Tag Archives: chief executive suffolk county council

What’s been happening May-June 2014

FIrebreakers1 (1024x692)Proposed Woodbridge Fire and Police station merger  Woodbridge residents were invited to a drop in session on Thursday to view proposals to extend and merge the existing fire station with the police station. Plans and information were unveiled at the event and representatives from both services –  together with myself – were on hand to discuss the proposals.

Suffolk already has four shared stations at Ixworth, Elmswell, Debenham and Framlingham. The aim of the Woodbridge plans is for the services  to become even more cost effective, allowing the services to work much more closely together .The funding for the Woodbridge project will be shared between the two services and it is hoped that the government will provide grant funding for the building works

Although there were concerns – mainly about parking and increased transport – response to the consultation was broadly favourable.

The design includes:

  • An extension to the front of the fire station, which would provide new office accommodation for Suffolk Constabulary.
  • Provision for five new car parking spaces for police use and cycle parking to the rear of the site.
  • A new garage to the rear of the station to accommodate an emergency vehicle, and
  • Much improved facilities for staff and the community and better access for the public

If approved, the work would commence in summer 2014 and will be completed for March 2015. There would be no disruption to fire and police services during the building works

People can continue to provide feedback via email: Fire.BusinessSupport@suffolk.gov.uk, quoting ‘Woodbridge Consultation’.

End of CSD – Customer Service Direct  On 1 June SCC moved CSD – Customer Service Direct – back in-house.  CSD,  in which BT had a majority stake alongside the county and Mid Suffolk councils, handled SCC’s  financial administration, IT, and personnel functions. The councils’ call centres were also operated by CSD

The cost of the contract was initially £301 million, but this increased to £427 million over 10 years as more functions were added to the service.

A hard lesson has been learned here. Proof, if proof was needed, that outsourcing services doesn’t always make savings and is not always best.

The PCC – and Thoroughfare Parking  At the Suffolk County Council AGM in May, the Police and Crime Commissioner  Tim Passmore presented details of his year, saying “ My role is to ensure the policing needs of our communities are met as effectively as possible, bringing communities closer to the police and building confidence in the system. My job is to listen and respond to the needs of the people of Suffolk; bringing more of a public voice to policing.  If you have an issue that you would like to raise, please contact me via the website, www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk or call 01473 782777 .”

I took him at his word, and, meeting him shortly afterwards I raised the issue of police enforcement of parking in the Woodbridge Thoroughfare. He promised to look into this urgently.

Suffolk Reading Scheme This year’s reading scheme will be on the theme of the Mysterious Maze. As ever, the Woodbridge Library is on the lookout for volunteers to help local children read their books over the summer holidays.

Suffolk Records Office consultation  Suffolk County Council received over 500 responses to a recent consultation to improve Suffolk Records Office opening hours.

The consultation was on proposals to reducing weekday opening hours, improving the service on a Saturday and developing a key online presence.66% of respondents felt the proposals would bring a positive improvement to the service.

There was a majority of support for closing the office one day a week to allow improvements to the online accessibility of information and digitised materials. Respondents also showed great support for an improved Saturday service and later opening times, although some felt not opening until 10am was too late. In consequence SCC will bev blooking to open each  record office branch for 35 hours a week: 9.30am – 4.30pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Let’s Look Out for Each Other Cycle-Drive campaign   SCC has launched Let’s Look Out for Each Other  – an educational campaign that encourages both cyclists and drivers to share Suffolk’s roads. Each week approximately four cyclists are injured in Suffolk with almost three cyclists killed or seriously injured every month.

4% of adults in Suffolk cycle at least five times a week – as opposed to the national average of 3%; and 20% of adults in Suffolk cycle at least once a month -5% above the national average of 15%

Driver error has been attributed to 68% of all collisions in Suffolk.  In 77% of cyclist casualties at or at or near a junction, the cyclist have not been culpable; however, in 2 of the 3 recently recorded fatalities the cyclist was at fault.

