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Suffolk County Council: Bosmere By-Election

Due to the untimely death of Cllr Ann Whybrow, a by-election will be held on Thursday, October 25th for Suffolk’s Bosmere division.

Our candidate is Steve Phillips.

Steve will aim to carry on the active and successful record of representing you, set by Ros Scott and Julia Truelove, your previous Liberal Democrat Councillors.  We  hope to meet your needs again with a hard working Liberal Democrat.

Steve’s Background

Steve says:  ‘I am looking forward to serving you in Bosmere as a County Councillor and hope you will elect me on the 25th.

I have been a Town Councillor for 20 years and have served as Town Mayor/Chairman of Needham Market Town Council on two occasions. During that time, I have regularly fought for issues within the Town, for example improved facilities for Crowley Park playing field, so I have a good track record.

I have listened and responded to individuals’ concerns and helped promote local community projects.  I have helped to run the young persons’ football club in Ringshall and got to know many of the residents and their children.

I take a keen interest in our surrounding villages and getting things done. I have attended Parish meetings, visited local community shops and attended coffee mornings, as a member of the public.  If you choose to elect me I will regularly attend Parish Council meetings as your County Councillor to ensure I keep closely in touch with your needs and views.

I will also keep in touch via email and social media, our www site and by producing regular “Focus” leaflets

As a family man with 5 children, now grown up, I have maintained a continuing interest in education and this will  be of special interest if elected as your County Councillor.

Above all, I have tried to treat people fairly and hope to continue the trust placed in me.’

Current Issues

Every year the County Council is cutting back our vital services, shifting the burden onto voluntary groups and increasing charges without weighing up the impact on vulnerable people.  They are responding to cuts in government funding but for several years have made “savings” sufficient to add to the reserves, which in total are over £150 million.

Health and adult social care is in crisis and many elderly people in the UK are not receiving the care and support they need. This has a severe impact on the NHS.
We believe cuts to health and adult social care, public transport, libraries, affordable housing, schools, road maintenance and the necessary infrastructure to support housing growth have gone too far.

Steve says  “If these are things that you feel as passionate about as I do, please give me your vote so that I can challenge this Tory Council on your behalf. Your vote is important not only to you but to shape your Town or Village –  so please vote for me on Thursday 25th October and together we can make a difference.”

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Liberal Democrat Response to the Budget and the Labour Amendment 2017

Yesterday saw the setting of the County Budget for 2017-18. With an election in May this was always a day when we would emphasise the difference between the parties and it did not disappoint.  The was lots of Conservative emphasis on keeping spend down and how they have amassed large reserves over the past seven years.  Labour wanted to spend to preserve services and give the residents of Suffolk what they need.   We felt the Conservatives were cutting too hard but Labour were spending at the top limit of what would be possible.

My approach -on behalf of the LibDeb group- is below, seeking to use the resources available but not take unreasonable risks.  In the end the administration carried the day and a further £30 million will be cut from services.

John Field: Deputy Leader of Suffolk Lib Dem Group & County Councillor for Gipping Valley

Continue reading Liberal Democrat Response to the Budget and the Labour Amendment 2017

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Europe: The Benefits of Staying IN

Prosperity:

Remaining in works for Britain. Britain is already stronger and better off trading and working with Europe. We are part of the world’s largest single market, allowing British businesses to grow and prosper.

Peace:

After decades of brutal conflict, European nations came together in cooperation. To this day, neighbours and allies support each other in what remains the world’s most successful project in peace.

Opportunity:

British people have more opportunities to work, travel and learn than ever before. Staying in Europe gives our children and grandchildren greater prospects, and the best chance to succeed.

Environment:

Protecting the natural environment remains one of the planet’s biggest challenges, for health, for food stocks and for climate change. These problems are tackled better when we all come together.

Security:

Together we are stronger against terrorists who despise our liberal and modern way of life. And together we can break the criminal gangs who threaten our country with the illegal drugs trade, weapons and human trafficking.

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What does the EU do for you?

Ensure Your Safety

European Arrest Warrant:          criminal suspects can be easily extradited from EU countries back to the UK, putting an end to the days of the “Costa del Crime”.

Europol:            The EU’s crime-fighting body, helps British police exchange crucial information and coordinate investigations including Operation Rescue which smashed the world’s largest paedophile network.

Counter-Terrorism:           Close coordination across EU is vital in the fight against terrorism. The EU is stepping up cooperation between national governments to tackle the financing of terrorism, crack down on the trafficking of firearms and exchange information on known terrorist threats.

Create Your Opportunities

Freedom:         Around 2.2 m people live, work or study abroad with no need for visas and 15,000 British students take advantage of Erasmus each year.

