All posts by Caroline Page

LibDems win Hadleigh by-election

After the Hadleigh by -election the Suffolk County Lib Dems have a new  County Councillor. Congratulations, Cllr Trevor Sheldrick!

Hadleigh  by-election figures showed a large LibDem gain, a smaller Labour one, with losses for the Conservative and UKIP vote. The votes cast and percentage vote for each party:

LibDem: 642    – 36.2%  (+12.0)
CON: 460   – 25.9% (-5.6)
LAB: 397   – 22.4% (+5.8)
UKIP: 204   -11.5% (-11.3)
GRN: 70   – 3.9% (-0.9)

LibDem GAIN from Con.

This mean that the Conservatives have finally lost control of Suffolk County Council. The balance is now: 37 Con, 15 Lab, 10 UKIP, 8 LibDem, 3 Ind, 2 Grn

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Lib Dems – giving Hadleigh a voice!

IMG_20160903_104759 blog
Cllrs Dave Busby and Caroline Page kickstarting the Hadleigh by-election campaign this weekend

Following  the long-overdue resignation of Suffolk’s most shameless county councillor -the non-resident Brian Riley – Suffolk Lib Dems are campaigning to give back to Hadleigh residents  the  quality representation they enjoyed with their previous County  Councillor, Lib Dem David Grutchfield.

So what exactly has Brian Riley cost us,  the people of Suffolk?

“Well, since he moved to America eighteen months ago, he’s continued to claim his County Councillor’s  allowance . Then there’s the cost of this by-election forced on the county by him failing to attend even  one  council meeting every six months and so  being obliged to stand down. That’s about £25,000, and for what?  To represent his residents? To represent the great town of Hadleigh?  It doesn’t looks like it!   And in addition he has helped keep this service-cutting Tory county council in power,”  says  David Busby, County Councillor of neighbouring Belstead division.

“You just have to compare Mr Riley’s lackadaisical performance  with that of the previous incumbent – David Grutchfield, ‘Mr Hadleigh,’ – who gave 24 years of his life to help the people and town of Hadleigh.  It’s clear that Lib Dem councillors  step up to the plate, take their responsibilities to their constituents seriously, and are not obsessed by the power drug.”

The LibDem candidate for this by-election is Trevor Sheldrick , who has already shown a long track-record of dedication and service to Hadleigh  and its residents. Trevor has been 10 years on the town council and is currently the Mayor of Hadleigh. As well as  a community speedwatch volunteer,  he’s a First Responder- one of that band of amazing volunteer paramedics who arrive before the ambulance to keep you alive.

Its time to get back to having a ‘real’ councillor representing Hadleigh – you deserve it!

Dave Busby
Caroline Page

Published and promoted by D Busby on behalf of T Sheldrick (Liberal Democrats) both at 16 Two Acres, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich IP9 2XP

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Suffolk Devolution

At the Suffolk Devolution debate this month, councillors broke party lines to speak and vote their mind. The Suffolk Lib Dem group were among 20 county councillors who – after much thought -opposed  the offered Devolution deal (despite personal support for the concept of Devolution). While we approve of giving local authorities more control over spending,  this proposal leaves much  of the crucial decision-making with the government.

However a 2/3 majority  decided that Suffolk should now move to public consultation. Councillors and Officers see this as an opportunity to take control of a wider range of services including aspects of health and social care integration.

Combined Authority & Mayor A “Combined Authority” headed by a locally elected Mayor would be in control, supported by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership ( incorporating unelected business leaders) to deliver the devolved services in Suffolk and Norfolk ( in effect a fourth tier of Local Government) The Mayor would have a deputy and a small but senior officer group. The Mayor would work with the leaders of the constituent authorities, the County, District and Borough Councils.

Many of us are concerned that the Mayor, elected by around 15% of the population working with leaders, or representatives from just the largest parties in constituent authorities would represent only some 30% of the population.  The very real fear is that people’s belief that they are not represented and that their views don’t count will be confirmed.

