Lakenheath Summer Fête

With the good ladies of the Local Conservative Branch setting out the home-made cakes

With the good ladies of the Local Conservative Branch setting out the home-made cakes

On Saturday, Lakenheath held its annual summer fête, and as usual I was delighted to go along. Our local Conservative Branch gazebo combined a home-made cake sale with our usual Conservative literature that even had a visit from UKIP to see what we were up to!

As you can see from the photo lots of lovely cakes and plenty of wind, just look at the side of gazebo bellowing inwards, at one point we had to get additional pegs to hold the gazebo down after it nearly took flight but we managed to grab it in time!

For my part I sold a few cakes and took the opportunity to chat to residents about their issues and concerns. The main topic of conversation was about where are we going to put the new homes the village will see built over the coming years and how are we going to grow the village infrastructure to meet this increased demand.

An important part of the day for me is spent at other stalls checking in with and chatting to the many community groups that Lakenheath can be justly proud of. As I went around I met up with the web designer of www.visitlakenheath.co.uk and we spoke about how to get more community groups and businesses taking advantage of the web page offer I funded through my Locality funding.

It was also great to see www.lakenheathlibraryfriends.wordpress.com promoting the library. For the second year running, they had a stall hosting a second hand book sale and tombola to raise further funds for the library and many people were able to chat to them about the great work they are doing on behalf of our village library. They had also invited back Alison Bruce to talk about her back catalogue of crime novels and promote her upcoming fifth release in the DC Goodhew series, The Backs.

All in all a great day out, only a few spots of rain and an opportunity for the community to showcase what makes Lakenheath such a special place to live, but hey I would say that wouldn’t I, I’m a Lakenheath Boy.

Suffolk Libraries go from strength to strength

Alongside the freeze in council tax, in February we Conservatives voted through a county Council budget for the next 12 months that will achieve savings of £25million – the second part of a plan to save over £50million over two years.  We are doing this as a result of reductions to our grant from the government, together with on-going increases in the demands on our services, and the costs of providing them.

The savings will be achieved by reducing management and back-office costs, cutting bureaucracy and working in new, innovative and more efficient ways.

Just one shining example of this is a secure future for our Library service following our Conservative proposal and then decision of the council to move the management of the library network to a new operating model.

Responsibility for the day-to-day running of the county’s library services was transferred to Suffolk’s Libraries Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) at the beginning of August last year.

All Suffolk’s 44 libraries and the mobile, school and prison services now come under the direct control of the IPS – a first in the country – which works in partnership with local library groups to support and expand the service.

This has enabled us to retain our library network, working in partnership with local communities, while reducing the budget by around 30% over three years, from approximately £9m to £6m.

These changes will mean that, while the council faces continuing pressure on its resources, the county’s much-valued library service will have the scope to survive and potentially grow in the years ahead, just as other Councils are closing their libraries.

In Lakenheath I am proud to have played my part in the establishment of the Friend of Lakenheath Library – FOLK www.lakenheathlibraryfriends.wordpress.com/ a group that goes from strength to strength and is making the library a more relevant and popular place in our community, in a way that only local community members can rather than professional library development officers, yes there is a professional team at the back of each library and the service overall but it’s the community that will help make them flourish.

National Libraries Day

Saturday was National Libraries Day so I took time out from my campaign trail and popped in to have a chat with Chris our great librarian and see how things were going and to get a book out. I choose ‘How to get things done’ by Ann Jackman as at this time of campaigning for the election in May, my role as Cabinet member, my business, an increasing number of speaking engagements for the Health system talking about the role of Councillors in the new health landscape and my family life, I need all the tips on time management I can muster!

Chris is a member of FOLK – Friend of Lakenheath Library who have been instrumental in the change of the positioning of the library in our community of Lakenheath, have a click through to their blog and you can see the increased activity that is driving the change http://lakenheathlibraryfriends.wordpress.com/

Since the initial thoughts about the library services and the savings it had to make, the progress is great, not only in Lakenheath where usage has increased; across Suffolk not a single library has closed and the creation of a mutual enterprise to deliver the service has reinvigorated the thinking about libraries and their role in our communities.

I am so pleased to have played my part in this Renaissance, FOLK was born out of the meeting I organised at the time of our considering the future of libraries in the face of government cuts and the possibility of closure with a service being delivered from Mildenhall. From the hundred or so people who attended that meeting I called for people to come forward and join me in a steering committee to see what our response would and could be and FOLK was born. Since its creation it has organised a number of events and sort to make the library a hub for Children and Adults alike.

The next of these events is on Thursday 7th March from 5-7pm, when local crime author of the DC Goodhew detective series, Alison Bruce, will be holding an insightful talk on her writing inspirations, a question and answer session with fans and signing copies of her novels, including Cambridge Blue, The Siren, The Calling and The Silence. This is a free-to-attend event so please do come along.

Annual Lakenheath Parish Meeting

Maybe it’s just me but annual meetings seem to come around faster and faster these days must be something about age but I prefer not to go there. Last night 20 people ‘packed’ into Lakenheath Village Hall, 20 people most of whom I know on first name terms and are the people most engaged in village life from Parish Councillors to concerned residents.

The great challenge it seems to me is how can we drive up the attendance and make the meeting more relevant to people in the village so they attend. A community meeting is about people coming together to discuss the issues they collectively have to deal with and I wonder if we could make the next meeting different perhaps with stands around the ends of the hall from the various community groups explaining what they do and how people can join, perhaps if we provide a cup of tea and a few sandwiches so people can genuinely make a night of it. Anyway I shall be talking with the Chairman of the meeting to see what we can do to make it more interactive and better attended.

For those people who did attend in my few minutes I talked about the challenges ahead , the way in which Suffolk County Council was facing them and what I thought were the key issues the village faced from the need to use the bus service that I had fought so hard to make happen; to the great news that I have secured funding to bring back the Matthews Projec team for a long running programme from next month throught the summer to engage with those young people in the village who do not get involved in other activities. I then spoke about the challenges facing FOLK the Friends of Lakenheath Library to get the usage of the Library up and more people engaged in what a great community resource it is, on the about me page I have added a link to the FOLK blog site for anyone interested in following there progress or who would like to get involved in this great project; to asking people to give me feed back on how the Street lighting switch off programme was working for them. I did really touch on my role as one of our two District Councillors on Forest Heath District Council because I knew that Cllr. James Waters the Council Leader and officers would be attending who did precisely that.

The issues around Lakenheath Hall dominated the discussion with them as people’s concerns that this once lovely Hall and grounds continued to be an eye sore were expressed. I will be speaking with the officer who did attend today to make sure that we better communicate the progress that is being made and I will be closely monitoring the discussion with the developers as they hopefully work to put right past mistakes.

All in all a very useful meeting but my thoughts are focused on how to make it more relevant to the community so we truly pack the hall for a really interactive night next year.

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