Category Archives: Locality Budget

What’s been happening in Suffolk Sept- Oct 2015

This month’s  main issues have been devolution, government proposals to close most of Suffolk’s courts, the poor deal for Suffolk rail travellers in the new rail franchised invitation to tender, and a couple of pieces of good news(Woodbridge Youth club and the Drummer Boy)

 Potential devolution of Suffolk  The devolution agenda continues. It now seems that the government will welcome a combined bid from Norfolk and Suffolk but neither severally. Currently very little emphasis has been placed on transport  – which is something that might really benefit from the increased per capita funding and re-regulatory approach we might go for with devolution. On 22nd September leaders from all Suffolk and Norfolk councils, and representatives of the New Anglia LEP agreed a ‘framework document’ highlighting the key areas  to be devolved. They will meet again on 14 October to continue discussions.

20mph, other traffic calming – and Woodbridge   After the year of work by myself and colleagues on the Transport policy development panel last year, creating speed limits frameworks and criteria, Suffolk County Council have trained up a panel and  have starting looking at  individual speed limits cases. The Speed Limits Panel is a panel of four councillors  – one from each main party. Cases are looked at by officers and if the case cannot be decided simply, it is brought in front of the panel. There are no witnesses – but the local County Councillor represents the case.

Woodbridge has expressed a longstanding desire to lower speed limits since first I became County Councillor, but has not yet articulated  to me or to the Highways team the exact areas it would like to have calmed. It is useful if this evidence comes from a wide variety of sources – as this suggests that the desire is widespread.

I therefore have asked various groups who have contacted me on this matter to start collecting evidence, including the Transport strand of the Neighbourhood plan. I hope Woodbridge Town Council Highways Committee will take part in this exercise

Woodbridge Youth Centre now Asset of Community Value The application by Just 42, and supported by me, for the Woodbridge Youth Centre to be registered as an Asset of Community Value was approved on 30th of September, after the statutory 8 week consultation process. While this does not protect it completely, it does give us some time to marshal a defence, should there be any unexpected move to sell it off.

East Anglian Rail Franchise – Invitation to Tender  The invitation to tender for the next Rail Franchise came out on 17 September, and the detail is disappointing.  Sadly the DfT has taken no notice of the various voices (including my own) calling loudly and clearly for better rail services East to West and to Peterborough. As the DfT have refused to act – suggesting that the pressure was for better and faster Norwich to London services (which it certainly wasn’t   from SCC, or myself, let alone from local pressure groups)  it looks as if passengers will have to endure the same poor service for years to come unless our local MPs can exert some pressure on the DfT. This is a shame as there is not only a lot of potential on these routes, but developing them would actually take much-needed pressure off the London line and provide easy means of transport to work to eg Cambridge with its ever-increasing housing prices.

Situations such as this make one think that devolution might be a good idea  as Suffolk voices were clearly not seen as important in the decision-making that produced this document. The parliamentary statement is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/rail-franchising-east-anglia-invitation-to-tender

MoJ’s Consultation on closing Suffolk Law Courts  The Ministry of Justice has just concluded a consultation on proposals to close all law courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft leaving the whole of Suffolk with just the courts in Ipswich.

This is an issue that will obviously concern everyone – as even residents in places like Woodbridge (which might deem themselves to be ‘unaffected’)  will be badly affected by the inevitable queues and waiting that will occur when two thirds of the current provision  for  family courts, small claims courts, magistrates courts, trading standards etc etc disappears.  All of us who know Suffolk magistrates will know how much of a bottle-neck has occurred  in the judicial process  already since the last round of closures in the 90s.

In brief, the Ministry of Justice proposes that Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court  and Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Crown Court are closed (full details)  All this to save £600,000 a year.

Putting aside anxieties about ‘trial by video , it would seem particularly ironic that Suffolk’s legal representation is in danger of being reduced to one single court with all the difficulties of access from the west, mid-Suffolk, and the north of the county, in this iconic Magna Carta anniversary year.

