Introduction of the motion to council
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This is, at heart a very basic and very straightforward motion.
Indeed so much so that I hope that it should attract the support of every member of this chamber.
This motion should appeal to you even if you think that it is right to close Blundeston prison.
I clearly don’t, but I cannot see how anybody in this chamber or in the wider Waveney community can feel that they have been given a compelling reason why the government have decided to close this facility, in under four months, placing at risk many jobs and leaving people with uncertainty about their futures.
My appeal is three-fold.
Firstly that this decision be reconsidered, I do not think this is unreasonable.
Because the independent monitoring board say it is wrong, they tell us that they feel that the prison does good work, is a good example and quote ‘has many qualities which make its closure ill-conceived, premature and rushed’.
Given that information, information which was released after the decision was announced, contradictory to the reasons given by the government.
Well then why should they not be asked to think again.
I am also making the simple request that the government at the very least take more time, as the independent monitoring board state ‘Although it may sound good in the short term, it has consequences for the county which will cost more in the long term’ – surely this needs more thought.
As I say, even if you agree with the decision, I cannot see how you can disagree that this information should be considered.
If we simply stand idly by as people’s lives are filled with confusion and worry, if we stand idly by when the very body who monitor prisons say it is wrong then we are not giving true voice to the people we represent.
And so the final part of my motion simply asks that we have the courtesy of a detailed explanation, because we know that the government has form in Waveney for decisions which the evidence does not seem to support, decisions which the community do not understand, decisions experts disagree with, decisions with long and lasting impacts, decisions which are answered with a shrug of the proverbial shoulders and a letter from the underling to the underling.
Oh don’t worry, it’s only Waveney.
There is a tale, possibly true.
A lady switches on her radio and hears that the motorway (we know this can’t be Suffolk) is being terrorized by someone driving the wrong way up the dual carriage way.
Worried and knowing her husband is making a journey along that road she calls him (hands free of course) and tells him darling there is a lunatic driving the wrong way, my dear he cries there’s not one there’s hundreds of them!
Given previous form in Waveney perhaps the driver was Mr Gove.
And so as this decision comes barreling the wrong way up the A12, scattering lives, no, we cant allow Waveney to be forgotten, we can’t allow Waveney to be a forgotten outpost, not even given proper explanation for the heavy price we are asked to pay for decisions taken miles away.
So I invite members to support this motion, ask for sense, ask for time ask for reason and simply stand up and make Waveney’s voice heard.
Summing up for debate at council
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Many times I hear that we need people to take part in the decisions that affect their community, we are told that ordinary people need to be more engaged in the democracy around them.
I agree, I find that notion appealing but also a notion which ignores the fact that we here, this council, we councilors are people of our community, we are the ordinary – well fairly ordinary – people of Waveney, we live and work in this community, we feel the issues which the public feel.
Or we should.
And so this motion is not simply a piece of dry council business.
It is a symbol, a symbol that we are listening, that we hear, that we understand and that we can be angry, disappointed and confused by decisions just as much as the next person.
But unlike the next person we are also in a unique position as the elected members of Waveney to represent the people we share our lives with, to represent them and to show them leadership.
By sending a clear message, that this is a decision we cannot agree with, if for no other reason than the lack of a coherent rationale.
This is of course a decision beyond our control, but it is not the first, it is not the first time that Waveney has suffered from a decision taken miles away, opposed by the community, opposed by the politicians and opposed by the experts.
This evening we say that is not good enough, we say that we will stand shoulder to shoulder with people in Waveney and demand better, demand a fair hearing, a proper explanation.
We say that we cannot simply allow decisions to be made, harming our economy, costing jobs and damaging our community without our voice being heard.
We can tell this government that they have it wrong, badly wrong, we can tell this government that we are on the side of working people, that we will be a strong voice for the weak, that we will not allow Waveney to be taken for granted, that we cannot accept out of touch, behind closed doors decisions, we cannot accept government making decisions irrelevant to the real needs of our community, damaging the fabric of our society, risking the futures of our friends and families, our colleagues and neighbours.
Leave this chamber tonight knowing that we stood with the people of Waveney, we stood up to arrogance, we stood against the spreadsheet and the clipboard, we stand for people, for common sense and for openness and honestly, we send a clear message,
we draw the line in the sand – Waveney will be strong, Waveney will be heard, Waveney will be better than this.
I commend this motion to the chamber and I call upon every councilor to support it.
Tod Sullivan is Leader of the Labour Group on Waveney District Council