Proposals to reduce eligibility for free school transport in Suffolk will adversely affect students 5-18 -and their families. The changes have the potential to bring hardship -especially in rural areas: loss of choice; a postcode lottery for places and courses; potentially the splitting of siblings between schools. It will also put a lot more cars on the roads round our schools -with preductable effects on speed, safety, airquality, and quality of life. Continue reading Reduction to free school transport entitlement: respond, or have no say
Restored Sunday bus goes from strength to strength! Having finally got the 65b service back in July, after years when Woodbridge residents were cut off from any Sunday or holiday bus transport whatsoever (including getting to Ipswich hospital for visiting, A&E and minor injuries!) We were told – quite fairly– ‘use it, or lose it’ Woodbridge residents have risen magnificently to the challenge – and as a direct result the 65b will not only be retained at least until March but will also now run 5 times a day in each direction from January, and the service has been extended out to Melton. Again, we must continue to remember that it’s a case of use it or lose it – so when shopping for Christmas, or in the sales – remember to take the Sunday bus!
Woodbridge Rail StationTicket Machines! Sadly, the machine continues to be less than wholly fit for purpose. It spends much of its time out of order or malfunctioning, leaving many Woodbridge residents frustrated – either out of pocket, having had to pay twice for a ticket, or facing a penalty fine for a fare they have paid! I have recently been contacted by a stream of people complaining about this problem , including overseas visitors who found local travel very difficult and some residents who have told me that their only option to this is making a 15 mile round trip to use the machines in Ipswich (as the Saxmundham ticket machine is often also out of action).
Suffok Speed Limit Criteria For some months now I have been part of the crossparty policy development panel working on developing a new Speed Limit Criteria policy for Suffolk. SCC Cabinet will be seeking to approve this today. If approved, the new policy aims to ensure that speed limits are applied fairly, and transparently across the county while reflecting local concerns where appropriate – and enabling local County Councillors to make representations on behalf of the communities they represent.
This would complement the new 20mph policy that the same panel (on which I also sat) developed and which Cabinet approved earlier this year.
Suffok’s Education and Learning Infrastructure Plan SCC is also developing Suffolks Education and Learning InfrastructurePlan. This is of particular interest to me as I have been arguing that there is insufficent bringing together of strategic issues locally. The coverage of the future eduction situation in Woodbridge is not wholly encouraging:
Issue: Potential housing of up to 500 houses in the longer term
Solution: Investigate local primary provision in the area to ensure capacity is available or local schools are able to expland to accommodate growth. Also ensure that local secondary provision, already at capacity, is able to expand as appropriate.”
I have asked for this information to be expanded on, bearing in mind that Farlingaye, designed for 750 pupils, now accommodates around 2000 and that the the physical impossibility of moving this number around the corridors has caused lessons to be reduced to 3 a day for the last 8 years. I understood that these developments aren’t seen as enough to fund a further school, but query what further expansion might be humanly possible in the circumstances!
I also want to understand why the strategic issues of Farlingaye are siloed within Woodbridge/Melton when it has a catchment area of 400 square miles including, for example Rendlesham (where I see further development is also indicated).
Additionally, strategic development of schools seems to stop at the buildings themselves and does not consider the impact on local roads.
Warwick Avenue: That long-awaited resurfacing of Warwick Avenue is delayed again – until March 2015 – but this time there is an excuse! I have been lobbying for this seriously overdue and much-needed repair work for years, and am very glad that it is finally going ahead. The repairs had been planned for the end of 2014, but when cores were taken from the concrete slabs that make up the road, it was discovered that they had metal reinforcement, making hopes of using an in-situ recycling technique impossible. I am now told that the SCC contractors, KMG, will be bringing in a specialist surfacing contractor to remove any asphalt on the slabs, repair the slab joints and lay high density asphalt overlay.
Let us hope this will finally and at long last provide the reliable and stable road surface that Warwick Avenue residents deserve – and for which they have been waiting for such an unreasonably long time!”
County Councillor Surgeries My monthly walk-in surgeries continue to be very successful and well-attended. In October I discovered 14 people waiting for me when I opened. The final Surgery of the year will take place on 20December 2014 10-12 in the library as ever.
Dates for the early part of 2015 will be: 17 January, 21 February. 21 March and 18 April.
Happy Christmas and all good wishes for a peaceful New Year!
Changes at Suffolk County Council The recent election has brought significant changes to the dynamics of the County Council. The current political makeup is: Conservative 39; Green 2; Independent 3; Labour 15; Liberal Democrat 7; UKIP 9. This means the Conservative group have an overall majority of three on the county council as opposed to their past overwhelming majority.
Additionally there have been changes to the Cabinet – the most significant being the appointment of Graham Newman as member responsible for Transport and Lisa Chambers as responsible for Education.
