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The views expressed here are the author's own.

Reminder: my Surgery is on 19th

surgerygeneric2014Remember, my Surgery is tomorrow, 10-12, at Woodbridge Librart, as ever.

Its  slightly awkward date for a surgery and I won’t be offended if you have better things (like easter egg hunts) to do – but if there’s something you really must get off your chest, I am, as ever, happy to help..

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Sochi on the Deben

DSCF1878 (800x643)For once, the weather was kind – and ferocious winds and driving rain cleared up in time for full enjoyment to be gained from the weekend’s free skating rink in the Brook Street carpark, Woodbridge.

Let’s hope that the weather will continue as good tomorrow for the second day.

This last year has been hard for a lot of people – and most of all for families – and the expense of taking your children on a day out can be prohibitive. This event – brainchild of Town Councillor Caroline Blois, and funded by me from my Locality Budget – was intended to give some affordable fun to the young people of Woodbridge and their parents, while also bringing increased footfall into Woodbridge town centre in the dark days of winter.

Today certainly seemed to do this.

To top it all, the refreshments on offer were provided by Woodbridge’s very own Cake Shop Bakery, who only yesterday were crowned Britain’s Best Bakery.

Eat your heart out, Winter Olympics!

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What’s been happening in Suffolk – Feb 2014

This month we’ve heard that that Sizewell will be swapping waste with Dungeness – and that it will travel along the East Suffolk line; that Suffolk is at the bottom of the league for vulnerable adult abuse; that we have been automatically opted in to the sharing of our medical records – and that the council tax will once again be frozen (courtesy of the government’s Council Tax Freeze deal) but that – despite the deal –  we will be making cuts of more than £38million .

 

Sizewell Waste Disposal  Magnox  has published its preferred option for managing Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste (ILW) and Fuel Element Debris (FED) at its sites in England (including Sizewell A). Sizewells FED will be transferred to Dungeness, and the ILW from Dungeness will arrive for storage at Sizewell.

SCC Cabinet agrees that this is a ” sensible and pragmatic solution for disposing of Sizewell’s FED given the relatively small amount of FED arising at Sizewell and the fact that such materials are capable of being transported by rail.” The rail in question includes the East Suffolk line.

Cabinet also recommends that if Magnox and EDF can’t achieve a joint approach to storage of ILW, Magnox should consider options for managing ILW from Sizewell A that do not involve building a store at the site, most particularly as any proposal for the construction of an ILW store at Sizewell which provides for the importation of ILW from elsewhere would be contrary to P the Council’s adopted Waste Core Strategy

Ultimate disposal of this waste remains open-ended. Cabinet will insist on a package of Community Benefits “to reflect the fact that interim storage of waste at Sizewell is dependent on the provision of the national Geological Disposal Facility. “

Creation of a national disposal facility  continues to be as nebulous in form placing and timescale as it has always been – potentially further off than the 2040 planning assumption date used.Cabinet  sees the interim store as “ fulfilling a nationally important role in radioactive waste management over a long period.”

I do not know if I am the only person to be concerned by this? It seems to smack of Sir Humphrey’s IBD YBD.

GP data – opt out Everyone in Woodbridge will have received  about how the government is wishing to share   personal health data with a variety of ‘approved’ (but unspecified) organisations and researchers.

The leaflet says “If you are happy for your information to be shared “(or if you have thrown away the leaflet unread) “you do not need to do anything. There is no form to fill in and nothing to sign.”

In other words – you will have automatically opted into having your full medical history shared with whoever the government decides appropriate.

This being the case, it is very important that everybody should be made aware  that unless they opt out, they are sharing their entire health history linked – not to name –  but to their date of birth, full postcode, NHS number, and gender.

Suffolk at bottom of national rankings for adult abuse  Suffolk  has the second highest number of substantiated reports of vulnerable adult abuse in the country with 645 fully-substantiated and 315 partially-substantiated cases out of over 3,000 reports. Statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which were published last week, show a total of 3,015 referrals were made to Suffolk adult social care safeguarding teams in the 2012/13 financial year.

Suffolk ranked behind only Kent out of 152 local authorities.

The referrals cover such areas as the neglect of people’s health and well-being and physical or mental abuse. In Suffolk, 2,005 of the referrals were for women and 1,010 for men while nearly half related to adults with a physical disability.

Suffolk Healthwatch has described  the data  as “alarming’.

SCC Budget 2014-5  The 2014-5 budget was formally approved by Cabinet at the end of January and will now go to full council. It  will see £38.6m of spending cuts across most services. I will provide full details once these have been finally agreed.

