Category Archives: Council reports

Reports I make on a monthly basis to Woodbridge Town Council

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

2015-16 Suffolk CC’s year in brief

With local government funding decreasing, the SCC’s Conservative administration has made it clear that its top priority has been to keep the council tax bill down, and thus is finding it more and more difficult to fund frontline services.  

Suffolk  has been facing intimations of a new way of delivering local government, with the start of the Devolution negotiations.

At the end of the year, the refusal of the administration to accept Scrutiny’s concerns about the new Community transport model,  proposed cuts to Suffolk Fire and Rescue services, and the unexpected announcement of Academisation of all UK schools (followed by an equally unexpected U-turn) were top news. 

Suffolk’s erstwhile strong Conservative majority administration has slowly dwindled away  and the the year finished with the  County Council being in no overall control.

(This is a round up of the information I report to the Woodbridge and Martlesham AGMs)

Budget 2016 -17  At SCC’s budget setting meeting in February, the SCC’s Conservative administration proposed cuts to of  £34.4m to community transport funding, to Park and Ride funding,  to the Fire services,  to Library stock, to County Councillors’ locality budgets… –  leading to a budget requirement of £445,659,553.  With all these cuts, our council tax still increased by by 2% – (though in a figleaf to the administration’s electoral promise this was worded as “”The budget is based on a freeze… but includes a 2% precept to fund Adult Social Care…”) .
On the day of the final budget meeting more money did appear – apparently from nowhere– a Transitional Grant of £1.9m  and an extra £1.6 million from the Rural Services Delivery Grant. This money goes specifically  to Suffolk on its ‘super-sparsity indicator’ because of “additional rural costs… including the small size of rural councils, scattered and remote populations, lack of private sector providers, and poor broadband and mobile coverage”.  However,  SCC decided to bank this little windfall (over the last 5 years  our county’s reserves have increased by £100m to c£170m)   instead of ameliorating a single cut.
A rainbow coalition of the entire opposition voted against this budget in cross-party. It was a tight vote but the administration squeezed their budget through.

Leadership and constitution of SCC’s administration  After the putsch of right-wing Conservative Colin Noble for leadership of the Conservative party and Suffolk County Council from moderate Mark Bee, the County Council’s Conservative majority has lurched along on a knife edge.

At May 15 2016 , after the resignation of Cllr  Alan Murray (the day after tipping the vote at the March full council meeting), and the death of Cllr Peter Bellfield in April, SCC’s political make-up is:

Conservative 36;  Labour 15;  LibDem 7; UKIP 10; Green 2; Independent 4, plus 1 vacancy.  

This gives SCC’s opposition a  majority whenever it votes in unison.  One of the Independents is, however, notorious North Carolina resident and Hadleigh councillor,  Brian Riley. He is often absent, and on the occasions when he crosses the Atlantic  to attend Council he votes with the Conservatives.

Local Bus Services  After more than two years of stability, major changes have been made to the services to Woodbridge and beyond. From September First bus halved the frequency of the 64 and 65 buses (that is the Rendlesham and Saxmundham buses) adding the additional short-route 63 bus to fill this gap locally to Woodbridge and Melton – but not helping passengers going on to Saxmundham, Rendlesham, Leiston etc.

The Sunday service to Woodbridge and Melton continues – so far without threat.

A new cost-saving model  of Community Transport was proposed and has been imposed by by the administration  (see my blog for full details). Although SCC scrutiny objected, and sent the decision back to Cabinet, Cabinet overturned this objection without further comment.

Devolution  Much of this year has been taken up with an off-stage ‘will we, won’t we’ devolution debate. A devolution deal for East Anglia was announced by the Chancellor in mid-March and now needs to be ratified by all County and District and borough councils and the (unelected) LEP boards involved. (This may not be plain sailing – Cambridge City and Cambridge County have already shown themselves to be against this).

