Tag Archives: Locality Budget

Woodbridge Library reading stars

So our libraries are no longer important, no longer relevant, to our modern lifestyle?

Tell that to all the children who turned up at Woodbridge library today to receive their certificate and medal for finishing this summer’s Circus Stars Reading Challenge.   And there were  lots of them.

The popular library summer reading game was open to children of all ages across Suffolk . It asked them to read and report on five books over the summer holidays.   As ever, it relied hugely on the support teams of local volunteers who listened to the children reading and discussed the books with them afterwards. Twenty of these kind and dedicated people gave their services at our library over this summer.

And this year  (the year when all but 8 of Suffolk’s libraries were threatened with closure)  the library staff at Woodbridge told me that  more children had enrolled on – and finished – the challenge than ever before. In fact,  I nearly lost my voice  when presenting the certificates – I had so many names to read out .

Jonathan Allen draws Baby Owl for Woodbridge Reading Challenge Circus Stars

Today we had a special treat, as I was able to use my Locality Budget to fund children’s writer/illustrator Jonathan Allen  to come to the event.  Between the two ceremonies  he told us about how he creates his books, and ran a cartooning  class with all the  award winners.

Jonathan – who comes from outside Suffolk  – told me that he was ‘amazed’  not only that our library was open at a time when everyone could use it, but also that so many people  were prepared to come and celebrate and support  children’s reading so early on a Sunday morning!

We should be proud of ourselves.

If you’ve forgotten to visit your library recently, why not come along and remind yourself of the excitement and discovery that you once felt, and which you will see on the rapt faces of all the people of all ages you will find reading there!

Let’s never forget  that a library is a wonderful institution. It’s wonderful not only because it gives us a doorway into a world full of millions of books of all kinds, written by people from all places and all times. It is also wonderful because it allows us to hold open the door to that world for the next generation.

September’s report to Woodbridge Town Council

This month my report is principally to do with bus passes and  libraries. SCC’s county-wide consultation on further cuts is also covered

Interim Chief Executive
Lucy Robinson, Director for Economy, Skills and Environment has been appointed interim chief executive at Suffolk County Council. She had been covering the role of Chief Executive since the previous Chief Executive was put on “gardening leave”. The role is initially for six months, during which time the recruitment of a permanent Chief Executive will take place.  Mrs Robinson has been appointed on a salary of £150,000 pro rata which is apparently the kind of figure Suffolk might expect to be paying for our new Chief Executive’s salary.

 Concessionary Travel: Explore, over-60 and disabled persons passes
After the success of the recent petition, the Explore card cut (together with other obstacles to young persons travel  is currently being investigated by a SCC scrutiny task and finish group. I am a member of this three-person group, and urge anyone who wishes  to give evidence to do so. The committee is taking evidence till half term; the contact is Teresa Harden at SCC.

At  the last Full Council meeting the Liberal Democrat Group submitted a motion recommending that concessionary bus pass holders should be allowed to travel from 9am instead of 9:30am whilethose who hold concessionary bus passes due to a disability should have all time restrictions removed. The motion was passed with a single amendment , so this decision will be now referred to Cabinet.  In the meantime I have set up a petition to highlight  public support.  You can find the epetition on the SCC epetition website http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Bus-Passes—we-need-to-travel-before-9-30- , while a paper  version of the petition can be downloaded from: http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2011/07/15/bus-passes-new-hope-for-the-elderly-and-disabled-of-suffolk/

Libraries update

Future: the administration has put forward a number of different options for the future structure of the service, and the options below will go through a ‘best value’ evaluation. I asked  for the parameters of ‘best value’ to be made very explicit;

  • A Council Business Unit
  • A Council owned company/enterprise
  • Independent Company/Enterprise

This will be reported back to Cabinet on the 8th of November. The Council has also moved to set up pilots for community run libraries at:

  • Aldeburgh
  • Bungay
  • Eye, Debenham and Stradbroke
  • Sudbury
  • Thurston
  • Wickham Market
  • Gainsborough, Chantry, Ipswich, Stoke, Rosehill and Westbourne – working together.

