Tag Archives: Bury St Edmunds

Imminent threat to Suffolk’s Law Courts!

Suffolk County Councillors rather uncharacteristically reached unanimous agreement today – that the Ministry of Justice’s proposed closure of Suffolk law courts (Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft) leaving us with just the facilities in Ipswich, are a bad thing and should be opposed.

In brief, it is proposed that:

a) Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court is closed and the civil hearing work move to Great Yarmouth (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court), the family hearing work to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court)., and the criminal work move to Great Yarmouth (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court).

b) that Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Crown Court are closed, and the existing magistrates’ and family workload  be moved to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court). It is also proposed that victim and witness facilities will be installed at Bury St. Edmunds County Court and Tribunals which would enable court users, in suitable matters, to give evidence by video link!

All to save £600,000 a year. Truly this government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

It is 800 years exactly since the rights  of the common people in England were asserted through Magna Carta. The 39th clause of which , still part of British law today, says:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Putting aside anxieties about ‘trial by video’ , it would seem particularly ironic that Suffolk’s legal representation is in danger of being reduced to one single court with all the difficulties of access from the west , mid-Suffolk and the north of the county, in this iconic anniversary year . (I was going to speak to this motion on these lines) when Cllr Joanna Spicer took the very words out of my mouth, quote and all. Two minds with but a single thought and all that..)

You may not know of this consultation – although it has been going on since July. This is because the Ministry of Justice  in its wisdom has classified Suffolk as part of the South East. However, here is the link (tip- don’t wade through all the pages, search in document for ‘Suffolk’ and it will tell you about the two proposals that affect us) – do please respond to the consultation and give your thoughts. Oddly enough, the one bit of the whole document that is squeezed for space is the one that asks for your views. But please don’t let it stop you!

Suffolk Buses reach their Beeching moment?

The First Bus decision to pull the plug on their Bury St Edmunds services and close the depot at the end of March  is a further step in the apparently unstoppable destruction of Suffolk’s public transport services. It is particularly tragic because – after Beeching’s shortsighted and illjudged railway decisions of the 60s – many parts of Suffolk are now not served by rail and have only a bus service to rely on. 
 
Now it’s Suffolk bus services that are at a Beeching moment.  Sadly, many council tax payers are are left reliant on the decisions of a county council administration that doesn’t value or support bus transport and that has made bus services the focus of recent budget cuts (remember, for example the Bury Road Park and Ride closure (details here)? last year’s loss of all evening/Sunday bus services to Woodbridge and beyond (details here)?). Such cuts have little personal impact on any councillor or officer who runs a car, and yet these are the people making the decisions.
 
SCC needs to remember that the impact of poor/non-existent bus services is felt amongst other very real people. People who pay their council taxes and contribute to the community but who also happen to be elderly, or poor, or disabled, as well as others who rely on the bus to reach their college or first time job in order to contribute to the future of Suffolk.  SCC decisionmaking should be addressing these people’s needs as well as pandering to those residents who pay no more tax but are lucky enough to be able to use a car!
 
Of course, we shouldn’t put all the blame on the county council. At national level, the Coalition needs to reverse the iniquitous deregulation of bus services, instituted under Thatcher, and shamefully supported by the last Labour government. Deregulation has left rural communities at the mercy of bus companies with little local interest or management presence, who can run the moneymaking routes as poorly as they choose. The County Council, on the other hand,  is only allowed to run ones that run at a loss.
 
Tell me, is this how the ‘free market’ gives us a better service?
 
Despite this,  SCC could choose to be far more proactive than it has been. It could lobby both Suffolk’s MPs and central government for increased support for rural public transport. It could also show that SCC cares though direct action to preserve scheduled bus services. In July’s council meeting, I proposed a motion to increase support to disabled and elderly bus user (details here) via improved bus pass conditions. This motion was passed almost unanimously by full council and referred back to the Cabinet.
 
Since July, Cabinet has overseen the revision, recasting, re-consultation, decisionmaking and embarkation of their new Library services despite few Suffolk residents wanting any change whatsoever. Many many Suffolk residents want changes to the new terms and conditions for bus pass holders. Has Cabinet looked at bus passes?  Six months on we’re still waiting for a date!
 
By the way, I note with interest that passengers who wish to register a complaint about the withdrawal of the Bury St Edmunds services are ‘advised to contact First buses directly on 08456 020 121’. I suggest that this is precisely what people should do
 
This is a slightly extended version of my letter to the EADT  published today, 18-01-2012.