Tag Archives: Andrea Hill

New SCC chief exec: Deborah Cadman

Yesterday Suffolk County Council appointed Deborah Cadman  as  Chief Executive, a unanimous decision by the multi-party Staff Appointments board. Ms Cadman is the chief executive of the (shortly-to-be-wound-up)  East of England Development Agency, and a former chief executive of  St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

At £155,000,  her salary is  £63,592 less than Andrea Hill was paid, with no bonuses or annual pay increments.  At a time of belt-tightening, this is laudable and appropriate.

According to Council leader Mark Bee, ” I want to continue the work we’ve started to restore public confidence in Suffolk County Council and allow our staff to get the recognition they deserve. Deborah is just the person to help us do that.”

Town Council report July 2011

This  month’s report deals with the long-anticipated  departure of Suffolk’s Chief Executive, the Library scrutiny, my proposed motion re concessionary travel passes to next full council and a few words about a telecom mast…

Departure of SCC Chief Executive

Last week finally saw the departure of Chief Executive Andrea Hill from  Suffolk County Council.  I’m giving you the County Council statement in full:

“The Dismissals and Appeals Committee of Suffolk County Council has today (4 July 2011) concluded its investigation into the ‘whistle-blowing’ allegations made against Chief Executive, Andrea Hill.

“Bullying and harassment allegations were robustly investigated by an independent firm of solicitors. Although it remains a concern that such a perception existed, the Committee is satisfied that there was no evidence to support those claims or that she was responsible for the death of David White (former Head of Legal Services). The Committee wants to reassure staff that all allegations are treated extremely seriously.

“The Committee also received a report into Mrs Hill’s expense claims during her tenure as Chief Executive.  It has concluded that whilst there were undoubtedly claims which, in the current climate, might not represent best use of public money, the Committee accepted that there was no dishonesty in the claims made.

“Following a lengthy discussion last Friday, and negotiations between representatives of both parties over the weekend, the county council can now confirm that Mrs Hill will be leaving her post with immediate effect.

“There has been significant media attention attached to Mrs Hill which has become a distraction and both parties accept that with new political leadership of Suffolk County Council in place, it is better to allow the organisation to move forward with new managerial leadership.

“The county council would like to thank Mrs Hill for all she has done over the past three years and wish her well for her future.

“The total value of compensation to be paid to Mrs Hill is £218,592.  This figure includes her contractual notice period.”

Until a new appointment is made, Lucy Robinson will continue to stand in as interim Chief Executive.

Mrs Hill’s appointment and salary package were not ratified unanimously by the council: my party, for example, voted against both. However, as I understand it, any future appointment will be undertaken:

  • relatively slowly
  • in a spirit of considerably greater consensus
  • without this time incurring the expense of a recruitment agency (this is not only the expense of using one, but the expense that occurs by the possible ramping up of salaries by the agency to maximise its own profit on the transaction)

These days no public sector appointment can offer a salary greater than the prime minister (about £142,000) without specific permission being sought and gained. It is  therefore expected that Suffolk’s next Chief Executive  will be paid considerably less than our last one was.

County Council – Public questions & Agenda

The next Full Council meeting will take place on the 14th of July.

At this meeting, I will personally be putting forward a motion to extend the time that concessionary bus passes can be used for free in Suffolk.  For the last months the County Council provided  only basic free travel between 9:30 and 11.  I’m proposing a start time of 9am for those those who have the concessionary pass on the basis of age, and no time limitations at all for those  who are eligible for the pass on the basis of disability.  Implementing this  – as many other County Councils do – will help increase social mobility, and allow individuals to reach places of work, socialise, and to make hospital appointments without unneccessary restriction.

In addition to this,  the petitions to Save Suffolk Libraries – amounting to well over 36,000 signatures in toto  – will be heard and spoken to.

Libraries – Scrutiny Committee Recommendations

At the last Scrutiny Committee on the 14th of June Councillors discussed the County Councils Library policy, and made a number of recommendations in order to influence the policy decision which will take place later in July at the Cabinet meeting.  The papers for this meeting have now been published, and can be found on the County Council website. I would like to draw your attention to an anomaly in the paperwork for this:  there is a graph representing responses to the consultation, but it says:

NB The chart above does not include the response “Maintain as is”. This received 3099 out of the 3893 responses and therefore made a meaningful graph-based representation with the other responses impossible

This is not the case: you can see a graph showing all responses at James Hargraves’  blog.

