BBC Charter – have your say

In 1986 the BBC licence fee was 16p a day – thirty years later it’s just under 40p a day. A bargain! A newspaper costs over twice as much. Have YOU contributed to the current BBC Charter Review? Please rememmber to do so! It asks lots of desperately silly and ill constructed questions which absolutely need to be batted back to a government which does not appear to appreciate what we fund publicly in this country (education, NHS, BBC) and wants to turn it into the polished efficiency of everything we have opened to market forces – such as water companies, energy companies, railways, bus services, universities…

(And if you can’t remember why the Beeb is so good, perhaps John Cleese, 1985, can remind you)

Woodbridge 20mph limit – what you may have missed!

Woodbridge has wanted 20 mph zoning for years but my work over the last year has been required to make it possible
Woodbridge has been asking for 20 mph zoning for years but it needed a change of policy from SCC – and all the work I and other policy panel members have put in over the last year to make it possible

Recent coverage in the EADT of Woodbridge Town Council’s deliberations on a 20mph zone failed completely to acknowledge the work I have been putting in, both as your councillor, and as longstanding member of the Suffolk transport policy development panel, to get the issue on the map and solve it.

I have been attempting to get speeding restrictions in Woodbridge since I became a county councillor, but had been stymied by a lack of standardisation across the county  – an ad hoc muddle which came to an abrupt halt a few years back when a previous SCC Cabinet member declared he would allow no more traffic restrictions.  The county had enough of them, he said!   (Talk about treating the county as a personal fiefdom!)

As founder member of the Suffolk cross-party Transport and Highways policy development panel which was set up under the last SCC Leader, Mark Bee , I was one of the councillors who developed a standard framework  for Suffolk  to assess and agree 20mph zones. This was to replace the chaos which existed before.

As County Councillor, I also ensured that Woodbridge was then placed on the list for assessment for 20mph zoning in fulfilment of  its longstanding  and oft-articulated desire for this . Woodbridge has been on this list since last September. The reason it has not progressed is made clear below.

All of this was clearly summarised  in my annual  Report to Woodbridge Town Council of a couple of months ago, and posted on my blog, for both Woodbridge Town Council and the EADT to refer to!

This letter I wrote on the subject  appeared in yesterdays EADT (22/07/2015).

Dear Sir

Last week  you reported Woodbridge Town Council’s deliberations over speeding and a  local community appeal for a 20mph zone.  However there was no mention in your report that Woodbridge has been on  the SCC waiting-list  to be assessed for 20mph status since last September!

Over the last couple of years the County Council had established a successful cross-party ‘policy development panel’(PDP) – of I was a founder member – to make sure that Suffolk’s transport and highways policy in areas such as speed limits  was finally standardised  to benefit the whole county equally via a joined-up approach.

Woodbridge, which has long needed a 20mph limit, was due to benefit from this refreshingly practical system.

Unfortunately since Suffolk’s mid-term change of leadership, this extremely useful and proactive panel’s  scheduled regular meetings have been cancelled at a few hours’ notice.  I wrote to ask the reason and for conformation as to whether this productive and hardworking PDP would continue to meet in the future. In reply we were told, “I hope to have a clear future policy on these groups before too long!”

The group was halfway through various pieces of work, continuing the clear benefits to Suffolk that the work of the PDP has shown from the start. If valuable work and joined-up policy-making are to be put to one side because of SCC’s mid-term change of leadership it is to the disbenefit of all Suffolk residents, including my constituents in Woodbridge, still waiting patiently for their long-needed lower speed limit

Let us see what now transpires!

Better Bus Passes WERE affordable all the time!

Emprotesting2 (2)
Bus passes are hugely important for both disabled and elderly bus users

Since Suffolk County Council took over administering the Concessionary Bus pass scheme from the district councils, they have managed a significant underspend every year  which they use to fund other things – not necessarily connected with public transport. This is cynical and inappropriate –and is defended by the council with the limp rationale that this money is ‘not ringfenced.’

Can I remind you of the importance of bus transport for the elderly and disabled in a large rural county like ours – and the impact on services which this cheeseparing decision has had, through the law of unintended consequences?

BUT , last week Suffolk County Council’s 2014-15 budget outturn (revealed at last week’s Cabinet) showed definitively a Passenger Transport  underspend of £400,000 due mainly to half a million pounds of savings in spend on Concessionary Travel. On being questioned, the  Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport has confirmed that  similar savings have been made every year since the County Council  took over the administration of the Concessionary Travel scheme from the district councils.

The dreadful thing about this underspend is that SCC do not allow the elderly or  disabled people to use their bus passes before 9.30 in the morning, because they say it is ‘unaffordable,’ AND in July 2011 Council voted to support a motion put forward by myself -as Shadow Spokesperson for Transport –  to change this! They voted  that concessionary bus pass holders eligible due to age should be able to travel using their passes from 9am during the week, in addition to removing all time limitations for disabled pass holders. (Full details here)

This decision was undemocratically quashed by Cabinet on the grounds of cost (estimated at that time to be around £200,000).

In other words, four years ago  the entire membership of Suffolk County Council voted for an action that would help the most vulnerable members of our county, the Cabinet undemocratically overruled the council’s decision on the grounds of cost, and now it seems as if the over-ruling was made on a spurious and mistaken basis – to put it mildly!

In full council last week I reminded the current Cabinet Member for Transport of the decision to overrule Councils vote and I asked: “As arguments of cost are groundless from the evidence of these outturn figures,   will the Cabinet member now engage to  revisit and reinstate that decision, so that the concessionary pass holders of Suffolk can once again enjoy the same benefits they had before the County Council took over administration of the scheme – and which, in some cases (the blind, for example) they had enjoyed since the Second World War!”