Civic Centre civil war looms

I WOULD love to have been a fly on the wall at Civic Centre last week when the details of the proposed local plan were circulated.Senior members of staff and councillors were, I hear, "apoplectic" when they read all the proposed details in the report.

I WOULD love to have been a fly on the wall at Civic Centre last week when the details of the proposed local plan were circulated.

Senior members of staff and councillors were, I hear, "apoplectic" when they read all the proposed details in the report.

It will be interesting to see how it is changed when it does finally come to the executive – that will tell us whether the planners or the engineers, the idealists or the realists have won the day.

I can't help feeling that there is a lot of cynicism behind these proposals – a cynicism based on the desperation of the local Labour Party to retain its stranglehold on power at Civic Centre.

The wards, which would be most directly affected by the removal of the lorry bans and the decision not to build any new roads, are Bridge and Gainsborough.

They are safe "Old Labour" wards, dominated by council and privately-rented homes. In May Labour attracted more votes in these wards than all the other parties put together.

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If they lose a few of their votes in Wherstead Road, Nacton Road, and Landseer Road (and they may already have lost them), they'll still hang on to the seats.

But they want to appeal to "Nouveau Labour" voters in the big houses on the edge of Alexandra Ward – the Labour voters whose idea of keeping the world greener is to ensure that the catalytic converter is working on the BMW and that Piper's Vale is kept untouched by any new roads.

Labour is desperate to shore these people up because they are the kind of voters who might flake off to the Liberal Democrats – and in May they did just that.

Issues like saving green areas appeal to them – even if they don't actually visit the place for fear of getting their vehicle torched while they leave it in the car park!

This suggestion will probably provoke howls of derision from Labour members who will claim they have never thought of anything so cynical.

I suspect most of them won't have discussed the argument among themselves or with anyone else.

But I'm sure they've all thought in these terms to themselves – never forget politics can be a cynical business!

THIS newspaper has been quite clear in its position on regional government, and the Prime Minister has told us if we don't want it we don't have to have it.

But there are real fears that whatever the gut feeling of the people, regional government will eventually be foisted upon us.

And this has set alarm bells ringing – especially by people who follow the fortunes of the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), which would have a key role in any regional set-up.

Until his election to the House of Commons last November, Chris Mole was vice-chairman of EEDA, but he had to step down after his election.

Since then Suffolk has been unrepresented on the board – even though it's made up of 14 members from six counties.

We haven't done too badly by EEDA – the redevelopment of Cranfields on Ipswich Waterfront is one of its biggest projects – but its not satisfactory that the county is unrepresented on the board now.

One senior figure from Ipswich told me recently: "Frankly it looks as if the region will be run by people from Hertfordshire living in Cambridge."

He then went on to say that perhaps the way to avoid this was by people from Suffolk working hard to get involved with regional institutions.

But if those institutions don't want people from Suffolk taking part, what are we to think? Is it any wonder that more and more people from here don't want to take part?

I'VE always been a supporter of two tiers of local democracy – but it seems that one of the strongest arguments in favour of this is being wiped away by stealth.

It's always been argued that local government provides so many services that it is impossible for local councillors, who are essentially well-meaning amateurs, to be responsible for everything from education to local planning matters.

But now we're finding that more and more councillors have seats on two authorities – clearly they don't find the work too burdensome.

In Ipswich six of the 16 county councillors are members of the borough council, and a seventh borough councillor – Neil Macdonald – is standing for election to County Hall at the St Clements by-election.

Terry Green, who represents Ipswich Whitehouse division at County Hall, represents Bramford on Mid-Suffolk council.

Councillors who are back-benchers on both Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Council earn allowances of £11,000 a year.

Councillors like John le Grys and Keith Rawlingson, who are on the executive of Ipswich council and sit at County Hall earn more than £17,500 in allowances.

Elsewhere at County Hall there are many other dual councillors.

I'm starting to come to the conclusion that we should get rid of the notion of amateur councillors, and get rid of one of the tiers of local government.

Maybe it would be better to have just 80 councillors paid a realistic salary running everything in Suffolk – then we wouldn't have the shamateurism we suffer at the moment.

DURING yesterday's royal visit, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh spent 80 minutes in Ipswich.

The tour was well-planned, everyone involved talked to each other and the visit went off like clockwork.

The royal couple spent two and a half hours in Bury St Edmunds. Again that was well-planned and passed off without a hitch.

Between these two engagements they spent 15 minutes in Stowmarket, a visit which seems to have provoked blind panic in the offices of Mid Suffolk District Council.

Officials started running around "trying to stick a badge on anything that moved" according to one police source.

And they were giving out all kinds of strange messages – including one that martial law was being declared in Stowmarket!

Maybe they're trying to provide material for a new sit-com, or is it just that Mid Suffolk has provided a retirement home for Corporal Jones, late of Warmington on Sea Home Guard?