Roadsafe top tips for drivers and cyclists when using the road are:

Cycling:

  1. Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb – look and signal to show drivers what you plan to do and make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you
  2. Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen
  3. Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor
  4. Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark increases your visibility

Driving:

  1. Look out for cyclists, especially when turning – make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
  2. Use your indicators – signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
  3. Give cyclists space – If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened
  4. Always check for cyclists when you open your car door
  5. Avoid driving over advanced stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility

Further information can be found  at http://www.suffolkroadsafe.net/cyclists/ or http://www.suffolkroadsafe.net/drivers/

County Councillor’s Surgery  My surgery dates for the next few months are:  Saturday 21 June, and Saturday 19 July. There will be no surgery in August. Surgeries are at Woodbridge Library 10-12 as ever. All welcome

 

Last year at SCC – a brief review

 The past year at Suffolk County Council has seen a further reduction in grants from Government and greater pressure on limited finances.  Last year, SCC had been pressing ahead with its new approach to budget cuts, which it called the ‘New Strategic Direction’  and which had intended to divest or outsource many of the Council’s services.  

 2011-12 saw some significant changes. The New Strategic Direction has officially been abandoned.  We now have a new Council Leader in the form of Cllr Mark Bee, as well as a new Chief Executive in Deborah Cadman, and whilst many services are still being divested, we do not have the instability around the Council that SCC had last year. However, divestment and outsourcing continue under different names 

New Strategic Direction – Abandoned or just renamed?   

As you may well remember, last year the Council (under its then Leader, Cllr Jeremy Pembroke and its then Chief Executive Officer, Andrea Hill) designed and adopted a policy it called the  ‘New Strategic Direction’. This  intended to divest or outsource many of the services that SCC currently provided – without much or anything in the way of consultation. At one point it was claimed that the NSD would result in the Council retaining a mere  500 members of staff left at its strategic core .

As a result of the changes at the top of the organisation: 2011-12 has seen the election of a new Leader and the appointment of a new Chief Executive, and the ‘New Strategic Direction’ has been – at least officially – abandoned. 

Despite this, many services continue to be outsourced.  Over the past year we have seen the following externalised or to be externalised from the Council –

  • Library service (to which I will refer later)
  • Archaeology and archives to a new Heritage Organisation  (on-going)
  • Highways ( these will be run by a private contractor set to start in April 2013)
  • In-house Bus and Coach Fleet (on-going)
  • Supporting Families Delivery Agency
  • Adult Employment Advice Guidance Learning and Skill Service (Realise) ( this was granted permission at the 20th March Cabinet meeting).
  • Eastern Facilities Management (set up as an external company last year)
  • Residential Care Homes (which will now be run by Care UK)
  • Country parks

So whilst the administration is performing an official step away from the New Strategic Direction, many of the council operations continue to be externalised.

The sheer volume of this outsourcing can be seen through the example of the Adult and Community Services:  in March 2012 Adult and Community Services are directly employing 3,557 members of staff; a year later (March 2013), the number of staff is estimated to be 895.

Decision-making and democracy

This year saw the continuation of an increasing trend whereby most of SCC decision-making  is being performed via the dozen councillors appointed from and by the controlling group and who form the Cabinet. Although the monthly Cabinet meeting at which decisions are finalised is open to the public – and other councillors and members of the public can make comments – only Cabinet members can vote. Cabinet takes place monthly, although full council meetings are now  generally scheduled only every two months and do little more rubber-stamp decisions being made.

This is clearly a serious problem  if the Cabinet makes decisions at odds with what the people of Suffolk want to happen.

The Budget  

 Towards the end of February every year, the County Council sets its budget.  This year many of the savings present were due to service redesigns, and increasing efficiencies.  However, due to the continuing reduction in Government grants it was stated that there still needed to be a £50m reduction in Council spending over the next two years.

Below are the main savings that the administration proposed, and were voted in at the Full Council meeting on the 9th of February –

  • 1.5% efficiency savings across all directorates  (in ACS this amounts to £4m budget reduction).  The efficiency savings also include reducing the procurement spend by £1m by negotiating better deals, and reducing the budget of the CSD contract by £1.5m
  • Reducing management costs across the organisation – £1.5m (12/13); £0.5m (13/14)
  • Targeting resources in children’s services to reduce demand I am not actually sure what this means on the ground, but I imagine it means moving the goalposts at which services aredelivered – £1m (12/13) £2.5m (13/14)
  • Re-letting the highways contract – a saving of £2m but not applicable until 2013/2014 budget.
  • Service redesign in ACS – £8m.

