#WASPI success at Suffolk County Council

Caroline Page seconding the #WASPI motion, asking for fair transitional state pension arrangements for 50’s born women

As LibDem Green and Independent Spokesperson for Women, I was proud to second the important cross-party motion at Suffolk County Council last week which asked government to support fair transitional pension arrangements for 1950’s born women (the so-called #WASPI* women) See speech on YouTube here:

Women born in the 50s have lived throughout a period when the Equality Act didn’t result in equality of pay, opportunity, or expectation. They have been expected to make career breaks, and work part-time to bring up children and care for dependent relatives with all the subsequent difficulties of returning to equivalent work.

In 2017 a woman’s retirement income is on average 45% less than a man’s.

For years successive governments failed to warn women so they could better plan for their futures. But in the circumstances many women would have needed to have made a lifetime of different choices to make adequate preparation for this pension change.

The perfect storm is that WASPI women are now also 3 times more likely than their younger peers to be divorced and suffer financial pressure.

The motion, proposed by Labour stated: “This Council believes the Government should make fair and transitional state pension arrangements for the 34,000 Suffolk women born in the 1950’s, who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age with lack of appropriate notification. This Council requests the Interim Chief Executive write to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calling on the government to reconsider transitional arrangements for women.”  It was passed unanimously by Suffolk County Council with no abstentions. 

  *WASPI = Women Against State Pension Inequality

My speech:         I’m proud to support the efforts of the WASPI campaign, and applaud them on their resilience and determination to make their case heard. As a State Pension Age affected woman  myself born in the 1950s, as LibDem Green and Independent Spokesperson for Women,  and as a full-time carer, I’m all too aware of the problems.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Retirement age changes take place in the name of equality – and everyone should want that!

But the devil’s in the detail. Women born in the 50s have lived throughout a period when the Equality Act didn’t result in equality of pay, opportunity, or expectation. Women have been expected to make career breaks, and work part-time to bring up children and care for dependent relatives with all subsequent difficulties of returning to equivalent work.

And lack of occupational pension, and breaks in state pension contributions has inevitable consequences. No surprise that  in 2017 a woman’s retirement income is on average 45% less than a man’s – the differential £1000 GREATER than it was a year before. Shocking.

For years successive governments failed to warn women  so they could better plan  for their futures.

But -lets be honest – many women would need to have made a lifetime of different choices to make adequate preparation for this

By the time women are my age, 50% are already unpaid family carers: odds men don’t achieve until they are 75. And with life expectancy rising, the numbers needing care have snowballed. You don’t start out in life expecting to be a family carer.  It comes up behind you and blackjacks you and conflicts with your capacity to earn..

So,  change in retirement age impacts particularly on a whole generation of women that state and family have relied on to give up careers and occupational pensions to care unpaid for others.

And you can see how families, women, everyone might decide it better for family finances that the woman gave up work to care because she’d get the earlier state pension.

The perfect storm is that WASPI women are now also more likely than their younger peers to be divorced and suffer financial pressure. One in 3 are divorced – three times as many as those born 25 years later.

Says a 62 year old constituent ,“Make preparations? Many of my lifechoices were out of my hands but I still have to face the consequences “.  Her husband didn’t want her to work after they married, but then left her – with minimal support and young children. She’d lost her place in the job market she trained in and the only work she could do was cleaning. Ill paid, laborious – but she could fit it around childcare. She’s been a cleaner for 17 years now,  and expected to retire 2 years ago.

But she now has another 4 years to go.

She says “I’m worn out. You can’t manage such physical work till you’re 66. I have no choice.”

There are many such women facing years without a fair level of support, purely because the government failed in its duty to keep them fully informed – and failed to consider the constraints which an entire generation’s practices imposed upon so-called “life choices”.

I call upon all councillors of all parties to stand behind these women and support this motion

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Woodbridge Thoroughfare: Results of Public Consultation

Recently, the Thoroughfare Working Group held a public consultation on proposed changes to the Traffic Regulation Order in The Thoroughfare. A stall was staffed in Woodbridge Library for seven days and with an additional presence in the Thoroughfare. Additional questionnaires were handed out to all Thorouhfare residents and traders.

