Category Archives: Transport

Transport in Woodbridge – of all sorts

Whats happening in SCC – March

This last month at the county council   Cabinet decide to ‘remodel’ Adult and Community services – and seem once again to be relying on that good old standby – the volunteer – to sort out the inevitable gap in provision. Truly extraordinary that a mindset  that blandly declares that  ‘ you have to pay to get the best,’  and  ‘there is no such thing as society’ is also the one that is so keen to rely on others’ free labour and ‘the community’  for the really important things in life (like caring for the elderly and running public libraries).
This month too SCC started looking at the  proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation, which is set be run by the Museum of East Anglian Life  for the compelling reason that ‘they were the only organisation to tender for it’. Thank goodness it was a museum, eh? 

Remodelling of Adult and Community Services    At their last meeting,  SCC’s Cabinet decided to remodel Adult and Community Services in Suffolk.  They propose  that ‘the community’ will increase its dealings with  ’smaller’ care-related issues, while the County picks up cases needing ‘ more permanent care solutions’.  The proposals will now go out to consultation. There is as yet  little information as to how this  shakeup will affect communities, carers and those in care.

Apparently the SCC is running a trial in Felixstowe from 1st of April. 

Points of concern:

  • In the risk implications it states that “ACS has to deliver budget savings of £24m over 2012/13 and 2013/14, of  which £3.7m has to be delivered by 13/14 by reducing demand” Is this actually achievable?  The new plan is to to be fully rolled out across the County over the course of this year – yet SCC have only just started to consult. Is this possible?
  • An impact assessment  has already been undertaken –  yet it is too early to assess the impact of the model.
  • Is this another case where the administration intends to rely on volunteers to solve all the problems of  ‘smaller’ care-related issues? SCC seems to forget that the bulk of care is already undertaken by voluntary carers – the family carers (such as myself) who underpin the whole of social care by working upaid for 168 hours a week out of love. Working 24/7 as it is,  SCC needs to recognise that will not be possible to get them to work any more.

Consultation on the proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation. Many of the responses of the consultation concerning  the new heritage organisation were from members of the public,  however, a number of organisations also took the opportunity to respond. Many of  these had a number of concerns.

In particular, English Heritage stated that the proposals are not developed enough to enable a proper response, plus they raised many questions about how it might operate. They add  ‘It is worth noting that other authorities in the East of England have considered outsourcing archaeological services into a variety of trusts, and have not done so after further due diligence’.

Suffolk Institute of Archaeology provided a four page letter summarising their main points of concern about the proposal (finishing, rather glumly, by saying that ‘SCC is almost certainly going to proceed with the creation of the Suffolk Heritage Trust, so that, whatever individual views might be, outright opposition is likely to be futile and counter-productive’).  Their main concerns were:

  • SCC has not yet explored all the available options
  • In view of the number of serious questions that had been raised, the Suffolk Institute had serious doubts that a comprehensive and convincing full business case could be put together in time for approval in Spring 2012.  The process should not be rushed or avoidable mistakes will certainly be made.
  • SCC should not proceed with the Trust proposal unless it is prepared to ensure that the new organisation has adequate funding.

Suffolk Local History Council were very concerned about the viability of these proposals – ‘Suffolk is almost alone in seeking to cope with Government cuts by divesting itself of vital services (an approach rejected by Norfolk County Council and others)”.  

It is also far from clear as to what will happen if the  heritage lottery grant which SCC seems to be relying on doesn’t materialise. The people of Suffolk have not been given a plan B.

New CareAware Service in Suffolk Suffolk County Council have recently launched CareAware, a service which looks to help those people seeking financial information about how to fund long term care.  This service is not run by Suffolk County Council but a national not-for-profit organisation which offers free and impartial information and advice about later life planning and how to pay for longer term care.

 CareAware can be contacted on 08009540091 or emailed at suffolk@careaware.co.uk

One month left to sign up for better broadband   There is only one month left for both residents and businesses to show their need for better broadband across the County before the deadline passes. The Council aims to get 10,000 residents or businesses to sign up, and you can sign up by heading to http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/broadband 

Mobility vehicles  As there is some confusion in Woodbridge and other local areas as to what rules govern mobility vehicles, where they are allowed and under what (if any restrictions) I have covered the subject very thoroughly on my blog -link here 

Just 42 I’m sure everyone in Woodbridge will be as pleased as I was to discover that our superb local  youth group was shortlisted for the High Sheriff’s Community Group of the Year award, and went on to receive a High Sheriff’s charity  grant at a ceremony in Bury St Edmunds cathedral last week. It is good so see their good work being recognised!

County Councillor surgery  My monthly surgery will take place on  Saturday 17th March, 10-12pm at Woodbridge Library

Street lighting: Just to remind everyone, the dimming/switching off of night lighting in Woodbridge will take place in the week beginning 26th March. Further finetuning can be then done on a light by light basis, so do please contact with any difficulties and report problem areas – if there are any!

