Category Archives: Locality Budget

Report to Woodbridge Town Council AGM

Another busy year has passed. Not only has the recession continued to hit, but it is expected that the situation will worsen considerably over the next few years, putting further pressure on future budgets.

The other main story is that SCC  will continue to exist after the Government announced no change in the structure. What a waste of time, energy and money, eh!

Locally, I was delighted to be re-elected as your County Councillor in June.

This year I have been interested in Woodbridge transport in the widest sense: roads, buses, trains, parking, cycling, walking…

County Budget for 2010-11

One of the most important jobs for the Council is to set the budget for the upcoming year.  The strain on the public sector is starting to bite, and this budget will probably be the last before the 15-20% cuts, which have been suggested, will start to hit.

This year the council increased the level of Council tax by 2.4%. This – as well as a slight increase in the level of Government Grant – means that there will be some areas in the Council eligible for additional spending, these include:

  • £1.5m as a one-off payment for roads maintenance to help deal with the effects of the particularly harsh winter (eg potholes)
  • £1.7m to investt in social workers to help support vulnerable children and their families
  • £1.6m to pay for the additional numbers and more complex placements of young people coming into the care system
  • £4m to help care for older people who most need specialist support
  • £1.6m to pay for extra landfill tax

However, there are still areas within the budget that are overspent, including Children and Young Persons by £2m, mainly due to the increasing cost for Home to School Transport and for Adult and Community Services by £1.7m due to the increasing number of elderly residents in our county.  In addition to this within the capital budget, Schools Organisation Review will be costing over £100m

At the Full Council debate the Liberal Democrats focused on the discovery that 500 additional employees now worked at the Council compared to the previous year.  Some of these positions were entirely Government funded forming some of the staff for the newly created Children’s centre.  However many of these aren’t funded from Government grant, and come at a time when the public service is under pressure as the recession bites.

Local Government Review

Throughout the year almost every Parish report has included updates on the Local Government Review.   The process which promised so much at the beginning has been regularly stalled, by court cases not only from Suffolk, but the other affected counties as well.  It was eventually reignited when the court cases were thrown out last December, after the Boundary Committee appealed.

After this decision, the announcement from the Boundary Committee about which form of local Government they would prefer was announced, with a recommendation to the secretary of state, of either a one Suffolk Unitary Authority or a North Haven Unitary Authority and a Rural Suffolk Authority.  This was then followed by a short six week consultation in which the public could react to the announcement from the Boundary Commission.

Onthe 10th of February the Minister of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government  announced that there would be no change for the County of Suffolk.  Instead there would be a County Constitutional Convention which would provide a new form of unitary government for the council hhas remained completely schtumm about how this could possibly be implemented or even a timescale to when it should begin.

Indeed, as I write this there is not even a government…

County Councillor’s Quality of Life budget

Last year I allocated Quality of Life transport money to three projects:

  • The Seal Crossing;
  • Cross Corner project and
  • bridging  the muddy ditch from Houchells Meadow to the back of Farlingaye High School.

Of these, the only one to have been completed last year was the smallest: the muddy ditch.  At the same time as this was done, (and at my request) SCC workmen altered the bars at the entrance to the footpath round the school grounds so that students cycling from Melton could access the school more easily. ) I have just been sent the plans for the Cross Corner scheme, which hopes to open out the area round the crossroads to provide greater accessibility for pedestrians and cycles.

The Seal Crossing

Although I allocated money for this last year, progress has been slow. I’ve therefore added an additional £5,000 from this years funding to the money I allocated last year for the island crossing at the top of Ipswich Road.  The aim is to get something that will allow people to cross in two stages, that will also encourage drivers to slow down by alerting them to the fact people (school students, mothers with buggies, elderly bus users and cyclists)ISurveyors have now been out to identify the best place and that plans are being drawn up.

Calming Ipswich Road

I’m allocating £3000 hopefully for a speed activated sign – – a solar-powered LED maybe?  for further along Ipswich Road, where it slopes steeply  down to the John Grose garage. Because the banks are steep and there are no pavements, no-one can safely do speed checks and there is subsequently a new entrance to the new housing coming out onto the road after a blind bend. I and the police and the town council are all really – and legitimately -worried about the danger of this.

