Category Archives: Woodbridge Youth Centre

Woodbridge: how I used the County Councillor’s Locality Budget

Each Suffolk County Councillor has a small Locality budget, to be spent at their discretion on things that benefit their own community. (There are rules – you can’t use it for entertaining, for example). The sum is dictated by the number of the electorate: the budget for Woodbridge was £8,630 a year – £34,520 for the last electoral cycle.

I try to spread the money to cover as many different groups  and needs as possible. Over the last four  years therefore I have given grants for – or towards – the following:

Farlingaye School: *Playground canopies

Woodbridge Town Pastors:  *Bicycles,  *Training

Woodbridge Cycling Festival: *Materials, first aid cover etc

St Mary’s Woodbridge: Repairs  to *Tower and to *South side of the church wall

Deben Swimming Club: *Poolside kit for competitions

Woodbridge RUFC: *Indoor activity area improvements

Woodbridge Town FC Under 8 Team: *Waterproof jackets

Woodbridge Bowls Club:  *Awning for the club house

Deben Players: *Costume store

Woodbridge Youth Centre: *Generator

Wickham Market & District Family Carers Support Group: *Training for respite care volunteers

Homestart Suffolk Coastal  *Laptop

Woodbridge Riverside Trust: *Feasibility study, Whisstocks project

Just 42: Materials for the Graffiti Project: *Hardstanding for Peterhouse  Green

1st Woodbridge Scout Group: *Mower

The Princes Trust: *Flowers/ pots for exterior of Woodbridge Youth Club

YP@ Woodbridge: *Cooking equipment, TV/DVD & Disco/Karaoke unit

Woodbridge Library: *Blackout Blinds; *Reading challenge – balloon modeller, & prizes; *Jonathan Allan illustrator to talk and draw with kids

Woodbridge Town Centre Management: *Walking maps  of Woodbridge;  *Printed jute bags

Woodbridge Town: *Bollards  for  Hasketon Road; *27 Grit bins; *Thoroughfare Bike racks ; *Bench for Petanque area Kingston Field; *repairs to Elmhurst Park wall/shed; *Funding for Jubilee Pavilion; *Bench at Hasketon/Grundisburgh road junction

Woodbridge Community Council: *Solar  panels Woodbridge Community hall

Tide Mill Trust  (by their earnest request)  match funding for *renovation of the Tide Mill

 

What’s happening in Suffolk March 2013

The last few weeks before the upcoming electoral moratorium – and a lot of things have been happening:  at home, underground cables are coming close to Woodbridge and destroying all the trees in its 55m wide path, Woodbridge Youth Centre has been saved and my Locality and Quality of Life budgets  have been spent.At county level  – the SCC 2013-14 budget is finalised and various cabinet decisions have been made. Scc has a new  candidate to take over Highways maintenance. 

 And finally – and most satisfactorily – the meat served in Suffolk schools has been found to be free of equine DNA .
In detail:

Next year’s SCC Budget   Suffolk County’s Full Council budget meeting took place on the 14th of February. As I mentioned last month, the administration’s budget aimed to cut £24.9m this financial year.  This included £7m from Adult and Community Services, and £2.5m from remodelling Children’s services.  The council’s reserves currently stand at £152m –  just under one third of the total budget.

The Liberal Democrat Group submitted an amendment to the budget aiming to improve services in a number of different areas. This would have been funded from the contingency reserve.

  • £650,000 to School Improvement Services – to employ additional advisors that go into schools to provide guidance to help schools improve their level of attainment, which drastically needs improving in Suffolk.
  • £475,000 for providing an additional 1900 days of supply work providing it is matched by school funds. This would allow time for teachers from well performing schools to partner with those who are not doing as well. This approach has been very successful in Hackney.
  • £300,000 to help Suffolk County Council commit to a pilot scheme that would increase the number of foster carers for the most vulnerable children in Suffolk.
  • £300,000 to respond to local community requests for 20mph zones in Suffolk towns and villages.

We believe would have helped to improve attainment in Suffolk, care for those vulnerable children and to improve the response to new speed limits, following the Cabinet Member’s disbanding of the speed management team at the County Council.

The school improvement budget has been cut substantially over the last few years and this has coincided with a dramatic fall in the performance of Suffolk schools, so we were very disappointed that our amendment was defeated.

