Tag Archives: Suffolk County Council

Whats been happening in Suffolk over the summer

Home to school transport  Central government have made changes  to the age of statutory education.  It is now  compulsory to stay in education or training until you are 17 – and shortly it will be 18. These are impacting on poorer students who have to travel to college, as Suffolk’s free home to school transport policy  (as indeedthe  national home to school transport  policy) only covers students up to 16 years old.  Over 16s can avail themselves of a discretionary – paid – option but it costs £540 a year. Currently the SCC Administration are taking the line that the Endeavour card (offering 1/3 off available journeys  by some operators) will cover the problem, and that there are Bursaries to help the needy.  I do not think this is an adequate response and  I will be taking this up as a matter of urgency.

The Milestone in Woodbridge's Thoroughfare
The Milestone in Woodbridge’s Thoroughfare

Historic milestone lost – and found  The Thoroughfare Milestone outside John Ives was reported to me as  missing by an anxious local historian and nobody seemed to know where it had gone. We were for a short time worried that it might be a case of vandalism or theft. Luckily some nifty detective work by Woodbridge Town Council’s very own Kay Yule and myself has traced it to the depot in Melton and we expect it to be returned shortly.

Planning Application next to Dukes Park  I have had a lot of emails of concern from residents about the planning application to build housing on the field next to Dukes Park.As this is also the site through which the EA One underground high tension cabling is due to be routedI contacted the EA ONE  link officer at Suffolk County Council for definitive information on the separation necessary between  housing development and underground high tension cables.  You can find his brief resume of the status quo and implications on my blog : http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2014/07/26/dukes-park-and-east-anglia-one/

Travellers Sites Suffolk County Council has abandoned a public consultation on where to create three official Gypsy and Traveller stopping sites. The consultation identified seven potential sites – with the aim of selecting three in the areas where unauthorised encampments usually occur. However, following a number of landowners coming forward with other potential sites and early feedback from councillors and residents, Suffolk’s council and policing leaders decided to halt and reconsider. The sites were:

      • Layby off A143 opposite Shepherds Lane, Wortham
      • Land between Candlet Road and Treetops, Felixstowe
      • Layby on Felixstowe Road, Levington, south of junction with Bridge Road
      • Former Little Chef site, Kentford, between Bury Road and A14
      • Former Chippings Dump, Upthorpe Road, Stanton
      • Former Little Chef site, off A14 by the Orwell Bridge
      • A140 junction with Castleton Way, Yaxley.

Restoration of Woodbridge – Ipswich Sunday Service  Just to reiterate that from the 20th July a Sunday/Bank Holiday bus service has resumed allowing car-free travel between Woodbridge and Ipswich.  Suffolk County Council is sponsoring 3 return services a day between Woodbridge and Ipswich. As you know I have ben fighting for this since the  last was so disgracefully  discontinued at two weeks notice to us, the passengers, back in 2011.

The Sunday 65b will allow car free journeys to visit hospital and help young people get out on their own. It will be a boon for all people who can’t- or can’t afford to – drive. And its obviously a big boost for tourism. It is only guaranteed until the end of 2014 – after that, it depends on numbers – so it’s a case of use it or lose it!

65 b Sunday Bus Service                                         Key Stops

Woodbridge Turban Centre                             10.35               14.20               17.20
Woodbridge Pembroke Avenue                      10.40               14.25               17.25
Martlesham Black Tiles                                    10.47               14.32               17.32
Ipswich Hospital (adj)                                      10.57               14.42               17.42
Ipswich Tower Ramparts                                 11.09               14.54               17.54

Ipswich Old Cattle Market (Stand B)            10.00              13.45               16.45
Ipswich Hospital (nr)                                       10.11                13.56               16.56
Martlesham Black Tiles                                   10.21               14.06               17.06
Woodbridge Pembroke Avenue                     10.27               14.12                17.12
Woodbridge Turban Centre                            10.32               14.17               17.17

Suffolk Conservatives fail Suffolk’s children

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.

suffolk gcses

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!

