Councillor at Large
I’ve completed my first six month stint as a Conservative Councillor at Large in Ipswich, and you’ll never guess what? Even in this dark time of world wide economic gloom, the tea leaves tell me that, as we recover, our town can be East Anglia’s next big success story. However, my tea cup reminds me to Keep Calm and Drink Up…Labour’s in charge!
Monday 3rd October
The main point of interest from tonight’s Conservative Group Meeting was the item concerning the polling district review. One change being considered is getting rid of the polling station at Broke Hall Primary School, at which, you’ll remember, I am a governor. I might be a councillor of a mere 6 month’s seniority, but I can see deft political tip-toeing will be required. Local residents naturally wish to keep their polling station; my fellow governors are not entirely keen about shutting their nursery at election times.
Tuesday 4th October
I pay a rare trip across the road to Endeavour House to preview the ‘Transport Fit for 21st Century’ exhibition, soon to go on show in Tower Ramparts. The introduction of Wayfinding maps and signs, replacement of the ugly Civic Drive/Princes Street roundabout and improved cycling and walking routes should help give the town something of a facelift, but much of the talk was about buses. Refurbished, improved, electronic, computerised, priority, updated; all terms used repeatedly when discussing how bus travel is to be enhanced over the coming years. Was there talk of buses on Rope Walk? Sounds like a job for Indianna Jones…
I rush hot-foot to Broke Hall Primary School for a Governors' meeting to learn that amongst my roles I am to be the link governor responsible for behaviour. With my fair share of experience in this area through many years of secondary school teaching (and recently, politics…), I think I’m well suited to the part. Not sure that Broke Hall is a place to observe any behaviour issues however, unless one considers ‘good’ not ‘good’ enough.
Wednesday 5th October
Feisty Councillor Cenci has, quite rightly, decided to ‘call in’ Labours plans to hold back our locality money – vital to all councillors so real improvements can be made in their wards. This means the plans need to be discussed in detail at tonight’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee has assured Councillor Ellesmere that libraries and school crossings are safe, but the Labour leader remains determined to take responsibility for them – and will use councillor’s ward funds to do it. Since being crowned Labour’s parliamentary candidate, has the power gone to Captain Mainwaring’s head?
Thursday 6th October
Tonight’s State of Ipswich workshop I found really useful and well run. It was pleasant to discuss local issues in a bi-partisan manner with councillors of all parties. As councillors you get access to a great deal of data that requires thoughtful analysis. I think my ability to use information about all aspects of local life - from health to housing to the environment - was definitely enhanced by this session.
Friday 7th October
I am shocked, but sadly not surprised, to learn that Ipswich Hospital has again decided to hike its car-parking charges for both staff and visitors. The overspill into my ward of disgruntled staff refusing to pay a further £87/year and visitors an extra 20p is totally unacceptable. Immediately I contact my fellow Bixley councillors and Ben Gummer MP to see what can be done. As usual Ben is already on the case and is setting up a meeting of all stakeholders to review this decision. I will be there and I will not go quietly!
Tuesday 11th October
Personally, I think it is important that Ipswich Town Football Club is made to pay its way. With so many businesses struggling to make ends meet, it isn’t right for one of the biggest to owe IBC 100’s of 1000’s of pounds. I know it is seen by some as controversial to put pressure on our famous football club (as if it could somehow undermine their push to gain premiership status), but tonight I for one was very pleased to see the Labour Executive stand up to Simon Clegg and demand that the money is paid. Loose change to Marcus Evans, but big money to a town crying out for investment!
Wednesday 12th October
Tonight I was proud to have been a part of the shortest Human Resources Committee meeting on record. Thirteen minutes. To mark the occasion, I am writing my shortest ever diary entry.
Thursday 13th October
The UCS Waterfront Building was the somewhat grand setting for tonight’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. Not only that – we made our selves comfortable in the board room on the top floor! (Best view in Ipswich, if you ever get the chance.) Not surprisingly we there to review the waterfront with a number of key stakeholders in attendance to answer our questions. It is the shared dream of all involved that the success of our waterfront will be the catalyst to significant improvements throughout the rest of the town.
Wednesday 19th October
Often it is the Head Teacher’s report that forms the centre piece of a meeting involving a full governing body, just as it was at Broke Hall this evening. Items that caught my attention were teachers making themselves’ available for after school one-on-one English and maths tuition, results well above the national average and excellent liaison work between Broke Hall, Britannia and Sidegate. A vast number of educational visits were proposed for 2011-12; Sutton Hoo, Rendlesham Forest, Minsmere Reserve and Dunwich Nature Reserve included. Like I keep saying, education can be fun!
Sunday 23rd October
One of the bonuses of being a councillor is that you are given a ‘heads up’ about many events that take place around town. My daughter tells me that many of the decisions I make in my life are based on food. I don’t necessarily subscribe to this view, but I was never-the-less excited by the idea of attending the Diwali Bazaar at the Town Hall today. She shelled out for about 50 bangles and a henna tattoo whilst I behaved to type eating a spicy kebab and buying soan papdi (traditional Indian sweets) to go, and watching the dancing.
Monday 24th October
Another first tonight for me was attending the Development Working Group meeting at Grafton House. The main purpose of this session is to agree where to invest and where to make savings across the various departments of the borough council. Over the next 2 hours we go line-by-line through proposed changes and decide whether or not they meet with our support. I found the friendly, collegiate manner the group went about its work, refreshing. Points made were thoughtful and lacking in the sort of political bias often witnessed elsewhere. Well done to all.
I’m back again 2 hours later for the Conservative Group’s last meeting of the month. IBC’s legal eagle, Claire Barritt, lead off with a short training session on proposing a Motion for Debate. This was really useful for me – though many of my colleagues had, I dare say, heard it all before. Don’t be surprised to learn about ‘Councillor Stroet’s first motion’ in the not to distant future! The remainder of the meeting dealt with discussing the polling district review, the up-coming Executive meeting and proposed changes to area forums.
Next Month find out how Councillor Stroet behaves as a guest of the Ipswich Town Charitable Trust for the Doncaster game at Portman Road and at the St Margarets By-Election Count.