Tag Archives: Potholes

April: What’s been happening in Suffolk

Conservatives deny councillors the chance to debate final school transport proposals  On 22 March, the Conservative majority at Suffolk County Council voted unanimously against a motion that would have allowed all councillors the chance to vote on the final school transport proposals, before the Cabinet makes a decision in June. These proposals have been causing considerable concern to the county at large.

They may also have a significant impact on Woodbridge – because it is a town containing 8 schools. Woodbridge Town Councillors will recall I raised this as a significant concern in previous reports (March, February and passim) and urged Woodbridge and Martlesham Councils to respond to the consultation, both individually and as a formal body. I also contacted Farlingaye High School, and gave up one Saturday morning to hold an awareness-raising stall in Woodbridge Thoroughfare where local people could respond directly.

The cross-party motion, proposed by Labour and seconded by the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, called for an extraordinary Council meeting to debate and hold a non-binding vote on the final proposals. This would have given councillors representing the most affected areas, the chance to have their say and raise their concerns, whatever their political allegiance. I am deeply disappointed that this motion did not receive the support of the county council. It is very strange that Conservative councillors have denied themselves the opportunity to fully represent those who elected them.

From the very beginning, my group has fought against these proposals. We are extremely concerned that a change in school transport policy will not achieve any significant savings, whilst causing untold harm to thousands of rural families – and local roads. In my roles as groiup spokesperson for Transport, for Women and my many years on Suffolk’s Educational Transport Panel I have been particularly concerned (see various of my blog entries, my letters to the EADT, my speeches at council, cabinet etc).

Many other councillors share our concerns. They, and their constituents, deserve the right to have a say. It is a shame they did not have the courage to speak up and support this motion.

SCC announces new Chief Executive Suffolk County Council has appointed a new chief executive, Nicola Beach, following a unanimous recommendation by the authority’s Staff Appointments. Nicola, who is currently executive director of infrastructure and environment at Essex County Council, will join SCC this summer. Sue Cook will continue in her role as Interim Chief Executive until this time, when she will return to her role as corporate director of health, wellbeing and children’s services.

Colin Noble commissions Respublica to examine options for public sector change in Suffolk  The Leader of Suffolk County Council, Cllr Noble, recently announced that he has – apparently unilaterally -commissioned think-tank Respublica to look at public sector reform in Suffolk. It will examine the current arrangements for public service delivery in Suffolk and will report back on the merits of making a bid to the government for a reformed system.
The review will look once again at the possibility of a unitary county council in Suffolk. However, Cllr Noble has also insisted that other options will be considered, such as East and West Suffolk unitaries, an option including a Greater Ipswich unitary council, or enhancing the existing two-tier system. This review is costed at around £70,000.
Suffolk county councillor were not consulted as to the commissioning and neither were Suffolk district/borough councillors. The announcement has not been well-received by the leaders of the seven district and borough councils in Suffolk. In fact, leaders Mark Bee (Waveney, David Ellesmere (Ipswich), Nick Gowrley (Mid Suffolk), John Griffiths (St Edmundsbury), Ray Herring (Suffolk Coastal), John Ward (Babergh), and James Waters (Forest Heath) published an open letter criticising the this commissioning without previous discussion as” totally contrary to the spirit of joint working, collaboration and partnership that together we have worked hard to develop and implement for Suffolk.”
“We cannot subscribe to, or support, your commission of the ResPublica review,” the leaders conclude.

Suffolk County Council’s gender pay gap remains significant Suffolk County Council’s pay report revealed that, although the Council employs nearly three times as many women as men, there is still a significant gender pay gap in favour of men.

The County Council’s mean gender pay gap is 14.8%, whilst the median pay gap is 18.6%. In other words, although Suffolk County Council employs relatively few men, they are overrepresented in the better paid sectors and underrepresented in the less well-paid sectors. (All the statistics refer to the average hourly pay rates of employees.)

When discussing the report during Council on 22 March, the Conservative Deputy Leader commented “we employ women [in low paid roles] because that is probably better suited to their characteristics… Most women are naturally caring”.

This response is concerning. Reverting to “nature” and so-called essential differences between men and women as an explanation for the gender pay gap obscures the real problem and makes it much more difficult to resolve: the council needs to be recognising and confronting these gender stereotypes, not reinforcing them.

Jetty Lane Public Consultation Having been awarded a 125 year lease by Suffolk County Council in December, fundraising has started in earnest for the Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre in Woodbridge.

This will – as you know – provide facilities for the many local groups left homeless when the youth centre was pulled down last year.

Apart from Just42 who currently are living in 2 shipping containers onsite, all other past users have failed to find suitable permanent accommodation in Woodbridge, because there is a clear lack of appropriate alternative facilities.

The Jetty Lane directors (of whom I am one) have just given up an entire week of half-term to staff a public consultation at Woodbridge library. This showed once again the strength of support this project has from the people of the town.

The Jetty Lane  launch will take place this month and the first bids for this exciting and sustainable heritage project are due to go out this month.

Swallows hopefully to return to Woodbridge Station Wonderful news! After I put our residents’ concerns about the destruction of swallow nesting at Woodbridge station to Greater Anglia (see March report). The issue was taken up by BBC Radio Suffolk, the EADT and social media. And the company listened and took the matter seriously.

On March 19 Greater Anglia installed two RSPB clay swallow boxes at the very places where the swallows have traditionally nested. Thank you, Greater Anglia! Let us hope our soaring summer friends will be back with us by next month!

Social Prescribing I have recently funded a leaflet on behalf of the PPGs of both Woodbridge GP surgeries which has gone out to 7000 homes in the vicinity. This describes the benefits of social prescribing and how to achieve them. It has been received with great approval by the NHS who is planning on putting it out in other areas.
In brief social prescribing is the notion that, while recognising that medication helps clinical need eg clinical depression; also recognises there are other needs that might be helped by activities such as walking, exercise, music, writing, language learning, gardening, volunteering etc

Potholes – funding boost & rise in insurance claims
Potholes continue to be a key issue for councillors and residents alike. There are two significant updates this month: Continue reading April: What’s been happening in Suffolk

Warwick Avenue and Haugh Lane repairs: dates finalised

Warwick AveGood news for Woodbridge residents. Dates for repairing these roads have been finalised. And they are still – just– in this financial year as promised – although disgracefully right at the last moment, finishing within a week of the end of the financial year.  Any more ‘slippage’ KMG and you’d  be over the edge and fail to meet your promised target!

Warwick Avenue is due to be resurfaced on 24th March 2015, over 4 days.  Haugh Lane will be resurfaced on 23rd March, over 4 days.

Both roads are old concrete slab roads which have severely deteriorated.   SCC Highways had previously considered in-situ recycling but it turned out that the slabs contained steel reinforcement, making this impossible.  (This explains the delay to work which had been scheduled for November. )  SCC’s contractor  KMG are bringing in a specialist surfacing contractor who will remove any asphalt overlay, repair the joints between the slabs, repair any damaged concrete and then overlay with a high strength asphalt overlay.

Let us hope this is a satisfactory end to several years of lobbying-  by myself and the residents of Warwick Avenue and Haugh Lane!

April’s report to Woodbridge Town Council

Railways – oh,  and Management Consultants

The second meeting of the County Council Cabinet in March had a large agenda.  Two issues are likely to be of particular interest to you:

Firstly, the Council’s response to the Greater Anglia rail franchise consultation – which rested on the findings of the Rail Policy Group (of which  I am a member) saw much support from across the political spectrum to improve the quality and quantity of train services across the region. Important areas that were stressed included:

  • The need for an hourly service to Peterborough;
  • the hourly service to Lowestoft (this should be up and running as far as Saxmundham by December); this further depends on the building of the Beccles loop;
  • adjusting the timings of interconnecting trains to correspond better;
  • greater parity of  equivalent fares across the franchise area – currently the cheapest day return fare to London from Ipswich is twice what it is from Cambridge to London
  • more advance notice of replacement bus services and ensuring they carry luggage and bikes  that were carried on the train
  • more provision for bikes on trains
  • Suggestion for better links with bus services

The Conservative-run Suffolk County Council Cabinet wanted to request “the exemption to Suffolk County Council’s standing orders for the procurement of organisational development resources to reshape the organisation” – in other words pay  up to £122,000 to three companies (DNA, Scintillate and Fields of Learning) in order for them to provide unspecified ‘organisational development services’ without public tender (!). However, although this  extraordinary decision – particularly extraordinary considering we are supposed to be scrutinising every expenditure and accounting for every penny –  was passed by the Cabinet, it was then  ‘called in’ by Lib Dem leaders Kathy Pollard and David Wood. This means that the decision has now to be considered by full council in May before it can be passed. Let us hope Ms Hill will provide fuller details of what she is planning.

