Category Archives: Your councillor

Transport of delight? the view’s from the Clapham omnibus

bb
We’re living through parlous times. The global financial situation grows ever more dire, more and more people are poorer and poorer, jobs are scarce, petrol is more expensive and public transport is becoming a greater necessity. Yet – just as under Labour and Conservative governments – rural buses provide a worse and worse service.  Public transport policy-making continues to be in the hands of  people who (may) intend well and probably think they know what they are talking about, but do not do so from any personal experience!
bb
This is because the people who make the policy are principally town and city-dwellers. These are  people whose experience of rail closures is restricted to the vanishing of Trafalgar Square tube station, people who expect to walk out of an office and onto a bus, people who have a choice of publicly funded transport options to get them from a to b. These are people who only discover their transport-richness when there is a strike or a breakdown  – and who are then outraged at briefly having to face the same lifestyle as the rest of us. They expect automatically to be able to get on a bus or a tube or a local train  on an evening or a Sunday or a bank holiday when in the city. The countryside?  they don’t need buses to exist outside the M25. You reach your little place in the country by car.
In fact, they don’t know they’re born.
bb
Maybe its not surprising that such folks do not realise that for many of us outside towns and cities  it is a luxury to get reliable public transport after six pm, on a weekday. (Or indeed to get any public transport at any time.)
bb
Everyone in Britain helps support these planners’ ignorance of the facts of life, because we spend more on their public transport.  A lot more. A couple of years back, 42% of the UK’s public spending on buses was being spent in London to serve 15% of the population. In the same year (2009/10) each Londoner had £103.43 spent on their bus transport. As opposed to the £13.47 per capita spend we people in Suffolk received.
bb
So when we country bumpkins come up to London and are impressed by how easy it is to get about, just remember, its because we are generously paying for this out of our own pockets!
bb
Why? Because decisions have been made for years by a series of governments who are deeply prejudiced against poorer country dwellers, because they either don’t believe in or have no concern for rural poverty, that’s why!
bb
This being the case, we need to fight for parity. Suffolk would do a lot better if its County Council Cabinet actually lobbied the Coalition government for a more equitable spend on public transport. (This isn’t a matter of party politics but of innate fairness. They didn’t lobby the Labour government either.)  Instead, time and time again, Suffolk’s County Council uses the current  – iniquitous – situation as an alibi for their own lack of interest, or spine.
bb
In China they have a saying to explain why things are not as they should be  “The mountains are high, and the emperor is far away山  高  黄  帝  远.
bb
So come on, SCC’s Cabinet – join us in shouting so loudly that the emperors of transport hear us in Whitehall, and on that pretty red bus in Parliament Square!
bb

“Attention – this policy is reversing!” U-turn on young people’s travel

Hurrah – direct action and real democracy has finally paid off.

Yesterday – fifteen months after their short-sighted,  mean-minded and pennypinching  abolition of Suffolk’s Explore young person’s travelcard (halfway through the academic year, let me remind you!) –  the Conservatives on Suffolk County Council have announced a U-turn.   SCC will now be developing  an Oyster-type card “to help provide reduced travel costs for education, training and work-related travel” for young people, because – as Leader Mark Bee acknowledged -travel is such a problem for young people in our rural county.

As my son would say, no shit, Sherlock!

What Cllr Bee says is perfectly true. But it  is  hardly news. It’s now exactly a year since the County Council received that  6,000 signature petition and the personal representations from a huge range of people (including some very vocal, determined – and polite – members of Woodbridge’s Just 42) telling them just this!

When  the Conservatives originally argued the necessity of the Explore  cut on the grounds of cost, they were too shortsighted to recognise the costly damage it would cause to the educational, work and training prospects of a whole cohort of young people.  This harm was clear to anyone who looked at the facts rather than the ideology of the New Strategic Direction.  Indeed, in the middle of last year the Conservatives heard this information directly from me and other Lib Dem councillors, from schools and colleges, from parents and – most of all – from the young people affected.

We all told the Conservatives that scrapping the Explore card would – and did – cause huge problems to those who wanted to get an education and a job.  But -as the Cabinet member for Roads and Transport so memorably said -“you can’t spend a pound more than once.”   In such  circumstances, the wise idea is to choose carefully what you do spend your pounds on in the first place. This was the same Cabinet that agreed the expenditure of really quite a lot of pounds on Suffolk Circle.

Thursday’s announcement is welcome news – but sadly it is too late for some.  And the current announcement – despite the fanfare – is currently limited to Ipswich.Yet  Scrutiny established  at the end of last year that the young people living in Ipswich remained  best supported by bus services after the Explore cut. It was those in the rural parts of Suffolk – those with large distances to travel and no access to cars or petrol -who were most badly affected.

Now that this decision has been made, I urge the council to go beyond spin on this occasion and to roll out this new Oyster-type scheme as quickly as possible. We we need to reverse, wherever possible,  the harm they have caused and are continuing to cause to the next generation of Suffolk!

Leaders of the Pack? 1st Woodbridge Scouts

Young people today they dress the same as each other… they’re always hanging around in groups… climbing all over the place..

1st Woodbridge Scouts make a workable 'A' frame bridge

There really couldn’t be a better description of the 1st Woodbridge Scouts.

I’ve known the 1st Woodbridge Group for a long time – indeed am immensely grateful to them. My daughter was one of the first female scouts to join the Group and they were amazingly supportive in allowing her the same opportunities for outings and camps and cycling and water sports as the others in the group, when many other organisations saw her epilepsy rather than the person underneath.

So she fell into rivers, she camped in the snow, she cooked hideous messes over fires – and she learned to be self-reliant, and hardy, and how not to come to harm. And she bloomed.

Of course, it was not just my daughter 1st Woodbridge supported to achieve her best, but every single member of the group, whatever their age or background.

And that’s what scouting is about. They support ‘learning by doing’ – giving the scouts responsibility, encouraging them to work in teams, to take acceptable risks and think for themselves.

Scouting is cheap – for the scouts, and their parents – because the basis of the movement is that everyone should be able to join and benefit. And so the scouting movement relies heavily on adult volunteers – people who are generous enough to give up one evening a week to help young people to hang around in groups productively, rather than on street corners. It is generous of them, it is public spirited – but let’s be honest, it is also extraordinarily good fun.

So much fun that maybe you should try it for yourself.

At the moment 1st Woodbridge has 25 scouts. There is a waiting list. The group  can’t take any more, because they would need more leaders. And if one of the leaders becomes ill, they have to cancel activities.. So, if you’re enthusiastic, practical and good with people, and – say – your day job involves too much sitting and not enough excitement, why not contact 1st Woodbridge?  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1stwoodbridge/