I will keep you updated to whether this has been achieved, but it is worth noting that each quarter the Cabinet will receive an update each quarter on how the Council is doing for this financial year, and currently the Council is £5.443m underspent so far.

At the meeting the Liberal Democrats submitted an amendment to the  proposed budget in which we proposed alternative cuts to support those services that we feel SCC should be supporting at all costs: 

  • Re-instate the Bury Road Park and Ride
  • Bring back an equivalent to the Young Persons eXplore card (based on a £25 admin fee)
  • Implement unlimited travel for those 7,000 people in Suffolk  eligible for Concessionary Passes due to disability
  • Re-instate  bus routes cut at last years budget
  • Top-up the Learning and Improvement Service – to provide greater support to a wider range of schools
  • Fund the Looked after Children service – to develop alternatives to out of County placements
  • Create a NEETS Apprenticeship Scheme 

In order to pay for the measures above we proposed that savings could come from;

  • 30% reduction in External Room Hire
  • 10% Reduction in Business Miles
  • Reduce Cabinet Posts by 1
  • Reduce the Road maintenance Budget
  • Cut the cost of the CSD Contract.

Unfortunately the amendment was dismissed out of hand.  We are concerned about the continuing loss of vital services; we are also concerned at the sheer amount of money coming out of Adult and Community Service comes at a time when we are being constantly warned about the growing elderly demographic.

Street Lighting:  

over the last few months Suffolk County Council has been moving to an Intelligent Street Lighting System, allowing the council to switch off some street lights, dim others, and leave some on – all by remote control. This takes us back to how things were, before the wasteful days when it became cheaper to leave lights on than switch them off. This – as we all know –  is no longer the case.  The Intelligent Light System came into use  in Woodbridge on 26 March 2012.

Concessionary Bus Passes   

Earlier in the year (July 2011) , I and Cllr John Field submitted a motion to Full Council calling for a change in the time limits currently placed on concessionary bus pass holders.

Ever since the Concessionary Bus Passes responsibility moved to the County Council, those eligible for bus passes have been limited to travel between 9:30am and 11pm – a  statutory minimum set up by urban-decisionamakers who have no concept of the difficulties in ther countryside. but places strict limits on those eligible due to both age and disability to be able to travel freely and independently, and to make doctors appointments and socialise.

Our motion suggested that we should remove all time limits to those bus pass holders due to disability, and extend the current arrangements for those over 60 to enable them to travel a half-hour earlier –  from 9 in the morning and not 9:30am Reversing these  concessionary pass decisions would support full, affordable participation in society to two valuable groups of Suffolk residents: those who do not want to let their disability stand in the way of their achievements and those who do not want to let their age confine them to home. Whilst the motion was amended slightly at Full Council, it was fully supported by all parties in recommending that the Cabinet looks once again at the decision and analyses the possibility of changing the current arrangement.

Having got this far – the subject stalled and Cabinet has decided nothing  to date. We have just heard that the subject will not be discussed until the 10th of July that Cabinet looks  at the issue again, which is outside the scope of this AGM report! 

Similarly, a great deal of fuss has – rightly – been made about SCCs cutting of the youth travel card, which has had a bad impact on young people’s chances and choices – in terms of education, training, apprenticeships, work and socialisation. We vwere able to bring the cut into SCC’s scrutiny of Young People Not in Employment Education and Training, and again, this decision has been returned to Cabinet.

Libraries      

Over the past year the stance from the Council administration on Libraries has changed considerably.  Last year it was stated that if local Libraries were not supported by local groups then a number of the smaller sites would have funding removed from them, which would ultimately mean closure.

However, towards the end of last year the council changed their mind and opted to outsource the Library organisation into an Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community.  This means that the Library system will become a member-based organisation where local libraries will become members of the IPS and be able to vote on policy decisions, and what the organisation will do with the funding that it receives from the Council.

Under these new proposals there are no planned closures for Libraries in the County. Instead those libraries that do not have existing community groups will be run by the IPS.  Each of the Libraries will be tasked to make 5% savings on top the savings that are already embedded in the proposals.  This may mean an increase in volunteers, more fund-raising events, or changing suppliers for maintenance contracts.

