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

Woodbridge Library needs Friends!

Save Woodbridge Library - and all the others in Suffolk. We love them and use them
Save Woodbridge Library – and all the others in Suffolk. We love them and use them

After huge protest from Suffolk residents of all ages and backgrounds,  kickstarted by the Lib Dem councillors and the library-loving residents of  Woodbridge, Suffolk County Council’s administration backed down on some of their more worrying  threats. Instead it has outsourced  the Library organisation into an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community.  This means that the Suffolk Library system has become a member-based organisation  of individual libraries.

Under these new proposals there are no planned closures for Libraries in the County – which is  a (at least  temporary) relief.  However, each of the Libraries will be tasked to make 5% savings on top the savings that are already embedded in the proposals.  This may mean an increase in volunteers, more fund-raising events, or changing suppliers for maintenance contracts. Funding is only guaranteed  by SCC for the first two years. Additionally, those libraries that do not have community groups are run by the IPS and have considerably less autonomy, because they have no representation on the board.
This is becoming a problem in Woodbridge.

Because Woodbridge Library is  run by the IPS , decision-making occurs without any local involvement . A notable example is the matter of the moving in of Suffolk Coastal District services to the Woodbridge Library premises without consultation or consideration of local wishes or requirements.  All moneys earned by the Library go back to the IPS, rather than being spent at the discretion of  us locals.  In the case of the Tourist Information point, neither Woodbridge Library or the residents of Woodbridge were even consulted as to the amount of rent SCDC should be paying(!).  Indeed the whole issue appears to have been discussed between officers without any input from or reference to elected local councillors or the Library itself.

In this case Suffolk Coastal district council wished to save money, and didn’t specifically have  Woodbridge interests at heart. There are rumours that they were offering as low as £2000 per annum rent for the ir occupancy of part of the library – and the Library’s consequent reduction of income-generating space.  Is it best value? If they don’t disclose we cannot know.  A Friends group would help Woodbridge to ensure it gets best value from and for its Library space!

It is now time to set up a Friends of Woodbridge Library group to allow the people of Woodbridge – and the surrounding district – a greater degree of control.

Please contact Woodbridge Library if you want to be part of this -we’d love it if you did! 

Update: it looks like the first meeting will be in the afternoon, 16 March

Icy weather: love thy neighbour

Its very icy this week and the pavements and footpaths are horribly slippery – particularly in the shadows. Over the last 3 winters I’ve funded about 25 grit-bins around Woodbridge from my locality budget. They have been placed  in areas where volunteers have offered to help keep pavements safe. This means there ought to be one near YOU.

Gritting  Ipswich Road Woodbridge   (And if there isn’t you know why!)

Please think of your elderly neighbours and those more vulnerable than yourself, who may be housebound because of fear of falling.  Winter is not only the time for colds and flu, its also a peak time for broken bones. If – as happens in other countries – each of us made ourselves responsible for clearing the  pavement outside our house, many problems would be solved just like that!

 

Ipswich Park & Ride consultation: a blink and you missed it!

In December the County Council launched a very brief consultation regarding the future commissioning of the Ipswich Park and Ride service.  Officers stressed that  “this consultation is not about cutting the service; the three questions were about how we deliver it in future.”

However, the questions were limited, leading and offered no opportunity to comment. The time given for people to respond to the survey was extremely short and included the Christmas holiday. There was very little publicity for the survey, apart from a notice in the buses themselves.

Given such circumstances, the actual point of this survey could be called into question!

The questions were :–

  1. Would it be acceptable to use buses that are not dedicated to the Park and Ride scheme to deliver the service so long as a high frequency service is still maintained?
  2. If the services were changed so as not to offer the cross town link would this seriously disadvantage you as a passenger? (Currently the Park and Ride services are linked to each other so that a bus leaving one site goes all the way through Ipswich to the other site. A proposal is that the Park and Ride scheme reverts to its original operation with buses from each site going to the town centre only and returning to the same site. This may have the effect of improving reliability but may require some passengers to change buses in the town centre).
  3. If staff were not present on site would this have an impact on your journey? (Currently the Park and Ride sites are manned whilst the service is operating. They assist passengers and ensure that the facilities are kept to a high standard. A proposal is that the buildings could be used in a different way that still provide basic facilities (rest rooms etc) to passengers but without staff being present at all times.)

As a Martlesham Parish Councillor pointed out, “it was an exceptionally primitive survey indeed.. I would argue very strongly that it is quite useless for the purpose implied in the email below. In particular the answer to the simple question which asked whether you would use the service if it relied on existing bus routes depends largely on the journey time and seat availability of the alternatives.  For example if it meant using the 66 through then the answer for many would be no as it takes too long.”

Recent events have highlighted SCC’s poor record on consultation over public transport matters – for example their unilateral decision-making on concessionary fares.

While it can only be good to see a recognition of this, however belated, I suspect it might also be a good idea to give training on how to actually create surveys. It seems to me that SurveyMonkey has a lot to answer for!