Since Conservative-run Suffolk County Council divested its Highways maintenance services to the efficiencies of the private sector , its not only the roads that are in bad repair. Cycle paths abutting the A12 are in a disgraceful state of disrepair, and many can no longer be used for cycling. This forces vulnerable cyclists back on the A12 amidst the fast traffic and HGVs – a situation the cycle-paths were specifically created to remedy.
Last week I discovered for myself that the A12 cycle path between Woodbridge and the Ufford turnoff is not only overgrown, but in places it has actually disappeared.
Travel was a choice between walking our bikes on the ‘cycle path’ or cycling on the A12. We chose the former as safer – but the damage to my own bicyle’s inner tube and front tyre was irreparable because of the thorns and brambles across the path.
Unfortunately we will have no option but to cycle this route tomorrow. Does my disabled companion – who has catastrophic epilepsy – take her chance on the A12, or add an extra half-hour to an hour to her thirty-minute journey battling through the jungle where a cycle path used to be?
It is not a choice Suffolk Highways should be offering her, me, or any other cyclist, in this, the self-described ‘Greenest County.’
I have written to the Cabinet member for Highways and the Deputy Director of Highways Operations asking for their assurance that they should abandon this policy of wilful neglect and restore these paths to a usable condition immediately.
Last Thursday, Lee Nunn from Suffolk Trading Standards and I visited every home in Morley Avenue to talk to residents about their experiences with cold callers, to set up a ‘No Cold-Calling zone’ in the Avenue, and to supply “No Cold Calling” door stickers advertising this. For residents displaying a no cold calling door sticker it is now a criminal offence for traders to call at their door, although things like collecting for local charities, local newspaper deliveries and the like are fine. No Cold Calling street signage will be fixed in the road to further identify that residents in the road do not welcome uninvited doorstep callers and it will be a criminal offence for traders to cold call on any properties in the road.
Rogue traders cold-calling prey quite ruthlessly on people – particularly if they are vulnerable and on their own. Lee Nunn said he was surprised at the sheer level of cold-calling activity taking place in Morley Avenue compared with other areas he had visited.
These have included fish salesmen, people suggesting they were from the Probation board, selling household goods at inflated prices, and young men selling torches etc ‘in order to get into the army.’
Fortunately Morley Avenue is a tightknit community with a lot of good neighbours. However a resident has recently been talked into buying an extremely large quantity of fish at a very high price. (You can find more details about rogue fish sellers here)
“If you’re not sure don’t open the door,”advises Lee Nunn,
In addition he suggests:
Use a door chain to check who is calling
Don’t trade on the door step
Ask a trusted friend or family member for advice on reputable traders
Last week, a report told people the truth about the quality of life for girls in the UK. The report (from charity Plan International UK) looked at the impact of Child Poverty, Life Expectancy, Teenage Pregnancy, GCSE and NEET on the quality of life for girls in all 346 UK district councils.
Suffolk is not the worst but could be a very very much better place to be a girl. In this national survey MidSuffolk came 90th, Suffolk Coastal 125th, St Edmondsbury 146th, Babergh 154th, Forest Heath 213th, Waveney 270th and Ipswich 289th!
In simple terms Mid-Suffolk just missed being in the top 25% for the quality of life it offers girls; Suffolk Coastal, St Edmondsbury and Babergh are in the second quartile; Forest Heath is in the third quartile , while Waveney and Ipswich are in the bottom quartile – with Ipswich being in the bottom 15% nationwide for the quality of life that girls experience.
I raised these shocking figures at Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet, last week, only to discover it was news to elected members and officers alike.
Its clear that the lived reality of girls in Suffolk is being obscured by the way statistics are being collected. Yet the shocking fact is that the quality of life of girls in some parts of Suffolk is in the bottom 15% in the whole country. How come we didn’t know this before? We will never aspire to an equal society if we miss such significant inequality on our own doorstep!
Today we had the fun of the Reading Challenge awards ceremony at Woodbridge Library – one of the jolliest events in this County Councillor’s annual calendar.
To complete the challenge, each child has to read six books over the summer and discuss each of them with a volunteer.
In the autumn every child who has finished their six books gets a certificate and medal at a special ceremony at Woodbridge Library. It’s such fun – and helps support a love of reading. Some of the Woodbridge volunteers have been reading challengers themselve in years gone by.
400 children registered this year, 60% of whom finished the challenge. This meant Woodbridge Library volunteers spent 250 hours helping with the scheme over the summer!!!
This year I augmented the scheme by funding story-reading sessions for the children over the summer, a Dream Jar competition and a magic show to finish the afternoon off in style, once the certificates had been presented.
The Saturday after next I will be spending my usual morning at Woodbridge library, running my regular open-access surgery for Woodbridge residents. I’ve run this surgery every month for the last five years. It is supposed to be two hours long, but these days it’s closer to three, as the surgery is generally well-attended and I don’t leave until the last person has been seen.
In August, Rightmove published its annual report on the ‘happiest place’ to live in Britain – as identified by the residents *. Woodbridge scored 10th place nationwide – an amazing accolade for a town as small as ours.
Now, I don’t want to labour the point, but if your elected representative makes the effort to be available and to listen to your problems and ideas and tries to help with them, it must have a positive effect on the town’s happiness!
This weekend, I was in Hadleigh, whose County Councillor, Brian Riley (elected 2013) moved to North Carolina in early 2015 – but kept claiming his allowance and shamelessly told his constituents that he could be as good a Suffolk county councillor from the USA.
Mr Riley has now finally resigned shortly before being removed. He couldn’t even manage to maintain the minimum council attendance requirement for a councillor (one meeting every six months) and having left his constituents voiceless and without adequate county representation for 18 months. A private communication I had from him by email last month suggests he thinks this all a very fine state of affairs.
Before Brian Riley won the seat for the Conservatives (who have been strangely reluctant to criticise their former colleague’s shoddy behaviour to those he was elected to represent), Hadleigh was held for 24 years by LibDem David Grutchfield, who worked tirelessly for the town, and only stood down through extreme ill-health.
Maybe Hadleigh residents should ponder what it is that makes a town happy when they vote at the forthcoming by-election? They deserve so much more and better than what they have had in recent years