Tag Archives: greenest county

Suffolk towns denied speed-cuts?

Do we want Woodbridge to be a 20mph town or not? Some people do, others don’t. Whatever we think, we need to be able to SAY what it is we want and have Suffolk County Council listen to us.

There was a premature end to today’s full SCC Council meeting when I – along with every other non-Conservative member present – got up and left the chamber in disgust, leaving the Conservatives to talk among themselves.

This was because the Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport  had  a difficulty in differentiating between amendment and replacement. (At least the amendment he wrote began “Delete current wording and replace with..” pretty much as if he thought Full Council  and the whole democratic process were nothing more than an incompetent typist.)

The motion in question was, at first glance, pretty benign. It asked SCC  to  “support, help fund and actively engage with those communities, local residents and other civic amenity groups, town – and parish councils across Suffolk in their requests for speed limits of 20mph in residential areas which are designed as community-generated actions to make their local streetscapes safer (particularly for children and older pedestrians and cyclists); and more tranquil places where community life can flourish and air pollution can be reduced”

What could be more harmless and useful?

It didn’t demand anything. It didn’t insist on anything. It just suggested that SCC should have a look at its green protestations and perhaps consider those residents who wished to travel by other transport than the car unimpeded.

And as I have been trying  to get SCC to look at Woodbridge becoming a trial 20mph zone for the last 2 years I was going to speak in support of the motion.  20mph is an impossible speed for pedestrians or runners and a good fast speed for horse and cycle – why should we decide it is unreasonably slow for cars in residential areas? The practicalities can be achieved without speed-bumps or signs by making the whole area a speed-exclusion zone,  and a study of one of these zones in London found they reduced casualties by 40%.

What’s not to like?

A lot, according to Mr McGregor. He eyed this motion much as his namesake may have eyed Peter Rabbit,  drove his pen through it, and wrote something he approved of instead. So much for democracy and the will of the people

His replacement motion said instead that SCC will:

  • continue supporting 20s Plenty
  • provide support and help with funding for those 20mph schemes where pre-determined road safety [my question: predetermined by who and to what criteria?] and other environmental criteria are met and where they are deemed necessary[o note that fatal, weaselly passive: who deems them necessary? and on what grounds?] and
  • work with Suffolk Police to maintain and improve road safety.

Eh? In other words Mr McGregor replaced an honest, intelligent intention for the future of Suffolk roads with a so-called ‘amendment’ committing SCC to absolutely nothing that they are not doing already.

And he seriously expected members would neither notice this, nor mind wasting an entire afternoon debating this  fatuous statement of the status quo.

When it turned out that new SCC Chair (and ex-Leader)  Jeremy Pembroke was happy to accept this ridiculous replacement for serious political debate, the Lib Dem, Labour, and Independent members walked out en masse. (As would the Greens, no doubt, only the poor souls, having proposed the original motion were stuck).  When I last saw the Council webcam the Conservatives were busy debating this non-event all on their own.

Let’s hope in the absence of anyone other than themselves, Tory members might actually  say what they really think on the matter for once, rather than toeing the Cabinet line..

PS This is what the SCC website has to say about  the Council’s attitude to 20mph zones on its Cycling page.

Suffolk’s public transport: going the extra mile

Workers at Suffolk County Council can now use an online Travel Portal as a central point of information for all  travel.  Very laudable.

To aid you in your travel choices,  it has a  Step-by-step decision-maker (which doesn’t work) plus  a list of Alternative Travel Options to firm up your mind as to how you are to travel.

And this is where we part company as to its use and intentions.  For it has to be said, this  list of Alternative Travel Options (although intended to be informative) suggests there is no real alternative to the car.

In particular, Alternative Travel Options fails to mention the cheap and efficient bicycle as any form of travel alternative. Yet I personally cycled 2,500 miles on council business last year.

I’d like to point out here  that far fron being a lycra-clad fitness freak,  I am (sadly) 53,  fat, with a bad knee, a need to arrive appropriately dressed, have many care commitments and live more  than 8 road miles out of Ipswich. In short, if  someone like me can cycle 2500 work miles a year there must be many many other SCC employees who could also be encouraged to do the same.

In the absence of the bicycle,  SCC’s  Alternative Travel Options list provides the following six options for their workers to consider:

  1. Fleet vehicle (car, van or specialist vehicle)
  2. Lease Car –
  3. Hire car
  4. Team pool cars
  5. Public transport
  6. Reimburse  vehicle mileage

Notice anything? Out of these six , five refer specifically to car usage .

Each option comes with ‘issues to consider’ – issues which are broadly financial.   However, not in the case of Public Transport.  Here the issues to consider are (in full):

  • Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access.
  • May be more expensive for some journeys.
  • Requires planning ahead.
  • Some personal safety considerations (location/time of travel).

Let’s not big it up too much eh? Leaving aside the ‘May be more expensive for some journeys’, (which  is not mentioned in any of the car driving options), surely it is deeply unreasonable to list “personal safety considerations” as a reason to  for the Greenest County to discourage its own employees  from travelling  by bus/train?    There are many many more deaths/injuries in transit amongst car drivers and passengers than among those using public transport.  I am therefore pressing SCC to list “personal safety considerations” as a risk  with all the car-driving options .

Additionally, the mention of public transport is glossed as “Journeys to meetings, conferences etc where train travel between mainline stations is available. Business journeys within more urban locations.”  Yet shouldn’t we be encouraging all employees to travel sustainably within Suffolk at all times?   So why not advocate public transport more strongly?

