Tag Archives: budget

What’s Happening at SCC : December 2012

Preparing for Winter : Gritbins With the first of the winter cold on the way, I have been using my locality budget to fund 4 further grit bins in areas of Woodbridge that still require them: Millview Close/Naunton Road, Peterhouse Crescent, Nelson Way and Barton Road. If you know of any other areas that still might need covering –and if there is at least one volunteer prepared to grit – I still have locality money for the purpose.

New Greater Anglia hourly service Lowestoft-Ipswich This started on 9 December. I travelled on the opening train of this service along with other County, SCDC and Town and Parish Councillors and took the opportunity to ask Greater Anglia Customer Service Director Andrew Goodrum about proposed ticket machines at Woodbridge station.

You will be pleased to know there is absolutely no need to lobby for these as they have been purchased a while back. (They are not yet installed as they need weatherproofing because they are designed for indoor use.)

However, as a frequent traveller on the Network I alerted Mr Goodrum about the difficulty of purchasing that most invaluable of Greater Eastern discount tickets – a Day Ranger – at the Ipswich ticket machines, and he undertook to make sure that this would be remedied both here and at Ipswich.

Cabinet:   Today, the SCC Cabinet will be discussing a range of matters including –

  • whether to enhance Suffolk’s Concessionary Fares further – as a result of the consultation after the last Lib Dem call in. This long running saganhas now notched up yet another level of intensity after the Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to CEO Deborah Cadman to complain about SCC’s initial poor level of consultation, and the fact there had been no initial Equal Impact Assessment. It has asked to have written notification of the outcome of today’s meeting
  • Procurement of Highways services – and decide formally whether to award the contract to Balfour Beatty.
  • Suffolk Rail Strategy – creation of a rail prospectus for Suffolk which is aiming for hourly services between Ipswich and Peterborough, and new inter-city rolling stock.

Council Budget – Round 1:   At the end of November, the County Council announced the first version of the 2013 budget. This was discussed and questioned at the recent Scrutiny Committee.

This year will see a further reduction of £24.9m, as part of a two year programme to reduce the budget by just over £50m. As seen last year, many of the services are looking to efficiencies rather than specific service cuts, however the Lib Dems are extremely concerned that these reductions will hide damage to the County’s frontline services. Aongst the most concerning are that there will be a significant reduction in Adult and Community Services of £7m, and another reduction of £2.5m in Children and Young People’s services. There are both areas which have significant pressures, and help to protect the vulnerable in our community. The Lib Dems are very concerned that the continual savings being sought in these areas will impact on those people we need to help.

There is also a significant concern about the number of services that are currently divested, and questions about how these contracts will be monitored, and whether us as Councillors will be able to scrutinise the services that the public are paying for.

I will continue to keep you updated as to the latest news regarding the budget for 2013 as the process continues.

Surgery:   My last surgery of the year will be on December 15th, 10-12 at the Library as ever. If you are lucky, there might even be mince-pies

County Council News: February

Full  council on February  9th was given over to  the budget  – allowing all councillors an opportunity to discuss the administration’s plans for the forthcoming year:

Although the Lib Dem opposition proposed, costed  and identified appropriate sources (including reducing the bulky Tory Cabinet by one post) to pay for  amendments which we continue to think of as a vitally important  investment in the future:

  • Re-instating Bury Road Park & Ride
  • Re-introducing the eXplore Card with a £25 admin fee;
  • Allowing those concessionary bus pass holders eligible due to disability to travel around the clock ;
  • Re-instating the bus routes cut last yearincluding evening and weekend services ;
  • Providing greater level of funding to the learning improvement service to allow for greater support to schools to increase attainment ;
  • Increasing the budget for Looked After Children to help develop alternatives to costly out of county placements;
  • NEETS Apprenticeship Scheme – allowing SCC to employ 50 further apprentices;
  • Providing £2.5m of funding to Adult Services each year over the next two years to aid the transition to more preventative care;

these timely, appropriate, and necessary amendments were  dismissed out of hand.  Yes, the need is great, yes, the funding sources are feasible and clearly identified – yet, because these sensible proposals come from the Lib Dem opposition, all  the acknowledgement Suffolk gets is  the scoffing: “Written on the back of a fag packet,” from new Leader, Mark Bee. Demonstrating once again that drearily familiar combination of  soundbite reasoning  and playground  insult-trading that the Tories at SCC continue to mistake for intelligent argument and witty repartee. 