Concerns: Our concerns were:

  • the clear democratic deficit  this devolution deal will offer – an overarching authority will consist of one member from every council (probably the leader);
  • the thorny question of an elected Mayor for each county (and all the extra bureaucracy that would go with that post);
  • the relative smallness of the sums offered to Suffolk ( a single pot of £750m -£25m a year for 30 years – for Norfolk and Suffolk to invest in infrastructure, economic growth and jobs) ;
    the fact that  the Government  will still  oversee everything it wishes to oversee, but just without the responsibility, thus making the county the ‘fall guy’ for its more unpopular decisions
  • – and possibly most of all – the government’s target for Norfolk and Suffolk to build an additional 200,000  (some figures quote 240000) houses in Suffolk and Norfolk by 2031.  In Suffolk, this is the equivalent of creating 4 extra towns the size of Ipswich, or increasing every town and village by 35%. Such a magnitude of growth is not needed to satisfy local demand

The Housing Problem Suffolk badly needs specific types of housing and it is not being built. We specifically need starter homes, disability-specific housing, and accommodation for older people wanting to downsize – all for a population already living in Suffolk. (And whose needs are not being catered for). Do we need 100,000 houses(or more – the Norfolk/Suffolk split is not mentioned) and where will they go? WHo would they be fore? Our towns, roads and commuter rail are  already congested. How will our county cope with growth of this magnitude?

Having said which, Norfolk and Suffolk would at least receive £100m to invest in shared ownership housing and could use up to 15% of it for houses for social rent.  Finally, £30m to Norwich and Ipswich over five years, that is £3m a year each -about 30 houses – will be useful but hardly game changing for these two towns.

Transport The Combined Authority would also receive a single budget for public transport guaranteed for four years, replacing the numerous annual budgets that Government currently provides. This would provide certainty on funding that is currently not possible but is still just a small portion of the funding needed.  The downside is that the impact of local decisions on things like concessionary fares are difficult to predict.

Despite such reservations voiced by many, devolution was voted in by a resounding majority (40 for, 20 against, 3 abstentions, and a couple of hurried departures just before the vote…).

A public consultation including a MORI telephone poll and an online survey has opened and will remain open over the summer only. You can find it at www.eastangliadevo.co.uk/consultation/ .  It will be open for responses until 23 August.

Caroline Page
John Field

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SCC Annual Executive Statement: LibDem Response

photo: Caroline PageAfter a week when momentous change has been initiated by a referendum result that many did not expect, it feels strange to reflect on the more mundane but nevertheless important issues of the last year.

Where to begin? The financial challenge and the Council Tax?  The administration promised no rises in council tax for four years, ignoring the challenging social care needs of an increasing elderly population.  They have met those needs by outsourcing and changing services in a way that makes it difficult to be sure if all those who need our help get enough of it.

This year, after government encouragement the Conservatives have now introduced a special 2% precept -not a council tax rise – to meet the steadily increasing demand for care. We welcome the move and look forward to knowing just where this is spent.

Had the administration raised the council tax by a similar amount, we all would have been challenged by the need to find an extra £26 or so per household but it would have gone some way to fill the gap left by cuts to government grants.

A feature of the year has been the continuing, cross party, councillor discontent with the outsourced Highways contract. High design costs and slow response to the need for work makes it impossible for councillors to use our individual highways budgets to meet residents’ reasonable demands.  It increases discontent and confirms the public mistrust of politicians.  Conservatives  believe in the outsourcing model, they let the contract -can we see some effective delivery please?

In the education arena we are pleased to see Suffolk – at last – moving up from so close to the bottom of the league tables. Unfortunately, poor past performance leaves our schools at risk of forced conversion to academy status.  That is a transition many do not want but our poor management performance leaves little choice.  The academy structure in our view leaves management overhead spread across a much smaller base.  Dedicated leaders may of course produce outstanding results but the record is far from perfect.

We don’t want to be entirely critical. We applaud Conservative actions to focus intensive action on troubled families and on making every intervention count.  The campaign to recruit more foster carers was first class

We thank the administration for the way they have kept us informed as the devolution proposals developed, a pleasant example of openness and honesty. It will be good if the public get the same feeling.  However,  we will no doubt discuss the public consultation which appears to be heading for the summer holiday period.

