Category Archives: Council reports

Reports I make on a monthly basis to Woodbridge Town Council

What’s been happening at SCC – October

Various exciting things have been happening this last month. On a county-wide stage we have managed to get Suffolk to recognise that its decisions about Concessionary bus passes (that is, those for the disabled and the elderly) were made without adequate consultation. On a local level, I have managed to turn around the current situation regarding the Just 42 youth club. From having been offered no lease whatsoever at the  Woodbridge Youth Club  since August last year – and well-grounded concerns as to its future, Just 42 have now been offered a ten-year lease on the whole building  (- and watch this space. More is to come)

Suffolk forced to look (yet) again at  its decisions on Elderly and Disabled Bus Passes Suffolk’s County Council Cabinet has been forced to look again at their decision to provide only the statutory minimum free travel  for the elderly and disabled (0930-2300 weekdays, all day weekends and bank holidays), after the Liberal Democrat Group called the decision into the Scrutiny Committee at the end of September.

I (as proposer) and CllrDavid Wood(as seconder) presented the case that Cabinet’s decision had failed to take account of a number of important principles, most particularly  a lack of consultation of those affected, the negative impact the decision had on many peoples’ lives, the openness of the decision-making, and the insufficient evidence provided to justify the decision. We also pointed out that SCC underspent on this part of their plans for public transport by the best part of a million pounds this year, yet had no problem in finding an extra £1.3 million for better broadband (see below).

The number of public speakers (largely representing a range of disability groups) at the meeting and the written submissions (from other disability groups) that arrived in the week before the meeting, highlighted the lack of proper consultation before the decision was made.  Cabinet only looked at one submission about impact when they made their decision, – and that was because that user group  had heard about the meeting and asked specifically to contribute.

The Committee voted by seven votes to three to send this decision back to the Cabinet to be reconsidered.

I will keep you updated of any news as to when this will be.  In the meantime if you would like more information about the Call-in, please head to my blog piece about it.

NB Just to remind you, I  originally raised this issue back in July 2011, when I was able to persuade the entire Council to put aside party political differences and ask  Cabinet to look again at what it had decided to provide for Concessionary Bus Passes  and provide 24/7 travel for those eligible due to disability and allow those elderly pass holders to travel from 09.00. It took from July 11 to July 12 for Cabinet to get around to acceding to this.

Just 42 and the Woodbridge Youth Club   Excellent news! After some firm negotiation, SCC is now offering significantly differing terms to Just 42 than those which SCC has been proposing for the last 18 months. As follows:

  •  A new 10 year lease (excluded from security of tenure but see below) to be granted to Just 42;
  • Mutual annual break clauses (see 3) after three years;
  • Just 42’s position will be protected in that SCC’s right to bring the lease to an end will be conditional upon SCC providing adequate alternative facilities for Just 42 (the term ‘adequate’ to include external as well as internal facilities!);
  • The extent the area to be exclusively used by Just 42 to be agreed, together with rest of the buildings that may be available to other parties;
  • Just 42 will make the building available to other Community users when not in use by Just 42: such details to be agreed in due course;
  • SCC currently use an area of the building as an office on occasions & it is envisaged that this will continue

These proposals – although they look  very suitable – haven’t yet been accepted. We are busy checking the small-print to ensure that Just 42  – and other groups – are in no way disadvantaged!

I am immensely grateful to Charles Notcutt, the Mayor of Woodbridge,  for his presence at the last meeting. It has seemed in the past that many decisions were being made by officers at SCC and SCDC without  recognising the needs and requirements of Woodbridge and the Woodbridge young people. I therefore insisted on tsuitable respresentation from Woodbridge Town, and Mr Notcutt was kind enough to make time for this.

(Incidentally, this is by no means the end of the matter – but will give those who are providing  for  the young people of Woodbridge some much-needed security  and relief from anxiety while concrete plans for the long-term future. I now suggest that  I and the other members of the  group set up at July’s council meeting should now meet with my new Locality Officer to discuss an overarching plan that would meet the needs of Woodbridge youth over the longer term and within the plans for the town.)

 September County Council Meeting and 20mph The County Council meeting in September had quite a light agenda, but proved remarkably eventful.

As there was only one motion (about improving localism to support towns that wished to adopt 20mph speed limits in towns) it could be assumed that the meeting would have passed without any significant issues. As you know this is an issue which is hotly debated in Woodbridge.

