Tag Archives: cuts

SCC humanitarians? EPIC Fail!

Ok, I’ll admit it.  I’m depressed.

I know that the  SCC Tory administration are supposed to have hearts as hard and slippery as greasy bullets,  consciences as elastic as support stockings and moral principles as indefensible as the Maginot line (I also know – because they have confessed it  -that they read my blog,  AVIDLY, I hope!).

But it takes a very hard-hearted, very conscienceless and very very unprincipled representative of the people  to support the cutting of all our Suffolk  School Crossing Patrols for the sake of  an annual £174,000.

But they did – speaking their votes  aloud – 40 to our 26.

Because  (I quote) ‘we have to face it – in this country we have simply been living beyond our means – and we can no longer do so!

Living beyond our means? I should coco  – in the last year alone, these very same prudent guardians have  spent

  • HALF A MILLION POUNDS on gagging orders for departed staff
  • £122,000 for the Chief Executive to spend (at her discretion) on unspecified consultancy with three extraordinarily retiring, unadvertised and otherwise  little-known firms
  • over 3p in every one of our council tax pounds on the salaries of their  senior management  and
  • THREE QUARTERS  OF A MILLION POUNDS on something called Suffolk Circle – which they brought  in to show Suffolk over-50s how to pay to keep themselves busy and be good neighbours to each other.
    (It makes you wonder what kind of neighbours our Tory councillors can be  themselves. Most of us in Suffolk know that neighbourliness comes free in our kindly county. )

I admit to being ill-tempered when posting this.

And with due cause.

I have just spent six interminable hours in the council chamber listening to an almost unbelievable degree of smug complacency from our Tory majority as they justified  their horrible choices.  Complacency  that dismissed such issues as cutting (oh no, suddenly its ‘divesting’ ) the road crossing patrols, abandoning the eXplore card, removing inconvenient buses because the countryside is so big and they’re all right Jack they have CARS, as (again I quote) ‘tosh.’

Woodbridge should be proud of itself. It punched well above its weight:   the deputy head, PTA chair and ex- PTA chair of St. Mary’s plus various parents and councillors  present a petition to Guy Mc Gregor on cutting the School Crossing patrol. Afterwards, no less than three brave Woodbridge souls asked excellent public questions  – again of Guy McGregor  -on cutting the St Mary’s School Crossing patrol, on cutting the eXplore card and on the cancelled buses. They got what could only be described as unhelpful answers.

During the afternoon I spoke four times, forcefully and increasingly desperately.  But the forces of reason (I would say the quiet voice of reason – but I was far from quiet) lost every single point and the conservative budget goes ahead in all its tarnished glory.

So that’s it for SCC’s cheap and effective school crossing patrols, the eXplore card, many of our scheduled buses…  I hope every single councillor who voted for it will feel proud of themselves! And I hope every resident of Suffolk will remember which people  voted for it.

It occurs to me that to some people present this was all just a game, where winning was all (“No, no, they do but jest. Poison in jest“). In case they have got to believing their own rhetoric I will just pass on the words of a Woodbridge constituent who was present :

I stayed for the vote on the first amendment but was so angry I had to leave after that. I was totally appalled at  their attitude and a complete lack of any decent argument for scrapping crossing patrols. I can honestly say I have never been so angry in my life. I had a rant on radio Suffolk when I left the building.

I think the fact that you can keep up your amazing enthusiasm whilst surrounded by a set of people who ( in my 12 year old sons words) would climb over a glass wall to see what’s on the other side, is incredible.

They are arrogant, unyielding and most definitely not representing the people they serve. Unlike you.

Because I believe in the principle that injustice – like justice – should not just be done, but SEEN to be done, I will, when the voting records appear, post a link to the names  of everyone who voted.

Whether with their consciences or not.

Chengyu for the day:

Chengyu for the day:

风 雨 如 晦 (feng yu ru hui)

wind and rain sweeping across a gloomy sky eg: a grim situation

WE can save Suffolk Services!

Libraries, crossing patrols, eXplore cards – many of Suffolk’s vital frontline services could be saved, if you just look at the budget figures with the right mindset.  Not that the Conservative administration admit this – they have told the people of Suffolk that there is ‘no alternative’ to cutting or divesting these – and many other  – valued services.  We Lib Dems say they are wrong!

Indeed, we have laid out in detail how the council’s upcoming budget could be reorganised to save these services at no extra cost, despite the cuts to central government grants!  Coverage in local news was incomplete so the full list is below. We propose to:

  • Keep all libraries open
  • Retain school crossing patrols
  • Retain funding for youth clubs
  • Maintain subsidised bus services to rural communities
  • Keep the eXplore student discount travel card
  • Reopen Ipswich Bury Road Park and Ride service
  • Keep open all Suffolk Household Waste Recycling Centres by reducing hours (on Mondays and Tuesdays)
  • Retain Fire Control within Suffolk
  • Keep Felixstowe Fire Station as full-time on weekdays and retained at weekends
  • Retain the Fire Service’s Ipswich Aerial Appliance
  • Retain checking overloaded lorries to protect roads and people

As my group leader Kathy Pollard puts it

“Unlike the Conservatives, we have been listening to Suffolk people. It has not been difficult to identify the savings we needed to retain these services. It is a question of priorities.  Clearly the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council are determined to close and privatise as many services as possible. This is ideologically driven and is not being imposed on them by central Government.

