Various exciting things have been happening this last month. On a county-wide stage we have managed to get Suffolk to recognise that its decisions about Concessionary bus passes (that is, those for the disabled and the elderly) were made without adequate consultation. On a local level, I have managed to turn around the current situation regarding the Just 42 youth club. From having been offered no lease whatsoever at the Woodbridge Youth Club since August last year – and well-grounded concerns as to its future, Just 42 have now been offered a ten-year lease on the whole building (- and watch this space. More is to come)
Suffolk forced to look (yet) again at its decisions on Elderly and Disabled Bus Passes Suffolk’s County Council Cabinet has been forced to look again at their decision to provide only the statutory minimum free travel for the elderly and disabled (0930-2300 weekdays, all day weekends and bank holidays), after the Liberal Democrat Group called the decision into the Scrutiny Committee at the end of September.
I (as proposer) and CllrDavid Wood(as seconder) presented the case that Cabinet’s decision had failed to take account of a number of important principles, most particularly a lack of consultation of those affected, the negative impact the decision had on many peoples’ lives, the openness of the decision-making, and the insufficient evidence provided to justify the decision. We also pointed out that SCC underspent on this part of their plans for public transport by the best part of a million pounds this year, yet had no problem in finding an extra £1.3 million for better broadband (see below).
The number of public speakers (largely representing a range of disability groups) at the meeting and the written submissions (from other disability groups) that arrived in the week before the meeting, highlighted the lack of proper consultation before the decision was made. Cabinet only looked at one submission about impact when they made their decision, – and that was because that user group had heard about the meeting and asked specifically to contribute.
The Committee voted by seven votes to three to send this decision back to the Cabinet to be reconsidered.
I will keep you updated of any news as to when this will be. In the meantime if you would like more information about the Call-in, please head to my blog piece about it.
NB Just to remind you, I originally raised this issue back in July 2011, when I was able to persuade the entire Council to put aside party political differences and ask Cabinet to look again at what it had decided to provide for Concessionary Bus Passes and provide 24/7 travel for those eligible due to disability and allow those elderly pass holders to travel from 09.00. It took from July 11 to July 12 for Cabinet to get around to acceding to this.
Just 42 and the Woodbridge Youth Club Excellent news! After some firm negotiation, SCC is now offering significantly differing terms to Just 42 than those which SCC has been proposing for the last 18 months. As follows:
- A new 10 year lease (excluded from security of tenure but see below) to be granted to Just 42;
- Mutual annual break clauses (see 3) after three years;
- Just 42’s position will be protected in that SCC’s right to bring the lease to an end will be conditional upon SCC providing adequate alternative facilities for Just 42 (the term ‘adequate’ to include external as well as internal facilities!);
- The extent the area to be exclusively used by Just 42 to be agreed, together with rest of the buildings that may be available to other parties;
- Just 42 will make the building available to other Community users when not in use by Just 42: such details to be agreed in due course;
- SCC currently use an area of the building as an office on occasions & it is envisaged that this will continue
These proposals – although they look very suitable – haven’t yet been accepted. We are busy checking the small-print to ensure that Just 42 – and other groups – are in no way disadvantaged!
I am immensely grateful to Charles Notcutt, the Mayor of Woodbridge, for his presence at the last meeting. It has seemed in the past that many decisions were being made by officers at SCC and SCDC without recognising the needs and requirements of Woodbridge and the Woodbridge young people. I therefore insisted on tsuitable respresentation from Woodbridge Town, and Mr Notcutt was kind enough to make time for this.
(Incidentally, this is by no means the end of the matter – but will give those who are providing for the young people of Woodbridge some much-needed security and relief from anxiety while concrete plans for the long-term future. I now suggest that I and the other members of the group set up at July’s council meeting should now meet with my new Locality Officer to discuss an overarching plan that would meet the needs of Woodbridge youth over the longer term and within the plans for the town.)
September County Council Meeting and 20mph The County Council meeting in September had quite a light agenda, but proved remarkably eventful.
