A reminder: the first port of call for a Suffolk highways problem – that’s anything to do with roads, pavements etc – is now via the Suffolk County Council Highways Reporting Tool https://highwaysreporting.suffolk.gov.uk/ . Here you can describe and plot your problem on a map (including uploading a photo if you have one) and wait for the response, including an estimation of the time it will take to fix this – or if indeed SCC intends to fix it. Everything from potholes, to broken pavements overgrown footways can – and should – be reported. (And please get back to me personally, if the system is not working.)
When it comes to signs however, I am given to understand that while signs advertising speed limits will be kept clear Suffolk Highways will not (for example) cut greenery from in front of eg informational signs. “We may be heading for an era where we dont have such signs,” I was told on Friday. Because of the increase in technology, or because of lack of funds? I leave you to judge
Suffolk County Council’s budget forecast paints worrying picture A Cabinet paper last week revealed that Suffolk County Council is forecasting an overspend of £10.2m on their 2017/18 revenue budget. The majority of this overspend is within Adult & Community Services (£2.3m) and Children’s Services (£6.4m). The narrative that ‘savings’ (eg ‘cuts’) can continue is increasingly unsustainable. “Leaner and fitter” has morphed to anorexia.
Opposition councillors are growing increasingly concerned: latest budget forecasts make it clear that, unless major changes occur, the Council’s finances are not sustainable in the long-term with the most vulnerable members of our county the most likely to suffer the consequences.
Suffolk County Council has had to make significant savings in response to continuing cuts in funding from central government. Demand for services, however, has continued to grow. This is no surprise to anyone. However, while there is no denying the issue of chronic underfunding from central government, Suffolk County Council has plumed itself on capping council tax for years . (Leader Colin Noble memorably maintained: “the vast majority of those on fixed pensions do not look to council services to help them in their old age. So he majority of old people are not reliant on libraries, buses, roads, care services, public health? News to me, and to them. And to Cllr Noble, clearly).
The administration called instead for for Suffolk to innovate in income generation.
Disappointingly this income has failed to materialise.
This is tragic. Proper investment in Suffolk’s economy, combined with regular tiny increases in council tax over the years, could have done much to avert the current worrying situation.
Home to School Transport – workshops announced In September, our LDGI Group successfully “called-in” the Cabinet’s decision to go to consultation on changes to the Home to School Transport policy, questioning the nature of the pre-consultation period, and arguing that more research needed to be done.
The Scrutiny Committee agreed with us, and voted to refer the decision back to Cabinet for further consideration. It has not yet been announced when Cabinet will reconsider the proposals.
Suffolk County Council has announced that two workshops will be taking place in November, to further discuss the challenge and help develop proposals for Cabinet to consider. However, invitations will only be sent to 80 randomly selected representatives. If you have not been invited, and feel that you should be a part of these workshops, you can contact either myself or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Motion to improve early years funding rejected by Council At the meeting of Council on Thursday 19th October, our LDGI group supported a Labour motion which called on the Council to (1) lobby central government for more funding in Suffolk and (2) pass the full amount of funding received on to providers. Unfortunately, the Conservative majority refused to back the motion.
Since September 2017, working families are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare, whilst all families are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare. Suffolk is one of only 37 local authorities which this year had a reduction in early years funding, receiving a total of £31 987 186. This equates to £4.41 per hour. However, childcare providers receive a base rate of only £3.87 per hour, and many are struggling to run their businesses on this low rate.
The motion highlighted the difficulty faced by childcare providers across the county, and questioned why the Council did not pass through a higher rate of funding to providers.
Councillor Gordon Jones (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills) stated that the Council only retains £2.1m, which is used to meet their statutory duties. He has yet to provide a full breakdown on how this money is spent
Bus timetable changes and issues due to Woods Lane Closure The closure seems to be proving as problematic as forecast. First are using shuttle buses to extend the 800 Park and Ride journeys beyond Woodbridge due to delays on account of the Woods Lane works. I have already had one complaint that these are not integrated in ticketing terms with the P&R services.
It also seems that the notices on the suspended bus stops on Bredfield Road is leading a number of older residents to assume that bus services are completely suspended therefore entrapping them in this part of Woodbridge.