With rural public transport as it is, there are also human rights issues for anyone having to attend courts as witness, defendant or appellant, or as a juror or any number of other situations. The Ministry of Justice are talking about trial by video links. That will not be a substitute for face to face justice!

The County Council debated the issue last month and reached cross-party unanimity that this was a bad idea, and replied accordingly.

I have also responded as your councillor and as Suffolk County’s LibDem spokesman on Transport . My personal view is that transport issues are key to why these proposals are flawed and need to be rejected.

Woodbridge's Drummer Boy - aka Jakin and Lew of the Band of The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach's Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A
Woodbridge’s Drummer Boy – aka Jakin and Lew of the Band of The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach’s Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A

I copied all links and information to both Martlesham Parish and Woodbridge Town clerks in case you wished to reply,  because  Martlesham Parish councillors (to whom I reported last week) specifically asked how they could respond to these proposals and intended to do so.

The ‘Drummer Boy’ statue  As a delighted reader of Kipling’s short stories, I’ve long been pleased that Woodbridge houses the only statue seemingly ever made of Jakin and Lew, “a brace of the most finished little fiends that ever banged drum or tootled fife in the Band of The Fore and Fit Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach’s Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A”  –  which, today,  we in Woodbridge are pleased to call for short, The Drummer Boy or The Drums of the Fore and Aft.

When I heard of the possible move of the Drummer Boy from Woodbridge to Girdlestones, I immediately offered £1,500 from my locality budget towards relocating the statue within town.  I am glad that it seems as if the Woodbridge Heritage Group’s arguments have prevailed, and we will keep Kipling’s ‘bold bad’ brave Drummer Boys in the town.

Sochi on the Deben

DSCF1878 (800x643)For once, the weather was kind – and ferocious winds and driving rain cleared up in time for full enjoyment to be gained from the weekend’s free skating rink in the Brook Street carpark, Woodbridge.

Let’s hope that the weather will continue as good tomorrow for the second day.

This last year has been hard for a lot of people – and most of all for families – and the expense of taking your children on a day out can be prohibitive. This event – brainchild of Town Councillor Caroline Blois, and funded by me from my Locality Budget – was intended to give some affordable fun to the young people of Woodbridge and their parents, while also bringing increased footfall into Woodbridge town centre in the dark days of winter.

Today certainly seemed to do this.

To top it all, the refreshments on offer were provided by Woodbridge’s very own Cake Shop Bakery, who only yesterday were crowned Britain’s Best Bakery.

Eat your heart out, Winter Olympics!

*Ephebiphobia? the strange affair of the skating rink and the anonymous letter..

As you may know, I have funded the skating rink that is coming to Woodbridge in the weekend of 15/16 February. This is both half-term and a time of year that traditionally is slow for trading.  I am hoping that this attraction will bring families into Woodbridge town centre over half term to stimulate trade and provide some welcome fun at a time of continuing recession.

It has seemed to please most people.

Unfortunately not everyone. I received the following (unsigned) letter  by first class mail yesterday. It was word-processed, although the envelope was handwritten:

Dear Caroline Page,

A local paper reports  that an ice-skating opportunity has been planned in the Hamblin Road car park “behind the Barrett’s shop”, to take place over two days in mid-February. Your name is mentioned in this connection.

Whose idea was this? Has this matter been fully thought out?

The first objection is that the carpark in question is very much a residential area! Is this the ideal place to have crowds and, presumably, some amount of noise and commotion? In some cases right outside the windows  of some people’s homes, to replace the normal quiet and peace justifiably expected. And this to continue over two days!

But of even greater concern is this: Presumably you must know Woodbridge well. And you will be aware therefore that Woodbridge has only IN THE LAST FEW YEARS emerged from the Dark Ages.  Any resident or shopkeeper of the town centre will know that this is no exaggeration. We refer of course to the plague of vandalism and unpleasantness at the hands of what you might euphemistically call “the younger elements” of the town. The plague was continuous, day and night.

