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Nelson Mandela Birthday – 18 July 1918

Like so many people,I have been awed by the life and impact of Nelson Mandela. And today, the anniversary of his birth in 1918, I continue to draw inspiration from this extraordinary man and hero of our times.

In a letter dated 1 February 1975, written from Kroonstad Prison, he wrote:

“In judging our progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education. These are, of course, important in measuring one’s success in material matters and it is perfectly understandable if many people exert themselves mainly to achieve all these.”

Hardly contentious, I would have thought, but he goes on to write:
“But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being. Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities that are within easy reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life.”
nelson-mandela-desmond-tutu-sizedI might question that they are ‘within easy reach’, but I believe his words capture something inspiring as to personal motivation for public service. They reflect an observation made by President Barack Obama in 2010 in a forward to ‘Nelson Mandela, Conversations with Myself’ that: ‘Through his choices, Mandela made it clear that we did not have to accept the world as it is – that we could do our part to seek the world as it should be.’
What a gift this one life has turned out to be for so very many. And what a legacy for continuing inspiration his life will be.

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Coming ‘Very’ Soon – Sailmaker Pub & Premier Inn @ Holbrook

MGL at Sailmaker PubAt the turn of the year, the Holbrook Leisure Centre and Park opened.  It had been a long wait to turn this dream into a reality – but it was worth the wait and is already a success exceeding expectations.

But that was not the end of the story or the improvement at Holbrook.  And those nearby will see that the signs that have been promising ‘Coming Soon’ could be updated to coming ‘very’ soon.  The impressive new Marstons Pub already fits into the landscape and sits comfortably alongside the equally needed and well located Premier Inn, which is similarly evidently nearing completion.

Having a vision for Holbrook and a mandate from the local electorate since 2010 to deliver, these have combined over the last three years to get this project off the ‘to do list’ and make it happen.  I congratulate all our partners in realising this major improvement for Gosport.Holbrook Pub&Inn 20130715

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HAPPY MONDAY – A Partner Nation Recognises & Celebrates the importance of the seas

As in large numbers we welcome the appearance of summer, we might, one or two of us, be thinking a Bank Holiday would be a timely extension of celebrating the weather and perhaps enjoying our coastal location for another day before returning to work.

In one colleague island nation, Japan, their national calendar is offering them a holiday under their cheerfully named ‘Happy Monday Scheme’.  I hope that it does raise the happiness quotient, but I also hope that the banner of remembrance and celebration under which this ‘happy monday’ is enjoyed includes remembering that the day specifically honours the bounty of the oceans and seas.

Today (the third Monday of July) is a national holiday in Japan.  There has long been a day set aside as Marine Memorial Day to ‘give thanks for the ocean’s bounty and to consider the importance of the ocean to Japan as an island nation.’

Today, the emphasis continues to honour the blessings of the oceans and the day has become more widely known as Ocean Day or Sea Day.  It is no surprise that it is also an opportunity to recognise and remind citizens of the continuing central importance of the oceans and seas for the economic prosperity of this maritime nation.

solentAs we enjoy the weather and many enjoy the water in our fantastic coastal location, spare a thought – No less does our nation, region and Gosport rely on the oceans and seas for survival and for economic prosperity.
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Haslar & Daedalus – Two Important Strands of Economic Development for Gosport

Deciding where to go for a holiday can be fun (planning something exciting and energising), full of anticipation for the journey (which may include the challenges of travel, early starts, long flights etc) and getting to a place you want to visit (successfully achieving the objective). No less is this the case for the journey of our place, Gosport, seeking to grow and be fit for generations to come.

In the last three years we have been building a track record of success in Gosport’s Economic Development. At the same time we have sought to unlock some very big opportunities that have been stalled for too long.  This has wrongly encouraged a view that any plan ‘is all very well, but it won’t happen’. As Chairman of Economic Development from 2010 to 2013, I was delighted to have a hand in working out what the destination might look like, confident that we have the potential to grow economically and as a community, and  ensuring that the plans were realisable.
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It is thus very good to see emerging, after a lot of hard work on this journey, good news for two key sites in the Borough with importance beyond our border for the region. Haslar and Daedalus make quite a pair of special development sites. They bring history, great locations, the opportunities of scale and the chance of new jobs and a real renewal – respecting the past but making strides for the future of Gosport and the people who will live, work and visit here.Haslar 20130711

But there is more to do on the journey towards these new exciting destinations being delivered at Haslar and Daedalus. And some parts of the journey may yet be difficult (money, agreeing detailed options, some change that will not suit everyone). But if the partnerships formed hold fast to a common vision and that vision remains exciting and energising for the Borough, then the difficulties of the journey will be more than worth it.

So I say Hurrah for the progress being reported this week.  Progress with submitting an outline planning application for Haslar (although both the Developer and the Council know there are some important issues still to resolve) and to see the growing support for the airfield and the focus on key businesses at Daedalus.

May the destination continue to encourage all who are working on the journey.

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Payday Lenders – A modern curse? Credit Unions the solution?

Being a Ward Councillor has many challenges – residents challenge me about what we are doing in the Council on a regular basis and I am fine with that.

I am not fine with the challenge presented, way too often, by people in trouble and stress being challenged by Payday Lenders offering a sugar offer that masks an exorbitant repayment rate that defies belief and reason.  A fair profit for a loan is one thing, but to prey on people when they are down should not be allowed.

I am delighted that the Government is looking at legislating a fair maximum amount that can be charged for small loans to people in distress.  This is an important means of dealing with such practice.  And we should all care about this.  We should care because it is abuse and that is wrong.  But if we do not see ourselves engaged by this human concern, then we should object because it costs us all from taking care of the fallout from a loan that more often than not does not alleviate a problem – but makes it worse and then abandons those so embroiled to us, the taxpayer, to catch in a very hole ridden safety net.

I am also delighted that Hampshire County Council is recognising this and looking at the potential to engage in a Credit Union approach that would offer a safer route for those who find themselves tempted in desperation to go to Payday Loan companies.

I hope we can come to a national agreement that limits by law the amount that can be charged in interest.  I hope that a credit union approach can be found that operates more locally and as a better way for those in financial difficulty.

This matters – and I will readily add my voice and effort to making a better way a reality.

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4th of July – Celebrating Independence

uk&us FlagGreetings for this Independence Day to family (my Mother-in-Law born in this great country, and close family currently living in Atlanta), friends (hopefully you know who you are and that I value you) and colleagues (so many – too many to count – professional, enthusiastic, generous US Citizens seeking to make a difference in shared circumstances and with shared values that have in passing enriched my life).

A confident nation needs to be confident in who it is and what it represents.  Independence is a facet of a confident nation and, at its best, empowers engagement across boundaries for a common good. On this your day, I wish all US citizens the best of fortune for their endeavours towards the goals and values of a strong, independent nation, but one that remains generous for the global inter-dependencies and respectful of others for their enriching difference.

God Bless America

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Be Exceptional – Civil Service Live 2013

I was lucky enough to catch the lecture/presentation by Steve Radcliffe at the Civil Service Live 2013 event at London Olympia today.

Steve Radcliffe BookCoverThere was much to engage with during his presentation, which encouraged us, as leaders at any and all levels (including of just our own actions), to have something important to do and get it done.  He had a clarity about dialogue in setting the ‘what’ and that it be a ‘robust’ dialogue so that vision became coupled with ‘committed’ action – reflecting the highest level of engagement for delivery.

What made it stand out as a presentation was his plain speaking about what Whitehall and the Civil Service (his audience – and relevant to Local Government too) needed to do better.  And in making this pitch for working at leadership skill, he spoke very plainly about how we each could examine our impact, recognise the light & shadow of our performance, and develop as individuals and with colleagues.

Highlights for me:

  • In setting the ‘what’ – Engage with others so that it is co-invented, co-created and co-designed.  This wins significant commitment by those who respond to the shared objective.
  • Recognise people and their performance – Acknowledge progress and people’s part in its achievement BUT also speak your truth about poor performance.  The latter is very often not done or ‘poorly’ done.
  • Improve through conscious practice – purposefully try to get and be better.
  • Remember to create A Great Support Team – they will sustain you and be added-value as advocates of the shared Vision, Mission, Strategy, Approach and Plan to deliver.  And there is risk and ‘shadow’ from trying to do it alone.

Looking Steve Radcliffe up on the internet shows he has a book – I plan to read it for more insights ……….

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Canada Day – 1st July 2013

Today is Canada Day – celebrating and remembering 1 July 1867.  Gosport has a number of reasons to remember our staunch allies and friends from Canada. And, in remembering, send warmest greetings for their National Day.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne part of our shared history is ‘set in stone’ at Stokes Bay recording the visit of the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day in 1994.  It reflects a time of crisis overcome through shared purpose reflecting strong ties.

And today as we welcome a new Governor, Mark Carney, to the Bank of England, there is another reflection of ties crossing the ocean and bringing – we all hope – the best of Canadian experience and skills to share in supporting economic recovery here in the United Kingdom.

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Mulberry Harbours – A Valuable Gosport Contribution & Connection

Planning for the next major commemoration of WWII is well underway, indeed has been for a while now by those with much to do and recognising that some things take a long lead time to plan.  Gosport has a story to tell – perhaps that should be re-tell or remember, but commemoration includes drawing younger people into their heritage and history for the first time.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo the left you can see me at one memorial to an important part that Gosport played and was a significant contribution to the success of the D-Day landings and the support that flowed through the beaches to sustain the initial assault and build on the liberation of continental Europe.
The plaque reads: ‘This plaque commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the building along this shore of 14 concrete caissons (codename Phoenix) and the associated pierheads from October 1943 to April 1944.  These formed part of the walls and floating piers of the Mulberry Harbours which were a major contribution to the success of Operation Overlord and the ending of the Second World War in Europe.’  The first Phoenix arrived at dawn on 9 June 1944 and by 18 June some 115 had been sunk to create a 5-mile long arc around Arromanche and Gold Beach.

Mulberry3DisplayTo the right you can see a model representation of the harbour that is in the museum at Arromanche & below you can see that some parts of the massive effort remain very much a feature of the beach.

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If you have the chance, there are excellent films of the extraordinary challenges that these structures faced from the worst weather imaginable, but the harbour that included Gosport’s contribution was able to weather the storm and go on to be for a while the most significant support asset to sustaining our forces in Normandie and then beyond. To give you a sense of scale, this harbour was roughly the size of Dover Harbour
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Perhaps a less well known Gosport connection is the importance of a previous HMS Centurion to the outer stability of the harbour. This Super-Dreadnought battleship – the second of the KG V class – was present at the Battle of Jutland and so for a while part of that Grand Fleet.  No less important though was her final fate on 7 June 1944 when she was sunk as a breakwater within which the Mulberry Harbour could be constructed. These ships were given the codename ‘Gooseberries’. The photo of the beach above would have seen CENTURION about centre of the photo in the far distance. The photo to the right shows her in more splendid form in Rosyth in 1918 (Photo from IWM collection). The current ‘CENTURION Building’ (formerly HMS CENTURION) reflects a continuing important support role for the Armed Forces as a key component of the Service Personnel & Veterans Agency (SPVA).  And it continues its important work today and a more than 40 years connection with Gosport.