Bus Timetables or special allowances for Councillors? No contest

The 65b Woodridge service seemed to be getting plenty of custom on Good Friday

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

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Thoroughfare residents join, Caroline Page and Woodbridge Town Councillors Gillard and O’Nolan to hand out information about the Thoroughfare TRO

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