Tag Archives: ‘out-sourcing’ services

What’s been happening May-June 2014

FIrebreakers1 (1024x692)Proposed Woodbridge Fire and Police station merger  Woodbridge residents were invited to a drop in session on Thursday to view proposals to extend and merge the existing fire station with the police station. Plans and information were unveiled at the event and representatives from both services –  together with myself – were on hand to discuss the proposals.

Suffolk already has four shared stations at Ixworth, Elmswell, Debenham and Framlingham. The aim of the Woodbridge plans is for the services  to become even more cost effective, allowing the services to work much more closely together .The funding for the Woodbridge project will be shared between the two services and it is hoped that the government will provide grant funding for the building works

Although there were concerns – mainly about parking and increased transport – response to the consultation was broadly favourable.

The design includes:

  • An extension to the front of the fire station, which would provide new office accommodation for Suffolk Constabulary.
  • Provision for five new car parking spaces for police use and cycle parking to the rear of the site.
  • A new garage to the rear of the station to accommodate an emergency vehicle, and
  • Much improved facilities for staff and the community and better access for the public

If approved, the work would commence in summer 2014 and will be completed for March 2015. There would be no disruption to fire and police services during the building works

People can continue to provide feedback via email: Fire.BusinessSupport@suffolk.gov.uk, quoting ‘Woodbridge Consultation’.

End of CSD – Customer Service Direct  On 1 June SCC moved CSD – Customer Service Direct – back in-house.  CSD,  in which BT had a majority stake alongside the county and Mid Suffolk councils, handled SCC’s  financial administration, IT, and personnel functions. The councils’ call centres were also operated by CSD

The cost of the contract was initially £301 million, but this increased to £427 million over 10 years as more functions were added to the service.

A hard lesson has been learned here. Proof, if proof was needed, that outsourcing services doesn’t always make savings and is not always best.

The PCC – and Thoroughfare Parking  At the Suffolk County Council AGM in May, the Police and Crime Commissioner  Tim Passmore presented details of his year, saying “ My role is to ensure the policing needs of our communities are met as effectively as possible, bringing communities closer to the police and building confidence in the system. My job is to listen and respond to the needs of the people of Suffolk; bringing more of a public voice to policing.  If you have an issue that you would like to raise, please contact me via the website, www.suffolk-pcc.gov.uk or call 01473 782777 .”

I took him at his word, and, meeting him shortly afterwards I raised the issue of police enforcement of parking in the Woodbridge Thoroughfare. He promised to look into this urgently.

Suffolk Reading Scheme This year’s reading scheme will be on the theme of the Mysterious Maze. As ever, the Woodbridge Library is on the lookout for volunteers to help local children read their books over the summer holidays.

Suffolk Records Office consultation  Suffolk County Council received over 500 responses to a recent consultation to improve Suffolk Records Office opening hours.

The consultation was on proposals to reducing weekday opening hours, improving the service on a Saturday and developing a key online presence.66% of respondents felt the proposals would bring a positive improvement to the service.

There was a majority of support for closing the office one day a week to allow improvements to the online accessibility of information and digitised materials. Respondents also showed great support for an improved Saturday service and later opening times, although some felt not opening until 10am was too late. In consequence SCC will bev blooking to open each  record office branch for 35 hours a week: 9.30am – 4.30pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Let’s Look Out for Each Other Cycle-Drive campaign   SCC has launched Let’s Look Out for Each Other  – an educational campaign that encourages both cyclists and drivers to share Suffolk’s roads. Each week approximately four cyclists are injured in Suffolk with almost three cyclists killed or seriously injured every month.

4% of adults in Suffolk cycle at least five times a week – as opposed to the national average of 3%; and 20% of adults in Suffolk cycle at least once a month -5% above the national average of 15%

Driver error has been attributed to 68% of all collisions in Suffolk.  In 77% of cyclist casualties at or at or near a junction, the cyclist have not been culpable; however, in 2 of the 3 recently recorded fatalities the cyclist was at fault.