Could someone remind them that the county councillors  of Suffolk are supposedly elected by the people in Suffolk to use the finances of Suffolk for the benefit of the people Suffolk, rather than deluding themselves  that they are in the House of Commons and playing at PMQs? 

Bus users, care users, school users, NEETS – and all those who care anything about people in these categories – please note. 

Gritting: When  the weather finally turned wintry, those additional  grit bins  funded from my this year’s locality budget  finally came into their own. On the Sunday of the first snow, three volunteers and  I spent four hours shovelling and gritting a path up California, across the Ipswich Road and down the Ipswich Road footway to the John Grose garage (my pedometer made this 3.5km of paths shovelled). By Monday morning  everywhere round these these routes were ice. The Woodbridge initiative was picked up and praised by the national charity Living Streets. . 

I have still money in my Locality Budget for places where there are as yet no bins but where residents would make use of them..

I’d be grateful if  town councillors would continue to encourage people  not to wait for ‘someone to do something’  but to volunteer to grit  those public pavements that  concern them, otherwise this duty falls on the few.  If they give their names to the Town Clerk  they won’t have to think of worrying about the urban myth that those who clear the pavements ‘could end up  being sued’.

If anyone is very anxious they can read Directgov’s formal advice :http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_191868 ,

 Warm Homes, Healthy People   SCC has received £265,000 from the Government to help those who may struggle with fuel payments in the remaining winter months. This money will be spent on:

  • Advice via Borough and district councils to anyone struggling to keep warm this winter
  • A central telephone number (Winter Wellbeing Helpline) people can call for information, advice and support.   Tel: 08456 037 686 
  • Independent energy advisors to visit households struggling to pay their energy bills to offer advice and install measures to save money and energy
  • roadshows  from Suffolk Acre to promote their good neighbour and community oil buying schemes
  • Match funding for Suffolk Foundation’s ‘Surviving Winter’ Appeal to extend the groups supported to include children and young people with learning disabilities
  • Installation of free extreme temperature sensors in vulnerable people’s homes
  • A befriending service

 No Stress Street Parties   SCC is simplifying the application process for street parties in time for the Jubilee and from 8 February, the county council will be the only council responsible for all street party applications. This will make the process smoother for events taking place on Suffolk highways. People considering organising a street party in Suffolk can now obtain a ‘Special Events Order’ through the county council’s website or even over the phone via Customer Service Direct.

To ensure minimal impact on traffic flow, the county council is urging party organisers to consider celebrating in community areas such as recreation grounds, cul-de-sacs and ‘no through roads’. Residents will incur no fee if they are able to do this.

New Rail Services    The new Greater Anglia franchise is now up and running. This is for only 18 months so consultation for the next franchise is ongoing. I attended the Suffolk Rail Policy Group last week  where there was a discussion of how the county’s further needs should be met. This was around presentations from Network Rail and National Express. It seemed to me that the needs of the London line  – which merely travels through Suffolk – were being pushed by these two organisations – to the exclusion of other issues that affect Suffolk more closely: the east-west services to Cambridge and Peterborough for example. Many Suffolk residents may consider that the shaving of minutes off the total Norwich-London travelling time is of fairly nugatory importance considering  the travel times and opportunities on other Suffolk lines. If you have any feelings on this I would suggest you put them in writing immediately to  kerry.allen@suffolk.gov.uk, as the group intend to create a consolidatory document by the end of the month.

Admissions to schools in 2013/14 – Draft policies consultation   Suffolk County Council has launched a consultation regarding their policies for admission to schools next year. It includes the admissions policy for community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided, foundation/trust schools, academies and free schools in Suffolk. Since there are proposals for at least 2 non-traditional free schools in the Woodbridge area (Steiner and Maharishi).   You can find the consultation – and the policies that the council wishes to implement  – online at this web address

Whats happening at SCC: town council report January 2012

This month’s report deals mainly with the future of Suffolk Libraries, but also mentions the official appointment of the new Chief Executive, potential changes to Suffolk’s schools admissions policies, the forthcoming Budget for 2012-13 and  the dangers of heavy objects being thrown onto the A12/A14:

Happy New Year!

