Suffolk Land Grab

Trinity College, Cambridge is a great educational establishment, it is also a very successful land developer.

In Suffolk, on the Colneis Peninsular in 1933 it bought nearly 4,000 acres of agricultural land, paying about £14 an acre. Land described by William Cobbett in 1820 as the finest land he’d found in the whole country. That land is now worth a fortune, particularly when used for housing development.

Every ten years Trinity College submits a planning application. This time it wants to build 2,000 new homes. These will be on a crowded peninsular which has only one road (A14) to serve the local people (about 35,000, and Felixstowe Port, which handles about 3.5 million containers a year, most transported by road – along the A14!

A local group met last night to put pressure on the local Council, Suffolk Coastal District to reject this proposal. They have a consultation document you can complete.Join to help fight this proposal.

Sizewell C: first thoughts

I wrote about the new Sizewell way back in the year. There was a Consultation Document – since then – nothing. What is happening now? It’s time to ask.

Two reactors in Suffolk, planned.

Consultation document allows us to respond until 3rd February 2017. It is produced by EDF the chosen contractor, which is an unusual step for a building project. I’ve not seen any information from the client.

Local Currency

bankerIt’s an uncertain world. Very little comes with a firm guarantee. Jobs can be lost overnight, and a sleeping bag on the streets is just a short step away.

Unfortunately we live in a parallel universe. Those that have control, and those that just have to put up with whatever they are given. For some months we have been told that 100 families own half the world’s wealth. That was reduced to just 67 people and this week’s shocking news is that just eight people have all that half the world needs.

The Captain of Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace’s battle ship, is quoted as saying that ‘Greed is a primal force’. So very correct, what should we do about it?

Our present economic system is unfair and unstable. Put aside the moral case facing any of the eight rich folk. How can they sleep at night knowing they could easily solve poverty? That continues with most of our media coverage. Well done chaps, the banks made billions more profit this year than previously. Share prices in multi-national companies continue to rise. A house I bought in the 1960s has just been sold for £1 million (not by me I hasten to add). For all of youth the £GBP stood  at $2.40, now it’s $1.20. Quantitative easing continues to erode the value of y money.

Most of us are the losers. True we are thrown scraps from the tables of the rich and powerful but only because we are now considered as consumers. That may change as automation replaces humans. In itself that requires a change in approach. Now we can undercut wages by moving poor people into richer areas. That will slowly change. It;s been seen in China where globalisation now means that, in effect, China owns the USA. If the USA was a company it would be declared bankrupt, or run the risk of a takeover.

There have been attempts to change the economic system. None have achieved much so far. Glasgow, Scotland’s second city, is considering a Glasgow Pound: money that can only be spent in the Glasgow area. Other towns have tried similar ideas. Brixton, in south London. was concerned that most of its money was leaving the town, with multt-nationals creaming off the majority. Add to that the recent immigrants sending money back to maintain families in their home countries. The last few years have seen even more invidious leakages with the government encouraging inward investment. An oxymoron as inward investment must mean outward profit, so do the British people gain from that?

Selling off the family silver is largely unrecognised as a factor but must be taken into consideration. Privatisation of nationalsed industries has deprived governments of funds as they stole the investment income of state utilities to run their own projects. The result was a a lack of investment in such concerns, and a complacency within our civil service.

Local digital currency could help but we really need to consider the structure of our banking system. Who owns and controls UK banks is a question we must consider.




Stoat Hall: Eastern Angles

Stoat Hall is an Eastern Angles Christmas show, something of an adult pantomime. Set at the start of the Tudor period it features a Plantagenet living in Suffolk who is a possible contender to Henry VII’s throne. it is written by Julian Harries and Pat Whymark. Forget history children for this is somewhat confusing. I’d urge you to read the excellent reviews, especially that of Andrew Clarke, to describe the actions.

