Meanwhile on Planet Babergh- Precision v. Accuracy

We’ve all had those days when we were much younger, when our boss asked us to produce a five/ten/twenty year forecast of whatever was taking his fancy at the time. The forecast would take into account economic cycles, inflationary expectations, disposable incomes, family sizes and so on. To make it credible all assumptions should be detailed and justified.
I suspect that something like that happened recently in Babergh & Mid Suffolk’s housing department when someone was asked to produce a twenty-year plan for housebuilding based on whatever factors were deemed relevant.
The answer is 17,568 homes over twenty years.
Note the precision.
Who believes this rubbish? In the real world our boss would have either called it 17,500 or being a clever sort, he might have said 15,000 so he could under promise and over deliver. If he was on the brink of an unwelcome retirement, he would have rounded the figure up to 25,000 so that his successors would be forever on the wrong end of target fulfillment.  
But he would have realized early on that the further away you are from the present the less reliable is your forecast and the more precise it is, the more it will attract criticism & derision.

Unfortunately, many of our public servants do not review their public utterances – hence precision taking precedence over accuracy and unreliable statistics rule our lives.

Not All News is Bad

This week’s local government elections in Babergh and Mid-Suffolk are not all bad news. Katherine Grandon was re-elected with only two votes less than 2015 but this time with a much reduced turnout.
Katherine ran as an Independent after quite surprisingly having found herself unadopted for a ward which she had loyally served for eight years as their Councillor.
So, definitely a case of rejoicing and champagne all round.
John Hinton was once a senior member of Babergh’s higher echelons until he fell out with the Council’s future direction. He also stood as an Independent and was resoundingly re-elected.
Elsewhere the Conservatives in East Cornard swept their board with three seats defeating two prominent Labour councillors.
The results for Babergh are not all milk and honey. The Conservatives have dropped from being the majority party to being merely the largest. Some decent people are no longer on the Council, but as always, some people will be gladly missed and hopefully soon forgotten.
It’s easy to blame Brexit for changes in fortune, but local personality and local loyalties also played a part. My friends who got re-elected understood that you must get out the votes if you want to be elected. Others, who rely upon the tides to lift them up, often find themselves beached when the tides go out.

Meanwhile on Planet Babergh – Job Losses Loom

Park and RideThe EADT recently carried a report that Headlam Flooring planned to build a distribution centre on land adjacent to the Anglia Retail Park (on the A14 opposite Asda). Headlam are investing £15million and the new facility will include a 125,000 sq ft warehouse with loading and customer collection areas, offices and out-buildings.  The construction and fit-out period is expected to take around a year and the new facility should be up and running by 2018. The building be built on green space adjacent to the former Park and Ride site. The new facility will support the development of Headlam’s regional floorcovering business which includes the Hadleigh-based Faithfull’s Flooring. The existing  80 employees in Hadleigh will be relocated to the new premises. For  Headlam Flooring it all makes good sense – a purpose built facility with access to the A14. For Babergh it is a potential disaster. A significant business and 80 jobs move out of Hadleigh. Headlam had previously sought to build in Hadleigh on land alongside the Persimmon housing development off of Lady Lane. The problem with that proposal was that it was cheek by jowl with housing and the 24/7 operation was unsuitable for that location – on sloping ground with noise that could have been heard across half of Hadleigh. The question we must ask is how have Babergh allowed this development to slip through its fingers. There are plenty of former airfield sites ripe for development. There is even one in Raydon almost within sight of the A12. Ipswich has its own questions to ask. Why are there no existing sites (like the former Park and Rides) which might be suitable? Why isn’t Headlam taking space on the Ransome’s Europark? Once again, I fear Hadleigh is being let down by the people who should be serving it. If local government is not looking after the people it serves and those who pay their wages, who are they looking after?

http://www.eadt.co.uk/business/have_your_say_on_plans_to_build_a_distribution_centre_for_headlam_flooring_company_in_land_next_to_anglia_retail_park_1_4607239
http://www.headlam.com/investor-relations/investor-information/investment-proposition

