Click on the picture to the left to get a reading-size e-version of our December’s Woodbridge Focus
Click on the picture to the left to get a reading-size e-version of our December’s Woodbridge Focus
This month’s report has a lot to do with a number of different forms of transport: rail, road, bus AND cycle – and also has a sentence in Anglo-Saxon embedded in it:
Greater Anglia Cycle ‘consultation’ Greater Anglia’s draft cycle strategy consultation finished on 1 November. It worried a number of people – from intercity commuters, to public health officers, to those involved in tourism to your average working godger. And me (needless to say).
Details were nebulous but it seemed (when you cut through seemingly deliberately unspecific verbiage) that the rail company was proposing to remove cycles from an unspecified number of their trains – up to and including all of them – preferring people to keep bicycles at each end of their daily journey or to use Greater Anglia’s own version of Boris bikes at an extra cost of £3.80 a day.
The impact of this would be felt by all cycle rail users, but most particularly those with fewer choices: those using the trains from stops in in rural areas, second-class passengers, those with complex journeys, and of course the young and less affluent.
Suffolk travellers would be particularly at risk because it seems as if decisions are being proposed on the basis of the status and usage of out of-county stations (London, Norwich, Cambridge) with little concern as to the situation of the passengers who have to join or leave the trains on the interim stops in Suffolk.
I have blogged elsewhere the response I made to this consultation as your County Councillor, LD spokesperson for transport and rail-travelling cyclist
Sexual Health: Ipswich clinic Free and timely Sexual Health care was instituted by act of parliament in 1917 because the powers that be – even in that pre-NHS time – recognised how important this was to the health of the whole country. Apparently there were more soldiers out of action because of untreated sexually transmitted diseases than were wounded in action!
At the end of October, the Sexual Health clinic at Ipswich Hospital, which was purpose-built in 1991, was to close. Public health is now a county council remit. Although a number of interim measures are being instituted to ensure some continuity of services. I asked Full Council: Can you please tell me what facilities for immediate STI diagnosis (eg microscopy), for immediate on-site free dispensing of drugs (as opposed to by prescription collected from a pharmacist) and for co-ordination of contact tracing Public Health is ensuring are put in place in the immediate aftermath of closure?
I was assured that these will continue at the hospital for the immediate future.
Park & Ride Ipswich Buses have taken back the running of the Ipswich Park & Ride services at Martlesham and Copdock. Passengers will even have access to free wi-fi as they travel. Park and ride tickets will also be valid on other services run by the company in the town. I consider this to be excellent news. If they decide to reopen the Bury Road park and Ride – as I have been calling for, since its incomprehensible and foolish closure – it will be even better news.
However I have been contacted by a local parish councillor who asks if it is still correct that the County Council underwrites these services by over £600,000 pa, pointing out that if this is the case, the business rate payers of the rest of Suffolk are ‘giving Ipswich businesses a handout’ . He further adds that every P & R bus journey needs a minimum of 20 passengers to offset the equivalent environmental impact of cars etc.. I am inquiring about this.
Tolling the A14? Suffolk County councillors are more or less united in criticism of government proposals to toll the A14. At full council, the SCC administration accepted my party’s view that years of underinvestment in Suffolk railways has left us with rail services from Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough which fall well short of what is required for effective day-to-day operation and amended their motion on A14 tolls accordingly. Although there are government plans for a number of enhancements to the UK road network, the A14 improvement scheme is the only one with an inbuilt plan for tolling. A s – in its current state – the rail system is unable to provide a viable alternative to a tolled A14, it makes any decision to toll doubly unfair, because there isn’t the capacity for a reliable public transport alternative .
Anglo-Saxon Attitude Suffolk County Councillors received an impromptu lesson in Anglo Saxon from Lib Dem group leader Dave Woods, when they agreed to name the Council Chamber ‘King Edmund’s Chamber’. (King Edmund ruled East Anglia from about 855 until he was killed by the Danish Great Heathen Army in 869AD. He was initially patron saint of Suffolk, but then went on to become patron saint of England, before being deposed by St George.)