Chief Executive   Having been officially confirmed in her post at full council, Deborah Cadman began her role as Chief Executive in the last week of December. I look forward to working with her. One of her first acts has been to address the issue of long-term ‘interim directors’ at the top of the council. As both the Directors of Children and Young People and Adult and Community Services are interim appointments, a recruitment process is now under way to appoint permanent postholders on fixed salaries.

Libraries  Full Council also covered the administration’s decision to change the structure of the Libraries so that the current library provision will be transferred  to an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community. This means that local libraries will be run by local “community groups”, who may be voting members of the IPS.  The IPS, as the overarching organisation, will be run by an elected board, responsible for managing the grant funding from the Council.  Local libraries are expected to make 5% of savings through a number of means – IT provision, maintenance contracts, use of volunteers and fundraising. 

The opposition are concerned that there are still many issues which remain unanswered. The future of the Libraries is supposedly secure for 10 years yet the funding is only guaranteed for two years. There are continuing uncertainties about the fate of the smaller libraries. There is also concern about over- reliance on volunteers – not only to run the Libraries but also the home library service, which will no doubt see an increase in use after the reduction of the mobile library service.

You can read further details about my concerns  in my blog, here.  Full details of the Council papers,  are here  

2012-2013 Budget  January’s Cabinet will take place on the 24th of January at 11am in Mildenhall at the Forest Heath District Council Offices. Can I remind you that members of the public are welcome both as spectators and  to ask pre-booked questions in the usual way.

This is a very important Cabinet meeting as it is the first real look at the budget papers, which provide greater detail on what the Council is intending to do for the next financial year.    The final vote on the budget for 2012/13 will   take place at the  next Full Council meeting (9th of February). 

A12/A14 – incidents involving objects being thrown from bridges   There have been a number of  occasionss on the A12/A14 where objects have been thrown from bridges onto traffic below.  This started with an incident in Essex but seems to have spread to south Suffolk as a copycat activity.

SCC, the Police, Fire and Rescue and partners are extremely concerned and taking all possible action to stop these extremely dangerous and irresponsible happenings.  A senior detective has been appointed to lead a team dedicated to catching the individual(s) responsible.

We need to ensure that everybody knows that if they do see any suspicious activity on or near a road bridge,  they must call 999.

Winter – Are you prepared?  SCC is finally expecting colder weather. We may at last get use from those grit bins!

Admissions to Suffolk schools in 2013/14  Suffolk County Council has launched a consultation about their policies for admission to schools next year. It includes the admissions policy for community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided, foundation/trust schools academies and free schools in Suffolk. As Farlingaye has recently become an academy, and there is a proposal that a new Transcendental Meditation Free School should start locally, this may well be of interest to many of us.

I am particularly keen that SCCs  policy of free school transport only to the nearest catchment school is addressed if it turns out that the nearest catchment school is, eg,  a Transcendental Meditation free school. You can find the consultation here  

Kesgrave by-election: purdah Due to the unexpected death of John Klaschka, Councillor for Kesgrave and Rushmere, there will be a district and county council by-election on 9th February.  As the purdah period is upon us, I am not now able to make any commitments as regards my locality budget till after 9 February

Woodbridge Town Council report Feb 2011

This month’s report is largely about various – very worrying –  cuts and ‘divestments’ that the forthcoming SCC 2010-11 budget intends to legitimise. Specific reference to Libraries, Road Crossing Patrols, Bus Services (especially the 62a/b evening, Sunday and bank holiday service) and the young persons’ eXplore card, together with links to petitions to try and help save these.

SCC Budget 2011-12 – Update

The County Council is finally setting the budget at Full Council on the 17th of February.  The total level of cuts for next year will be approximately £43m from across the authority; this is combined – as  SCC is keen to point out – with a 0% increase in Council tax .

SCC does not mention that by electing not to raise council tax the council is eligible for a government grant of £7,200,000 – equivalent to them imposing a 2.5% rise!  SCC would therefore have to raise its council tax by more than 2.5% to get any benefit from doing so.

