Monday, 29 October 2012

Thetford Fireworks 2012

Advertising has been a bit sparse, but I am told that publicity will be going out with the About Thetford magazine this week - but just to confirm, the annual Thetford Fireworks Spectacular is this Sunday (4th November) with the first display at 5pm and the second display at 7.45pm. The fairground rides etc will be open from 3pm and there will be various other activities taking place, e.g. Zumba dancing. The link to the Facebook 'event' is here;

My comments re: Asda to Breckland Council Planning Committee - 29th October 2012

Breckland Council: Planning Committee – 29th October 2012

Over the past few years we have seen the redevelopment of several areas along this particular stretch of the London Road in Thetford. The aesthetic improvements are of course welcomed as are the obvious economic benefits. But whilst there are many that support another supermarket for Thetford, somewhat fewer residents would agree that putting a further large supermarket in this particular location would be ideal. The former Tulip site is within close proximity to the existing Sainsbury’s store, and it will be very close to the Lidl store that has already been granted planning permission. The Forest Retail Park is also just along the road. There is a distinct difference with this proposal and what was agreed with the Lidl store as the percentage of food retailing is much greater with Lidl, and therefore the affect on comparable goods (i.e. non food) would be significantly reduced. The Tulip site is also some distance from the main Thetford Town Centre. Positioning a further supermarket at this end of the town would only make worse the traffic problems along the London Road and at key junctions, particularly the Bury Road / Brandon Road junction and the junction with Burrell Way / Kimms Belt. In theory this store could service many of the new residents for the town linked with the Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE), but with growth almost exclusively planned for the North, it would seem illogical to build a further supermarket in the South; residents travelling across town to access either the Sainsbury’s store or the proposed new store would create traffic issues across the town, and this is not a step towards the sustainable Thetford that we seek. I am not an expert in planning matters, but I read with interest the sequential test submitted as part of this application and I did not consider this to be particularly thorough or convincing. I also read with note page 3 of the Effective Transport Solutions report which highlights the problems with accessing the site by foot and how despite being physically close to the site, residents of the Barnham Cross Estate are hampered from accessing the site easily, or safely as they need to negotiate through the Burrell Way industrial estate – an existing issue not just for shoppers, but future employees – many of which would be likely to live in this area.
It perhaps goes without saying that many people also have concerns about this proposals potential impact on Thetford Town Centre – a point conceded by NLP in the report submitted. Whereas competition in relation to food and petrol would be welcomed by many in Thetford to help drive down prices, there is very real concern that if planning permission is granted this supermarket could further undermine Thetford’s high street that is already experiencing a shop vacancy rate of around 16%. It is obvious of course that the lower the percentage of non-food goods that this store sells the less of an impact its construction would have on the high street. I am also unconvinced as to what extent this application would stop leakage out of the town in expenditure terms and I note that there is a question mark hanging over the analysis of the current situation in this regard.
My primary concern however is in relation to the loss of manufacturing land. We’ve gradually seen land in Thetford designated for manufacturing consumed over time by retail – I believe it is important that as a town we have a mix of employment types. Committee members may not have noted the correspondence by Indigo on behalf of the Two Sisters Food Group which amongst other things stated their requests to purchase the site on three occasions and their continued interest in the site. The fact that a major manufacturing employer is keen to expand in Thetford in this current economic climate is to be welcomed. It would be highly unfortunate if we were to find ourselves in a situation where we had manufacturing businesses wishing to expand, or relocate to Thetford in the future and we suddenly find that we do not have the land for them to do so.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

My comments to Breckland Council meeting, Thursday 25th October 2012

BRECKLAND COUNCIL; Thursday 25th October 2012

Full Council Minutes – Page 3: In relation to the comments at the top of page 3 – the figures quoted in relation to right to buy income were historic in that they covered a 10 year period, but included income this council received up to the end of March this year. This Council received £300,000 in right to buy income in the last financial year – so it is not all that historical. The two Cabinet members stated that “the Council no longer received any funding” in this regard. This Council is likely to receive right to buy income this current financial year. The point remains, Breckland has still taken £1.5 million away from affordable housing in the district, and it not ring-fencing this income and therefore not reinvesting it in a like for like manner. Isn’t it about time that this Council became serious about affordable housing - I spoke last time about South Norfolk Council achieving a far better result than Breckland in delivery terms. More recently of course we’ve learnt that West Norfolk Council is looking to build up to 700 homes and has pledged funding to get this project going, this will no doubt be a much welcomed boost for that area. Will Breckland continue to watch others, or will it start to address the clear demand in its own District?