As there was only one motion (about improving localism to support towns that wished to adopt 20mph speed limits in towns) it could be assumed that the meeting would have passed without any significant issues. As you know this is an issue which is hotly debated in Woodbridge.
However, an amendment proposed by Conservative administration to the 20mph motion changed every word -and the meaning and intention – of the original text, leaving council to discuss things which SCC was already doing! The opposition parties pointed this out – but when the Council Chariman and officers refused to accept that this changed motion left us debating the status quo, the opposition parties – apart from the proposer and seconder of the motion, had no option but to leave the Council chamber. Full details here.
This is another example of the stifling of democracy at Suffolk County Council, which is also so apparent in the way in which the Cabinet makes decisions without reference to the other members of its own party, let alone those of the opposition parties!
Grit bins (again!) Now is the time to be looking towards the winter cold. I know we only had a couple of days of real ice last winter – but we can certainly not rely on it! If anyone knows of areas where bins would be useful – and here I am thinking specifically of Peterhouse and the Warwick Avenue area, I can fund them and the Town Clerk will be happy to buy them on my – and your – behalf!
Remembrance Day After listening to the Rev McCormack’s wonderfully inclusive words at last Remembrance Day, I have been asking if it would be possible to have a non-religious presence on the Shire Hall steps for Remembrance Day. This would represent the 1 in 5 people in Woodbridge (as in Suffolk as a whole, and the UK in general) who see themselves as ‘Good without God’ and to recognise how many of such people have served and died in the name of their country without any religious beliefs to sustain them – and who are doing so to this day. I am glad to say that this has now been accepted as a valid point. After talking to the new Rock Barracks padre yesterday, it looks like he may be able to find a suitable acting soldier to undertake such a role for Woodbridge on this important and highly significant day.
Grand Driver Scheme The Grand Driver scheme has just been launched: to help assist the continuation of safe driving as people get older. Older drivers are the fastest growing driving population in Suffolk. Although there’s evidence to suggest that the likelihood of crashes increases with age, older adults are also renowned as safety-conscious and law-abiding drivers.
The scheme comprises 3 main elements: Insight and awareness of attitudes to driving and self-regulatory behaviour, An opportunity to update and refresh knowledge and discuss driving matters at workshops arranged throughoutSuffolkand a driving assessment and feedback in your own vehicle focusing on safe driving and coping strategies.
More information can be obtained from Michelle Haward: 01473 265256 Michelle.firstname.lastname@example.org
Better Broadband SCC’s Cabinet has decided to take Better Broadband for Suffolk to the next stage, increasing the level of money invested by Suffolk County Council by another £1.3 million , and delegating the contract agreement.
Scampaign – Lottery Scams Suffolk Trading Standards are warning us about lottery scams, which often claim people have won a significant amount of money on an overseas or online lottery and ask for personal information including bank account details. Please could councillors make people aware that they should protect themselves against lottery fraud in the following ways:
Protecting yourself against lottery fraud:
- Be realistic: if you haven’t entered a lottery then you can’t have won it
- Never respond to any communication – as above, if you haven’t entered a lottery then, really and truly you can’t have won it
- If they’ve provided an email address to respond to, be particularly suspicious of addresses such as @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com or numbers beginning with 07, because these are free to get hold of
- Any request for a fee payment is a good indication that someone is trying to defraud you – there are no official lottery operators who ask for fees to collect winnings!
- Never, ever disclose your bank details or pay fees in advance
- Genuine lotteries thrive on publicity. If they ask you to keep your win a secret it’s likely to be a fraud
- Many fraudulent lotteries have bad spelling and grammar – see this as a warning that fraudsters are at work
What to do if you are a victim of lottery fraud:
- Report to Action Fraud specialists by calling 0300 123 2040
- If you have responded to the email/letter/call, break off all contact with the fraudsters at once
- If you have given over your bank account details, alert your bank immediately
- Be aware that you’re now likely to be a target for other frauds. Fraudsters often share details about people they have successfully targeted or approached, using different identities to commit further frauds
My next County Councillor’s Surgery This will be in Woodbridge Library on Saturday, 20th October 10-12 noon as ever. All welcome!