Saving money on services like Community Transport or Park and Ride is short sighted. If the administration is so intent on new models then they  need to fully finance the transition to working services.  When we say ‘working services’ we mean working for everybody –  but in Mid Suffolk, older people will no longer be able to use their bus passes.

Dave Wood is pleased DEFRA have noted the importance of our protected landscapes and have guaranteed the grant to our AONB’s with a slight rise in funding. The county has followed suit, sadly without the increase.

One can’t close without a comment on Brexit. We have a new challenge. We are appalled that our nation is not mature enough to stick with our European friends and solve their problems. We prefer to abandon them to their fate and seek a better future in the past.  We hope that the course back to 1930 nationalistic attitudes will not lead to a spread of behaviours like those in Ukraine.

One wonders how many who believe our trade will now grow unencumbered by regulation have first-hand experience of the competence and skill of our competitors in other nations and of the international regulation that exists.

We can’t sell railways and steam engines to the empire any more. We need many more companies like ARM in Cambridge if we are to succeed. It is doubtful whether we have them.

One hopes the Conservatives the vision our new future will require, that nationally, they will stop rewarding the rich and punishing the poor who have suffered disproportionately the price of austerity. We need to get them back on side.

Where our consciences allow we LibDems will support efforts to survive and prosper in the new Great Britain, although of course we would prefer to be heading in a different direction.

John Field
Deputy Leader

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LibDems are standing for the 48%

48Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has pledged to fight the next General Election on a platform taking Britain back into Europe.

Since Britain voted for Brexit on Thursday thousands of people have joined the Liberal Democrats and all Suffolk Lib Dem groups are seeing a share of this surge.

The economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote  will affect jobs, people’s homes and livelihoods.  While accepting the result of the referendum, the Liberal Democrats plan to make the case for us to rejoin the heart of Europe.

“For many millions of people, this was not just a vote about Europe. It was a howl of anger at politicians and institutions who they felt they were out of touch and had let them down,” said  Tim .

“The British people deserve the chance not to be stuck with the appalling consequences of a Leave campaign that stoked that anger with the lies of Farage, Johnson and Gove.

“The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election on a clear promise to restore British prosperity and role in the world, with the UK in the European Union, not out.

If you agree with us, join us to make this happen.”

You can join the LibDems here

Caroline Page

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Is your bus pass valid on your new Suffolk Community transport?

So, people of Suffolk,will you be able to afford your new Community transport as re-engineered by your caring sharing Suffolk County Council? Will it accept your bus pass even? I really wouldn’t count on it

In Suffolk Coastal we haven’t yet been told the situation, but elsewhere in the county people already have had very bad news. Predictably, LibDem anxieties about the format of Suffolk’s new Community Transport franchises are already showing themselves to be justified.

In the whole of the mid-Suffolk district , franchisees  BSEVC have already announced that they will no longer be operating Demand Responsive Transport. This means  NO Bus Passes will be accepted , all fares will rise, under-16 fares will only apply if are accompanied by an adult, and the under 18 reduction is derisory. And, surprise, surprise, there seems to be no provision for young people to use SCC’s much vaunted youth card the Endeavour (that pallid simulacrum of the much more successful Explore  card ). An offer to ‘restore DRT if the demand is there is meaningless. How  can the demand be created if the national bus pass scheme  no longer operates?

What price Suffolk's new Community Transport Franchise deal? A lot in BSE- with the new company accepting NO BUs Passes, nor fares for under 16s unless accompanied by an adult (!) plus an overall increase in adult fares. And will the SCC Endeavour card be honoured? Er.. no
(click to enlarge) What price Suffolk’s new Community Transport Franchise deal?  Pretty high round Bury St Edmunds, – with BSEVC accepting NO Bus Passes, nor fares for under 16s unless accompanied by an adult (!), scrapping discounted returns  plus offering an overall increase in adult fares.   And will the SCC’s Endeavour card – that supposed banner of support for the  travel-poor young people of Suffolk-  be honoured? Er.. no

As Creeting resident Mark Valladares said bitterly on Twitter,

“My Conservative County Councillor claimed we would have a “better service at lower cost”. Now we know what he meant”

Mr Valladares also pointed out that  BSEVC has scrapped the discounted return fare – his return fare is now up by 54%.