These projects will begin in April 2012, and will look to increase the amount of local decision making, fundraising and activities and look to include more public services under one roof.

Local news: I am funding the children’s writer and illustrator Jonathan Allen to come and cartoon at the Woodbridge Library on Sunday – the day of the Reading Scheme presentation awards.

Mobile libraries: theres  a consultation  running until 14 October on plans to move from fortnightly to monthly or four-weekly stops and  to remove all stops in communities that are served by a static library. We are told this would would save an estimated £225,000 a year, while maintaining the mobile library service to those communities that do not have a static library.

SCC Consultation  on further budget cuts 
As suggested by the Lib Dems last October,  SCC has decided to undertake a major budget consultation exercise with Suffolk residents, businesses, partners, the voluntary sector and other stakeholders. The idea is to get  people to tell us which  services matter most to them and to share their ideas and suggestions on how the Council could save money or improve services.  I urge everyone to make their opinions known. This is the only democratic way to arrive at necessary cuts   www.suffolk.gov.uk/WeAreListening

Public Questions at Full Council & Cabinet
As usual members of the public can ask questions to the administration at both Full Council and at Cabinet. Your question must be submitted by 12 midday, four days prior to the meeting.  This means that questions to Full Council, which takes place on the 22nd of September, have to be submitted by the 16th http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/DecisionMaking/PublicQuestionTimeatMeetingsoftheCountyCouncilandCabinet.htm

Locality budget
I am wanting to  fund  more bike racks in the Market Square, outside the Community Hall, and down by Cafe Nero. Hoefully this will encourage greater bike use – essential in a town where parking is so short

Gritting Woodbridge pavements: many hands..

This last week has been a corker, weatherwise, hasn’t it?

The people who run the gritting lorries have been out day and night trying to keep as much of the thousands of miles of Suffolk roads passable as possible.

It seems to be fashionable amongst many Suffolk car-drivers to criticise  these heroes pretty well without thought or reflection.  Me: I have nothing but the utmost admiration for them. Suffolk’s  service is run via a handful of people working throughout the nights and they do a fantastic job – and all without expectation of any kind of thanks at all.  I rang a highways  officer on Friday at 11am. He sounded a bit dazed (tho very competent). It turned out he’d just got back into the office having been gritting solidly since midnight the night before.

Remember that when you’re getting through the snow in the morning, eh?

As well as remembering to be grateful that our service is so good, we MUST also make sure that any hamfisted attempts at divestment protect the efficiency and effectiveness that we are currently managing in-house. Other counties with privatised gritting services are not managing half so well.

Last yearin mind,  I approached Woodbridge Town Council and offered to fund grit bins and equipment for local volunteers to keep the pavements clear.  And due to this forward planning Woodbridge has been able to tackle the ice and snow relatively efficiently.  Ten grit bins are on site and another four on order: Turban Centre;  St Johns Hill/Castle St;  California/Ipswich Road (where I’m the volunteer); Fitzgerald Green; Mill Lane; Haughgate Close; Colletts Walk; Warren Hill Road; Market Hill; Victoria Road; Peterhouse; Portland Crescent and Farlingaye.

In the last six days I have spent 15 hours gritting around California, around the Seral and down the footpath that runs along the top of Ipswich Road.  I reckon that totalled about 15 miles of roadway walked and gritted.

Do contact the Woodbridge Town Clerk if you want to  volunteer. It helps everyone – and lets face it, it  is so much more productive than moaning that somebody else hasn’t done it.

Volunteers get to use a barrow, a snowshovel and a a hi-viz jacket; they’re covered by SCC insurance and the benefits include a slimmer figure, the warm glow of having helped –  and lots of gratitude.
Not a bad deal, really!

Woodbridge Town Council report Oct 2010

Suffolk County  Council’s New Strategic Direction – Update

At the September County Council meeting, the New Strategic Direction was adopted as Council policy – the conservative majority meaning that opposing Lib Dem votes had no effect.   The administration  aims to reduce the level of spending by the County Council within its administrative centre and on frontline services.  The Liberal Democrat group voted against this.

