Tag Archives: PCC

Saturday 16th: my Surgery AND Helen Korfanty visits the Thoroughfare

Just a reminder that my surgery is tomorrow, Saturday 16 April 9-11 in the Woodbridge Library as ever. No appointments necessary.

And from 10 to 12 Suffolk’s LibDem PCC candidate will be in the Woodbridge Thoroughfare to answer questions ans to talk about your concerns.

Helen, a solicitor, has worked in Suffolk for over 30 years in Family and Criminal Law, while volunteering with  both Victim Support and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

She has committed herself to abide by the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s ethical checklist  on how a PCC should conduct themselves in office.

If elected Helen intends to:

  •  – encourage a collegiate, consultative culture to decision making  in policing in Suffolk, respecting and  tapping into the wisdom and experience of  front line workers
  •  – be the advocate for the people of Suffolk to ensure that we can live in a safer community.
  •  – help find financial savings and efficiencies in the Police Service so that resources can be found to fight growing serious crime such as child abuse, cybercrime and fraud.
  •  – encourage policies and technological innovation aimed at reducing crime and re-offending
  •  –  encourage the referral of people with physical /mental health and addictions to the best agency to deal with their problems effectively and away from the Police Service.
  •  –  ensure that those who experience domestic abuse and violence are able to access support and achieve the best outcomes for their individual needs
  •  –  encourage cooperation with other police services to maintain specialist skills and respond to unexpected challenges.
  •  – negotiate with central government for the maximum financial resources for the police service
  •  – support and encourage the voluntary sector who support the victims and bring innovative approaches to the causes of crime.

Prepared by Martin Redbond on behalf of Helen Korfanty (Liberal Democrats) both at Blacksmiths Cottage, Ashbocking Road, Henley, Ipswich, Suffolk IP6 0QX

What’s been happening in Suffolk: March & April

So, this month deals with the SFRS cuts consultation, community transport , the PCC elections,  and  devolution

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service cuts  The independent report into Suffolk’s proposed cuts having been published.  Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will make recommendations to May’s Cabinet.

The public consultation  were summarised as the following:

FIre consultation

The public focus groups were groups of people chosen at random by telephone number and given briefings as to the situation.  Their conclusions seem in stark contrast to the rest of the consultation. In March’s Full Council I put the local case for Woodbridge retained fire station and its need for the continuing support of Ipswich fire crews,. Interestingly, the public focus group looking specifically at the Ipswich proposals were divided in their opinions, and didn’t support the cuts.

The same link will give details about

Rural Transport At the same meeting  (March 18), in  addition to raising the my concerns about the new rural transport  franchises (details of my speech as LD spokesperson for Transport can be found here http://blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2016/03/18/lib-dems-support-community-transport/ )

I also asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Transport
Norfolk is conducting a review of its HGV routes because of high-profile tv coverage of HGVs taking inappropriate routes and causing damage. Suffolk County Council’s route hierarchy has not been reviewed in the round for 30 years. In light of Suffolk’s current and future expansion and development, and the continuing increase in the size of HGVs, will the Cabinet Member agree to conduct a similar review for Suffolk, with the purpose of ensuring that as many HGV movements as possible are made via main roads rather than using unsuitable routes through rural villages and small towns such as Woodbridge – which continue to struggle with such traffic movements    I got a rather inconclusive response.

Devolution for East Anglia  A devolution deal for East Anglia was announced by the Chancellor in midMarch and now needs to be ratified by all County and District and borough councils and the (unelected) LEP boards involved. ( This may not be plain sailing – Cambridge City and Cambridge County have already shown themselves to be against this).

Although it is very difficult to get the Suffolk person in the street interested in devolution, it is vital that we do so  because it is about a fundamentally different relationship between Government and local public services and it affects all of us.

The East Anglia Deal would see decisions currently made by Government on things such as infrastructure, growth, employment and skills being made by the Board of a new Combined Authority, consisting of all the Leaders of County and District Councils – and a directly elected Mayor. In other words it would be pretty much like the Cabinet system that currently operates in Suffolk County Council – with such noticeable democratic deficit.

 It is proposed that the first mayoral elections would be in May 2017 alongside county elections.