Here's the figures again:

Cabinet Minutes – Page 12: Having been involved in the housing task and finish group I do support the recommendation to accept the revised allocations policy. However, if I may, I would like to offer a brief word of caution. By revising the eligibility criteria, the number of people sat on the housing waiting list will inevitably be decreased. But these people do not simply disappear, they still exist and are forced to find alternative accommodation. In many situations this accommodation is sub-standard – this places a much greater responsibility on the Councils private sector housing team to ensure that people are not suffering at the hands of unscrupulous landlords and those that take advantage of peoples unfortunate circumstances. In addition to this, one aspect that we did not touch upon to any great extent during the task and finish group was in relation to shared ownership. I believe the ambition to own ones own home is a good one, and as a Council I’d like to see greater commitment to getting people onto the property ladder and to consider what else Breckland could do to enable this.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

TJs report on 2012 Labour Party Conference

I arrived in Manchester on Friday 28th September 2012. I booked to stay at the Britannia Country House on the outskirts of Manchester City Centre in West Didsbury. It was a lot cheaper than the accommodation in the City Centre and was a 45 minute journey on the bus each morning. Incidentally, the public transport system in Manchester is simply fantastic, and you can get a 7 day bus pass and travel as much as you like for just £12 – I didn’t need to wait any longer than 15 minutes at any of the bus stops I was at, and they ran until 3.30am.

Saturday: Our first gathering was the Delegates Welcome Reception at 7pm in Central 1. This was for all official delegates – strictly by invitation only (several MPs including Stephen Twigg who had not brought along their invite were refused entry). The gathering was sponsored by Tesco and a representative from Tesco (a Labour supporter) gave a brief speech and introduced Iain McNichol (General Secretary), Harriet Harman and Ed Milliband. After the speeches I was introduced to Harriet by Eastern Region staff and we discussed briefly the importance that Labour has representatives all over the country and that there should be “No, no go areas”. She asked me how many Labour Councillors we had on Breckland Council and wished us well for the future.

Sunday: I attended the Eastern Region delegates reception at 12pm. We received our delegate voting cards and were addressed by Gavin Shuker MP (Luton South), David Jermy from Eastern Region and Tom Watson MP visited briefly. We then had an opportunity to meet other delegates from the Eastern Region. I spoke with Cllr Dave Harris, a formidable campaigner that I’ve been following on Facebook from Colchester for some time but never met, and I also spoke with Cllr Emma Toal, a 22 year old newly elected Cabinet support member in Harlow. The food available was exactly the same menu as the night before – Mini quiche, sandwhiches and sushi – these were served at practically every function and as the week progressed less and less was being eaten. We were then taken to the main conference hall for the opening debates which included a brief discussion on what contemporary motions had gone forward to the ballot. This prompted some intense debate, which I’d imagine always occurs, and the question of what is ‘contemporary’ was raised as many delegates were unhappy that their contemporary motions were ruled out of order.

I voted for Housing as the most important issue, closely followed by Employment Rights, Economic Alternative and Heath & Social Care.

A debate was then led by Professor Michael Sandell from Harvard University who gave the Reith Lectures in 2009. The lecture focused on “What should the role of money and markets have in our society?” Members of the audience were engaged in the debate, with views sought and then challenged. Quentin Letts (journalist) wrote a very negative analysis of the session, which amongst other things said that “delegates were left scratching their heads”. That was the whole point of the exercise – to get people thinking and considering alternative viewpoints. I thought it was very brave of Ed to try such an idea, and all credit to him.