The Chief Executive’s plan which she calls the New Strategic Direction (NSD) is to expect the market and communities take over a number of services that are currently provided by the Council.  These services have been specified and the first tranche are due to be ‘divested’ in April.

The administration believes this will significantly reduce a predicted but not yet specified 30% funding gap expected to hit the County Council over the coming years. We Lib Dems believe it may more closely approximate to selling off the family silver!

  • As opposition, my party is concerned at the speed at which the council intend to carry out this policy – which is not supported by a business plan – and the way neither staff at the Council, nor other local councils nor the residents of Suffolk  have been consulted on the proposals, although we have all been told we have been!  We feel that before this policy goes ahead, the Council must gauge the view of the public, and communicate with the third sector, without which this policy would not survive.  We must ensure that by engaging with the public, Suffolk County Council will commit to a wider scale consultation with all organisations and groups across Suffolk.  I have been personally campaigning to raise awareness of this issue.

It is essential that the Council realises the level of risk associated with such a plan, as even if they are to outsource elements of the Council there is no guarantee that it will save council taxpayers money.  Each service has a required budget, whether it is inside the Council, or outside. In essence we feel that the council is moving far too quickly and without a realistic analysis of the risks involved to services.

Also the council currently has considerable overspends on those services already outsourced e.g. the Adult Care service which  has a £1m overspend this year, and almost a £1m overspend in Children’s services. In addition the contract with Customer Service Direct was meant to have saved the council £80m over 10 years. There is no evidence of any savings, and last year the annual cost of the CSD increased by 12%. So there is little evidence that the County Council is managing existing contracts within budget.

They have also failed to factor in the total cost of redundancies. If they are truly looking to downsize staff numbers by 4,000 that equates to around £110m in redundancy payments.

The council saysavings must be made at the centre of the organisation. In spite of various initiatives to reduce the size of the centre of the organisation, there was an actual increase of 100 in non frontline staff this year.

The decision on the 23rd of September means that the County Council will now go further forward in looking for pilot schemes and drawing up plans to implement this policy, which will officially begin in April 2011.  Within the paper itself, (a link can be found here http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_14720), there is a list of suggestions for the first services that could be outsourced, each of the services would be analysed to fit into a specific group; for example libraries as community initiatives, or transport planning/bus services being countywide outcome based contracts.

I

Cabinet on the 12th of October

As usual members of the public are able to put questions to the administration at Cabinet, with the next opportunity having been being today, 12th of October.

The deadline for questions is four working days prior to the meeting.  More information on this can be found here; http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/CommitteesAgendasReportsandMinutes/PublicQuestionTimeatMeetingsoftheCountyCouncilandCabinet.htm

The items that will be on the agenda for this meeting, that may be of interest include;

  • SCC taking over administration of the concessionary travel  passes
  • Options for the Council’s residential homes for older people in light of the current financial situatioh.
  • The impact of blanket rising four admissions to primary school  on nursery provision
  • |the proposed closure of the Ipswich Bury Rd Park and Ride
  • Street Lighting –proposals on Part night lighting and dimming of Suffolk street lights

I will give details of any of these at the WTC meeting if required

SCC Transport and Highway Budget cuts

This years’ Suffolk County Council Quality of Life budgets have been slashed by 12.5%. (QoL budgets are the individual budgets that Suffolk County Councillors have in order to provide for local transport issues that might get overlooked with priority funding, specifically:

  • Speed limit and speed reduction schemes/anxiety relief schemes
  • Cycling schemes
  • Pedestrian schemes
  • Public transport schemes
  • Rights of way schemes
  • Traffic management schemes )

The good news is, because of efficient accounting and planning by our local engineering team and the very useful nature of the projects we’d decided on, Woodbridge will not be greatly affected by this. Two of the three projects that were contemplated are going ahead:

  • an island for helping crossing at the top of Ipswich road to assist school students, mums with prams, bus users and cyclists to cross is still going ahead in October and
  • a solar powered ’30’ sign on the steep slope down on Ipswich Road, that will hopefully help slow drivers just before the blind bend at the Sandy lane junction is being put up this autumn
  • Additionally I funded bollards to prevent inconsiderate and dangerous parking (generally, sadly, by Farlingaye parents ) at near the  Hasketon Road/Ransome Road intersection. These have just been put up