The remaining £4000 is to go to traffic calming/cyclist and pedestrian protection in Sandy Lane. The difficulty with Sandy Lane is that not only are issues about pedestrians etc going along from adjacent houses, but it is a National Cycle route AND  at every high tide and a couple of hours on each side, the other footpath from Woodbridge to Martlesham is impassable (three feet depth of water across two or three hundred yards at the creek) meaning all sorts of walkers ramblers dogwalkers twitchers etc have to divert onto the road which is very windy and with steep banks and high hedges on the Woodbridge side of the railway bridge. I have walked this with three Martlesham parish councillors to get their ideas.

County Councillor’s Locality budget

The year’s Locality Budget covered a range of things:

  • An awning for Woodbridge Bowls Club
  • Funding a feasibility study for the Whisstocks  Development scheme
  • Contribution to the Woodbridge Shop link Radio Scheme
  • A new laptop for Homestart
  • Funding for Walking Maps of Woodbridge
  • A canopy for Farlingaye High School

Money has been carried over

  • to pay for measures to prevent poor parking in Hasketon Road (bollards!), and
  • grit bins for various Woodbridge locations so that future bad weather can be quickly and efficiently dealt with..

Public transport

In March Suffolk County Council mwas asked to respond officially to  the forthcoming Greater Anglia rail franchise tender . This was important, because it defines what we want from a new rail franchise provider for the next ten to twenty years. The response, which rested on the findings of the Rail Policy Group (of which  I am a member) saw much support from across the political spectrum to improve the quality and quantity of train services across the region. Important areas that were stressed included:

  • The need for an hourly service to Peterborough;
  • the hourly service to Lowestoft (this should be up and running as far as Saxmundham by December); this further depends on the building of the Beccles loop;
  • adjusting the timings of interconnecting trains to correspond better;
  • greater parity of  equivalent fares across the franchise area – currently the cheapest day return fare to London from Ipswich is twice what it is from Cambridge to London
  • more advance notice of replacement bus services and ensuring they carry luggage and bikes  that were carried on the train
  • more provision for bikes on trains
  • better links with bus services

We have had a much less satisfactory response to our councerns about buses. Although Woodbridge Town Councillors joined with me and members of the Seckford Almshouses to complain about poor bus services  these complaints have been met with the usual resounding silence from the authorities approached –  that is, the bus company and the  county council officers – and indeed our then MP John Gummer and the then Labour junior transport minister, Ipswich MP Chris Mole. Indeed, neither MP even acknowledged the letter.

Woodbridge Parking review

It seemed to have been going on forever, but the complicated and long-drawn-out process that is the new parking review for Woodbridge was nearly finished by the end of the year. In the last few months Suffolk County council sent out all finalised proposed changes to consultees (Fire, Ambulance, HGV etc) and the legal orders for changes to restrictions were written out.  All that now remains to be done is for the changes to be  formally  advertised on site / newspaper before the lining / signing changes to roads are made.

April’s report to Woodbridge Town Council

Railways – oh,  and Management Consultants

The second meeting of the County Council Cabinet in March had a large agenda.  Two issues are likely to be of particular interest to you:

Firstly, the Council’s response to the Greater Anglia rail franchise consultation – which rested on the findings of the Rail Policy Group (of which  I am a member) saw much support from across the political spectrum to improve the quality and quantity of train services across the region. Important areas that were stressed included:

  • The need for an hourly service to Peterborough;
  • the hourly service to Lowestoft (this should be up and running as far as Saxmundham by December); this further depends on the building of the Beccles loop;
  • adjusting the timings of interconnecting trains to correspond better;
  • greater parity of  equivalent fares across the franchise area – currently the cheapest day return fare to London from Ipswich is twice what it is from Cambridge to London
  • more advance notice of replacement bus services and ensuring they carry luggage and bikes  that were carried on the train
  • more provision for bikes on trains
  • Suggestion for better links with bus services

