Last year Suffolk’s Tory administration made extra payments (Special Responsibility Allowances or SRAs) to 48 out of 75 Suffolk county councillors. So, not very special then.
And with 82% (32 of 39) Tory county councillors getting a SRA, it seems a (Conservative) councillor had to be rather special NOT to get one.
In December’s full council meeting, I tabled a question asking the Leader of Suffolk County Council how he could justify this sharp rise in allowance payments to members of his group at a time of continuing belt-tightening? I didn’t get a very clear answer except that the councillors in question ‘worked very hard’. No doubt. As do many other colleagues, without extra reward.
Coincidentally, in April, Suffolk County Council stopped printing individual bus timetables to save money.
Or as Cllr Finch, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport put it succinctly:
"we have been actively promoting digital methods of accessing bus times using on-line journey planning, mobile apps and Real Time Passenger Information. We have now reached the point where we will no longer be printing the twenty different timetables to give to customers. The final print run will be in April. After this time we will be signposting customers to www.suffolkonboard.com where they will be able to download or print their own timetables and use the comprehensive journey planner"
Cllr Finch and his advisers seem to live in a world where everybody has easy access to libraries , computers, smartphones, printers, apps. Sadly not all bus users live in this world.
Unsurprisingly, his decision has had a bad effect on a lot of people, but particularly on the elderly, including many Woodbridge residents. I have been passing on their comments – often in video form – to Cllr Finch ever since.
Very coincidentally, Suffolk’s Conservative administration expected to save £50,000 this year by not printing bus timetables for people who really needed them – the same amount of money that they spent on additional special responsibility allowances for Conservative councillors.
Don’t you think its time the Tories on Suffolk County Council reviewed their priorities?
Traffic in the Thoroughfare is governed by a TRO (traffic regulation order) made in 1995. This means that the current regulations have been in place for 21 years. They are now very out of date.
Additionally, many people have either genuinely forgotten the terms of the TRO, are newcomers to the area and do not know the terms, or are now electing not to abide by them.
(The situation has been made worse in the last decade by the Traffic Management Act 2004 which abolished Traffic Wardens and gave their powers to the police. The police have always had a lot on their plate an have not adequately replaced the dedicated Traffic Wardens we had before. A future change may allow Suffolk’s District Councils finally to take over these powers but this will take a couple of years ).
There is little point complaining about the terms of the current TRO- it is the status quo agreed by long retired councillors and officers and we have inherited it. A TRO is Highways law.
The – admittedly confusing – signage which is up at the start of the Thoroughfare is the only one permitted by the Highways Act to cover the current terms of the TRO. It has been up for a long time, is accurate although wordy, and does not explain by itself why more and more people are electing to ignore it.
Changes to what happens in the Thoroughfare cannot be made without changing the TRO. Clearly this needs to happen.
However making a TRO is basically making a small law, and this cannot be done without a public consultation, and a significant expenditure by SCC. In order to use public money to best advantage then, it is sensible to look at how the current TRO is working so we can see what bits need replacing. And everybody’s interests have to be considered: the needs of residents, traders, disabled persons, pedestrians as well as motorists, all need to be considered – as do the laws of unintended consequences.
Eg The Thoroughfare is not pedestrianised 24/7 so a fixed barrier not appropriate, – and anyway what about emergency vehicles? Rising bollards for pedestrian hours would produce difficulty for the delivery patterns of some traders, and who would operate them when they came up and down. Would we have to employ someone? How about disabled access? The current disabled access was designed in the days when Woodbridge had a half-day closing on Wednesdays – who here remembers this? What is the situation of the Thoroughfare’s residents, and their needs – not just access, but removals, deliveries, ambulances etc. On top of this, drivers seem genuinely to have a greater sense of entitlement than in the past, and a lack of will to walk any distance from their car. I have been calling for solutions, but solutions are genuinely not as simple as people might think.
(The only people who do not need consideration are those who are simply asserting a right to drive down the Thoroughfare between 10-4, without belonging to one of the TRO-exempted categories. During this time it is – according to the 21 year old TRO – a Pedestrianised area…)
I have set up a Woodbridge Thoroughfare Working Group to look at usage,with a short-term and a longer term aim. Short-term is to raise awareness of the current law. (As I said, this isn’t a matter of opinion or choice – we are lumped with it). The police have committed to enforce this more fully.
Longer term, when we have worked out what kind of changes to the TRO would most benefit all users, we will be able to put some proposals to public consultation.
The Thoroughfare Working Group group, incidentally, is apolitical (but cross-party for elected members: I represent the County Council, Conservative Geoff Holdcroft represents the District Council, and Green Eamonn O’Nolan represents Woodbridge Town council). The other members are: local police, local Highway Officers, Thoroughfare residents and Thoroughfare traders.