Investment in research:      British universities receive millions in research funding each year – more than any other EU country.

Saving You Money:                From cheaper flights to lower roaming charges the single market saves the average household £3,000 each year.

Protect Your Environment

Biodiversity:            Endangered species in the UK such as the golden eagle and otter are given strong protections through EU laws.

Energy Efficiency:       EU energy and fuel efficiency laws are good for the planet and cut bills. EU energy efficiency legislation will save consumers £500/ year by 2020.

Air Pollution:            EU limits are crucial to reduce air pollution, which causes at least 29,000 early deaths in the UK/ each year. Over one third of the most harmful pollutants in the UK come from abroad.

Secure Your Peace

The EU’s original foundations can be found in peace-keeping among European countries.

By working with fellow international bodies such as the UN, the EU has played a leading role in promoting peace worldwide.

Defend Your Rights

Anti-Discrimination:      EU laws prevent you from being unfairly discriminated on the grounds of ethnicity, disability, age or sexuality.

Workers’ rights:       Employees are given a minimum of 4 weeks paid leave a year and cannot be forced to work more than 48 a week.

Victims’ rights:        UK citizens who fall victim to a crime when travelling in the EU are guaranteed a set of minimum rights thanks to EU law, including translation, protection and compensation.

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Europe: Keep Britain IN

InIn Europe, Britain can thrive. Together we will be a stronger and more prosperous nation, creating opportunity for future generations, respected all over the world.

Together we created the world’s largest free trade area, we delivered peace, and we gave the British people the opportunity to live, work and travel freely. History shows that Britain is better when it is united with Europe.

Together we are stronger in the fight against the global problems that don’t stop at borders. We can stop international crime, we can fight climate change, and together we will provide hope and opportunity for the future.

It is not the time to turn our backs on Europe, leaving us isolated, sidelined and alone.

By voting to remain in, Britain can thrive.

Together we show the world an open, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of.

Join the Liberal Democrat campaign today, to remain in together, and to stand up for the type of Britain you think we should be.

www.libdems.org.uk/europe

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How the EU Works

European Parliament

765 members (MEPs)
from 28 Member States

Directly elected
by EU citizens every 5 years

Approves the EU budget, legislation and suggests changes to the Law

 

 

 

⇐WORK⇒ TOGETHER

Council of the EU

Heads of State (EU Council) and Ministers from National Governments

Responsible for the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Sets EU agenda

Approves EU budgets and legislation

                        
PROPOSES LEGISLATION

European Commission

(EU Civil Service)

28 Commissioners appointed for 5 years from each member country

Proposes Legislation

Makes Sure EU Laws are implemented

Manages EU Budget

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Sufffolk LibDem Budget Statement 2016: Support for sensible use of reserves

Suffolk County Council’s burget proposed  cuts amounting to £34.4m –  leading to a budget requirement of £445,659,553.  With all these cuts the budget still  increased council tax by 2% – though in a figleaf to the administration’s electoral promise to freeze council tax for the entire electoral period this was worded as “”The budget is based on a freeze… but includes a 2% precept to fund Adult Social Care…”

The Lib Dems supported  a Labour amendment that tried to ameliorate – indeed turn back – the cuts. They were joined in cross-party unity with the Greens, the Independents and even UKIP. It was a tight vote but the administration squeezed through.

With this cross-party support, the Labour amendment was lost  by a  narrow margin: 32-36. The Conservatives won their budget 36-27.

LibDem deputy group leader John Field told  council:

Local councils have suffered heavily at the hands of the chancellor as he tries to reduce the deficit that the bankers generated.  The County finances are challenged but since 2011 reserves have increase steadily to £140.5 m with £36.9 m in the contingency reserve.  This is money “for a rainy day” not spent boosting the economy or protecting vulnerable people.

The government is now assuming that councils raise council tax by 1.7% per year –  and, if they deal with social care, another 2% on top of that.  If they don’t do this their spending power will fall. There will be no more Pickles grants for keeping tax rises at zero.   As I see it that leaves Suffolk County Council  as a tax cutting administration in a pickle.  Raise tax by just 2% and your resources decrease.  Raise it by 3.7% as the government is assuming and you break your pledge of zero rises.  Do you square the circle by “managing demand”, is it “Transformation” or “Demand Management” locking the door so people can’t get in?

We believe that there must be a continual activity where services are re-engineered to reduce unnecessary process steps and to seize the possibilities offered by technological change.

However, we receive anecdotal information that the vulnerable are steadily receiving reduced service. We believe that we need proof that front line services are being preserved.  The need for continual “demand management” implies they are not.  When people do not get the care they need and the knock on effect on the NHS is substantial.

