Category Archives: Devolution

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

Devolution voted in by SCC (though not by me)

At the SCC Devolution debate last week , councillors broke party lines to speak and vote their mind.  I was one of the 20 county councillors who – after much thought -opposed  the offered Devolution deal (despite my personal support for the concept of Devolution). This was in line with my party’s stance: we approve of giving local authorities more control over spending, but this proposal leaves much  of the crucial decision-making with the government.

My concerns were: the clear democratic deficit  this devolution deal will offer – an overarching authority will have one member from every council; the thorny question of an elected Mayor (and all the extra bureaucracy that would go with that post); the relative smallness of the sums offered to Suffolk;  the fact that  the Government  will still  oversee everything it wishes to oversee, but just without the responsibility, thus making the county the ‘fall guy’ for its more unpopular decisions  – and possibly most of all – the government’s target for Norfolk and Suffolk to build an additional 240,000 houses in Suffolk and Norfolk by 2031.  This is the equivalent of creating in Suffolk 4 extra towns the size of Ipswich, or increasing every town and village by 35%. This magnitude of growth is not needed to satisfy local demand, but is intended for people moving out of London.

Suffolk badly needs housing, but not to this extent. We specifically need starter homes, disability-specific housing and accommodation for older people wanting to downsize – all for a population already living in Suffolk. (And whose needs are not catered for). Our towns, roads and commuter rail are  already congested. How will our county cope with growth of this magnitude? Why is it needed?

Such largescale  development would  only be viable if there were also appropriate local jobs on offer and a well designed transport infrastructure to match (unless the intention is to house Suffolk residents in new build and sell off the picturesque housing to second home owners).

Despite such reservations voiced by many, devolution was voted in by a resounding majority (40 for, 20 against, 3 abstentions, and a couple of hurried departures just before the vote…).

A public consultation including a MORI telephone poll and an online survey has opened and will remain open over the summer only. You can find it here .  As ever, I suggest you should respond if you want your views to be counted.

(Whilst of course, we wait to see if Devolution still has legs.  It was very much Cameron and Osborne’s baby. Will it survive a new leadership, especially a post-Brexit one where so much governmental time will have to be taken up negotiating the nation’s way out of the mess we got ourselves in to? )

What’s been happening in Suffolk: March & April

So, this month deals with the SFRS cuts consultation, community transport , the PCC elections,  and  devolution

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service cuts  The independent report into Suffolk’s proposed cuts having been published.  Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will make recommendations to May’s Cabinet.

The public consultation  were summarised as the following:

FIre consultation

The public focus groups were groups of people chosen at random by telephone number and given briefings as to the situation.  Their conclusions seem in stark contrast to the rest of the consultation. In March’s Full Council I put the local case for Woodbridge retained fire station and its need for the continuing support of Ipswich fire crews,. Interestingly, the public focus group looking specifically at the Ipswich proposals were divided in their opinions, and didn’t support the cuts.

The same link will give details about

Rural Transport At the same meeting  (March 18), in  addition to raising the my concerns about the new rural transport  franchises (details of my speech as LD spokesperson for Transport can be found here http://blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2016/03/18/lib-dems-support-community-transport/ )

I also asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Transport
Norfolk is conducting a review of its HGV routes because of high-profile tv coverage of HGVs taking inappropriate routes and causing damage. Suffolk County Council’s route hierarchy has not been reviewed in the round for 30 years. In light of Suffolk’s current and future expansion and development, and the continuing increase in the size of HGVs, will the Cabinet Member agree to conduct a similar review for Suffolk, with the purpose of ensuring that as many HGV movements as possible are made via main roads rather than using unsuitable routes through rural villages and small towns such as Woodbridge – which continue to struggle with such traffic movements    I got a rather inconclusive response.