As you will have seen in the news, the County is wishing to cut back a wide number of frontline services, including Libraries, Buses,  the eXplore card.and School crossing patrols, all of which which I will discuss later.

Other areas that the Council intends to make savings include;

  • selling off Country Parks and recreation areas
  • The closure of seven Household Waste recycling centres – which are  supposedly as yet to be decided (although I have been told that already some redundancy notices have been issued)
  • Divestment or closure of Youth Clubs
  • Stopping the subsidy for community meals
  • Divesting the Fire Control Function to another service
  • Ending the Healthy Schools programme
  • Cease checking lorries to see if they are overloaded, and cease enforcement of environmental weight restrictions on County’s roads and bridges.
  • Ceasing offering advice to Suffolk residents on consumer disputes where the law is complex..

The interesting point about this is that there are plenty of neighbouring county councils with a Conservative majority who have not needed to do this, preferring to salami-slice cuts equally across the whole council and consulting their population as to their preferences . Norfolk is a good example.

For more information, and to view the papers which highlight the level of capital spending planned by the authority for the upcoming year, please head to: http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_15073

Suffolk Libraries ‘Consultation’

As you have probably heard, the County Council is intending to divest, or close a significant  number of the 44 Libraries around the County. They have divided these into ‘County’ and ‘Community’ libraries.

Woodbridge library is ’safe’:  that is, it will remain one of the 15  ‘County Libraries‘  free from divestment – that is, unless someone really really wants to take it over.  In which case it will be ‘divested.’. It will not, however, close.

The  other 29  (now designated Community) libraries  -including Wickham Market,  Framlingham, Debenham, Kesgrave, Leiston, Oulton Broad and Southwold – are up for divestment – that is, being taken over by community groups. However SCC says: “If the response to this consultation is disappointing, and the county council does not receive viable proposals and ideas from people, groups, businesses and other interested parties for ways to run community libraries, we propose that funding will stop from 2012”.

As is becoming standard in these SCC consultations,  ‘having your say’ on the future of Suffolk’s libraries doesn’t mean the administration allows  you any opportunity to say their idea is bad, and you want no part of it.

This consultation only gives you a chance  to explain your idea for running your divested library.   For example, Question 4 is:  “How will your idea  or interest generate changes or significant efficiencies in the way the library operates to reduce what the county council pays by a minimum of 30%”.

The ‘consultation’ which is titled ”Have your Say on the Future of Suffolk’s Libraries”  began on the 18th of January, and finishes on the 30th of April.  You can find it on the home page of Suffolk County Council under the Consultation heading. http://www.suffolk.gov.uk.

You may feel like filling in the consultation document. You may, on the other hand feel like filling in one of the e-petitions that are proliferating on the Council’s new petition site: http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/. There is a petition asking that Woodbridge library remains undivested, and another one requesting that the Library Staff remain salaried.

Cuts and threats to Woodbridge Bus Services

The County Council is making very significant reductions in the passenger transport  which enables commercial services to operate in non-peak time slots.

We had a shock announcement on Wednesday that our 62a and 62b services will go on 27 February. The announcement was made a day after Cllr McGregor had assured Cabinet that no decisions on cutting services would be made until after 17 February’s full council.

I’ve been copied a letter by Melton’s Cllr Butterwick, as I believe the Town Clerk also has. He suspects that such  a cut without a 56day notification period is not even legal and has written to the Traffic Commissioner to ask his advice about it.

Suffolk County Council says it plans to ‘remodel’ much of local rural transport, by replacing services with a ‘demand-responsive’ alternative, booked a day in advance. However the council transport team (when questioned by me) admits that “demand responsive transport operates between 0700 and 1900 Monday to Saturday and we are unable to offer any extension to these hours”.

Therefore, when the 62a and 62b services close later this month, they will not be replaced with demand-responsive transport: they will be replaced with nothing at all. Residents in Woodbridge will have NO sustainable transport in the evenings, on Sundays and on Bank Holidays. Those residents who do not have, cannot afford to, or are unable to drive a car, will be stuck! This will have an impact on people from Ipswich to Wickham Market and Rendlesham.

