Category Archives: Your councillor

More Conservative cuts for Suffolk’s JAMs

1200 people signed Caroline Page’s Woodbridge petition against budget cuts to Suffolk Library services in 10 days!

Suffolk  County Council have just voted in a further budget of cuts  – in which various Conservative councillors (the sixth age of Man  “In fair round belly with good capon lined“) stood up and explained portentously how these cuts were due  to their prudence,  and concern for the welfare of the people of Suffolk, hem hem.

So no mention at all  that these cuts could have been mitigated if
the very same Conservative councillors hadn’t foolishly boasted that they could run  the country as efficiently as ever without raising the council tax  over the last seven years (or as Leader Colin Noble gleefully puts in his blog of 25 -03-2013 And even better news we have promised that if elected we will freeze the Council Tax for the whole of the next term. So that[‘s] 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%! ”  -a  simple explanation for the truly appalling state of Suffolk roads, social care, and community transport services etc. over the last few years!

The current situation could also have been mitigated IF the same Conservative administration had actually spent their entire committed budget every year, instead of squirrelling away an annual seemingly planned  spending shortfall of £10m, on top of their reserves. Some cuts they have made therefore – the cuts to library budget, for example – seem to be cuts that they made by choice. Because – again, I quote Colin Noble’s blog *:

I do not know what planet Councillor Noble is living on – or who the people are he thinks he represents! Clearly not library users.

Amongst the many cuts to this year’s budget,  Suffolk Conservatives proposed a further £230,000 cut to the library service budget . Concerning because since they became IPSs,  our libraries have been well used – and used  for so many purposes –  by readers, reading groups, writing groups, clubs; for old, for young, for retired, employed, unemployed and first job seekers; for AGMs, poetry readings, play performances,  and the ever-popular  reading challenge. I hold my monthly surgery  in Woodbridge Library because it is such a community hub.

As Woodbridge  county councillor I vehemently oppose these cuts to library services. My party opposes these cuts. The residents I have spoken to locally, regardless of age, background, or political affiliation, have opposed these  cuts. Investing in the immense range of things our libraries do so well and  so cheaply is building social capital that benefits Suffolk in a huge range of ways.

In my view it is simple madness to damage it or throw it away.

Yesterday the Labour party presented an amendment to the Conservatives’ budget, overturning the cuts and suggesting over £15m of expenditure from reserves to replace some of the damage Cllr Noble’s administration has done over the last years.

As the meeting , I presented a petition of 1200 local residents’ signatures gathered over the last week in  Woodbridge   and spoke as follows:

I am supporting the Labour amendment, not because I agree with all of it, but because we need to make a stand for the communities we represent against what has clearly become a culture of cuts in the name of ideology, covered thinly with the cloak of Austerity.

A few years ago the administration opposite were trumpeting the virtues of the New Strategic Direction ‘s ‘virtual council’  – now in our Chief Finance Officer’s report , “the county is committed to being a smaller and ever-more-effective Council with a much greater emphasis on commissioning and much lower levels of direct service provision. “

Because it has worked so well – in  the case of Highways Procurement, for example?

Isn’t it time to replace ideology with some practical common sense?

The oldest signatory to the Woodbridge Save Suffolk Library Services petition

I am very  concerned on behalf of the people of Suffolk that the administration wants to be “a smaller council” “with a much greater emphasis on  commissioning”  because then they need not take responsibility for being less effective.  
The proposed Library budget cuts are comparatively small. And our libraries are an irreplaceable resource: they lend books, support study, provide a knowledge base, host clubs and hobby groups and foster new writing and literature and that’s just for starters. In the last ten days  on the streets of Woodbridge,  I managed to get 1200 signatures for this petition which says “We oppose any further reductions to the funding of Suffolk’s invaluable and irreplaceable library services, and urge Suffolk County Council not to make this cut. “ The people who signed were of all ages, backgrounds  and political affiliations – the eldest was 101.  The one thing they agreed on was that these cuts were unacceptable. Comments range from asking “Are you mad?” to “A brilliant community service”,”Shame on you!”Libraries are an integral part of our future and our history – knowledge is power”. Over and over again is repeated the fact that our libraries are ‘essential’ and that users want “No more cuts!”