 

 

Town Council report July 2011

This  month’s report deals with the long-anticipated  departure of Suffolk’s Chief Executive, the Library scrutiny, my proposed motion re concessionary travel passes to next full council and a few words about a telecom mast…

Departure of SCC Chief Executive

Last week finally saw the departure of Chief Executive Andrea Hill from  Suffolk County Council.  I’m giving you the County Council statement in full:

“The Dismissals and Appeals Committee of Suffolk County Council has today (4 July 2011) concluded its investigation into the ‘whistle-blowing’ allegations made against Chief Executive, Andrea Hill.

“Bullying and harassment allegations were robustly investigated by an independent firm of solicitors. Although it remains a concern that such a perception existed, the Committee is satisfied that there was no evidence to support those claims or that she was responsible for the death of David White (former Head of Legal Services). The Committee wants to reassure staff that all allegations are treated extremely seriously.

“The Committee also received a report into Mrs Hill’s expense claims during her tenure as Chief Executive.  It has concluded that whilst there were undoubtedly claims which, in the current climate, might not represent best use of public money, the Committee accepted that there was no dishonesty in the claims made.

“Following a lengthy discussion last Friday, and negotiations between representatives of both parties over the weekend, the county council can now confirm that Mrs Hill will be leaving her post with immediate effect.

“There has been significant media attention attached to Mrs Hill which has become a distraction and both parties accept that with new political leadership of Suffolk County Council in place, it is better to allow the organisation to move forward with new managerial leadership.

“The county council would like to thank Mrs Hill for all she has done over the past three years and wish her well for her future.

“The total value of compensation to be paid to Mrs Hill is £218,592.  This figure includes her contractual notice period.”

Until a new appointment is made, Lucy Robinson will continue to stand in as interim Chief Executive.

Mrs Hill’s appointment and salary package were not ratified unanimously by the council: my party, for example, voted against both. However, as I understand it, any future appointment will be undertaken:

  • relatively slowly
  • in a spirit of considerably greater consensus
  • without this time incurring the expense of a recruitment agency (this is not only the expense of using one, but the expense that occurs by the possible ramping up of salaries by the agency to maximise its own profit on the transaction)

These days no public sector appointment can offer a salary greater than the prime minister (about £142,000) without specific permission being sought and gained. It is  therefore expected that Suffolk’s next Chief Executive  will be paid considerably less than our last one was.

County Council – Public questions & Agenda

The next Full Council meeting will take place on the 14th of July.

At this meeting, I will personally be putting forward a motion to extend the time that concessionary bus passes can be used for free in Suffolk.  For the last months the County Council provided  only basic free travel between 9:30 and 11.  I’m proposing a start time of 9am for those those who have the concessionary pass on the basis of age, and no time limitations at all for those  who are eligible for the pass on the basis of disability.  Implementing this  – as many other County Councils do – will help increase social mobility, and allow individuals to reach places of work, socialise, and to make hospital appointments without unneccessary restriction.

In addition to this,  the petitions to Save Suffolk Libraries – amounting to well over 36,000 signatures in toto  – will be heard and spoken to.

Libraries – Scrutiny Committee Recommendations

At the last Scrutiny Committee on the 14th of June Councillors discussed the County Councils Library policy, and made a number of recommendations in order to influence the policy decision which will take place later in July at the Cabinet meeting.  The papers for this meeting have now been published, and can be found on the County Council website. I would like to draw your attention to an anomaly in the paperwork for this:  there is a graph representing responses to the consultation, but it says:

NB The chart above does not include the response “Maintain as is”. This received 3099 out of the 3893 responses and therefore made a meaningful graph-based representation with the other responses impossible

This is not the case: you can see a graph showing all responses at James Hargraves’  blog.