The difficulty is laid out fairly and clearly: public transport is “Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access”.   Right.  Yet public transport difficulties have become  major problems for the people of Suffolk because of the lack of support SCC has given to public transport .  Our legislators  and administrators  like to talk the talk, but instead of walking the walk  – or cycling the bike, or taking the bus  – too many are wedded to driving the car.

Which has led inexorably to the County Council’s cut of the Bury Park and Ride site and its continuing barefaced  insistence that Demand Responsive Transport (7am – 7pm weekdays only)  adequately replaces subsidised bus services (yes, those which also operated during evenings/Sundays/Bank holidays). These two decisions alone  have  added greatly to the problem of ‘time constraints/ availability/access” in public transport – sadly there are others.

Is it entirely reasonable that SCC should be diverting away its own employees from the transport difficulties it  has inflicted on others who do not have the chance to claim back transport expenses?

 

End Note

I wrote to the  SCC Travel Portal on 2 June giving feedback on ther portal pretty much in terms of the above. I was delighted to receive an email two weeks later telling me that as a direct reponse to my comments, the portal had been entirely redesigned ” in accordance with the sustainable travel hierarchy“. 

The officer who redesigned it has done a wonderful job. The portal  is  now both more helpful and useful, and is much MUCH more encouraging towards sustainable forms of transport. Congratulations!

Save our Woodbridge Lollipop patrol!

Seven years ago Suffolk’s lollipop men and women were being hailed by Suffolk  county council as  ‘greatly appreciated frontline staff’ as the golden anniversary of this wonderful, useful and CHEAP service was being celebrated.

School crossing patrols were formally recognised in Britain by the Schools Crossing Patrols Act of 1953.  Lollipop people are one of only four agents entitled to stop traffic by law (The others being the police, traffic wardens and some members of the Armed Forces).  Lollipop men and women have long done a fantastic job for a pittance and little thanks. But worse is to come..

Today all 98 patrols  in Suffolk are being cut by order of the Suffolk County Council’s Conservative administration to save a paltry £174,000  ( that is, a mere 79% of the Suffolk CEO’s annual salary).  At the very same time, SCC  is  adding another £2m to its roads budget which will weigh in at a truly gobsmacking £18.2 million this  next financial year. You couldn’t make it up.

Do you ever get the feeling that the people running SCC have simply got their priorities well and truly WRONG? that they haven’t the faintest idea about what really matters in the real world?

Dear Cllr Pembroke, dear  Cabinet:  Lets get this straight. School crossing patrols  – like the one run here in Woodbridge  by our invaluable St Mary’s School lollipop man Terry – are  not set up on a whim.    No, they are established at sites where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school as assessed  – not by naughty bad people who just want to irritate you – but by national guidelines (establishedby the Local Authority Road Safety Officer’s Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents , no less)

So they’re not what you might call a frivolity …

Ten years ago in Woodbridge the Times reports on how the (then)  Woodbridge Lollipop man, Frank Howe, was knocked to the ground by an impatient driver while on patrol on Birkett Road, directly outside St Mary’s School.

“This driver was revving his engine,” Howe recalled. “I could see by the way his mouth was going that he was cursing me for keeping him. He mounted the kerb and went to pass me. His wing mirror caught me and I went down. He didn’t stop. Luckily, an off-duty policeman saw what happened and forced him to come back.

“The parents and children were very shocked, but they had taken down his registration number. He was prosecuted, given a £350 fine and eight points on his licence, but I never got an apology.”

Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet, can I ask you: has traffic become less busy in the last ten years?

The same article quotes the (then) SCC officer in charge  of the School Crossing service as saying:

“We want our lollipop men and women to know just how much we appreciate them. We see them as frontline members of staff, very visible!”

What a difference seven years can make, folks.

So, Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet – let’s get this straight

  • School crossing patrols were instituted and enshrined  by Act of Parliament because they were needed;
  • They have been running for over sixty years because they clearly continue to be needed;
  • Over these years the roads have got busier and busier;
  • Patrols only operate where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school (this danger assessed by national guidelines);
  • We want to get children out of the car and back onto their feet – to combat child obesity and encourage independence , as well as discourage the fumes and jams and road danger caused by heavy schoolrun traffic;
  • patrols are very very cheap to run – £2,500 – £3,500 a year
  • SCC also has (although in my opinion, totally self-serving, unrealistic and self-deluded) aspirations to be ‘the Greenest County.’

And you want to close  every school crossing patrol in Suffolk to save less money than you pay your Chief Executive as basic salary???

A final question, Cllr Pembroke: What is a cynic? According to Oscar Wilde,  its  A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Cllr Pembroke, you and your Cabinet need to recognise that the  tiny cost of the Suffolk School Crossing patrols bears  little  relationship to  their extraordinary value to the people of Suffolk! Let’s hope you  recognise this before we all learn the hard way the truth of Wilde’s other famous quote from the same play: Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.

If you wish to encourage Cllr Pembroke and his Cabinet to change their minds , you could always write directly to the Leader of Suffolk County Council at Endeavour House, Ipswich.  Closer to home, St. Mary’s School has  a paper-based petition available to sign in school.

You can also add your signature to the SCC e-petition on the subject  by clicking this link http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-our-School-Crossing-Patrols