There are sound reasons for reserves but there is no need to grow them endlessly.  The proposal within the amendment to use a sum equal to the recent growth to support services is a rational choice.  We will no doubt be reminded that reserves can only be used once, obviously true but there is no proposal to spend all the £140.5 m in one period of excess or even all the £36.9 m in the contingency reserve.  The proposals in the amendment appear sound; the proposal to reinstate this selection of your cuts is socially responsible.

Many of the cuts that would be reversed not only meet the needs of the vulnerable but also increase economic growth or reduce costs like those of the delayed transfer of care.  They will reduce spend elsewhere in budgets throughout the public sector.  Those savings are far harder to measure than the administrations cuts but nevertheless are real.

It is your choice to build reserves and endlessly reduce service or to meet need.  You cast yourselves as heroes dealing with adversity but just deliver cuts to the disadvantaged and the vulnerable.    For these reasons we support the Labour amendment.

Caroline Page’s speech on the impact of these cuts to transport can be found here

John Field  (deputy group leader)
Caroline Page

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Suffolk gets new Community Transport model – despite reservations

Suffolk will be getting a new Community Transport model – despite reservations from opposition parties – after the  cabinet decision to tender for continuing community transport using a new structure was “called in” this month.

Community transport is the term for services like Dial a Ride that provide “on demand” transport to people no longer served by scheduled buses or trains. Over recent years the Conservative administration have increasingly replaced scheduled bus services in rural areas of Suffolk with community transport, but delivery has remained patchy disparate and problematic.  A variety of these services have operated under various brands serving different communities and specific user-groups although their vehicles have been provided by the county and the services largely specified by county officers. Often people have had little idea of availability and there has been large areas of unmet need – particularly in the area of young person’s travel , regular travel to employment, weekend and evening travel, and same day travel.

Under the new proposal,  seven contracts would be let (one per district council). This would ensure people would easily know who they should phone to book a journey and allow for greater flexibility of provision.  The problem with that is that people often travel from one district to another to visit the hospital or shop in a major town.

The proposal is that  current vehicles will  be sold to the providers, a move that would allow a wider range of customers to be served.  When the county owns vehicles, providers cannot use them to provide services if that would compete with commercial services. That would involve the state subsidising one service to compete against another.

Another advantage will be that they can then select vehicles to meet the need as they see it rather than having to use what the county provides.

The county hopes that this will allow competition for services such as some forms of home-to-school transport that will use the assets more intensively.

So why was this proposal called in by the Labour group?  Well, there were five reasons but we  LibDems thought the most significant was financial.

The intention was that, not only would the county no longer provide free vehicles saving it some some £570k (which largely voluntary bodies would have to find) but also it would reduce the subsidy from £1.4m to £700k over the next four years.  Increased revenue from the new freedom to provide services was supposed to compensate for this significant cut.

Scrutiny believed it more likely that, although the providers would survive, using their new freedoms and their vehicles to provide the county with alternative sources of transport (for instance home to school services) others would suffer.  Many services to people without other transport options would be unlikely to be supported by the new lower county contribution – and will be cut.  And as the new contract is deliberately non-specific, the County could  claim this is a matter outside its control.

We referred the decision back to cabinet but in a very brief process which allowed no comment from other councillors they dismissed the reasoning of the cross party scrutiny committee and decided there would be no change.

So much for democracy!

John Field
Caroline Page

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Suffolk Schools – two- and three-tier education

Penny Otton SCCI am of course extremely pleased to learn that education results in Suffolk are at last beginning to improve.

However to still be so near the bottom of the table is not only disturbing , but  ironic,  in that two of the best performing secondary schools in the County are in Bury St. Edmunds, where there is still a three tier school system.

Conservatives in Suffolk have spent an undeclared amount – which must run into tens of millions of pounds – on reorganising from three to two tier schooling.

The independent report by Ofsted last year on Suffolk schools  gave a damning verdict on the council’s performance of supporting county run schools and challenging academies, stating  “The Local Authority arrangements for supporting school improvement are ineffective.”

At the very start of the schools reorganisation Liberal Democrat councillors warned that the benefits would be minimal –  as poor school performance was related to deprivation not school structure.  Year on year we challenged Conservative cuts to the funding for school improvement. They seemed hell-bent on continuing with this very costly process, whilst Suffolk plummeted down the national education league tables.

A whole generation of school children have now been through Suffolk schools that have failed to improve . Perhaps those in charge should pause now to reflect on where the time , money and expertise would have been better spent.

Penny Otton

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