					

Brexit Thoughts

Brexit CartoonThe results are in and with a 52/48 mixture, obviously not everyone is happy. The result is not all doom and gloom. On the plus side we will no longer paying to the EU more than we get out. We will no longer pay for the layer of bureaucracy in Brussels which has not had signed off audited accounts for over nineteen years. We will no longer pay for our MEPs since we will not need them.
I thought that the letters to the press are a good sign of desperation. In March a cluster of East Anglian council leaders joined forces to publicly back the campaign to remain in the EU. Were they lobbying the Government to bring us more grants and subsidies? Were they asking for more equity in the education funding arrangements? Were they asking for greater infrastructure support?
No, “The EU is, of course, far from perfect. But that is why Britain needs to stay, influencing the single market and protecting our interests.” If that were true why is the UK suffering the bureaucratic nonsense that we have been seeing from Brussels.
I only recognise two District Council leaders among the signatories (Mid-Suffolk leader Derrick Haley, Babergh leader Jennie Jenkins). If they were concerned for their local communities they would do more to move their Councils’ operations to Babergh’s building in Hadleigh. The saving to the communities would be £1,000,000 a year. Instead of which they have sat on their hands for two years ignoring the Consultants’ recommendation and declining to publish the recommendation as promised.
In June the Daily Telegraph published a letter from 165 Conservative District Councillors from all over England urging people to Remain and rubbishing the Brexiteers. Braintree (home to a prominent Brexiteer Pritti Patel M.P.) provided 21 of the signatories and voted 61.1%:38.9% to leave. Babergh provided only two signatories from recently elected members who seem to have little to recommend them apart from getting elected in the first place. Babergh voted 54.1%:45.8% to leave. The Babergh leadership was not in evidence on the June letter, nor was Mid Suffolk’s leadership visible. (Mid Suffolk voted 55.2%:44.8% to leave).
I think I was confirmed in my Brexit views when the Bremainders wheeled out Gordon Brown to support their case. This is the man who sold off just under 400 tons of gold from July 1999 to March 2002, at an average price of about US$275 per ounce, raising approximately US$3.5 billion. Immediately after the sale, gold entered a prolonged bull market and is currently priced at $1,315 per ounce. Why should anyone heed his advice? Currently we are in that dead zone when the battle has just been lost and won.
There are adjustments to be made and to quote Tim Passmore, Police & Crime Commissioner for Suffolk “Those worried about the decision should be understood – and that everyone should work together to try to ensure stability returns to the economic and political system as soon as possible. Now, though, we must all work together to make the decision work. We have to try to ensure community cohesion.”

http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/politics/eight_east_anglian_local_authority_leaders_back_the_european_union_remain_campaign_1_4447574 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/06/11/letters-remain-campaigners-decry-little-englanders–but-they-are/ http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/don_t_feel_guilty_if_you_voted_for_brexit_suffolk_s_police_and_crime_commissioner_tim_passmore_1_4592070