The town centre has been blessedly free, (apart from a few isolated incidents) of the presence of these elements for a few years now, but what immediately begins to ring alarm bells is the possibility of some of their members turning up among your invited participants to the ice-skating: the event will, after all, undoubtedly attract many younger persons to the area. This is the perceived danger: that your event might re-kindle their interest in the town centre and bring them back again.  The thought is enough to put dread into the heart of any inhabitant or shopkeeper who experienced the miseries of the Dark Ages and was on the receiving end of all that nastiness.

If you know Woodbridge as I assume you do, then you will know that this is no exaggeration. Any newcomer to the town, within the last five years say, will not appreciate what the town centre has been through.

To cite only a few incidents. Every shop and store in the Turban Centre has suffered vandalism and break ins. At one time the carpet store there had its windows smasked every Saturday night for three weeks running. And on numerous other occasions.

The circular kiosk there (now a fishmongers) began as a stationary kiosk. It was damaged so often its proprietors were eventually vandalised out of business.

The fruit and vegetable shop there (previously known as Finches) was destroyed by arson. They were out of business for a year.

More recently, the circular kiosk was badly damaged by arson. It was on the way to complete destruction and only the prompt call-out of the fire bridgede saved the better part of it.

You may recall that this sort of thing was the actual continuous daily and nightly unpleasantness which the town centre had to suffer, inhabitants and shopkeepers alike.

We would beg you to do nothing to disturb the comparative fragile calm of the present.

Please do be very careful and think twice before planning anything that might carry even the SLIGHTEST risK of encouraging unwanted elements back to the town centre, and a recurrence of the miseries of recent memory.

We implore you: Be careful. Be careful. Be careful.

I am completely bewildered by the tone of this letter,  and that it should be sent to me by someone (or indeed some people) who didn’t want to sign it, or to be identified in any way. Are they ashamed of their views? They write as if they are speaking on behalf of the whole town and everyone in it!

I will be happy to reply directly  if they choose to come forward.

And – as ever- will be happy to hear comments from anyone else on the subject

 

*Ephebiphobia The fear of youth is called ephebiphobia. First coined as the “fear or loathing of teenagers,”today the phenomenon is recognized as the “inaccurate, exaggerated and sensational characterization of young people” in a range of settings around the world (Wikipedia)

 

What’s been happening in Suffolk, Jan 2014

May I start by wishing you a happy and  prosperous New Year.

 Flooding update Although Woodbridge town survived the flooding on 6 December with relatively few problems, there were breaches to the river wall to the north and south of Martlesham Creek. Cattle had to be rescued from the flood along the north bank, where a 30m wide breach left 30 acres of grazing land underwater. Work has been undertaken on the north wall and footpath which leads from Kyson Point to the footpath from Sandy lane.

Ipswich Sexual Health Clinic This fiasco continues. From Monday 28 October the sexual health service has been operating a reduced level of service from the clinic based at Ipswich Hospital , with the service having to vacate the site completely from April 2014.

We were told that the reason for this move was that there were plans to  create a sexual health hub in a more accessible location.  However it turned out that the ‘accessible location’  might as well have been picked out of a hat!  Gipping Court, Constantine Road proved not to be possible due to flooding issues. So, instead,  the service has been relocated to Lindbergh Road in Ipswich – in other words, as far out of town as Ipswich hospital but with far poorer transport links for people  from Woodbridge and beyond.  In fact, Woodbridge people relying on public transport  face a two-bus ride of about an hour plus a 20min walk to get to the new clinic. This is as opposed to the journey  to Ipswich hospital which was a half an hour single bus plus a 7 minute walk.