So why cut? If  Suffolk has underspent by millions year on year (as both LibDems and Labour disclosed) we didn’t need to cut the library budget last year on the grounds of affordability – and we certainly should not have the brass neck  to cut it by a further quarter of a million this year . Suffolk Libraries are scooping up people failed by the employment, education, social care services, all on top of their – statutory, may I remind you –  remit to lend us books. Funding is cut to the bone –and STILL Suffolk’s administration proposes cuts.   And will no doubt wash their hands of the consequences,  like jesting Pilate.

I agree with many things in the Labour amendment – in an absolute requirement  for Suffolk to support public transport and education transport and to support those of all ages in  need of  help and care,  but if it were only to ensure that our wonderful libraries remain the admiration of the rest of the country – which they currently areI can have no option but to support this amendment!

Such eloquence, eh?  But still the prevailing Conservative vote was against common sense and common interest. I’m sorry, folks. We tried.

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*I have provided a screengrab for Cllr Noble’s blog because astonishingly enough one is unable to access it via a County Council computer. Should you try, you get the message

“Oops, it looks like this site isn’t categorised!
Uncategorised websites aren’t available as they may be unsafe.”

Strange but true !

Cycle-paths die in Suffolk’s free market

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It is impossible to cycle along this cyclepath. SCC has not maintained it for 2 years

Since Conservative-run Suffolk County Council divested its Highways maintenance services to the efficiencies of the private sector , its not only the roads that are in bad repair. Cycle paths abutting the A12 are in a  disgraceful state of disrepair, and many can no longer be used for cycling. This forces vulnerable cyclists back on the A12 amidst the fast traffic and HGVs – a situation the cycle-paths were specifically created to remedy.

Last week  I discovered for myself that the A12 cycle path between  Woodbridge and the Ufford turnoff is not only overgrown, but in places it has actually disappeared.

Travel was a choice between walking our bikes on the ‘cycle path’ or cycling on the A12. We chose the former as safer – but the damage to my own bicyle’s inner tube and front tyre was irreparable because of the thorns and brambles across the path.

Unfortunately we will  have no option but to cycle this route tomorrow. Does my disabled companion – who has catastrophic epilepsy – take her chance on the A12, or add an extra half-hour to an hour to her thirty-minute journey  battling through the jungle where a cycle path used to be?

It is not a choice Suffolk Highways should be offering her, me, or any other cyclist, in this, the self-described ‘Greenest County.’

I have  written to the Cabinet member for Highways and the Deputy Director of Highways Operations asking for their assurance that they should abandon this policy of wilful neglect and restore these paths to a usable condition immediately.

Not only is the path overgrown, somebody has kindly left an enormous pile of thorns across it. Gee, thanks
Not only is the cycle path overgrown, somebody has kindly left an enormous pile of thorns across it. Gee, thanks

‘No Cold-calling Zone’ in Morley Avenue

Last Thursday, Lee Nunn from Suffolk Trading Standards and I visited every home in Morley Avenue to talk to residents about their experiences with cold callers,  to set up a ‘No Cold-Calling zone’ in the Avenue, and to supply “No Cold Calling” door stickers advertising this.  For residents displaying a no cold calling door sticker  it is now a criminal offence for traders to call at their door, although things like collecting for local charities, local newspaper deliveries and the like are fine. No Cold Calling street signage will be fixed in the road to further identify that residents in the road do not welcome uninvited doorstep callers and it will be a criminal offence for traders to cold call on any properties in the road.

Rogue traders cold-calling prey quite ruthlessly on people – particularly if they are vulnerable and on their own. Lee Nunn said he was surprised at the sheer level of cold-calling activity taking place  in Morley Avenue compared with other areas he had visited.

