Councillor at Large
This month I discovered, to my great joy, that the Leader of the Council was a student of the Stroet Diaries! I had mixed feelings however when, during the Full Council Meeting, Mayor Le Grys gave Councillor Ellesmere all the time he needed to complete his Stand-Up routine; quipping and misquoting from my work, before eventually settling back into his seat so that business could continue. I might be a councillor in only my fifth month of office, but I’m not aware that the mayor’s job description includes cheerleading…
Thursday 1st September
I joined the other members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee being counted onto the bus for a grand tour of the Ipswich Waterfront. Beginning with the container port and working our way around to the flats situated at Orwell Quay, councillors were given a thorough briefing about current developments. Ipswich Central likes to refer to Ipswich as a “Waterfront Town” rather than a “Town with a Waterfront”. The 350 berth marina packed with wealthy sailing folk from locations including Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium, who spend money in our town, lends some credence to this thinking.
Monday 5th September
Tonight is the first Conservative Group Meeting since the summer holidays. All Tory councillors are present and correct. We set about forming a series of questions to ask in the forthcoming Full Council Meeting to hold the Labour administration to account. I feed a number of thoughts into the process, including questions about Street Drinkers and Ipswich Borough Council preparations for illegal Traveller sites.
Wednesday 7th September
Today is the day I am to make my very first representation to the Planning & Development Committee. I have honed my speech to such a state of readiness that it could fill a room with its importance, yet slide smoothly through the eye of needle. If developers think that they’re going to gain permission to locate a pole dancing club on Tacket Street, they will have to deal with me first! I arrive at Grafton House floating on a wave of moral outrage…to find that the plan to build a pole dancing club on Tacket Street has been withdrawn. I plod, unsatisfied, back to my car; my speech limp in my hand.
Thursday 8th September
Councillor Terry (Conservative) and Councillor Martin (Labour) made an unlikely team up at tonight’s North East Area Forum discussing the great work done with Suffolk County Council locality money. From purchasing equipment for youth clubs and play areas, to providing lawn mowers for bowls clubs; the forty odd members of the public were told they could apply any time to take advantage of these funds. Makes you wonder why locality money has been whipped away from Ipswich Borough Councillors by the Labour administration when so much good can be done for our residents.
Saturday 10th September
Tonight, it was my great pleasure to attend a reception and presentation of the Freedom of Entry to the Borough of Ipswich for the Royal Anglian Regiment. Following the ceremony was a superb celebration concert at the Corn Exchange by The Minden Band of the Queen’s Division supported by members of The Royal Anglian Territorial Army Band. As an officer in the Australian Army, my father always appreciates a military band. I wasn’t so sure - until now. Wonderful entertainment!
Monday 12th September
As well as discussing the agenda for Tuesday’s Executive Meeting, one of the other areas of consideration at tonight’s Group Meeting is the resignation of St Margarets Councillor Sarah Stokes. Like me, she was excited to be elected in last May’s IBC elections. Sadly, unlike me, she failed to take advantage of all the offers of support given by the party. Therefore, a by-election has now been called for Thursday November 10th. Happily, in Stephen Ion, we now have an experienced local candidate who has the necessary understanding of local issues to make a real impact.
Tuesday 13th September
Dominating the agenda at tonight’s Executive Meeting was Councillor Ellesmere’s decision to continue the suspension of Locality Budgets for Ipswich Borough Councillors preventing vital spending on improvements to our wards. Labour Councillor Sandy Martin underlined their usefulness only last week at the North East Area Forum. Can you think of a project in your ward that could do with a little funding? I certainly can and so can Sandy.
Wednesday 14th September
The main business of the Full Council Meeting tonight was to consider a number of reports including the statement of accounts, treasury management performance and the overview and scrutiny annual report. However, there was far more interest in the 14 questions put to the various portfolio holders. Normally half an hour is set aside for opposition questions, but tonight the time needed to be extended to provide for ‘rampant storytelling’, as opposed to the answers sought by opposition councillors.
Thursday 15th September
Ipswich & Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) held their AGM tonight, and like Keynote Speaker, Ray Lewis, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. The warm welcome I received, the pre-meet entertainment and, above all the food, placed this AGM at the top of my annual list! I pay tribute to Councillor Hamil Clarke MBE (Chair) and Jane Basham (Chief Exec) for their organisation, the Community Champion award winners for their efforts and Ray Lewis for an amusing, thought-provoking speech.
Friday 16th September
International development, although criticised by some is, in my opinion, one area about which the Conservative lead government can be very proud. However there is much still to do. I attended an event for the East Africa Crisis Appeal at The Brewery Tap tonight along with a number of other local councillors. Well done to all those present for putting your hands in your pockets to raise money for such a worthy cause.
Thursday 22nd September
IBC Chief Executive, Russell Williams, lead the last induction session focusing on Ipswich’s Vision. I found this a useful overview of ongoing issues that councillors will need to wrestle with over the coming years. The two areas that particularly caught my eye concerned the vital work being done on flood defences (as it will bring significant protection to over 30,000 Ipswich residents), and the amount of brown field land still available for development around the town.
With the evening still young, I head across town to St Albans Catholic High School in my ward for the ‘Friends of St Albans’ AGM. I enjoyed meeting the enthusiastic team who give up so much of their time organising events that can be enjoyed by the whole community. The huge Fireworks display they have planned for Thursday November 3rd – set to rival Christchurch Park – is just one example.
Sunday 25th September
Revd Canon Charles Jenkin advised the congregation to allow themselves to be ‘carried away’ by the music at the Mayor’s Sunday Service tonight. Without knowing it, I took his advice. Following a procession from the Ipswich Town Hall, with dignitaries from near and far in train, I found Choral Evensong a genuine delight. My congratulations go out to Director of Music Dr Michael Nicholas, Organist Dr Giles Brightwell and the magnificent Boys’ and Men’s Choir of St Mary-le-Tower.
Thursday 29th September
Residents who live close to the Ipswich Hospital face ongoing problems with visitors and staff turning their streets into a car-park. I met with yet another of my constituents this evening to consider the options available. This is one issue that has taught me that, as a local councillor, you can not always find a solution that will put a smile on everybody’s face.
Chief Executive of Marie Curie Cancer Care, Tom Hughes-Hallett, was the keynote speaker at tonight’s St Elizabeth Hospice AGM. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the state-of-the-art improvements that have been made to the Foxhall Road complex. With the amount of support evident at the AGM tonight, there is no doubt that the St Elizabeth Hospice has earned itself a proud place in the hearts of Ipswich residents.
Next Month find out how Councillor Stroet gets on in his first ICR interview, squabbling with the administration over Locality Budgets and meeting the Countess of Wessex.