Roadsafe top tips for drivers and cyclists when using the road are:

Cycling:

  1. Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb – look and signal to show drivers what you plan to do and make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you
  2. Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen
  3. Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor
  4. Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark increases your visibility

Driving:

  1. Look out for cyclists, especially when turning – make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
  2. Use your indicators – signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
  3. Give cyclists space – If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened
  4. Always check for cyclists when you open your car door
  5. Avoid driving over advanced stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility

Further information can be found  at http://www.suffolkroadsafe.net/cyclists/ or http://www.suffolkroadsafe.net/drivers/

County Councillor’s Surgery  My surgery dates for the next few months are:  Saturday 21 June, and Saturday 19 July. There will be no surgery in August. Surgeries are at Woodbridge Library 10-12 as ever. All welcome

 

Whats new at SCC – September 2012

This month a lot of my news seems to be about transport or highways

 Woodbridge Buses – marginal improvements: I’m happy to report that after all my lobbying over the last years, the situation for bus-users in Woodbridge has seen a marginal improvement. I’m telling you about them and reiterating my mantra use them or lose them.

Back in August we actually  saw the unheralded addition of one later Monday-Saturday Ipswich/Woodbridge bus service in each direction:  the new 64a – an evening service that passes the Ipswich Hospital. Woodbridge residents haven’t had this luxury since the evening 64 buses were renamed 62a and b and diverted. Unfortunately the new later bus for people in Woodbridge – the 64a – only extends travel times to mid- evening,  Even more unfortunately the direction of the 64a is not ideal for Woodbridge users, because it goes to and from Woodbridge instead of the other way round. This means that the last 64a bus from the Ipswich hospital to Woodbridge is at 19.17, yet the last bus from Woodbridge to the hospital andIpswich is at 19.58).  As usual we inWoodbridge are easier to reach than to leave. And of course the 64a does nothing whatsoever to solve the problem of Sunday and bank holiday travel.

Similarly, I am pleased to notice that after the representations of Suffolk young people – and most particularly those of Woodbridge- the 165 bus is now offering a young person’s fare 16-19 (no proof of ID needed), pegged at between the child and adult fare. Sadly, First buses still don’t  offer a young persons fare for south east Suffolk students –although they’re happy to do so for Lowestoft ,Yarmouth and Norwich young people. Why should we suffer this discrimination? Time to lobby!

 Scrutiny of CC’s decision regarding SCC’s Elderly and Disability Passes : After Cabinet reconsidered the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme and rejected the plea for change in July,  I and my colleagues ‘called in’ their decision on the following grounds:

a) proportionality (The action taken to control expenditure exceeded that required to achieve a balanced budget.)

b) due consultation and the taking of professional advice from officers; (In reconsidering the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, the County Council did not consult the relevant groups who are affected.  The one submission from the Suffolk Consortium of User Led Organisations & Individual Disabled People was received because they had asked to contribute. Other groups were not given an opportunity to do so.)

c) consideration for human rights (The changes implemented to the travel scheme impacted negativelyon disabled pass holders, and therefore maintaining this decision continues that impact.  Also there was no full Equality Impact Assessment when the original decision was made by the Cabinet)

d) openness; (There was a lack of consultation with relevant user groups including disabled people.)

g) There was insufficient data on costs of scheme enhancements, particularly with regard to other neighbouring authorities who have more than a year’s experience of the costs of operating the enhancements.

Cabinet’s cheeseparing and undemocratic  decision will therefore be discussed at Scrutiny on 27th September.

Five bidders for SCC Highways  Responsibility for gritting, maintenance and repairing potholes on Suffolk roads is scheduled for outsourcing by the Tory administration.  We have now been given the shortlist, to be decided by Cabinet on 11th December.

These are: Amey, Balfour Beatty Workplace, Carillion/Mott Macdonald, EnterpriseMouchel and MGWSP (May Gurney/WSP)

The rationale for this outsourcing is cost-cutting. My party is concerned however that the same ineffective scrutiny and poor contract management that has dogged Suffolk’s CSD will turn this project into another CSD, and result in the the people of this County paying significantly more for poorer roads.

