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Ipswich Protest Against Probation Service Privatisation.

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Thursday Lower Brook Street Ipswich. (Photo JB)

Members of the National Association of Probation Officers are joined by trade unionists and supporters of the Suffolk People’s Assembly.

Probation workers across the eastern region have taken to the streets today in protest at the government’s decision to privatise the service.

Across the country members of union Unison, along with colleagues from the GMB and National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), held their joint protest to coincide with advertisements being placed by the Ministry of Justice in OJEU – the Official Journal of the European Union – inviting private sector bids.

Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust workers outside the offices in Palace Plain, Norwich said privatisation would axe services designed to keep communities safe, as well as introduce potentially dangerous cost cutting measures in the relentless pursuit of profit.

They also warned that among the list of likely bidders were Serco and G4S, both currently under investigation for alleged fraud in the running of previous MoJ contracts. EDP 24

Thousands of probation workers will join nationwide protests today to claim that public safety will be jeopardised by the Government’s plans to transfer the community supervision of most former offenders to private companies.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, is to signal his determination to push ahead with the £800m privatisation of the bulk of the National Probation Service, which traces its roots back to 1907. He will publish advertisements today inviting bids to take over around three-quarters of the service’s current workload.

Under the moves, the 35 existing regional probation trusts will be replaced by 21 government companies which will tender out the work of supervising more than 200,000 offenders each year considered to present low or medium risk. Those regarded as high risk will continue to be monitored by a slimmed-down national probation service.

Ministers insist their plans are essential to drive up standards in probation and to reduce reoffending levels. Six out of 10 people who leave prison are reconvicted within two years.

Potential bidders include such firms as G4S and Serco, which are both being investigated over alleged fraud in Ministry of Justice contracts. The sums paid to the successful companies or voluntary-sector organisations will be linked to their success in reducing offending rates.



Bidding has begun for probation service contracts worth £450m across England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

Payment-by-results contracts are to be split between private companies and charities in 20 English regions and one Welsh region, officials said.

They will supervise 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year.

Senior probation officers have condemned the plans as “a disgrace and total failure”.

The competition will continue through 2014, with contracts awarded by 2015.

Under a system of 21 contracts, the voluntary groups, charities and private companies will only be paid in full if a certain proportion of offenders do not commit further crimes.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Suffolk Libraries: New Problems for Privatised ‘Co-op’.

with 8 comments


How Right We Were.

The Liberal-Conservative Coalition’s cuts have created problems for library services across the country.

Many places have seen closures, others have tried to use ‘volunteers’ to replace paid staff.

Conservative-run Suffolk County Council adopted  the Industrial and Provident Society, to make savings and keep the libraries open. They transferred publicly owned resources to a ‘co-op’, which is run, not by democratically elected representatives of the public, but by a system based on ‘users groups’ and appointees. Critics allege this is a “privatised Charity”. That it has created an oligarchy in place of a service responsible to democratically elected Councillors.

These are expected to introduce cuts and raise a percentage (initially up to 5%, now down to an – unknown – figure)  of the libraries’ funding from groups in each library. In prosperous parts of the County some groups, inspried perhaps by the ‘Big Society’ and ‘localism’ have taken over part of the day-to-day running.

In the process the ‘nasty party’ has not gone away.

All Suffolk Libraries  face a crisis in funding and staffing, and their Internet service is collapsing, as this letter demonstrates.

The Suffolk Coalition for Public Services and Ipswich & District Trades Council would like to express serious concerns about Suffolk Libraries  Industrial and Provident Society (IPS).

The Evening Star (20th September) has brought to public attention concern about staffing shortages and day-closures because of a lack of cover in Ipswich Libraries.

A worker is cited saying that service is ” close to breaking point”.

This has become even more evident since the Star article appeared.

