Thursday, 21 August 2014

Elm Road social services site update

I've been pressing Norfolk County Council of late on the state of the former Elm Road social services / PRU depot which has been left empty for approx 2 years. The grounds have been allowed to become very messy and items have been fly-tipped there. I recently sent an email to NCC Labour Leader George Knobbs, who asked staff to address the matter and I'm pleased to share the below;

Dear George

My colleague James Sullivan met Terry Jermy on site on 8th August and agreed on a two-stage approach to tidying up the site, which had not been cut up to that stage to keep costs to a minimum and in part to seek to discourage access by children to play games etc. 

James has met with the grounds contractors on site this morning and as agreed with Terry they are going to cut back any weeds etc. growing through the railing fence and strim a metre inside the site boundary. They are going to cut and clear all the overhanging branches on the Laburnum Grove frontage and strim all the areas of grass verge adjacent to footpath. They will also remove some debris that has been dumped on the site.

He has also arranged for a grass cut across the site following the start of the next school term to make it tidier as we move into autumn.

Kind regards

David Russell

Monday, 28 July 2014

First Night Market of 2014 hailed a success

From Thetford and Brandon Times website:
Entertainment, bargains and community spirit were all on show in Thetford market place as the summer night markets returned.
People poured in to see live music, browse the stalls and enjoy refreshments at the event on Friday.
Started two years ago, the joint initiative between Thetford Town Council and Sort-It continues to be a success according to Terry Jermy, organiser.
“We’re delighted with the success of the first Summer night market. The crowds that attended demonstrate just how keen people in Thetford are for events such as this to occur and not only did people have a great time but a number of charities and small businesses were supported in the process,” he said.
The event was the first of three night markets to be held this summer, with more planned on August 22 and September 12.

For more about the night markets, contact Angus Dixon on 07446 876954.

Town Council asked to consider agreeing to public drinking ban

Police officers in Thetford could be given enhanced powers to tackle street drinking if plans to bring a by-law into effect are implemented.
The Safer Thetford Action Group (STAG) have called for police officers and councillors in the town to set up a working group to look at introducing a “no street-drinking” by-law, with the issue being a long-standing priority for Thetford Police.
The by-law would see the extension of Designated Public Places (DPP) which give police additional powers in relation to street drinking if there is evidence that it may lead to, or is causing, anti-social behaviour (ASB).
In a letter to Thetford mayor, Sylvia Armes, Graham Sigley, chair of STAG, wrote that it was considering following the example of other towns by enacting the by-law, but warned it raised issues.
“STAG have discussed the possibilities of such an option for Thetford across a geographical area that would need to be determined but are aware that such a by-law would need to be implemented by Breckland Council,” he said.
“Also, while such an option would seem to be quite a straightforward response to concerns about street drinking, STAG members are aware that implementing such a by-law would be complex and with costs involved, and it would need to be constantly monitored and enforced.”
He added that some towns employed their own enforcement wardens.
Dr Sigley said that the use of DPPs meant that officers were forced to make complex judgments.
“For example, factors to take into account could include the number of people involved, the exact location, the timing and the amount of alcohol.
“Are two shift workers having a can of lager after work on a park bench at 7am causing or likely to cause ASB? Similarly with a family having a large picnic with a bottle of wine alongside the river,” he said.
The issue will be discussed by Thetford Town Council at a meeting on Tuesday night from 7pm.

Councillors will be asked if they want to convene a working group which will include STAG representatives, Breckland Council, Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Police.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Housing debate at Breckland Council - 29.05.14




Members of the Breckland Council Labour Group pressed the authority on Thursday to do more to address the housing problems that exist in the District.

At the Full Council meeting on Thursday, Labour Group Leader Councillor Terry Jermy tabled an amendment that would have resulted in £320,000 being put towards affordable housing projects in the District. This amendment was lost, with all Conservative Councillors voting against, and all members of the opposition voting for it.

That £320,000 was received by Breckland Council in the last financial year from the sale of former Council houses in the district through the 'right to buy' scheme introduced many years ago by former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Despite Breckland Council no longer owning any Council houses in the District as they sold the stock in 1993 to Peddars Way Housing Association, the authority still receives a share of the money each time a house is sold.

