Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter


Campaign Trail – Days 18 to 20

Random recollections of what’s been going on. If days could be extended to cover 36 hours it might be helpful.

Wednesday was fragmented. I had a lot of work to catch up on and then, mid-afternoon, I had a meeting with the ECB about Stradbroke Cricket Club’s self-accreditation as a ClubMark club this year, a meeting which then extended into discussing club sports in Norfolk and Suffolk in general. It’s a fact, unfortunately, that most sports clubs are losing players at both ends of the age spectrum, and that there are a variety of reasons for this, ranging all the way, in cricket’s case, of there not being enough (any) coverage on terrestrial TV, through parents’ and players’ time constraints, all the way to how tight money is with everyone because of the unnecessary austerity imposed on the country by the Tory-led coalition, especially with salaries at the lower end of the scale still not rising enough to keep pace with even the low inflation of food and utility prices. By the way, on a general election issue, don’t let the numbers being out out there by the current government fool you – the average wage, which is going up, includes the salaries of all those who earn millions of pounds every year, as well as those subsisting on below a living wage.

Thursday was interesting. I spent the morning with the auditors of the charity which employs me, finalising the narrative and financial content of our annual report. The financials were still £1 out on a rounding issue, which needs to be resolved before I can take the report to my trustees. One of the mandates the auditors have is to question someone like me about how our cashbook is maintained and how the organisation’s strategy has been kept to, and what the organisation’s strategy for the next 3-5 years is. I am always grateful to the auditors for keeping these meetings as brief as possible, with little or no time wasted on what people might regard as niceties. We’re there to do a job, not to socialise.

After that meeting, I went to the headquarters of a national mental health charity, to discuss everything to do with its national information service, and to look in detail at the performance of its national helpline. Alarmingly, due to lack of funding, the charity only has the capacity to answer 50% of all the calls it receives. Even more alarmingly, although the NHS mental health provision has improved significantly over the last ten years, one of the colleagues I was meeting with pointed out that the provision is still “not fit for purpose.” This is a sad fact, and one which must change. Mental health is a serious issue, depression a serious illness and NOT a state of mind.

I got back from London just in time to stuff my face with a couple of bits of pizza before heading off to the Annual Parish Meeting. I was really pleased that, before the meeting started, the Clerk to the Parish Council made the point that this was not a normal parish council meeting, and also pointed out that no comments, favourable or unfavourable, could be made about any people standing for election to the parish council, because the purdah period running up to an election was still in place.

A couple of things of interest from that meeting were a comment from the floor that the doctors’ surgery was beginning to see patients in their thousands, not in their hundreds, and that the village’s SpeedWatch volunteers were catching an average of 9 speeding vehicles on each outing they undertook. I think these points are illustrative of the need to grow the village organically rather than through an explosive over-development of the Grove Farm or any other sites.

For me, the most significant issue to come up at the meeting was the uncertainty about the provision of fibre broadband into the village. Unfortunately, and this is actually a problem with very many politicians, Guy McGregor, our county councillor, doesn’t really understand the technology, so the numbers and forecasts he brought with him weren’t really worth the paper they were scribbled on. As I’ve said before, universal access to really fast Internet communications is vital for the sustainability of this village.

Friday was spent working and leafleting, leafleting on behalf of myself and James Hargrave whom I am supporting in his campaign to become a district councillor for the Green Party. James and I split the leaflet distribution between us, with me covering the east side of the village, including the Hopkins development, Westhall, Grove End, and Laxfield Road. What hit me was something I should have realised before – that Stradbroke is in reality already a very big village, that it should be no surprise that the infrastructure is already creaking, and, most importantly of all, that the people living here are really friendly and inclusive and (inserts over-used word) nice. It took mae five hours to distribute all the leaflets I had, mainly because I spent lots of time talking with people, people who turned out to know of me already, who said they would vote for me. That’s quite humbling.

One final word – draft excluders on letterboxes are a bane. I pity our poor posties who must get scars on their fingers every single day.

Promoted by Richard Pierce-Saunderson of Spring Cottage, Church Street, Stradbroke, Suffolk, IP21 5HT.

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