Tour of Britain through Woodbridge This went very pleasantly and uneventfully on a beautiful clear day. I had a last-minute discussion with the road engineers last week  – as a result of which the potholes in the Market Square(and most especially the deep one by the Kings Head) were fixed, and no catastrophic crash occurred in Woodbridge. I wish to thank the East Area Highways Team for this prompt response.

Looking at the larger picture, I hope that the route of the peleton along Sandy Lane will support the need for calming this rat run which so many residents in both Woodbridge and Martlesham  have been arguing for  and for which I have offered the money from my QoL budget.

Autism Survey There seem to be an increasing number of people diagnosed with autism these days and so  Suffolk County Council is launching a survey in an endeavour to help both people with autism, and their family and carers.

There are two surveys available – one for people living with an autistic spectrum condition  and another for their carer or family member. 

It would be useful of you could publicise this

County councillor’s surgery: this takes place on 15 September this month. Everyone welcome!

Whats happening in SCC – March

This last month at the county council   Cabinet decide to ‘remodel’ Adult and Community services – and seem once again to be relying on that good old standby – the volunteer – to sort out the inevitable gap in provision. Truly extraordinary that a mindset  that blandly declares that  ‘ you have to pay to get the best,’  and  ‘there is no such thing as society’ is also the one that is so keen to rely on others’ free labour and ‘the community’  for the really important things in life (like caring for the elderly and running public libraries).
This month too SCC started looking at the  proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation, which is set be run by the Museum of East Anglian Life  for the compelling reason that ‘they were the only organisation to tender for it’. Thank goodness it was a museum, eh? 

Remodelling of Adult and Community Services    At their last meeting,  SCC’s Cabinet decided to remodel Adult and Community Services in Suffolk.  They propose  that ‘the community’ will increase its dealings with  ’smaller’ care-related issues, while the County picks up cases needing ‘ more permanent care solutions’.  The proposals will now go out to consultation. There is as yet  little information as to how this  shakeup will affect communities, carers and those in care.

Apparently the SCC is running a trial in Felixstowe from 1st of April. 

Points of concern:

  • In the risk implications it states that “ACS has to deliver budget savings of £24m over 2012/13 and 2013/14, of  which £3.7m has to be delivered by 13/14 by reducing demand” Is this actually achievable?  The new plan is to to be fully rolled out across the County over the course of this year – yet SCC have only just started to consult. Is this possible?
  • An impact assessment  has already been undertaken –  yet it is too early to assess the impact of the model.
  • Is this another case where the administration intends to rely on volunteers to solve all the problems of  ‘smaller’ care-related issues? SCC seems to forget that the bulk of care is already undertaken by voluntary carers – the family carers (such as myself) who underpin the whole of social care by working upaid for 168 hours a week out of love. Working 24/7 as it is,  SCC needs to recognise that will not be possible to get them to work any more.

Consultation on the proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation. Many of the responses of the consultation concerning  the new heritage organisation were from members of the public,  however, a number of organisations also took the opportunity to respond. Many of  these had a number of concerns.

In particular, English Heritage stated that the proposals are not developed enough to enable a proper response, plus they raised many questions about how it might operate. They add  ‘It is worth noting that other authorities in the East of England have considered outsourcing archaeological services into a variety of trusts, and have not done so after further due diligence’.

Suffolk Institute of Archaeology provided a four page letter summarising their main points of concern about the proposal (finishing, rather glumly, by saying that ‘SCC is almost certainly going to proceed with the creation of the Suffolk Heritage Trust, so that, whatever individual views might be, outright opposition is likely to be futile and counter-productive’).  Their main concerns were:

  • SCC has not yet explored all the available options
  • In view of the number of serious questions that had been raised, the Suffolk Institute had serious doubts that a comprehensive and convincing full business case could be put together in time for approval in Spring 2012.  The process should not be rushed or avoidable mistakes will certainly be made.
  • SCC should not proceed with the Trust proposal unless it is prepared to ensure that the new organisation has adequate funding.