The temporary shuttle bus stops are not clearly signed and the shuttle bus does not adequately cover for the suspended bus stops.
Social Worker of the Year: former Kyson pupil nominated second year running The Coastal and North East Ipswich Child in Care social work team is a finalist in the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2017 as a result of their outstanding work with children and their families.
Members of the team have previously been recognised for their outstanding achievements, including (I am very proud to say) former Kyson pupil Emily Tiplady-Ead whose immense professionalism and skills made herlast year’s national ‘Children’s Social Worker of the Year ’. Hearty congratulations, Emily!
Woodbridge Thoroughfare Consultation This received over 600 replies. A presentation will be mounted in the Library shortly to unveil the overwhelmingly popular result and to signpost the next stage
Sent to: Therese Coffey MP, Suffolk Coastal District Council Planning Chair and Officer, Suffolk County Council Member for Highways, Woodbridge Town Council, Choose Woodbridge, EADT
I’m writing to express my surprise and alarm at the series of unfortunate events relating to the Bloor Homes development at the western (A12) end of Woods Lane, Melton. This has led to Bloor’s requirement to close a section of Woods Lane for a prolongued period of time. I would also like to offer a solution.
The (unacceptable) proposal is to reroute the heavy traffic that travels along Woods Lane between the A12 and Wilford – north via Melton and south via Woodbridge for the duration of the works. These are estimated to be a matter of months.
Woodbridge-Melton, as well as being a bustling retail centre, houses eight infant/primary/secondary schools with a large catchment area, plus a significant number of nursing and sheltered homes whose care staff cannot afford to live locally and have to commute. The local firestation is staffed by retained firefighters who need immediate access. My list goes on….
Although this diversion will impact heavily on Woodbridge residents, this development is not within my division. I was therefore not made aware of the proposed lengthy road closures with their inevitable impact on the local economy and local residents until a couple of weeks ago – the same time as it was made public.
It is almost as if this unacceptable decision to divert was to be a fait accompli.
I challenge this.
We seem to be living in a world without joined-up thinking and where the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. Suffolk Coastal District Council is responsible for planning. The district council has been fully aware of the Bloor development for a long time. It cannot be news to a single person in the planning department that drainage etc will need to be put in place for a development of that size – or that, located as it is – in a greenfield site on the other side of a busy road from a busy town, that the chances are that there will be problems in linking up utilities.
The location makes it clear that there would inevitably be major issues – yet the district council now seems unduly surprised when these issues arise and obscurely feels that somehow the County Council Highways department (who have a statutory responsibility to facilitate this development) should be held responsible.
We need to ask the SCDC planning Committee, did the planning department have a different strategy for getting the Bloor drains put in? And what was it?
Bloor is a private company. Its primary aim is to make money for its shareholders. Why has Suffolk Coastal’s District Council planning department not looked at the propriety of Bloor disadvantaging our entire community in its endeavour to make the greatest possible private profit? It is not our problem, that of the residents of Woodbridge and Melton. It is Bloor’s. The company should shoulder the lion’s share of the solution
Surely it should have been possible – should still be possible – for SCDC to require Bloor to make a temporary roadway through their development land to take the Woods Lane traffic, while utilities are placed under Woods Lane?
An additional point. Woodbridge has recently agreed a 20mph zone and additional calming for the entire town. One of the principle rationales was the impact of heavy traffic on our medieval town and to discourage rat-running on the B1438 which separates the town from the riverside. This diversion only underlines why the scheme is needed. The scheme however needs funding. I would therefore urge SCDC and SCC Highways to work together, using development money earnarked for community benefit, to benefit that community most harmed by these works – ie Woodbridge itself
County Councillor for Woodbridge
Update: I have heard it argued over the last weeks that because the Secretary of State overturned SCDC’s decision regarding the Bloor development, SCDC can somehow wash their hands of this development. We can only succeed in persuading everyone of the value of my argument if all local bodies join forces
Come to Woodbridge Library, 25th September to 1 October 2017, and help decide the best way forward for Woodbridge’s Thoroughfare.
The Thoroughfare – Woodbridge’s vibrant retail heart – has had increasing problems with traffic and parking in recent years. Residents, visitors, shoppers and traders have all expressed concern
Our Problem: is that both access toand parking in Woodbridge Thoroughfare is governed by a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). It’s complicated, years out of date, and no longer fit for purpose. The traffic signs we can put up are legally prescribed by the TRO. This means they are very complicated too.