However, the bad news is on the wider highways budget.  We have just heard from Portfolio Holder Guy McGregor that all the Parking Reviews in Suffolk have been cut. This includes the one in Woodbridge on which so much time and energy has been spent. I’m sure that you will find this as irritating and upsetting as I do. However, here too all is not lost – I have been offered a choice. The third QoL scheme planned for Woodbridge  was traffic calming in Sandy Lane. I have received the following from the engineer:

“I have been looking at the details of the spending on the QoL budget. At present, you are fully committed. However, I am aware that we have not spent much on the Sandy Lane scheme (current allocation of £4500). The cycling officer has come up with a plan involving signs and lines that could slow traffic and  increase awareness of cyclists and pedestrians.

However, if you wanted to continue with the review, there may be a way forward. We estimate that the cost of completing the review will be approximately £8000. Approximately a third of the sign and line changes in the review on site works are due to maintenance. I could ask our maintenance people to pay or contribute towards this, which would see income to the scheme of up to £2000. If we removed the planned work within the review of removing all the unnecessary no waiting at any time plates and posts, we would save approximately £1500. This would then bring the total cost of completing the review down to about £4500 – the amount allocated to Sandy Lane.

In addition, we have a separate allocation to look at changing the parking along Thoroughfare, paid for the Air Quality budget. If we were able to add the advertising of the review to the advertising of this, we could  save a further £1000.”

Given

a) the stress and strife that the Parking review has generated to date

b) the need for calming in Sandy Lane

c) the relative impact of each of these options on the population of Woodbridge

I felt this was a matter for full consultation, I put the matter to the Woodbridge Highways committee, who were in favour of prioritising finishing the parking scheme which I believe will be finally agreed this evening?

NB: Woodbridge Town Council voted unanimously to finish the TRO

Woodbridge Town Council Report June 2010

This one is mostly about spending – and mis-spending – public money, and transport!

Full Council :

The latest Full Council in Suffolk County council Annual General Meeting was held at the end of May. Eddie Alcock and Patricia O’Brien were respectively elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman for the upcoming year.

TheLib Dems had called in the administration’s desire to put aside standing orders and allow the Chief Executive to spend up to £122,000 on private consultants without putting the bid out to public tender or disclosing what these consultants were to do. The company Scintillate will be paid around £50,000 – £55,000 and Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning will get up to £42,000 for two months’ work; and DNA will be paid around £30,000 for one month’s work. Fields of Learning has already received over £400,000 from Suffolk for training senior managers in blue-skies thinking.

At the meeting we were told by Deputy Leader that £122,000 was a tiny proportion of the annual council budget. I pointed out that £122000 may not seem a lot to the administration , but from the viewpoint of Woodbridge – where the Deben Family Centre closed for want of £50,000 – it’s a fortune.

Sadly, the Call-in was defeated: by 18 votes to 50.

This meeting also endorsed allowing the public to attend and ask questions at the monthly Cabinet meetings. This will be up and running by the next Cabinet meeting, which takes place on the 22nd of June. Questions would need to be submitted at least 4 days in advance.

Local Buses

Well, we finally got our plightcovered by the East Anglian with a very full article at the end of May, complete with a photo. The EADT asked First buses for comments. First told the paper that they had not changed their bus services for three years and that they had never received our letter – both of which were very questionalble statements. This allowed me to write a very forthright letter to the EAD|T which was published under the leadline “Bus Company’s reply to complaint is laughable” and I was fortunate afterwards to have an interview with Mitchell Bradshaw, SCC head of Transport Planning.

It has become clear that we CAN make a difference. For example, the 165 bus has had such a takeup it is wishing to operate outside County Council grants. He suggested that we should approach the smaller companies with ideas for services we need. I am now planning on contacting some of the smaller companies and – in the first instance – suggesting a Woodbridge bus that serves the very clearly defined visiting times at Ipswich hospital.

Bollards in Hasketon Road – at last!