Labour Councillors argued that this money should be ring-fenced for re-investment back into affordable housing or, there will be a decreasing availability of social housing as more and more units are sold via 'right to buy'.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Jermy said; "We know that there are many, many housing issues in this District. There's a growing number of people sat on the housing waiting list - many thousands strong and growing all the time and there's 3,000 people living in private rented accommodation but in receipt of housing benefit. That's 3,000 private owned houses where the tax-payer is paying off those mortgages. Further, there's over 1,000 families in our District affected by the so called 'bedroom tax'. This £320k was not anticipated so it is not needed for anything else and it should be reinvested back into the social housing market".

Councillor Brenda Canham, Labour, Thetford-Abbey Ward said; "In the last two weeks I have been trying to help a young man from the Abbey Estate who suffers from epilepsy and is currently sleeping on a sofa as he has no-where to live. There's simply not the houses available and Breckland are not even in a position to help him with a loan for the deposit for a private rented property. I've also come across a man who's living in a garage as he has no-where else to go. This money would not solve all these problems, but it would be a start in the right direction".

Councillors ultimately backed the Conservative proposal to put the money into the General Reserve pot.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Charles Burrell Committee report for Mayor Making 2014


Thank-you Madam Chairman, normally when I say a few words at the Annual Town meeting I look back at what was said the year before. But the Charles Burrell Committee did not exist then, indeed the site was still fully functioning as a High School. And that in itself shows just how rapidly things have progressed in the last 12 months! It was around about this time last year that the Town Council resolved to hold a public meeting at the site to give local residents and groups that used the site the chance to have their say about its impending closure. As those present at that meeting will recall, it was a well attended meeting with strong passions expressed for keeping as much of the site available as possible. Following this, the Town Council agreed to establish the Charles Burrell Committee to explore the feasibility of preserving the site and at this point we engaged Robert Ashton to help co-ordinate a feasibility study into this. Several open days were held for groups interested in using parts of the building and as best possible costs were identified by the Committee.

Fortunately, thanks to a change in administration at County Hall we were able to safeguard the site whilst we considered all of the options available. 

The feasibility report was concluded and presented to a Special Council in November and Councillors accepted that the project had a great deal of potential and agreed to take it to the next level which was to discuss options with Norfolk County Council. After considerably lobbying we were naturally very pleased when NCC agreed to our requests for a 30-year lease with no break-clauses exercisable on their part. We were of course nervous about investing time and money into the project only for NCC to take the site back when they felt like it or when they had figured out what they may want to do with it. Crucially for the Town Council however was the fact that the lease allows us to hand back to site to NCC at anytime in the first five years with just 3 months notice and then allows break-points for us every 5 years, if we choose to exercise it. Also, the lease allows TTC to transfer the lease to a charitable trust of its choice – something the Council has been exploring in recent weeks. The fact that there was such strong demand and that the lease was so advantageous for TTC resulted in members of the Council agreeing to sign it and become fully-committed to keeping the site open.

A new Project Co-ordinator has been recruited and additional sessional staff will be recruited in the near future. We currently have around 50 different organisations that have expressed an interest in using the site – some on a sessional basis of just a few hours a week and others wanting a more permanent base. What’s been particularly nice so far is learning about how many groups are now able to increase the activities that they provide, or what services they are able to locate locally thanks to this venue now being available. 

Finally, to close, I would like to thank the members of the Charles Burrell Committee for their work and support in recent months – but not just in meetings but also for the hard graft that Councillors have put in cleaning the site and moving furniture etc and I’d also like to thank the very many people that have signed up as volunteers and supported the project so far. I’m hopeful that support will continue and this will become a thriving, and sustainable Centre for all residents of Thetford.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Charles Burrell Centre - Update

For Thetford Town Council - Full Council – 29.04.14

The month of April has seen volunteers signed up to support the project - approximately 20 different volunteers to date, and much work has taken place on site to get it ready. This has included moving furniture around the building to appropriate locations, cleaning the whole site and sifting through rubbish and generally getting to grips with operational issues – such as locating and labelling keys! Norfolk County Council has provided at cost to them two large skips for general rubbish and one paper / cardboard recycling bin which have been made use of. In addition, we have recycled where possible including glass, textiles and metal. A fire warden course has been provided to the volunteers and prospective tenants. There are numerous health and safety considerations and these are currently being prioritised and worked through by the Project Co-ordinator, liaising with the Health and Safety Consultant and H&S Committee as necessary. Quotes for the supply of necessary services have also been sought.

The first phase of users will begin officially utilising the Charles Burrell Centre from Thursday 1st May 2014. The initial users are; Thundercat Cheerleaders, Thetford & District Model Railway Club, Red Hot Catering, Thetford Players, Well Made Theatre Group and Zumba. Thundercats have been sessionally hiring space through April and are clearly a popular activity locally. In the near future, these organisations will be joined by; Thetford Athletics, Living for Life and Thetford Toy Library. Other ad hoc hirers will also be occurring including West Suffolk College and Adult Education.

Collectively, these organisations will be contributing approximately £6,000 per month towards the running costs of the Centre which goes a long way towards addressing the approximate £100k per annum in running costs that will be incurred. The ‘Company Shop’ i.e. social supermarket, will be visiting the site on Friday 7th May 2014 to progress plans. The CB Centre Committee will be meeting with Sarah Dunwell from Company Shop and Robert Ashton.

The funding application to Moving Thetford Forward for £75,000 in funding to support the installation of solar panels and to replace some of the windows is currently being assessed and we hope that this is successful. Robert Ashton is progressing our main funding application to SIB. Additional funding opportunities have also been identified.

The main lease between Thetford Town Council and Norfolk County Council is as of yet not finalised and it is imperative that this is completed as soon as possible. Because of this, we are currently only able to offer to our first phase users a tenancy at will. This situation will hopefully be resolved by the end of this week. Additional terms and conditions for sessional hirers have been established, utilising the very thorough T&Cs for the Guildhall complex as a foundation.


There are currently around 50 different organisations that have expressed an interest in using the Charles Burrell Centre. This presents a number of different issues and we have much work to do to make the building a well-run, successful and sustainable centre, but this is a positive challenge to be faced with and it’s encouraging that there are so many organisations expressing an interest and there is clearly a need for the centre.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Unacceptable levels of affordable housing being built

Excellent Bury Free Press article lack of affordable homes being built in the Breckland District.

Less than a quarter of housing approved by a council has been affordable despite its own policy demanding 40 per cent, the Bury Free Press can reveal. 

The figures emerged the week after Breckland Council approved a 5,000 home scheme that will deliver only 8.5 per cent affordable housing.

A Freedom of Information Act request showed only 23 per cent of housing approved since 2010 has been affordable. Figures have fallen year-on-year since 2010, last year dropping to 16.2 per cent.

Terry Jermy, leader of Breckland Council’s Labour group, said: “More than 4,000 people are currently on the council’s housing waiting list and 3,000 people are in private accommodation receiving housing benefit. “The need is very clear. Housing is a major issue and it’s incredibly disappointing that affordable housing is not more of a priority. “Breckland Council continues to grant planning applications with unacceptable levels of affordable housing.” The authority said the 40 per cent target had not proved achievable because of changes in market conditions. A spokesman said: “In the current market conditions developments with 40 per cent affordable housing are not always financially viable.” This was the reason given for Thetford’s Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) proposing 8.5 per cent affordable housing.
The SUE has been proposed by Kilverstone Estate, The Crown Estate and Pigeon (Thetford) Ltd. It includes up to 5,000 homes, 22.5 hectares of employment land, local centres, three primary schools and playing fields.

Breckland Council’s planning committee approved the plans last Friday. At the meeting Simon Wood, regional planning and building manager for Breckland Council, said: “Affordable housing is seen as a bar, rightly or wrongly, to bringing development forward therefore local authorities have to be realistic in regard to their expectations.” It is anticipated the development will be built in five phases over 20-25 years. Will Van Cutsem, director of Pigeon, said: “These plans are the culmination of five years’ hard work to ensure that the development meets the needs of the town and brings significant social and economic benefits to help Thetford grow and prosper.” Mr Van Cutsem said further reviews of the project’s viability would be carried out and if the market improved levels of affordable housing may also increase.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Breckland Council Budget 2014

My response to the Breckland Council budget debate today; I am disappointed in this budget and I feel that it fails to address some of the most pressing issues facing our district. In many ways in compounds the inequalities that exist in our communities. There are numerous aspects that I would like to take issue with and discuss, but I’m conscious that I’m limited to three minutes so I will focus on one aspect – namely housing. 

Last February the Breckland Labour Group tabled an amendment to the budget calling for Breckland Council to undertake a much more proactive approach to house-building locally. Despite the reassuring words from the then leader at the time, there has been little visible action, if any, over the past year.

Last December we heard about the effects that the bedroom tax was having in the district with nearly 1,000 families in our area affected. Further to this, just yesterday I received a copy of statistics in relation to housing benefit support. There’s nearly 3,000 people in our district that are in private sector rented accommodation but in receipt of housing benefit. Taxpayers are basically paying off the mortgages of property owners, whilst their tenants often live in poor conditions. Of the 47 local authorities in the Eastern Region, Breckland’s ranks at number 21 – we have a greater percentage of people in receipt of housing benefit in the private rented sector than in Norwich for example, or Watford, or Colchester. Nearly as many as Luton, Kings Lynn and Ipswich. 

Rather than transferring the money that we are receiving in new homes bonus to reserves, like this budget is proposing and rather than using the right to buy income that this council receives to subsidise council tax, as has been the case for some time, I’d much rather see this money invested to see Breckland Council pro-actively addressing the housing problems locally. Not only would these additional houses bring in rental monies, but we’d get additional new homes bonus money as well. Furthermore, by targetting the availability of these homes to those affected by the bedroom tax we’d be able to reduce the impact that this is having on their life and by targeting the homes and those in receipt of housing benefit, we could reduce the overall bill to the taxpayer as well which I am sure we would all support.

Mr Chairman, in short, I’d like to propose an amendment to the budget that would see the new homes bonus money transferred to a reserve specifically designated as a fund that would allow us to get homes built or homes brought back into use.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

My comments in support of proposed Thetford Skatepark

I wish to write in support of the proposed Thetford Skatepark application. Planning Ref: 3PL/2013/1108/F

Despite being a representative for the Saxon Ward, located towards the South of Thetford, I feel that this is a project that would benefit all young people in Thetford and those from further afield, and I am therefore pleased to offer it my full support.

It has long been an aspiration of townsfolk to have a skatepark and there have been many attempts to find a desirable location for it. In truth, there is clearly not a perfect location – if it were, then it would have been identified by now.

But, despite being at one extreme of the town, the proposed location is easily accessible and next to Thetford Academy, where the vast majority of beneficiaries of the site will attend for their education. The ability to use this site for skate-boarding, BMX’ing or blading before or after school is an added convenience.  Regarding its location, and comments expressed by some opponents of the proposal, surely the most important views on its accessibility and location are those held by the young people themselves? I am yet to find a young person who has complained to me about the location, they would just be grateful to have a skatepark at all. Young people today are exceptionally mobile, and Thetford is really not that large – so concerns expressed by adults on its location, are somewhat of a red herring.

It was heartening to know that Thetford Academy was strongly supporting the application in this location, recognising that as well as a good standard of education, it is important that young people have the opportunity to exercise, and enjoy something that they feel passionate about, in this case – skateboarding, or bmx’ing or blading. A well-managed site will surely assist with improvements in educational attainment locally?

The fact that the school site has expanded, and includes many dual-use community facilities, such as the multi-use games area is also to the applications advantage. I note that the previous proposals to construct the additional facilities at the Academy received no objection from Croxton Parish Council, or nearby residents, so I would expect support also for this latest addition which surely complements the sporting ‘offer’ available?

Comments received regarding anti-social behaviour etc. are classic ‘nimby’ type comments and probably reveal more about the prejudices of those making them than anything else. Throughout my years as a Youth worker, prior to becoming a Councillor, I always found that the skateboard/bmx’ing fraternity to be predominantly polite and respectful young people who take their hobby/sport very seriously. Young people involved in campaigning for a skatepark have shown determination and patience in their quest, and I hope that their efforts are duly rewarded with the final construction of this facility.

Careful management of the site, in conjunction with users of the facility, by Thetford Town Council, will ensure that the site is well-looked after and incidents of anti-social behaviour are kept to an absolute minimum. I commend this application to you and would urge the Planning Committee to support it.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Terry Jermy

Norfolk County Councillor – Thetford West Division (including the ‘Ladies Estate area – located opposite the proposed development)

Thetford Town and Breckland District Councillor – Thetford Saxon Ward

Monday, 6 January 2014

One family's experience of what health service delays can mean

The Jermy Family
Thetford, Norfolk

Atos Healthcare complaints – via
Department for Work and Pensions – Independent Case Examiner - via
Chief Executive, West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds IP33 2QZ
Elizabeth Truss MP for South West Norfolk – via 

Doctors Wilford & Butcher, Grove Lane Surgery, Grove Lane, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2HY

                                    Monday 5th January 2014

Dear All,

Re: Mr Trevor Jermy, National Insurance Number: XXXXXX

We are writing to complain about the length of time taken to process a Personal Independence Payment (PIP – formerly known as Disability Living Allowance) for our father Mr Trevor Jermy. And we are furthermore writing to complain about the quality of care that our father has received from the National Health Service following his stroke and the speed at which information has been provided by healthcare professionals to enable our father to receive crucial financial support.

Our father suffered a severe stroke on Friday 16th August 2013 and was admitted to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. He remained in hospital for a period of three weeks and for the first week he was only able to receive nutrients via a drip and for the second week via pureed food. The hospital environment, with very strict visiting rules and some quite elderly stroke victims surrounding him was not conducive to dad’s recovery so it was agreed that he would be released home on the basis that our mother – Elaine Jermy – would be able to care for him. This was despite our mothers own hearing difficulties. The stroke itself was a complete shock for our father, and the family. Dad is only 55 years of age and had never had a stroke before.

Our father’s physical abilities and cognitive skills have been severely affected as a result of the stroke and he was confined to a bed for six weeks upon arriving home. The family was told that he would be able to receive weekly physiotherapy at home; but three weeks passed with no visit. It wasn’t until a family member queried this that a visit was forthcoming. There have been numerous physiotherapy appointments that were made, but people did not turn up for – and did not telephone ahead to cancel the visits, creating additional concern and worry for the family. Once being sent home, no medical personnel visited the home to check on ours father’s progress for several weeks, and a visit only occurred when our mother telephoned the local surgery and a Doctor subsequently visited.

At no stage were the family informed about any entitlement to benefits and it was only through independent research that the family became aware of PIP. Therefore, on the 24th September 2013, a claim was lodged on behalf of our father by a family member for the Personal Independence Payment. A letter was issued from the Department of Work and Pensions on the 1st October requesting additional information. This was completed and returned the same day. Following this, a 36 page questionnaire was sent to us on the 15th October 2013; this was promptly completed and returned. We were then written to on the 3rd November 2013, stating that the questionnaire had not been received – so we telephoned to query this, as it had already been sent. It was confirmed to us by the telephone call that the paperwork had indeed been received successfully.

At the end of November, we telephoned again for an update and were informed that our claim was waiting to be processed. We were informed that they were specifically awaiting medical information to decide whether or not a mobility assessment would be needed.

During December, we telephoned ATOS to ask for an update on the claim and were told that it was “awaiting processing”. We made it clear that the financial assistance was desperately needed and asked for an anticipated decision date, which they were unable to provide.

As of today (5th January 2014) – we have still not received any update regarding the PIP claim, despite the process initiating on the 24th September 2013.

Our mother is unable to claim Carers Allowance until Dads PIP claim has been resolved. It is our understanding that whilst the PIP payment can be backdated to the claim date, the Carers Allowance will only be backdated for a maximum of 12 weeks. Therefore, with the delay in processing the PIP, our mother is losing money that she is entitled to via the Carers Allowance. Furthermore, our father’s eyesight was greatly affected by the stroke and he is in need of an eye test and glasses, but cannot afford this. Once the PIP has been awarded then he is eligible for free eye treatment.

Our father was paid his basic salary by his employer whilst in hospital for a period of three weeks until he was transferred onto Statutory Sick Pay of £86.70 a week. Dad undertook a very manual role as an engineer locally for the same employer for the past 25 years. Following Dads stroke, Mum took annual leave from her employer initially, and then sick pay for a short period and was signed off work by a Doctor due to stress. Mum was put onto Statutory Sick Pay on 28th October 2013.

Therefore, the entire household income has been reduced from Dads 39 hour a week job, and Mums 30 hour a week job, to just £173.40 a week between them. This amount does not even cover the monthly mortgage payment. When Dad had the stroke he severely damaged his car, and after considerable delay and hard work on behalf of family members, the insurance company paid out £2,500 based on the cars value. This money to a large extent is what they have been living off since the stroke, with additional support being provided by family members where possible.

Both Mum and Dad have worked since the age of 16 and given significant sums of money through tax and national insurance contributions. Even when mum gave birth to us, she was back at work within six weeks. In the months prior to dad’s stroke he was paying £200 a week in tax and national insurance contributions as well as contributing £40 a week towards his own private pension. In the last financial year, according to his P60, Dad paid £5,859.60 in tax and a further £3,389.02 in National Insurance.

For somebody that has worked so hard, contributed to society and paid his way in life, we find his treatment and support available since his stroke to be utterly deplorable.

If it were not for the car insurance pay-out, and the ability of a few family members to support them financially, our parents would be in a desperate state of affairs, and likely to be adding to the queues at the local Foodbank.

To add insult to injury – Dad’s appointment at West Suffolk Hospital’s ‘Elderly and Stroke Medicine Clinic’ for a review, originally scheduled for Friday 17th January 2014, has recently been postponed until Friday 14th March 2014!

In addition to this, the family have been making attempts to make a claim through Dads critical illness insurance policy. This was initiated during September. On the 1st October 2013 the policy provider – XXXXX, wrote to us to say that they had written to both Grove Lane Surgery and West Suffolk Hospital to request medical information about Dad. Then, on the 4th November 2013, XXXXX wrote to us again to say that they had received some information from Grove Lane Surgery, but would be requesting further information and that West Suffolk Hospital had failed to respond at all. XXXXXX telephoned West Suffolk Hospital and spoke to the relevant Doctor’s Secretary who informed them that they had not received the original request. XXXXXXXX duly sent the request via fax that same day. On the 12th November 2013, XXXXXXX wrote to us to say that they had still not received any information from West Suffolk Hospital. This claim has still not been processed and we have still not received any financial support from this policy.

We hope that this letter may serve on a personal level to ensure the prompt completion of the PIP process and serve as a wider wake-up call that the system is clearly failing.

Yours sincerely,

Terry Jermy                           Michelle Jermy                                 Ricky Jermy              

Friday, 3 January 2014

Charles Burrell security costs article in EDP

Personally, I think a more fitting headline would have been "Conservative in-action wastes £60k+ of tax-payers money". I wrote to Derrick Murphy as Leader of Norfolk County Council in 2011. I warned that Charles Burrell would be closing as a school and that this would be a huge loss for the local community and would inevitably cost the County Council money if it did not act. Despite that warning, that's pretty much precisely what happeed! The site ceased operation as a school around July 2013 and the Council had to engage a security firm to keep the site safe. The cost does seem incredibly high - but then whatever the bill is / was - this could have been entirely avoided with more proactive thinking on behalf of the Council. 

Let's hope there will be no security costs being incurred very soon when the site is transferred to Thetford Town Council and it becomes a vibrant community hub.