All posts by Caroline Page

Lib Dem County Councillor for Woodbridge, Suffolk; Elected 2008, 2009,2013; LD spokesman, Transport; Vice-Chair Education Transport Appeals; Speed Limit Panel member ; Campaigns for Rural Transport, Buses, Rail, Cycling, Young People, Libraries, Disability, Epilepsy & Carers

What a waste of public money?

Amongst our new coalition government’s £6.2bn of announced savings last week was an immediate freeze on new work with management consultants.

Yet in Suffolk, hard-pressed tax payers, people who see the pot-holes daily increasing outside their doors,  are being asked by the Conservative administration to shell out  as much as £122,000 just to help our highly paid senior managers to save money. At least we assume thats what its for. As they were asking that this spend didn’t have to go out to public tender we really dont have much idea WHAT its going to be  spent on!

Now, £122000 may not seem a lot to some people, but from my view – where our local Family Centre closed for want of £50,000  – it’s a fortune.

We are told that the company Scintillate will be paid around £50,000 – £55,000 and Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning will get up to £42,000 for two months’ work; and DNA will be paid around £30,000 for one month’s work.  The sums are pretty specific but nobodywill tell us what these companies will do or why we should pay them.

Go figure.

Don’t you think it is deeply worrying that the Conservative-run Suffolk County Council Cabinet has actually voted to put aside standing orders and allow this money to be spent without the taxpayers, or indeed other county councillors having  any idea what these companies do or how it will benefit anyone other than the companies themselves? How can they justify it?  I guess the answer is, that with their huge majority they just don’t need to!

Who are these companies? Who runs them? What are their qualifications? Google their personnel and their practice and you come up with very little. No sense of educational background, or any concrete measurable achievement. No peer reviews – apart from one practitioner recommending another practitioner’s book. On Amazon!  The websites of all these consultants are filled with nebulous, positive-sounding content-free platitudes. Forgive me for saying this, but its hard to understand why any sensible person with a genuine feeling of responsibility for a public budget would fall for this  for one moment.

Fields of learning for example offers range of very mixed services  –  and I do n’t mean this admiringly: personal trainers, acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming. I don’t know how useful acupuncture and personal training might be in saving us money but if you check up on NLP you you will discover it is one of the 10 most discredited forms of intervention in published research: on a par, apparently, with  “equine treatment for eating disorders” and “dolphin assisted therapy.

Now my view is, it is ok for the practitioners of NLP to take money from the credulous if the credulous are happy to part with it. But is it ok  for them to take other peoples money? Most importantly of all is it ok for them to take OUR money?

This is a time of belt-tightening, painful desperate belt-tightening, belt-tightening so desperate, so painful that our waistbands will be cutting us in half. So why at this time are we loosening our waistbands and dropping the public trousers for these vacuous, worthless pointless puffs of hot air

(Note: This first appeared as a speech I made at full Council, 27 May 2010)

Bikes, maps, grit bins… Locality budget spends

Recent applications for my locality budget funding have included:

Assistance to publish walking maps of Woodbridge

Bicycles for Town Pastors

Grit bins  to help residents de-ice their roads in the next cold spell

A Town Crier (- yes really!)

Keep these requests coming – I still have funds left for the year and I like to spread them across the needs of as many different types of operation as possible!

Bollards in Hasketon Road – at long last!

For years the residents of Hasketon Road – happy neighbours of Farlingaye HS, by and large – have been plagued by  inconsiderate parking. Sadly this is generally by a few thoughtless parents at school drop-off and pick-up times. Their cars churn up the verges  into a sea of mud and have posed a safety risk to the hundreds of students who cycle and walk to the school every day.

If you look at the photographs on my parking page, you will see examples.

I have been talking to the  highway authorities for eighteen months trying to  get this solved. Although I have been able to agree double yellow lines around the corners of Eansom Road, we then needed some other solution for the adjacent verges. And  there was some reluctance (to put it mildly) to see bollards as the answer.

Other options  were recommended and explored – notably the officers’ preferred option of building up and reseeding the verge. This was attempted last May after a a wait of  seven months and lasted precisely as long as until the contractors left the site.

The residents were – rightly – incandescent.

A year later we have seen no further progress, and there was some suggestion that reseeding and building up should be attempted again.  My view is that to even consider rebuilding the verges once more is a waste of everyone’s energy and a trial of their patience.  For a start, it will involve another wait of a year  as  we were told 18 month ago that spring is the only time for building and reseeding.  And for the likelihood of no better outcome than last time. I feel that the residents of Hasketon Road deserve better than this continuing putting-off.

The other non-bollard option recomme nded was preventative planting – but local town  councillors have told me of other places in Woodbridge where planting to discourage parking has been ineffective.

At this point – luckily – our wonderful  community police came to the rescure and put down traffic cones along the Hasketon Road with immediate success.  parking stiopped just like that. The cones were placed exactly where we intend to place bollards. The success is not surprising – it  mirrors the success of the bollards that are installed a couple of hundred yards further down where the Hasketon Road becomes the Burkitt Road, and which has discouraged dangerous parking by parents at St Marys.

As well as talking to the police, I have talked to residents and to both town and district councillors and the issue was raised at the last SNT tasking meeting  by Woodbridge Town Councillor Miles. Bollards were agreed by all as the best solution.

The Highways engineer  tells me we can install a nice set of concrete bollards for around £3000 – a sum that I am more than happy to contribute from my locality budget to improve the safety of Woodbridge residents, students of Farlingaye, and the much tried inhabitants of Hasketon Road.

On Friday I did the paperwork! They  are – I trust – now coming!

Walking to school: Ipswich Road, Woodbridge

Congratulations to the members of Farlingaye High School who chose to address  transport and walking to school in relation to Ipswich Road traffic  when working on a Make a Difference programme. You may have heard the youngsters on BBC Radio Suffolk last week, as they investigated the speeds of traffic on Ipswich Road. The students interviewed me, very well and professionally, as a part of their project, and I also commented live on the issues on Mark Murphy’s breakfast programme on 20 May, before attending their assembly at Farlingaye that morning.

As you know I have  many concerns about speeding along Ipswich Road,  particularly in relation to those walking and cycling to Kyson and Farlingaye schools, andI have reserved £12,000 from Quality of Life money to build an island in the road which is being planned at the moment. Now the Highways department at Suffolk County Council have invited the FHS students to take part in the design of this island, so as to see the project through! Congratulations to all!