Click on the picture to the left to get a reading-size e-version of our December’s Woodbridge Focus
Click on the picture to the left to get a reading-size e-version of our December’s Woodbridge Focus
And finally – and most satisfactorily – the meat served in Suffolk schools has been found to be free of equine DNA .
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.
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,
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;
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
Disgraceful league table results for Suffolk schools, Son of Explore card returns, negotiations with the ‘preferred bidder’ for SCC’s highways procurement falls through 10 weeks before d-day…
…and Woodbridge Library needs Friends!
Suffolk Travel Card On 29th January, SCC’s Cabinet heralded the return of a Suffolk Travel Card for young people. It will provide uniform discounts and easier tickets, particularly for those young people in the County who need to reach further education establishments and employment.
I and the Lib Dems, welcome this card as we have been campaigning for the Explore card to return for nearly two years – as have many of the young people in Woodbridge affected by the cut. However, we have a significant number of questions about its implementation given that the Cabinet paper contained little in the way of specific detail.
The card, set up originally for those young people, will most likely provide a 25% discount for travel, but this has yet to be confirmed and discussions with all bus providers across Suffolk has not yet taken place. There is also a lack of clarity about how much the card will cost, whether it will be free or have a £10 charge, and what will happen when they try to widen the scheme to other members of the public in the County.
In addition to backing the Suffolk Travel Card, the Cabinet also backed the Kickstart campaign which aims to help provide access to scooters for rural young people with a grant of £100,000.
Highways Procurement Although the County Council agreed a contract with Balfour Beatty to provide the highways services across Suffolk we heard last week that this had fallen through, ten weeks before the D-day of April 1st. It has therefore been decided that the procurement process will revert to the previous stage where Suffolk County Council can liaise with any, or all, of the bidders who submitted final tenders (including Balfour Beatty Living Places), before again identifying a preferred bidder.
This latest update casts doubt on whether the savings presented in the budget are going to be achievable for this year, and what is going to happen once the current contracts expire on the 31st of March. The Lib Dem group have asked a number of questions on this subject and we are still waiting to hear what exactly the consequences of this will be.
The questions are:
As yet we are not much the wiser – but it looks like interim arrangements will have to be made at least until September. I will keep you informed!
Huge drop in Suffolk’s school league rankings Although it is pleasant to see that our local Woodbridge schools holding their own in the rankings (at primary: St Mary’s was ranked one of 15 joint first, Kyson four places behind and in the top 200 most improved primaries in the country, and Woodbridge Primary 32nd ,while at secondary level Farlingaye was ranked overall third – ahead of all private schools in the county!). However, the release of this years GCSE grades show Suffolk has dropped to 141st out of 152 authorities for GCSE results. This comes on top of our equally appalling descent to (joint) 148h out of 152 in the primary school rankings. Under the previous administration, Suffolk had consistently ranked in the top third of Local Authorities for schools results.
SCC is choosing to claim that these disgraceful GCSE results can be attributed to the controversial 2012 grade boundary shifts for English and English Language although the grade boundary shifts affected all examinees nationwide and the tables cover 5 GCSEs.
Budget The County Council’s budget for the next financial year will be set this week. In recognition of the truly appalling schools results and an increase in road accidents, the LibDem group have put in the following amendments to fund the following from Contingency reserves:
|School Improvement Services – Additional advisors||£650,000|
|School Improvement – Teacher focused support||£475,000|
|Looked after children – County commitment to MTFC||£300,000|
|Five 20mph schemes – Funds to respond to local demand||£300,000|
I will keep you updated as to the progress of the budget.
Health Emergency heart attack care in Suffolk was examined at the recent Health Scrutiny. It was revealed that whilst survival rates were greater than 95%, the target time of 150 minutes to one of the three treatment centres in Basildon, Norwich or Cambridge was exceeded for a quarter of Suffolk patients. The Health Scrutiny committee recommended continuing education for ambulance staff in the management of cardiac emergencies, and national and regional campaigns to educate the public about the need to dial 999 as soon as possible if someone experiences chest pain.
I have not been informed as to how the recommendation for national and regional campaigns would be taken forward.
Additionally, a new £5m heart treatment centre is being built at Ipswich hospital for routine heart operations, including the insertion of stents.
Friends of Woodbridge Library I spent Saturday morning – National Library day – in Woodbridge library raising awareness of a need for a Friends Group.
Because Woodbridge Library is run by the IPS , decision-making occurs without any local involvement . A notable example is the matter of the moving in of Suffolk Coastal District services to the Woodbridge Library premises without consultation or consideration of local wishes or requirements. All moneys earned by the Library go back to the IPS, rather than being spent at the discretion of us locals. In the case of the Tourist Information point, neither Woodbridge Library or the residents of Woodbridge were even consulted as to the amount of rent SCDC should be paying(!). Indeed the whole issue appears to have been discussed between officers without any input from or reference to elected local councillors or the Library itself.
Woodbridge Library now needs to have Friends. Contact the Library directly if you want to help.