Replies to Lib Dem Councillors’ questions, July 2013

Below are the questions your Lib Dem Councillors tabled at July’s Full Council together with the appropriate  Cabinet member’s reply (plus supplementary question and response where appropriate). They have been transcribed from the official audio recording

Most unfortunately, John Field’s question, in relation to the Great Blakenham incinerator – although submitted correctly, and acknowledged as such by the Suffolk County Council Monitoring Officer – disappeared from the Full Council agenda and therefore was neither asked nor answered.

To remind you, it was:

1.  John Field to Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste and Economic Development  (Richard Smith)

The “Escape” study published in the Lancet Oncology journal indicated substantial increases in Lung Cancer at levels of PM2.5 and PM10 pollution significantly below the EEC recommended limits.  A second study from Nicholas Mills also in the Lancet  linked heart failure rates to PM2.5 and PM10 pollution.  These studies raise concern in the population local to the incinerator under construction in Gt Blakenham whose emissions are designed to meet European standards.  While I don’t wish to be alarmist these new studies warrant attention.

Will the Cabinet member ensure that the implications of these reports for my division and the wider area are studied thoroughly and reported to councillors and local people?

An answer to this question would be welcomed.

The other questions were:

2. Penny Otton  to Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Young People (Lisa Chambers )  “It has been reported that many primary schools have overcrowded classrooms, i.e; there are more than 30 pupils in a class. In which schools in Suffolk does this occur?”

Cllr Chambers’ response :  “There is legislation on the size of infant classes: In infant classes there should be no more than 30 children to a single teacher. There are however permitted exceptions for example; to allow twins to be in the same class, or when a pier panel puts children in a school above the planned intake, or when the child receives a statement of special educational need which names the school. The number of infant classes where there has been more than 30 pupils is reported to the department of education by schools every January. This year there were 15 schools in Suffolk where an infant class exceeded 30. In all but one of these cases, additional pupils fell into one of the permissible categories. After changes at one school, none of its infant classes are now above 30.”

Penny Otten – Supplementary Question: “Following on from this, it seems like the Minister Michael Gove has now scrapped the automatic right for 4 year olds to be given a full-time space in school. If this happens in Suffolk, how will you react to that drastic change in school policy?”

Cllr Chambers – Supplementary Response: “This is something I will look into and will take up with the admissions team over the next few weeks. I am happy to respond to you in writing once I have established the full facts.”

Cllr Chambers’ written answer supplied as follows:  The Local Authority has had notification from the Secretary of State, of a change made or an intention to make a change to remove the entitlement to a ‘full time’ school place for  every 4 year old child.   Therefore we are continuing to work on the basis that a full time place is the entitlement.

If the Secretary of State was to remove this requirement then it could have the effect of increasing capacity in primary school places.

In Suffolk the current primary place strategy does and will continue to provide adequate places in primary schools for Suffolk children.  Cabinet has approved a number of capital projects to expand primary schools over proceeding years. The most recent being the Ipswich expansion at the last Cabinet.  Suffolk is not in the same position as some other parts of the country, particularly areas in London, where there is very considerable pressure on primary places.

The Annual School Organisation Plan which sets out how we are planning for places and the projections we use will be presented to scrutiny over the coming months when it is finalised and this will provide a further opportunity for debate.

I assume that your questions at council was generated by the press coverage that morning relating to the Bournemouth case, which has raised questions about the clarity of 2012 admissions code guidance for Local Authorities in respect of the entitlement of a full time place for every 4 year old.  This doesn’t appear at this stage, however, to be a changing government policy and the DfE are remaining quiet at the moment.

3. Inga Lockington to Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Care  (Alan Murray) : “Within the Council’s policy of maintaining dependent people in the Community, could the Portfolio Holder let us know how many assessed Suffolk residents are in receipt of high dependency care packages at home ie. at least two carer visits 4 times a day (or the equivalent Budget) and how does this compare with the same time in 2012 & 2011.”

Cllr Murray Response: “The comparative figures for June are 688, 617, and 598”

Inga Lockington Supplementary Question: “Has there been any change to the assessment criteria over these last few years?

Cllr Murray Supplementary Response: “The answer to that is quite complex, and the assessment criteria are constantly under review, and I would have to (as I am a relatively new boy here) ask for a full response from my officers, but in the complex situation we are, with new CCG’s, hospitals in crisis, ambulances in crisis, it is something we keep under a very accurate review”

Cllr Murray’s further written response  “I can confirm in writing that the assessment criteria for social care support in Suffolk have not changed over the past three years – they remain substantial and critical.”

Best regards,


4.  Caroline Page to Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport (Graham Newman): “Public transport is an essential part of supporting the welfare of the county, particularly in rural areas. It is coming under increasing pressure and is failing to meet the needs at the time when Suffolk needs it most. When is Cllr Newman going to pressure national government to alter the ridiculous ethos of so-called ‘competition’ which has caused deregulated buses to provide such a terrible service to the people of the Suffolk countryside, over the past decades?”

Cllr Newman Response: “I’m a strong supporter of public transport services in Suffolk. I wish to see more effective coordination of services. The government clearly set out its position in March 2012, in its full response to the competition commission report; ‘Local Bus Service Market Investigation’.
I believe the focus of our efforts should now be on working with the commercial sector to improve the availability and the affordability of transport, particularly to support young people to continue to learn and take their first steps into employment. I therefore welcome the cooperation of the commercial sector in developing our new ‘Endeavour Card’ for young people, and hope that we can build on this relationship to further improve services without unaffordable financial support, in this county council. As Cllr Page will know*, we are meeting with Therese Coffey MP, to discuss these very issues, and indeed I have previously discussed them informally with Dr. Coffey.”

* Caroline Page:  This was actually news to me  – though very welcome news, particularly as Dr Coffey has not so far answered the specific points I raised with her in June concerning this subject, although she has replied to my letter.


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