It is also very unfair to expect parish and town councils to pick up the extra cost  (for example) of running libraries. They would have to increase their parish rate considerably and people would effectively be paying twice for a service which under statute should be provided by the County Council.”

Lib Dems are suggesting  savings can be made by: Removing one Director and two Assistant Director posts; and  reducing business mileage by 10% (which would save more than £900,000 per year ); external room hire; the “Management of Change” budget; reserves; the Cabinet to 8 from its current 10 members; the road maintenance budget (this will not affect emergency repairs); and variousmanagement and other costs in the Fire Service

    Although we have confirmed these figures with council officers, Jane Storey, deputy leader disagrees with us.

    Of course she rather HAS to disagree. If she doesn’t, she has to address head-on the  peculiar priorities in funding that this council  proposes at this time of huge fiscal constraints. Why, for example, do the Tories stop at proposing libraries and school traffic patrols be run by volunteers?  A school crossing patrol person gets paid £35 a week.  Our Chief Executive ( the UK’s SEVENTH highest paid County/London borough Council CEO) gets £4192 a week – and that’s before the generous pension payments she gets added on top.  Indeed, why stop there? the county council has a number of high salaried posts that could be divested with huge ease (I suspect) to volunteers – people whose only interest is the good of the county, rather than their personal enrichment.

    We already know there are a lot of highly qualified and public-spirited people in Suffolk who are prepared to volunteer their services, Jane. You’re very  prepared to used them for less high-status, more practical,  replacements to modestly paid workers.  Why not think a bit more divergently and use them to replace senior executives if they have the background! THAT’s where you’d REALLY make the savings!

    But sadly,  if you suggest this to our Tory administration (and I have) you only get an incredulous laugh. Clearly, in some peoples’ minds, there are some SCC posts which are too highly-salaried to be divested.  Yet (I fain would ask) WHAT does a County Council Chief Executive actually DO?  I can tell you pretty simply what a lollipop person does, or a librarian or a bus driver. But a Chief Executive?

    Cynically I suspect that only administrators truly value administration. People like me, long-time housewives and carers, balancing a budget  with too many mouths and not enough cash, feel that any sensible housekeeper can learn to cut their coat to the cloth available, without losing the services they need for those they care for!

    Maybe the difference is in the words ‘care for’?

    Let’s try rescue Suffolk’s Explore Card PLEASE!

    I ‘m hoping that as many people as possible – cardholders, past cardholders, friends and family of cardholders – will sign the SCC e-petition asking them to overturn SCCs latest shocking proposal – to abolish the young person’s eXplore Card (click here).

    Up till now young people in Suffolk  have had the eXplore card to help with travel costs 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 on many off-peak rail journeys.  Considering the scandalous cost of the average bus fare around here this is a huge advantage for them, and must have encouraged the continuance of various bus routes.   Additionally, 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 a very good thing  it has been too!

     SCC’s abolition of the eXplore card has happened simultaneously with  SCC’s evisceration of the rural bus services. This  is creating a double whammy for the young and poor – particularly the rural young and poor – that our SCC administration would do well to back away from with shame and embarrassment!

    The proposed abolition of the card will mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. Worse, it will put more young drivers on the road before they are safe and ready often in cars that are chosen for cheapness rather than any more reliable quality. On top of this, it will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads – where – as we’ve all heard – Jeremy Clarkson is advocating they should be knocked down for getting in his way  (No, I didn’t make that up, sad to say, click here: relevant section is at 21:44 and please don’t get me started on the appalling waste of public money HE represents. An expense of spirit in a waste of shame, that’s Jeremy Clarkson – but I digress). It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training.

    SCC apologists – the ones I call the “Shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok“ brigade  (those who don’t want the victim to wriggle as the blade is shoved in),  say “shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok”.  These people speak loudly of their hope that individual bus companies might take up the idea of a paid-for version of the eXplore card for the future.  (Actually, I believe First have already rejected the idea.)

    Such a scheme would, 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 were told that us poor bus users in Suffolk  never managed to get an integrated ticketing service as exists in most other places.

    The  “Shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok“ brigade will also be out there telling you these cuts are sad but necessary. (By the way, the prerequisite of being a member of this brigade is never actually using a bus themselves.)

    No, these cuts are not ‘necessary’ – Suffolk could well afford to keep the eXplore card, if Cllr Guy McGregor weren’t so determined to  stay in the good books of the car lobby. There is an extra £2m going to the roads budget this year. Explore card users, Park and Ride users, School Crossing patrols etc are all paying dearly for his partiality!

    So, another epetition to sign. It is as urgent and vital as all the others!