The directly elected Mayor would act as Chair to the East Anglia Combined Authority and would have:

  • Responsibility for a multi-year, consolidated and devolved local transport budget
  • Responsibility for a new Key Route Network of local authority roads, managed and maintained by the Combined Authority
  • Powers over strategic planning and housing, including £175m ring-fenced funding to deliver an ambitious target of new homes; the responsibility to create a non-statutory spatial framework for the East and to develop with Government a Land Commission and to chair the East Joint Assets Board for economic assets

The East Anglia Authority, working with the Mayor, would have:

  • Control of a new additional £30 m a year funding over 30 years (£900m), to be invested in the East Anglia Single Investment Fund, to boost growth
  • Responsibility for chairing an area-based review of 16+ skills provision, the outcomes of which will be taken forward in line with the principles of the devolved arrangements, and devolved 19+ adult skills funding from 2018/19
  • Joint responsibility with the Government to co-design the new National Work and Health Programme ‘designed to focus on those with a health condition or disability and the very long term unemployed.’ (I am concerned that the longterm unemployed and the disabled are seen in the same sentence – aren’t you? ) There is also a commitment to continue improvements to local health and social care services, including continuing to join up services and promote integration between NHS and local government

I don’t know about you, but  I am deeply concerned that any future deal involving  education or NHS trusts will NOT involve the people of East Anglia shouldering the burden of PFI  debt incurred by central government  on educational an health sites (not only the local debts such as the PFI debt on Elizabeth Garrett Anderson building, but also the mountainous ones on the Addenbrookes site). I have asked for further information on this.

PCC election  The election for Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner will  be on May 5. There will be a hustings  for all candidates in Ipswich at University Campus Suffolk, 6-8  on 21 April  http://www.stop-watch.org/events/details/suffolk-pcc-hustings-6pm-8pm.

All the candidates’ details can be found here 

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

 

What happened in Suffolk 2012-13

Another year has passed, and yet many local government themes remain the same.  Local Government funding is decreasing; Councils have to choose what their priorities are, and find innovative ways of continuing to provide frontline services if they are not to abandon them altogether. However there is always a question of priorities, and I would strongly disagree with many of the priorities of the last Conservative administration.

This report mentions the year’s plummet of Suffolk Schools down the national league table, the loss of bus services, the Conservatives’ covert concession that they had messed up big time in abolishing Suffolk’s Youth Travel card – though they were never big enough to apologise to the young people – the creation of the Libraries IPS and various other things before it finished with the grand finale of the loss of much of Conservative dominance due in part to unexpected UKIP gains in the recent election. This is where I am going to start

County Council Election 2013    On May 2nd Suffolk went to the polls, changing the political profile of Suffolk considerably.  I retained my seat with  an increased share of the vote.  Thank you very much! Across the county  the major changes were as follows: the Conservatives lost 16 seats – including that of one Cabinet member – reducing their majority from a complacency-inducing 35 to a very much more nervous  and hopefully less arrogant 3.  Labour picked up 11 seats (admittedly from the rock-bottom level of 4 they were reduced to after the 2009 election), and the LibDems lost 4 seats – although not a single sitting candidate! The gainers were the UKIP – eight extra seats all gained from the Conservatives.

Our Woodbridge UKIP candidate seemed wholly invisible, and the only UKIP leaflets I saw were generic,  published in Newton Abbott, and scattered on the path outside the Kyson polling station on the day of the election. These said (I quote verbatim ) “Next year the EU will allow 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians to come to the UK”  (this figure being more than the total population of Romania and Bulgaria and the issue being wholly outside the remit of the County Council).   

327 Woodbridge residents were bird-witted enough to vote for this compelling local agenda. Presumably they have no views whatsoever  on things the county council actually does need todeal with, such as improving the dire  Suffolk Schools results, fixing the roads, caring for the elderly,  and trying to prevent the last rural buses from disappearing.

If only I could be certain that these very same voters didn’t come running to me to complain about  roads, schools, care and public transport. That would seem very much like having your cake and eating it!

SCC Budget 2013-4  There was a further reduction in Government grants to the County Council this year.  In total, the Council had to save £24.9m, as part of a two year programme to reduce the budget by just over £50m.   As was the case in 2012, the budget focused on making efficiencies rather than specific service cuts.  This is concerning as there is no way to measure how much these reductions affect the frontline services.

The vast majority of the savings came from two directorates.  The first,  Adult and Community Services will save £7m as part of an in-depth review, and the second being Children and Young People’s Services who must save £2.5 million. An excellent choice when there are so many concerns about elderly care and poorly attaining schools!.  In addition to these listed savings, there are further efficiencies taken from across the County Council which total £9.7m (including further money from ACS and CYP).

