Tag Archives: 20mph

Whats happening in Suffolk – Feb 2013

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:

  • What happened since the Cabinet decision on the 11th Dec? What commitments weren’t confirmed, were they not outlined as part of the initial contract?
  • How much is it going to cost the County Council in interim arrangements?
  • What is the duration of the expected delay? When will the next preferred bidder be announced?
  • What is the impact on the staff at IBC now that the timetable has slipped?
  • What is the contingency plan now that contracts have reached their maximum term, will emergency extensions be required? What are the cost of these?
  • Do you envisage a serious risk to the continuity, delivery and quality of the highways service given this delay?
    and last, and possibly most importantly
  • Can SCC continue to be assured this way of proceeding is actually ‘best value’?

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:

Service Area Total
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
Total £1,725,000

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.

After the fuss we made – in Woodbridge and elsewhere –   about how much we loved and needed our librariesSCC backtracked on its original proposals and threat of closures – which is  a (at least  temporary) relief. Instead it has divested all Library services to an Industrial and Provident scoiety, which is rather like a co-operative.  However, each of ourLibraries needs to make 5% savings on top the savings that are already embedded in the proposals via an increase in volunteers, more fund-raising events, or changing suppliers for maintenance contracts. Funding is onlyguaranteed  by SCC for the first two years.
Additionally, those libraries that do not have community groups are run by the IPS and have considerably less autonomy, because they have no representation on the board. This is becoming a problem in Woodbridge.

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.

What’s been happening at SCC – October

Various exciting things have been happening this last month. On a county-wide stage we have managed to get Suffolk to recognise that its decisions about Concessionary bus passes (that is, those for the disabled and the elderly) were made without adequate consultation. On a local level, I have managed to turn around the current situation regarding the Just 42 youth club. From having been offered no lease whatsoever at the  Woodbridge Youth Club  since August last year – and well-grounded concerns as to its future, Just 42 have now been offered a ten-year lease on the whole building  (- and watch this space. More is to come)

Suffolk forced to look (yet) again at  its decisions on Elderly and Disabled Bus Passes Suffolk’s County Council Cabinet has been forced to look again at their decision to provide only the statutory minimum free travel  for the elderly and disabled (0930-2300 weekdays, all day weekends and bank holidays), after the Liberal Democrat Group called the decision into the Scrutiny Committee at the end of September.

I (as proposer) and CllrDavid Wood(as seconder) presented the case that Cabinet’s decision had failed to take account of a number of important principles, most particularly  a lack of consultation of those affected, the negative impact the decision had on many peoples’ lives, the openness of the decision-making, and the insufficient evidence provided to justify the decision. We also pointed out that SCC underspent on this part of their plans for public transport by the best part of a million pounds this year, yet had no problem in finding an extra £1.3 million for better broadband (see below).

The number of public speakers (largely representing a range of disability groups) at the meeting and the written submissions (from other disability groups) that arrived in the week before the meeting, highlighted the lack of proper consultation before the decision was made.  Cabinet only looked at one submission about impact when they made their decision, – and that was because that user group  had heard about the meeting and asked specifically to contribute.

The Committee voted by seven votes to three to send this decision back to the Cabinet to be reconsidered.

I will keep you updated of any news as to when this will be.  In the meantime if you would like more information about the Call-in, please head to my blog piece about it.

NB Just to remind you, I  originally raised this issue back in July 2011, when I was able to persuade the entire Council to put aside party political differences and ask  Cabinet to look again at what it had decided to provide for Concessionary Bus Passes  and provide 24/7 travel for those eligible due to disability and allow those elderly pass holders to travel from 09.00. It took from July 11 to July 12 for Cabinet to get around to acceding to this.

Just 42 and the Woodbridge Youth Club   Excellent news! After some firm negotiation, SCC is now offering significantly differing terms to Just 42 than those which SCC has been proposing for the last 18 months. As follows:

  •  A new 10 year lease (excluded from security of tenure but see below) to be granted to Just 42;
  • Mutual annual break clauses (see 3) after three years;
  • Just 42’s position will be protected in that SCC’s right to bring the lease to an end will be conditional upon SCC providing adequate alternative facilities for Just 42 (the term ‘adequate’ to include external as well as internal facilities!);
  • The extent the area to be exclusively used by Just 42 to be agreed, together with rest of the buildings that may be available to other parties;
  • Just 42 will make the building available to other Community users when not in use by Just 42: such details to be agreed in due course;
  • SCC currently use an area of the building as an office on occasions & it is envisaged that this will continue

These proposals – although they look  very suitable – haven’t yet been accepted. We are busy checking the small-print to ensure that Just 42  – and other groups – are in no way disadvantaged!

