Category Archives: Suffolk County Council

Woodbridge Town Council Report June 2010

This one is mostly about spending – and mis-spending – public money, and transport!

Full Council :

The latest Full Council in Suffolk County council Annual General Meeting was held at the end of May. Eddie Alcock and Patricia O’Brien were respectively elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman for the upcoming year.

TheLib Dems had called in the administration’s desire to put aside standing orders and allow the Chief Executive to spend up to £122,000 on private consultants without putting the bid out to public tender or disclosing what these consultants were to do. The company Scintillate will be paid around £50,000 – £55,000 and Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning will get up to £42,000 for two months’ work; and DNA will be paid around £30,000 for one month’s work. Fields of Learning has already received over £400,000 from Suffolk for training senior managers in blue-skies thinking.

At the meeting we were told by Deputy Leader that £122,000 was a tiny proportion of the annual council budget. I pointed out that £122000 may not seem a lot to the administration , but from the viewpoint of Woodbridge – where the Deben Family Centre closed for want of £50,000 – it’s a fortune.

Sadly, the Call-in was defeated: by 18 votes to 50.

This meeting also endorsed allowing the public to attend and ask questions at the monthly Cabinet meetings. This will be up and running by the next Cabinet meeting, which takes place on the 22nd of June. Questions would need to be submitted at least 4 days in advance.

Local Buses

Well, we finally got our plightcovered by the East Anglian with a very full article at the end of May, complete with a photo. The EADT asked First buses for comments. First told the paper that they had not changed their bus services for three years and that they had never received our letter – both of which were very questionalble statements. This allowed me to write a very forthright letter to the EAD|T which was published under the leadline “Bus Company’s reply to complaint is laughable” and I was fortunate afterwards to have an interview with Mitchell Bradshaw, SCC head of Transport Planning.

It has become clear that we CAN make a difference. For example, the 165 bus has had such a takeup it is wishing to operate outside County Council grants. He suggested that we should approach the smaller companies with ideas for services we need. I am now planning on contacting some of the smaller companies and – in the first instance – suggesting a Woodbridge bus that serves the very clearly defined visiting times at Ipswich hospital.

Bollards in Hasketon Road – at last!

For years the residents of Hasketon Road have been plagued by inconsiderate parking by a few thoughtless parents at school drop-off and pick-up times. Their cars churn up the verges and have posed a safety risk to the hundreds of students who cycle and walk to the school every day.

I have been talking to the highway authorities for eighteen months trying to get this solved. Although I have been able to agree double yellow lines around the corners of Ransom Road, we then needed some other solution for the adjacent verges. And there was some reluctance (to put it mildly) to see bollards as the answer.

Other options were recommended and explored – notably the officers’ preferred option of building up and reseeding the verge. This was attempted last May after a a wait of seven months and lasted precisely as long as until the contractors left the site. The residents were – rightly – incandescent.

A year later we have seen no further progress, and there was some suggestion that reseeding and building up should be attempted again. My view is that to even consider rebuilding the verges once more is a waste of everyone’s energy and a trial of their patience. For a start, it will involve another wait of a year as we were told 18 month ago that spring is the only time for building and reseeding. And for the likelihood of no better outcome than last time. I feel that the residents of Hasketon Road deserve better than this continuing putting-off. The other non-bollard option recomme nded was preventative planting – but local town councillors have told me of other places in Woodbridge where planting to discourage parking has been ineffective.

At this point – luckily – our wonderful community police came to the rescure and put down traffic cones along the Hasketon Road with immediate success. parking stopped just like that. The cones were placed exactly where we intend to place bollards. The success is not surprising – it mirrors the success of the bollards that are installed a couple of hundred yards further down where the Hasketon Road becomes the Burkitt Road, and which has discouraged dangerous parking by parents at St Marys.

As well as the police, I ‘ve sought the views of residents and both town and district councillors and the issue was raised at the last SNT tasking meeting by Woodbridge Town Councillor Miles. Bollards were agreed by all as the best solution.A nice set of concrete bollards costs around £3000 – a sum that I am more than happy to contribute from my locality budget to improve the safety of Woodbridge residents, students of Farlingaye, and the much tried inhabitants of Hasketon Road. I’ve filled in the paperwork and hoipe things will progress speedily.

Other Locality budget spends

Recent applications for my locality budget funding have included:

• Assistance to publish walking maps of Woodbridge

• An external canopy for Farlingaye High School

• Two bicycles for Woodbridge Town Pastors

• Grit bins to help Woodbridge residents de-ice their roads in the next cold spell

• Support for a Town Crier.

Quality of Life money: Ipswich Road and Sandy Lane

Congratulations are due to the Year 8 members of Farlingaye High School (and their teacher Millie Simonds) who chose to address transport and walking to school in relation to Ipswich Road traffic when working on a Make a Difference programme. You may have heard the youngsters on BBC Radio Suffolk a couple of weeks back, as they investigated the speeds of traffic on Ipswich Road. The students interviewed me, very well and professionally, as a part of their project, and I also commented live on the issues on Mark Murphy’s breakfast programme on 20 May, before attending their assembly at Farlingaye that morning.

As you know there have long been concerns about speeding along Ipswich Road, particularly in relation to those walking and cycling to Kyson and Farlingaye schools. I had reserved £12,000 from Quality of Life money to build an island in the road which is being planned at the moment. Now the Highways department at Suffolk County Council have invited the FHS students to take part in the design of this island, so as to see the project through! This ought to mean it is designed to be fit for purpose.