Suffolk Local History Council were very concerned about the viability of these proposals – ‘Suffolk is almost alone in seeking to cope with Government cuts by divesting itself of vital services (an approach rejected by Norfolk County Council and others)”.  

It is also far from clear as to what will happen if the  heritage lottery grant which SCC seems to be relying on doesn’t materialise. The people of Suffolk have not been given a plan B.

New CareAware Service in Suffolk Suffolk County Council have recently launched CareAware, a service which looks to help those people seeking financial information about how to fund long term care.  This service is not run by Suffolk County Council but a national not-for-profit organisation which offers free and impartial information and advice about later life planning and how to pay for longer term care.

 CareAware can be contacted on 08009540091 or emailed at suffolk@careaware.co.uk

One month left to sign up for better broadband   There is only one month left for both residents and businesses to show their need for better broadband across the County before the deadline passes. The Council aims to get 10,000 residents or businesses to sign up, and you can sign up by heading to http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/broadband 

Mobility vehicles  As there is some confusion in Woodbridge and other local areas as to what rules govern mobility vehicles, where they are allowed and under what (if any restrictions) I have covered the subject very thoroughly on my blog -link here 

Just 42 I’m sure everyone in Woodbridge will be as pleased as I was to discover that our superb local  youth group was shortlisted for the High Sheriff’s Community Group of the Year award, and went on to receive a High Sheriff’s charity  grant at a ceremony in Bury St Edmunds cathedral last week. It is good so see their good work being recognised!

County Councillor surgery  My monthly surgery will take place on  Saturday 17th March, 10-12pm at Woodbridge Library

Street lighting: Just to remind everyone, the dimming/switching off of night lighting in Woodbridge will take place in the week beginning 26th March. Further finetuning can be then done on a light by light basis, so do please contact with any difficulties and report problem areas – if there are any!

SCC’s new Leader – where do we go from here?

Most of Suffolk must be as relieved as I was at Monday’s election of  Mark Bee as future Leader of Suffolk County Council.  Mark, who replaces Jeremy Pembroke, was elected in the first round of the Suffolk County Tories’  AV style election process, by a significant majority.

The first signs are  in many ways encouraging: Mark was not in the Cabinet , not  tainted with creating any of the lunacies of the New Strategic Direction,  not on the committee that appointed the Chief Executive. Indeed he has shown every sign of being Suffolk County Tories’ quiet voice of reason.

However, we cannot forget that all Conservatives , backbench as well as front bench,  voted  for every single New Strategic Direction proposal at full council.   It is hopeful that Mark Bee should say

” if we are to expect others to help, we have a duty to listen to them in return, to hear their concerns, and to build solutions together, at a speed that we can all follow… That is why I’d like the time between now and the council meeting on May 26, to be a time for reflection and review.”

That any member of the current administration – let alone the Leader elect  – should be officially sanctioning the listening and hearing of Suffolk  people’s concerns is refreshing!   Personally I do hope the portfolio-holder in charge of libraries will take heed.

But at the moment  Mark Bee continues to maintain  that “the direction in which we are heading is the right one“.  He hasn’t yet – despite the Evening Star’s headlines – actually gone so far as to ‘save ‘ the school crossing patrols.   All he has said is  that “in the areas where the patrols are most needed, we will look to continue to fund these, unless or until a suitable alternative arrangement has been found.”

This is far from being the same thing.