We are told that one of the main benefits of using this system over that of an in-house Library service is that with an IPS, the Council can bid for charitable status.  This means that there would be a significant reduction in the amount of business rates that the organisation will pay – potentially 80%.

Recently the Council has been making a number of appointments to the IPS board, the body that will manage the grant allocations to libraries.  The appointments will exist whilst the IPS is being set up and will by 2013 be replaced by a board elected by IPS members.

New Chief Executive and New Council Leader  

As I have mentioned above, last April, Cllr Mark Bee the Conservative representative for Beccles became the new leader of both the Conservative Group and the County Council.  . 

 In another change at the top, SCC’s Chief Executive Andrea Hill left the organisation in July 2012.  For a total of six months the Director for Economy, Skills and Environment Lucy Robinson stepped in as interim Chief Executive.  In December Deborah Cadman, was officially appointed as the new Suffolk County Council chief executive.  She had previous roles as the Chief Executive of EEDA, St Edmundsbury Council, and the Leader Inspector of the Audit Committee.

Council Pay scales

Suffolk County Council recently published details of its Pay Policy (as now required by law). Amongst the facts and figures that you may find interesting :

  • In 2011 SCC agreed a (downward) revised salary level of £155k for the Chief Executive post. It is a spot salary meaning there will be no increments ; there are no additional bonus, performance, honoraria or ex gratia payments.
  • Salary structure for Directors ranges from £98,393 to £126,733. New appointments to this level are on a “spot salary” basis and will not attract incremental progression. There are no: overtime, flexi-time, bank holiday working, stand-by paymentsetc. paid to these senior staff:  they are expected to undertake duties outside their contractual hours and working patterns without additional payment.
  • The salary ranges for Assistant Directors and Senior Managers are as follows: Assistant Director (higher) – £85,795 – £96,824 Assistant Director – £ 68,096 – £83,829 Senior Manager – £55,287 – £64,399
  • Rest of the workforce: eight grades ranging from £12,145 to £55,239.  The lowest paid full time equivalent basic pay of £12,145 is used to determine the local definition of ‘low paid’.  There are 100 workers currently on this grade
  • The current pay ratio is 1:8.  This means that the Chief Executive (top earner) earns eight times more than the Council’s median earner (for which the rate is £19,621). When measured against the mean average, this ratio is 1:7; and when measured against the lowest paid it is 1:13.

Public Questions and Participation Sessions  

 The County Council has revamped its public participation guidelines so that members of the public may speak at nearly all committee meetings as well as asking questions at Council and Cabinet meetings. I am proud to say that Woodbridge residents have had a very strong presence at such meetings – indeed, young people from Just 42 were the youngest people ever to question full Council and hold their own in Scrutiny. Long may this continue.

 Please head to the link below for more information, and click on the meeting you wish to speak at   http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/your-council/decision-making/public-speaking-at-meetings/

Locality and Quality of Life Budgets   

I made grants last year  from my locality budget to the following:

  • Tide Mill Trust £1000
  • Repairs of St Mary’s Church Tower: £1000
  • Town grit bins (including one outside the Shire Hall more in keeping with the ‘look’ of the square) £830
  • Solar Panels for the Community Hall £3,000
  • Woodbridge Library for children’s Reading Challenge £300
  • Woodbridge Town Pastors: £1000

Quality of life budget: Little expenditure this year as the 2 schemes mooted are still being assessed and designed:

  •  improvements to the safety of walkers and cyclists on Sandy Lane (National Cycle route 51)
  • solar powered speed sign in Pyches Road

However a small grant has been made for road signs  to flag up the Warwick Ave PO  to motorists

 My County Councillor surgeries   

Since  October I have been running regular monthly surgeries: every third Saturday of the month at Woodbridge library 10-12. No bookings are needed.