The Eastern Angles home theatre is the Sir John Mills in Ipswich. In this converted school hall they often split the audience in half with the stage in the centre. The same set-up is used in the Seckford Theatre in Woodbridge. I’m not convinced it works. I love the Seckford and it disturbs me to see blue temporary seating instead of a stage.

Splitting the audience means the actors must project, and only Patrick Neyman , complete with gender-confusing beard, managed to reach my inadequate ears. The lovely Violet Patton-Ryder never breached my hearing, although she was always very pleasing to the eye.

The opening number suggested we would have a battle between Suffolk and Norfolk. An ever-popular story that could have made a strong play.  Sadly the plot veered away from that story line, and then rambled its way through history.

Pantomime needs a very strong plot. Stoat Hall left me confused. Five actors each played several parts and rarely stated which part they were playing. My simple brain was left confused, as did the female beard..

That said Eastern Angles do a splendid job taking live theatre out to the nether regions.. They do need to make sure their web site shows all their locations. Stoat Hall finished at Sir John MIlls on 7th January and the site has no further information.

East of England Co-operation

East of England Co-op logoThe warning signals have been plain to see for at least a decade but have been ignored. Co-operation remains important but it requires management changes if it is to adapt to the present world.

Unfortunately the sharks have been circling, people who have no understanding of the mutual model but believe the only motivation for any commercial enterprise is shareholder profit. They must be resisted. What’s now required is not far short of a peasants revolt. Co-op members need to stand together and push aside corporate greed.

In the east of England we had a thriving mutual. It had a range of business interests which served the local community. In addition there were a considerable number of clubs and activities, all of which held the local community together and gave great pleasure, training and support. That has gradually been eroded. Co-op Jujnirs perform

I was once part of the Suffolk Forum; a small group of Members who were supposed to represent the larger Membership. The truth was we were powerless. Our recommendations had to be forwarded to another committee, and then to go to yet another set of decision makers – very often these were the paid management team. So the governed were, in effect, managing themselves.

Several disastrous decisions were taken. The all-encompassing supply of goods and services that the Co-op once provided have been slowly dismantled. General stores and department stores have gone. In the eastern area of England that substantial part of the business was sold to a commercial company who stripped the assets and were then liquidated. It was a cynical exploitation, and very poor management decision. The sale was secretly and poorly managed, leaving the Co-op cruelly exposed.

The Rule Book was used by poor quality managers to prevent real discussion or innovation. This is a complex area, well beyond this paper, but I’ll give two examples. There is an age restriction imposed upon those wishing to stand as Board Members. It’s discriminatory, and probably illegal, and it prevents many people who are retired, yet have considerable experience, from serving.

Samson, CEOThere were mergers, and that dreadful idea that growth brings success was paramount. Then the CEO left suddenly. It’s tempting to add that he did so under a cloud, but despite attempts to find out why no explanation has ever been provided.

In recent years the Suffolk Forum and many of the clubs and activities once supported by the Co-op have been disbanded. They have left a huge hole in the structure. It’s clear that commercial management cannot, and will not, understand mutuality. Profit is their only concern.

I’ve a Co-operative Bank account, and once had a Britannia Building Society account. I had the latter because it was a mutual society. That has now been stolen, and is in the hands of hedge funds (that’s another name for asset strippers). It’s not far away from a criminal act. However we now have no means of public expression. Local newsletters, forums and discussion groups have all gone. The Co-operative web sites rarely have an email eddress that Members can use, and Board Members seem as bemused as the rest of us.

A decade ago I could expect a Dividend payment close to 3% of my purchases. It was a great incentive, and much better than any clubcard offered by supermarkets. That has been reduced, and now I’m given vouchers to spend at the Co-op, not money. That’s OK, and understandable, but they offer very poor value. Importantly I no longer feel part of my local Co-op.

This must be stopped. I welcome the recent resignations of people who have no understanding of mutual concepts. However those that remain need to look very carefully at our future. The sharks are still circling ready to gnaw away at the efforts of over a century of dedicated workers and volunteers who built a wonderful organisation.