School Meals in Suffolk   The catering provider to schools in Suffolk, EATS, has provided assurance that the meat provided in its schools does not contain any horsemeat.

The vast majority of meals provided for children in Suffolk schools, are created inhouse, and beef used by EATS is Red Tractor accredited.   The red tractor logo is a guarantee of both quality and origin.

Woodbridge Youth Centre  As you know I have been very anxious about  an unconfirmed threat of development of Woodbridge Youth Centre premises for a couple of years. 

Refer to my blog for full details but in short it turned out that this threat was genuine – and had extended as far as officers secretly deciding not to process our local youth club Just 42’s licence to occupy the premises – possibly in case it was necessary to give them speedy notice to quit!   This decision was not declared by officers.  This culture of secrecy also meant that plans and proposals were being discussed and taken forward as far as actual  physical paper plans for the development in question ( I have copies ) without any reference to the occupants, the users, the elected councillors at all levels and the people of Woodbridge as a whole.

I took my concerns to the most senior officer in SCC – Chief Executive Deborah Cadman, who investigated the matter. She assures me that officers will never in the future make decisions without involving local elected representatives to the full. We have been told that Woodbridge Youth Centre is now safe and that any discussion about its long-term future will involve all stakeholders, which jolly well includes our elected councillors.

My Woodbridge locality officer – in collaboration with Emma Smith of SCC – arranged the first  WYC stakeholders meeting last week – and I was delighted to see both Town and District council represented.

Speed restrictions  in Woodbridge   I  asked the following question at March 14th Full Council:

A 20-year longitudinal study of 20mph limits found that an extra 10mph off the current road limit reduced casualties by 42 percent, as well as reducing pollution, and promoting cycling, walking and local shopping. This is because only one in 40 pedestrians hit by a vehicle at 20mph die, compared to the figure of one in five when hit at 30mph

New guidance, issued by the Department of Transport, sets out the criteria for a reduction in speed limits which safety campaigns believe could reduce child pedestrian ksi  by as much as 70 per cent. The Government is urging councils to cut speed limits to 20mph in residential and  urban areas and built-up village streets. The guidance is expected to result in a significant national increase in the number of 20mph zones – as well as more rural 40mph zones. More than half of local councils are keeping up with the times in this respect:  reversing decades of policy which prioritised motor vehicles over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.  Islington Council which has limited all of its managed roads to 20mph,  claims a 65 per cent fall in accidents in its 20mph areas.

Earlier this year, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for roads and transport disbanded the team that dealt with routine requests for speed limit extensions in the county and put a freeze on implementing new speed restriction zones on the grounds that  Suffolk already had enough speed restrictions in place, and following a review of A and B class roads, he was confident speed limits complied with the “most up to date guidance” from the Department for Transport.

As this is clearly no longer the case can he inform us what he is doing urgently to reverse this decision and give many Suffolk communities the opportunity they have asked for in vain – in Woodbridge’s case, since 2010

Locality Budget/Quality of Life budgets for Woodbridge  All my Locality budget money has been spent on a nice broad spread of local projects. To prevent any claw-back to SCC – which is what happens to any money uncommitted or returned  at the end of the electoral cycle – I have asked  the Locality Budget Officer to add any such into the Elmhurst Park funding.

And at least four of the QoL road schemes I have been working on over the last couple of years are all finally coming to fruition within this electoral cycle.These are,

  • new signage to prevent HGVs trying to get to the town centre via Angel Lane;
  • sighns and lines slowing traffic on Cemetery Lane;
  • calming Sandy Lane  with pedestrian and cyclist warning signs  at each end and at the railway bridge, and white edge markings throughout for pedestrians to walk behind. These would also give warning of the road edge at night which will be very useful, particularly to cyclists
  • more cycle racks – removing the three at Cafe Nero (which are expensive to match) up to Shire Hall, and putting five new matching ones down at Cafe Nero.

The only one that will not be at least started before the upcoming electoral moratorium is the new sign at the entrance to Cumberland Street from cross corner, forbidding all vehicles except bicycles.