Users comment that:

  • The lift in the Central Library (Northgate Street) has been out of order for some months now though we now understand it has been repaired. This denied access to services on the first and second floors to the disabled and others.
  • The Internet, one of the most important Library services, is deteriorating daily. The Browser needs updating, and as a result there is constant “buffering”. Many sites cannot be properly accessed, including Facebook, E-Mail and information sites. *
  • Books have been given the wrong bar-codes, or simply not been registered on the new system.
  • There are concerns that the level of staffing is not adequate to cope with daily  public demand.
Cuts are planned, and will no doubt further affect the Libraries’ services.Behind this there is a lack of transparency about the way the Industrial and Provident Society is run, and to whom it is accountable.The issue of how local groups are organised and how they will raise the money the County Council says they will have to provide for each library has yet to be resolved.We would like to say that the transfer of a democratically-run publicly-owned service to a private charitable organisation is not proving a success.We continue to oppose any cuts in library funding.

Teresa MacKay


Ipswich & District Trades Union Council

* We note that the system is so poor that it casts serious doubts on how anybody who wishes to apply for benefits and other essential government services will be able to use it. The government intends to make it compulsory for anybody wishing to get Universal Credit (low paid, unemployed) to do so via the Net.

I have had to use an Internet Café  to post this.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Cameron: (Nearly) All State Services to Go into Private Hands.

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Cameron Continues Fight Against Jacobin Centralisation.

A White Paper, due to be published in the next fortnight, will set out an automatic right for private sector bodies to bid for public work.

Decision-making power will be given back to professionals – who have in the past been hampered by red tape – while people will be able to have more control over the budget for the service they receive.

The changes could ultimately see many functions of the NHS – from operations to walk-in triage services – being run by private firms. All schools could be run by charities or private sector companies, as could municipal services such as maintaining parks, adult care, special schools or roads maintenance.

Outside providers would be offered payment-by-results contracts, which would earn them more as they increased the quality of services.

The only exemptions will be the judiciary and the security services. All other public services will be expected to open up to private competition under the plans, which the Government hopes will slash… (More Here.)

David Cameron explains (Here),

That’s why we need a complete change, and that’s what our White Paper will bring. The grip of state control will be released and power will be placed in people’s hands. Professionals will see their discretion restored. There will be more freedom, more choice and more local control. Ours is a vision of open public services – and we will make it happen by advancing some key principles.

The most important is the principle of diversity. We will create a new presumption – backed up by new rights for public service users and a new system of independent adjudication – that public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service.

Let us leave aside the fact that the only ‘people’ getting their hands on power will be money-grubbing private companies and Lords and Lady Bountifuls. Let us ignore, for the moment, just how inefficient and bureaucratic existing ‘outsourcing’ is – notably in the Unemployment Business.

Let us just reflect on what this ‘decentralisation’ means.

A couple of centuries ago Britain has an endless series of local ‘times’ Each area had its own clock hours. You could leave London at half Noon and,a  few hours later, find yourself at Ipswich around 12.27.*

The Liberal-Tory  kind of decentralisation will make every place have its own ‘time’ for public services. Some will be run according to the rhythm of the rural gentry, some to the order of ‘diverse’ religious charities now running education and social services. Some will speed up, under the rule of mercenary private companies squeezing the last penny from the sick.

Cameron’s plans are the biggest blow to equality and  equal treatment launched in this country since the reaction that followed the ‘anti-Jacobin’ campaigns of the 1790s.

 Ferdinand Mount in a number of writings has laid out the ideological basis of this ‘localism’ – here.

*Okay a bit exaggerated, but not much: see on the standarisation of time: here.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Suffolk County Council: Privatisation Big Bang to Go Ahead.

with 12 comments

Who Ate all the Public Services?

County bids for ‘Big Bang’ approach

Headline slightly altered.

Tendance Comments Added.

THE leader of Suffolk County Council has said there will be no “Big Bang” approach to plans to divest the authority’s services

That was the pledge from Jeremy Pembroke as the radical programme for change was again endorsed by councillors yesterday.

(In other words, all public services are to considered for hiving off  in a ‘big bang’).

The meeting of the full council in Ipswich debated the results of the first feedback after the county began a “community engagement” programme across Suffolk.

(Instead of a democratic procedure, such as a ‘consultation’, we have  ‘engagement’. That is shoving a few leaflets and questionnaires around the place and having talks with selected interest groups).

And Mr Pembroke insisted it was still too early in the divestment process to come up with any firm details of how services would be transferred to other providers.

However, he did make three pledges in an attempt to “dispel some of the myths”.