These have included fish salesmen,  people suggesting they were from the Probation board, selling household goods at inflated prices, and  young  men selling torches etc ‘in order to get into the army.’

Fortunately Morley Avenue is a tightknit community with a lot of good neighbours. However a resident has recently been talked into buying an extremely large quantity of fish at a very high price. (You can find more details about rogue fish sellers here)

If you’re not sure don’t open the door,”advises Lee Nunn,

In addition he  suggests:

  • Use a door chain to check who is calling
  • Don’t trade on the door step
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member for advice on reputable traders
  • Display a “No Cold Calling “ sticker on your door. Available free from Suffolk Trading Standards on 01473 264859 or via TradingStandards@suffolk.gov.uk
  • Always report any  suspicions cold-calling activity immediately to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 040506

 

Woodbridge Library Reading Challenge 2016

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Cllr Caroline Page, and Woodbridge Librarian Helen Scrivener hand out awards at the Woodbridge Library Reading Challenge awards ceremony 2016

Today we had the fun of the Reading Challenge awards ceremony at Woodbridge Library – one of the jolliest events in this County Councillor’s annual calendar.

To complete the challenge, each child has to read six books over the summer and discuss each of them with a volunteer.

In the autumn every child who has finished their six books gets a certificate and medal at a special ceremony at Woodbridge Library. It’s such fun – and helps support a love of reading. Some of the Woodbridge volunteers have been reading challengers themselve in years gone by.

400 children registered this year, 60% of whom finished  the challenge. This  meant Woodbridge Library volunteers spent 250 hours helping with the scheme over the summer!!!

This year I augmented the scheme by funding story-reading sessions for the children over the summer, a Dream Jar competition and a magic show to finish the afternoon off in style, once the certificates had been presented.

Woodbridge – happier because residents are fully represented?

Surgery GENERIC ALLDATES YEARSThe Saturday after next I will be spending my usual morning at  Woodbridge library, running my regular open-access surgery for Woodbridge residents. I’ve run this surgery every month  for the last five years. It is supposed to be two hours long, but these days it’s closer to three, as the surgery is generally well-attended and I don’t leave until the last person has been seen.

In August, Rightmove published its annual report on the ‘happiest place’ to live in Britain – as identified by the residents *. Woodbridge scored 10th place nationwide – an amazing accolade for a town as small as ours.

Now, I don’t want to labour the point, but if your elected representative makes the effort to be available and to listen to your problems and ideas and tries to help with them, it  must have a positive effect on the town’s happiness!

This weekend,  I was in Hadleigh, whose County Councillor,  Brian Riley (elected 2013) moved to North Carolina in early 2015 – but kept claiming his allowance and shamelessly told his constituents  that he could be as good a Suffolk county councillor from the USA.

Mr Riley has now finally resigned shortly before being removed. He couldn’t even manage  to maintain the minimum council attendance requirement for a councillor (one meeting every six months) and having left his constituents voiceless and without adequate county representation for 18 months. A private communication I had from him by email last month suggests he thinks this all a very fine state of affairs.

Before Brian Riley won the seat for the Conservatives (who have been strangely reluctant to criticise their former colleague’s shoddy behaviour to those he was elected to represent), Hadleigh was held for 24 years by LibDem David Grutchfield, who worked tirelessly for the town, and  only stood down through extreme ill-health.

Maybe Hadleigh residents should ponder what it is that makes a town happy when they vote at the forthcoming by-election? They deserve so much more and better than what they have had in recent years

*    The 12 factors that Rightmove looked at were:

  • Community Spirit
  • Sense of belonging
  • I can be myself
  • I feel safe
  • Essential local services e.g. doctors, schools
  • Non-essential amenities e.g. restaurants, pubs
  • Opportunities to develop skills
  • I earn enough to live comfortably
  • The people are friendly and polite
  • Sports and recreational activities
  • Arts and culture
  • Nature and green spaces