Last week, a report told people the truth about the quality of life for girls in the UK. The report (from charity Plan International UK) looked at the impact of Child Poverty, Life Expectancy, Teenage Pregnancy, GCSE and NEET on the quality of life for girls in all 346 UK district councils.
Suffolk is not the worst but could be a very very much better place to be a girl. In this national survey MidSuffolk came 90th, Suffolk Coastal 125th, St Edmondsbury 146th, Babergh 154th, Forest Heath 213th, Waveney 270th and Ipswich 289th!
In simple terms Mid-Suffolk just missed being in the top 25% for the quality of life it offers girls; Suffolk Coastal, St Edmondsbury and Babergh are in the second quartile; Forest Heath is in the third quartile , while Waveney and Ipswich are in the bottom quartile – with Ipswich being in the bottom 15% nationwide for the quality of life that girls experience.
I raised these shocking figures at Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet, last week, only to discover it was news to elected members and officers alike.
Its clear that the lived reality of girls in Suffolk is being obscured by the way statistics are being collected. Yet the shocking fact is that the quality of life of girls in some parts of Suffolk is in the bottom 15% in the whole country. How come we didn’t know this before? We will never aspire to an equal society if we miss such significant inequality on our own doorstep!
Today we had the fun of the Reading Challenge awards ceremony at Woodbridge Library – one of the jolliest events in this County Councillor’s annual calendar.
To complete the challenge, each child has to read six books over the summer and discuss each of them with a volunteer.
In the autumn every child who has finished their six books gets a certificate and medal at a special ceremony at Woodbridge Library. It’s such fun – and helps support a love of reading. Some of the Woodbridge volunteers have been reading challengers themselve in years gone by.
400 children registered this year, 60% of whom finished the challenge. This meant Woodbridge Library volunteers spent 250 hours helping with the scheme over the summer!!!
This year I augmented the scheme by funding story-reading sessions for the children over the summer, a Dream Jar competition and a magic show to finish the afternoon off in style, once the certificates had been presented.
The Saturday after next I will be spending my usual morning at Woodbridge library, running my regular open-access surgery for Woodbridge residents. I’ve run this surgery every month for the last five years. It is supposed to be two hours long, but these days it’s closer to three, as the surgery is generally well-attended and I don’t leave until the last person has been seen.
In August, Rightmove published its annual report on the ‘happiest place’ to live in Britain – as identified by the residents *. Woodbridge scored 10th place nationwide – an amazing accolade for a town as small as ours.
Now, I don’t want to labour the point, but if your elected representative makes the effort to be available and to listen to your problems and ideas and tries to help with them, it must have a positive effect on the town’s happiness!
This weekend, I was in Hadleigh, whose County Councillor, Brian Riley (elected 2013) moved to North Carolina in early 2015 – but kept claiming his allowance and shamelessly told his constituents that he could be as good a Suffolk county councillor from the USA.
Mr Riley has now finally resigned shortly before being removed. He couldn’t even manage to maintain the minimum council attendance requirement for a councillor (one meeting every six months) and having left his constituents voiceless and without adequate county representation for 18 months. A private communication I had from him by email last month suggests he thinks this all a very fine state of affairs.
Before Brian Riley won the seat for the Conservatives (who have been strangely reluctant to criticise their former colleague’s shoddy behaviour to those he was elected to represent), Hadleigh was held for 24 years by LibDem David Grutchfield, who worked tirelessly for the town, and only stood down through extreme ill-health.
Maybe Hadleigh residents should ponder what it is that makes a town happy when they vote at the forthcoming by-election? They deserve so much more and better than what they have had in recent years
After deciding – once again – to cut a public transport subsidy, SCC’s Conservative administration have decided to honour their commitment to Park and Ride services by trying to make the Ipswich Park & Ride self-supporting!
The dream is to get the bus companies that operate alongside it to take over P&R services: Ipswich buses at the London Road end and First at the Martlesham end. (Many of us have used this system for years. It is called “catching a bus”).
The buildings in the carparks will no longer be ticket offices but will be offered to retail companies.
At the London Road End this plan seems comparatively simple: the 13 bus runs along the same route and Park & Ride tickets can already be used on it out of hours. There are, however, problems for users to the east. I was told, as LibDem Transport Spokesperson, that the 64 & 65 are the services which will become Park and Ride buses at Martlesham. However the Labour spokesperson has been told it would definitely be the 66. Asking the Cabinet Member for disambiguation, he had no idea whatsoever. We now hear it hasn’t been decided. The choice is important: neither service is ideal: the 66 service is slow and goes round a lot of houses. The 64/65 start out as far as Aldeburgh and Leiston and can often get deleayed.
In all, I am not sure how successfully this scheme will work, or whether it is a fudge to extend the operation beyond the forthcoming elections cobbled together by an administration which does not personally use buses.
Suffolk residents need the park& ride to help deal with the increasing congestion in Ipswich. The administration requires it to be income generating. Of course, there is no reason why it should not be both if properly run. This administration has never shown much sign of wishing to run it properly.
The best way to make the P&R more income-generating would be to make it more responsive to demand and that would be to provide a speedy service for commuters to reduce the morning rush hour. This our local buses do not do.
At the moment I cannot see any very compelling reason why people should now drive to the P&R from Woodbridge rather than getting on the same bus in Woodbridge – especially as they will be able to use their bus passes in Woodbridge but will pay to sit on the same bus if they board it at the Park & Ride!
We will wait and see as more details emerge.
Update: To ensure that the people of Suffolk have had every opportunity to give their views on the devolution of the county ahead of Suffolk County Council’s meeting at the start of November, you can continue to send comments and/or questions regarding devolution up to the beginning of November via
Letter addressed to : Suffolk County Council Endeavour House 8 Russell Road, Ipswich Suffolk IP1 2BX
Read my account of my, and other LibDem councillors’ reservations , here
Do you want a Mayor for Suffolk? or do you think a Mayor for Suffolk is a waste of money?
Is loosening links with goverment a good idea or will it just create a fourth tier of government and a lot of extra bureaucracy?
Will it provide more welcome development or is it just concreting over our beauty spots?
Whatever your views on the Suffolk/Norfolk DEVOLUTION deal, they won’t be taken into accountunless you respond to the consultation.
You can do this online or download and send in a paper version (here via a websit which gives you the positive points; my reservations can be found here), or email your views to: HaveYourSay@norfolk.gov.uk