There are good examples; Waitrose and John Lewis Partnership, and others, show what can be done. The credit unions could (should) be given greater freedom, pulling them out of the serfdom mentality so they provide wider services to more people. We need a mutual bank.

Let’s make changes. Let’s stick together and ensure the Co-operative movement remains the stalwart provider that it has always been. It needs to change but to even consider that it should become just another PLC that can be traded by disinterested, but greedy, investors would be a tragedy equal to the privatisation of our national assets.

Two Conferences in Suffolk

I spent yesterday at a Regional Film Conference in Ipswich – full of keen young people. Run by Film Suffolk, started by an enthusiastic young Frenchman and Cad Taylor from Re-Create (incidentally Cad deserves to find success for herself – she is a great worker).

Wolf TeamI was with the national winners of a horror short-film award (suited me!). Belly of the Wolf won three awards, matched against the world; best film, best director, best actor. That team contains the cream of East Anglian talent, but they all find it very difficult to fight the financiers. They have a new project and need a little money. They are not alone but we do so very little to encourage the talent we have in this country.

BELLY OF THE WOLF Teaser/Trailer 2011 from mark fisher on Vimeo.

At the film conference we were presented with a venture capitalist – clearly only interested in money – demanding 50% cash upfront if they were to invest. They are the charlatans we now face, ready to exploit our talent just to make money. The upfront cash demand disgusts me – thousands are spent training these people, and for many it is the film-makers themselves who are now faced with life-long debts repaying student loans. These keen aspirants beg borrow and steal to buy equipment, and come up with the original ideas only to find the way blocked by a fat cat demanding they show more money (that they don’t have). It is disgusting!

We must support the talent we have in this country or it will end up stacking shelves in a supermarket.

Other speakers also opened my eyes to possibilities. Sarah’s family own Bentwaters Park. They have turned it into a fantastic location perfect for filmmakers. Khaki Devil hire First World War uniforms, obscure military props, and have a trench system, complete with No Man’s Land, and old barns for filming, all at Akenham.

In Norfolk and Suffolk we have NALEP, a local enterprise partnership whose Board of Directors come from local businesses (that’s big business or lawyers and accountants) and the chiefs of our councils. None of whom have much time, but they can attract large sums of cash (allegedly). The LEP could make a great difference but it needs to get its act together. Venture capitalists are hovering and alongside these leeches we have administrators who seem intent upon creating barriers, offering stupid deals, with hurdles that are difficult to jump, particularly if you just want to get on with the project.

What is going on? Government money is coming this way and disappearing into a hole controlled by shadowy figures, who appear to have no real interest other than feathering their own nests.

We need an open platform. We need to strip away barriers. Give people small amounts of cash, then encourage and support them, help them market their products. Why can’t we have an online ecommerce facility to encourage investors, to sell ideas and products? Why can’t we showcase our talent?

Instead we have a bizinfoportal (what a name) that offers links to training courses and meetings with consultants, most provided by folk who have little idea, or who have failed themselves. All boringly expensive.

Do I sound cross? I hope so. A 16 yr-old at the NALEP Skills Conference, a lovely girl called Grace, needs to be listened to. She told the delegates what was needed. They clapped, ate a sandwich, chatted to friends, and walked away.

(just an aside: Ipswich Borough Council charge £4.40 for 3 hours in the car park. People had to leave the conference to move their cars – to find the yellow peril beside their vehicles. How to encourage people to your town!)

NALEP Skills Conference

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership held a Skills Conference on 28 November at the East of England Co-operative Society headquarters at Wherstead, near Ipswich, Suffolk.

It was well attended with delegates from many organisations across Norfolk and Suffolk. There will be a more detailed report later but this is my initial reaction.

MarkJeffries NALEP Vice Chair

This recording was made to assist members of the NALEP LinkedIn thread about Consultants.The recording is very poor, one of the microphones was not switched on.

The recording shows that this leading Board member seems to know very little about the Consultants report about which we have been asking questions for the last many months.!