Tag Archives: privatisation

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!

Cuts in Suffolk – don’t ever forget who’s holding that knife!

As your county councillor I am horribly anxious about so many different  things simultaneously.  

This week  its been the almost certain loss of Suffolk’s libraries, school crossing patrols, care homes, bus services, the eXplore card, and services for families  that has  been most worrying me.  That, and the impact of these losses on the people of Suffolk.

For clearly, Suffolk residents are  likely to be losing all of these, losing them irrevocably, sacrificed to the ideological insanity of an ‘enabling’ council, run by affluent, untroubled  people who say:  “Do as I say, not as I do!”   It is  a Topsy Turvey world where those who run it can demand  pay moderation, job cuts, and employment freezes for everyone else but themselves;  can parrot the mantra of “Greenest County” and drive everywhere in a 4×4; can declare themselves determined to protect ‘the most vulnerable’  but do not include in this category the elderly, the very young, the disabled , or the disadvantaged.  

Pah!  

However,  I would urge you not to confuse national policies with our current disgraceful  local vandalism. For a start, such confusion could – no, WILL –  let those responsible off the hook! The New Strategic Direction has been a long time in the planning. It is making cuts greater than required in services the administration doesn’t value. A cynic would suggest that it is using the national situation as a cover for doing so.

Remember, in Suffolk the Liberal Democrats are not in any kind of coalition – they are very strongly the opposition party.  And as you know, both I and my colleagues have been fighting these cuts from the day they were first heralded, back in last September. Let us be clear here – although we are in opposition,  Suffolk Lib Dems are fighting this New Strategic Direction as a matter of common sense rather than party-political politicking.  We are fighting it because the effects will hit people of all ages, and backgrounds and political hue.

We – like any sane, sensible people – think there IS such a thing as society, and that  actually in Suffolk we had – till recently – a society that ran quite well. One that looked after its old and its sick and disabled, that tempered the wind to the shorn lamb. We think a  County Council should respond to its residents and their needs:  that the council is there to represent  and protect them and serve them. We are not so arrogant that  we forget that SCC  is paid for by the people of Suffolk, out of their own money! We feel that those who pay the piper should be allowed to call the tune!

 The council’s current bizarre ‘New Strategic Direction’ (which seems to combine ‘selling off of the family silver’ with dumping some of it in a skip) does not seem to think  this way. Far from intending to deliver ‘the best’ for the people of Suffolk,  the NSD  does not intend to deliver anything at all!

 Care homes, libraries, bus services and school crossing patrols:  all of these are not just ‘optional extras’ to be dispensed with and disposed of  by those who do not use them (and seemingly fail to remember they do not own them).  Yet there is such a thing as society in Suffolk, and all these services are ones that make you proud that it still exists.

Suffolk County Council is cynically using the cuts in central government grants to justify what it plans to do, but central actions (whatever we think of them) do not in any sense explain what is being done here in Suffolk.  The Coalition government is not going to win any popularity contests while trying to recoup the eye-watering deficit bequeathed by Gordon Brown and the last thirteen years.   However it should not be expected to carry the can for the ‘scorched earth’ decisions being made – without reference to the public or even a business plan – by those who have created the ‘New Strategic Direction’.

But the CEO and the Tory administration at Suffolk County Council are not the only people to blame for this mess. There’s also the sheer apathy of all too many of the people of Suffolk to factor in!    

In late October/November last year I  – together with many other colleagues – trudged around a large area of Suffolk Coastal delivering 23,000 copies of an emergency leaflet which tried to alert the people of Suffolk to what lay ahead. 

The administration accused us of ‘scaremongering’ – yet our direst predictions were less terrible than the truth.

We did our best and gained a huge amount of support from those prepared to listen – but it was not enough. Far too few people took notice. Some hoped it wouldn’t  really happen under a Tory watch, others hoped to regain popularity for the Labour party by standing on the sidelines and letting our society crumble, others  just hoped that the problem would go away if they shut their eyes and buried their heads in the sand.   