I am deeply saddened about this cut because it represents a very retrogressive step in the history of our local bus service. It leaves those Woodbridge residents without a car with NO options for bus travel over, say, a bank holiday from about 6pm Saturday till about 7am the following Tuesday.   This is a cut that will affect car drivers not a whit but will impact very heavily on those who don’t have a car, those who can’t afford a car, and those who are prevented by age or health from driving a car..

Other threatened services are

70, 70a. 118: Ipswich – Bealings – Woodbridge – Grundisburgh – Ipswich

71, 163, 173,  IP179, IP512: Orford/Felixstowe – Woodbridge – Ipswich

We have not yet heard a word about their fate.

Luckily  we were sufficiently anxious about the possibility of cuts to have  set up an epetition to save Woodbridge buses a few days before the shock announcement about 62a/b… Can I continue to urge Town and District Councillors – who were so very helpful when we joined together to press for better bus services last spring –  to join together again to try and overturn this cut?   It will have huge implications for the people of Woodbridge.

http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-Woodbridge-Buses

Abolition of the SCC Explore card

SCC has also made another  £1,700,000 cut to sustainable transport usage by abolishing the eXplore Card. Although the bus services in Suffolk have become extraordinarily expensive as well as patchy, up till now young people have had  to help with their travelling to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising.

Explore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have  enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and many off peak rail journeys. Poorer students have also had EMA.

As regards post-16 transport, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares, and if their parents are poor, EMA too. This means that up to now transport to work and educational opportunities should be in the reach of all young people in Suffolk – and a very good thing that is too! This abolition means that there will be more cars on the road many, many more young people will be driven, or drive  to school, college, employment etc ,  and will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads,  because they  are forced into cycling before they are ready. It will lead to less  take-up of  FE education because of difficulties of access (especially to colleges and Suffolk ONE ) and less chance of going for job interviews and training.

SCC says they hope that individual bus companies might take a paid-for version of this card up for the future, but I believe First have rejected the idea. It will, anyway be of limited use unless all buses take it on the same terms. And one of the things SCC Transport has been constantly telling us in the past is that the bus companies have no desire to work together – this is the reason we never managed to get an integrated ticketing service.

Again, there will be a petition about this on the SCC site http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-the-eXplore-card-

The End of SCC School Crossing Patrols

You will be aware of the huge amount of anger that has been generated in Suffolk  by the Council’s decision to close all 98 School Crossing patrols to save £174,000. (In fact more like £125,000 as a number of vacancies exist which can’t be filled because of the current hiring freeze).. This includes the St Mary’s School crossing patrol.

School crossing patrols were formally recognised in Britain by the Schools Crossing Patrols Act of 1953.  Lollipop people are one of only four agents entitled to stop traffic by law and are established at sites where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school as assessed  by national guidelines (established by the Local Authority Road Safety Officer’s Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). Ten years ago  the (then)  Woodbridge Lollipop man, was knocked to the ground by an impatient driver while on patrol on Birkett Road, directly outside St Mary’s School.  More recently, I had two near misses when cycling past the school at playgroup collection time last week.

I think it is fair to say that road has not got any safer in recent years.

The school, parents, PTA, and many others, including myself  are anxious that this cut  could have  dreadful repercussions. I have asked SCC if they know what the council’s legal position would be if – heaven forbid – anyone was knocked down after the patrol has been withdrawn. I have, as yet, had no reply.

Again, there is a petition against this cut: http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/

Your Councillor’s Quality of Life and Locality budgets

On a more positive note, we heard at Cabinet that the County Councillors’  Quality of Life budget will be retained – though with less money. This is good news for Woodbridge. I hope this will allow me to undertake the Sandy Lane road traffic calming I had to postpone last year .

Of the three projects I have funded so far

  • The Duke of York (ex-Seal) Crossing is proving immensely successful
  • the (separate) 30mph LED sign for further down Ipswich Road is ordered and being constructed
  • The final consultation for the TRO finished last month. From various communications from constituents, it would seem to be the first they had heard of it!

I do not yet know the fate of the Councillor’s Locality budget, but I hope that this will also be retained. I have recently made grants to establish a Graffiti wall up in Kyson, to buy a seat for people in Kingston Fields, to provide  two bicycles for the Town pastors and  a lawn mower for the Scouts to use to raise income and to buy Olympic-branded jute bags to advertise the Wood-Olympics  next year.