Suffolk left in limbo

SO SUFFOLK County Council is losing its chief executive to the bright lights of Birmingham, the largest local authority in England.Lin Homer is to become the new chief executive at England's second city at a salary of £165,000 a year.

SO SUFFOLK County Council is losing its chief executive to the bright lights of Birmingham, the largest local authority in England.

Lin Homer is to become the new chief executive at England's second city at a salary of £165,000 a year.

I don't have a problem with the salary. It's a lot of money to most people, but it's not excessive for the head of an organisation with a budget of more than three billion pounds and 36,000 employees.

Personally I wouldn't fancy swapping life in Suffolk for life in Birmingham – apart from anything else it would take a long time to get to Portman Road for home matches – but I suppose with a salary of £165,000 you can find a nice home in Solihull or Kidderminster!


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But what does concern me rather is the uncertainty that Suffolk's now been plunged into and the length of time it might take to choose a new chief executive.

Birmingham has had no chief executive since last September, and it was no surprise when Mrs Homer's predecessor Sir Michael Lyons retired.

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There were problems after one candidate pulled out after accepting the job, but such a protracted selection process would be a disaster for Suffolk which already has more than its fair share of uncertainty at the top.

Over the last few months the county's had a new leader, a sacking among the executive committee and at least one other senior member of staff is on her way to a new job.

Suffolk is council of the year – which presumably didn't harm Mrs Homer in the interviews for the Birmingham job – but it can't afford a leadership vacuum.

July and August are traditionally quiet months for councils as political leaders tend to be away and officials "tick over" before serious politics starts again in the autumn.

Let's hope that by the time we get back to real politics in September, Suffolk's leadership will be on its way to being sorted out.

HAVE you seen any euros yet? Are you ready to spend them on your summer holidays? Do you see them as the fount of all evil?

If you're going on holiday anywhere in the EU this year – except Denmark or Sweden – you'll be using euros from now on.

From the beaches of Benidorm to the alpine villages of Austria and quiet villages in Ireland, the euro is now the currency.

To mark this, we've now got the anti-Europeans launching a new publicity campaign claiming that the euro is fulfilling Hitler's dream.

I know most opinion polls claim that the majority of Britons don't want the euro, but I can't help feeling that the anti-euro campaign is losing touch with reality.

One of the comments we often hear is: "You don't have to be anti-European to be anti-euro."

What rubbish!

If you are pro-European, then you want to promote trade within Europe and get rid of unnecessary barriers.

The biggest barrier by far is having a different currency when all your trading partners use the same one.

It doesn't make economic sense in a world increasingly dominated by global companies.

Why should an American or Japanese firm want its European headquarters to be in Britain if it has to spend millions changing currency everytime it sends goods elsewhere in Europe?

It would also make life a lot easier for the millions of Britons who visit Europe if we didn't have to pay commission to the banks everytime we caught the HSS ferry!

Many people say that if Britain used the euro, the government would lose control of the economy.

It already doesn't control all aspects of the economy – interest rates are set by the Bank of England and Black Wednesday 10 years ago showed that you can't buck the financial markets.

Of course, if you don't want Britain to be part of the European Union, it's fine to retain the pound.

It's a view which has been embraced by Lady Thatcher and other former cabinet ministers – and it's a view that has always been held by people like Tony Benn.

But does it really help their cause to have Rik Mayall dressing up as Hitler telling us "One folk, One Reich, One euro?"

This is offensive to the millions of people who support British entry into the euro.

How would anti-euro campaigners feel if someone suggested that everyone who was opposed to the euro was a xenophobic bigot who hated the French, the Germans, the Spanish, the Italians etc etc?

Before there is any referendum on the euro, we need to have a rational debate in which the choices are clearly stated.

We have to know that it is a choice between becoming a full player in Europe and embracing the common currency.

Or it is about withdrawing from Europe, which is becoming the most powerful trading block in the world, and taking a different path altogether.

Frankly there is no credible "third way."

WHEN it closed 50 years ago, no one thought the Mid Suffolk Light Railway would ever re-open, not even a short distance of track to keep its memory alive.

But that's what has happened at Wetheringsett – but still there are some who see the wonderful rebirth of this rural line as a threat to their way of life.

So when the operators of the new Middy museum apply to Mid Suffolk Council for planning permission to build another 250 metres of track, they are likely to meet with opposition.

Last weekend the Middy brought steam back to the line for the first time since it closed in 1952. Hundreds of people enjoyed the experience.

But when I visited on Sunday afternoon, I didn't find the back roads round Wetheringsett turned into Hyde Park Corner.

The Middy museum is a small operation and will always remain so – it's never going to be a major preserved railway like the Severn Valley or Bluebell Line (and there are plenty of us who wouldn't mind having one of them at the bottom of our garden!).

So I really have great difficulty in understanding the reasoning behind those who are opposing it when it is discussed later this month.

The people behind the Middy don't want to offend anyone. They have put in a lot of time and effort into developing a small-scale attraction that will help put part of the county on the tourist map.

It's a pity that anyone wants to put a spanner in the works.

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