Bus passes: why are we waiting?

I  – and my  colleagues – are  increasingly concerned about SCC’s failure to keep to their promise to the elderly and disabled of Suffolk and revisit their decision about time restrictions on concessionary bus passes.

It’s eight full months (July 2011) since Suffolk county councillors unanimously passed the motion proposed by me, as Lib Dem Transport spokesman,  and pledged to look again at concessionary bus passes.  This was because SCC’s Tory leadership had decided to provide these  travel passes at little more than the ‘statutory UK minimum’  –further details here. (The ‘statutory UK minimum’ argument, by the way,  is a good excuse but a bad decision because problems of transport are notoriously more difficult and disabling for those  of us who live in rural areas like Suffolk than in the more urban areas of the UK. ) The changes to Suffolk’s concessionary passes have affected 140,000 people, 7000 of whom are disabled.

Despite the huge cross-party support for my proposal  – all county councillors agreed that these changes are causing genuine hardship to many people with few if any alternatives – eight months on, nothing has happened.  The 133,000 elderly and 7,000 disabled bus pass users of Suffolk are still waiting for the Cabinet to get around to looking into the problem.

The costs of reversing these past decisions are estimated as £202,174.00 – 0.019% of SCC’s annual budget.

SCC decisions are made these days by the 14 members of a one-party Cabinet behind closed doors –  and only they can vote on them!  Not only does this system make a nonsense of the concept of democracy but it also creates ‘bottlenecks’ whereby urgent concerns – like the ones about concessionary passes – get sidelined.  Never was there a clearer example of why this system doesn’t work, and needs to change.  It is the very stereotype of councils getting enmeshed in process and not caring about outcome.”

Reversing the concessionary pass decisions would support full, affordable participation in society to two valuable groups of Suffolk residents: those who do not want to let their disability stand in the way of their achievements and those who do not want to let their age confine them to home.  These people deserve to have their anxieties respected and allayed as soon as possible, while it seems only a democratic sine qua non that the concerns of so many of the County Councillors who represent them  should not be put to one side.

Mobility vehicles – dos and don’ts

Mobility vehicles are good servants, but – like in Upstairs Downstairs –  they need to be certain of their position. And (again like Upstairs Downstairs), this may vary considerably depending on what they are. Here are the basics for using your Mobility Vehicle safely and effectively in Woodbridge (and around):

There are three kinds of mobility vehicle covered by the Highway Code

Class 1: Manual wheelchair (also called a Class 1 invalid carriage (!) in the Highway code)

Class 2: Powered wheelchairs and powered mobility scooters with an upper speed limit of 4 mph Vehicles in Classes 1 and 2 are designed to be used on pavements.

Class 3 mobility vehicles are those with an upper speed limit of 8 mph . Vehicles in Class 3 are equipped to be used on the road as well as the pavement.

The Highway Code reminds all mobility scooter users (eg users of Class 1, 2 and 3 vehicles) that “when you are on the road you should obey the guidance and rules for other vehicles; and when on the pavement you should follow the guidance and rules for pedestrians.

On Pavements Class 1 and 2 vehicles are recommended to travel on the pavement at all times, if there is a pavement to travel on. They should give pedestrians priority and show consideration for all other pavement users, particularly those with a hearing or visual impairment. When travelling on pavements or in pedestrian areas, NO Class 1, 2 or 3 vehicle should ever travel faster than 4 mph. Aditionally they should further reduce speed if appropriate to adjust to other pavement users or to narrow pavements.

On Roads When on the road, Class 3 vehicles should travel in the direction of the traffic. They need to be aware that they are travelling significantly more slowly than other road traffic – and are also likely to be less visible. Mobility vehicle drivers, therefore need to think like cyclists, and take care to make themselves and their vehicle more visible when travelling in the daytime or dusk (eg. by wearing a reflective jacket and/or putting reflective strips on the back of their vehicle). They MUST follow the same rules about using lights, indicators and horns as other road vehicles. When driving at night they MUST use lights.

Class 2 users should only use the road (with caution) if there is no pavement available. In the daytime they should travel whenever possible in the direction of the traffic. At night they MUST use lights and travel in the direction of the traffic.

Parking Class 1,2 & 3 vehicles: When parking your mobility vehicle, ALL normal parking restrictions need to be be observed, and respect shown towards others. A mobility vehicle should not be left unattended anywhere where it causes an obstruction to other pedestrians and pavement/road users – especially those in wheelchairs. Parking concessions provided under the Blue Badge scheme apply only to those vehicles displaying a valid badge.

NO Mobility vehicles can be used on motorways. They should also not travel on unrestricted dual carriageways where the speed limit exceeds 50 mph. In any case where they do travel on a dual carriageway mobility vehicles MUST use a flashing amber beacon.

You can find full details of Mobility Vehicles and the Highway Code on the DirectGov site here