The results of this initial consultation have now been collated and show that option 2b was the most popular (ie: No access at any time except permit holders and loading/unloading. This will include disabled drivers. This result has the backing of the Disability Action Suffolk Forum.)

The minimum lorry weight restriction will be removed. The new restrictions will be in force 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Parking will only be allowed in signed bays, which will be better marked. The signage both on the approach to the Thoroughfare, and in the road, will be much simpler and will show it as a pedestrian zone.

The next stage of the consultation will ensure that all those that may be affected by the proposed changes can have their say before we move to the final stage formal TRO consultation next year by Suffolk County Council.

Full results of the consultation can be viewed in the library until 15th December.

If you would like to comment on these changes please email thoroughfareconsultation@outlook.com

Implications of Proposed Option 2B

  • Currently the prohibition of motor vehicles is between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday. This can lead to confusion and difficulty in reading all provisions while approaching the Thoroughfare. The proposed prohibition of motor vehicles will be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This will affect all vehicles. Drivers who may have accessed the road before 10am or after 4pm to visit the local shops, newsagents, bank, pharmacy or similar will be unable to do. These drivers will need to park in the nearby car parks and walk a short distance.
  • Currently vehicles over 3.5T can load and unload at any time. Vehicles under 3.5T can only load and unload before 10am and after 4pm. The proposals will allow access for all vehicles to load at any time. This means people purchasing or delivering large items such as beds, whitegoods, carpets, boxes of books etc. can access the length of road to load or unload these items to their vehicle regardless of size (3.5T is the size of a medium delivery van such as a Transit or Sprinter, vehicles under 3.5T are typically domestic cars).
  • Currently permits can be issued for residents and traders to access off street parking, such as private driveways – this will remain. Additional permit holders can be nominated such as taxis and funeral vehicles. However these will need to be written in to the new Traffic Regulation Order.
  • Currently disabled badge holders are exempt from the prohibition of motor vehicles on Tuesday and Thursday between 1pm and 4pm. This provision will be removed. There is substantially more off-street car parking in the area since the restriction was introduced in 1995 and the intention is that blue badge holders can use the Oak Lane or Hamblin Road car parks. Suffolk Highways have in the past issued permits to disabled drivers to access the Thoroughfare at any time. However there has been no official provision for this since it was revoked in 1995. The issuing of these permits will cease. It is hoped that mitigation (eg perhaps issuing one or two permits to a local taxi firm) will do away with the necessity for any other access.
  • There are standard exemptions for building, demolition, road repair, utility repair, reading utility meters, emergency services, security vehicles. These exemptions will remain.

 

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Suffolk’s Highways Reporting Tool

A reminder: the first port of call for a Suffolk highways problem – that’s anything to do with roads, pavements etc – is now via the Suffolk County Council Highways Reporting Tool  https://highwaysreporting.suffolk.gov.uk/ . Here you can describe and plot your problem on a map (including uploading a photo if you have one) and wait for the response, including an estimation of the time it will take to fix this – or if indeed SCC intends to fix it. Everything from potholes, to broken pavements overgrown footways can – and should – be reported. (And please get back to me personally, if the system is not working.)

When it comes to signs however, I am given to understand that  while signs advertising speed limits will be kept clear Suffolk Highways will not (for example) cut  greenery from in front of  eg informational signs. “We may be heading for an era where we dont have such signs,” I was told on Friday. Because of the increase in technology, or because of lack of funds? I leave you to judge

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Suffolk in October/November: my report

Suffolk County Council’s budget forecast paints worrying picture  A Cabinet paper last week revealed that Suffolk County Council is forecasting an overspend of £10.2m on their 2017/18 revenue budget. The majority of this overspend is within Adult & Community Services (£2.3m) and Children’s Services (£6.4m). The narrative that ‘savings’ (eg ‘cuts’) can continue is increasingly unsustainable. “Leaner and fitter” has morphed to anorexia.

Opposition councillors are growing increasingly concerned: latest budget forecasts make it clear that, unless major changes occur, the Council’s finances are not sustainable in the long-term with the most vulnerable members of our county the most likely to suffer the consequences.

Suffolk County Council has had to make significant savings in response to  continuing cuts in funding from central government. Demand for services, however, has continued to grow. This is no surprise to anyone. However, while there is no denying the issue of chronic underfunding from central government, Suffolk County Council has plumed itself on capping council tax for years . (Leader Colin Noble memorably maintained: “the vast majority of those on fixed pensions do not look to council services to help them in their old age. So he majority of old people  are not reliant on libraries, buses, roads, care services, public health? News to me, and to them. And to Cllr Noble, clearly).

The administration called instead for for Suffolk to innovate  in income generation.

Suffolk County Council’s Leader on the needs of old people on fixed pensions. What world is he living in?

Disappointingly this income has failed to materialise.

This is tragic. Proper investment in Suffolk’s economy, combined with regular tiny increases in council tax over the years, could have done much to avert the current worrying situation.

Home to School Transport – workshops announced   In September, our LDGI Group successfully “called-in” the Cabinet’s decision to go to consultation on changes to the Home to School Transport policy, questioning the nature of the pre-consultation period, and arguing that more research needed to be done.

The Scrutiny Committee agreed with us, and voted to refer the decision back to Cabinet for further consideration. It has not yet been announced when Cabinet will reconsider the proposals.

Suffolk County Council has announced that two workshops will be taking place in November, to further discuss the challenge and help develop proposals for Cabinet to consider. However, invitations will only be sent to 80 randomly selected representatives. If you have not been invited, and feel that you should be a part of these workshops, you can contact either myself or schooltravel@suffolk.gov.uk.

Motion to improve early years funding rejected by Council   At the meeting of Council on Thursday 19th October, our LDGI group supported a Labour motion which called on the Council to (1) lobby central government for more funding in Suffolk and (2) pass the full amount of funding received on to providers. Unfortunately, the Conservative majority refused to back the motion.

Since September 2017, working families are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare, whilst all families are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare. Suffolk is one of only 37 local authorities which this year had a reduction in early years funding, receiving a total of £31 987 186. This equates to £4.41 per hour. However, childcare providers receive a base rate of only £3.87 per hour, and many are struggling to run their businesses on this low rate.

The motion highlighted the difficulty faced by childcare providers across the county, and questioned why the Council did not pass through a higher rate of funding to providers.

Councillor Gordon Jones (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills) stated that the Council only retains £2.1m, which is used to meet their statutory duties. He has yet to provide a full breakdown on how this money is spent

Bus timetable changes  and issues due to Woods Lane Closure  The closure seems to be proving as problematic as forecast.  First are using shuttle buses to extend the 800 Park and Ride journeys beyond Woodbridge due to delays on account of the Woods Lane works. I have already had one complaint that these are not integrated in ticketing terms with the P&R services.

It also seems that the notices on the suspended bus stops on Bredfield Road is leading a number of older residents to assume that bus services are completely suspended therefore entrapping them in this part of Woodbridge.

The temporary shuttle bus stops are not clearly signed and the shuttle bus does not adequately cover for the suspended bus stops.

Social Worker of the Year: former Kyson pupil nominated second year running   The Coastal and North East Ipswich Child in Care  social work team is a finalist in the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017 as a result of their outstanding work with children and their families.

Members of the team have previously been recognised for their outstanding achievements, including  (I am very proud to say) former Kyson pupil Emily Tiplady-Ead  whose immense professionalism and skills  made herlast year’s  national ‘Children’s Social Worker of the Year ’. Hearty congratulations, Emily!

Woodbridge Thoroughfare Consultation   This received over 600 replies. A presentation will be mounted in the Library shortly to unveil the overwhelmingly popular result and to signpost the next stage

 

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Woods Lane closure: 1 week in

EADT’s Coverage of the Woods Lane closure 15/11/17

Closure has matched expectations? Now theres a surprise.

I continue concerned for  independent Woodbridge retailers whose November/Decembr profits will be damaged by people electing not to drive into Woodbridge to shop, as well as all the residents, pupils and workers affected as they travel to Woodbridge daily.

AND I see that “Bloor Homes apologises for any noise or inconvenience caused”. How very cavalier! Hey, Bloor, how about apologising “for ALL the noise and EVERY inconvenience that you DEFINITELY have caused by these unacceptable and unilaterally-imposed works owing to this inappropriately sited development!”

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Caroline Page, County Councillor for Woodbridge