I have kept my place on the Education Transport Appeals committee, and am substitute on the Rights of Way Committee. I continue as LibDem spokesman for Transport and Highways.
Hackney to help improve Suffolk’s Education Standards Suffolk will be working with the London borough of Hackney to improve educational attainment in the county following a 10-month independent inquiry into school performance in Suffolk. Although in Woodbridge, the schools are doing well (last month Farlingaye was rated outstanding in all areas by Ofsted), Suffolk is rated 148th out of 151 councils at primary level, 141st out of 151 at secondary level. THis is a rapid drop. EIght years ago, Suffolk schools were rated as being in the top thirties.
Hackney has turned its schools around. Between 2005 and 2012, the percentage of children achieving Key Stage 2 (level 4 or above) in English rose from 69% to 86% – matching the national average for the first time in seven years. In the same period, the percentage of children achieving the equivalent level in maths rose from 64% to 86%, beating the national average by 1%. The rise in GCSE performance was equally significant with the percentage of children gaining A*-C grades (including English and maths) increasing from 34.2% (10.5% below the national average) to 60.2% (0.8% above).
The new Hackney-Suffolk partnership will include a cultural, professional and educational exchange programme which is intended to enrich pupils’ learning, broaden teachers’ professional expertise and strengthen leadership at all levels. A new exchange programme for teachers tipped to one day become heads will also be set up.
More bus losses More bad news for the bus users of Suffolk – especially those who cannot, cannot afford to, or are prevented by health and/or age considerations from driving a car. Confirmation that the very popular Anglian bus 164 and 165 routes are to finish on June 28 arrived almost simultaneously with the news that First were practically withdrawing the Framlingham-Ipswich Service 63 at the end of May. Suffolk County Council are now providing a replacement Framlingham-Wickham Market-Woodbridge Service –62 – which commenced in the last week of May. This provides 4 buses a day in each direction, Monday to Friday only. No weekends, no bank holidays. People wanting to visit Fram for purposes of tourism will have to go by car.
Users of the 164 and 165 have mounted a petition against the cut of this popular and useful service which provides the only bus service direct to Ipswich rail station.
First are now reacting to the withdrawal of Anglian Bus by making some further intended changes (effective 1st July 2013). First will be providing some buses diverting through Linden Road in Aldeburgh (Service 65). Some buses will also divert through Fentons Way in Kesgrave (Service 64). Additionally there will now be a later bus (1747 from Aldeburgh-Leiston-Saxmundham-Ipswich). SCC supports a late bus from Ipswich (1905) to Woodbridge and Melton which they are now are now going to extend to Rendlesham . This bus returns to Ipswich providing a later evening journey (New Number 65B).
However these additions are no match for the service that was lost. I have received a lot of emails nd calls from people along the route, all of whom are devastated at these changes.
Surgery dates for 2013 As you know, I hold a regular monthly surgery on the THIRD SATURDAY of every month. This is held at Woodbridge Library, 10am – 12 noon. Dates for the rest of 2013 are:
- 15 June 2013
- 20 July 2013
Please note: there will be no surgery in August 2013
- 21 September 2013
- 19 October 2013
- 16 November 2013
- 21 December 2013
Locality and Quality of Life Budgets Very good news for Woodbridge: in this electoral cycle there is a new system for allocating locality money. Instead of receiving a sum dependent on the number of the electorate -as happened in the past – there is now a flat- rate sum for all councillors. This means that more Woodbridge every year.
The last expenditure from last year’s Locality budget are now going through. SCDC have ordered a replacement bench for the junction of Grundisburgh and Hasketon Roads, and I believe the funding for the materials for the wall/shed in Elmhurst Park has now been released.
Please do come to me if you have something that I could help fund.
Suffolk Walking challenge for Just 42 At the end of May I walked from Felixstowe to Lowestoft with Just 42′s fundraiser Julia Hancock and her dog, to raise funds to support the young people of Woodbridge and the surrounding rural areas. Thanks to a lot of very generous sponsors we’ve raised nearly £2500. You can hardly believe the sheer amount of good that Just 42 will be able to do with such a sum!
- On day 1 Julia Hancock, Celine the Dog and I raised enough to support 20 kids with complex needs for 3 weeks worth of Just42′s Mimic club;
- On day 2 we raised enough extra to also support 30 kids at one of Just 42′s rural youth clubs for 6 weeks! ;
- Day 3 we raised enough funding to also keep one of Just 42′s mobile youth clubs running for FIVE weeks;
- On Day 4 – enough money to ALSO run a holiday club for 100 youngsters for a week!
- Day 5 has raised enough to train 5 mentors who will support 15 young people in crisis every year!
Huge thanks to the many who sponsored us. And if you didn’t – there is still time to do so via Just Giving https://www.justgiving.com/Caroline-Page1/
Cycling festival and bicycle amnesty The second Woodbridge cycling festival is on 15 June at Kingston Field. There will be a bicycle amnesty there, as there was last year – so if you have old bicycles or parts that have clogged your garage for years, please bring them along. They are sent by container to Africa where they have the potential tochange the lives of all sorts of people: traders, healthworkers, students.
What went wrong with education in Suffolk?
Over the last 8 years we have suffered a devastating drop in attainment relative to all other English local authorities. As Suffolk schools slip inexorably down the attainment rankings – from 30th out of of 151 in in 2001-4, to the current position of 148th of 151 at primary level and 141/151 at secondary level, we have no option but to recognise that Suffolk children are being failed when the bulk of English children are not.
While we in Woodbridge have bucked the trend at our excellent schools – the league table position of Suffolk as local education authority has dropped devastatingly until we are right at the bottom of the tables at both Primary and Secondary school level. (To reiterate the above figures, Suffolk ranks 141st out of 151 English authorities at GCSE, 148th out of 151 at the end of Primary school). The table below shows the decline in Suffolk students’ attainment at GCSE level over the last 12 years.
The red line (at around the 30 ranking) is where Suffolk was in the league tables in the years of the Suffolk Lib/Lab Coalition. The line in blue – dropping immediately, steadily and inexorably downward – shows what has happened to Suffolk’s ‘ ranking over the last 8 years of Conservative (mis)management.
And what this table shows clearly is a drop that coincides precisely with this Suffolk Conservative administration’s tenure – and policies. This drop has nothing to do with a decline in national standards, because it is relative to all other parts of the country. It is hard to believe it is the teachers’ fault when the same teachers were producing such good attainment up to 2004.
Longterm LibDem leader Kathy Pollard links this drop inexorably to the shift in political priorities of an ideologically motivated Conservative council.
And the result? Basically, Suffolk children are being failed when the bulk of English children are not.
It is time to tell the Conservatives that we must put our children first!
And finally – and most satisfactorily – the meat served in Suffolk schools has been found to be free of equine DNA .
The Liberal Democrat Group submitted an amendment to the budget aiming to improve services in a number of different areas. This would have been funded from the contingency reserve.
- £650,000 to School Improvement Services – to employ additional advisors that go into schools to provide guidance to help schools improve their level of attainment, which drastically needs improving in Suffolk.
- £475,000 for providing an additional 1900 days of supply work providing it is matched by school funds. This would allow time for teachers from well performing schools to partner with those who are not doing as well. This approach has been very successful in Hackney.
- £300,000 to help Suffolk County Council commit to a pilot scheme that would increase the number of foster carers for the most vulnerable children in Suffolk.
- £300,000 to respond to local community requests for 20mph zones in Suffolk towns and villages.
We believe would have helped to improve attainment in Suffolk, care for those vulnerable children and to improve the response to new speed limits, following the Cabinet Member’s disbanding of the speed management team at the County Council.
The school improvement budget has been cut substantially over the last few years and this has coincided with a dramatic fall in the performance of Suffolk schools, so we were very disappointed that our amendment was defeated.
School Meals in Suffolk The catering provider to schools in Suffolk, EATS, has provided assurance that the meat provided in its schools does not contain any horsemeat.
The vast majority of meals provided for children in Suffolk schools, are created inhouse, and beef used by EATS is Red Tractor accredited. The red tractor logo is a guarantee of both quality and origin.
Woodbridge Youth Centre As you know I have been very anxious about an unconfirmed threat of development of Woodbridge Youth Centre premises for a couple of years.
Refer to my blog for full details but in short it turned out that this threat was genuine – and had extended as far as officers secretly deciding not to process our local youth club Just 42’s licence to occupy the premises – possibly in case it was necessary to give them speedy notice to quit! This decision was not declared by officers. This culture of secrecy also meant that plans and proposals were being discussed and taken forward as far as actual physical paper plans for the development in question ( I have copies ) without any reference to the occupants, the users, the elected councillors at all levels and the people of Woodbridge as a whole.
I took my concerns to the most senior officer in SCC – Chief Executive Deborah Cadman, who investigated the matter. She assures me that officers will never in the future make decisions without involving local elected representatives to the full. We have been told that Woodbridge Youth Centre is now safe and that any discussion about its long-term future will involve all stakeholders, which jolly well includes our elected councillors.
My Woodbridge locality officer – in collaboration with Emma Smith of SCC – arranged the first WYC stakeholders meeting last week – and I was delighted to see both Town and District council represented.