Mark says he wants to spend the next few weeks in reflection and review – hopefully about many of the most contentious of recent cuts forced on us by Suffolk County Council’s NSD  (all of which we Lib Dems provided alternative costings to retain back in February)

  • Will school crossing patrols be reprieved? Suffolk received more petition signatures about this than any other petition in the history of the council!
  • What hope is there for the libraries? The so-called ‘consultation has – so far – been a thinly veiled arm-twisting of local communities to take over these, or lose out.
  • And how about transport? The cutting of the Explore card, halfway through the school/college year has already caused extreme hardship amongst the young  and poor – particularly the young and rural poor who are seeing additional barriers in the path of  aspiration and education.  Not only to them, but to their parents. Similarly the ‘working hours only ‘ demand-responsive solution to cutting scheduled service, and the new conditions being placed on concessionary travel card holders are causing huge hardship for people without other choices in the countryside.
  • Will Mark Bee reflect on problems such as these, and having reflected, have a Damascene conversion?

Now, wouldn’t that be lovely!

Woodbridge Town Council Report March 2011

This month’s report deals with the legitimisation of  various appalling cuts by the administration (who at the same time are letting money flow through their fingers on such essential front line services as extremely expensive consultants training them to ‘listen’ (hah!) and ‘gagging’ payments – £520,000 last year alone) to stop the mouths of ex-staff members

SCC  2011-12 Budget

The end of February saw Suffolk County Council’s  final budget setting meeting. Here the budget of cuts, already approved by the Cabinet, was voted through by the Conservatives on the County Council.  The cuts will affect many people in rural and urban areas throughout the county.  I strongly opposed, in particular,  decisions taken to reduce vital frontline services, including the scrapping of school crossing patrols, local buses and the eXplore card.

At the meeting my group put forward an amendment to the budget which would have saved many frontline services.

I feel that the people of Woodbridge NEEDc to k now what there WERE fully-costed options to these cuts, although the Conservatives would have us believe there were none.

We believed it would be possible to provide funding for all these services if we looked at savings from the centre of the organisation and used a small proportion of the £108m which the council holds in reserves.  Our amendment would have saved the following services:

  • Libraries
  • Youth Clubs /Youth provision
  • Subsidies to public transport services for Sundays, evenings and Bank Holidays
  • Park and Ride Service from the Bury Road, Ipswich site
  • Funding for the eXplore student card, which gives half price travel on buses up to age 19
  • School Crossing Patrol Service
  • Retain all Household Waste Recycling Centres, instead of reducing them from 18 to 11
  • Continue checking lorries to see if they are overloaded.
  • Stop the divestment of the Fire Control Function to Huntingdon
  • Keep Felixstowe as a Day Crewed fire station, instead of reducing it to retained
  • Retain full time crewing of the Ipswich Aerial Appliance

By using these funds;

  • Re-open Bury Road Park and Ride by reviewing revenue streams for Park and Ride to increase income, including from concessionary fares, creating a cost neutral service
  • Reduction in Road Maintenance Revenue Budget – not affecting emergency repairs
  • Business Mileage reduction of 10% – saving nearly £1m a year
  • Reduction of hours, to enable the continuation of all Household Waste sites
  • Reduction of one Director and 2 Assistant Director posts
  • Reduction of 2 Cabinet posts
  • Reduce back office staff in Fire Service & review the number of appliances attending incidents (at present, for example, they send 5 appliances to a cat up a tree)
  • Reduce External Room Hire by 30%
  • Felixstowe Fire Station to 5 day weekday manning
  • Use of Service reserves
  • Reduce Corporate Contingency reserve
  • Reduce Management of Change reserve

These savings would be heavily focused on the use of the ‘management of change’ budget, which was set up for business transformation during the year at the council, and the ‘corporate contingency’ fund, which is there to help manage risk throughout the year.  We believe with the current financial situation this is the best time to use the reserves to ensure communities will continue to receive essential services.  Even Eric Pickles agrees with us. Unfortunately the Suffolk conservatives did not, and the amendment was defeated on the day, with every Conservative voting for the cuts.  You can find all the information regarding the budget at this link

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_15073

Libraries Update

The consultation for Libraries is still going ahead, as the County are looking to divest, or close most of of the Libraries around the County.  A meeting between SCC  officials and councillors and Suffolk library activists on 25th February  has brought forward new information (see James Hargraves and Andrew Grant Adamson’s accounts of this meeting which both attended, as supporters of Stradbroke and Debenham libraries individually)

The original classification of the 44 libraries into 15 county libraries, to be protected and divested as a group, and 29 community libraries, which would close if community groups did not take them over, has been effectively abandoned.