Meanwhile on Planet Babergh – East House

BureaucracyThe Hadleigh Community News in April contained the report of the Meeting of Hadleigh Town Council held on the 18th February 2016 which included the following gem: “The Clerk reported that an e-mail had been received from Babergh District Council asking who owned East House. The Officer was, of course, advised that they own it.”
The history of East House is simple: According to the Hadleigh Chamber of Commerce web site of 17th June 2013 East House and the Meadows were bought by the former Hadleigh Urban Council from the Styles family in 1960 for about £15,500. It was a straightforward sale with nothing to specify the building should be used for the benefit of Hadleigh people or anyone else. When local government was reorganised in 1974, council held assets had to be reallocated to the new bodies. To begin with the new councils agreed that the town council should take on ownership of East House. It was a town asset and would stay in the hands of the town’s administrators. However, when, under the rules of reorganisation, the district auditor investigated the division of assets it was discovered that because East House had been bought by the former urban council under Housing Act powers it would therefore have to be allocated to the new district council (Babergh) which was responsible for housing. It was thus transferred to ownership of Babergh.
In 1975 Babergh offered to sell East House (though not the meadows) to Hadleigh Town Council at market value. Hadleigh Town Council unanimously decided not to buy the property as they were already financing loans relating to Hadleigh’s Guildhall and was therefore unable to take on another financial commitment of that size.
East House was leased to Suffolk County Council who (in 2006) discovered that it was the second least efficient property on its books. Not surprising then that Suffolk didn’t renew its lease and handed the building back to Babergh paying for the assessed dilapidations. I campaigned in 2007 citing the emptiness of East House and blaming the Lib Dems for their lack of action.
East House was subsequently placed with Strutt Parker for them to market the property. Depending on whom you speak to market conditions were the reason for the lack of progress with potential buyers. So, ten years on it seems that Babergh would like someone else to be responsible for East House – possibly so that the blame game can be renewed! Why is it that the words “Twinings, a tea party, couldn’t organise at” come to mind.
And for this they raise Council Taxes!

Fuller details can be found on: http://www.hadleighcommunitynews.co.uk/content_hcn/town_council.aspx http://www.hadleighchamber.co.uk/our_town/community/east_house_what_really_happened

Meanwhile on Planet Babergh – Angel Court

BureaucracyI recently had a call from a constituent asking what was happening to Angel Court in Hadleigh. Angel Court was formerly a residential care home and subsequently became a temporary housing unit and more recently Suffolk County Council sold it to Babergh District Council. My usual sources at Babergh tell me that they are unable to throw any light on the situation – so the question remains why and what do Babergh intend to do with the property? I have looked over the agendas and minutes of Babergh’s Strategy Committee and I can only surmise that the authority to acquire the property was contained in their meeting of  4th February. The minutes record that The Committee  noted the action taken by the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chairman of the Committee, as set out in Paper R95. Paper R95 was discussed without the public being present as it was  likely that there would be the disclosure of exempt information. Moreover the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed  the public interest in disclosing the information.
So what are the options for the property?

  • Turn it into a hotel? (After all Babergh is accruing an investment fund of £25 million – Paper R83)
  • Turn it into housing – since there is a constant demand for commercial or social housing.
  • Turn it into a state of the art e-commerce entrepreneurial centre.
  • Turn it into a new set of offices, thereby vacating Corks Lane and possibly leading to the consolidation of yet more services into Mid Suffolk’s offices at Needham Market.

You can guess where my suspicions lie. If it was good news why the secrecy. Once again the disinfectant of transparency is needed to dispel suspicions that the people of Hadleigh are to receive an unpleasant surprise. Meanwhile I have lodged a Freedom of Information Request to see if we can get some light on the subject.

Information is not Knowledge

BureaucracyOne of my favourite Babergh District Council committees is the Joint Audit & Standards. It last met on the 22nd January and paper JAC68 tells us of the current state of play with complaints against councillors.
We are told that since the last meeting there have been 11 new complaints. There are four complaints outstanding against District Councillors and 42 against Parish Councillors. No complaint investigation resulted in action being taken and seven complaints were deemed either not to have breached the Code of Conduct or required no action. Thirty-nine complaints were carried forward and are still outstanding.
This is just Information – not Knowledge and only hides what should be known. There was no update in October to the August 2015 report (JAC 59) which told us about three Mid-Suffolk District Councillors and various Parish Councillors in Stoke by Nayland, Felsham, Elmswell, Beyton (& Tostock), Bentley, Stradbroke and Long Melford who were the subject of complaints.
Why does it matter – well for one thing the disinfectant of transparency is a powerful boost for government to be answerable to and controlled by the people.
I would like to know whether the complaints against the three Mid- Suffolk Councillors were resolved. Have there have been four new complaints and if the three Mid Suffolk Councillors are still hanging around awaiting findings, what is holding matters up?  Who is the fourth Councillor to be the subject of a current complaint and what have they done?
Hopefully we might find out about all these things at the next meeting of the next Joint & Audit & Standards Committee.