So, once again I urge you to put aside party-political differences and take action!  After months of refusing to listen to the people it represents, Suffolk County Council has finally  put up an e-petition site. Register on it and add your name  to an existing petition or  start a new one. Or best – do both!

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

You can sign any petition – the only qualification is that you need to live, work or study in Suffolk (for example, I have signed all the Library petitions as I believe in an integrated service for the county) but current petitions that particularly affect you are :

Save our School Crossing Patrols – the St Mary’s School Woodbridge lollipop man is going to be cut along with the other 97 lollipop posts across Suffolk, to save a sum of money that equates to to less that 80% of the Chief Executive’s annual salary!

Save Woodbridge Library: it will not be closed –  but it is still in danger of ‘divestment’.

Save Woodbridge Buses  Cuts – confirmed yesterday – to SCC subsidised services will leave Woodbridge without any evening, sunday or bank holiday bus services, plus cut easy links to other towns and villages. This will cause huge problems to those who can’t, don’t, or can’t afford to drive 

Save the Explore Card  Up till now young people have had this card to help with travel costs 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 on many off-peak rail journeys. Additionally, 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 a very good thing too!. The proposed abolition of the card would mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. It will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads. It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training. The proposed abolition is a retrograde step that threatens the very education and employment opportunities that our young people need in order to help us out of our current economic crisis. It also makes a mockery of our ‘Greenest county’ aspirations 

(NB: A word of warning sometimes the e-petition links work poorly. If so , go to the site and navigate from there! And if it doesn’t work, keep trying until it does.)

Social care: Suffolk Tories ‘riding roughshod over democracy’

Suffolk County Council Liberal Democrats are accusing the Conservative administration of once again running a ‘sham consultation’ – this time on the future of council-run care homes in the county. Its sham because the Tories have already made a unilateral decision either to close or to sell them all off.

On Thursday last  (13/01) representatives of Suffolks boroughs and district councils were invited to “Have Your Say on the Future of Suffolk County Council’s residential care homes” by Suffolk County Council’s Adult and Community Services portfolio-holder Colin Noble. The meeting took place at SCC’s Ipswich headquarters.

It became apparent at the start of the meeting that the decision had already been made, even though the issue was still officially out to consultation. The public had been asked to only comment on and prefer one of three preselected options for the future of the county’s care for the elderly:

  1. Gradually close the homes and use only independent care homes
  2. Sell all the homes as ‘going concerns’
  3. Close six homes and transfer the remaining homes to the independent sector.

There was no option to keep any of the homes within council control. There was also no option for individual management buy-outs.

Cllr Noble’s opening salvo was:    “We have made a decision at cabinet level that we will no longer pay for care homes. So if you have come here wanting us to continue running care homes, you’re wasting your time. The decision has already been made.”

This statement came as a surprise to elected members who were attending the meeting , including me.   

Cllr Noble seemed to be confusing a cabinet decision to ‘consult’ on options for divestment with a final decision taken by all councillors at a formal council meeting. Now,  Suffolk County Council consists of 75 members from a range of parties. The Cabinet consists of ten members of a single party: the Conservatives.

They are riding roughshod over democracy.

Whose council is this anyway? The Council’s care budget, and the care homes themselves are not in Cllr Noble’s gift  – nor in  that of any other official, elected or otherwise. The budget and the care homes belong to the people of Suffolk. The Council holds them in trust and should administer them wisely on our behalf.

My colleague,  Inga Lockington, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Older People, points out that:

“All councillors must  have a chance to vote on this important issue on behalf of their constituents.

Cllr Noble is pursuing a policy which will lead to many frail older people being evicted from their homes. When care homes close, the health of frail elderly people can be seriously affected and it can even hasten their deaths. Cllr Noble needs to acknowledge this when pursuing such a policy, in the face of so much concern within our community.