The full Scrutiny Committee recommendations are:

a)                   the classification of County Libraries and Community Libraries referred to in the Consultation document is not a reasonable basis for a policy;

b)                   the potential community interest company agrees individual budgets for each library;

c)                   the business case considered by Cabinet should clearly demonstrate how the community interest company service would operate across the whole of Suffolk;

d)                   that the Council retain the ability to ensure that the terms offered by the community interest company were sufficient to maintain a sustainable service;

e)                   any claims on secondary taxation from Parish, Town, District or Borough Councils be carried out on an equitable basis across Suffolk;

f)                     due consideration be given to innovative ideas that have already come forward and any others that are received  from communities on how their services might be run;

g)                   the policy on mobile libraries be clearly stated in the report to Cabinet;

h)                   the Council provide absolute clarity to communities interested in running their libraries on issues they were likely to raise such as finance, staffing and legal issues;

i)                     the Council must satisfy itself on the financial viability of the plans put forward and that they are sustainable.

j)                     further expressions of interest are welcome and will be considered.

Health Scrutiny

The county council  having cancelled the Health Scrutiny committee last year, it has now become clear that health issues are occupying a disproportionate time of the one Scrutiny committee now remaining to us. The County Council has therefore decided to reinstate the Health Scrutiny Committee, which will  be meeting  next on the 20th of July.

Woodbridge matters: proposed new telecoms mast

Delivered verbally at the meeting

I have had several concerned people talking to me about the proposal of a new telecoms mast in Old Barrack Road.  It is for a 12.5 metre mast with 4 antennae and 2 dishes on it, in a very residential area and next to a mature sycamore tree. It ts also within 100 metres of Kyson school and Kyzone playgroup.

I have talked to a couple of officers in the SCC Highways department about this and it seems that the primary problem is that the telecommunications industry have a statutory right by licence to erect masts on public highway land. (Do not ask me how this iniquitous law which appears to support private enterprise at the expense of public opinion came into force but it goes back to 1984, say no more)

This statutory right is subject to the following:

“Mobile phone companies are granted a licence by central government under the Telecommunications Act 1984 which allows them to install their equipment (masts, cabinets) within the public highway, subject to approvals outlined below:

1.  SCC (as highway authority) approvals The licence requires mobile phone companies to ensure their equipment doesn’t cause safety hazard ie to ensure the masts and cabinets do not obscure visibility at junctions or obstructions to pedestrians. The area offices provide advise as required.

2. District council (local planning authority) approvals Planning legislation requires mobile phone companies to follow a 42-day prior approval procedure before erecting masts. This requires the company to erect a notice on site and write to the district council. During this period the district council can require details of the siting and appearance of the equipment and can approve or refuse permission for the mast.

3.  Planning permission Any freestanding mast in excess of 15 metres in height requires planning permission from the district council irrespective of prior approval procedure.

From the Suffolk County Council angle, therefore, one can only make an objection to the siting of the mast if it is considered that the siting of the mobile mast causes a traffic risk. I asked the SCC officers’ opinion  on this, and their opinion was that it did not, although maybe local residents with a greater understanding of living in the area might be able to prove differently. I am very happy to broker any concerns

However, you may notice points 2 and 3 which is where Suffolk Coastal District Council come into the picture as the local planning authority. I don’t know how far down the route this has gone.  I notice that SCDC has to grant planning permission for the mast to go up, in addition to  the prior approval procedure.

Suffolk Politics and the English Language

I’ve just come back from Suffolk’s latest full council meeting – the centrepiece of which was a debate on the administration’s  Update to the New Strategic Direction ( click here: its the last document on the list).  Many of the Lib Dem and other opposition members, including myself, laid into this  incomprehensible  piece of bureaucratic gobbledegook.

In return some, but not very many, members of the Conservative majority reproached us for using unkind words. (Oh, and for writing nasty blogs which criticised them.)  They suggested, cynically, that we Lib Dems were being cynical and destructive of  the Administration’s  highminded efforts to listen to the residents of Suffolk. “We want to free the people of Suffolk from the chains of excessive bureaucracy, and give them what they truly want”, they claimed.

They might have convinced me if it weren’t for all those emails I’ve been getting these last months from Suffolk people  facing the prospect of being without buses, without bus passes, without explore cards, school crossing patrols, libraries, care provision, respite provision etc etc. All of whom complained that they HADN’T been listened to, and WEREN’T getting what they wanted.

Other Tory councillors – the  numbers of the disaffected raising daily – were ‘layin low and sayin nuffin’. It didn’t stop them voting with their peers, though.

Dante MUST have reserved a circle of hell specially for those who lack the courage of their convictions!