However, an amendment proposed by Conservative administration to the 20mph motion changed every word  -and the meaning and intention – of the original text, leaving council to discuss things which SCC was already doing! The opposition parties pointed this out – but when the Council Chariman and officers refused to accept that this changed motion left us debating the status quo, the opposition parties – apart from the proposer and seconder of the motion, had no option but to leave the Council chamber. Full details  here.

This is another example of the stifling of democracy at Suffolk County Council, which is also so apparent in the way in which the Cabinet makes decisions without reference to the other members of its own party, let alone those of the opposition parties!

Grit bins (again!) Now is the time to be looking towards the winter cold. I know we only had a couple of days of real ice last winter – but we can certainly not rely on it!  If anyone knows of areas where bins would be useful – and here I am thinking specifically of Peterhouse and the Warwick Avenue area, I can fund them and the Town Clerk will be happy to buy them on my – and your – behalf!

Remembrance Day  After listening to the Rev McCormack’s wonderfully inclusive words at last Remembrance Day, I have been asking if it would be possible to have a non-religious presence on the Shire Hall steps for Remembrance Day. This would represent the 1 in 5 people in Woodbridge (as in Suffolk as a whole, and the UK in general) who see themselves as ‘Good without God’  and to recognise how many of such people have served and died in the name of  their country without any religious beliefs to sustain them – and who are doing so to this day. I am glad to say that this has now been accepted as  a valid point. After talking to the new Rock Barracks padre yesterday, it looks like he may be able to find a suitable acting soldier to undertake such a role for Woodbridge on this important and highly significant day.

Grand Driver Scheme  The Grand Driver scheme has just been launched: to help assist the continuation of safe driving as people get older. Older drivers are the fastest growing driving population in Suffolk.  Although there’s evidence to suggest that the likelihood of crashes increases with age, older adults are also renowned as safety-conscious and law-abiding drivers.

The scheme comprises  3 main elements: Insight and awareness of attitudes to driving and self-regulatory behaviour, An opportunity to update and refresh knowledge and discuss driving matters at workshops arranged throughoutSuffolkand a driving assessment and feedback in your own vehicle focusing on safe driving and coping strategies.

More information can be obtained from Michelle Haward: 01473 265256  Michelle.haward@suffolk.gov.uk

Better Broadband SCC’s Cabinet has decided to take Better Broadband for Suffolk to the next stage, increasing the level of money invested by Suffolk County Council by another £1.3 million , and delegating the contract agreement.

Scampaign – Lottery Scams   Suffolk Trading Standards are warning us about lottery scams, which often claim people have won a significant amount of money on an overseas or online lottery and ask for personal information including bank account details.  Please could councillors make people aware that they should protect themselves against lottery fraud in the following ways:

Protecting yourself against lottery fraud:

  • Be realistic: if you haven’t entered a lottery then you can’t have won it
  • Never respond to any communication –  as above, if  you haven’t entered a lottery then, really and truly  you can’t have won it
  • If they’ve provided an email address to respond to, be particularly suspicious of addresses such as @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com or numbers beginning with 07, because these are free to get hold of
  • Any request for a fee payment is a good indication that someone is trying to defraud you – there are no official lottery operators who ask for fees to collect winnings!
  • Never, ever disclose your bank details or pay fees in advance
  • Genuine lotteries thrive on publicity. If they ask you to keep your win a secret it’s likely to be a fraud
  • Many fraudulent lotteries have bad spelling and grammar – see this as a warning that fraudsters are at work

What to do if you are a victim of lottery fraud:

  • Report to Action Fraud specialists by calling 0300 123 2040
  • If you have responded to the email/letter/call, break off all contact with the fraudsters at once
  • If you have given over your bank account details, alert your bank immediately
  • Be aware that you’re now likely to be a target for other frauds. Fraudsters often share details about people they have successfully targeted or approached, using different identities to commit further frauds

My next County Councillor’s Surgery This will be in Woodbridge Library on Saturday, 20th October 10-12 noon as ever. All welcome!

Whats new at SCC – September 2012

This month a lot of my news seems to be about transport or highways

 Woodbridge Buses – marginal improvements: I’m happy to report that after all my lobbying over the last years, the situation for bus-users in Woodbridge has seen a marginal improvement. I’m telling you about them and reiterating my mantra use them or lose them.