The Conservative-run Suffolk County Council Cabinet wanted to request “the exemption to Suffolk County Council’s standing orders for the procurement of organisational development resources to reshape the organisation” – in other words pay  up to £122,000 to three companies (DNA, Scintillate and Fields of Learning) in order for them to provide unspecified ‘organisational development services’ without public tender (!). However, although this  extraordinary decision – particularly extraordinary considering we are supposed to be scrutinising every expenditure and accounting for every penny –  was passed by the Cabinet, it was then  ‘called in’ by Lib Dem leaders Kathy Pollard and David Wood. This means that the decision has now to be considered by full council in May before it can be passed. Let us hope Ms Hill will provide fuller details of what she is planning.

If you would like to see a copy of the papers from cabinet, they are located here: http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi

Energy Monitors on Loan from Suffolk Libraries

Suffolk County Council has started to loan energy monitors from Libraries across the County.  The monitors allow you to check the electricity usage in your own home, helping to save on electricity bills in the future.For more information, on how to borrow one, or reserve one, the Suffolk County Council website will provide the details.

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/LeisureAndCulture/Libraries/LibraryNews/EnergyMonitors.htm

Quality of Life transport for Woodbridge schemes

As you know, I have around £10,000 to spend on projects in my district that will develop the transport infrastructure (in addition to about £8,000 earmarked from last year for a crossing by the Seal which is still in development). These need to fit into the following categories:

  • Speed limits and speed reduction schemes/anxiety relief schemes
  • Cycling schemes
  • Pedestrian schemes
  • Public transport schemes
  • Rights of way schemes
  • Traffic management schemes

I updated councillors with schemes that could be considered a couple of weeks back. After further feedback from councillors, officers and the police the suggestions have been streamlined down to the following:

Ipswich Road – speeding: The SNT have conducted speed checks in the area. Speeding tickets have been issued but the area of most concern is between the Seal and John |Grose (particularly with the exit of the new development being quite tucked away). A LED warning sign may be of benefit as a warning to drivers.  If it proved to be a suitable site, the cost of a sign would be about £5000.

Thoroughfare restrictions. the signs detailing the restrictions in the Thoroughfare are both confusing and sited in inappropriate positions at the present time. The police suggest a sign be erected on the built pavement area in front of the red lion giving this information (perhaps constructed so as to incorporate a bicycle rack or a planter etc.) this would assist greatly with reducing traffic entering the thoroughfare during the restricted times and also improve the quality of the shopping experience in woodbridge

Sandy Lane traffic calming

I am investigating this with a couple of Martlesham parish councillors as the boundaries put the lane between Woodbridge and Martlesham at different points depending on which council is involved.

Hasketon Rd junction with Ransom Rd (safety of pedestrians particularly thoses going to / from FHS). I have been pursuing this for a long time now despite some obstruction from officers, via my Locality budget. The SNT confirm they have had a number of local residents complaining of parents / carers parking on the verges etc and causing chaos in this area. Yellow lines are planned for the junction but it will probably move the problem further along. We need  some way of discouraging people from parking on the nearby grass verges whether by simple bollards as outside St Marys school (a short distance away) or by some form of planting. This would greatly improve both the visual looks of the area and the safety of those on foot/cycle.

Woodbridge – signing According to officers, the signs on the A12 were amended a little while ago to say ‘Woodbridge town centre only’ and the road marking were changed to dedicate one lane purely for access to Woodbridge and a lane for all other traffic. They really don’t think we can improve on this. However at the new roundabout on the B1438, I notice the big sign signposts read Woodbridge, Melton and Ufford.

Other projects included improving the cycle lane between Wyvedale and Farlingaye  school at the currently dangerous section past the garage. SCC officer David Kemp is  looking at possible ideas  – and if we’re lucky we might get them without using the QOL money.  The renewal of road markings on the A12 as suggested by Cllr Geen is apparently a maintenance function and therefore outside the remit of QoL funding. However Angela Rapley has passed the concern on to item onto the Area office that deals with maintenance.

