Category Archives: Council reports

Reports I make on a monthly basis to Woodbridge Town Council

Suffolk in October/November: my report

Suffolk County Council’s budget forecast paints worrying picture  A Cabinet paper last week revealed that Suffolk County Council is forecasting an overspend of £10.2m on their 2017/18 revenue budget. The majority of this overspend is within Adult & Community Services (£2.3m) and Children’s Services (£6.4m). The narrative that ‘savings’ (eg ‘cuts’) can continue is increasingly unsustainable. “Leaner and fitter” has morphed to anorexia.

Opposition councillors are growing increasingly concerned: latest budget forecasts make it clear that, unless major changes occur, the Council’s finances are not sustainable in the long-term with the most vulnerable members of our county the most likely to suffer the consequences.

Suffolk County Council has had to make significant savings in response to  continuing cuts in funding from central government. Demand for services, however, has continued to grow. This is no surprise to anyone. However, while there is no denying the issue of chronic underfunding from central government, Suffolk County Council has plumed itself on capping council tax for years . (Leader Colin Noble memorably maintained: “the vast majority of those on fixed pensions do not look to council services to help them in their old age. So he majority of old people  are not reliant on libraries, buses, roads, care services, public health? News to me, and to them. And to Cllr Noble, clearly).

The administration called instead for for Suffolk to innovate  in income generation.

Suffolk County Council’s Leader on the needs of old people on fixed pensions. What world is he living in?

Disappointingly this income has failed to materialise.

This is tragic. Proper investment in Suffolk’s economy, combined with regular tiny increases in council tax over the years, could have done much to avert the current worrying situation.

Home to School Transport – workshops announced   In September, our LDGI Group successfully “called-in” the Cabinet’s decision to go to consultation on changes to the Home to School Transport policy, questioning the nature of the pre-consultation period, and arguing that more research needed to be done.

The Scrutiny Committee agreed with us, and voted to refer the decision back to Cabinet for further consideration. It has not yet been announced when Cabinet will reconsider the proposals.

Suffolk County Council has announced that two workshops will be taking place in November, to further discuss the challenge and help develop proposals for Cabinet to consider. However, invitations will only be sent to 80 randomly selected representatives. If you have not been invited, and feel that you should be a part of these workshops, you can contact either myself or schooltravel@suffolk.gov.uk.

Motion to improve early years funding rejected by Council   At the meeting of Council on Thursday 19th October, our LDGI group supported a Labour motion which called on the Council to (1) lobby central government for more funding in Suffolk and (2) pass the full amount of funding received on to providers. Unfortunately, the Conservative majority refused to back the motion.

Since September 2017, working families are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare, whilst all families are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare. Suffolk is one of only 37 local authorities which this year had a reduction in early years funding, receiving a total of £31 987 186. This equates to £4.41 per hour. However, childcare providers receive a base rate of only £3.87 per hour, and many are struggling to run their businesses on this low rate.

The motion highlighted the difficulty faced by childcare providers across the county, and questioned why the Council did not pass through a higher rate of funding to providers.

Councillor Gordon Jones (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills) stated that the Council only retains £2.1m, which is used to meet their statutory duties. He has yet to provide a full breakdown on how this money is spent

Bus timetable changes  and issues due to Woods Lane Closure  The closure seems to be proving as problematic as forecast.  First are using shuttle buses to extend the 800 Park and Ride journeys beyond Woodbridge due to delays on account of the Woods Lane works. I have already had one complaint that these are not integrated in ticketing terms with the P&R services.

It also seems that the notices on the suspended bus stops on Bredfield Road is leading a number of older residents to assume that bus services are completely suspended therefore entrapping them in this part of Woodbridge.

The temporary shuttle bus stops are not clearly signed and the shuttle bus does not adequately cover for the suspended bus stops.

Social Worker of the Year: former Kyson pupil nominated second year running   The Coastal and North East Ipswich Child in Care  social work team is a finalist in the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017 as a result of their outstanding work with children and their families.

Members of the team have previously been recognised for their outstanding achievements, including  (I am very proud to say) former Kyson pupil Emily Tiplady-Ead  whose immense professionalism and skills  made herlast year’s  national ‘Children’s Social Worker of the Year ’. Hearty congratulations, Emily!

Woodbridge Thoroughfare Consultation   This received over 600 replies. A presentation will be mounted in the Library shortly to unveil the overwhelmingly popular result and to signpost the next stage

 

What happened in Suffolk in September – my report

Library Reading Scheme presentations  On 17 September I presented awards to all those children who successfully completed the Woodbridge Library Reading Challenge 2017. This year 212 children completed, to gain certificates and medals. I also funded  a poster competition and a magic show from my locality budget.

Suffolk’s Cabinet decision on controversial school transport policy changes called-in by LDGI Group A decision made by Cabinet on 12 September, to go to public consultation on proposed changes to SCC’s school transport policy, was ‘called-in’ to scrutiny by opposition councillors from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group (of whom I was one).

The call-in cited several problems with the report that informed Cabinet’s decision, and argued that to go to public consultation without a comprehensive impact assessment would be premature. The councillors questioned the expected savings and stressed the need to fully research how changes might impact on educational attainment, increased car use, and school viability.

The call-in was examined by the Scrutiny Committee on 28 September, who determined determined that the subject should be referred  back to Cabinet again. Watch this space!

Consultation on Woodbridge Thoroughfare  September 25- 1October saw the Thoroughfare Working Group’s public consultation in Woodbridge Library on changing the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) in the Thoroughfare. A stall was staffed in Woodbridge Library for a full 7 days (I personally worked 44 hours staffing it).

The consultation is to ensure it more accurately reflects current usage and to make the provisions more enforceable. Three options were provided. Approximately 600 questionnaires have been received, and the information will now analysed and used to establish the basis of a new TRO.

Impact of Woods Lane development on A1438  The astonishing and unacceptable closure of Woods Lane for a prolonged period ( 3 weeks shortly and then three months in early 2017) to install utilities for the 180 house Bloor Homes development will divert heavy traffic between the A12 and Wilford to the B1438 (Ipswich Road) in the south and the Old Yarmouth Road through Melton to the north. I am one of many lobbying to ameliorate this situation, not least because of the number of schools and sheltered housing along the route. When I recently was able to secure permission for 20mph zoning in Woodbridge, a significant rationale was the impact of heavy traffic on our medieval town , the number of pedestrians and cyclists inconvenienced or endangered, ­­­­and to discourage rat-running on the B1438 instead of A12/Woods Lane usage.

This diversion now underlines why the scheme is necessary. I am very concerned on the impact this will have on Woodbridge’s traders, students, and residents

Search for a new SCC Chief Executive continues  A full day of interviews and assessments took place on Monday 11 September in the search for a new Chief Executive for Suffolk County Council to succeed Deborah Cadman. The interview panel included five councillors from across the three main Groups. (3 Conservative, 1 Labour, 1 LDGI)

Although the field of candidates was strong it was decided that there was no clear candidate that met the expectations for the role. Therefore no appointment was made, and the recruitment process will begin again in the coming months. In the mean time Sue Cook will contine as interim Chief Executive, supported by other members of the corporate management team.

PCC ‘not pursuing’ plans to take control of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service   Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, has announced that he will not be pursuing plans to take control of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services.

Earlier this year the PCC commissioned PA Consulting to undertake an options appraisal to consider the future governance of the Fire and Rescue Service and a potential shift of governance from the County Council to the PCC. This review concluded that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that a governance change would be clearly in the interests of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness; or public safety.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service launches ‘escape plan’ campaign The Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has launched a new safety campaign and website highlighting the importance of fire escape plans. The campaign addresses the fact that every year there are 40,000 accidental house fires in the UK. Having an escape plan will allow Suffolk residents to escape the fire quickly and safely. Please

Visitors to the campaign website will be able to:

  • Take a quiz to test how prepared they are to escape a fire
  • Create their own escape plan for everyone in their household

The ‘escape plan’ fire campaign will run until 31 October 2017. More information can be found at fire.suffolk.gov.uk.

October Surgery Cancellation  I will be cancelling my monthly surgery this month (21 October) because of family commitments on the other side of the world. The remaining surgeries for 2017 are:

  • 18 November 2017
  • 16 December 2017

 

 

Woodbridge: LibDems tell you what we’ve done

Woodbridge Lib Dems – we get things done AND we tell you that we’ve done them! Not just at election time but all the year round…

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February/March Focus 2017
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Woodbridge  Focus Jan 2017

Continue reading Woodbridge: LibDems tell you what we’ve done

Things you need to know happened in February

Very positive news about speeding in Woodbridge and sorting the Thoroughfare issues offset news of yet more budget cuts and library cuts. There is also hope for Woodbridge for the new Park & Ride. I’m also planning to  ‘claim’ a piece of land for a bus stop.

Suffolk’s County  Budget 2017-8   Suffolk County Council’s County Budget 2017-18 was set at the beginning of February. The  Conservative emphasis was on keeping spend down and how they have amassed large reserves over the past seven years of zero council tax rises.  Labour wanted to spend to preserve services and give the residents of Suffolk what they need. Lib Dems felt the Conservatives were cutting too hard but Labour were spending at the top limit of what would be possible.

In the end the administration carried the day and a further £30 million will be cut from services.

Suffolk Library Services suffer further cut   Amongst the many cuts to this year’s budget,  Suffolk County Council is inflicting a further £230,000 cut to the library service.  (£280,000 if we include the archives) .

