This month a lot of my news seems to be about transport or highways
Woodbridge Buses – marginal improvements: I’m happy to report that after all my lobbying over the last years, the situation for bus-users in Woodbridge has seen a marginal improvement. I’m telling you about them and reiterating my mantra use them or lose them.
Back in August we actually saw the unheralded addition of one later Monday-Saturday Ipswich/Woodbridge bus service in each direction: the new 64a – an evening service that passes the Ipswich Hospital. Woodbridge residents haven’t had this luxury since the evening 64 buses were renamed 62a and b and diverted. Unfortunately the new later bus for people in Woodbridge – the 64a – only extends travel times to mid- evening, Even more unfortunately the direction of the 64a is not ideal for Woodbridge users, because it goes to and from Woodbridge instead of the other way round. This means that the last 64a bus from the Ipswich hospital to Woodbridge is at 19.17, yet the last bus from Woodbridge to the hospital andIpswich is at 19.58). As usual we inWoodbridge are easier to reach than to leave. And of course the 64a does nothing whatsoever to solve the problem of Sunday and bank holiday travel.
Similarly, I am pleased to notice that after the representations of Suffolk young people – and most particularly those of Woodbridge- the 165 bus is now offering a young person’s fare 16-19 (no proof of ID needed), pegged at between the child and adult fare. Sadly, First buses still don’t offer a young persons fare for south east Suffolk students –although they’re happy to do so for Lowestoft ,Yarmouth and Norwich young people. Why should we suffer this discrimination? Time to lobby!
Scrutiny of CC’s decision regarding SCC’s Elderly and Disability Passes : After Cabinet reconsidered the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme and rejected the plea for change in July, I and my colleagues ‘called in’ their decision on the following grounds:
a) proportionality (The action taken to control expenditure exceeded that required to achieve a balanced budget.)
b) due consultation and the taking of professional advice from officers; (In reconsidering the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, the County Council did not consult the relevant groups who are affected. The one submission from the Suffolk Consortium of User Led Organisations & Individual Disabled People was received because they had asked to contribute. Other groups were not given an opportunity to do so.)
c) consideration for human rights (The changes implemented to the travel scheme impacted negativelyon disabled pass holders, and therefore maintaining this decision continues that impact. Also there was no full Equality Impact Assessment when the original decision was made by the Cabinet)
d) openness; (There was a lack of consultation with relevant user groups including disabled people.)
g) There was insufficient data on costs of scheme enhancements, particularly with regard to other neighbouring authorities who have more than a year’s experience of the costs of operating the enhancements.
Cabinet’s cheeseparing and undemocratic decision will therefore be discussed at Scrutiny on 27th September.
Five bidders for SCC Highways Responsibility for gritting, maintenance and repairing potholes on Suffolk roads is scheduled for outsourcing by the Tory administration. We have now been given the shortlist, to be decided by Cabinet on 11th December.
These are: Amey, Balfour Beatty Workplace, Carillion/Mott Macdonald, EnterpriseMouchel and MGWSP (May Gurney/WSP)
The rationale for this outsourcing is cost-cutting. My party is concerned however that the same ineffective scrutiny and poor contract management that has dogged Suffolk’s CSD will turn this project into another CSD, and result in the the people of this County paying significantly more for poorer roads.
Tour of Britain through Woodbridge This went very pleasantly and uneventfully on a beautiful clear day. I had a last-minute discussion with the road engineers last week – as a result of which the potholes in the Market Square(and most especially the deep one by the Kings Head) were fixed, and no catastrophic crash occurred in Woodbridge. I wish to thank the East Area Highways Team for this prompt response.
Looking at the larger picture, I hope that the route of the peleton along Sandy Lane will support the need for calming this rat run which so many residents in both Woodbridge and Martlesham have been arguing for and for which I have offered the money from my QoL budget.
Autism Survey There seem to be an increasing number of people diagnosed with autism these days and so Suffolk County Council is launching a survey in an endeavour to help both people with autism, and their family and carers.
There are two surveys available – one for people living with an autistic spectrum condition and another for their carer or family member.
It would be useful of you could publicise this
County councillor’s surgery: this takes place on 15 September this month. Everyone welcome!
