Most of Suffolk must be as relieved as I was at Monday’s election of Mark Bee as future Leader of Suffolk County Council. Mark, who replaces Jeremy Pembroke, was elected in the first round of the Suffolk County Tories’ AV style election process, by a significant majority.
The first signs are in many ways encouraging: Mark was not in the Cabinet , not tainted with creating any of the lunacies of the New Strategic Direction, not on the committee that appointed the Chief Executive. Indeed he has shown every sign of being Suffolk County Tories’ quiet voice of reason.
However, we cannot forget that all Conservatives , backbench as well as front bench, voted for every single New Strategic Direction proposal at full council. It is hopeful that Mark Bee should say
” if we are to expect others to help, we have a duty to listen to them in return, to hear their concerns, and to build solutions together, at a speed that we can all follow… That is why I’d like the time between now and the council meeting on May 26, to be a time for reflection and review.”
That any member of the current administration – let alone the Leader elect – should be officially sanctioning the listening and hearing of Suffolk people’s concerns is refreshing! Personally I do hope the portfolio-holder in charge of libraries will take heed.
But at the moment Mark Bee continues to maintain that “the direction in which we are heading is the right one“. He hasn’t yet – despite the Evening Star’s headlines – actually gone so far as to ‘save ‘ the school crossing patrols. All he has said is that “in the areas where the patrols are most needed, we will look to continue to fund these, unless or until a suitable alternative arrangement has been found.”
This is far from being the same thing.
Mark says he wants to spend the next few weeks in reflection and review – hopefully about many of the most contentious of recent cuts forced on us by Suffolk County Council’s NSD (all of which we Lib Dems provided alternative costings to retain back in February)
- Will school crossing patrols be reprieved? Suffolk received more petition signatures about this than any other petition in the history of the council!
- What hope is there for the libraries? The so-called ‘consultation has – so far – been a thinly veiled arm-twisting of local communities to take over these, or lose out.
- And how about transport? The cutting of the Explore card, halfway through the school/college year has already caused extreme hardship amongst the young and poor – particularly the young and rural poor who are seeing additional barriers in the path of aspiration and education. Not only to them, but to their parents. Similarly the ‘working hours only ‘ demand-responsive solution to cutting scheduled service, and the new conditions being placed on concessionary travel card holders are causing huge hardship for people without other choices in the countryside.
- Will Mark Bee reflect on problems such as these, and having reflected, have a Damascene conversion?
Now, wouldn’t that be lovely!