Category Archives: Council reports

Reports I make on a monthly basis to Woodbridge Town Council

April’s report to Woodbridge Town Council

Railways – oh,  and Management Consultants

The second meeting of the County Council Cabinet in March had a large agenda.  Two issues are likely to be of particular interest to you:

Firstly, the Council’s response to the Greater Anglia rail franchise consultation – which rested on the findings of the Rail Policy Group (of which  I am a member) saw much support from across the political spectrum to improve the quality and quantity of train services across the region. Important areas that were stressed included:

  • The need for an hourly service to Peterborough;
  • the hourly service to Lowestoft (this should be up and running as far as Saxmundham by December); this further depends on the building of the Beccles loop;
  • adjusting the timings of interconnecting trains to correspond better;
  • greater parity of  equivalent fares across the franchise area – currently the cheapest day return fare to London from Ipswich is twice what it is from Cambridge to London
  • more advance notice of replacement bus services and ensuring they carry luggage and bikes  that were carried on the train
  • more provision for bikes on trains
  • Suggestion for better links with bus services

The Conservative-run Suffolk County Council Cabinet wanted to request “the exemption to Suffolk County Council’s standing orders for the procurement of organisational development resources to reshape the organisation” – in other words pay  up to £122,000 to three companies (DNA, Scintillate and Fields of Learning) in order for them to provide unspecified ‘organisational development services’ without public tender (!). However, although this  extraordinary decision – particularly extraordinary considering we are supposed to be scrutinising every expenditure and accounting for every penny –  was passed by the Cabinet, it was then  ‘called in’ by Lib Dem leaders Kathy Pollard and David Wood. This means that the decision has now to be considered by full council in May before it can be passed. Let us hope Ms Hill will provide fuller details of what she is planning.

If you would like to see a copy of the papers from cabinet, they are located here: http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi

Energy Monitors on Loan from Suffolk Libraries

Suffolk County Council has started to loan energy monitors from Libraries across the County.  The monitors allow you to check the electricity usage in your own home, helping to save on electricity bills in the future.For more information, on how to borrow one, or reserve one, the Suffolk County Council website will provide the details.

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/LeisureAndCulture/Libraries/LibraryNews/EnergyMonitors.htm

Quality of Life transport for Woodbridge schemes

As you know, I have around £10,000 to spend on projects in my district that will develop the transport infrastructure (in addition to about £8,000 earmarked from last year for a crossing by the Seal which is still in development). These need to fit into the following categories:

  • Speed limits and speed reduction schemes/anxiety relief schemes
  • Cycling schemes
  • Pedestrian schemes
  • Public transport schemes
  • Rights of way schemes
  • Traffic management schemes

I updated councillors with schemes that could be considered a couple of weeks back. After further feedback from councillors, officers and the police the suggestions have been streamlined down to the following:

Ipswich Road – speeding: The SNT have conducted speed checks in the area. Speeding tickets have been issued but the area of most concern is between the Seal and John |Grose (particularly with the exit of the new development being quite tucked away). A LED warning sign may be of benefit as a warning to drivers.  If it proved to be a suitable site, the cost of a sign would be about £5000.

Thoroughfare restrictions. the signs detailing the restrictions in the Thoroughfare are both confusing and sited in inappropriate positions at the present time. The police suggest a sign be erected on the built pavement area in front of the red lion giving this information (perhaps constructed so as to incorporate a bicycle rack or a planter etc.) this would assist greatly with reducing traffic entering the thoroughfare during the restricted times and also improve the quality of the shopping experience in woodbridge

Sandy Lane traffic calming

I am investigating this with a couple of Martlesham parish councillors as the boundaries put the lane between Woodbridge and Martlesham at different points depending on which council is involved.

Hasketon Rd junction with Ransom Rd (safety of pedestrians particularly thoses going to / from FHS). I have been pursuing this for a long time now despite some obstruction from officers, via my Locality budget. The SNT confirm they have had a number of local residents complaining of parents / carers parking on the verges etc and causing chaos in this area. Yellow lines are planned for the junction but it will probably move the problem further along. We need  some way of discouraging people from parking on the nearby grass verges whether by simple bollards as outside St Marys school (a short distance away) or by some form of planting. This would greatly improve both the visual looks of the area and the safety of those on foot/cycle.

Woodbridge – signing According to officers, the signs on the A12 were amended a little while ago to say ‘Woodbridge town centre only’ and the road marking were changed to dedicate one lane purely for access to Woodbridge and a lane for all other traffic. They really don’t think we can improve on this. However at the new roundabout on the B1438, I notice the big sign signposts read Woodbridge, Melton and Ufford.

