Category Archives: Scouts

Camp fire

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Delighted to be invited to  the  1st Woodbridge Scout Group & Seckford Explorer Unit Camp Fire at Buttrum’s Mill tonight.

As you can see, it was a beauty. Scouts really know how to build good fires.

The venue also is perfect. I wonder how many towns can have a small meadow hidden in the middle?

Best of all I got a chance to see the ride-on mower I bought the scouts a couple of years back from my locality budget. Its a brilliant arrangement: the scouts mow the meadow, and the owner allows them to camp on it. And with the ride-on mower it can be done in a reasonable time, however quickly the grass grows. Its a win:win arrangement

Woodbridge: how I used the County Councillor’s Locality Budget

Each Suffolk County Councillor has a small Locality budget, to be spent at their discretion on things that benefit their own community. (There are rules – you can’t use it for entertaining, for example). The sum is dictated by the number of the electorate: the budget for Woodbridge was £8,630 a year – £34,520 for the last electoral cycle.

I try to spread the money to cover as many different groups  and needs as possible. Over the last four  years therefore I have given grants for – or towards – the following:

Farlingaye School: *Playground canopies

Woodbridge Town Pastors:  *Bicycles,  *Training

Woodbridge Cycling Festival: *Materials, first aid cover etc

St Mary’s Woodbridge: Repairs  to *Tower and to *South side of the church wall

Deben Swimming Club: *Poolside kit for competitions

Woodbridge RUFC: *Indoor activity area improvements

Woodbridge Town FC Under 8 Team: *Waterproof jackets

Woodbridge Bowls Club:  *Awning for the club house

Deben Players: *Costume store

Woodbridge Youth Centre: *Generator

Wickham Market & District Family Carers Support Group: *Training for respite care volunteers

Homestart Suffolk Coastal  *Laptop

Woodbridge Riverside Trust: *Feasibility study, Whisstocks project

Just 42: Materials for the Graffiti Project: *Hardstanding for Peterhouse  Green

1st Woodbridge Scout Group: *Mower

The Princes Trust: *Flowers/ pots for exterior of Woodbridge Youth Club

YP@ Woodbridge: *Cooking equipment, TV/DVD & Disco/Karaoke unit

Woodbridge Library: *Blackout Blinds; *Reading challenge – balloon modeller, & prizes; *Jonathan Allan illustrator to talk and draw with kids

Woodbridge Town Centre Management: *Walking maps  of Woodbridge;  *Printed jute bags

Woodbridge Town: *Bollards  for  Hasketon Road; *27 Grit bins; *Thoroughfare Bike racks ; *Bench for Petanque area Kingston Field; *repairs to Elmhurst Park wall/shed; *Funding for Jubilee Pavilion; *Bench at Hasketon/Grundisburgh road junction

Woodbridge Community Council: *Solar  panels Woodbridge Community hall

Tide Mill Trust  (by their earnest request)  match funding for *renovation of the Tide Mill

 

No room for the next generation?

Recently I’ve been worried about  the Woodbridge Youth Centre  and all those who use it. And now I’m  sharing both information and my own concerns about this situation.

The Centre houses a number of spectacularly useful and important groups for young people, including Just 42 – the only open access youth group in 400 square miles of Suffolk Coastal;  provides  rehearsal room for the Company of 4,  offers meeting places for various groups;  and is the only place between Leiston and Felixstowe which can provide meeting space for children and young people in a safe, non-school setting. Already, the centre is used for  something like 170 different meetings a month of one sort and another.

However,  if you look at it cynically,  the Woodbridge Youth Centre’s  Kingston Field site is also one of the last pieces of prime development land in Woodbridge. My concerns were aroused when I was told that a three-year lease promised a year ago to one of the groups that used it had failed to materialise. I then discovered that decisions about the future of the WYC appeared to be occurring without any traceable reference to any elected member at County, District or Town level.

It was as if some of the council officers involved were acting as entrepreneurs rather than caretakers. And suspiciously as if they  had forgotten that they did not own the land, and were supposed to be administering the site on behalf of the people of Woodbridge. Having first raised the matter with the County Council  in May, I eventually got an email telling me that indeed, the group in question

 were offered a three year lease. However, it became apparent that there was a need to look at the bigger long-term future of the building and occupants following the start of the Our Place discussions… The intention is to continue to renew the annual licence, while the options are considered.

I didn’t think that this covered the issue completely, not least because I discovered that there seems to have been an unilateral decison made as to the  best usage of the site : the development of yet more sheltered housing for old people. ( As if there isn’t really quite a lot of this in Woodbridge already!). And because, after a whole year  this other (again unilateral) decision to downgrade a 3 year lease to an annual licence  had not been mentioned to anyone until I  started making a fuss. And because I have been representing Woodbridge since before the inception of the ‘Our Place’ scheme and I had never been party to any discussions on the subject!

I am therefore raising  the following wider concerns on behalf of the councillors and residents of Woodbridge:

a)  “it became apparent that there was a need to look at the bigger long-term future of the building and occupants”  As this sentence is in the passive  – a timehonoured way for bureaucrats to avoid telling anyone who said what, when and why to whom –  I have asked who it was to whom “it become apparent’?   I know, it was  not to me, nor to the building’s occupants, nor to the Town Council, nor to the residents of Woodbridge.

So far I have had no answer.

b) “There appears to be a lack of space in Woodbridge generally.” I have asked for this remark  to be disambiguated, so that everyone can be clear whose lack of space is being referred to.  Past conversations and emails suggest that it doesn’t refer to the young people of Woodbridge –  the group who really do lack space in Woodbridge. Rather it  refers to the amount of  sheltered, and care provision in Woodbridge. If this is the case, it is  not true.  There are already 660+ units offering such to the elderly people in Woodbridge – and that excludes those who prefer to live in  standard housing!
Just to remind you, there are 7500 people in Woodbridge, and because of the amount of sheltered housing  already,  3000 of these are in the ‘grandparent’ age group.  Many of these  have contacted me with concerns about the extreme lack of facilities there are for young people – particularly those people who grew up here and raised their own children in past decades!

c)  The email mentioned “the start of the Our Place discussions” ( which supposedly consist of ‘officers working alongside elected members to develop local service solutions‘.) Yet any discussions as to the “bigger long-term future‘  clearly took place without the presence or knowledge of me, and as far as I know, of any other elected member. The start of these particular Our Place discussuons must have occurred quite a long time ago, bearing in mind the lease has been witheld without any reason for a full year

In conclusion  – and because localism is about joint decision-making from the start – I have asked SCC  to approach no organisation with any proposition whatsoever  without having discussed in advance the various available options  for the site  with all the stakeholders.  That is – at the very least – myself (as County Councillor), the members of Woodbridge Town Council, the current occupants, and representatives of other youth stakeholders within Woodbridge.

I have shared my concerns with the town council, and they are very supportive, and I’ve convened a meeting of all the youth groups  this Friday.

We all need to make sure that our town’s youngest generation  does n’t get marginalised and forgotten. After all, they will be supporting us one day!