If you would like to see a copy of the papers from cabinet, they are located here: http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi

Energy Monitors on Loan from Suffolk Libraries

Suffolk County Council has started to loan energy monitors from Libraries across the County.  The monitors allow you to check the electricity usage in your own home, helping to save on electricity bills in the future.For more information, on how to borrow one, or reserve one, the Suffolk County Council website will provide the details.

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/LeisureAndCulture/Libraries/LibraryNews/EnergyMonitors.htm

Quality of Life transport for Woodbridge schemes

As you know, I have around £10,000 to spend on projects in my district that will develop the transport infrastructure (in addition to about £8,000 earmarked from last year for a crossing by the Seal which is still in development). These need to fit into the following categories:

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

I updated councillors with schemes that could be considered a couple of weeks back. After further feedback from councillors, officers and the police the suggestions have been streamlined down to the following:

Ipswich Road – speeding: The SNT have conducted speed checks in the area. Speeding tickets have been issued but the area of most concern is between the Seal and John |Grose (particularly with the exit of the new development being quite tucked away). A LED warning sign may be of benefit as a warning to drivers.  If it proved to be a suitable site, the cost of a sign would be about £5000.

Thoroughfare restrictions. the signs detailing the restrictions in the Thoroughfare are both confusing and sited in inappropriate positions at the present time. The police suggest a sign be erected on the built pavement area in front of the red lion giving this information (perhaps constructed so as to incorporate a bicycle rack or a planter etc.) this would assist greatly with reducing traffic entering the thoroughfare during the restricted times and also improve the quality of the shopping experience in woodbridge

Sandy Lane traffic calming

I am investigating this with a couple of Martlesham parish councillors as the boundaries put the lane between Woodbridge and Martlesham at different points depending on which council is involved.

Hasketon Rd junction with Ransom Rd (safety of pedestrians particularly thoses going to / from FHS). I have been pursuing this for a long time now despite some obstruction from officers, via my Locality budget. The SNT confirm they have had a number of local residents complaining of parents / carers parking on the verges etc and causing chaos in this area. Yellow lines are planned for the junction but it will probably move the problem further along. We need  some way of discouraging people from parking on the nearby grass verges whether by simple bollards as outside St Marys school (a short distance away) or by some form of planting. This would greatly improve both the visual looks of the area and the safety of those on foot/cycle.

Woodbridge – signing According to officers, the signs on the A12 were amended a little while ago to say ‘Woodbridge town centre only’ and the road marking were changed to dedicate one lane purely for access to Woodbridge and a lane for all other traffic. They really don’t think we can improve on this. However at the new roundabout on the B1438, I notice the big sign signposts read Woodbridge, Melton and Ufford.

Other projects included improving the cycle lane between Wyvedale and Farlingaye  school at the currently dangerous section past the garage. SCC officer David Kemp is  looking at possible ideas  – and if we’re lucky we might get them without using the QOL money.  The renewal of road markings on the A12 as suggested by Cllr Geen is apparently a maintenance function and therefore outside the remit of QoL funding. However Angela Rapley has passed the concern on to item onto the Area office that deals with maintenance.

Potholes

Although the government have given Suffolk County council an extra £1.9million for urgent surface repairs, this will not go very far with all the potholes that have opened up after last winter.  I have been asked by the Roads and Transport scrutiny committee to research the impact on road surfaces of bikes as opposed to cars to see whether savings could be made in road maintenance  by encouraging modal shifts to sustainable travel. Any assistance from anyone with specific expertise in this field would be gratefully received.