Back in August we actually  saw the unheralded addition of one later Monday-Saturday Ipswich/Woodbridge bus service in each direction:  the new 64a – an evening service that passes the Ipswich Hospital. Woodbridge residents haven’t had this luxury since the evening 64 buses were renamed 62a and b and diverted. Unfortunately the new later bus for people in Woodbridge – the 64a – only extends travel times to mid- evening,  Even more unfortunately the direction of the 64a is not ideal for Woodbridge users, because it goes to and from Woodbridge instead of the other way round. This means that the last 64a bus from the Ipswich hospital to Woodbridge is at 19.17, yet the last bus from Woodbridge to the hospital andIpswich is at 19.58).  As usual we inWoodbridge are easier to reach than to leave. And of course the 64a does nothing whatsoever to solve the problem of Sunday and bank holiday travel.

Similarly, I am pleased to notice that after the representations of Suffolk young people – and most particularly those of Woodbridge- the 165 bus is now offering a young person’s fare 16-19 (no proof of ID needed), pegged at between the child and adult fare. Sadly, First buses still don’t  offer a young persons fare for south east Suffolk students –although they’re happy to do so for Lowestoft ,Yarmouth and Norwich young people. Why should we suffer this discrimination? Time to lobby!

 Scrutiny of CC’s decision regarding SCC’s Elderly and Disability Passes : After Cabinet reconsidered the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme and rejected the plea for change in July,  I and my colleagues ‘called in’ their decision on the following grounds:

a) proportionality (The action taken to control expenditure exceeded that required to achieve a balanced budget.)

b) due consultation and the taking of professional advice from officers; (In reconsidering the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, the County Council did not consult the relevant groups who are affected.  The one submission from the Suffolk Consortium of User Led Organisations & Individual Disabled People was received because they had asked to contribute. Other groups were not given an opportunity to do so.)

c) consideration for human rights (The changes implemented to the travel scheme impacted negativelyon disabled pass holders, and therefore maintaining this decision continues that impact.  Also there was no full Equality Impact Assessment when the original decision was made by the Cabinet)

d) openness; (There was a lack of consultation with relevant user groups including disabled people.)

g) There was insufficient data on costs of scheme enhancements, particularly with regard to other neighbouring authorities who have more than a year’s experience of the costs of operating the enhancements.

Cabinet’s cheeseparing and undemocratic  decision will therefore be discussed at Scrutiny on 27th September.

Five bidders for SCC Highways  Responsibility for gritting, maintenance and repairing potholes on Suffolk roads is scheduled for outsourcing by the Tory administration.  We have now been given the shortlist, to be decided by Cabinet on 11th December.

These are: Amey, Balfour Beatty Workplace, Carillion/Mott Macdonald, EnterpriseMouchel and MGWSP (May Gurney/WSP)

The rationale for this outsourcing is cost-cutting. My party is concerned however that the same ineffective scrutiny and poor contract management that has dogged Suffolk’s CSD will turn this project into another CSD, and result in the the people of this County paying significantly more for poorer roads.

Tour of Britain through Woodbridge This went very pleasantly and uneventfully on a beautiful clear day. I had a last-minute discussion with the road engineers last week  – as a result of which the potholes in the Market Square(and most especially the deep one by the Kings Head) were fixed, and no catastrophic crash occurred in Woodbridge. I wish to thank the East Area Highways Team for this prompt response.

Looking at the larger picture, I hope that the route of the peleton along Sandy Lane will support the need for calming this rat run which so many residents in both Woodbridge and Martlesham  have been arguing for  and for which I have offered the money from my QoL budget.

Autism Survey There seem to be an increasing number of people diagnosed with autism these days and so  Suffolk County Council is launching a survey in an endeavour to help both people with autism, and their family and carers.

There are two surveys available – one for people living with an autistic spectrum condition  and another for their carer or family member. 

It would be useful of you could publicise this

County councillor’s surgery: this takes place on 15 September this month. Everyone welcome!

What’s been happening in Suffolk: June 2012

Woodbridge Jubilee beacon from across the Deben. The beacon was built and lit by 1st Woodbridge Scouts

Over the last month everyone was concerned with the Queen’s Jubilee. However I single out for special notice Suffolk County Council – who, for reasons best known to themselves, held a party on the evening of  4th June  to celebrate the  SCC Jubilee beacon being lit. They were clearly oblivious to the notion that any County Councillor worth their salt would  be on their own home patch enjoying local celebrations, and  their local beacon. At least I was.