I am also concerned that taking nearly 200 care places out of the County’s care provision, in the face of the increasing incidence of dementia, will  create a waiting list and a “Market” which will result in the most needy finding themselves at the end of a lengthening queue.”

Many local residents in Suffolk continue to be alarmed at the SCC administration’s proposals to ‘divest’ themselves of their care homes – particularly in the fact that the decision came before the busniess case.    In fact we’re STILL WAITING for ANY business case. .

Bryan Hall, who is the district councillor for Wickham Market (where a specialist care-home for dementia patients is threatened with closure and sell-off for development) says:

“I am very concerned that Suffolk County Council have decided, without public mandate, to stop being social care providers. In particular, residential homes such as Wickham Market’s Lehmann House, which has a large number of residents suffering from dementia is, in my view – and that of my constituents –  irreplaceable. For a start, it is in the heart of our town – which is where we want our old people to stay. There may possibly be private homes somewhere in Suffolk able to provide a similar service, but there is no guarantee they are anywhere near the Wickham Market area. It is not right that old people who have served their community all their lives, should be excluded like this in their last years.”

Woodbridge Town Council Report Jan 2011

Suffolk becomes the only County in the east without its own Fire Control Room

Just before Christmas, Liberal Democrat councillors ‘called in’ the County Council’s decision to move its Fire Control Room to Cambridge from Colchester Road Ipswich, because the building it currently occupies is being sold. There were other options possible, such as negotiating sharing with the Suffolk police HQ.

This move was described as ‘an interim measure prior to the introduction of the nations Regional Fire Control rooms’ – planned to be in place by 2013.

The Public Protection Scrutiny Committee met on the 21st of December to examine the decision, and to listen to our reasons against this decision. These included

  • The total lack of information regarding the certainty of the proposed national Regional Fire Control Rooms
  • No evidence within the original paper of consultation with those many and varied organisations who work with the Fire Control Room such as  Suffolk Family Carers, Trading Standards etc.
  • The lack of contingency plans put in place in case there was a national delay, or indeed an update in policy on the proposed national regional control rooms.
  • The distance of the Suffolk  retained staff travelling to the Cambridgeshire site
  • The diminution of local knowledge and expertise inevitably caused by siting this control room  so far away from the area it controls

Unfortunately the opportunity to look at this decision once again was turned down by the scrutiny committee’s majority Conservative membership.

Embarrassingly for them, immediately after this decision was rubber-stamped the Government revealed that the proposed  Regional Control Rooms are going to be abolished.  This ‘interim measure’ is therefore interim sine die

This leaves Suffolk as the only county in East Anglia without its own regional control room, thereby losing the county the benefits of local knowledge, speedy response, and county control as well as many of its dedicated staff.

Loss of Woodbridge’s only ‘Lollypop person’

Amongst the proposals being considered in the continuing issues of the New Strategic Direction  is one to cease funding the school crossing patrol service which looks after 98 schools in Suffolk, including one in Woodbridge: ie. the crossing at St Mary’s in Burkitt Road. If this decision is approved at the  next Full Council on 17th February  then the service will end, probably during the summer term.

The view of the Service Director, Economy, Skills and Environment  is that:  “We recognise that it is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure that their children arrive at school safely.”

However, at the Resource, Finance and Performance pre-Budget scrutiny just before Christmas I asked him :  What risk assessment has been done on the effect this cut might have on child pedestrian safety?”

His answer was:We will be carrying out audits at all the school crossing patrol sites in January and February 2011.  The safety engineers carrying out the audits will examine all available data related to mode of travel to school, casualty data, school catchments and crossing patterns. The engineers will identify alternative crossing points, such as light controlled crossings if they exist close to the patrol sites. In some instances, minor alterations will be made to sites and any inappropriate signs will be removed. Road safety officers will advise parents, carers and children to use alternative sites and routes and provide road safety education and training in the affected schools.

This seem to be is a different way of saying “We recognise that it is primarily the responsibility of parents and carers to ensure that their children arrive at school safely.”