If you have personal concerns – come and talk them over face to face at my monthly surgery in Woodbridge Library. My December surgery is on 17th December. 9-11am as ever
Speed calming and the Thoroughfare have been top issues for Woodbridge over the last weeks as I’ve been working with like-minded people from a number of fields to try and produce a global scheme to calm and improve traffic conditions across the town. Other issues of importance include Suffolk Norfold Devolution, now about to got to a final yea or nay vote, and the throrny question of the new telecoms boxes at the Sandy Lane junction,
Proposed 20mph zone & Thoroughfare calming in Woodbridge I have recently been working on initial – ambitious – proposals for speed calming in Woodbridge. These include :
a) the outline of the whole-town speed calming and 20mph zoning which Woodbridge Town Council will be discussing later this evening and which will hopefully be the foundation of a document that can finally be put before Suffolk County Council’s Speed Limits Panel and
b) the reforming of the Thoroughfare Working Party to try and tackle the continuing issue of the Thoroughfare, in relation to the roads around it.
I am grateful for the assistance and expertise of Nigel Barratt in examining the roads usage round the town in order to work on these issues.
I am hoping that the ‘Walkers are Welcome Woodbridge’ initiative will be supported by these proposals, and that they might link in with issues as diverse as the air quality work at Melton Hill, the passage of school children to school, and the rat-running from Wilford Bridge along the Ipswich Road – producing really joined up planning for traffic and tourism.
Conservatives lose their majority on Suffolk County Council With a LibDem win at the Hadleigh byelection last month, the Conservatives finally lost their precarious hold on Suffolk County council and are now a minority administration. The balance of power is now:
Conservative 37 – Labour 15; LibDem 8; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent 3
Suffolk County Council’s vote on devolution deal – 23 November Suffolk County Council – together with all district councils – will be voting on the Suffolk Norfolk devolution deal at the end of the month. For the county council, this is:
The extraordinary County Council on 2pm 23rd November
The extraordinary Cabinet on 5.30pm 23rd November (or following the extraordinary Council meeting if later)
with the orders currently scheduled to be laid before Parliament on 24th of November.
The deal requires the 2017 election of a Norfolk & Suffolk Mayor, and the formation of a “super-authority” in which all councils from both counties would be represented equally.
This authority would have a budget of £100m to spend on an inflated governmental requirement for 240,000 new homes ( far more than required locally so presumably aimed at London overspill) for the next five years and would have new powers (but little new funds) to fund the required infrastructure programmes needed to support the development the deal requires.
Although Suffolk’s County Council and all its district & borough councils backed the principle of this devolution deal in the summer, in Norfolk the reaction was much less positive – four of the county’s seven districts (including Norwich City Council) voted to reject the deal .
New Telecoms boxes update After I raised the issue of the 5 telecoms boxes in Sandy Lane on both social media and BBC Suffolk, EE finally got in contact with the Suffolk Highways Officers. We are now in hope that the issue can be rectified without legal proceedings becoming necessary.
Parents urged to Have Their Say on New School Admissions Policy Suffolk County Council is seeking views from parents and carers on the proposed school admissions policy for the 2018/2019 academic year. There are proposals to make minor changes to the admission arrangements for schools in Suffolk and the policy aims to ensure school places are offered to children in a fair way. The consultation will run until Tuesday 13 December 2016.
Dutch Kitchenware Cold Callers Suffolk Trading Standards warn that they have had reports about (specifically Dutch) salesmen cold-calling door-to-door in Suffolk. They say these appear to be people who have targeted other areas in Britain.
The caller is typically a man selling knives, saucepans and cutlery sets that he claims that he has had left over from a trade fair. His story is that he needs to get rid of the products quickly because he is returning to Holland later in the day and cannot take them back through customs.
Although the products are described as being reasonable quality, trading standards are concerned that consumers may be paying over the odds and there are no customer rights. As ever they are concerned that undue pressure is put on elderly and vulnerable people.
Suffolk Trading standards ask that if anyone becomes aware of these (or other) salesmen operating in their area, to please contact via 03454 040506. They also remind Suffolk residents of the door stickers they supply to discourage cold callers.
Firebreak training in Hollesley Bay In late October I spent an afternoon at a ‘Firebreak’ passing-out parade at Hollesley Bay prison. This is a practical but inspirational programme taught by the fire brigade (Essex, not Suffolk, on this occasion) – and the first time ever this programme has been delivered in a prison!!
Outcomes were outstanding: 12 hard-to-reach prisoners of very different ages and backgrounds had worked together to become a team, learned the cooperative and practical skills needed in firefighting, got a serious qualification, and all reported they have gained a lot from the course.
This was resoundingly echoed by guards and instructors. I very much enjoyed watching the presentation drill, and talking to the participants and instructors afterwards.
Most interesting of all, the training started to introduce the subject of ‘restorative justice’ and met with such success that the team was returning to the prison to run some sessions specifically on this, with the same prisoners.
Huge plaudits all round: to the Shaw Trust for funding it, Essex Fire Brigade for delivering it, and of course, Hollesley Bay for having confidence to go ahead with this pioneering training in the first place
New telecoms cabinets installed on the corner of Sandy Lane and Ipswich Road have been causing anxiety to Woodbridge residents and Suffolk Highways officers alike since they were unexpectedly installed over the summer.
Drivers report that visibility to the right coming out of Sandy Lane has been severely affected. The eastern cabinet is also far too close to the road edge and to passing traffic, could cause cyclists to be squeezed between cabinet and vehicle – and indeed may get hit by something if left as it is.
For the last month it has been impossible to get any response from EE and TMobile (who Highways inform me are the principal companies concerned) so yesterday I took to Twitter to give the matter the oxygen of publicity and today I spoke about the cabinets on Radio Suffolk’s Breakfast Programme.
Interestingly, this seems to be was what was needed to get things going. EE are now in communication – and tell me they are ‘investigating the matter with the company who installed the cabinets.’
I am hoping the matter can now be satisfactorily resolved. Woodbridge residents shouldn’t be expected to have to choose between road safety and a 4G signal
On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to see 4 blue plaques to famous women unveiled in Ipswich: illustrator Margaret Tempest; archaeologist Nina Layard; suffragette Constance Andrews; and socialist and Mayor, Mary Whitmore. These additions mean that now Ipswich has 17 blue plaques commemorating men and 6 for women. Not gender balance – but better than the previous 17-2 ratio.
Coming home I wondered anew why we in Woodbridge have no blue plaques at all to commemorate any famous, inspirational or unusual women with a Woodbridge connection? The Woodbridge Society has put up 8 – but all to men. Surely it is time to start redressing the balance?
I would like to nominate:
Margaret Agnes Rope, the famous Arts & Crafts stained glass artists trained at Birmingham School of Art, and was taught by Henry Payne. She initially worked in Shrewsbury, but in 1911 went work at the Glass House in Fulham. In 1923 she took the veil, entering the Carmelite nunnery in Woodbridge, Suffolk. A feisty woman who rode around England on a motorbike in 1918, smoking cigars and getting herself arrested, Margaret was one of the first women to make her living from art. After becoming a Carmelite she continued to work as stained glass artist, and supporting her nunnery through her stained glass window-making thereafter – both in Woodbridge, and when her order moved from there in 1939. Her greatest work is considered to be the Shrewsbury Cathedral west window. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Agnes_Rope
Archivist and preserver of local records Lilian Jane Redstone (1885-1955), Born in Woodbridge, Lilian Redstone was the first Ipswich and East Suffolk Joint Archivist, adviser to academics world-wide and author of numerous publications. She received an MBE in 1919 for her work during WW1 in the Historical Records Section at the Ministry of Munitions. During WW2 she worked to salvage and preserve documents moving them to places of safety. Her life work is now considered to be the foundation of the Suffolk Records Office. http://ipswichwomeninhistory.co.uk/1800s/lilian-jane-redstone/
Enid Blyton 1897-1968 Bestselling children’s author. Due to attend the Guildhall School of Music, it was while staying with friends at Seckford Hall that Blyton changed her mind. The hall with its ‘haunted’ bedroom, secret passage and surrounding farmland was a source of great delight and inspiration. After helping her friend Ida Hunt at Woodbridge Congregational Sunday School, Enid decided on a career in teaching, trained as a primary school teacher in Ipswich, started writing – and the rest is history. http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/chronology.php
Anne Knight –1792 – 1860. Quaker children’s writer and educationalist. Eldest child of Woodbridge leather-cutter Jonathan Waspe, she married a London, returning to Woodbridge after his early death to keep a school in Woodbridge. She was a friend of the poet Bernard Barton, who lodged with her and her sisters. She is therefore mentioned several times in letters to him from Charles Lamb. Anne Knight was the author of several children’s books, including School-Room Lyrics (1846), and probably Poetic Gleanings (1827), Mornings in the Library (London, c. 1828, with an introductory poem by Bernard Barton), Mary Gray. A tale for little girls (also including a Barton verse, London, 1831), and Lyriques français: pour la jeunesse. Morceaux choisis par A. K.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Knight_(children%27s_writer)
Finally, there’s the wonderful Elizabeth With – about whom I am trying to find out more, than this glorious snippet:
These are women that come to mind – I’m sure there must be plenty more. Nominations, anyone?