Just to remind everyone, my surgery is tomorrow, in Woodbridge Library 10-12 as ever. Everyone welcome
Over the last month everyone was concerned with the Queen’s Jubilee. However I single out for special notice Suffolk County Council – who, for reasons best known to themselves, held a party on the evening of 4th June to celebrate the SCC Jubilee beacon being lit. They were clearly oblivious to the notion that any County Councillor worth their salt would be on their own home patch enjoying local celebrations, and their local beacon. At least I was.
Other things of importance:
Suffolk Circle If you remember, a couple of years back SCC committed £680,000 over 3 years to fund a ‘good neighbours ‘scheme in Suffolk. This was, to put it mildly, a controversial decision. Last month I told you that Suffolk Circle’s first year of operation was looked at in critical detail by the Scrutiny Committee to assess whether it was an effective/cost-effective means of providing support to the over 50s. The main recommendations of the Committee were:
- Any proposed future partnerships between the County Council and third party organisations should be looked at by Scrutiny before any final decisions are taken by Cabinet;
- the Committee be provided with details of the outcomes from the Business Review of the Suffolk Circle ;
- the Business Review should take account of different mixes of income from tokens and subscriptions and developing closer working with the voluntary sector, in the context of planning for Years 2 and 3;
- the County Council and the Suffolk Circle should give consideration to how marketing could be used:
i. to encourage members from rural communities to join;
ii. to proactively reach out to the most vulnerable people in Suffolk;
iii. to clearly demonstrate in plain English the benefits of membership to potential members;
- the County Council and Suffolk Circle take steps to improve communication with voluntary sector organisations, including a proactive approach to signposting services; and
- the Committee be provided with data regarding the number of membership renewals and the demographic make up of the membership, using Acorn data.
I will keep you up to date when I hear more from the County about the Circle.
New Chairman, New Travel Card The Annual General Meeting of Suffolk County Council took place on the 24th of May, where Cllr Jeremy Pembroke, the former leader and Conservative councillor for Cosford was appointed Chairman for the next year. Anne Whybrow, Conservative member for Stowmarket was also elected as the Vice-Chair. At the same time the Lib Dem party announced that our Leader, Kathy Pollard, has stepped down, after a prolonged brush with very ill-health, and is replaced by Cllr David Wood.
Cllr Mark Bee then gave a State of Suffolk Address, in which he highlighted the main aims for the year and reviewed the past year. Interestingly, in this he heralded the return on an Oyster-type young persons travel card because issues of transport are causing such harm to the education and employment prospects of the young people of Suffolk. Equally interestingly, he failed to mention that this was required to replace the Explore young person’s travel card which his own administration (under previous leader Jeremy Pembroke) decided to cut halfway through the last academic year and which has already caused significant harm to the education and employment prospects of young people in Suffolk.
Any sign of a restoration is obviously a successful outcome for me, my party and the members of Just 42, amongst others: we have been lobbying for the restoration of this card since it was withdrawn. However the proposal is currrently limited to the young people of Ipswich, who Scrutiny discovered have suffered least from the withdrawal. It must be extended as soon as possible if the Leader’s words are to mean anything at all. I have blogged, written and spoken publicly on how necessary this is if we are to support the badly-affected young people of rural Suffolk to support themselves.
We also welcomed Cllr Bee’s announcement of a one-post Cabinet post reduction for the next year. My party has been calling for such a reduction for two years.
Textiles Recycling Scheme Launched The Suffolk Waste Partnership has recently launched a scheme where residents across the entire County will be able to recycle clothes. I do have some concerns about the effect of this scheme on charities, although the Council says that the aim is not to take away the clothes that would be donated, but to try to redirect some of the 7,000 tonnes of clothing that goes to landfill each year. Having said this, they then supply a list of those items that are deemed acceptable and unacceptable – many of which would be acceptable at a charity shop.
Acceptable items: all clean clothing, socks and shoes, boots, wellies, slippers, hats, scarves, gloves, bed linen, blankets, sheets, pillowcases, handbags, belts, clean underwear, curtains, towels, tea towels and stuffed toys
No thanks – dirty or oily items, duvets, quilts, sleeping bags, pillows, cushions and carpets.
All I say is, please remember to give to charities anything you would have given before – and only hand clearly unsaleable items to the recycling scheme. Re-use is better than recycling any day of the week.
County Councillor surgery My next surgery is this upcoming Saturday, 16th June, in the Woodbridge library. As ever, everyone is welcome