Although it is very difficult to get the person in the street in Suffolk interested in devolution, it is vital that they do because it is about a fundamentally different relationship between Government and local public services and it affects all of us.

The East Anglia Deal would see decisions currently made by Government on things such as infrastructure, growth, employment and skills being made by the Board of a new Combined Authority, consisting of all the Leaders of County and District Councils – and a directly elected Mayor. In other words it would be pretty much like the Cabinet system that currently operates in Suffolk County Council – with the potential for the same democratic deficit.

 It is proposed that the first mayoral elections would be in May 2017 alongside county elections.

The directly elected Mayor would act as Chair to the East Anglia Combined Authority and would be responsible for  local transport, roads, strategic planning and housing.  The new East Anglia Combined Authority, working with the Mayor, would receive the following powers:

  • Control of a new additional funding allocation of £900m  over 30 years (£30m a year across the entire devolved region – not a great deal in the scheme of things)  to boost growth
  • Reviewing  16+ skills provision;  devolved 19+ adult skills funding from 2018/19
  • Joint responsibility with the Government to co-design the new National Work and Health Programme designed to focus on those with a health condition or disability and the very long term unemployed.  (!)

There would also be  commitment to continue improvements to local health and social care services, continuing to  join up services and promote integration between the NHS and local government.

Looking ahead, I remain  deeply concerned that any future deal involving education or  NHS trusts will NOT involve the people of East Anglia shouldering the burden of PFI  debt incurred by central government (not only our  local debts eg  the PFI debt on Elizabeth Garrett Anderson building, but also eg the mountainous ones on the Addenbrookes site). I have asked for further information on this.

Academisation of all UK schools  At the end of the year, the Chancellor announced the surprise compulsory ‘academisation’ of all state schools, secondary by 2020, primary by 2022, taking them all out of local authority control . This had  significant implications for all our local  schools. New and existing academies were expected to become part of Multi-Academy Trusts, although a few stong ones may have been allowed to remain stand-alone.

In a subsequent U-turn, enforced Academisation will only be to those schools in special measures (as before). ‘Successful’ schools will only become Academies if they chose to do so.

Funding will go directly to Academy trusts , leaving the County Council  still responsible for place planning, transport and admissions and ‘vulnerable learners.’

Very controversially, (under the heading ‘The Right resources in the Right Hands’) it appears that on academisation there will now be be a transfer of the school estates to the Secretary of State for Education. This needs unpicking – currently it looks startlingly similar to Henry VIII’s policy towards the monasteries

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service Cuts  In March’s Full Council meeting at Endeavour House I spoke on the LibDem/Labour motion to stop SCC’s proposed reduction in Fire appliances and full time crews (defeated 36-35 – all Conservatives voting for the cuts, and every single opposition councillor present: LibDem, Labour, Green, UKIP and Independent , voting against). Conservative county councillor, Alan Murray,  resigned the following day.

In supporting the Suffolk Fire & Rescue Services  I put the local case for Woodbridge retained fire station and its need for the continuing support of Ipswich fire crews – looking at daily staristics for the previous months, it seems clear the Woodbridge is ‘offline’ for several hours on an average of one day in two –generally in the afternoon (the very time of day when fire engines are most  likely to be called out). We are therefore reliant on the fulltime crews in  Ipswich.

Ultimately these cuts were slightly watered down. In particular, as regards Ipswich, Cabinet  decided to remove the second full-time crewed fire engine from Ipswich (Princes Street) fire station but keep 4 of the crew of  full-time firefighters . These 4 full-time firefighters will be used to support on-call fire engine availability across the county during weekday. The on-call fire engine  and on-call firefighter establishment at Princes Street (scheduled to be cut ) will remain. However, the third fire engine from Ipswich (East) fire station will be cut  and the number of on-call firefighters at the station from 21 to 15/

These cuts strike me as particularly concerning in light of the development which is likely to be taking  place around Woodbridge, Martlesham and Melton.