He said: “Firstly, we are not about to privatise all our services. Our intention is to encourage a diverse range of mutuals, co-operatives, social enterprises, charities, community groups, town and parish councils, or – in some cases – Suffolk-based businesses.

(In other words they are to be privatised not publicly owned. Podgy Pembroke failed to answer the EADT’s pertinent question: who will decide on what these farmed-off services do when they are no longer under democratic public control? Who will they be responsible to in-between contracts – themselves or the public? Obviously they will answer to themselves first of all ).

“Secondly the council will not be reduced to 500 staff. As the details for divestment have only just started to be drawn up, there’s no way of knowing how many people will be leaving the organisation.

(No figures, no facts, no details – the Suffolk Policy all along)

“Thirdly, we are not simply hoping for volunteers to deliver our services for nothing.”

(No, but they would no doubt be very welcome).

During his summing up at the end of the debate Mr Pembroke said divestment would be allowed to happen in its own way, at its own pace and insisted there was nothing ideological about the move.

He said: “There is no blueprint under the table, there is to be no ‘Big Bang’ approach to the changes.”

(Collapse of stout party).

Deputy Liberal Democrat group leader David Wood said there was concern about the county’s New Strategic Direction (NSD) in communities because there was so little detail. He said: “We have been discussing this since September, 2009, but we still get the same old rhetoric. People need to get some straight answers to the questions they are asking.”

Labour group leader Sandy Martin dismissed the council’s own consultation processes and said the reaction on the streets was clear.

He said: “We know what people really think. 7,000 have signed petition forms for the Unison campaigns, for the Campaign for Public Services and on the Save Suffolk Services website.

“And if you haven’t concluded from these petitions, or from the 350 to 500 people who marched through the snow last Saturday, that the New Strategic Direction hasn’t found favour with the people of Suffolk then there are other consultation processes in May, 2011, and May, 2013 (local elections).”

(Good points Sandy.)

At the end of the debate the council again backed the NSD proposals by 44 votes to 11 with one abstention. It also backed a call for regular reports to be brought back to council meetings.

(As if we expected anything else. The field is now clear for democratic local government to be largely replaced by an oligarchy of private companies, ‘social’ enterprises, and the rest of the crew of cost-cutters, profit seekers, dignitaries, and local big-wigs).

(Paul Geater EADT Friday, Here.)

Let us be clear on this: the New Strategic Direction has been adopted (Here). The Council says,

The Council voted overwhelmingly for the three recommendations put forward in the paper, which were to:

  • Agree that the Council continues to implement the New Strategic Direction and in doing so continues to engage with Suffolk’s communities throughout its development in order that they have the opportunity to better understand and influence the future direction of the Council;
  • Note that the Divestment Member Working Group will produce an outline programme for divestment covering the ‘big ideas’ and ‘Your Place’ as a basis for discussion with interested parties and the community; and
  • Agree that it is work in progress and that as the work of the strategic council, community capacity and democracy working groups, progresses regular reports will be brought to Cabinet and Council.

Signs that the Suffolk Coalition for Public Services has made an impact come from the  eccentric Ipswich right-wing. 

Hard-right Ipswich Spy talks of Left marching in ‘vain’. The “marchers were protesting ‘the cuts’ ” (perhaps a relic from his days in Foggy Bottom-  one supposes this means we were protesting against the cuts), and the march was supported by Unite, Unison, the PCS, the FBU, the NUT, Ipswich Labour Party and the CWU, as well as students who appeared to be loving the attention of a rather bemused crowd of Christmas shoppers. “

He claims that Ipswich Labour is saddling itself with the unions. (More anti-union musings here)

Pentecostal fundamentalist A Riverside View says (here).

 Representatives from Labours masters UNISON, Unite, PWC, CWU and NUT many of whom were concerned with possible job losses leading to a significant drop in union funds along with student groups made up of middle class kids who are so spoilt they are enraged by the idea of having to pay for something, waived their placards as they marched from Endeavour House,

Bridge Ward News, Ipswich’s own Catholic Ultra, comments (here),

“No public sector cuts.”

This chant works well when talking about “education cuts”.  After all you can say that media studies courses are in the same class as primary schools, hospitals and foreign aid.  Or you could say that teaching Tamara Art History is an investment in our future.