Cuts in concessions for young persons’ travel

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: available free to students 16-19, 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!.

The NSD’s proposed cuts means that the EXPLORE card is not just under threat –  sadly, the decision has already  been made to cut it completely. I have always been right behind it because it helps young people with transport to work, to education and to social activities, and liberates teens from dependence on others. It should also get teens out of cars and onto buses in the evenings thus creating a significant saving in  life and limb  (tho the recent appalling reduction in local buses and the planned cutting of so many of the SCC funded remainder – see below – makes this very much more difficult). The loss of the Explore card WILL have an adverse impact on both educational choice and work for the young people of Suffolk.

In addition to being your County Councillor, and opposition spokesperson on Transport, I am also Vice-chair of Educational Transport Appeals.  With all these hats on I have already raised the issue of these threats to young people’s travel  through direct questioning and minuted statements –with Educational transport AND the portfolio holder AND at the pre-Budget Scrutiny.

At this last, I asked: Have any calculations been carried out to ascertain what increase is anticipated in the increased use of cars to take older pupils/sixth-form students to school as a result of stopping the Explore card?

They answered: There has been no attempt to calculate a potential increase in car journeys.  Any impact of the Explore proposal is closely linked to the policy on discretionary transport for post 16 students.  Therefore, discussions with stakeholders will take place around the wider issue of post 16 education transport as a whole, and the impact which current budget proposals may have.

I have no idea what this actually means.

Further serious reductions to Woodbridge bus services

I have also been given details of those bus services likely to be affected by the reductions in SCC’s public transport subsidies (as set out in the proposals for next year’s budget).  Again, these are victims of the NSD ideology – and have little concern for the consumer.

The budget proposals envisage “a remodelling of public transport services that have been piloted in parts of Suffolk over the last couple of years and  based on the premise that the best way of enabling people in rural areas to access learning opportunities, employment and services will be to use demand-responsive services to access a core of scheduled bus and rail services running on fixed routes.

This allows for rural people without cars having transport needs that can be predicted a day in advance – so, remember,  no getting ill or crises at short notice!

SCC are  looking to roll this approach out across rural Suffolk. Interestingly enough, the administration  made a large capital allocation to fund the operation of demand-responsive transport a full year before these new cuts were deemed necessary under the NSD. I leave you to draw your own conclusions as to why this might have been.

The list of services described as ones “which would not be a priority for continued subsidy under the new model” includes a number which impact on Woodbridge. Andrew Gutteridge, Strategic Commissioner (Sustainable Transport) –sic – the officer in charge – writes “In drawing up this list we have prioritised core daytime services and those services that maximise accessibility and connections with rail.  The aim is to provide a core network with which demand responsive services can interconnect. “

Sadly  what this really means  in real English is that all evening and weekend services and the more rural routes are for the chop.

The Woodbridge related routes that are ‘threatened’ (if this isn’t an understatement) are:

  • 62a and 62b Ipswich – Wickham Market/ Rendlesham (that is, every evening and all the Sunday bus services through Woodbridge!)
  • 70, 70a, 118 – the rural route from Ipswich  to Woodbridge through Grundisburgh and Bealings
  • 70, II8, 119 – the Ipswich to Framlingham routes
  • 71, 163, 173, IP179,  IP512: Orford, Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Ipswich routes. The ONLY easy way for non-car owners to get to Felixstowe

At the pre-budget scrutiny, I asked the following questions:

1.  Has an impact assessment been done, for example, on the effects on people who use these buses to get to and from employment and for young people accessing education and social activities?

Answer: The equality impact screening process has begun.  There is no intention that people will be deprived of the opportunity to travel to learning, employment and essential services, but this is expected to be by more flexible and demand-responsive solution in some cases.  Where there are specific education placements on affected services, there may be specific provision for those journeys, and the draft budget contains an adjustment to the home to school transport budget to reflect this.