For years the residents of Hasketon Road have been plagued by inconsiderate parking by a few thoughtless parents at school drop-off and pick-up times. Their cars churn up the verges and have posed a safety risk to the hundreds of students who cycle and walk to the school every day.

I have been talking to the highway authorities for eighteen months trying to get this solved. Although I have been able to agree double yellow lines around the corners of Ransom Road, we then needed some other solution for the adjacent verges. And there was some reluctance (to put it mildly) to see bollards as the answer.

Other options were recommended and explored – notably the officers’ preferred option of building up and reseeding the verge. This was attempted last May after a a wait of seven months and lasted precisely as long as until the contractors left the site. The residents were – rightly – incandescent.

A year later we have seen no further progress, and there was some suggestion that reseeding and building up should be attempted again. My view is that to even consider rebuilding the verges once more is a waste of everyone’s energy and a trial of their patience. For a start, it will involve another wait of a year as we were told 18 month ago that spring is the only time for building and reseeding. And for the likelihood of no better outcome than last time. I feel that the residents of Hasketon Road deserve better than this continuing putting-off. The other non-bollard option recomme nded was preventative planting – but local town councillors have told me of other places in Woodbridge where planting to discourage parking has been ineffective.

At this point – luckily – our wonderful community police came to the rescure and put down traffic cones along the Hasketon Road with immediate success. parking stopped just like that. The cones were placed exactly where we intend to place bollards. The success is not surprising – it mirrors the success of the bollards that are installed a couple of hundred yards further down where the Hasketon Road becomes the Burkitt Road, and which has discouraged dangerous parking by parents at St Marys.

As well as the police, I ‘ve sought the views of residents and both town and district councillors and the issue was raised at the last SNT tasking meeting by Woodbridge Town Councillor Miles. Bollards were agreed by all as the best solution.A nice set of concrete bollards costs around £3000 – a sum that I am more than happy to contribute from my locality budget to improve the safety of Woodbridge residents, students of Farlingaye, and the much tried inhabitants of Hasketon Road. I’ve filled in the paperwork and hoipe things will progress speedily.

Other Locality budget spends

Recent applications for my locality budget funding have included:

• Assistance to publish walking maps of Woodbridge

• An external canopy for Farlingaye High School

• Two bicycles for Woodbridge Town Pastors

• Grit bins to help Woodbridge residents de-ice their roads in the next cold spell

• Support for a Town Crier.

Quality of Life money: Ipswich Road and Sandy Lane

Congratulations are due to the Year 8 members of Farlingaye High School (and their teacher Millie Simonds) who chose to address transport and walking to school in relation to Ipswich Road traffic when working on a Make a Difference programme. You may have heard the youngsters on BBC Radio Suffolk a couple of weeks back, as they investigated the speeds of traffic on Ipswich Road. The students interviewed me, very well and professionally, as a part of their project, and I also commented live on the issues on Mark Murphy’s breakfast programme on 20 May, before attending their assembly at Farlingaye that morning.

As you know there have long been concerns about speeding along Ipswich Road, particularly in relation to those walking and cycling to Kyson and Farlingaye schools. I had reserved £12,000 from Quality of Life money to build an island in the road which is being planned at the moment. Now the Highways department at Suffolk County Council have invited the FHS students to take part in the design of this island, so as to see the project through! This ought to mean it is designed to be fit for purpose.

Measures for calming Sandy Lane continue. I walked the lane with Martlesham Cllrs Forbes Green and Brome some weeks back, and have since had input from residents at the Woodbridge end. I have put all ideas to the Suffolk County Highways dept. and asked for any further ones from them. I am also consulting Sustrans, because the bulk of Sandy Lane is also Cycle Route 1. Any good ideas for making £4000 stretch as far as possible would be gratefully received.

SCC Olympics consultation

The Suffolk County Council website is currently holding a survey on the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics. This is in order to help with the planning of events relating to the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

This survey is there to rank your expectations of what you think should happen in Suffolk for the Olympic Games. Questions include ‘A Big Screen in town centres showing Olympic Games coverage’ and ‘Olympics activities in Schools’.

Please find the survey here http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HJ3965G