Over the last years, staff and volunteers have worked  to keep all the  Suffolk libraries open as IPSs and to increase and improve provision across the county. They consider they have already streamlined  services as far as practicable. Investing in the immense range of things our libraries do so well and  so cheaply is building social capital that benefits Suffolk in a huge range of ways. In my view it is simple madness to damage it or throw it away.

In the last ten days  on the streets of Woodbridge,  I managed to get 1200 signatures for a petition which says “We oppose any further reductions to the funding of Suffolk’s invaluable and irreplaceable library services, and urge Suffolk County Council not to make this cut. “ The people who signed were of all ages, backgrounds  and political affiliations – the eldest was 101.  The one thing they agreed on was that these cuts were unacceptable. Over and over again the signatories’  comments repeated the fact that our libraries are ‘essential’, ‘vital’, and that users want “No more cuts!”. At the budget meeting I asked  the administration, on behalf of the people I represent, to withdraw this cut.

Sadly, they did not listen.

20 mph zone and calming  proposals for Woodbridge   We are on target to get the report to the Suffolk County Council Speed Panel for the meeting of 22 February where I will present it.
(STOP PRESS: I GOT IT THROUGH. More to follow)

Woodbridge Thoroughfare Working Group update   This is meeting very productively with reps from all Woodbridge’s elected parties, and councils, the police, the Highways officers, the traders and the residents  with the aim of trying to find consensus for a short, mid- and long-term plan to improve footfall and preserve the future of the Woodbridge Thoroughfare in all its aspects because it is the heart of Woodbridge and the lifeblood of the town.

A sticking point is enforcement, and only some of the enforcement issues can be solved by the prospective decriminalisation of parking offences and its transfer from the police to Suffolk Coastal District Council.

(Speeding issues could be assisted by a change in speed limit. STOP PRESS: The Thoroughfare is part of the newly agreed 20mph zone See above!)

As the mystifying signs at the beginning of the Thoroughfare are the legal consequence of the current TRO (traffic regulation order) it would seem sensible to simplify the TRO (hopefully in advance of the transfer) so as to be able to discourage unnecessary through traffic by correct, legal and simple signs.(Read all about the complexities of the situation here)

Currently questionnaires about usage, access, and deliveries  are being filled in by traders and residents, and various options of simple signage are being investigated to best reflect the consensus. A TRO could be built around this

Proposals for Ipswich Northern Bypass – and how each may pact on Woodbridge With Ipswich coming to a standstill every rush hour and every closure of the Orwell bridge, a progress report into the need for additional road capacity to the north of Ipswich, has been published (aka  the long-proposed Ipswich Northern bypass).

Initial broad route corridors have been considered for a potential link between the A12 and A14; and are:

  • an inner corridor from Martlesham to Claydon
  • an middle corridor from Woodbridge to Claydon
  • and an outer corridor from Melton to Needham Market.

All of these will impact on residents of Woodbridge.

Preliminary traffic modelling has indicated that roads in each of these corridors would have different effects on traffic eg. an outer corridor would have more benefit to longer distance trips than trips more local to the Ipswich area.

Each potential corridor would also have different impacts on the environment, and on the potential to support future growth.

The next stage of study will examine route options in more detail, including traffic, economic and environmental impacts. It will also consider the extent to which the options might support potential future scenarios for housing and employment growth beyond 2031.

You can download the report in full here https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/public-transport-bus-pass-and-transport-planning/consultations-and-studies/

Proposed Bus Shelter opposite Notcutts  Having been unable to find out ownership of the untended strip of land next to the Cherry Tree on which there is a broken bench, SCC Highways intends to put up notices ‘claiming’ it so as to allow us to put up a bus stop there without (potentially) being sued!

County Councillor’s Surgery  My monthly  County Councillor’s  surgery in the library, now in its 6th year, continues to bring in more and more people. December’s surgery had people waiting for the 9am start, was packed from start to finish, and lasted for three and a half hours (so finished an hour and a half late) due to pressure of numbers.

The overwhelming issues are parking, speeding, road surfaces, and pedestrian problems. However I deal with issues as different as  deportations, youth issues,  special educational needs problems, social care crises, homelessness, and charitable organisation support. Unfortunately I had to cancel February’s surgery through illhealth – the first time I’ve ever done this in over 6 years.

There will only be to more surgeries in the remainder of this electoral cycle:18th March – and my final surgery of this electoral cycle on 15 April.

What’s happening in Woodbridge (& Suffolk) – November 2016

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 .