Only Ipswich County Library, Bury St Edmonds and probably Lowestoft remain in a core group to be divested. This appears to mean that Chantry (Ipswich), Gainsborough (Ipswich), Beccles, Felixstowe, Hadleigh, Halesworth, Haverhill, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Stowmarket, Sudbury and Woodbridge, join the other 29 seeking community arrangements.

No libraries will be closed without a further consultation. The process of divesting all libraries is expected to take two or three years.

Those who believe libraries should continue to be run as a Suffolk County Council service should write this when filling in the consultation response form.

The consultation began on the 18th of January, and finishes on the 30th of April.  You can find the consultation on the home page of Suffolk County Council under the Consultation heading.   http://www.suffolk.gov.uk

Loss and adverse change to Woodbridge bus services

In addition to the budget cuts as specified above, the County Council has made significant reductions in the levels of subsidy provided to passenger transport, a total of £2.2m, which enable commercial services to operate in non-peak time slots.  This means that some services will cease completely, whereas others will stop operating in the evenings, and on weekends. As I alerted you last meeting, the 61a and b have closed already as ‘non-profit-making’. This was despite representations from me, and reminders to the EME Directorate and portfolio holder that all three tiers of local government in Woodbridge had  told SCC and the operators last year WHY it was non-profit making and suggested a change or route that would make it more so.

The County Council has now released information of all those buses that will now cease or change hours.

The underlying principle of most of the timetable changes has been to remove evening and Sunday services. This of course is not much of an issue  for those who are mobile by other means. It is a tragedy for others. Particularly as the SCC line that these services’will be replaced by demand responsive transport’ does NOT apply as the DRT team confirm they have no interest or intention  in extending the service beyond 7-7 Monday to Saturday. Basically this is a huge loss to people who may have few choices.

I have placed a full list of the cuts and changes elsewhere on this blog (click here for details)

Full information can be found on  http://www.suffolkonboard.com/news/changes_to_public_transport_services_april_2011

Petitioning SCC against cuts

A change in national legislation means that the SCC now has to provide online petitioning for its residents.  This means members of the public are – at last – able to create, and sign electronic  petitions to disapprove a Council decision or bring an issue to their attention.

There are currently a lot of petitions online – all of which relate to recent decisions made by the county.  Once a petition reaches 3,675 signatures, the issue then has to be debated in Full Council. The eXplore card petition  is  proving particularly popular – having got over halfway already. It is an issue particularly close to my heart as losing this card will make a huge difference

a)       to the education and employment prospects of a whole generation of Suffolk’s young people.

b)       to the provision of scheduled bus services

I have recently told that Suffolk County Council is prepared to accept  all the library petitions together as one petition.  This means they have already reached the 3,675 and so hopefully it means this will be brought back to council shortly.

Just to remind you, the epetition site is: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/News/EPetitions.htm

Ipswich Road: Clarkson Crossing and the Solar-powered 30mph Speed sign

A bit of good news to end with: two of my Quality of Life budget safety projects are now successfully finished:

On Tuesday morning a specially designed commemorative plaque will be unveiled  by Farlingaye students at the new Clarkson Crossing in Ipswich Road (named after Thomas Clarkson, Suffolk’s famous anti-slavery campaigner, and not after Jeremy!). This commemorates the work Farlingaye HS students put into this with Suffolk County Council.

I am delighted to say that the Solar-powered 30mph speed sign I proposed, negotiated and paid for out of my Quality of Life budget is now installed at the bottom of the Ipswich Road hill, just before  the John Grose garage, Sandy Lane and the blind bend.  I hope you have  NOT noticed it, because that means you would have been driving at less than 30mph.