Suffolk County council is once again taking advantage of central government’s council tax freeze deal – which provides central funding for all those councils NOT raising council tax this year. The same deal is/has been on offer for each of the five years of this government, and Suffolk has always taken advantage of it. When the SCC administration mention their  pledge to freeze council tax at its present level  - which they repeat with a great deal of empressement  every year -  no-one ever remembers to mention the tax freeze initiative . Which effectively pays them to freeze our council tax.  Just saying.

County Councillor’s Locality Budget I have funded a free skating rink to encourage local shopping in Woodbridge in mid -February.

County Councillor’s Surgery My surgery dates for the next few months are:  Saturday 15 February, and Saturday 19 April. There will be no surgery in March as I will be in China. Surgeries are at Woodbridge Library 10-12 as ever. All welcome

 

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*Ephebiphobia? the strange affair of the skating rink and the anonymous letter..

As you may know, I have funded the skating rink that is coming to Woodbridge in the weekend of 15/16 February. This is both half-term and a time of year that traditionally is slow for trading.  I am hoping that this attraction will bring families into Woodbridge town centre over half term to stimulate trade and provide some welcome fun at a time of continuing recession.

It has seemed to please most people.

Unfortunately not everyone. I received the following (unsigned) letter  by first class mail yesterday. It was word-processed, although the envelope was handwritten:

Dear Caroline Page,

A local paper reports  that an ice-skating opportunity has been planned in the Hamblin Road car park “behind the Barrett’s shop”, to take place over two days in mid-February. Your name is mentioned in this connection.

Whose idea was this? Has this matter been fully thought out?

The first objection is that the carpark in question is very much a residential area! Is this the ideal place to have crowds and, presumably, some amount of noise and commotion? In some cases right outside the windows  of some people’s homes, to replace the normal quiet and peace justifiably expected. And this to continue over two days!

But of even greater concern is this: Presumably you must know Woodbridge well. And you will be aware therefore that Woodbridge has only IN THE LAST FEW YEARS emerged from the Dark Ages.  Any resident or shopkeeper of the town centre will know that this is no exaggeration. We refer of course to the plague of vandalism and unpleasantness at the hands of what you might euphemistically call “the younger elements” of the town. The plague was continuous, day and night.

The town centre has been blessedly free, (apart from a few isolated incidents) of the presence of these elements for a few years now, but what immediately begins to ring alarm bells is the possibility of some of their members turning up among your invited participants to the ice-skating: the event will, after all, undoubtedly attract many younger persons to the area. This is the perceived danger: that your event might re-kindle their interest in the town centre and bring them back again.  The thought is enough to put dread into the heart of any inhabitant or shopkeeper who experienced the miseries of the Dark Ages and was on the receiving end of all that nastiness.

If you know Woodbridge as I assume you do, then you will know that this is no exaggeration. Any newcomer to the town, within the last five years say, will not appreciate what the town centre has been through.

To cite only a few incidents. Every shop and store in the Turban Centre has suffered vandalism and break ins. At one time the carpet store there had its windows smasked every Saturday night for three weeks running. And on numerous other occasions.

The circular kiosk there (now a fishmongers) began as a stationary kiosk. It was damaged so often its proprietors were eventually vandalised out of business.

The fruit and vegetable shop there (previously known as Finches) was destroyed by arson. They were out of business for a year.

More recently, the circular kiosk was badly damaged by arson. It was on the way to complete destruction and only the prompt call-out of the fire bridgede saved the better part of it.

You may recall that this sort of thing was the actual continuous daily and nightly unpleasantness which the town centre had to suffer, inhabitants and shopkeepers alike.

We would beg you to do nothing to disturb the comparative fragile calm of the present.

Please do be very careful and think twice before planning anything that might carry even the SLIGHTEST risK of encouraging unwanted elements back to the town centre, and a recurrence of the miseries of recent memory.

We implore you: Be careful. Be careful. Be careful.

I am completely bewildered by the tone of this letter,  and that it should be sent to me by someone (or indeed some people) who didn’t want to sign it, or to be identified in any way. Are they ashamed of their views? They write as if they are speaking on behalf of the whole town and everyone in it!

I will be happy to reply directly  if they choose to come forward.

And – as ever- will be happy to hear comments from anyone else on the subject

 

*Ephebiphobia The fear of youth is called ephebiphobia. First coined as the “fear or loathing of teenagers,”today the phenomenon is recognized as the “inaccurate, exaggerated and sensational characterization of young people” in a range of settings around the world (Wikipedia)

 

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Your NHS Medical Records – and the automatic opt-in

You should by now have received a leaflet through the post (click here)  about how the government intends to share YOUR personal health data with a variety of ‘approved’ (but unspecified) organisations and ‘researchers’. The leaflet came without an envelope and  will probably  have arrived with a lot of other leaflets for pizza deliveries and cheap sofas and you will probably have thrown it away unread.