Speed calming and the Thoroughfare have been top issues for Woodbridge  over the last weeks as I’ve been working with like-minded people  from a number of fields to try and produce a global scheme to calm and improve traffic conditions across the town.  Other issues of importance include Suffolk Norfold Devolution, now about to got to a final yea or nay vote,  and the throrny question of the new telecoms boxes at the Sandy Lane junction,

Proposed 20mph zone & Thoroughfare calming in Woodbridge   I have recently been working on initial – ambitious – proposals for speed calming in Woodbridge. These include :

  1. a) the outline of the whole-town speed calming and 20mph zoning which Woodbridge Town Council will be discussing later this evening and which will hopefully be the foundation of a document that can finally be put before Suffolk County Council’s Speed Limits Panel and
  2. b) the reforming of the Thoroughfare Working Party to try and tackle the continuing issue of the Thoroughfare, in relation to the roads around it.

I am grateful for the assistance and expertise of Nigel Barratt in examining the roads usage round the town in order to work on these issues.

I am hoping that the ‘Walkers are Welcome Woodbridge’ initiative will be supported by these proposals, and that they might link in with issues as diverse as the air quality work at Melton Hill, the passage of school children to school,  and the rat-running from Wilford Bridge along the Ipswich Road – producing really joined up planning for traffic and tourism.

Conservatives lose their majority on Suffolk County Council  With a LibDem win at the Hadleigh byelection last month, the Conservatives finally lost their precarious hold on Suffolk County council and are now a minority administration. The balance of power is now:

Conservative 37 – Labour 15;  LibDem 8; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent  3

Suffolk County Council’s vote on devolution deal – 23 November  Suffolk County Council – together with all district councils – will be voting on the Suffolk Norfolk devolution deal at the end of the month.  For the county council, this is:

  • The extraordinary County Council on 2pm 23rd November
  • The extraordinary Cabinet on 5.30pm 23rd November (or following the extraordinary Council meeting if later)

with the orders currently scheduled to be laid before Parliament on 24th of November.

The deal requires the 2017 election of a Norfolk & Suffolk Mayor, and the formation of a “super-authority” in which all councils from both counties  would be represented equally.

This authority would have a budget of £100m to spend on an inflated governmental requirement for  240,000 new homes ( far more than required locally so presumably aimed at London overspill)  for the next five years and would have new powers (but little new funds) to fund the required  infrastructure programmes needed to support the development the deal requires.

Although Suffolk’s County Council and all its district & borough councils backed the principle of this devolution deal in the summer, in  Norfolk the reaction was much less positive – four of the county’s seven districts (including Norwich City Council) voted to reject the deal .

New Telecoms boxes update   After I raised the issue of the 5 telecoms boxes in Sandy Lane on both social media and BBC Suffolk, EE finally got in contact with the Suffolk Highways Officers. We are now in hope that the issue can be rectified  without legal proceedings becoming necessary.

Parents urged to Have Their Say on New School Admissions Policy Suffolk County Council is seeking views from parents and carers on the proposed school admissions policy for the 2018/2019 academic year. There are proposals to make minor changes to the admission arrangements for schools in Suffolk and the policy aims to ensure school places are offered to children in a fair way.  The consultation will run until Tuesday 13 December 2016.

Dutch Kitchenware Cold Callers   Suffolk Trading Standards warn that they have had reports about (specifically Dutch) salesmen cold-calling door-to-door in Suffolk. They say these appear to be people who have targeted other areas in Britain.

The caller is typically a man selling knives, saucepans and cutlery sets that he claims that he has had left over from a trade fair. His story is that he needs to get rid of the products quickly because he is returning to Holland later in the day and cannot take them back through customs.

Although the products are described as being reasonable quality, trading standards are concerned that consumers may be paying over the odds and there are no customer rights. As ever they are concerned that undue pressure is put on elderly and vulnerable people.

Suffolk Trading standards ask that if anyone becomes aware of these (or other) salesmen operating in their area,  to please contact  via 03454 040506. They also remind Suffolk residents of the door stickers they supply to discourage cold callers.

Firebreak training in Hollesley Bay    In late October I spent an afternoon at a ‘Firebreak’ passing-out parade at Hollesley Bay prison. This is a practical but inspirational programme taught by the fire brigade (Essex, not Suffolk, on this occasion) – and the first time ever this programme has been delivered in a prison!!

Outcomes were outstanding: 12 hard-to-reach prisoners of very different ages and backgrounds had worked together to become a team, learned the cooperative and practical skills needed in firefighting, got a serious qualification, and all reported they have gained a lot from the course.

This was resoundingly echoed by guards and instructors. I very much enjoyed watching the presentation drill, and talking to the participants and instructors afterwards.

Most interesting of all, the training started to introduce the subject of ‘restorative justice’ and met with such success that the team was returning to the prison to run some sessions specifically on this, with the same prisoners.

Huge plaudits all round: to the Shaw Trust for funding it, Essex Fire Brigade for delivering it, and of course, Hollesley Bay for having confidence to go ahead with this pioneering training in the first place