I didn’t bother explaining why the Admin’s take on libraries is wrong, their take on transport is wrong, their take on the explore card is wrong . I have said all this before to much jeering from these highminded listeners to the people of Suffolk. Instead, I concentrated on how they were hiding behind incomprehensibility. I said:

I have endeavoured to read this document,  I have really really tried. And I’m good at reading: I have an MA from Oxford (English Language and Literature). Last year I worked on the great Oxford Historical Thesaurus – which covers all the meanings of all the words that have been used in English over the last thousand years.

I have even managed to read and enjoy the collected works of Walter Scott!

I would suggest that if there is meaning to be taken from a piece of writing I am the very person to take it.  However –

THIS piece of (for want of a better word) writing,  has done what Walter Scott, Beowulf , even John Milton, couldn’t do. It has defeated me utterly.

I can only conclude that the reason no meaning can be extracted from this piece is because there is no meaning to be extracted.

Is this accidental? Is this deliberate? Who can tell? As George Orwell puts it “what looks like an unclear expression of a clear thought might actually be a perfectly clear expression of an unclear thought.”

However, from reading this, one thing does become crystal clear. Either you don’t know what you want to do, or you don’t want to tell us.  Come on,  Cllr Pembroke can you give us your plan in words people can understand, so we identify clearly what action IS being recommended!

Cllr Noble attempted a comeback by trying to explain that the NSD WAS rather a ‘complex’ idea.  (The implication being that maybe it was a little bit too complex for lesser minds to comprehend in all its glory.)

Cllr Noble: complex and unclear are two very different words:

  • Complex implies that something has many separate aspects, which are necessary but difficult to understand;
  • Unclear denotes a muddle!

Complex or unclear? Gentle reader, I invite you to click on the link above, read the ‘Action Recommended’ section on the first page and judge  for yourself.

Woodbridge Town Council Report March 2011

This month’s report deals with the legitimisation of  various appalling cuts by the administration (who at the same time are letting money flow through their fingers on such essential front line services as extremely expensive consultants training them to ‘listen’ (hah!) and ‘gagging’ payments – £520,000 last year alone) to stop the mouths of ex-staff members

SCC  2011-12 Budget

The end of February saw Suffolk County Council’s  final budget setting meeting. Here the budget of cuts, already approved by the Cabinet, was voted through by the Conservatives on the County Council.  The cuts will affect many people in rural and urban areas throughout the county.  I strongly opposed, in particular,  decisions taken to reduce vital frontline services, including the scrapping of school crossing patrols, local buses and the eXplore card.

At the meeting my group put forward an amendment to the budget which would have saved many frontline services.

I feel that the people of Woodbridge NEEDc to k now what there WERE fully-costed options to these cuts, although the Conservatives would have us believe there were none.

We believed it would be possible to provide funding for all these services if we looked at savings from the centre of the organisation and used a small proportion of the £108m which the council holds in reserves.  Our amendment would have saved the following services:

  • Libraries
  • Youth Clubs /Youth provision
  • Subsidies to public transport services for Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays
  • Park and Ride Service from the Bury Road, Ipswich site
  • Funding for the eXplore student card, which gives half price travel on buses up to age 19
  • School Crossing Patrol Service
  • Retain all Household Waste Recycling Centres, instead of reducing them from 18 to 11
  • Continue checking lorries to see if they are overloaded.
  • Stop the divestment of the Fire Control Function to Huntingdon
  • Keep Felixstowe as a Day Crewed fire station, instead of reducing it to retained
  • Retain full time crewing of the Ipswich Aerial Appliance

By using these funds;

  • Re-open Bury Road Park and Ride by reviewing revenue streams for Park and Ride to increase income, including from concessionary fares, creating a cost neutral service
  • Reduction in Road Maintenance Revenue Budget – not affecting emergency repairs
  • Business Mileage reduction of 10% – saving nearly £1m a year
  • Reduction of hours, to enable the continuation of all Household Waste sites
  • Reduction of one Director and 2 Assistant Director posts
  • Reduction of 2 Cabinet posts
  • Reduce back office staff in Fire Service & review the number of appliances attending incidents (at present, for example, they send 5 appliances to a cat up a tree)
  • Reduce External Room Hire by 30%
  • Felixstowe Fire Station to 5 day weekday manning
  • Use of Service reserves
  • Reduce Corporate Contingency reserve
  • Reduce Management of Change reserve

These savings would be heavily focused on the use of the ‘management of change’ budget, which was set up for business transformation during the year at the council, and the ‘corporate contingency’ fund, which is there to help manage risk throughout the year.  We believe with the current financial situation this is the best time to use the reserves to ensure communities will continue to receive essential services.  Even Eric Pickles agrees with us. Unfortunately the Suffolk conservatives did not, and the amendment was defeated on the day, with every Conservative voting for the cuts.  You can find all the information regarding the budget at this link

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_15073

Libraries Update

The consultation for Libraries is still going ahead, as the County are looking to divest, or close most of of the Libraries around the County.  A meeting between SCC  officials and councillors and Suffolk library activists on 25th February  has brought forward new information (see James Hargraves and Andrew Grant Adamson’s accounts of this meeting which both attended, as supporters of Stradbroke and Debenham libraries individually)

The original classification of the 44 libraries into 15 county libraries, to be protected and divested as a group, and 29 community libraries, which would close if community groups did not take them over, has been effectively abandoned.