The full Scrutiny Committee recommendations are:

a)                   the classification of County Libraries and Community Libraries referred to in the Consultation document is not a reasonable basis for a policy;

b)                   the potential community interest company agrees individual budgets for each library;

c)                   the business case considered by Cabinet should clearly demonstrate how the community interest company service would operate across the whole of Suffolk;

d)                   that the Council retain the ability to ensure that the terms offered by the community interest company were sufficient to maintain a sustainable service;

e)                   any claims on secondary taxation from Parish, Town, District or Borough Councils be carried out on an equitable basis across Suffolk;

f)                     due consideration be given to innovative ideas that have already come forward and any others that are received  from communities on how their services might be run;

g)                   the policy on mobile libraries be clearly stated in the report to Cabinet;

h)                   the Council provide absolute clarity to communities interested in running their libraries on issues they were likely to raise such as finance, staffing and legal issues;

i)                     the Council must satisfy itself on the financial viability of the plans put forward and that they are sustainable.

j)                     further expressions of interest are welcome and will be considered.

Health Scrutiny

The county council  having cancelled the Health Scrutiny committee last year, it has now become clear that health issues are occupying a disproportionate time of the one Scrutiny committee now remaining to us. The County Council has therefore decided to reinstate the Health Scrutiny Committee, which will  be meeting  next on the 20th of July.

Woodbridge matters: proposed new telecoms mast

Delivered verbally at the meeting

I have had several concerned people talking to me about the proposal of a new telecoms mast in Old Barrack Road.  It is for a 12.5 metre mast with 4 antennae and 2 dishes on it, in a very residential area and next to a mature sycamore tree. It ts also within 100 metres of Kyson school and Kyzone playgroup.

I have talked to a couple of officers in the SCC Highways department about this and it seems that the primary problem is that the telecommunications industry have a statutory right by licence to erect masts on public highway land. (Do not ask me how this iniquitous law which appears to support private enterprise at the expense of public opinion came into force but it goes back to 1984, say no more)

This statutory right is subject to the following:

“Mobile phone companies are granted a licence by central government under the Telecommunications Act 1984 which allows them to install their equipment (masts, cabinets) within the public highway, subject to approvals outlined below:

1.  SCC (as highway authority) approvals The licence requires mobile phone companies to ensure their equipment doesn’t cause safety hazard ie to ensure the masts and cabinets do not obscure visibility at junctions or obstructions to pedestrians. The area offices provide advise as required.

2. District council (local planning authority) approvals Planning legislation requires mobile phone companies to follow a 42-day prior approval procedure before erecting masts. This requires the company to erect a notice on site and write to the district council. During this period the district council can require details of the siting and appearance of the equipment and can approve or refuse permission for the mast.

3.  Planning permission Any freestanding mast in excess of 15 metres in height requires planning permission from the district council irrespective of prior approval procedure.

From the Suffolk County Council angle, therefore, one can only make an objection to the siting of the mast if it is considered that the siting of the mobile mast causes a traffic risk. I asked the SCC officers’ opinion  on this, and their opinion was that it did not, although maybe local residents with a greater understanding of living in the area might be able to prove differently. I am very happy to broker any concerns

However, you may notice points 2 and 3 which is where Suffolk Coastal District Council come into the picture as the local planning authority. I don’t know how far down the route this has gone.  I notice that SCDC has to grant planning permission for the mast to go up, in addition to  the prior approval procedure.

Southwold – O we do like to BMW beside the seaside!

So Southwold is going to address the problems of summer traffic congestion – by banning the few remaining buses that go near the high street???

I kid you not!

Not content with Beeching’s vandalism of the train service, this car-friendly,  car-crammed, car addicted resort is now pandering to the  needs of the visiting 4x4s that it clearly prefers to any concept of greenness, sustainable transport,  car-free shopping etc etc.  And  – surprise, surprise – Suffolk County Council – the supposedly Greenest county – is backing them.