You can’t say this about the whole public sector. It’s moronic.

Well that’s us answered!

Ipswich Protest. Photo from UNISON.

Follow the Tendance on Twitter: here.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

Suffolk County Council and the ‘Big Society’.

with 7 comments

From Big Government to…. where?

What is the Government’s idea of the ‘Big Society’? Ian Birrell, a former speechwriter for David Cameron writes (Here),

At its core, the big society is an attempt to connect the civic institutions that lie between the individual and the state – and these range from the family and neighbourhood to churches, charities, libraries, local schools and hospitals. It is born out of recognition that our centralised state has become too big, too bureaucratic and just too distant to support many of those most in need of help, and that it deters people from playing a more active role in public life.

This, then, is the theory. But how are individuals going to connect to these bodies  differently to the way they do now? How are their roles in our lives going to change? How are they going to be less “distant” and encourage people’s “active role in public life”?

In political terms, this means passing power to the lowest level possible: radical public service reform, so that schools, social services, planning and even prisons are more responsive to the needs of those using them; and social action, to encourage more people to play a role in society. Not just charities, but neighbourhood groups, workers’ co-operatives, social enterprises and, yes, businesses.

Let’s look at what is fast becoming a laboratory for the Big Society. The experiment in hiving-off public services to these groups, and…yes, business. That is Suffolk County Council’s plans to ‘divest’ itself of direct delivery of nearly all its functions.

 Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council,  has written in the Ipswich Evening Star (24.9.10) of the “new philosophy”  Its based on

  • Greater personal responsibility.
  • Stronger society.
  • A smaller and less intrusive government – a government that works for us, not against us.

He talked of increasing the “strength and number of bonds that link individuals in a  community”. This would mean we’ll be “happier and more fulfilled”. We will have to take “more responsibility for our own lives”. And “a public sector which does less, costs less.” So in the new big society is marked by  “people power”. It’s a place “in which we are more responsible, do more ourselves and for our neighbours”.

The County’s New Strategic Direction, now being implemented, is, as we have noted before,  based on plans to hive off nearly all its services.

The First Phase of transfers includes:

•    Transactional property
•    Registrars
•    Suffolk traded services
•    Employment enterprises, learning and careers advice
•    Libraries
•    Home First 
•    Independent Living Centres
•    Highway Services
•    Country Parks
•    Economic Development
•    Youth clubs, and Integrated Youth Support and Outdoor Education
•    Early Years & Childcare, including Children’s Centres
•    Home Shield Plus
•    Hate Crime Service

There will be less funding, and one assumes any private company will provide a service at a lower cost only by lowering standards. People will have to more self-reliant, from those suffering from dementia, to the victims of Hate Crimes. Fortunately, Pembroke writes, there will a lighter “burden of inspection” to monitor the outcomes of his plans.

In the Evening Star again (1.10.10), Celia Hodson of ‘Choose Suffolk’, says these are “exciting times”. Apparently the new system will have to “accommodate a spectrum of opinion “(even those who oppose it?). ‘greater cotnrol’ will involve, “such activities as volunteers working in libraries to help keep them open.”

A “real sense of empowerment” will be created by such path-breaking initiatives as “next generation broadband services for Suffolk”.

No doubt the less well-off in Central Ipswich and the Housing Estates are already gearing up for such “innovative solutions” to their problems.

Simon Ash, Suffolk Chef Constable, (Evening Star 8.10.10) is equally enthusiastic about the “opportunities to be seized” by the Big Society.  Less Whitehall interference, he writes, will by “removing interference from the centre” be a step forward. “The  use of volunteers in a  range of roles supporting frontline police will become increasingly more common.” “Strong and resilient communities” will sustain policing.

One wonders what happens where communities are not convinced enough to join in with the Conservative idea of the Big Society. Will the Police still offer their full services to them?

This experiment will create enormous inequalities in the County. The prosperous volunteering, business aware areas will maintain something near to the present of  public services. The rest will have to get what they can. voluntary groups and Charites – which are not, for all their merits democratically responsible bodies – will get resources. As will even less responsible private companies and so-called “social enterprises” (which if Housing Associations are to go by, they will  end up resembling the private sector structures).

 ‘Distant’ and equal treatment will give way to highly individualised standards – underpinned by a restoration of traditional deference and hierarchies particularly in rural and districts dominated by the wealthier. People’s rights to services will be replaced by a  dependency on the good will of their neighbours.

It is also highly unlikely that any of the sub-contractors from the private sector will prove cheaper or more efficient. After an initial wave of cost-cutting, cheese-paring and salary reduction for employees these companies will milk the public purse for what they can. Teh experience of the ‘welfare-to-work business – all privately provided – indicates how such privatisation fuels the growth of a parallel tax funded private sector with its own political agenda.

But what of the Suffolk Voluntary Sector?

It is just about to suffer a huge series of cuts! (Here.)


Meanwhile Ipswich Tories remain quiet as mice about this: Here. and Here. The Suffolk Big Society Blog has precisely one post!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

Suffolk County Council Sell-Offs: The Tories’ Scandal Grows and Grows.

with 6 comments

The New Suffolk Enclosures.


(Suffolk Coalition for Public Services: Facebook group Here).

The East Anglian Daily Times  reports today,

In a survey of more than 20 town and parish councils and voluntary groups carried out by the EADT, the overwhelming majority said they did not feel they had been consulted properly on the Suffolk County Council proposals.

(Note: Hardly surprising since they were not consulted. More interesting would be a list of those who dreamt that they were!)

County councillors last month voted 52-11 to approve moves towards introducing a new strategic direction which could see county council services being provided by other organisations.

(Note: Not surprising, these  Ladies and Knights of the Shire (or South-Folk),  vote as they’re told.).

One of the visions of the new direction is for communities to do things for themselves and for volunteers to take on more responsibilities, like running vital services.

However, the EADT has discovered that many town and parish councils – who will be given more responsibilities under the plans – have been left angry because they feel they had not been consulted before county councillors agreed on the new strategic direction last month. (More Here)

(Note: Angry!  Localism is a fraud if it’s imposed on unasked, unconsulted people in elected positions. Let alone the unasked, unconsulted electorate.)

Now we realise that not many lefties, even those of us who live in Suffolk, read the EADT print-copy. It has to be said that the daily has seen better days. This is not the journalists’ fault but part of a general trend to run down local newspapers  – as readers of Flat Earth News know. 

 But this story has been covered very thoroughly.

In the print edition there is an article title, “Don’t take the voluntary sector for granted“.

Cliff Horne of the Suffolk Pensioners’ Association is quoted as saying that, “They are taking a lot for granted in assuming that the voluntary sector will take up the slack, that we are ready and able to take on this extra work.” and “At the end of the day we are still volunteers and if it does get too onerous people will won’t volunteer.”

Dr Wil Gibson rightly asks “if there is a  reference as to which voluntary organisation takes the lead or if there will be a formal tender process”.

We confidently predict (since the Tories’ National Local Government site is better informed than Suffolk County Council’s one) that the Suffolk Strangulation of Services (SSS) will feature at the Conservative Conference.

Meanwhile Suffolk County Council is run by a clique of ideologues. They interpret David Cameron’s Big Society to mean fewer publicly funded services, resposible to democraticaly elected councillors. Instead we will have most services provided by ‘volunteers’, ‘social enterprises’ and (more probable) private profiteers.

We would ask some further questions:

  • By what criteria are voluntary bodies assumed suitable to take over County Council responsibilities? How are these organisations to be assessed?
  • Do voluntary bodies have to submit to minimum standards of internal democracy and accountability?
  • Who are they, and any ‘social enterprsie’ or private company, responsible to  during the period during which they carry out their  contractual obligations? To their CEOs, to their Management Boards, to their shareholders, or to the people of Suffolk? If they are in some way accountable to the electorate, how is this to operate?

With the eye of a Suffolk Seer we can envisage that the process of hiving off  publicly owned property to private hands  will offer rich pickings for Private Eye in the months to come.  

The Socialist Party have already begun – here.


Update: some information has finally appeared on the County Council’s site – Here.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Suffolk County Council Cuts Go Ahead: First Wave of Transfers Looms.

with 13 comments

Suffolk for Public Services picket line outside Endeavour House. 