Measures for calming Sandy Lane continue. I walked the lane with Martlesham Cllrs Forbes Green and Brome some weeks back, and have since had input from residents at the Woodbridge end. I have put all ideas to the Suffolk County Highways dept. and asked for any further ones from them. I am also consulting Sustrans, because the bulk of Sandy Lane is also Cycle Route 1. Any good ideas for making £4000 stretch as far as possible would be gratefully received.

SCC Olympics consultation

The Suffolk County Council website is currently holding a survey on the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics. This is in order to help with the planning of events relating to the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

This survey is there to rank your expectations of what you think should happen in Suffolk for the Olympic Games. Questions include ‘A Big Screen in town centres showing Olympic Games coverage’ and ‘Olympics activities in Schools’.

Please find the survey here http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HJ3965G

EADT coverage of Suffolk CC appointing consultants without tendering

Article in the Evening Star

Dear Editor

Last week you covered the decision by Suffolk County Council’s Conservatives to spend a further £122,000 of public money on unspecified ‘services’ provided by three consultancy companies: Fields of Learning, Scintillate Business Ltd and DNA (Friday 28 May: New Row over cost of consultants). This was voted through by the Conservatives against strenuous protests from the Lib Dem opposition who maintained – rightly – that at a time of belt-tightening, this is a grossly inappropriate use of public money.

What was the response of the Deputy Leader of the council? “This is a tiny proportion of the county council’s budget!”

It is a tragedy that Suffolk is currently run by people who consider £122,000 a small sum of money. For the average Suffolk resident it is an extraordinarily large sum of money! My local family centre – the Deben Family Centre in Woodbridge – had to close because the County Council couldn’t afford £50,000 to support it! £122,000 is the annual salary for six firefighters. It would buy a family house in Ipswich.

As previously reported in your paper, one of these consultants (Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning) has already been used by Suffolk County Council. Last year the council spent nearly half a million pounds of Suffolk taxpayers’ money on training which included “neuro-linguistic programming”. If you search the internet for neuro-linguistic programming you will discover it is one of the 10 most discredited forms of intervention in published research – on a par with ‘equine treatment for eating disorders’ and ‘dolphin assisted therapy’. What on earth are we doing spending council tax money on this at a time when we’re having to tighten our belts?

Our new government has just instituted a £500 rule which means that all public expenditure over this sum has to be publically declared – and justified. The people of Suffolk should rise up and demand that the same rule applies to their council!

Yours sincerely

Caroline Page

Published in the EADT 25/May/2010

 

High pay in the public sector!

The Cabinet Office has just published a list of the highest-paid Whitehall Civil Servants – those who earn more than £150,00 per annum.

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/

There are  a hundred and seventy Whitehall Civil Service chiefs who earn more than the prime minister.

There are only two or three who earn more than our Suffolk County Council Chief Executive Andrea Hill.

How can this be?

The average pay for workers in Suffolk is LESS than the national average – and much less than the pay of those in London.

What a waste of public money?

Amongst our new coalition government’s £6.2bn of announced savings last week was an immediate freeze on new work with management consultants.

Yet in Suffolk, hard-pressed tax payers, people who see the pot-holes daily increasing outside their doors,  are being asked by the Conservative administration to shell out  as much as £122,000 just to help our highly paid senior managers to save money. At least we assume thats what its for. As they were asking that this spend didn’t have to go out to public tender we really dont have much idea WHAT its going to be  spent on!

Now, £122000 may not seem a lot to some people, but from my view – where our local Family Centre closed for want of £50,000  – it’s a fortune.

We are told that the company Scintillate will be paid around £50,000 – £55,000 and Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning will get up to £42,000 for two months’ work; and DNA will be paid around £30,000 for one month’s work.  The sums are pretty specific but nobodywill tell us what these companies will do or why we should pay them.

Go figure.

Don’t you think it is deeply worrying that the Conservative-run Suffolk County Council Cabinet has actually voted to put aside standing orders and allow this money to be spent without the taxpayers, or indeed other county councillors having  any idea what these companies do or how it will benefit anyone other than the companies themselves? How can they justify it?  I guess the answer is, that with their huge majority they just don’t need to!

Who are these companies? Who runs them? What are their qualifications? Google their personnel and their practice and you come up with very little. No sense of educational background, or any concrete measurable achievement. No peer reviews – apart from one practitioner recommending another practitioner’s book. On Amazon!  The websites of all these consultants are filled with nebulous, positive-sounding content-free platitudes. Forgive me for saying this, but its hard to understand why any sensible person with a genuine feeling of responsibility for a public budget would fall for this  for one moment.

Fields of learning for example offers range of very mixed services  –  and I do n’t mean this admiringly: personal trainers, acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming. I don’t know how useful acupuncture and personal training might be in saving us money but if you check up on NLP you you will discover it is one of the 10 most discredited forms of intervention in published research: on a par, apparently, with  “equine treatment for eating disorders” and “dolphin assisted therapy.

Now my view is, it is ok for the practitioners of NLP to take money from the credulous if the credulous are happy to part with it. But is it ok  for them to take other peoples money? Most importantly of all is it ok for them to take OUR money?

This is a time of belt-tightening, painful desperate belt-tightening, belt-tightening so desperate, so painful that our waistbands will be cutting us in half. So why at this time are we loosening our waistbands and dropping the public trousers for these vacuous, worthless pointless puffs of hot air

(Note: This first appeared as a speech I made at full Council, 27 May 2010)