Category Archives: Fire services

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: 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’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 2014-2015

My anuual report: highlighting some of the more important issues in Suffolk over the last year

SCC Leadership  At the end of 2014-5 the Conservative administration  of SCC hold the balance of power by a single vote. The current party composition is Conservative 38; Green 2; Independent 4; Labour 15; Liberal Democrat 7; UKIP 9.

At the beginning of April the leader of the Suffolk County Conservative party Mark Bee stood down and was replaced in an internal party election by Colin Noble,  who had attempted to unseat him last year. This was, of course, far from an internal party matter, as it brought wide-ranging changes to the Cabinet (including the loss of highly intelligent -and numerate- Jenny Antill; sane and knowledgeable Alan Murray, and the bike- and bus- friendly Graham Newman). Cllr Noble was elected SCC Leader at the SCC Annual  Meeting on May 21. A full slate of Tories voted for him,  a rainbow coalition of the opposition LibDem, Labour, Independent, Green and UKIP – voted against. This  meant Cllr Noble was elected in, 37:31. No abstentions.

(For those  new to Suffolk politics, Cllr Noble is former cheerleader of the ill-fated New Strategic Direction (which was going for a ‘virtual’ council with all its services divested), and the equally ill-fated Suffolk Circle.)

2015-16 budget Conservative budget proposals included savings of £38.2 m, leading to a budget requirement of £454,981,413.  Reserves were forecast as reaching £165million by the end of March. Although this was opposed by opposition parties, who recommended dipping into the reserves to fund such things as transport to statutory education for the poorest over-16s, the administration’s budget was voted in, 37-31.

Home to school transport  Central government has made changes  to the age of statutory education, making it now  compulsory to stay in education or training until one is 17 – and shortly 18. This is causing concern in Suffolk and having a particular impact on poorer students who have to travel to college, as Suffolk’s free home to school transport policy  (as indeed the  national home to school transport  policy) only covers students up to 16 years old.

Over 16s can avail themselves of a discretionary – paid – option but it costs £540 a year. The SCC Administration say that the Endeavour card (offering 1/3 off available journeys  by some operators) will cover the problem, and that there are Bursaries to help the needy.  This is not proving to be an adequate response. While the government has made it mandatory for young people to remain in education or training until 17 it is  a continuing concern that we have no funding mechanism in place to support the poorest young people of the county for this last year of what is now statutory education.

20mph and Other Speed limits The Transport  Policy Development Panel -of which I have been a founder member – has established clear guidelines for 20mph and Other Speed Limit Criteria policies  for Suffolk. Both of these were approved by Cabinet during past year.  The new policies aim to ensure that  appropriate speed  limits are applied fairly, and transparently across the county while reflecting  local concerns– and enabling local County Councillors to make representations on behalf of the communities they represent. Woodbridge is currently in the process of applying for a 20mph limit to calm local traffic.

Highways Maintenance Whilst there have been some successes –  the resurfacing of Ipswich Road, Drybridge Hill, Warwick Avenue and Haugh Lane are notable examples – the divested  highways maintenance  under KMG has remained slow and inadequate  – and -most particularly the minor works – increasingly expensive. There has been a backlog of County-Councillor-commissioned works that has only recently been tackled. This has been a universal problem and we have made strong representations.  Another mild winter means that the gritting services have yet to be tested.

Sunday Bus Services  From July last year, Woodbridge resumed a Sunday/Bank Holiday bus service, sponsored by SCC, allowing car-free travel between Woodbridge and Ipswich, including, importantly, the hospital.  This was on a use-it-or-lose-it basis – three services a day till Christmas. It has now increased to 5 services a day and the route extended to Melton.

Other Bus Improvements I have been able to arrange the  replacement of the ‘balancing poles’ at the Hamblin Road bus shelters with proper seating so that people are now able to sit and wait for their buses at long last. I have also arranged with Suffolk Onboard an the bus companies for two new bus stops on the Ipswich Road –  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.

Care UK    Serious concern was raised last autumn at the way Care Uk was running  Suffolk care homes. The firm took over SCC’s 16 care homes in 2012 and is building 10 replacements. A CQC inspection found Mildenhall Lodge below standard in four of five categories while a safeguarding inspection raised concerns about another home, Asterbury Place. SCC Health Scrutiny looked at current arrangements for ensuring the quality of care in residential homes in Suffolk in October concluded that it was not fully satisfied that lessons had been learned from the findings of the recent CQC inspection of Mildenhall Lodge. Further, that the Committee was not yet satisfied that all the appropriate steps had been taken to improve the quality of care at the Suffolk homes run by Care UK. As I write new admissions to Mildenhall lodge remain suspended, nearly a year after the original concerns were raised.

Education Suffolk’s ten year slump in the education league tables seems finally to have been halted an to be turning around, but a recent Ofsted report suggests SCC has been “too slow” in reacting to areas of concern raised in last year’s hightly critical inspection – although it did say that “decisive improvements” had been made in areas of weakness identified in last year’s report.

Much of the  strategy has been implemented too recently to impact substantially on pupils’ outcomes sd yet. Pupils’ attainment in Suffolk remains below average, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. As a result, 25,000 Suffolk children do not attend a ‘good’ primary or secondary school.

Customer Service Direct – CSD brought back in-house  On 1 June SCC moved Customer Service Direct – back in-house.  CSD,  in which BT had a majority stake alongside the county and Mid Suffolk councils, handled SCC’s  financial administration, IT, and personnel functions. The councils’ call centres  were also operated by CSD .The cost of the contract was initially £301 million, but this increased to £427 million over 10 years as more functions were added to the service.

Woodbridge Fire and Police station merger  After consultation Woodbridge police station was mergedwith the existing fire station , with the aim of allowing the services to work much more closely together and for the services  to become even more cost effective. On 19th I welcomed councillors, police and fire officers to the station for an opening by the PCC and  member for Public Protection.

County Councillor’s Surgeries  I held 11 surgeries in the past year – on the 3rd Saturday of every month except August; 10-12 at Woodbridge Library. They have been popular and well-attended.