Police Cuts A ‘re-design’ of the force to save £20m has lost police officer, PCSO and civilian posts. As follows:

From 1 April, the Woodbridge and District  Safer Neighbourhood team  was  reduced to  a Sergeant, two Police Officers and three PCSOs from previous staffing of  a Sergeant,  three Police Officers and seven PCSOs.  The SNT remains in the new building so recently opened  at the fire station in Theatre Street, Woodbridge. However it will no longer be a public access location!   Better access for the public’ was one of the key benefits of the move – see my blog entry on the subject – June 14.

The only public access  to Suffolk police will be  at the three main police stations (Ipswich, Bury and Lowestoft), although there will be ‘intercoms’ to police headquarters to use at the front doors of other buildings .

Woodbridge County Councillor Locality budget 2015-16

In 2015-6 I made the following grants:

Caroline Page's Locality Grants 2015-16
Caroline Page’s Locality Grants 2015-16

 

In April 2016  have made a further couple of grants to the Rural Coffee Caravan and to Headway, the head injury charity , and to provide a commemorative badge to each child in Woodbridge for the Queen’s 90th Birthday.

Woodbridge County Councillor monthly surgeries

This is the sixth year I have held regular monthly surgeries for the benefit of constituents.

I  held 11 surgeries for constituents over the last year – on the third Saturday of every month except August. These were held at Woodbridge Library, and from January, at the new time of 9-11 am.

They continue to be popular and well-attended.

What’s been happening in Suffolk Sept- Oct 2015

This month’s  main issues have been devolution, government proposals to close most of Suffolk’s courts, the poor deal for Suffolk rail travellers in the new rail franchised invitation to tender, and a couple of pieces of good news(Woodbridge Youth club and the Drummer Boy)

 Potential devolution of Suffolk  The devolution agenda continues. It now seems that the government will welcome a combined bid from Norfolk and Suffolk but neither severally. Currently very little emphasis has been placed on transport  – which is something that might really benefit from the increased per capita funding and re-regulatory approach we might go for with devolution. On 22nd September leaders from all Suffolk and Norfolk councils, and representatives of the New Anglia LEP agreed a ‘framework document’ highlighting the key areas  to be devolved. They will meet again on 14 October to continue discussions.

20mph, other traffic calming – and Woodbridge   After the year of work by myself and colleagues on the Transport policy development panel last year, creating speed limits frameworks and criteria, Suffolk County Council have trained up a panel and  have starting looking at  individual speed limits cases. The Speed Limits Panel is a panel of four councillors  – one from each main party. Cases are looked at by officers and if the case cannot be decided simply, it is brought in front of the panel. There are no witnesses – but the local County Councillor represents the case.

Woodbridge has expressed a longstanding desire to lower speed limits since first I became County Councillor, but has not yet articulated  to me or to the Highways team the exact areas it would like to have calmed. It is useful if this evidence comes from a wide variety of sources – as this suggests that the desire is widespread.

I therefore have asked various groups who have contacted me on this matter to start collecting evidence, including the Transport strand of the Neighbourhood plan. I hope Woodbridge Town Council Highways Committee will take part in this exercise

Woodbridge Youth Centre now Asset of Community Value The application by Just 42, and supported by me, for the Woodbridge Youth Centre to be registered as an Asset of Community Value was approved on 30th of September, after the statutory 8 week consultation process. While this does not protect it completely, it does give us some time to marshal a defence, should there be any unexpected move to sell it off.

East Anglian Rail Franchise – Invitation to Tender  The invitation to tender for the next Rail Franchise came out on 17 September, and the detail is disappointing.  Sadly the DfT has taken no notice of the various voices (including my own) calling loudly and clearly for better rail services East to West and to Peterborough. As the DfT have refused to act – suggesting that the pressure was for better and faster Norwich to London services (which it certainly wasn’t   from SCC, or myself, let alone from local pressure groups)  it looks as if passengers will have to endure the same poor service for years to come unless our local MPs can exert some pressure on the DfT. This is a shame as there is not only a lot of potential on these routes, but developing them would actually take much-needed pressure off the London line and provide easy means of transport to work to eg Cambridge with its ever-increasing housing prices.