So much for greater accessibility and the vaunted ‘good transport links’ !  I am continuing to point this out

Highways Issues of efficiency still continue after  KierMG took over the contract to maintain  the public highway network in Suffolk at the end of last year. (The public highway consists of any verge, footway, carriageway, bridleway or footpath whether or not maintained at public expense and over which the public has a right of way) . SCC is therefore starting a political group of councillors  to work informally together in the new year with Suffolk Highways colleagues from SCC and Kier to help best meet needs for information and communication within the new contract. I am the nominated Lib Dem member of this group.

County Councillor’s Locality Budget  I am glad  to have been able to support Woodbridge town and  Choose Woodbridge in  providing funding for the skating rink, which will hopefully  bring people into the town in mid -February.

County Councillor’s Surgery Surgery dates for the next few months will be on Saturday 18 January, Saturday 15 February, and Saturday 19 April. There will be no surgery in March as I will be in China

 

What’s been happening in Suffolk November/December 2013

Dec 6 Flood and Aftermath    Multi-Agency flood responders worked  through the night to ensure the tidal surge of 5/6 December was mitigated where possible. The forecast high water was due in Woodbridge at 1:00 am on Friday 6 December  rising 2.17 m AODN, with an additional forecast surge height of 1.73. As it was, the surge arrived early.

Fortunately the flood barriers held off most of the high water (though they leaked at the station, and at the Eversheds ramp which I phoned in to the Environment Agency). The most damage seemed to be suffered suffered by the Waterfront café and the Tide Mill which had prepared for less high water.

In addition to the leaking there was a strong sewage smell  from the public lavatory by Eversheds, plus gushing water from the new emergency storm drain behind the Woodbridge community hall , I reported these to Anglian Water but fortunately their engineers found no issue some hours later. It was probably a case of the emergency drains backing up due to the surge .

Members of the public are being advised to heed notices warning that footpaths are closed due to flooding. The warning is there because they are impassable and/or unsafe.

 A14 tolling  Government plans to introduce the UK’s first toll road in 10 years  on the A14 have been dropped – to the relief of all. The planned upgrade will now be funded from general taxation – as is happening with all other of Britain’s road upgrades..The toll was condemned almost unanimously by Councillors at Suffolk County Council’s October meeting as a ‘toll on Suffolk.’ http://blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2013/10/29/a14-will-years-of-underinvestment-take-its-toll/

Ipswich Sexual Health Clinic  The sorry saga of the unplanned, unthought-through relocation of these vital services continues. We were told that the Sexual Health clinic was moving because the clinic needed to be in a more central location and I was assured that this would be a modular building at Gipping Court, Constantine Road  – but this turned out to be no more than aspiration. According to the latest communication from the Director of Public Health they  are now relocating the service in the grounds of the former Holywells High School – eg exactly as far from the centre as Ipswich Hospital, but with considerably fewer transport links. This is a truly extraordinary decision. I will be following it up.

Locality Budget –  do you know of a project that needs funding?  My most recent grant from the Locality budget is for a mobile skating rink to draw new custom into town in the dark days of February.

I still have money in this year’s budget, and would be interested in hearing from people for suitable projects. There is no urgency, as I am able to roll money over until next year, if nothing of sufficient local importance or need comes to hand.

New Street   As it seems that it has been impossible to reach a solution to the continuing New Street flooding issues and as some residents are unhappy that the only solution offered is the barrier/sandbag one,  I am escalating the situation. I think it is reasonable to say that the SCC Highways team have done all that is possible for them to do. There are elements within the situation that encompass the Environment Agency, Anglian Water, Suffolk Coastal District council – and maybe other bodies. I am now asking Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport, and the Director of Economy Skills and Environment whether they can do anything to improve the situation.

My Last Surgery of the Year will be on 21 December (10-12 at the Woodbridge Library) if anyone has any last minute problems and issues – and I’ll be serving a mince pie to everyone who turns up

And finally… 

May I wish everyone

xmas2013picsmall (500x800)A MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR