Tag Archives: petition

More Conservative cuts for Suffolk’s JAMs

1200 people signed Caroline Page’s Woodbridge petition against budget cuts to Suffolk Library services in 10 days!

Suffolk  County Council have just voted in a further budget of cuts  – in which various Conservative councillors (the sixth age of Man  “In fair round belly with good capon lined“) stood up and explained portentously how these cuts were due  to their prudence,  and concern for the welfare of the people of Suffolk, hem hem.

So no mention at all  that these cuts could have been mitigated if
the very same Conservative councillors hadn’t foolishly boasted that they could run  the country as efficiently as ever without raising the council tax  over the last seven years (or as Leader Colin Noble gleefully puts in his blog of 25 -03-2013 And even better news we have promised that if elected we will freeze the Council Tax for the whole of the next term. So that[‘s] 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 0%! ”  -a  simple explanation for the truly appalling state of Suffolk roads, social care, and community transport services etc. over the last few years!

The current situation could also have been mitigated IF the same Conservative administration had actually spent their entire committed budget every year, instead of squirrelling away an annual seemingly planned  spending shortfall of £10m, on top of their reserves. Some cuts they have made therefore – the cuts to library budget, for example – seem to be cuts that they made by choice. Because – again, I quote Colin Noble’s blog *:

I do not know what planet Councillor Noble is living on – or who the people are he thinks he represents! Clearly not library users.

Amongst the many cuts to this year’s budget,  Suffolk Conservatives proposed a further £230,000 cut to the library service budget . Concerning because since they became IPSs,  our libraries have been well used – and used  for so many purposes –  by readers, reading groups, writing groups, clubs; for old, for young, for retired, employed, unemployed and first job seekers; for AGMs, poetry readings, play performances,  and the ever-popular  reading challenge. I hold my monthly surgery  in Woodbridge Library because it is such a community hub.

As Woodbridge  county councillor I vehemently oppose these cuts to library services. My party opposes these cuts. The residents I have spoken to locally, regardless of age, background, or political affiliation, have opposed these  cuts. Investing in the immense range of things our libraries do so well and  so cheaply is building social capital that benefits Suffolk in a huge range of ways.

In my view it is simple madness to damage it or throw it away.

Yesterday the Labour party presented an amendment to the Conservatives’ budget, overturning the cuts and suggesting over £15m of expenditure from reserves to replace some of the damage Cllr Noble’s administration has done over the last years.

As the meeting , I presented a petition of 1200 local residents’ signatures gathered over the last week in  Woodbridge   and spoke as follows:

I am supporting the Labour amendment, not because I agree with all of it, but because we need to make a stand for the communities we represent against what has clearly become a culture of cuts in the name of ideology, covered thinly with the cloak of Austerity.

A few years ago the administration opposite were trumpeting the virtues of the New Strategic Direction ‘s ‘virtual council’  – now in our Chief Finance Officer’s report , “the county is committed to being a smaller and ever-more-effective Council with a much greater emphasis on commissioning and much lower levels of direct service provision. “

Because it has worked so well – in  the case of Highways Procurement, for example?

Isn’t it time to replace ideology with some practical common sense?

The oldest signatory to the Woodbridge Save Suffolk Library Services petition

I am very  concerned on behalf of the people of Suffolk that the administration wants to be “a smaller council” “with a much greater emphasis on  commissioning”  because then they need not take responsibility for being less effective.  
The proposed Library budget cuts are comparatively small. And our libraries are an irreplaceable resource: they lend books, support study, provide a knowledge base, host clubs and hobby groups and foster new writing and literature and that’s just for starters. In the last ten days  on the streets of Woodbridge,  I managed to get 1200 signatures for this petition which says “We oppose any further reductions to the funding of Suffolk’s invaluable and irreplaceable library services, and urge Suffolk County Council not to make this cut. “ The people who signed were of all ages, backgrounds  and political affiliations – the eldest was 101.  The one thing they agreed on was that these cuts were unacceptable. Comments range from asking “Are you mad?” to “A brilliant community service”,”Shame on you!”Libraries are an integral part of our future and our history – knowledge is power”. Over and over again is repeated the fact that our libraries are ‘essential’ and that users want “No more cuts!”

So why cut? If  Suffolk has underspent by millions year on year (as both LibDems and Labour disclosed) we didn’t need to cut the library budget last year on the grounds of affordability – and we certainly should not have the brass neck  to cut it by a further quarter of a million this year . Suffolk Libraries are scooping up people failed by the employment, education, social care services, all on top of their – statutory, may I remind you –  remit to lend us books. Funding is cut to the bone –and STILL Suffolk’s administration proposes cuts.   And will no doubt wash their hands of the consequences,  like jesting Pilate.

I agree with many things in the Labour amendment – in an absolute requirement  for Suffolk to support public transport and education transport and to support those of all ages in  need of  help and care,  but if it were only to ensure that our wonderful libraries remain the admiration of the rest of the country – which they currently areI can have no option but to support this amendment!

Such eloquence, eh?  But still the prevailing Conservative vote was against common sense and common interest. I’m sorry, folks. We tried.

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*I have provided a screengrab for Cllr Noble’s blog because astonishingly enough one is unable to access it via a County Council computer. Should you try, you get the message

“Oops, it looks like this site isn’t categorised!
Uncategorised websites aren’t available as they may be unsafe.”

Strange but true !

Explore Card petition update: a SURGE of signatures!

There’s a fantastic response to this petition (click to sign).  Thanks to a very active Facebook campaign,  support is snowballing  –  with hundreds of signatures added today!

Brilliant news – when you realise that – under Suffolk County Council’s constitution, once a petition has reached 3,675 signatures, the petitioner can take it before full council for the decision to be looked at again.  The petitioner (Patrick Gillard) tells me he is only too keen to do this.  We’re now over a quarter of the way there!

Please SIGN. Get your friends to SIGN. Get your Family to SIGN.  And then ask THEM to ask every Suffolk resident they know to SIGN. Show Suffolk County Council that this is one cut too many.

There are 51,000 Explore card users in Suffolk and 50,000 are yet to sign. Make sure they know about this – and when they do know, make sure they sign!

Woodbridge Town Council report Feb 2011

This month’s report is largely about various – very worrying –  cuts and ‘divestments’ that the forthcoming SCC 2010-11 budget intends to legitimise. Specific reference to Libraries, Road Crossing Patrols, Bus Services (especially the 62a/b evening, Sunday and bank holiday service) and the young persons’ eXplore card, together with links to petitions to try and help save these.

SCC Budget 2011-12 – Update

The County Council is finally setting the budget at Full Council on the 17th of February.  The total level of cuts for next year will be approximately £43m from across the authority; this is combined – as  SCC is keen to point out – with a 0% increase in Council tax .

SCC does not mention that by electing not to raise council tax the council is eligible for a government grant of £7,200,000 – equivalent to them imposing a 2.5% rise!  SCC would therefore have to raise its council tax by more than 2.5% to get any benefit from doing so.

As you will have seen in the news, the County is wishing to cut back a wide number of frontline services, including Libraries, Buses,  the eXplore card.and School crossing patrols, all of which which I will discuss later.

Other areas that the Council intends to make savings include;

  • selling off Country Parks and recreation areas
  • The closure of seven Household Waste recycling centres – which are  supposedly as yet to be decided (although I have been told that already some redundancy notices have been issued)
  • Divestment or closure of Youth Clubs
  • Stopping the subsidy for community meals
  • Divesting the Fire Control Function to another service
  • Ending the Healthy Schools programme
  • Cease checking lorries to see if they are overloaded, and cease enforcement of environmental weight restrictions on County’s roads and bridges.
  • Ceasing offering advice to Suffolk residents on consumer disputes where the law is complex..

The interesting point about this is that there are plenty of neighbouring county councils with a Conservative majority who have not needed to do this, preferring to salami-slice cuts equally across the whole council and consulting their population as to their preferences . Norfolk is a good example.

For more information, and to view the papers which highlight the level of capital spending planned by the authority for the upcoming year, please head to: http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_15073

Suffolk Libraries ‘Consultation’

As you have probably heard, the County Council is intending to divest, or close a significant  number of the 44 Libraries around the County. They have divided these into ‘County’ and ‘Community’ libraries.

Woodbridge library is ’safe’:  that is, it will remain one of the 15  ‘County Libraries‘  free from divestment – that is, unless someone really really wants to take it over.  In which case it will be ‘divested.’. It will not, however, close.

The  other 29  (now designated Community) libraries  -including Wickham Market,  Framlingham, Debenham, Kesgrave, Leiston, Oulton Broad and Southwold – are up for divestment – that is, being taken over by community groups. However SCC says: “If the response to this consultation is disappointing, and the county council does not receive viable proposals and ideas from people, groups, businesses and other interested parties for ways to run community libraries, we propose that funding will stop from 2012”.

As is becoming standard in these SCC consultations,  ‘having your say’ on the future of Suffolk’s libraries doesn’t mean the administration allows  you any opportunity to say their idea is bad, and you want no part of it.

This consultation only gives you a chance  to explain your idea for running your divested library.   For example, Question 4 is:  “How will your idea  or interest generate changes or significant efficiencies in the way the library operates to reduce what the county council pays by a minimum of 30%”.

The ‘consultation’ which is titled ”Have your Say on the Future of Suffolk’s Libraries”  began on the 18th of January, and finishes on the 30th of April.  You can find it on the home page of Suffolk County Council under the Consultation heading. http://www.suffolk.gov.uk.

You may feel like filling in the consultation document. You may, on the other hand feel like filling in one of the e-petitions that are proliferating on the Council’s new petition site: http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/. There is a petition asking that Woodbridge library remains undivested, and another one requesting that the Library Staff remain salaried.

Cuts and threats to Woodbridge Bus Services

The County Council is making very significant reductions in the passenger transport  which enables commercial services to operate in non-peak time slots.

We had a shock announcement on Wednesday that our 62a and 62b services will go on 27 February. The announcement was made a day after Cllr McGregor had assured Cabinet that no decisions on cutting services would be made until after 17 February’s full council.

I’ve been copied a letter by Melton’s Cllr Butterwick, as I believe the Town Clerk also has. He suspects that such  a cut without a 56day notification period is not even legal and has written to the Traffic Commissioner to ask his advice about it.

Suffolk County Council says it plans to ‘remodel’ much of local rural transport, by replacing services with a ‘demand-responsive’ alternative, booked a day in advance. However the council transport team (when questioned by me) admits that “demand responsive transport operates between 0700 and 1900 Monday to Saturday and we are unable to offer any extension to these hours”.

Therefore, when the 62a and 62b services close later this month, they will not be replaced with demand-responsive transport: they will be replaced with nothing at all. Residents in Woodbridge will have NO sustainable transport in the evenings, on Sundays and on Bank Holidays. Those residents who do not have, cannot afford to, or are unable to drive a car, will be stuck! This will have an impact on people from Ipswich to Wickham Market and Rendlesham.

I am deeply saddened about this cut because it represents a very retrogressive step in the history of our local bus service. It leaves those Woodbridge residents without a car with NO options for bus travel over, say, a bank holiday from about 6pm Saturday till about 7am the following Tuesday.   This is a cut that will affect car drivers not a whit but will impact very heavily on those who don’t have a car, those who can’t afford a car, and those who are prevented by age or health from driving a car..

Other threatened services are

70, 70a. 118: Ipswich – Bealings – Woodbridge – Grundisburgh – Ipswich

71, 163, 173,  IP179, IP512: Orford/Felixstowe – Woodbridge – Ipswich

We have not yet heard a word about their fate.

Luckily  we were sufficiently anxious about the possibility of cuts to have  set up an epetition to save Woodbridge buses a few days before the shock announcement about 62a/b… Can I continue to urge Town and District Councillors – who were so very helpful when we joined together to press for better bus services last spring –  to join together again to try and overturn this cut?   It will have huge implications for the people of Woodbridge.

http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-Woodbridge-Buses

Abolition of the SCC Explore card

SCC has also made another  £1,700,000 cut to sustainable transport usage by abolishing the eXplore Card. Although the bus services in Suffolk have become extraordinarily expensive as well as patchy, up till now young people have had  to help with their travelling to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising.

Explore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have  enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and many off peak rail journeys. Poorer students have also had EMA.

