held. Whitehall is far too remote to understand the real issues in our communities and regarding such local and complex issues such as infrastructure, Housing and Health needs, so Whitehall does not, in my opinion, make really informed meaningful decisions.  There is rightly a role for Whitehall and Parliament in policy making and national issues such as Defence but when it comes to know where to invest to unlock Growth or how to organise such important things as Health and Social Care in a geography to make sure only those people who need to go to A&E actual do. These decisions are far, far better made at the local level by people who live and breath their area.

So as I interviewed Councillors, partner organisations and residents in North Yorkshire it struck me the similarity between the two things, here was I, not from the area trying to understand its complexities.  Yes, I hope the external prospective presented to their senior team on Friday, the private conversations with their senior figures and the report the team of us will now be writing up will be useful to them as they ponder the future, I certainly hope so given the hard work that went into it.  But they know their place as a level and complexity we could not hope to understand, they and their community are far, far better able to make decision for their community, just as we are for ours and that is why I think and am working for Devolution as the important next step for this country’s and our county’s delivery of Public Services.

In or Out

Europe in outLike many who follow politics I have watch the last few days with great interest to learn of the ‘deal’ has David Cameron returned with.  There was the first stab at it two weeks ago, which was a bit rubbish and at the end of last week we watched the late night/early morning comings and goings in Brussels, the first Saturday Cabinet meeting since the Falkland’s War and then the Prime Minister emerging from No.10 to announce the worst kept secret for ages that there will be an in/out referendum on our membership of the EU on June 23rd. Yesterday every political show and Sunday broadsheet poured over the ‘deal’ and which, mainly Conservative politicians, were going to back the ‘in’ campaign or the ‘out’ campaign.  Labour seems to have been largely ignored as the internal differences in the Conservative party seems to be of far more interest to the media than anything Corbin has to say.

So we have a few months ahead to hear the arguments and to think about what is a difficult decision to make but one we should all take very seriously, even if in life politics largely leaves you cold and you feel it has little to do with you or for you, this vote does.  The decision we collectively make on 23rd June will have a profound impact on our lives for many years to come.  Make the right one and we have a bright future ahead of us, make the wrong one and the fundamental living standards of all our families will suffer.

For me its boils down to three basic things, Security, Jobs and Economic Prosperity.  If you can work out which way I will be voting based on those three tests without reading further, then I suggest you know which way you should vote, either way you’ve made your decision and there is no need to read further, but if you do, thank you as firstly it’s good for my blog stats and I perhaps I can add a little something to your decision making processes before we all completely burn out with the debate overload that is to come.

In terms of security I have been to Brussels on a few occasions both to learn more and occasionally on my political work, if you visit the European Parliament building you will come across the references to its founding Fathers all born of the Second World War in one way or another.  One of these was Winston Churchill who believed those that trade together, do not wage war against each other and he has been proven to be right.  As the Iron Curtain fell we saw in the Balkans what can go horribly wrong on European soil.  Yet for the main part the EU expanded and those poor previously subjugated countries peacefully emerged and are catching up fast and become places for us to trade.  I do not, nor I suggest should you, underestimate how that process could have gone wrong but has not. Oh I hear you say it could not happen again, well in the hard economic times that areas of Europe have had of late the hard right and hard left are there just below the surface, make no mistake of that. For all the talk of net contributors and what we do or do not get out of it, Europe is a safer place for the EU and so are we.

Secondly where I live the economy is in part built on migrant workers, those here doing jobs we have not got the skilled people to do, are working both ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ style sending money home to families and here raising their families, making a new life for themselves and paying their taxes.  The free movement of people does not mean much to us, but in Europe given the forced movement of people with millions dying in the process during and historically significantly, after the Second World War, this is a cornerstone of the union.  So David Cameron’s sensible caveat that if you claim child benefit here it is scaled to where your children reside and that if after 6 months you do not have a job then you must return to your place of origin and ask that state for support, is remarkable.  It’s also a measured set of rules that make more sense of free movement of people, one I can see slowly being adopted in other parts of the EU.  Yes, come here, work hard and enjoy all that brings and benefit our society but not scrounge off of us.

Thirdly and as one recent US President said “It’s the economy, stupid” if we leave, will GB flourish or flounder? On the one hand it’s often said that just look at countries like Norway and Switzerland and how successfully they trade with Europe, well Britain is far bigger with far more companies competing with European ones and we would be leaving. To my mind most European Leaders are wedded to the EU in a political sense which we struggle a little to understand here, their political capital, the thing that keeps them in a job and their opposition out of one, is about the success of their relationship with the EU.  So I ponder, if we exit, is it in their personal political advantage for us to flourish nor not? I think not.  Of course many countries such as Germany like free trade with us to sell their luxury goods to us, aka BMW and Mercedes but for most a successful Britain outside of the EU would be a weapon to their opposition to argue to also leave and take out the ruling politicians in the process. So I suspect if we leave trade barriers would appear and we would find trading with our key market, for that is what it is, for it will take another 40 years to try to rebuild a different trading landscape, our key market would become a more difficult place for British companies to do business. For the most part, British based businesses and companies have yet to speak and when they do I think we will understand their fears, fears we should all share.

For these reasons I shall be voting to stay in the EU.

 

A unitary Ipswich is the wrong answer in an age of Devolution

Ipswich VisionAnother week and another step in the process of taking forward Suffolk’s case for Devolution.  But is a unitary Ipswich the right answer?

No, I do not believe that it is.  Of course, it is absolutely critical that Ipswich, Suffolk’s county town, is not left behind when we are looking at future development and investment.  This is precisely why Ipswich is very firmly included on the devolution bid currently being driven forward by Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders.

Only through working collaboratively can we promote an exciting vision for Ipswich that will seek to include further investment and greater employment opportunities for the town.  Indeed we must build on the existing assets of the Waterfront area, the Innovation Centre at Adastral Park and, of course, Britain’s biggest container port at Felixstowe.

The Vision for Ipswich is extremely ambitious and impressive – our county town has so much going for it; good connectivity to the rest of the UK and its close proximity to London are just the tip of the iceberg. I firmly believe that for Ipswich to thrive and for Suffolk to stand the best possible chance of delivering devolution for our local communities, we must continue to work collaboratively with our partners across Suffolk and also with our colleagues in Norfolk.  This places us in a stronger position to present the best possible proposal to Government.  Together we bring a much more credible force to Government, with the collective geographic area and economic bedrock creating an entity on a par with the likes of city regions such as Liverpool and Sheffield.

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