Situations such as this make one think that devolution might be a good idea  as Suffolk voices were clearly not seen as important in the decision-making that produced this document. The parliamentary statement is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/rail-franchising-east-anglia-invitation-to-tender

MoJ’s Consultation on closing Suffolk Law Courts  The Ministry of Justice has just concluded a consultation on proposals to close all law courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft leaving the whole of Suffolk with just the courts in Ipswich.

This is an issue that will obviously concern everyone – as even residents in places like Woodbridge (which might deem themselves to be ‘unaffected’)  will be badly affected by the inevitable queues and waiting that will occur when two thirds of the current provision  for  family courts, small claims courts, magistrates courts, trading standards etc etc disappears.  All of us who know Suffolk magistrates will know how much of a bottle-neck has occurred  in the judicial process  already since the last round of closures in the 90s.

In brief, the Ministry of Justice proposes that Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court  and Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Crown Court are closed (full details)  All this to save £600,000 a year.

Putting aside anxieties about ‘trial by video , it would seem particularly ironic that Suffolk’s legal representation is in danger of being reduced to one single court with all the difficulties of access from the west, mid-Suffolk, and the north of the county, in this iconic Magna Carta anniversary year.

With rural public transport as it is, there are also human rights issues for anyone having to attend courts as witness, defendant or appellant, or as a juror or any number of other situations. The Ministry of Justice are talking about trial by video links. That will not be a substitute for face to face justice!

The County Council debated the issue last month and reached cross-party unanimity that this was a bad idea, and replied accordingly.

I have also responded as your councillor and as Suffolk County’s LibDem spokesman on Transport . My personal view is that transport issues are key to why these proposals are flawed and need to be rejected.

Woodbridge's Drummer Boy - aka Jakin and Lew of the Band of The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach's Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A
Woodbridge’s Drummer Boy – aka Jakin and Lew of the Band of The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach’s Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A

I copied all links and information to both Martlesham Parish and Woodbridge Town clerks in case you wished to reply,  because  Martlesham Parish councillors (to whom I reported last week) specifically asked how they could respond to these proposals and intended to do so.

The ‘Drummer Boy’ statue  As a delighted reader of Kipling’s short stories, I’ve long been pleased that Woodbridge houses the only statue seemingly ever made of Jakin and Lew, “a brace of the most finished little fiends that ever banged drum or tootled fife in the Band of The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach’s Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A”  –  which, today,  we in Woodbridge are pleased to call for short, The Drummer Boy or The Drums of the Fore and Aft.

When I heard of the possible move of the Drummer Boy from Woodbridge to Girdlestones, I immediately offered £1,500 from my locality budget towards relocating the statue within town.  I am glad that it seems as if the Woodbridge Heritage Group’s arguments have prevailed, and we will keep Kipling’s ‘bold bad’ brave Drummer Boys in the town.

What’s Been Happening: June – July 2015

Hot topics this month  are:  post-16 transport, a subscription scheme to replace free garden waste disposal, further cuts to the Fire service budget,  the new SCC Leader’s ‘Listening Days’  – and the fact that we underspend on our concessionary fares budget and have done so year after year , indeed apparently ever since we took over administration of the scheme from the district councils – despite the fact that successive SCC Cabinet members have told us that disabled people can’t possibly take the bus earlier ‘because it’s too expensive.’

Seems to me that that ‘too expensive’  is the kneejerk mantra of our administration –  without any investigation of whether this is the case or not (except when it comes to  certain things like Suffolk Circle..) What’s that quote about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing? This lot don’t even know the price!

Post-16 Education transport  Farlingaye High School has contacted me with concerns raised by individual parents concerning SCC’s new post-16 transport policy. Although the statutory school leaving age is 16, Raising the Participation age (RPA) has created a de facto statutory school leaving age of 18.This sits uneasily with SCC’s new post-16 transport policy, which, far from taking this into account offers less provision for post-16s than previously.