February Cabinet decisions   The February Cabinet on the 26th, contained a number of significant issues for residents across the County.   Some of the issues that were discussed and agreed were;

  • East Anglia ONE Offshore windfarm – SCC’s  response to the consultation of this application which will see a significant section of the power cables from the windfarm come ashore and be buried underground travelling from Felixstowe to Bramford.  I have blogged on this http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2013/02/28/ea-one-offshore-windfarm-implications-for-deben-estuary-countryside/ and submitted a response suggesting amelioration, and querying why this plan has abandoned the original notion of putting the cabling UP the estuary.
  • Procurement of Highways Services –  after the debacle of their previous procurement of a preferred bidder, the Cabinet agreed to negotiate extensions to the current highways contract up to the 30th September, and proceed with awarding a new highways contract to the joint venture between May Gurney & WSP UK Ltd which will commence on the 1st of October.
    I asked them what would happen should this preferred bidder fall through, and they said this was ‘very unlikely’ – which is what they said when I asked them last time bout the first ‘preferred bidder’, Balfour Beattie.
  • bringing the Councils customer service function back into the Council (from CSD) as of May 2014.  This includes public access and Customer First functions.

Stowmarket and Stowupland SOR  SCC Cabinet made the decision on 26th of February to abolish the middle schools in Stowmarket and Stowupland. The Liberal Democrats attempted to get the decision called into the Scrutiny Committee as we felt the justification for making this decision was flawed.  We were particularly concerned about the lack of funding to provide top class schools in this area, as the plans will see a split site school created in Stowmarket.   We also highlighted the contrasting statistics provided by the Council and the campaign group to support opposing cases, as well as issues over safety.

The call in was rejected on the grounds that the Cabinet had all the required information to hand, which means the decision has now been approved.   The Lib Dem group are disappointed that an opportunity to look again at such a large issue to which so many parents and pupils feel passionately about has been refused.

This is particularly so when national governmental policy appears now to be turning in favour of a three-tier system again

What happens to your recycled items?   The Suffolk Waste Partnership has produced a very interesting document, which highlights what happens to the waste that we recycle here in Suffolk.   This PDF includes information about how many tonnes of waste are recycled in each category, where the waste ends up, and the fact that as a County we recycle 53.2% of our waste.  http://www.greensuffolk.org/assets/Recycling/Where-It-Goes/2011-12-End-Destination-Register-v5.pdf

Woodbridge Youth Centre – saved from the ‘Dragon’s Den’

As you know I have been very anxious about an unconfirmed threat of development to the Woodbridge Youth Centre premises for a couple of years.

It turned out that despite the nay-sayers, this threat was genuine. I had wondered why officers had decided – in secret – not to process the licence for our local youth club, Just 42.  (This documented decision was not disclosed by officers.)  Just 42 had to have a licence to occupy the premises. Not renewing the licence would presumably have made it possible to give Just 42 speedy notice to quit!

This is a disgracefully disrespectful attitude to take to the young people of Woodbridge – and indeed to anyone who takes their concerns seriously.  These officers are our public servants. They are paid to work for the public good. They should be open and honest with councillors and with the public who have elected them. We may not be in Kansas, Toto but we’re certainly not in the Dragon’s Den either.

The culture of secrecy also meant that plans and proposals were being discussed for the redevelopment of the Woodbridge Youth Centre site. These had progressed to detailed plans for the development in question (I have copies) without any reference to the occupants, the users, the elected councillors of Woodbridge-  at all levels, or the people of Woodbridge as a whole.

Having discovered this information by a lot of detective work (and a lucky break when an email accidentally came to me with a string of prior emails attached to it, exposing the whole secret decision-making forum and process) I took my concerns to the most senior officer at Suffolk County Council – Chief Executive Deborah Cadman, who investigated the matter. She assures me that officers will never in the future make decisions without involving local elected representatives to the full. This means, I hope, that they will not behave with such disrespectful secrecy, arrogance, and assumed autonomy from the needs and requirements of the local communities they are supposed to serve.

We have been told that Woodbridge Youth Centre is now safe and that any discussion about its long-term future will involve all stakeholders, which jolly well includes our elected councillors. (My Woodbridge locality officer – in collaboration with SCC’s Rachael Rowe  – arranged the first stakeholders meeting last week – and I was delighted to see both Town and District council represented.)

I am very pleased to have it confirmed that my anxiety was not misplaced and that all the effort I have expended on this issue has been rewarded. The outcome will hopefully be protection – not only for the future of Woodbridge Youth Centre and the young people of Woodbridge – but also for other community facilities across Suffolk faced with similar threats!