That NSD ‘consultation’ in full…
The SCC Full Council meeting on the 2nd of December voted again on the New Strategic Direction – that is, the vision (some might prefer to call it a nightmare) of Suffolk County Council as an ‘enabling’ council rather than providing services. Council looked at both the levels of ‘engagement’ SCC has reached with the public and local organisations, as well as developments in how the Council plans to implement the policy.
I pointed out that ‘engagement’ was very different from consultation (the engagement questionnaire never asked whether the people of Suffolk wanted this to happen, only whether they understood what was happening – go figure!), and that the NSD had in fact been driven through without any public consultation by the ten members of the current SCC cabinet. I referred to the 1500 (and counting) responses I had personally received from Suffolk residents against the NSD, which was three times as many as was recieved by SCC’s engagement exercise by the same date. Additionally, my colleague John Field mentioned that the 30% reduction in costs over 4 years bore very little relationship to the maximum 11% total loss of income Suffolk was actually going to suffer over this period (You can find the figures for this here and the full text of my speech here ). I voted against continuing with the NSD until proposals were properly budgeted, but the motion was carried 44-11.
This decision has huge – and apparently adverse – significance for our local services across a wide range of provision, from elderly care, to young person’s transport, to weekend and evening bus services, to who runs our library and how, to highways services.
I will keep you informed when I have any more concrete information – which is unlikely to be soon. The decision has been made without any of those who voted for it having any idea of what they are planning to do!
Two funds that might be useful in extremis
Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund & the Transforming Suffolk Community Fund
Presumably as a direct result of the above, Suffolk County Council has teamed up with the Suffolk Foundation to launch two different grants for voluntary and community projects across the county.
The first is the Transforming Suffolk Community fund, which looks to aid smaller community groups with a one off grant of between £500 and £5,000 to aid with the cost of the projects which will meet one of these four priorities;
- Creating a stronger and vibrant community
- Green issues including carbon reduction
- Learning and skills
- Health related projects.
This grant is for one-off funding and requires the spending to be completed within 12 months of receipt of the funds.
The second is the Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund run by Suffolk County Council, which looks to provide a grant over three years of up to £50,000 to innovative voluntary and community projects that;
- Will integrate existing services or develop new ones with the objective of long term sustainability;
- Will support sustainable voluntary and community organisations by helping them to help themselves;
- Carry out research into needs and service provision;
- Will develop innovative and/or transferable practices for delivery of new and improved services.
The fund totals £2.5m for the whole county, and is available through an application process at the County Council For more information, and for access to the application form, you can contact either:
The Suffolk Community Foundation: Tel: 01473 734120 www.suffolkfoundation.org.uk
Suffolk County Council’s External Funding team: Tel: 01473 264283
I’d be very interested in getting personally involved with this
Call-in of Fire and Rescue Control Room move
After the SCC Cabinet meeting for December the Liberal Democrats felt obliged to ‘call in’ Cabinet’s decision to move the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Control room out of the county to Cambridgeshire. This means the decision will now have to go to to a scrutiny committee to examine the justification behind the decision – and possibly overturn it!
The Lib Dems asked for the call-in in respect of the following points
- Out of Office services – will these be transferred to Cambridge as well, if so what is the affect on the provision of these?
- Why was this matter not taken to Full Council to ensure a debate and vote amongst all members of the Council, particularly as the County Council is the Fire Authority.
- How will Suffolk maintain effective control of matters relating to the efficiency, scrutiny and monitoring of a service that will be run by an adjoining fire authority.
- What mechanism will be in place for Suffolk to manage and rectify errors which may have a reputational or life safety implication bearing in mind that the S.C.C remains responsible but will have no direct line management over the people delivering the service?
- Who is liable for errors – at the moment SFRS are directly responsible, have monitoring processes and the ability to rectify?
- Why has the control room got to be exported out of Suffolk, why cannot this continue within Suffolk, for example with the Police?
- What happens if an agreement with Cambridgeshire Fire Authority does not allow transfer of service until after the Colchester Road Fire Station has closed?”
The Liberal Democrats are particularly concern about the risk associated with moving such an important facility to Cambridgeshire, and the fact that this decision was made by ten people without consultation, preventing all councillors to debate an issue which might adversely affect the whole county. I have been approached by both local and county fire service representatives, anxious to point out that this is a potentially dangerous decision to make. An option might be, for example, to see if the control room could be combined with the Police control centre in Suffolk, thus making savings while retaining locality.
These are the papers for the Call-in of the Fire and Rescue Service command and Control Function.
Due to our advance planning, Woodbridge is at the forefront of keeping people safe and mobile . Early in the year after we had all been anxious at the potential impact of snow and icy weather on Woodbridge residents I offered to fund grit bins and equipment for local volunteers to keep the pavements clear and Woodbridge Town Council were very proactive in drawing up a scheme of potential troublespots that needed addressing. And due to this forward planning Woodbridge has been able to tackle the ice and snow relatively efficiently. Ten grit bins are on site and another four on order: Cross corner; St Johns Hill/Castle St; California/Ipswich Road (where I’m the volunteer); Fitzgerald Green; Mill Lane; Haughgate Close; Colletts Walk; Warren Hill Road; Market Hill; Victoria Road; Peterhouse; Portland Crescent and Farlingaye. There is also a few grit piles, one of which we hope to establish at the back of the Doctors surgery in Little St Johns Street to prevent breaks. It could also be used to ensure safe arrival at the library.
I hope you saw we were covered in the local papers, together with a nice picture of me, town councillors and volunteers in front of the shire hall.
As a volunteer, I personally spent 15 hours gritting around California, around the Seal and down the footpath that runs along the top of Ipswich Road. I reckon that totalled about 15 miles of roadway walked and gritted. The interesting thing was that by doing this, it encouraged more volunteers to come out to help. Particular thanks must go to Jill and Ian W, Pauline H, and Patrick G who have all helped nobly keeping the Ipswich Road/California axis clear
So, if people express any interest, do urge them to contact the Town Clerk and volunteer. Many hands make light(ish) work– and lets face it,residents will find it so much more productive than moaning that somebody else hasn’t done it.
Volunteers get to use a barrow, a snowshovel and a a hi-viz jacket; they’re covered by SCC insurance and the benefits include a slimmer figure, the warm glow of having helped – and lots of gratitude. Not a bad deal, really
Appropos of this I would like to pay tribute to the people who run the gritting lorries who go out day and night trying to keep as much of the thousands of miles of Suffolk roads passable as possible.
It seems to be fashionable amongst certain Suffolk car-drivers to criticise these heroes pretty well without thought or reflection. Me: I have nothing but the utmost admiration for them. The service is run via a handful of people working throughout the nights and they do a fantastic job – and all without expectation of any kind of thanks at all. I rang a highways officer at 11am on day in the last cold period. He sounded a bit dazed (tho very competent). It turned out he’d just got back into the office having been out on the roads personally gritting since midnight the night before!
As well as remembering to be grateful that our service is so good, we MUST also make sure that any hamfisted attempts at divestment protect the efficiency and effectiveness that we are currently managing in-house. Other counties with privatised gritting services are not managing half so well.
New traffic island at the top of Ipswich Road (Clarkson’s Crossing)
There will be some sort of official naming ceremony for this at some time as – due to the input of the Farlingaye students – Woodbridge now has the only named crossing in Suffolk (they christened it the Clarkson crossing, after the local anti-slavery activist). I am happy to see the crossing seems to be used by the very people it was intended for, and I also think it might be slowing the traffic on entering Woodbridge. The LED sign half-way down Ipswich Road – which is on order but has not yet arrived – should also help reduce speed.