What happening in SCC – April 2012

This last month SCC revealed details of pay throughout the council, and found that the differential between top and bottom salaries has diminished significantly since the days of the last Chief Executive. In April, Scrutiny will be examining Suffolk Circle, and has launched a survey to see how effective their favourite Demand Responsive Transport is in real life. Follow the link and tell them like it is before 20 April:

SCC Pay policy Suffolk County Council recently published details of its Pay Policy (as now required by law). Amongst the facts and figures that you may find interesting :

  • In 2011 SCC agreed a (downward) revised salary level of £155k for the Chief Executive post. It is a spot salary meaning it doesn’t attract incremental progression. There are no additional bonus, performance, honoraria or ex gratia payments.
  • Salary structure for Directors ranges from £98,393 to £126,733. New appointments to this level are on a “spot salary” basis and will not attract incremental progression. There are no: overtime, flexi-time, bank holiday working, stand-by paymentsetc. paid to these senior staff:  they are expected to undertake duties outside their contractual hours and working patterns without additional payment.
  • The salary ranges for Assistant Directors and Senior Managers are as follows: Assistant Director (higher) – £85,795 – £96,824 Assistant Director – £ 68,096 – £83,829 Senior Manager – £55,287 – £64,399
  • Rest of the workforce: eight grades ranging from £12,145 to £55,239. the lowest paid full time equivalent basic pay of £12,145 is used to determine the local definition of ‘low paid’.  There are 100 workers currently on this grade
  • The current pay ratio is 1:8.  This means that the Chief Executive (top earner) earns eight times more than the Council’s median earner (for which the rate is £19,621). When measured against the mean average, this ratio is 1:7; and when measured against the lowest paid it is 1:13.

Suffolk Circle At the meeting in April Scrutiny will be looking at the effectiveness of Suffolk Circle. This is a membership scheme for the over-60s piloted in London’s Southwark that the Conservative administration agreed to pay £600,000 over three years in the glory days of the last Chief Executive. According to Portfolio holder Colin Noble last week, after 2 years Suffolk Circle has attracted 372 members, meaning Suffolk has paid out something over £1000 per member.

Perhaps Scrutiny will be able finally to ascertain the rationale of why – at a time when SCC are cutting staff and  frontline services – SCC decided to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds  on transferring a Good Neighbours scheme (which you have to pay to join) from an inner city location with a high population turnaround and where there are comparatively few over-60s to a county packed with good neighbours who have a long tradition of helping each other for free! You can read more details about this decisionmaking elsewhere on this blog, including here

New Suffolk Care Homes provider The name of the provider taking over the running of  Suffolk 16 care homes and eight wellbeing centres will be announced at the Cabinet meeting on 17 April. As part of the process, bidders have been expected to prove they could ensure that enough specialist places for people with dementia and complex care needs are provided.

The new provider will take full ownership of all the care homes and well-being centres with staff currently employed by the council transferring to the new provider under TUPE regulations.

Demand Responsive Transport The Scrutiny committee will also be examining whether Demand Responsive Transport is providing an adequate service for the rural population of Suffolk in the light of further rural bus service closures.

In order to get a good picture of how these service are actually the Scrutiny Committee want to know whether people think it  works and how well, how provision of rural transport can be improved.

I would encourage everyone to fill this survey in – especially as only three weeks have been given for such a very important consultation – and these are over the holiday period. Last year I blogged on the difficulties of having only a non-existent DRT service over the holiday period . You can respond, either via  the link below or by post, or e-mail.

Online: http://www.surveymonkey.com/demandresponsive

By post, to The Chairman of Scrutiny Committee, Democratic Services, Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House, Russell Road, IPSWICH, Suffolk, IP1 2BX; or

By email to: committee.services@suffolk.gov.uk.

The deadline for the consultation responses is the 20th of April.

Co-op is funding Diamond Jubilee Street parties The East of England Co-operative Society are celebrating the Queens Diamond Jubilee by supporting members and customers planning local street parties through a one off, match funded grant of up to £100.  People need to apply right away. They will need to submit an event outline (100 words max) and be supported by three East of England Co-operative Society members. The street party must be taking place in the East of England Co-operative Society trading area of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

There are three ways to apply :

  • Complete an online entry form  or  Download an application form  via this link
  • Request a printed form from our Membership and Community Team on 01473 786068. Postal entries should be sent to – Diamond Jubilee Match Funding Application, Membership and Community, East of England Co-operative Society, Wherstead Park, The Street, Wherstead, Ipswich, Suffolk IP9 2BJ

Closing date for applications whether online or by post  is Monday, 23rd April 2012 with notification of whether you have been successful would be during the week commencing Monday, 7th May.

My next County Councillors Surgery Saturday 21st April, Woodbridge Library, 10-12 midday