I am immensely grateful to Charles Notcutt, the Mayor of Woodbridge,  for his presence at the last meeting. It has seemed in the past that many decisions were being made by officers at SCC and SCDC without  recognising the needs and requirements of Woodbridge and the Woodbridge young people. I therefore insisted on tsuitable respresentation from Woodbridge Town, and Mr Notcutt was kind enough to make time for this.

(Incidentally, this is by no means the end of the matter – but will give those who are providing  for  the young people of Woodbridge some much-needed security  and relief from anxiety while concrete plans for the long-term future. I now suggest that  I and the other members of the  group set up at July’s council meeting should now meet with my new Locality Officer to discuss an overarching plan that would meet the needs of Woodbridge youth over the longer term and within the plans for the town.)

 September County Council Meeting and 20mph The County Council meeting in September had quite a light agenda, but proved remarkably eventful.

As there was only one motion (about improving localism to support towns that wished to adopt 20mph speed limits in towns) it could be assumed that the meeting would have passed without any significant issues. As you know this is an issue which is hotly debated in Woodbridge.

However, an amendment proposed by Conservative administration to the 20mph motion changed every word  -and the meaning and intention – of the original text, leaving council to discuss things which SCC was already doing! The opposition parties pointed this out – but when the Council Chariman and officers refused to accept that this changed motion left us debating the status quo, the opposition parties – apart from the proposer and seconder of the motion, had no option but to leave the Council chamber. Full details  here.

This is another example of the stifling of democracy at Suffolk County Council, which is also so apparent in the way in which the Cabinet makes decisions without reference to the other members of its own party, let alone those of the opposition parties!

Grit bins (again!) Now is the time to be looking towards the winter cold. I know we only had a couple of days of real ice last winter – but we can certainly not rely on it!  If anyone knows of areas where bins would be useful – and here I am thinking specifically of Peterhouse and the Warwick Avenue area, I can fund them and the Town Clerk will be happy to buy them on my – and your – behalf!

Remembrance Day  After listening to the Rev McCormack’s wonderfully inclusive words at last Remembrance Day, I have been asking if it would be possible to have a non-religious presence on the Shire Hall steps for Remembrance Day. This would represent the 1 in 5 people in Woodbridge (as in Suffolk as a whole, and the UK in general) who see themselves as ‘Good without God’  and to recognise how many of such people have served and died in the name of  their country without any religious beliefs to sustain them – and who are doing so to this day. I am glad to say that this has now been accepted as  a valid point. After talking to the new Rock Barracks padre yesterday, it looks like he may be able to find a suitable acting soldier to undertake such a role for Woodbridge on this important and highly significant day.

Grand Driver Scheme  The Grand Driver scheme has just been launched: to help assist the continuation of safe driving as people get older. Older drivers are the fastest growing driving population in Suffolk.  Although there’s evidence to suggest that the likelihood of crashes increases with age, older adults are also renowned as safety-conscious and law-abiding drivers.

The scheme comprises  3 main elements: Insight and awareness of attitudes to driving and self-regulatory behaviour, An opportunity to update and refresh knowledge and discuss driving matters at workshops arranged throughoutSuffolkand a driving assessment and feedback in your own vehicle focusing on safe driving and coping strategies.

More information can be obtained from Michelle Haward: 01473 265256  Michelle.haward@suffolk.gov.uk

Better Broadband SCC’s Cabinet has decided to take Better Broadband for Suffolk to the next stage, increasing the level of money invested by Suffolk County Council by another £1.3 million , and delegating the contract agreement.