Rural community transport  needs to be reliable and affordable because it underpins education, employment, training, access to health and social care for those that need it.  Once again SCC’s administration have turned their backs on those that need this transport most!

Caroline Page
Lib Dem Spokesperson, Transport

Every area  is offering a one hour ‘drop in’ to inform all the people within the community link area.  This adds insult to injury -not only is the time short, but the problem of access has npot been considered. For example  the drop-in for the whole of Suffolk Coastal, being in Woodbridge, can only be accessed by community transport link customers BY community transport link. How many will be able to get there for 10-30 to 11.30 on a Monday morning?

Babergh The Dining Room, Hadleigh Town Hall, Market Place, Hadleigh, IP7 5DN Friday 27th May Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Forest Heath Forest Heath District Council, Council Chamber, College Heath Road, Milden hall, IP28 7EY Friday 3rd June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Ipswich Ipswich Town Hall Friday 10th June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Mid Suffolk Mid Suffolk District Council, The Dove Room, 131 High Street, Needham Market, IP6 8DL Wednesday 8th June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
St Edmunds bury St Edmundsbury District Council, West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3SP Wednesday 1st June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Suffolk Coastal Suffolk Coastal District Council, Council Chamber, Melton Hill, Woodbridge, IP12 1AU Monday 6th June Drop in between 10.30 & 11.30
Waveney Waveney District Council, Riverside, 4 Canning Road, Lowestoft, NR33 OEG Wednesday 25th May Drop in between 14.00 & 15.00
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Helen Korfanty – the LibDem choice for PCC

Helen Korfanty

Korfanty smallHelen, a solicitor, has worked in Suffolk for over 30 years in Family and Criminal Law, while volunteering with  both Victim Support and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

She has committed herself to abide by the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s ethical checklist  on how a PCC should conduct themselves in office.

  • If elected Helen intends to:
  •  – encourage a collegiate, consultative culture to decision making  in policing in Suffolk, respecting and  tapping into the wisdom and experience of  front line workers
  •  – be the advocate for the people of Suffolk to ensure that we can live in a safer community.
  •  – help find financial savings and efficiencies in the Police Service so that resources can be found to fight growing serious crime such as child abuse, cybercrime and fraud.
  •  – encourage policies and technological innovation aimed at reducing crime and re-offending
  •  –  encourage the referral of people with physical /mental health and addictions to the best agency to deal with their problems effectively and away from the Police Service.
  •  –  ensure that those who experience domestic abuse and violence are able to access support and achieve the best outcomes for their individual needs
  •  –  encourage cooperation with other police services to maintain specialist skills and respond to unexpected challenges.
  •  – negotiate with central government for the maximum financial resources for the police service
  •  – support and encourage the voluntary sector who support the victims and bring innovative approaches to the causes of crime.

 

 

Prepared by Martin Redbond on behalf of Helen Korfanty (Liberal Democrats) both at Blacksmiths Cottage, Ashbocking Road, Henley, Ipswich, Suffolk IP6 0QX

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Lib Dems support Community Transport

cropped-Banner1.jpgWe’re all  representatives of  many Suffolk residents who are left at the mercy of our current rural transport service. As such, your Lib Dem councillors were keen to support a Labour motion to Full Council yesterday calling on the Conservative administration to  reverse decisions it has made about the future of community transport (see here for details).

As Lib Dem spokesperson for Transport, Caroline Page put it:  ” The new-look Community Transport is tasked  with doing so much more for so many more with so much less. Cynically it would seem that a primary reason for this design is that should these services fail, they would fail at one remove from the County Council. The outcome – whether intentional or not – is SCC could then look at the people unable to get where they need to go – the very people for whom Community Transport was intended – and say, “Not my fault, guv.””

A planned cut of 50% to the County council operators’ subsidy, when combined with a move away   from community-based services is a double-whammy.

Cllr Page pointed out that change was inevitable at a time of austerity. “But to remove the subsidy and to remove the minibus fleet simultaneously – and then sit back and say “Of course you’ll make a profit!” without checking whether it is possible, or what will happen to those who would lose out if it fails, seems plain irresponsible.”