Other things of importance:

Suffolk Circle If you remember, a couple of years back SCC committed £680,000 over 3 years to fund a ‘good neighbours ‘scheme in Suffolk. This was, to put it mildly, a controversial decision. Last month I told you that Suffolk Circle’s first year of operation was looked at in critical detail by the Scrutiny Committee to assess whether it was an effective/cost-effective means of providing support  to the over 50s. The main recommendations of the Committee were:

  1. Any proposed future partnerships between the County Council and third party organisations should be looked at by Scrutiny before any final decisions are taken by Cabinet;
  2. the Committee be provided with details of the outcomes from the Business Review of the Suffolk Circle ;
  3. the Business Review should take account of different mixes of income from tokens and subscriptions and developing closer working with the voluntary sector, in the context of planning for Years 2 and 3;
  4. the County Council and the Suffolk Circle should give consideration to how marketing could be used:

i.            to encourage members from rural communities to join;

ii.            to proactively reach out to the most vulnerable people in Suffolk;

iii.            to clearly demonstrate in plain English the benefits of membership to potential members;

  1. the County Council and Suffolk Circle take steps to improve communication with voluntary sector organisations, including a proactive approach to signposting services; and
  2. the Committee be provided with data regarding the number of membership renewals and the demographic make up of the membership, using Acorn data.

I will keep you up to date when I hear more from the County about the Circle.

New Chairman, New Travel Card The Annual General Meeting of Suffolk County Council took place on the 24th of May, where Cllr Jeremy Pembroke, the former leader and Conservative councillor for Cosford was appointed Chairman for the next year. Anne Whybrow, Conservative member for Stowmarket was also elected as the Vice-Chair.  At the same time the Lib Dem party announced that our Leader, Kathy Pollard, has stepped down, after a  prolonged brush with very ill-health, and is replaced by Cllr David Wood.

Cllr Mark Bee then gave a State of Suffolk Address, in which he highlighted the main aims for the year and reviewed the past year.   Interestingly, in this  he heralded the return on an Oyster-type young persons travel card because issues of transport are causing such harm to the education and employment prospects of the young people of Suffolk. Equally interestingly, he failed to mention that this was required to replace the  Explore young person’s travel card which his own administration (under previous leader Jeremy Pembroke) decided to cut halfway through the last academic year and which has already caused significant harm to the education and employment prospects of young people in Suffolk.

Any sign of a restoration is obviously a successful outcome for me, my party and the members of Just 42, amongst others: we  have been lobbying for the restoration of this card since it was withdrawn.  However the proposal is currrently limited to the young people of Ipswich, who  Scrutiny discovered have suffered least from the withdrawal.  It  must be extended as soon as possible if the Leader’s words are to mean anything at all. I have blogged, written and spoken publicly on how necessary this is if we are to support the badly-affected young people of rural Suffolk  to support themselves.

We also welcomed Cllr Bee’s announcement of a one-post Cabinet post reduction  for the next year. My party has been calling for such a reduction for two years.

Textiles Recycling Scheme Launched The Suffolk Waste Partnership has recently launched a scheme where residents across the entire County will be able to recycle clothes.  I do have some concerns about the effect of this scheme on charities, although the Council says that the aim is not to take away the clothes that would be donated, but to try to redirect some of the 7,000 tonnes of clothing that goes to landfill each year.   Having said this, they then supply a list of  those items that are deemed acceptable and unacceptable – many of which would be acceptable at a charity shop.

Acceptable items: all clean clothing, socks and shoes, boots, wellies, slippers, hats, scarves, gloves, bed linen, blankets, sheets, pillowcases, handbags, belts, clean underwear, curtains, towels, tea towels and stuffed toys

No thanks – dirty or oily items, duvets, quilts, sleeping bags, pillows, cushions and carpets.

All I say is, please remember to give to charities anything you would have given before  – and only hand clearly unsaleable items to the recycling scheme. Re-use is better than recycling any day of the week.

County Councillor surgery My next surgery is this upcoming Saturday, 16th June, in the Woodbridge library. As ever, everyone is  welcome