The county council has received no additional funding to support RPA. However, RPA is causing real issues for some families, particularly those on low income in rural communities and where there are no public services available that are timed to work with the school day.

I have asked SCC :Whether any scheduled public services that have been cut are being reinstated? Has SCC lobbied central government about the disparity of transport funding between  for example, London (whose Oyster card provides free travel for all young people funded from a disparate governmental grant allocation that provides much more per capita for Londoners) and rural counties, and what was the outcome? Has representation been made by SCC  to seek additional funding to support Raising the Participation Age?  The EADT published my letter on this issue last Friday.

More cuts to Suffolk Fire Service?  SCC are starting a public pre-consultation for changes to Suffolk Fire http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/consultations-petitions-and-elections/consultations/fire-service-redesign/  The ultimate intention is to cut another £1m of the already slimmed-down service.

Already Felixstowe Fire Station has ceased to have whole time Firefighters, and there has been a cut in the number of wholetime Firefighters across the county. As an example, on June 24th at 11:30 there were 10 Fire Stations off the run, including such stations as Hadleigh, Debenham, Framlingham and Aldeburgh. A further station was short-crewed meaning it could not attend property fires and a further 2 had appliances off the run.

I contacted CFO Hardingham to assess our local situation: as of the beginning of the month, there were13 firefighters at Woodbridge Fire Station, but they are in the process of interviewing for one more . The full complement is 14.

Proposals to end free garden waste collections in Suffolk Coastal (and other districts) Acting on advice from the Suffolk Waste Partnership, SCC is proposing to cut costs by moving the rest of the county to the Babergh/MidSuffolk system for collecting and treating organic (eg garden and some food ) waste. This would mean that the council reduces its subsidy to the minimum  for ‘free’ collections in other districts (such as Suffolk Coastal)  and supports a move to a subscription service – sharing the savings 50/50 with the relevant district councils. This would rely on an increase in individuals home composting.

This will depend on decisions of individual councils, but I gather that the subsidy will be reduced to statutory minimum whatever the outcome.

SCC underspent last financial year The financial outturn of SCC 2014-15  revealed that the revenue budget was underspent by £2.3 million (0.4% of the net budget)  and at the year end, £107.1m had been spent against the capital programme of £171.4m. This leaves reserves of £202.9 m.

Worrying  areas of underspend included  Early Years, Passenger Transport and Highways. Passenger Transport has underspent by half a million  – due to savings in the cost of concessionary travel. The Chief Accountant confirmed to me on 13th July that here has been a similar underspend in the cost of concessionary travel  every year since SCC has taken it over from the district council. Yet SCC has consistently refused to provide an earlier  start-time for travel for  Suffolk’s 7,000 disabled bus-pass holders on the  grounds of ‘cost’.

Health Scrutiny –mental health services  At the beginning of July, SCC health scrutiny looked at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s Service Strategy 2012-16  for mental health and what had been done to address the CQC’s findings of February 2015, when the Trust was rated as “Inadequate. The Committee was particularly concerned about the 24 hour CAMHS crisis care service, which was high priority and rated red, and asked for a progress report on this issue.

Leader’s Listening Days  Between now and October, SCC’s new leader Colin Noble is scheduling ‘We are Listening’ events in  Lowestoft, Haverhill, Felixstowe, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Sudbury, Beccles, and Newmarket. During these visits, he “wants to hear first-hand the issues and topics of interest for local council tax payers”

Although I have been unofficially told that he plans to be in Woodbridge on 19 September, (the date of my September surgery), I have not had this confirmed.  See more at http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/wearelistening

County Councillor’s Surgery Increasingly my surgery is bringing in constituents from outside my division, who want to speak to a County Councillor face-to-face. Two people  in two months have come from other parts of the country and have been incandescent about the lack of useful Tourist Information that is provided inside the Library on a Saturday despite the enormous SCDC notice outside, stating otherwise!