Leader Colin Noble had confirmed earlier in the meeting that the current Rural Services Delivery Grant had maintained, rather than cut, Suffolk’s level of rural  funding. This emphasises the subsidy cut was not necessary “but an exercise of power without responsibility, putting ideology before efficiency,” said Cllr Page.

“I can only reiterate what I said at last month’s budget meeting: Yes, this is a time of austerity and we must all get real. SO lets talk the reality of reality. At such times we have a duty to support those people who are suffering most from the impact of austerity. We must do everything to ensure our rural community transport reliable public transport reliably underpins education, employment, training, access to health and social care for those that need it. ”

Despite impassioned and intelligent argument from the opposition cross benches,  the motion was voted down by the ruling Conservative administration.

Caroline Page
Lib Dem Spokesperson, Transport

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“We must fight to save Suffolk courts..” PCC candidate Helen Korfanty

The news that Lowestoft and Bury St Edmund Courts are to close as part of government cost saving measures (despite strong representations from lawyers and elected members across the county)  will come as a bitter blow to Suffolk residents. (Background here).  Court closures are already national news because of the hardship these will  cause – specifically in rural areas.

Helen KorfantyNow Suffolk’s Lib Dem PCC candidate, local solicitor,  Helen Korfanty  is  calling for a fightback.

Call this justice? ” she asked in a letter to the EADT .

“We should continue the fight to save Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds’ Courts.

I was one of the lawyers who wrote to Michael Gove about the planned court closures.

I recommended that if the government insists on selling off court buildings then Ipswich Magistrates’ Court could share a building with Ipswich Crown Court (Crown Courts are underused.) They could then sell one building and Lowestoft Courts could be saved.

If they wanted to save money in Bury St Edmunds they could either rent out the upper floors of the Magistrates’ Court Building or combine the family and Criminal court into one building. The savings would far outweigh any costs of adapting one of the buildings.

He never responded to my suggestions.

We should not despair. Lowestoft is due to close first.  We can monitor and report on the problems that we know will inevitably follow.  If the building is not sold off immediately the government has the chance to change its mind.

Bury St Edmunds Courts are due to close in September.  Dare I think it is because the government is still not sure that their plans are workable!

If we don’t succeed we can press the government to pay for all the computer access to the court BEFORE the buildings are closed down, and insist that the hardpressed police budget does not have to pay for it all.

Helen Korfanty
Solicitor
Liberal Democrat Candidate
For the Police and Crime Commissioner of Suffolk

pub, East Anglian Daily Times  Friday,  12th  February 2016

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SEN Education in Suffolk review – Consultation (& Update)

Update: The first tranche of this consultation  finished on 7th February. Click here for Cllr Caroline Page’s response and remarks: SEND Education on Suffolk – the costs and hidden costs).

Suffolk County Council are currently consulting about the future of specialist education provision in Suffolk.

Opposition councillors were naturally sceptical that this was cover for money-saving, but  very clear and open answers from  officers have reassured us that this is not a cost-cutting exercise (the money is ring-fenced) but about spending it to best advantage and with better outcomes.

Suffolk currently has 256 young people sent out of county at the cost of £11m a year for educational provision that Suffolk has not been able or willing to provide in county; some of Suffolk’s PRUs ‘require improvement’ (one is in special measures) and are significantly more expensive per capita  and produce worse outcomes than Norfolk’s (which are rated outstanding), and all the SSCs (specialist support centres)  are located in one quadrant of the county because historically they were only sited in schools that declared themselves willing to house them. “This means there is no specialist support provision in the north and west of the county and some children are making two 75-minute journeys a day to reach them,” according to Caroline Page, spokesperson for Transport and Vice Chair of Educational Transport Appeals.

Suffolk is asking for responsesto find the best way to address these issues and others.

From  11 January – 7 February 2016  people have the opportunity to give your views on a range of options Suffolk are looking at, and you can also suggest other ideas for Suffolk to consider. From 14 March – 24 April 2016 there will be a formal consultation on the proposed changes:  a 6 week formal consultation period where you can make representations to the Council – both expressions of support or objections to the proposals.

So, whether you are concerned or worried, or simply want to add your voice to the debate –  please respond and add your views! They will be valued  You can find the documents here

Caroline Page

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