Suffolk for Public Services picket line outside Endeavour House.

No Coatesy, He Was On A  ‘Motivation Programme’  Course.

(Suffolk Coalition for Public Services: Facebook group Here).

 MEMBERS of Suffolk County Council today approved controversial moves that could lead to the authority selling off most, or even all, its services and the loss of thousands of jobs. More Here.

From the Official Policy Documents (‘New Strategic Direction’) Given to Councillors:

The lack of detail about the Big Society, and the pace at which some of the artefacts are developing (sic) , the Big Society Bank for example, has created a policy vacuum.The council is being understanding (sic) with this vacuum within the vacuum primary with the conversation about divestment (i.e. privatisation Note by Coatesy).

Sources close to the Suffolk Labour Party indicate that ‘divestment’ will take place in 3 phases.

The  first will mean that Registrars, Home First, the Records Offices, Independent Children’s Centres, Country parks, Hate Crime Services, and Youth Clubs will be hived off. That is, either to private companies, ‘social enterprises’  or will be ‘volunteer-run’ . Libraries are thought to be transferred to a ‘social enterprise’ with some branches also run by ‘volunteers’. A senior Labour Party figure indicated that he thought the use of volunteers may extend to other libraries.

Several thousand County Council employees are set to lose their jobs.

We are interested to know how private companies will make a profit out of hate crimes.

Dear Councillor
We understand that today the leader of Suffolk County Council will be putting forward proposals to the Council, which will enable the outsourcing of those Public Services currently served by the Council.
We are most concerned by the detrimental effect this will have on jobs and actual services.
This extreme course of action did not feature in any election manifesto received by the public in the recent County Coumcil elections and we therefore, demand that, if you consider yourself in support of such proposals, you should resign from your elected post and re-stand on a manifesto that clearly outlines the demise of Public Services in Suffolk.

Bridge Ward news has yet to comment.

Ipswich & District Trades Union Council.

Members from this newly formed Coalition, following a meeting of local Public Sector Trades Unionists on September 9th, will be picketing County Councillors as they enter Endeavour House for a full County Council meeting, and will present them with the following message:

UPDATE:  Our Informant proves accurate:

By Neil Puffett
Children & Young People Now
24 September 2010

Youth clubs, integrated youth support and children’s centres will be among the first potential pilot projects for outsourcing services at Suffolk County Council, it has emerged. More Here.

Guardian Commentary by Patrick Butler  here,

These changes are a mixture of inspiration and desperation. Some may lead to better, cheaper services. Others could lead to catastrophe. The consequences of this rapid, largely unstrategic shakeup – its effect on democratic accountability, its economic impact on areas where the council is the largest local employer – are unclear.

Some experts say restructuring on this scale is hard enough at the best of times. Service transformation, the argument goes, happens most effectively when there is money to oil the wheels of change. Blair could have done it in the age of plenty seven years ago; now the piggy bank is empty. Councils are not yet allowed to raise money on the capital markets, and are prevented from putting up council tax.

Change on this scale is hugely expensive. Redundancy payouts in local government – while not as generous as in the civil service – are typically equivalent to two years’ salary. In theory outsourcing transfers costs and risk to the private sector. Done badly, councils end up paying more, locked into costly, underperforming long-term contracts, or trapped in legal challenges brought by trade unions.

Nor is there any guarantee that the private companies and charities will be queuing up to take the contracts. Transferred council workers by law keep their council terms and conditions and must be offered “broadly comparable” pensions – requirements that often end up as outsourcing dealbreakers.

For Tory-run councils, such as Suffolk, the public spending crisis seems to offer an ideological opportunity to change the face of local government. Making it a reality will not be easy.

If Patrick Butler knew the people behind this plan – the Tory Councillors to begin with , and had read the Strategic Plan cited above (gibberish and incoherence mixed with naked ultra-market ideology), he would be more than sceptical.

He would be scathing.

We should be out in Tavern Street tommorow (weather permitting) from 11.00 a.m.

Well-known Suffolk Facts Number 1: Council Chief Executive, Andrea Hill’s salary is aprox £220,000 per year.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 23, 2010 at 5:31 pm