 THIS IS A SERIOUS MISTAKE.

Because, as the leaflet tells you, “If you are happy for your information to be shared “(or if you have thrown away the leaflet unread) “you do not need to do anything. There is no form to fill in and nothing to sign.” In other words – you have opted into having your full medical information shared with whoever the government decides appropriate. Or indeed, anyone who breaks into the HSCIC secure system. 

Now the first thing that worries me, is why is there no form to fill in and nothing to sign?  The government are leafleting every household in the country,and  the form could easily have contained a simple opt-in slip that you could fill in and take to your GP.  After all, almost everything in this country that’s not compulsory requires an opt in – from electoral registration, to becoming an organ donor. If the government wants to start a trend for opting-out rather than opting-in  why don’t we start with one or both of these?  

The answer is, of course, that  they really want your information and so they are relying on your apathy as much as a mobile phone provider or an energy company would be.

The second problem I have is are we identifiable through this data?   While the leaflet is a little vague, when you check at the parent NHS website they are linking “your date of birth, full postcode, NHS number, and gender.. to link your records in a secure system”.

Date of birth, full postcode, NHS number and gender? Bingo! You could identify me that way, no problem. ( And ‘secure system’? Perlease. Does the name Snowden still mean nothing?)

Don’t get me wrong,  theoretically I think NHS data sharing is a good idea. My family suffers from a vile hereditary condition that has been passed down through four or five generations and is set to continue for the forseeable future Nothing would please me – and people like me – more than if a responsible state used our medical data for responsible research to ameliorate our  current situation and make life better for future generations. However myy third concern is what will be done with our data?

We are told  it will be made available to others –  such as those planning NHS services and ‘approved researchers’.

  • Is this a full list? What are the criteria for approving researchers? (Are they, for example, British researchers working within the NHS? Are they health researchers? Will they be using the research for profit – and will the NHS benefit, or  be disadvantaged by this?)
  • What if our data were sold to – or indeed, fell into the hands of –  researchers from an aggressive multinational pharmaceutical company, who patented the findings?
  • What if elements of the media saw this as the next thing after telephone hacking and hacked into such a database to establish  – and publish – things that we  would prefer to be kept private?
  • Or insurance companies found ways to plug into detailed medical histories?
  • Indeed, what if organisations started targeting us with health-specific ads?

There are a lot of questions about the use and sale of our personal medical data that are not currently being answered. I am a little worried that the government might not even have thought of some of them.

NHS data sharing? I share mine with my excellent GP practice, with various hospitals and with various expert medical personnel.  But until I get assurance as to its future use on points such as those above,  I will not be sharing it with the state!

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What’s been happening in Suffolk, Jan 2014

May I start by wishing you a happy and  prosperous New Year.

 Flooding update Although Woodbridge town survived the flooding on 6 December with relatively few problems, there were breaches to the river wall to the north and south of Martlesham Creek. Cattle had to be rescued from the flood along the north bank, where a 30m wide breach left 30 acres of grazing land underwater. Work has been undertaken on the north wall and footpath which leads from Kyson Point to the footpath from Sandy lane.

Ipswich Sexual Health Clinic This fiasco continues. From Monday 28 October the sexual health service has been operating a reduced level of service from the clinic based at Ipswich Hospital , with the service having to vacate the site completely from April 2014.

We were told that the reason for this move was that there were plans to  create a sexual health hub in a more accessible location.  However it turned out that the ‘accessible location’  might as well have been picked out of a hat!  Gipping Court, Constantine Road proved not to be possible due to flooding issues. So, instead,  the service has been relocated to Lindbergh Road in Ipswich – in other words, as far out of town as Ipswich hospital but with far poorer transport links for people  from Woodbridge and beyond.  In fact, Woodbridge people relying on public transport  face a two-bus ride of about an hour plus a 20min walk to get to the new clinic. This is as opposed to the journey  to Ipswich hospital which was a half an hour single bus plus a 7 minute walk.

So much for greater accessibility and the vaunted ‘good transport links’ !  I am continuing to point this out

Highways Issues of efficiency still continue after  KierMG took over the contract to maintain  the public highway network in Suffolk at the end of last year. (The public highway consists of any verge, footway, carriageway, bridleway or footpath whether or not maintained at public expense and over which the public has a right of way) . SCC is therefore starting a political group of councillors  to work informally together in the new year with Suffolk Highways colleagues from SCC and Kier to help best meet needs for information and communication within the new contract. I am the nominated Lib Dem member of this group.