The EADT tells us that

“In an experimental attempt to ease congestion in Southwold High Street during the summer months, Suffolk County Council and Southwold Town Council will temporarily move a bus stop outside Chapman newsagents to the King’s Head pub in a bid to stop large vehicles clogging up the narrow shopping strip.” adding that
While businesses opposed to the plan believe it will harm trade and discourage shoppers, supporters claim it is a sensible way to improve the notoriously bad traffic which plagues the town every summer”

Large vehicles? notoriously bad traffic?  As a regular summer visitor supporting the traders of Southwold (by foot and bicycle) I should coco!   But it isn’t the rare and lesser spotted bus that is to blame. Southwold needs to look first and foremost at the army of 4x4s that block the narrow shopping streets; that  ‘wait’ or  park illegally without thought or consideration for others wherever its most convenient for the driver to do their shopping with the minimum of legwork; that  surround and invade the green spaces, and that by their very numbers befoul the healthy seaside air  so  much more than the occasional bus could ever do.

Southwold and District’s  Safer Neighbourhood Team’s  current top priorities  include  dealing with Unlawful parking in Southwold. It doesn’t take an Einstein to recognise that unlawful parking in the high street can  cause congestion – but its hardly a problem with buses, is it?

And if  – IF – the bus slows you down, who is it  actually slowing? Does it slow you as a pedestrian? as a cyclist? No, it only slows you as  the  occupant of one of the very 4x4s that  cause the problem to begin with!

Less cars and more buses is the obvious answer – but Suffolk – and most particularly Suffolk County Council’s current administration – are reluctant to accept this obvious truth. Why? Well amongst other defences for innate laziness and selfishness, Suffolk postulates that its thinly populated rural status makes an efficient public transport service impossible.

Really? I have just come back from a family reunion. Rural Norway is very (very very) expensive in comparison with the UK, and very thinly populated: 31 people per square mile  as opposed to Suffolk’s 490.  And guess what –  public transport in Norway is cheap, efficient, effective, integrated and runs late into the night.

The difference is that, unlike the people who run Suffolk –  Norwegians want a public transport service, to make sure that everyone can travel in safety and comfort.  The fact that anyone caught driving with any alcohol in their system goes directly to hard labour in  jail must focus the mind wonderfully! Its easy to cut down on drunk driving if you’re not allowed to drink and drive – and suitable alternatives are to hand.

When is this county going to wake up at long last and recognise once and for all that its divisive, narrow-minded, unprogressive and frankly silly desire to accommodate the needs of the selfish motorist at the expense of the unselfish others must now stop?

Caring or care-less?

SCC has now decided to sell its care homes ‘as going concerns’ – or so we heard last month.

Very much  better than the original suggestion of choice which had an indefinable suggestion of  ‘prime building site in desirable location’ about it. Indeed – now that management buy-outs from existing staff are no longer  excluded – it could result in little noticeable chance for the people of Suffolk, and particularly the residents. This is to be welcomed.

But where does all SCC’s past rhetoric about the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the private sector sit with the downfall of Southern Cross, the UK’s largest private care provider?

Southern Cross is Britain’s biggest care homes operator, with 750 homes – eight of which are in Suffolk. It is currently teetering on the brink of financial collapse as it struggles to pay the rent for what the portfolio-holder for Adult Care Services would describe as its  ‘cost-effective care homes’.  But as Southern Cross strikes  a deal with its landlords in a last-ditch attempt to avoid bankruptcy, we haven’t heard too much from its creditors about its efficiency and cost-effectiveness .

Indeed, Age UK has been quoted as saying

“In future, we would like to see all home care providers having to demonstrate to regulators a solid business model. Without this they should not be able to run care homes. The sector would benefit from greater transparency.”

So it seems that all that past New Strategic Direction bombast  from Suffolk’s Tory Cabinet  about how the private sector was so much more  efficient in the care of the elderly was based on a system with no requirement for transparency or a solid business model.

Why doesn’t that surprise me?