Only Ipswich County Library, Bury St Edmonds and probably Lowestoft remain in a core group to be divested. This appears to mean that Chantry (Ipswich), Gainsborough (Ipswich), Beccles, Felixstowe, Hadleigh, Halesworth, Haverhill, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Stowmarket, Sudbury and Woodbridge, join the other 29 seeking community arrangements.

No libraries will be closed without a further consultation. The process of divesting all libraries is expected to take two or three years.

Those who believe libraries should continue to be run as a Suffolk County Council service should write this when filling in the consultation response form.

The consultation began on the 18th of January, and finishes on the 30th of April.  You can find the consultation on the home page of Suffolk County Council under the Consultation heading.   http://www.suffolk.gov.uk

Loss and adverse change to Woodbridge bus services

In addition to the budget cuts as specified above, the County Council has made significant reductions in the levels of subsidy provided to passenger transport, a total of £2.2m, which enable commercial services to operate in non-peak time slots.  This means that some services will cease completely, whereas others will stop operating in the evenings, and on weekends. As I alerted you last meeting, the 61a and b have closed already as ‘non-profit-making’. This was despite representations from me, and reminders to the EME Directorate and portfolio holder that all three tiers of local government in Woodbridge had  told SCC and the operators last year WHY it was non-profit making and suggested a change or route that would make it more so.

The County Council has now released information of all those buses that will now cease or change hours.

The underlying principle of most of the timetable changes has been to remove evening and Sunday services. This of course is not much of an issue  for those who are mobile by other means. It is a tragedy for others. Particularly as the SCC line that these services’will be replaced by demand responsive transport’ does NOT apply as the DRT team confirm they have no interest or intention  in extending the service beyond 7-7 Monday to Saturday. Basically this is a huge loss to people who may have few choices.

I have placed a full list of the cuts and changes elsewhere on this blog (click here for details)

Full information can be found on  http://www.suffolkonboard.com/news/changes_to_public_transport_services_april_2011

Petitioning SCC against cuts

A change in national legislation means that the SCC now has to provide online petitioning for its residents.  This means members of the public are – at last – able to create, and sign electronic  petitions to disapprove a Council decision or bring an issue to their attention.

There are currently a lot of petitions online – all of which relate to recent decisions made by the county.  Once a petition reaches 3,675 signatures, the issue then has to be debated in Full Council. The eXplore card petition  is  proving particularly popular – having got over halfway already. It is an issue particularly close to my heart as losing this card will make a huge difference

a)       to the education and employment prospects of a whole generation of Suffolk’s young people.

b)       to the provision of scheduled bus services

I have recently told that Suffolk County Council is prepared to accept  all the library petitions together as one petition.  This means they have already reached the 3,675 and so hopefully it means this will be brought back to council shortly.

Just to remind you, the epetition site is: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/News/EPetitions.htm

Ipswich Road: Clarkson Crossing and the Solar-powered 30mph Speed sign

A bit of good news to end with: two of my Quality of Life budget safety projects are now successfully finished:

On Tuesday morning a specially designed commemorative plaque will be unveiled  by Farlingaye students at the new Clarkson Crossing in Ipswich Road (named after Thomas Clarkson, Suffolk’s famous anti-slavery campaigner, and not after Jeremy!). This commemorates the work Farlingaye HS students put into this with Suffolk County Council.

I am delighted to say that the Solar-powered 30mph speed sign I proposed, negotiated and paid for out of my Quality of Life budget is now installed at the bottom of the Ipswich Road hill, just before  the John Grose garage, Sandy Lane and the blind bend.  I hope you have  NOT noticed it, because that means you would have been driving at less than 30mph.

Pretzel Maths 2: a joke

Ok – so here we have Suffolk County Council’s Chief Executive, a Suffolk Council Tax Payer, and a Lollipop Lady,  all sitting around a table sharing 12 biscuits for tea.

The Chief Executive takes 11 biscuits, and says to the Council Tax Payer…


“...Look out! – that Lollipop Lady is after your biscuit!

 

For a more serious take on this, Andrew Grant-Adamson has neatly summarized  the dysfunctional connection between Suffolk’s Chief Executive and Suffolk’s spending priorities