At the Full Council meeting where the budget is discussed, an amendment was submitted by the Liberal Democrat Group suggesting:

  • Increasing the funding for school improvement services by employing more advisers, and increasing the support to schools.
  • Attracting more foster carers to a pioneering scheme for the most vulnerable children in Suffolk.
  • Reinstating the Speed limits team at Suffolk County Council to allow communities to apply for 20 mph schemes once again.

This amendment, which would have been fully funded by the contingency reserve, and would have helped increase attainment and look after the most vulnerable in Suffolk, was defeated by the Conservative majority.

Education in Suffolk plummets  This past year has been quite a shocking one for education in Suffolk. Although our excellent Woodbridge schools have mercifully bucked the trend, Suffolk schools have slipped inexorably down the attainment rankings – having ranked  30th out of of 151 in in 2001-4, they have fallen the current position of 148th of 151 at primary level and  141/151 at secondary level. SCC has announced a Raising the Bar initiative in order to reverse this dreadful state of affairs.

Previously this year Matthew Taylor the CEO of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA) and former prime ministerial advisor, has been tasked with improving educational attainment in Suffolk.  The work will and has involved spending time working with employers in Suffolk and head teachers.  It is expected that the commission will report back in May 2013. This was was as a result of Suffolk GCSE results lagging four percentage points below the national average.

After all our lobbying, the return of a Suffolk Youth travel card   At the beginning of 2013, Suffolk County Council Cabinet announced that it was going to start to look into re-introducing a youth travel card –  having cut the Explore card in the 2011budget, as part of the Conservatives’ New Strategic Direction.  We predicted that the decision to remove it would cause significant hardship for many aged between 16-19, and it did: increasing the costs of not only travelling to college, but also work and social activities.  Petitions and campaigns were launched for its return, with myself as Lib Dem spokesman for Transport and the Lib Dem Group being at the forefront of this – along withg the young people of Suffolk (and especially Woodbridge).

It gives me no satisfaction whatsoever to have once again played Cassandra to the Conservatives’  frivolous gaming with the futures of our young people.

This proposed new card will go some way to reduce this impact, with discussions still on-going with bus companies to provide a universal discount of approximately 20-25%.  There are concerns that this card won’t be available on all buses in Suffolk, which could hugely disadvantage students in rural parts of the County.

Better Broadband for Suffolk In 2012 Suffolk County Council together with other public sector organisations from the County submitted a bid to the Government to seek matched funding to help improve broadband in the County.

At first, the County submitted a bid which was rejected due to underestimating the amount of public funds required.  Subsequently, the County Council contribution was increased and accepted and so discussions with private companies to do the work began. Faster Broadband for Suffolk is  therefore an issue  that has been agreed already,  with the contracts  being signed just prior to Christmas.  BT Openreach are now surveying the locations around the County for implementing the agreed faster broadband speeds, with some properties possibly receiving this in the autumn.  So pleased were the Conservatives with this that they actually made it a pledge in their election manifesto although Faster Broadband has been arranged  already.  This is the easy way to ensure you meet your pledges.

 Suffolk County Care Homes to be divested   In October the administration, at Cabinet, voted to divest the Council of its care homes.  This means that the County Council has passed over its 16 care homes and 8 wellbeing centres to Care UK or its funding partner as part of a 25 year contract to provide care.

The decision also includes an estate development plan, which commits Care UK to provide 10 new purpose built care homes and 10 community wellbeing centres, many of which will be in different locations to the current homes, with the old sites being handed back to the County.
This is a great concern for care homes like  Lehman House which are well-situated in the centre of a community within easy reach of transport and shops. The proposed replacements are not situated so conveniently.

Police and Crime Commissioner  This last year was the year the  Suffolk Police Authority was abolished.   On the 15th of November Suffolk elected Conservative candidate Tim Passmore as their PCC.  The Liberal Democrats refused to field a local candidate on the grounds that policing should not be a  party-political issue.  Woodbridge had, I believe, a high rate of spoiled papers.

For  more information on the Panel, including membership, meeting dates across the year:- http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/your-council/decision-making/committees/police-and-crime-panel-joint-committee/

Libraries – Industrial and Provident Society On the 1st of August Suffolk’s  new Library service was launched with the Industrial and Provident Society taking over responsibility from the County Council.  The IPS now runs all of the 44 Libraries in Suffolk, as well as the mobile library, school, and prison services.

According to the SCC administration, this move is a way to ensure all libraries continue remain open with paid staff. It is better than the previous situation when 28 libraries were under threat of closure. However there have been a number of claims about the level of savings that are required across the Library service, most recently there were claims that £100,000 had to be saved from as yet unspecified areas.   Originally the County Council claimed that in setting up an IPS there could be an 80% saving on business rates, and then made a request of a 5% saving per Library.