Devolution for East Anglia  A devolution deal for East Anglia was announced by the Chancellor in midMarch 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 Suffolk person in the street interested in devolution, it is vital that we do so  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 such noticeable 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 have:

  • Responsibility for a multi-year, consolidated and devolved local transport budget
  • Responsibility for a new Key Route Network of local authority roads, managed and maintained by the Combined Authority
  • Powers over strategic planning and housing, including £175m ring-fenced funding to deliver an ambitious target of new homes; the responsibility to create a non-statutory spatial framework for the East and to develop with Government a Land Commission and to chair the East Joint Assets Board for economic assets

The East Anglia Authority, working with the Mayor, would have:

  • Control of a new additional £30 m a year funding over 30 years (£900m), to be invested in the East Anglia Single Investment Fund, to boost growth
  • Responsibility for chairing an area-based review of 16+ skills provision, the outcomes of which will be taken forward in line with the principles of the devolved arrangements, and 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.’ (I am concerned that the longterm unemployed and the disabled are seen in the same sentence – aren’t you? ) There is also a commitment to continue improvements to local health and social care services, including continuing to join up services and promote integration between NHS and local government

I don’t know about you, but  I am 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  on educational an health sites (not only the local debts such as the PFI debt on Elizabeth Garrett Anderson building, but also the mountainous ones on the Addenbrookes site). I have asked for further information on this.

PCC election  The election for Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner will  be on May 5. There will be a hustings  for all candidates in Ipswich at University Campus Suffolk, 6-8  on 21 April  http://www.stop-watch.org/events/details/suffolk-pcc-hustings-6pm-8pm.

All the candidates’ details can be found here 

What happened in Suffolk December 2015

Happy New Year!
Lets hope that 2016 is a pleasant and prosperous one

I must apologise for a break in blog entries  – my elderly mother became  ill and was hospitalised in early December  – and this had an impact on the time I was able to spend blogging.
Below is the report I gave to Woodbridge town council in early December, but updated in some particulars to the beginning of 2016

Political balance on SCC  Following the resignation of  former deputy leader Cllr Lisa Chambers from Suffolk County Council  at the end of the November, the ruling Conservatives no longer had an overall majority. (This was compounded by the sad death of former St Edmondsbury Mayor, Tim Marks, Councillor for Haverhill Cangle  on 5 January.)

The current County Council balance is Conservatives 36, Other parties 37 (Labour 15, UKIP 9, Liberal Democrat 7, Independent 4, Green 2) plus 2 vacancies .

Woodbridge Thoroughfare TRO Enforcement  After years of complaints and problems about parking, pedestrian safety,  and  damage to the fabric and character of the Thoroughfare, the trial full enforcement  (of restrictions that have been law since 1995) will be going ahead in the New Year. The aims are:

  •   To Improve things for retailers and shoppers by producing a pleasant and attractive environment, while at the same time supporting the Thoroughfare’s residents;
  • To ensure the Thoroughfare  is safer and pleasanter  for the thousands of pedestrians who delight to shop and visit each week, ( whether families with children, older people, disabled people or the town’s many tourists)
  • To  prevent unauthorised traffic using the Thoroughfare;
  • To limit  the damage being done to the fabric  by heavy vehicles
  • To help the police by reducing the number of vehicles parking illegally in the Thoroughfare;
  • To collect  hard evidence of the requirements of all users of the Thoroughfare

Outcome: The scheme is planned to run for three months. It will provide solid information on traffic flow and footfall  patterns for the first time.  This will allow Woodbridge  to find a permanent solution that everyone in Woodbridge can agree .

New Ipswich Road Bus Stop. After months of delay the new Ipswich road bus stops were finally been put in –  above the Notcutts roundabout -so that people wanting to get to Framfield surgery and Clarkson Court will find it easier to use  the bus services. These are additional to, and do not replace, other bus stops.

County Councillor’s Surgeries  My surgeries at Woodbridge Library) have been held by tradition from  10-12 on the 3rd Saturday of every month.December’s will be the last at this time.

Devolution Cambridgeshire has now been included to the Norfolk/Suffolk bid- making an overarching East Anglia partnership

From January my surgeries will move to the new time of 9-11 am, same place. 

The first surgery dates for 2016 will be 16 January,  20 February and 19 March.

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.