NB: I know many bus passengers. I have yet to meet a single one who has had an impact assessment undertaken on the loss of these buses to their lifestyle

2 Could sponsorship or cost-sharing be investigated for this instead of reducing the services?

Answer: Every effort will be made to reduce the impact of the cuts by sharing resources and materials with Eastern Region authorities and Suffolk Roadsafe partners. (CP: ?)

We will continue to seek support from the Government (and the Highways Agency) and the private sector.(CP: ?)

The Government produces free publicity materials (under the Think campaign banner) and has indicated that it will support cyclist training through the Bikeability scheme in 2011/12.

Well, that’s a relief!

I have had a lot of people writing to me about this –  both anxious individuals and organisations  -and am hoping to get a local group together to raise awareness and protest efficiently about these bus changes  – and the cutting of the Explore cards – and I hope you may wish to join me in this. Please contact me, if so.   In the interim, have a look at this, as a kind of briefing document:

http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/public-transport/suffolk-the-death-of-the-rural-bus/

What will be happening to Suffolk Libraries?

In the Resource, Finance and Performance pre-Budget scrutiny just before Christmas, one of the 16 proposed savings was “Divesting libraries to communities”.  This was estimated to create a very modest saving (£350,000) and would have a “Medium to High impact” on the public.This divestment-for-the-purpose-of-saving  was, we were told,  in addition to an already proposed saving of £710,000 on this years’ library services that ACS has decided on to compensate for an overspend in the care budget 2010 -11. What a choice, eh?

I would like to point out that in a recent UK-wide survey, Suffolk’s library service was revealed as the second most cost-effective (ie. cheapest) public library service in the country!

We (the SCC Lib Dems) asked the following pertinent questions:

  • Will all libraries be divested?
  • What will happen to the mobile library service?
  • How will the current integrated service be protected?

We were told:

In line with the New Strategic Direction, we do not expect that the council will be a direct provider of library services in the future.

We are already making efficiency savings for 2011/12 by reducing the numbers of management and support posts, and working together with Cambridgeshire, Essex, Southend and Thurrock councils to share the provision of stock services and thus reduce cost.

We expect to publish a consultation paper in the new year to consult the people of Suffolk about how to provide library services, at significantly lower cost, over the coming three years.  This will cover the mobile and branch libraries and how the integrated service might continue.  Following the outcomes of the three month consultation, we will put final proposals for an affordable library service to Cabinet, and begin to implement them during the second quarter of 2011/12 and in subsequent years.  The action plan is likely to include the procurement and selection of providers from communities and interested organisations.  It is likely to result in some library closures.

So watch that space! It might replace a library or two.

Suffolk’s NSD: overarching concerns; SCC Consultations & Online Petitioning

a ) At the pre-budget scrutiny which looked at next year’s proposed cuts I asked one single overarching question about the cuts proposed by the SCC adminisistration in support of their NSD:

These proposed savings are in service delivery – many of them frontline – yet there is scope for substantial savings in executive pay via downsizing and divestment of executive roles. Why is this option not being explored?

Answer: All services have proposals relating to restructures and reductions in staff costs. These are designed to reduce management costs more than frontline staff costs. Restructures are already underway in directorates and this process will accelerate as we make changes to implement the New Strategic Direction for the council.

This doesn’t exactly explain why the highest echelons of SCC’s senior management seem to be so immune from the cuts that will hit all the rest of us.

b) Suffolk County Council are currently engaging in a number of consultations and ‘engagement exercises’, including:

  • New Strategic Direction ‘Engagement’ – ongoing
  • Future of Suffolk Country Parks and Recreation sites – ends 14th Jan 2011
  • Suffolk Care Homes consultation – ends 24th Jan 2011
  • Schools admissions Consultation – ends 28th Feb 2011

I urge you to respond and make sure that you have given your views.

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Consultations/Listing.htm

c) Possibly in response to adverse publicity about a lack of democracy in cabinet-style decision-making (for example the Fire Control Room move was decided without a general councillor vote  at Cabinet level) Suffolk County Council has launched an online petitioning system, so that members of the public can bring an issue to the attention of the council, or publicly approve or disapprove of a council decision.