As regards post-16 transport, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares, and if their parents are poor, EMA too. This means that up to now transport to work and educational opportunities should be in the reach of all young people in Suffolk – and a very good thing that is too! This abolition means that there will be more cars on the road many, many more young people will be driven, or drive  to school, college, employment etc ,  and will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads,  because they  are forced into cycling before they are ready. It will lead to less  take-up of  FE education because of difficulties of access (especially to colleges and Suffolk ONE ) and less chance of going for job interviews and training.

SCC says they hope that individual bus companies might take a paid-for version of this card up for the future, but I believe First have rejected the idea. It will, anyway be of limited use unless all buses take it on the same terms. And one of the things SCC Transport has been constantly telling us in the past is that the bus companies have no desire to work together – this is the reason we never managed to get an integrated ticketing service.

Again, there will be a petition about this on the SCC site http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-the-eXplore-card-

The End of SCC School Crossing Patrols

You will be aware of the huge amount of anger that has been generated in Suffolk  by the Council’s decision to close all 98 School Crossing patrols to save £174,000. (In fact more like £125,000 as a number of vacancies exist which can’t be filled because of the current hiring freeze).. This includes the St Mary’s School crossing patrol.

School crossing patrols were formally recognised in Britain by the Schools Crossing Patrols Act of 1953.  Lollipop people are one of only four agents entitled to stop traffic by law and are established at sites where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school as assessed  by national guidelines (established by the Local Authority Road Safety Officer’s Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). Ten years ago  the (then)  Woodbridge Lollipop man, was knocked to the ground by an impatient driver while on patrol on Birkett Road, directly outside St Mary’s School.  More recently, I had two near misses when cycling past the school at playgroup collection time last week.

I think it is fair to say that road has not got any safer in recent years.

The school, parents, PTA, and many others, including myself  are anxious that this cut  could have  dreadful repercussions. I have asked SCC if they know what the council’s legal position would be if – heaven forbid – anyone was knocked down after the patrol has been withdrawn. I have, as yet, had no reply.

Again, there is a petition against this cut: http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/

Your Councillor’s Quality of Life and Locality budgets

On a more positive note, we heard at Cabinet that the County Councillors’  Quality of Life budget will be retained – though with less money. This is good news for Woodbridge. I hope this will allow me to undertake the Sandy Lane road traffic calming I had to postpone last year .

Of the three projects I have funded so far

  • The Duke of York (ex-Seal) Crossing is proving immensely successful
  • the (separate) 30mph LED sign for further down Ipswich Road is ordered and being constructed
  • The final consultation for the TRO finished last month. From various communications from constituents, it would seem to be the first they had heard of it!

I do not yet know the fate of the Councillor’s Locality budget, but I hope that this will also be retained. I have recently made grants to establish a Graffiti wall up in Kyson, to buy a seat for people in Kingston Fields, to provide  two bicycles for the Town pastors and  a lawn mower for the Scouts to use to raise income and to buy Olympic-branded jute bags to advertise the Wood-Olympics  next year.

Have you signed the Save Suffolk Services petition yet?

For the last six weeks I and my fellow Lib Dems can have been  found standing outside libraries and shivering in water-sodden streets trying to bring news of the New Strategic Direction in all its horror to as many people in Suffolk as possible.

After all, the conservative administration has done very little in that direction, as you can see if you click the following link:   Consultation – what consultation?

As a Suffolk resident wrote to me:

We certainly have not been consulted in any shape or form by SCC re the New Strategic Direction. Surely, they should have started by a direct letter to everyone rather than sandwich boards in the shopping precinct!

Our own consultation was not without incident: tragically I got nipped on the leg by an ill-tempered dog in Yoxford, only last week, while delivering leaflets with a broken foot in heavy rain. I hope he felt guilty. But the post MUST get through…

Have you got our leaflet yet? Have you signed our petition?

We are trying to get as many signatures to the petition as possible to deliver to the Administration at the next full council day, 2 December. If you have received one, try and collect as many signatures from Suffolk residents as possible – relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues. It doesn’t matter about  age or background. These changes will affect us all.

If we haven’t managed to reach you, you can sign it online http://savesuffolkservices.blogspot.com/

or if you want to download it to collect further paper signatures: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/56654857/Save-Suffolk-Services-petition

Just remember to return it by the 26th November.

Remember to make sure your voice is heard!