The TRO no longer reflects the needs and usage of people in the Thoroughfare.
The Solution: We need to simplify the Thoroughfare TRO and make sure it reflects the current needs of people in Woodbridge. We can then have simpler signs.
The Thoroughfare Working Group has worked hard for ten months looking at the needs and requirements of traders, residents, visitors and shoppers. We have come up with three options:
Now we want you to fill in a questionnaire to tell us which option you think will work best for everyone who uses the Woodbridge Thoroughfare. (Remember, at the moment, we are interested in which option you prefer. We will get to enforcement later.)
So, this is a lot of work. Why not just leave things as they are? This is not an option:
Many people say, “All we need’s a Traffic Warden”. Traffic wardens were abolished THIRTEEN YEARS ago under the Traffic Management Act 2004, which passed the responsibility for enforcing on-street violations to the police.
Off-street parking in Woodbridge carparks is enforced by parking attendants employed by SCDC. Many people confuse these with traffic wardens, but SCDC parking attendants could only tackle on-street violations if and when our District Council decriminalises parking and takes responsibility for it
Suffolk Coastal will finally be taking over responsibility for on-street parking in 2019
However, if Woodbridge does not make changes to the current Thoroughfare TRO, the current level of non-enforcement will not continue. Unless we decide changes, the current TRO lines etc will just be repainted and all the current regulations will be enforced as they currently stand by SCDC when it takes over from the police.
SCDC will not be able to cherry-pick the dead or unnecessary regulations. As the TRO is significantly out of date this could cause major problems.
There are other considerations that need to be looked at in any decision-making:
ACCESS: Research by the TWG has discovered that a significant number of residential homes and retail properties only have accessfrom the Thoroughfare.
CHANGING DELIVERY/RETAIL PATTERNS: when the current TRO was designed, there were no Tesco/Ocado/Amazon deliveries. Retailers would receive weekly deliveries from large lorries. When it cameinto force, Woodbridge had a Wednesday half-day. Now many traders open 7 days a week,
DISABLED ACCESS: a summer 2017 survey by the Suffolk Coastal Disability Forum disclosed that the access lost to disabled people by on-street parking in the Thoroughfare outweighed the access gained by disabled on-street parking
WIDTH of PARKING BAYS: one marked bay in the Thoroughfare (the ex-Sant-Studio bay ) is too narrow for modern vehicles
INCREASE IN SIZE of VEHICLES: modern cars are very much wider than cars were two or three decades ago. This means that parking has greater impact on pedestrians and other traffic
Join the Community Consultation to make Woodbridge Thoroughfare better!
Interested in helping decide how best to improve the Thoroughfare? Come to Woodbridge Library, 25th September to 1 October, and help define the best way forward.
We all know that the Thoroughfare – Woodbridge’s vibrant retail heart – has had increasing problems with traffic and parking in recent years. Residents, visitors, shoppers and traders have all expressed concern.
We also know why.
The underlying problem is that both access and parking is governed by a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) that’s decades out of date and no longer fit for purpose. It no longer reflects the needs and usage of people in the Thoroughfare.
So that’s the problem. But how to solve it? Everyone has different needs, concerns and priorities. As a result, the issue has been going round in circles for years. To break this deadlock I brought together a group that represented all major players – clearly the only way to find a workable solution to these problems was by working together. We don’t want to disadvantage anybody.
And after ten months discussion, research and evidence-taking, we have managed to come up with three workable options.
All the ideas are based around a simple, easy-to-understand sign which is what the current TRO doesn’t allow for – but there are three different versions. We’ll be showing these options, explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each – and asking for you to help us decide.”
The Woodbridge Thoroughfare Working group is cross-party, and involves Woodbridge councillors at county, district and town level, as well as local police, traders, residents and representatives from Suffolk County Council’s Highway team.
If you are not able to attend at the library you will be able to see and comment on the consultation documents online , in this blog from 25 September.
Woodbridge Thoroughfare Community Consultation: Woodbridge Library, 25th September to 1 October 2017 (and online at this blog)