While the other group leaders described Suffolk’s Anglo Saxon patron saint in terms of his geographical location, origin and community spirit, Cllr Wood quoted the maxim by which King Edmund lived: Gif þu eart to heafodmen geset, ne ahefe þu ðe, ac beo betwux mannum swa swa an man of him (which, roughly translated means: If you become a ruler, don’t be puffed up, but be amongst people as one of them.) This, said Cllr Wood, was an excellent maxim for all elected officials to live by. And after he had translated it, the other parties agreed
Continuing Complaints: Ticket Machine at Woodbridge Station I continue to have complaints from people regarding the unreliability of the ticket machine at Woodbridge station. The latest complaint (today, 6 November) was from a constituent who told me that “this time it said it was printing the tickets and then didn’t deliver. I now have to buy some more and collect them on the train. Now there is over a £100 out of my bank account awaiting a refund for two lots of tickets. I blasted Greater Anglia but they say the machine is not theirs.” I am raising the issue with Greater Anglia.
Locality budget: Grit bins, Benches – and possibly an Ice Rink The latest applications from my locality budget are for grit bins, benches and potentially an ice rink to support shopping in Woodbridge at Christmas. I very much hope the latter comes to fruition as it seems an excellent idea for generating Christmas footfall.
Having started the trend for funding local gritbins from the county councillor’s locality budget, I suspect we are the market town in Suffolk with the most (something like 37). This is excellent . However, the system relies on the public spirit of local volunteers, who remain thin on the ground. Having myself cleared miles of snow and ice along Ipswich Road and California over the last three years I would urge all our younger and most ablebodied councillors to put their shoulder to the broom too. Many hands make light work.
My next County Councillor’s Surgery is on Saturday 16th November 10am to midday, in Woodbridge Library. No appointment necessary, but you may have to wait at busier times
Its very icy this week and the pavements and footpaths are horribly slippery – particularly in the shadows. Over the last 3 winters I’ve funded about 25 grit-bins around Woodbridge from my locality budget. They have been placed in areas where volunteers have offered to help keep pavements safe. This means there ought to be one near YOU.
(And if there isn’t you know why!)
Please think of your elderly neighbours and those more vulnerable than yourself, who may be housebound because of fear of falling. Winter is not only the time for colds and flu, its also a peak time for broken bones. If – as happens in other countries – each of us made ourselves responsible for clearing the pavement outside our house, many problems would be solved just like that!
Preparing for Winter : Gritbins With the first of the winter cold on the way, I have been using my locality budget to fund 4 further grit bins in areas of Woodbridge that still require them: Millview Close/Naunton Road, Peterhouse Crescent, Nelson Way and Barton Road. If you know of any other areas that still might need covering –and if there is at least one volunteer prepared to grit – I still have locality money for the purpose.
New Greater Anglia hourly service Lowestoft-Ipswich This started on 9 December. I travelled on the opening train of this service along with other County, SCDC and Town and Parish Councillors and took the opportunity to ask Greater Anglia Customer Service Director Andrew Goodrum about proposed ticket machines at Woodbridge station.
You will be pleased to know there is absolutely no need to lobby for these as they have been purchased a while back. (They are not yet installed as they need weatherproofing because they are designed for indoor use.)
However, as a frequent traveller on the Network I alerted Mr Goodrum about the difficulty of purchasing that most invaluable of Greater Eastern discount tickets – a Day Ranger – at the Ipswich ticket machines, and he undertook to make sure that this would be remedied both here and at Ipswich.
Cabinet: Today, the SCC Cabinet will be discussing a range of matters including –
Council Budget – Round 1: At the end of November, the County Council announced the first version of the 2013 budget. This was discussed and questioned at the recent Scrutiny Committee.
This year will see a further reduction of £24.9m, as part of a two year programme to reduce the budget by just over £50m. As seen last year, many of the services are looking to efficiencies rather than specific service cuts, however the Lib Dems are extremely concerned that these reductions will hide damage to the County’s frontline services. Aongst the most concerning are that there will be a significant reduction in Adult and Community Services of £7m, and another reduction of £2.5m in Children and Young People’s services. There are both areas which have significant pressures, and help to protect the vulnerable in our community. The Lib Dems are very concerned that the continual savings being sought in these areas will impact on those people we need to help.
There is also a significant concern about the number of services that are currently divested, and questions about how these contracts will be monitored, and whether us as Councillors will be able to scrutinise the services that the public are paying for.
I will continue to keep you updated as to the latest news regarding the budget for 2013 as the process continues.
Surgery: My last surgery of the year will be on December 15th, 10-12 at the Library as ever. If you are lucky, there might even be mince-pies
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:
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.email@example.com
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:
What to do if you are a victim of lottery fraud:
My next County Councillor’s Surgery This will be in Woodbridge Library on Saturday, 20th October 10-12 noon as ever. All welcome!