Potholes

Although the government have given Suffolk County council an extra £1.9million for urgent surface repairs, this will not go very far with all the potholes that have opened up after last winter.  I have been asked by the Roads and Transport scrutiny committee to research the impact on road surfaces of bikes as opposed to cars to see whether savings could be made in road maintenance  by encouraging modal shifts to sustainable travel. Any assistance from anyone with specific expertise in this field would be gratefully received.

Woodbridge Town Council Report March 2010

March Cabinet

Due to the timing of Easter, there are two Suffolk County Council  cabinet meetings in March, one on the 2nd of March, and the other, later in the month on the 30th.

The most interesting item in the first meeting  was the County Council’s endorsement of the Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan, drafted between Suffolk Coastal District Council, and Waveney and  stating the short, medium and long term plans in place for the coast.  Particular concerns are the areas of Covehithe and Dunwich which would be left undefended, as well as the roads which could be damaged by rising sea levels. At an interview for the BBC I raised the issue of suitable longterm defences for the various Sizewell reactors – both current and decomissioned

The most important item for us locally at the second meeting on the 30th of March will be the next Greater Anglia Rail franchise consultation. I’m a member of the Rail Policy Group and will be attending the  meeting. If there are any items on this agenda which you are particularly interested in, please let me know.  I will also inform you of any decision that the cabinet makes with those items you wish to know more about.

Quality of Life funding for Transport Improvements

The County Council is going to continue its quality of life transport funding for 2010/11, although with a 20% cut. I have £10,000, I believe to spend on projects in Woodbridge that will develop the transport infrastructure. These need to fit into the following categories:

  • Speed limits and speed reduction schemes/anxiety relief schemes
  • Cycling schemes
  • Pedestrian schemes
  • Public transport schemes
  • Rights of way schemes
  • Traffic management schemes

This is a great chance for us as a non-priority town to access funding for these projects – so please contact me with any ideas you may have for ones that are suitable.

Woodbridge Library opening

I had a look round the new Woodbridge library in the former New Street school yesterday in advance of its formal opening . I was in company with Y1 and Y6 pupils from the new Woodbridge Primary.  Both the children and I were very impressed – the building is  very beautiful and has been designed for purpose in a way that the old building was not  -for a start, it is wholly accessible for the disabled and there are now twice the amount of books available.

East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership stakeholder meeting

There will be the first East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership stakeholder meeting to discuss discuss proposals in the draft Stations Investment Plan on how local stations can be improved.  They are looking for  views, involvement and commitment to making the East Suffolk line and Felixstowe branch a success with well kept stations, increased patronage and community involvement.

The meeting will be held on 16th March 2010 in the Elisabeth Room, Endeavour House, Russell Road, Ipswich starting at 18:45 until 20:30.  . The station improvement plan can be viewed on website; http://www.suffolkonboard.com/rail/east_suffolk_line_stations_investment_plan

I will be attending, and hope to have the company of at least one member of Woodbridge Town Council to ensure that Woodbridge’s interests are properly represented!.

Full Council 25th of March

The County Council will have its next meeting on the 25th of March.  As yet there is no indication of what will be on the agenda for this meeting.

However, it does present you with an opportunity to ask questions of the administration, as there is now a twenty minute period at the beginning of each Full Council meeting for the public to quiz the administration.  You do not have to attend for your question to be answered, but if you don’t attend there is not an opportunity to ask a supplementary question.

The deadline to submit questions for full council is 12 noon on Friday the 19th of March.

For more information about public questions please head to http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/CommitteesAgendasReportsandMinutes/PublicQuestionTimeatCountyCouncilMeetings.htm

Woodbridge bus services

Very many thanks to the  Woodbridge Town Councillors who joined with me and members of the Seckford Almshouses to complain about poor bus services. You may not be surprised to hear that these complaints have been met with the usual resounding silence from the authorities approached –  that is, the bus company and the  county council officers – and indeed out sitting MP John Gummer. I will keep you informed of future progress