County Councillor’s Locality Budget  I am glad  to have been able to support Woodbridge town and  Choose Woodbridge in  providing funding for the skating rink, which will hopefully  bring people into the town in mid -February.

County Councillor’s Surgery Surgery dates for the next few months will be on Saturday 18 January, Saturday 15 February, and Saturday 19 April. There will be no surgery in March as I will be in China

 

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Happy New Year – best wishes for 2014!

Woodbridge, from across the river Deben.  The view will have been much the same for hunderds of years

Woodbridge, from across the river Deben. The view will have been much the same for hundreds of years

After counting in the New Year on Market Hill and walking happily home in the dark under blazing white  constellations, it’s  perhaps the way of the world that there’s now a blustery beginning to another year.   Lets hope 2014 will be a good one! You can count on me to do everything I can to help make it so.

If you have problems, do tell me about them – by phone, email, face-to-face. The first surgery of the year is on

Saturday 18 January 10-12 at Woodbridge Library, as ever.
All welcome, and no booking necessary (though you may have to wait a bit if it’s very busy).

Advance warning that this year there will be no surgery in March as I will be travelling to China to visit two of my children who are working and studying in Yanzhou and Qufu respectively. I am excited already!

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Severe Weather Warning: midnight 23 Dec – morning 24 Dec

The Met Office have issued an Amber Warning of Wind, valid from 00:05 on Tue, 24th Dec 2013 until 06:00 on Tue, 24th Dec 2013.

“Southwesterly gales and locally severe gales will continue across southern and eastern parts of England during Monday night, but are expected to strengthen further across parts of southeast England, including SUFFOLK, in the Amber warning area, during the early hours of Tuesday, with gusts of 65-75 mph inland and 75-85 mph along exposed eastern coasts. The winds will ease from the west by morning.”
Note – Friday 27th sees return of gales and rain.

Heavy rain is anticipated although it is considered that this will only have the potential for localised surface water flooding with up to 20-25mm of rain across the county.  There may be other incidents of flooding in areas susceptible to flooding from fast reacting rivers – Rattlesden, Stowmarket  and possibly to Needham Market.

Widespread messages are being circulated to the public through the media – that “ the Public should be prepared for disruption, particularly to travel and for interruptions to power supplies.”

TRAVEL

Road:  The Highways Agency has closed the QEII Bridge at Dartford until further notice with traffic being diverted through the tunnels.  It is anticipated that the Orwell Bridge will be closed later this evening- based upon the wind limits, but hopefully after this evening’s homeward commute to ease congestion problems in Ipswich.

Suffolk Highways are activating their Highways Hub overnight to deal with expected road disruption.  However, crews will not carry out chainsaw clearances during darkness hours, but will make situations safe and put diversions in place.  Additional crews will commence shifts earlier tomorrow morning.

Rail: Anglia Rail tell us  50 mph speed restriction will be imposed across the Route network from 6pm this evening until first thing tomorrow morning. As a consequence there will be some cancellations and alterations to services.

Services in Anglia are not expected to resume until after 10am tomorrow morning, to be in position to clear the debris, etc. and also allow for “route proving trains” to check the lines before re-opened to services. If possible they will restore services before 10am but the advice to the public is not to look to travel tomorrow until after 1000 hrs.

POWER OUTAGES

It is anticipated that there will be power outages, especially along the coast.  UK Power Networks have initiated their emergency procedures.

GENERAL

Warnings are being sent regarding open areas, public spaces and parks and Right of Way regarding the hazards.

There may be loss of power affecting care homes and vulnerable people

Probable closure of Port of Felixstowe,  and increased congestion if Orwell Bridge closed.

 

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Reminder: last surgery of 2013 is tomorrow, 21 December

surgerygeneric2013 A reminder that my last surgery of 2013 is tomorrow,  at the Woodbridge library 10-12noon as ever for complaints, difficulties, problems and suggestions. All welcome. Home-made mince pies on offer

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Health risks of NOT cycling

Just when you thought it was safe to stay in the car…

We’ve heard a lot  this autumn about the dangers of cycling:  enough to return a lot of people firmly to their cars – and discourage others from leaving them.

Will this save lives?

SMallerroad health

It doesn’t look like it, does it?

The health risks of inactivity are gigantic and all-embracing.  Stop the scare stories and concentrate on every measure to support cycle safety and confidence.  We in Suffolk need to get cycling before we kill ourselves by not doing so

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