I attended the Eastern Region reception on Sunday evening. There had clearly been a lot more effort than usual put into it and the East is certainly getting more national focus than in previous years. The East apparently contains the 2nd most marginal seats out of any region in the UK. There were many Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in attendance including Clive Lewis (Norwich South), Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge), Bob Blizzard (Waveney), Lisa Forbes (Peterborough) plus a whole number of Police & Crime Commissioner Candidates including Jane Basham (Suffolk), plus Richard Howitt MEP, Gavin Shuker MP and Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) and former Great Yarmouth MP Tony Wright. Throughout the evening we were treated to a whole number of high profile visits including Ed Balls, Iain McNichol, Harriet Harman and Ed Milliband. All spoke about the importance of regaining seats in the East. Richard Howitt mentioned how 1/3 of all local Council by-election gains had occurred in the East in the past 12 months, including of course our Thetford-Abbey District gain and the Clenchwarton & Kings Lynn South County seat gain.

Monday: The focus today was on the economy with speeches with Chukka Umunna MP and the big speech from Ed Balls MP – which was very powerfully delivered and very well received. Several delegates around me were muttering “did we get the right Ed?” The commitment to delivering 100,000 new affordable homes from revenue generated from the 4G network sale was a popular proposal and well covered in the press.
The afternoon focused on an environment theme, with contributions from Maria Eagle MP, Caroline Flint MP and Mary Creagh MP – Shadow Secretary of State for Rural Affairs.

I was impressed with all of them, particularly Carline Flint MP who spoke well without notes for some time. The Party’s proposals on SwitchTogether for energy supplies is a fantastic idea and a great example of what can still be achieved even when Labour is not in power nationally – a theme that continued throughout the week and something that I found to be incredibly pro-active and motivating. I shall be signing up to the SwitchTogether scheme and I hope many other people do as well. I think this is certainly something that we can campaign on locally. There was also a discussion about Foodbanks and their growing importance nationally as families continue to struggle as a result of this Government’s policies.

On Monday evening I attended a Fringe meeting entitled; “What can Labour do to help small businesses?” – there definitely seemed to be a big focus this year from the Party on supporting businesses and working with businesses to ensure policy is correct. This is very encouraging. The fringe itself was quite dry, and not entirely what I was hoping for with a focus on small manufacturing businesses whereas my focus lately has been on developing services to help small independent retailers, but it is pleasing that the Party is giving this focus.
I attended a second fringe meeting organised by LGBT Labour regarding Labours commitment to equality, and how the party is working to promote equality. It was very well attended with speakers including Ben Summerskill (Stonewall), Stephen Twigg MP and Kate Green MP – Shadow Minister for Equality.

Tuesday: This was the big day! - The Leaders speech. I have been asked the day before if I would be prepared to sit on the stage in the audience behind Ed, which I agreed to. There were 60 of us that would be on stage, including 5 from the Eastern Region – selected by Regional Office staff. We met at 1pm in a special area and crew worked out who the tallest people were to ensure they sat at the back. We then filed onto the stage and I realised that by chance I was sat right in the very centre of the pack – I asked two people nearby if they wanted to swap but neither did! It was an incredibly nerve wracking experience, but also very enjoyable and all of us that were on the stage had good fun and kept each other’s spirits up.

The whole speech is available online;

It was very well delivered, and very well received in the hall – there wasn’t an empty seat in the room. From where I was sat I could see and hear clearly the photographer scrum at the base of the stage no more than 1 or 2 metres in front of Ed. The clicking, and scuffling for the best view was constant, throughout the whole speech, not just at the start or end – this must be incredibly distracting, but Ed was not phased – clearly quite used to it. The speech was very open, and engaging. It was delivered without notes and lasted for over an hour.
There has been a focus on explaining the background to Ed – a focus on his comprehensive education, his parents and his family. There is a video about him available online, this was shown to attendees prior to his speech;
A video of the speech is also on YouTube:

On Tuesday evening I attended a fringe meeting on Crime, with the Labour Home Affairs team including Gloria DePeiro, Stella Creasy, Andy Slaughter, Chris Bryant and Diana Johnson.
Unfortunately I wasn’t called to ask my question, but I wanted to know if the team would be reinventing the “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” slogan that had worked so well a decade ago. The slogan was even more relevant now given cuts to so many services that would help prevent crime from occurring initially, or address the consequences once it had occurred.