It is concerning that the funding for the Library service will only be protected for a total of two years.

No Fairer Bus Fares for the Disabled and Elderly Over the past year the Lib Dem Group fought long and hard to get the Concessionary Bus pass system in Suffolk much fairer.  Back in 2011, the Lib Dems submitted a successful motion to Full Council to get the Concessionary fares scheme looked at once again, which finally occurred in July 2012.  Whilst this initial attempt was unsuccessful, the group requested that this issue be looked at again by the Scrutiny Committee.  This resulted in Cabinet finally looking at the issue in December 2012.

Our campaign aimed to reverse the decision that the county only provided the statutory minimum free travel with a bus pass.  This meant that on weekdays pass holders were limited to travel between 0930 and 2300, the Lib Dems wanted to extend this to 24 hour free travel for disabled users and from 9am for elderly users.

In the case of the December Cabinet meeting, the portfolio holders refused to change the Counties policy, and wouldn’t even let opposition councillors ask questions.  (Usually opposition Councillors have an opportunity to question Cabinet’s potential decision, and raise important points. On this one occasion this was refused, even though the report contained new information.   The new information included results from the small scale survey the Council carried out, and a letter from the Equality Human Rights Commission which stated that the processes undertaken by Cabinet in the original decision needed ‘considerable improvements’.)

Unfortunately, there are currently no further methods to change this decision through the Council’s constitution,  only through a different composition of the County Council decision makers! However, the Conservative majority now hangs on a knife edge. I predict a much more regular attendance and less snoozing in the Tory back benches!

Woodbridge County Councillor Locality budget 2012-13  This funded the following:

  • Woodbridge Cycling Festival: *Materials, first aid cover etc
  • St Mary’s Woodbridge: Repairs  to *Tower and to *South side of the church wall
  • Deben Swimming Club: *Poolside kit for competitions
  • Woodbridge RUFC: *Indoor activity area improvements
  • Woodbridge Town FC Under 8 Team: *Waterproof jackets
  • Deben Players: *Costume store
  • Woodbridge Youth Centre: *Generator
  • Wickham Market & District Family Carers Support Group: *Training for respite care volunteers
  • Just 42: *Hardstanding for Peterhouse  Green
  • The Princes Trust: *Flowers/ pots for exterior of Woodbridge Youth Club
  • YP@ Woodbridge: *Cooking equipment, TV/DVD & Disco/Karaoke unit
  • Woodbridge Library: *Blackout Blinds; *Reading challenge – balloon modeller, & prizes
  • WoodbridgeTown: *Grit bins; *Thoroughfare Bike racks ; *repairs to ElmhurstPark wall/shed; *Funding for Jubilee Pavilion; *Bench at Hasketon/Grundisburgh road junction

Woodbridge County Councillor Quality of Life budget 2012-13  The County Councillor’s Quality of Life Budget has funded:

  • new signs to prevent HGVs trying to get to the town centre via Angel Lane.
  • signage slowing traffic on Cemetery Lane
  • calming scheme in Sandy Lane.
  • New cycle racks in ther Thoroughfare; the old (expensive to be matched) ones moved to Market Square.

Because of  electoral purdah however, some of these schemes had been abandoned mid-stream to be restarted after the election.

Police & Crime Commissioner Elections

“Caroline, what should I be looking for when voting for a Police Commissioner?”

Several people asked me this today.

Well, I’ve no intention of telling people how to vote but I’m more than happy to tell them what I think.

For me, the crucial things one should be looking  for in such an election are true democracy and non-party affiliation. You want to elect the best person for this taxing job – not one rich enough to risk the deposit or backed by a major political party, standing with a political agenda. Law enforcement needs to be above political ideology.

In these PCC elections  you needed a £5000 deposit to stand  (ten times more than the £500 required to stand as an MP) and there was no freepost delivery . This second point is very important –  the single free postal delivery that every candidate in a general election is allowed is what gives them a fair chance to address the whole electorate and explain what they want to do, however poor and unsupported they may be.

The current circumstances mean that nobody could stand, or put out a leaflet unless backed by a party or other wealthy organisation.

Is this democracy? I would say not!

So did I vote?

Of course I did. At least, I went to a polling station and I entered a polling booth with a voting paper in one hand and a pencil in the other.  And how I used that pencil is between me and my conscience!