PLEASE USE IT

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/News/EPetitions.htm

Don’t let our BUSES go under!

Unless we make a huge fuss NOW, unless we shout and scream and stamp our feet, unless we people of Suffolk  behave like people who KNOW what is important in this world and ACT,  our Suffolk bus services might go for good. This is not scaremongering. This is a fact!

Yes,  this current Suffolk County Council  administration might finally see off  our rural buses, destroy forever  a service that has lasted the whole of the last centuary – and put all the people of Suffolk into the motor car just as that crass idiot Beeching envisaged all these years ago!

So how has this  happened?

Don’t listen to the wormtongued rewriters of the past.  Locally, we do indeed  suffer from the fact that  most of our  present day administrators right across the board  (so not only not only the Conservatives, but also Independents, Labour -my esteemed colleague the trainloving bike friendly  Cllr Martin being an honourable exception  – and even some Greens as well) would rather stick pins in their eyes or spend hour after hour in an unnecessary traffic jam, rather than get their backsides out of their cars.  It’s definitely not the best backgound to gain or retain  support for  public transport.

(Yon’t  believe me? – find out for yourself. Ask under Freedom Of Information how many car miles/ how many bus miles were claimed by the Leader, the Deputy Leader,  the Transport portfolio holder, the Chief Executive, your local County Councillor?  Ask what happened to patterns of council private car and bus usage over the last year?

I’m sure you’ll be happy to discover that your local County Councillor  (me) comes out smelling of roses – I gave up claiming ALL expenses in this financial year as a nod to general conditions, but before those days the only no-bicycle milage I ever claimed were the occasional bus or train journey.

However I can’t make up for the deficiencies of others all by myself.)

Nationally it is much the same – our current government clearly doesn’t give a monkey’s.  But remember the loss of our buses is not JUST a legacy  of a twenty-year dead Tory government, or a seven month Coalition, very easy tho it is for some to say so. (And they do!)   Labour are equally – no more – to blame.  Ok, maybe more, because they let the bus services dwindle and disappear during a time of supposed economic prosperity – prosperity built on the backs of not helping the poor out of the transport trap they had created for them.

Did they reregulate the bus service in those years of plenty? Did they HELL! While the overall cost of driving a car fell  by 14% in real terms under the ‘green-friendly’ Blair Brown administration,  Labour drove up bus and coach fares by a staggering 24% above inflation over the 13 years of their tenure. It was as if they really believed buses existed solely for the purpose of enriching a few private investors. Sounds familiar?

Thanks guys – you did a good job of maintaining Thatcher’s most divisive transport policies !

Me, I love buses. When I arrived in Woodbridge twenty years ago there were five regular reliable buses an hour in and out of Ipswich making their way by different routes through town . There was a little local shuttle that did an hourly round trip so pensioners and young mothers could go shopping/visiting with minimal trouble.  People without cars could make trips to the seaside, travel to the hospital, go home in the evenings all by bus. By the time the Labour government  ended we had lost most of that: we were down to two, poorly running buses an hour, travelling around the outside of the town along one single route, during working hours, and during the working week. Want to visit hospital? go out in the evening? visit the seaside? Use your car (if you’ve got one. If not, stay at home!)!

Now Suffolk County Council are using the blanket term ‘ cuts’  as a reason to reduce those last, non-profit-making routes. They are planning to cut the 16-19 Explore card (which allows young people to navigate the extortionately priced bus services without it costing an arm or a leg). They are planning to cut the last services that would see our children safley back from a night out in town without using a car. They are giving up responsibility of ensuring those who work and don’t drive can continue to contribute to out economy. This is truly outrageous.

I will stand by the concept of travelling sustainably while there is any sustainable transport left to use.  And I will  fight for the continuing use of rural buses for others, because unless SOMEONE does so, they will disappear for ever.

PLEASE HELP ME STOP THIS HAPPENING!