Other projects included improving the cycle lane between Wyvedale and Farlingaye  school at the currently dangerous section past the garage. SCC officer David Kemp is  looking at possible ideas  – and if we’re lucky we might get them without using the QOL money.  The renewal of road markings on the A12 as suggested by Cllr Geen is apparently a maintenance function and therefore outside the remit of QoL funding. However Angela Rapley has passed the concern on to item onto the Area office that deals with maintenance.

Potholes

Although the government have given Suffolk County council an extra £1.9million for urgent surface repairs, this will not go very far with all the potholes that have opened up after last winter.  I have been asked by the Roads and Transport scrutiny committee to research the impact on road surfaces of bikes as opposed to cars to see whether savings could be made in road maintenance  by encouraging modal shifts to sustainable travel. Any assistance from anyone with specific expertise in this field would be gratefully received.

Woodbridge Town Council Report March 2010

March Cabinet

Due to the timing of Easter, there are two Suffolk County Council  cabinet meetings in March, one on the 2nd of March, and the other, later in the month on the 30th.

The most interesting item in the first meeting  was the County Council’s endorsement of the Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan, drafted between Suffolk Coastal District Council, and Waveney and  stating the short, medium and long term plans in place for the coast.  Particular concerns are the areas of Covehithe and Dunwich which would be left undefended, as well as the roads which could be damaged by rising sea levels. At an interview for the BBC I raised the issue of suitable longterm defences for the various Sizewell reactors – both current and decomissioned

The most important item for us locally at the second meeting on the 30th of March will be the next Greater Anglia Rail franchise consultation. I’m a member of the Rail Policy Group and will be attending the  meeting. If there are any items on this agenda which you are particularly interested in, please let me know.  I will also inform you of any decision that the cabinet makes with those items you wish to know more about.

Quality of Life funding for Transport Improvements

The County Council is going to continue its quality of life transport funding for 2010/11, although with a 20% cut. I have £10,000, I believe to spend on projects in Woodbridge that will develop the transport infrastructure. These need to fit into the following categories:

  • Speed limits and speed reduction schemes/anxiety relief schemes
  • Cycling schemes
  • Pedestrian schemes
  • Public transport schemes
  • Rights of way schemes
  • Traffic management schemes

This is a great chance for us as a non-priority town to access funding for these projects – so please contact me with any ideas you may have for ones that are suitable.

Woodbridge Library opening

I had a look round the new Woodbridge library in the former New Street school yesterday in advance of its formal opening . I was in company with Y1 and Y6 pupils from the new Woodbridge Primary.  Both the children and I were very impressed – the building is  very beautiful and has been designed for purpose in a way that the old building was not  -for a start, it is wholly accessible for the disabled and there are now twice the amount of books available.

East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership stakeholder meeting

There will be the first East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership stakeholder meeting to discuss discuss proposals in the draft Stations Investment Plan on how local stations can be improved.  They are looking for  views, involvement and commitment to making the East Suffolk line and Felixstowe branch a success with well kept stations, increased patronage and community involvement.

The meeting will be held on 16th March 2010 in the Elisabeth Room, Endeavour House, Russell Road, Ipswich starting at 18:45 until 20:30.  . The station improvement plan can be viewed on website; http://www.suffolkonboard.com/rail/east_suffolk_line_stations_investment_plan

I will be attending, and hope to have the company of at least one member of Woodbridge Town Council to ensure that Woodbridge’s interests are properly represented!.

Full Council 25th of March

The County Council will have its next meeting on the 25th of March.  As yet there is no indication of what will be on the agenda for this meeting.

However, it does present you with an opportunity to ask questions of the administration, as there is now a twenty minute period at the beginning of each Full Council meeting for the public to quiz the administration.  You do not have to attend for your question to be answered, but if you don’t attend there is not an opportunity to ask a supplementary question.

The deadline to submit questions for full council is 12 noon on Friday the 19th of March.

For more information about public questions please head to http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/CommitteesAgendasReportsandMinutes/PublicQuestionTimeatCountyCouncilMeetings.htm

Woodbridge bus services

Very many thanks to the  Woodbridge Town Councillors who joined with me and members of the Seckford Almshouses to complain about poor bus services. You may not be surprised to hear that these complaints have been met with the usual resounding silence from the authorities approached –  that is, the bus company and the  county council officers – and indeed out sitting MP John Gummer. I will keep you informed of future progress

Woodbridge Town Council report: February 2010

Boundary Committee update

I can almost not bear to continue  more or less repeating the same old mantra. The deadline for responses to the Secretary of State’s proposals has passed. Now, as we know, the Secretary of state has a number of options to choose from including:

  1. Select a new structure of local government in Suffolk, consisting of a whole Suffolk Unitary, their preferred option for a new structure.
  2. Select an alternative new structure of local government for Suffolk, consisting of a North Haven Unitary comprising of Ipswich and Felixstowe, and a Rural Suffolk unitary.
  3. Refer back to the original proposal, of a sole Ipswich Unitary.
  4. Take no action.
Don't we live in a lovely town! You can see all of Woodbridge from Sutton Hoo

So…

We now carry on waiting to hear what the Secretary of State will decide; however, there is still no set date for announcement . There is recess from tomorrow to 22 February, so unless they’re announcing it now, it is not likely to be until late February or early March, which could make elections this year extremely difficult.