Surgery dates for the next few months are:  Saturday 20 June, and Saturday 18 July. I will take my customary  August break, before starting again on 19th September. Surgeries continue at Woodbridge Library 10-12 as ever.

What’s been happening in Suffolk – April 15

Apart  from a general hotting up of  General Electioneering, all sorts of things have been happening in Suffolk. My report this month could be briefly summarised as:  rail, bus, new leader, new languages & 月亮代表我的心 (the moon reflects my heart)…:

All change at the Top   The head of the Suffolk Conservative party Mark Bee has stood down and was replaced in an internal party election by former Suffolk New Strategic Direction cheerleader Cllr Colin Noble. This is, of course, far from an internal party matter, as it means that Cllr Noble will almost certainly be elected SCC Leader in May.

Cllr Bee brought a measure of unity to SCC after a troubled period and he will be sorely missed. For example, he has encouraged a measure of cross-party consensus through policy development panels.  In transport terms this has led to such measures  as agreeing a cross-county  format for new 20mph areas ( all of which had been abandoned under the previous administration because ‘we had enough already.’). Woodbridge is currently in the process of applying for one to calm local traffic.

I do not know what the future for such measures may be under the new leadership.

Passenger Rail Franchise I responded on behalf of Woodbridge, and as Lib Dem spokesman on Transport to the recent governmental East Anglia Rail Passenger Franchise Consultation. Full details can be found here: http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2015/03/17/my-response-to-east-anglia-rail-passenger-franchise-consultation/

Sustainable transport and Sizewell: at the last full council I argued that any development of Sizewell C must needs involve significant compensation for the whole Suffolk Coastal region in terms of sustainable transport – better train services and scheduled bus services – as well as road development. Details can be found here:  http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2015/03/21/sizewell-c-a-route-to-sustainable-transport-in-east-suffolk/

Foreign language teaching: Over the last weeks I have been on local radio and in the EADT, pressing for our Suffolk young people to be taught more languages for longer to a higher standard – so that we’re competing on a level playing field with the rest of the world. This followed on from my – and Woodbridge Town Councillor Patrick Gillard’s  – runaway success as ‘opener’ for the Ipswich Chinese New Year Celebrations  singing the famous Chinese love song 月亮代表我的心 ‘Yueliang Daibiao Wode Xin’ (the moon reflects my heart) http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/fears_over_lack_of_uptake_for_language_study_1_4003643 . Woodbridge’s own proximity to Huawei at Martlesham, and the Chinese-owned port at Felixstowe  underlines the need for Mandarin teaching, for example, if we want to make sure local youngsters get the best jobs – and not just hand them over to linguistically better qualified people. We owe them more than that!

In Woodbridge, Warwick Avenue and Haugh Lane roads have been resurfaced, as has Drybridge Hill. All at long last!

Local Bus News: When the 65b turned up at Hamblin Road last Friday we were looking at the first  Woodbridge Good Friday Service in FOUR years – and a lot of people wanting to use it too!  A Sunday and Bank Holiday Bus Service is an invaluable thing.  It took a lot of lobbying but it’s going strong. I would hope that we can continue to think that if we use it we won’t lose it, despite the change at the top of SCC. We will wait and see.

Two other pieces of good news for Woodbridge bus users:  I’ve talked to Suffolk Onboard and they have now agreed to replace those  balancing poles at the Hamblin Road bus shelters with proper seating so that people will be able to sit and wait for their buses at long last.

And (after I took them to look at the site),  SuffolkOnboard have also approved two new bus stops on the Ipswich Road –  above the Notcutts roundabout -so that people wanting to get to Framfield surgery and Clarkson Court can find it easier to use the bus. First bus and Ipswich buses have also agreed them, so they will go ahead.

My next surgery is on Saturday 18th April, 10 – 12 as ever.