Tag Archives: Locality Budget

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