Scampaign – Lottery Scams   Suffolk Trading Standards are warning us about lottery scams, which often claim people have won a significant amount of money on an overseas or online lottery and ask for personal information including bank account details.  Please could councillors make people aware that they should protect themselves against lottery fraud in the following ways:

Protecting yourself against lottery fraud:

  • Be realistic: if you haven’t entered a lottery then you can’t have won it
  • Never respond to any communication –  as above, if  you haven’t entered a lottery then, really and truly  you can’t have won it
  • If they’ve provided an email address to respond to, be particularly suspicious of addresses such as @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com or numbers beginning with 07, because these are free to get hold of
  • Any request for a fee payment is a good indication that someone is trying to defraud you – there are no official lottery operators who ask for fees to collect winnings!
  • Never, ever disclose your bank details or pay fees in advance
  • Genuine lotteries thrive on publicity. If they ask you to keep your win a secret it’s likely to be a fraud
  • Many fraudulent lotteries have bad spelling and grammar – see this as a warning that fraudsters are at work

What to do if you are a victim of lottery fraud:

  • Report to Action Fraud specialists by calling 0300 123 2040
  • If you have responded to the email/letter/call, break off all contact with the fraudsters at once
  • If you have given over your bank account details, alert your bank immediately
  • Be aware that you’re now likely to be a target for other frauds. Fraudsters often share details about people they have successfully targeted or approached, using different identities to commit further frauds

My next County Councillor’s Surgery This will be in Woodbridge Library on Saturday, 20th October 10-12 noon as ever. All welcome!

Suffolk towns denied speed-cuts?

Do we want Woodbridge to be a 20mph town or not? Some people do, others don’t. Whatever we think, we need to be able to SAY what it is we want and have Suffolk County Council listen to us.

There was a premature end to today’s full SCC Council meeting when I – along with every other non-Conservative member present – got up and left the chamber in disgust, leaving the Conservatives to talk among themselves.

This was because the Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport  had  a difficulty in differentiating between amendment and replacement. (At least the amendment he wrote began “Delete current wording and replace with..” pretty much as if he thought Full Council  and the whole democratic process were nothing more than an incompetent typist.)

The motion in question was, at first glance, pretty benign. It asked SCC  to  “support, help fund and actively engage with those communities, local residents and other civic amenity groups, town – and parish councils across Suffolk in their requests for speed limits of 20mph in residential areas which are designed as community-generated actions to make their local streetscapes safer (particularly for children and older pedestrians and cyclists); and more tranquil places where community life can flourish and air pollution can be reduced”

What could be more harmless and useful?

It didn’t demand anything. It didn’t insist on anything. It just suggested that SCC should have a look at its green protestations and perhaps consider those residents who wished to travel by other transport than the car unimpeded.

And as I have been trying  to get SCC to look at Woodbridge becoming a trial 20mph zone for the last 2 years I was going to speak in support of the motion.  20mph is an impossible speed for pedestrians or runners and a good fast speed for horse and cycle – why should we decide it is unreasonably slow for cars in residential areas? The practicalities can be achieved without speed-bumps or signs by making the whole area a speed-exclusion zone,  and a study of one of these zones in London found they reduced casualties by 40%.

What’s not to like?

A lot, according to Mr McGregor. He eyed this motion much as his namesake may have eyed Peter Rabbit,  drove his pen through it, and wrote something he approved of instead. So much for democracy and the will of the people

His replacement motion said instead that SCC will:

  • continue supporting 20s Plenty
  • provide support and help with funding for those 20mph schemes where pre-determined road safety [my question: predetermined by who and to what criteria?] and other environmental criteria are met and where they are deemed necessary[o note that fatal, weaselly passive: who deems them necessary? and on what grounds?] and
  • work with Suffolk Police to maintain and improve road safety.

Eh? In other words Mr McGregor replaced an honest, intelligent intention for the future of Suffolk roads with a so-called ‘amendment’ committing SCC to absolutely nothing that they are not doing already.

And he seriously expected members would neither notice this, nor mind wasting an entire afternoon debating this  fatuous statement of the status quo.

When it turned out that new SCC Chair (and ex-Leader)  Jeremy Pembroke was happy to accept this ridiculous replacement for serious political debate, the Lib Dem, Labour, and Independent members walked out en masse. (As would the Greens, no doubt, only the poor souls, having proposed the original motion were stuck).  When I last saw the Council webcam the Conservatives were busy debating this non-event all on their own.

Let’s hope in the absence of anyone other than themselves, Tory members might actually  say what they really think on the matter for once, rather than toeing the Cabinet line..

PS This is what the SCC website has to say about  the Council’s attitude to 20mph zones on its Cycling page.