Speed restrictions in Woodbridge I asked the following question at March 14th Full Council:
A 20-year longitudinal study of 20mph limits found that an extra 10mph off the current road limit reduced casualties by 42 percent, as well as reducing pollution, and promoting cycling, walking and local shopping. This is because only one in 40 pedestrians hit by a vehicle at 20mph die, compared to the figure of one in five when hit at 30mph
New guidance, issued by the Department of Transport, sets out the criteria for a reduction in speed limits which safety campaigns believe could reduce child pedestrian ksi by as much as 70 per cent. The Government is urging councils to cut speed limits to 20mph in residential and urban areas and built-up village streets. The guidance is expected to result in a significant national increase in the number of 20mph zones – as well as more rural 40mph zones. More than half of local councils are keeping up with the times in this respect: reversing decades of policy which prioritised motor vehicles over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Islington Council which has limited all of its managed roads to 20mph, claims a 65 per cent fall in accidents in its 20mph areas.
Earlier this year, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for roads and transport disbanded the team that dealt with routine requests for speed limit extensions in the county and put a freeze on implementing new speed restriction zones on the grounds that Suffolk already had enough speed restrictions in place, and following a review of A and B class roads, he was confident speed limits complied with the “most up to date guidance” from the Department for Transport.
As this is clearly no longer the case can he inform us what he is doing urgently to reverse this decision and give many Suffolk communities the opportunity they have asked for in vain – in Woodbridge’s case, since 2010
Locality Budget/Quality of Life budgets for Woodbridge All my Locality budget money has been spent on a nice broad spread of local projects. To prevent any claw-back to SCC – which is what happens to any money uncommitted or returned at the end of the electoral cycle – I have asked the Locality Budget Officer to add any such into the Elmhurst Park funding.
And at least four of the QoL road schemes I have been working on over the last couple of years are all finally coming to fruition within this electoral cycle.These are,
- new signage to prevent HGVs trying to get to the town centre via Angel Lane;
- sighns and lines slowing traffic on Cemetery Lane;
- calming Sandy Lane with pedestrian and cyclist warning signs at each end and at the railway bridge, and white edge markings throughout for pedestrians to walk behind. These would also give warning of the road edge at night which will be very useful, particularly to cyclists
- more cycle racks – removing the three at Cafe Nero (which are expensive to match) up to Shire Hall, and putting five new matching ones down at Cafe Nero.
The only one that will not be at least started before the upcoming electoral moratorium is the new sign at the entrance to Cumberland Street from cross corner, forbidding all vehicles except bicycles.
February Cabinet decisions The February Cabinet on the 26th, contained a number of significant issues for residents across the County. Some of the issues that were discussed and agreed were;
- East Anglia ONE Offshore windfarm – SCC’s response to the consultation of this application which will see a significant section of the power cables from the windfarm come ashore and be buried underground travelling from Felixstowe to Bramford. I have blogged on this http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2013/02/28/ea-one-offshore-windfarm-implications-for-deben-estuary-countryside/ and submitted a response suggesting amelioration, and querying why this plan has abandoned the original notion of putting the cabling UP the estuary.
- Procurement of Highways Services – after the debacle of their previous procurement of a preferred bidder, the Cabinet agreed to negotiate extensions to the current highways contract up to the 30th September, and proceed with awarding a new highways contract to the joint venture between May Gurney & WSP UK Ltd which will commence on the 1st of October.
I asked them what would happen should this preferred bidder fall through, and they said this was ‘very unlikely’ – which is what they said when I asked them last time bout the first ‘preferred bidder’, Balfour Beattie.
- bringing the Councils customer service function back into the Council (from CSD) as of May 2014. This includes public access and Customer First functions.
Stowmarket and Stowupland SOR SCC Cabinet made the decision on 26th of February to abolish the middle schools in Stowmarket and Stowupland. The Liberal Democrats attempted to get the decision called into the Scrutiny Committee as we felt the justification for making this decision was flawed. We were particularly concerned about the lack of funding to provide top class schools in this area, as the plans will see a split site school created in Stowmarket. We also highlighted the contrasting statistics provided by the Council and the campaign group to support opposing cases, as well as issues over safety.
The call in was rejected on the grounds that the Cabinet had all the required information to hand, which means the decision has now been approved. The Lib Dem group are disappointed that an opportunity to look again at such a large issue to which so many parents and pupils feel passionately about has been refused.
This is particularly so when national governmental policy appears now to be turning in favour of a three-tier system again
What happens to your recycled items? The Suffolk Waste Partnership has produced a very interesting document, which highlights what happens to the waste that we recycle here in Suffolk. This PDF includes information about how many tonnes of waste are recycled in each category, where the waste ends up, and the fact that as a County we recycle 53.2% of our waste. http://www.greensuffolk.org/assets/Recycling/Where-It-Goes/2011-12-End-Destination-Register-v5.pdf