On Wednesday morning I was stopped by a journalist on the way into the Conference hall, who asked me what I thought of Eds speech – I gave the response below which appeared on the BBC website along with a number of others:

Wednesday evening I attended the Young Labour Reception and then the Labour Students reception – I’m too old for both categories, but I snuck in anyway!

Thursday: This was the last day of conference and everybody was feeling a little sad. You just get to know a few people and find out how things work and then it’s time to go home! The morning debates focused on Local Government and Young people / Education. I had prepared a speech that I hoped to deliver but did not get called.
This was very frustrating. A number of delegates were unhappy about a lack of speakers being called full stop – with long set speeches from ministers and invited guests. Even more so the lack of speakers from the East was noticeable, plus to focus on making sure PPCs were called and Union reps. A point that I will be making to party officials when I write to them on this subject. Speakers were called in 3’s, and got to speak for no more than 3 minutes, but the set speeches and invited guests speeches took up huge chunks of time leaving very little time for floor speakers. I came to the conclusion that my main role as a delegate was to provide a receptive audience to other speakers rather than feel engaged in a ‘conference’ of views, opinions and debate.
Conference closed with a traditionally humorous speech from Harriet Harman as Deputy Leader.

I found the whole conference experience to be very motivational and encouraging. I had supported Ed Milliband over David in the Leadership election but had never heard him speak live. I was unsure about Ed in the lead up to the conference and had begun to listen to the media narrative about him perhaps lacking in gravitas to become Prime Minister one day. I was however greatly encouraged by his own performance but even more so by the changes that he is clearly making to the party. He seems determined to create a ‘movement’ and to make the party inclusive, vibrant, democratic and engaged. There was a clear emphasis on the need to be proactive as a party, through the provision of training such as Community Organising and the use by the party of American organiser extraordinaire Arnie Graf (who assisted Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008) – whilst the party may not be in power nationally, the thousands of Labour members, supporters and Councillors can still affect change in this country, even more so the many Labour Councils up and down the land. Ed Milliband is clearly prepared to listen and has a very engaging approach – for me this is much different to the Blair years where the party was very ‘top-heavy’ and to a large extent authoritarian. I got the genuine sense that Ed Milliband really does care and is passionate about the issues he talks about. I felt that there was clearly a lot of talent across Labours Ministerial team and many Ministers gave excellent speeches to the conference. I got the genuine sense that each Ministerial ‘team’ were really working together, to refine policies and positions, to engage whoever necessary and to provide a credible opposition.

My prepared speech for the Local Government, Young people and Edcuation section;

Good morning Conference, my name is Councillor Terry Jermy, Leader of the Breckland Labour Group and Delegate from South West Norfolk CLP.

That’s right conference, I’m a Councillor – and I wear a hoody. But No, Mr Cameron. I do not want a hug. But I will tell you what I do want – I want you to end this national assault on young people.

I also want you to have a word with the Conservatives from my area, in Norfolk. My Tory County Council “deleted’ our youth service – “’deleted” – their words, not mine. They wrecked the Connexions service, cut back on sexual health support for young people and closed the pupil referral unit that was based on my ward – a service that supported some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded young people. They’ve closed services supporting volunteer youth workers whilst bleating on about the ‘big society’. This assault on young people continues nationally with the end of the EMA, rises in tuition fees and over 1 million young people out of work. What hope does this give young people? And conference, we know the danger of disappearing hope, young people can too easily go onto the wrong path. A path that all too often can lead to crime and anti-social behaviour.

Conference, this Government, and Conservative Councils up and down this country are not empowering communities, they’re not enabling them, they’re dismantling the very infrastructure that binds them together and helps to make them thrive.

Communities up and down this country, young people up and down this country need Labour members and supporters to speak up for them. They need Labour Councillors and Councils to fight for the services that are required, they need a Labour Government. A Government that understands the value of ‘community’ a Government that understands young people, and a Government that is prepared to invest in the infrastructure that is required

Friday, 12 October 2012

Ed Milliband 2012 Conference Speech

Click here to see Ed Millibands speech to the 2012 Labour Party conference in full: