Monday, 28 November 2016
A huge honour to support the Christmas lights switch on in Thetford as Mayor - this year I asked our Youth Ambassadors to perform the honours and we had the Mayor's cadets present as well as the Town Crier and Junior Town Crier. Photos below courtesy of Maria Cooke.
Saturday, 19 November 2016
Speech at International Day for Tolerance
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentleman and may I warmly welcome you to our community event to mark the International Day for Tolerance.
May I thank those staff and stall holders for giving up their time to make this event possible.
Don’t worry if you’ve not heard of the International Day for Tolerance before – neither had I until recently. But basically the United Nations every year holds a day to promote tolerance around the world. The official day is the 16th November but we wanted to hold our event on a Saturday to ensure that as many people as possible could attend.
As the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said; “The United Nations promotes tolerance as a matter of its fundamental identity. When tolerance is upheld, we encourage the world to emulate those fine examples. When tolerance is threatened, we must speak out”.
Thetford has long been a diverse a community; comings and goings defined the town in its early days whether that be Vikings, Romans or religious visitors making pilgrimages.
More modern day changes include new residents from London as part of the overspill in 50s and 60s to newer arrivals from Portugal and Eastern Europe.
As a community we need to recognise the challenges that change can bring and the concerns of those affected but never lose hold of that tolerant and understanding part that makes us all human.
This week the news has been filled with the trial of Jo Cox, the MP that was tragically murdered earlier this year. It reminded me of what Jo said in her first speech in the House of Commons;
“there is more that unites us, than divides us”
I think that is true for every community and is a really important point to remember.
So please do visit the stalls that we have here today and let’s continue to work together to improve our community for the benefit of everyone.
Friday, 28 October 2016
Today at Breckland Council was a good example of why voting for UKIP really isn't a good idea. For a start, they're supposed to be the official opposition on Breckland Council to the Conservatives but as usual, they voted to support everything that the Conservatives wanted to do. They get paid to provide the opposition (£2,600 annually) but rarely ask any serious questions or scrutinise the work of the ruling administration.
For example: Changes to the Housing Allocations Policy (i.e. who's entitled to 'social housing' locally) UKIP voted to support. Labour members, myself and Harry Clarke voted against and made the point that there is insufficient support for social housing and that the housing support team is too stretched and needs more staff. Later in the meeting under a separate vote, UKIP members again voted with Conservatives for a staff review that will see the number of staff in the housing department reduced. Similar reductions in the already stretched environmental services team. Labour members highlighted that the Council is not dealing with fly-tipping etc as it is and there needs to be a greater focus on enforcement and highlighted that there are significant issues with Serco and that there are financial penalties built into the Serco contract and if they aren't doing their job properly they should be fined (e.g. Serco are supposed to litter pick before cutting the grass to avoid litter being shredded - hmmmm yeah!!). Tory members also highlighted that locally we have good levels of employment - great yes, but as our reports have shown us there is currently a 7 to 1 ratio for average salaries in Breckland to average house prices. I..e purchasing a house in unaffordable, rents are too high, people are trapped renting and cannot afford to raise a deposit etc. There's statistically more people in work claiming benefits then out of work. We're a low wage economy - fact.
Under Councillors questions - Labour members highlighted the unacceptable time that Flagship Housing properties are sat empty - 'void figures' - which are now on average a month - crazy when people are desperate for homes - and I asked what Breckland would be doing to get Flagship to fix this. I also asked when bins would be installed at Riverside complex, would the three-legged bridge be upgraded and made DDA compliant and complained that Councillors had not been engaged in reviewing parking and transport issues in Thetford. Harry spoke up again for Dereham residents regarding the Dereham Transport Study.
Such a shame more members of the public don't get to see their Councillors in action.
Commemoration event to mark anniversary of the death of Maharajah Duleep Singh:
Maharajah Duleep Singh spent many years of his life here at Elveden, having purchased the Hall around 1863, he initiated a major expansion of the Hall and created one of the premier sporting estates in England. His children were brought up here, and through his efforts the population of the village and surrounding hamlets almost doubled. In 1877 the Maharajah hosted a visit by the Prince of Wales and he was joined on regular occasions by other dignitaries including the then Duke of Cambridge. During his time at Elveden,the Maharajah restored, the church, the estate cottages and the village school. Upon his death, Prince Frederick brought his father's body back to Elveden. His coffin, on the occasion of his burial was borne by the Estate Gamekeepers, whose descendants still live in and around Thetford.
His family maintained links with the Thetford area, and his second son Prince Frederick was a major benefactor of Thetford, firstly founding the Ancient House Museum and generously donating some of his personal collections, and latterly a large selection of his portrait collection comprising a wide range of East Anglian families.
The graves here today are a key part of the Anglo-Sikh Heritage trail and mark the final resting place of Duleep Singh ,his first wife Maharani Bamba and young Prince Albert. This wreath commemorates the death of Maharajah Duleep Singh on this very day in 1893 and is freely given on behalf of the people of Thetford.
Sunday, 23 October 2016
Speech for twinning visit to Hurth, Germany
Mr Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. May I thank you on behalf of Thetford for hosting us this weekend and sharing with us your beautiful community.
In Thetford we are very proud of our twinning links with all four of our twin towns; Hurth, Les Ulis, Skavina and Spijkenesse.
I’m really pleased to be able to support twinning activities in my Mayoral year and to be able to visit Hurth.
Twinning provides us with an opportunity to learn from one another. Whether that be understanding different ways of working, appreciating new food, enjoying new music and of course making new friends. Twinning widens our horizons and enriches our lives.
The links established through twinning will be more important than ever for our country and will assist with maintaining that internationalist outlook built on mutual understanding, co-operation and friendship. Twinning provides us with opportunities to develop business links and to drive innovation through shared learning.
We give thanks to those people from all communities involved with twinning for their support and steely determination to maintain these important links.
Mayor of Thetford
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
WORDS TO PRINCES TRUST PRESENTATION – 10.08.16
Congratulations to everyone that has completed this latest programme by the Princes Trust and well done on your fantastic presentation today.
It takes a lot of courage to take yourself out of your every day environment and go into something completely new. Meeting new people – perhaps everybody is new – which can be very daunting. But you have done it and you should be incredibly proud of yourself for it.
Not only have you learnt new skills but you have given something back to the community – I was really pleased to see the work that had taken place at the Church of the Nazarene for your community project element and I know that what you have achieved there has been warmly received by Church attendees and there will be an ongoing benefit to the local environment – I wonder how many reservations there has already been at the very swish bug hotel that you made.
I hope you all enjoyed your work experience placements. Thanks to those businesses that supported the young people with their placements – I am sure that it has made a tremendous difference.
Whilst here I wanted to share with you a belief that I have that I have learnt through my life:
One of the best things about being Mayor is you get to go round to all sorts of places and talk to so many different people. One of the visits I attended a few weeks ago was a visit to each of the 12 schools in Thetford.
The favourite visit was to my own school in Thetford – Diamond Academy as it is now – Queensway Junior when I went there. Those young people I spoke to at schools obviously had no idea that in fact I was born on the same housing estate as them – I lived on the same street or neighbouring street to the children at the school. I went to the same school as them. What I wanting to convey to them and what I want to convey to you is that it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a few setbacks in life – if you work hard and keep going, you can achieve whatever you want to achieve. When I was 18 I didn’t particularly have anywhere to live, I couldn’t afford to go to University. I got a part-time job in Thetford and stuck at it for 7 years – I was eventually made full-time. I set up my business – and it largely failed and cost me a lot of money - but I learnt a lot. I took a huge leap of faith a few years ago and sold my house and used some of the money to buy a new business which I run today – pleased to say this is much more successful. Not bad for someone that failed GCSE Maths and had to re-sit it before they’d let me into the Sixth Form. Being involved in politics can be particularly up and down. When I first stood for election as a Councillor I was 21, Iost by about 700 votes for the winner and 350 for me – a rather convincing defeat by I stood again the next year and won with a majority of 45. Then a year later I stood for Norfolk County Council, lost by 200. Stood again four years later and lost by a single vote – out of 9,000 people that could vote and I very very nearly threw everything in – I didn’t want to deal with the setbacks anymore – but an opportunity arose for me to go for it again and I won by 171 votes. And now all of a sudden I find myself as Mayor of Thetford – the youngest in the towns more than 800 years of having a Mayor.
So, you never know what is round the corner, but the only real way to achieve what you want to achieve is to work hard and stay positive.
I quite like motivation quotes, this one for me sums up what I’m trying to say:
“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can”. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” Thomas Edison