Parking in Woodbridge I have just been contacted today by the  Sub Team Leader, Integrated Transport (East) about Suffolk Coastal’s proposal to introduce Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday charges for parking at the Avenue, Woodbridge. She is minded to reject this proposal because “This car park is currently well used during these above times as it is adjacent to the recreation area, tennis courts, riverside recreation area. You will be aware that the recreation ground is widely used for football matches on Saturdays and Sundays, as such even with the car park free at these times, overflow vehicles park on nearby adjacent roads, restricting the parking available for residents. Introducing charges will exacerbate the problem as drivers will seek free parking first on the residential roads. This will again cause problems for the residents of these roads and will increase the number of roads and consequently residents affected.” If Woodbridge Town Council have opposing reasons and see merit in introducing charges, perhaps they could contact Ms Rapley urgently. The Woodbridge proposed TROs (parking) are now being written up before being put before bothe Woodbridge Town Council and the public for final consultation. Rail Services The railway between Ipswich and Lowestoft via Saxmundham is known as the East Suffolk line. Once a double track main line, it was reduced to two sections of single track in the early 1980’s, which is why the train service is generally of a two hourly interval. However in recent years there has been a renaissance on the route with passenger numbers increasing by around 16% each year An hourly interval service will operate between Ipswich and Saxmundham from December 2010 and when a passing loop is built at Beccles, there will be an hourly interval service between Ipswich and Lowestoft from December 2012. The East Suffolk Line Development Group (ESLDG) has been formed consisting of officers from Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk Coastal District Council, Waveney District Council, Network Rail, National Express East Anglia (NXEA) and members of the East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership. The ESDLG has published the Draft East Suffolk Line Stations Investment Plan. The document describes the method used to audit facilities at each station plus the Felixstowe branch line and contains opportunities to improve facilities at each of these stations. The East Suffolk Line Stations Investment Plan can be viewed by using the following link: http://www.suffolkonboard.com/rail/east_suffolk_line_stations_investment_plan. There is also a comments form should you wish to respond to this consultation. The closing date for responses is 29th March 2010. Comments received from this consultation will be taken into consideration when an Action Plan for investment on the East Suffolk Line stations is produced later in 2010.

Budget The County Council announced that the Council Tax would be increased by 2.4% over the next year. Areas that are being prioritised for extra spending include:

  • £1.5m as a one-off payment for roads maintenance to help deal with the effects of the particularly harsh winter
  • £1.7m to continue the investment in social workers to help support vulnerable children and their families
  • £1.6m to pay for the additional numbers and more complex placements of young people coming into the care system
  • £4m to help care for older people who most need specialist support
  • £1.6m to pay for extra landfill tax

There are still areas within the budget that are overspent, including Children and Young Persons by £2m, mainly due to the increasing cost for Home to School Transport and for Adult and Community Services by £1.7m due to the increasing demographic. In addition to this within the capital budget, SOR will be costing over £100m The budget will be approved at a special meeting on the 18th February. The particularly worrying bit from my point of view.is that the budget appears to suggest a gradual transfer of subsidised rural bus services from regular services to demand-responsive, booked-in-advance services without adequate consultation. Despite huge budgetary pressure, I notice a very large sum (£1,269,000) is allocated in the Environment and Transport Capital Programme 2010-11 for the “Demand Responsive Transport project”). I questioned this at the pre-budget Council meeting and was told “The £1.269M in the budget proposals will introduce a new system for booking, planning and managing demand responsive transport, with benefits to users from increased “opening times” to take bookings, and bookings able to be made closer to the time of travel.” All rural parish councils north and west of Woodbridge as far north as Aldringham and Sternfield are being surveyed. Unfortunately replacing scheduled bus services here will impact severely on the services – all of which pass through Woodbridge. I’m thinking here of the 62a and b, the 64 and the 65 services. These are represent almost all the buses that serve Woodbridge, which could potentially become the end of the line, rather than a stop on the way to multiple destinations. This would inevitably lead to a reduction for our residents.. I’m calling on Woodbridge Town Councillors and relevant district councillors of all political parties to join with me to look at this problem urgently.