All posts by Caroline Page

Suffolk’s Law Courts Under Threat – Lobby or Lose Them!

Suffolk LibDems  have joined in cross-party unanimity to condemn government proposals to close all law courts in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft leaving the county with just the courts in Ipswich.

In brief, the Ministry of Justice proposes that:

a) Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court, County Court and Family Court is closed and the civil hearing work move to Great Yarmouth(Magistrates’ Court and Family Court), the family hearing work to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court)., and the criminal work move to Great Yarmouth (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court).

b) that Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court and Family Court and Bury St Edmunds Crown Court are closed, and the existing magistrates’ and family workload  be moved to Ipswich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court) and Norwich (Magistrates’ Court and Family Court). It is also proposed that victim and witness facilities will be installed at Bury St. Edmunds County Court and Tribunals which would enable court users, in suitable matters, to give evidence by video link!

All to save £600,000 a year. Truly this government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Continue reading Suffolk’s Law Courts Under Threat – Lobby or Lose Them!

LibDems raise concerns about Lowestoft’s Third Crossing

Suffolk Liberal Democrat County Council Group, with Lowestoft Lib Dem Activist Adam Robertson. From Left to Right of Lib Dem Councillors on Suffolk County Council: David Wood, Leader of the Liberal Democrat County Council Group, Dave Busby, Inga Lockington, Penny Otton, Adam Robertson, Julia Truelove, John Field and Caroline Page
Suffolk LibDem County Council Group, with Lowestoft Lib Dem activist Adam Robertson. Left to Right: Leader David Wood, Dave Busby, Inga Lockington, Penny Otton, Adam Robertson, Julia Truelove, John Field and Caroline Page

Will Lowestoft’s proposed  Third River Crossing be in fact a Third Crossing or just another second one? Suffolk Liberal Democrats have obtained information, through FOI, questioning the credibility of promises made by the Conservatives, before the General Election on this matter.

Their concern is whether funding will go to create a sum total of three crossings   or whether a smokescreen issued by the Conservatives hides plans to to remove Lowestoft’s Bascule Bridge, after the Third Crossing is built.

Having learned from an exchange between local MP, Peter Aldous,  and a special advisor from the Department of Transport, that the cost of this feasibility study could be as high as £4-5 million,  they also noted that the Prime Minister’s pre-election promise was for £2 million – less than half that amount.

Continue reading LibDems raise concerns about Lowestoft’s Third Crossing

New LibDem leader – Tim Farron!

cropped-TIM-FARRON.jpg“We are not the party of vested interests. We are a party that sees the best in people, not the worst; we’re the party that believes the role of government is to help us be the best we can be – no matter who we are or what is our background. That is it. That. Is. It!”

After a cleanly-fought battle between two  excellent candidates and 27 hustings across the country, the Liberal Democrats have an inspirational new leader in Tim Farron, who declares himself “fed up of self-satisfied politicians, ambitious for themselves and unambitious for their country.”

Tim has had a working life outside politics AND is the first major party leader in 18 years to have been a councillor before becoming an MP (he’s  represented constituents as Borough, District and County Councillor over 15 years), and sees Westminster  as “only one brick in the governance of this country”. No Westminster bubble for him! Continue reading New LibDem leader – Tim Farron!

LibDems Question the Administration : Council 16-07-2015

BannerYour LibDem councillors raised a number of important issues during this month’s full council meeting on Thursday, 16 July. Amongst these were the third crossing in Lowestoft, provision of official Travellers’ sites in Suffolk Coastal ; Concessionary travel,  EOTAS, disability and employment, and the impact of the Living Wage.

Leader Dave Woods raised the administration’s inexplicable inability to agree any official site for Travellers in Suffolk Coastal, having halted consultations a couple of years back;

Caroline Page raised the continuing problem of Suffolk’s disgraceful inability to educate or train disabled young people for employment;

Talking to the issue of young people with mental health problems being sent outside the county, Julia Truelove mentioned her concerns that instead of developing resources within the county, the county remains content to send young people outside at great expense, leaving the support of friends and families – and adding to the emotional stress of young people who are already vulnerable. Continue reading LibDems Question the Administration : Council 16-07-2015

Blah blah blah – Local Government Conference at Harrogate

Harrosmall
Local Government Conference (John Pienaar speaking)

Attended my first Local Government Association Conference last week in Harrogate. As you can imagine there was a great deal of blah, blah, blah but a few interesting speakers. Jeremy Hunt, the Health minister, put forward his ideas on how they were going to reduce demand on the NHS. It appears as though it’s all my fault – overweight, a bit of a smoker and I live on my own. So if I give up drinking, smoking and eating the NHS should be safe. Then all of us retired people should move back in with our children to reduce care costs and free up some housing – great in theory but it presumes that you have to got rid of your kids in the first place!

John Pienaar gave us his views on the state of the parties after the election – it looks like we could be in for a long spell of Tory rule. Mind you it was interesting watching the ‘group’ of Tories from Suffolk County Council spend 3 days trying to avoid each other. It is a worry for the residents of Suffolk because I just don’t see the quality of Cabinet member required to deliver the services with reduced funds. In two years time, with the Tory Government delivering the peak level of austerity cuts, the County Council elections could deliver a mixed colour administration.

I hope that the many Council CEOs that were there spent more time talking with the many exhibitors who seem to have already come up with some innovative solutions – my favourite was the rubbish bin that has its own built-in compactor thus reducing the emptying frequency.

Dave Busby
County Councillor, Belstead Brook
Spokesman, Audit and FInance

Continue reading Blah blah blah – Local Government Conference at Harrogate

More transport diffculties for post-16 students

Decisions  about funding post-16 transport made by the SCC Cabinet in 2014 are now hitting the street. These resulted in a significant tightening of SCC’s ‘discretionary’  transport offer, due to a double whammy created by conflicting governmental expectations: On the one hand young people are now expected to remain in education, training and employment until 18 – thus creating a de facto if unofficial statutory leaving age of 18. On the other hand, continuing cuts in central funding, assisted by ideological reluctance to increase taxation at either national or local level  means that SCC are trying hard to cover impossible bills.

This has left many rural families with significant problems..

The London-based, urban-centric nature of  central government has a track record of making  decisions without funding support, that put rural-dwelling young people  at a very particular disadvantage. They have so much further to travel to education and so much less in the way of public transport to fall back on than their urban peers. This is my letter in today’s EADT, 2-07-2015.

Sir,

Many people have contacted me re with concerns about SCC’s new post-16 ‘discretionary’ policy which will offer students travel to the nearest place of education only. This sounds reasonable, until you look at the plight of the rural young.

The government’s Raising the Participation Age (RPA) insists on education, training and employment until 18. However, almost all support for travel finishes at 16. And for many rural post-16 students , there may be literally no other transport to education apart from the SCC-chartered bus the discretionary pass is used on,  because the bus services have been cut.

A few years ago SCC replaced many rural bus routes with ‘demand responsive transport,’ A Rural Transport PDP working group last year found this was incompatible provision for school attendance. Remaining bus  routes often run a regular service except for the one bus at school times which has been taken off-route so as to run a school- specific service – ironically for bus-pass holders only. And if a student wants to continue their studies at their catchment school since age 11 (Farlingaye, for example) – but there is another education provider a shade closer, too bad!

Let me remind readers that a discretionary bus pass is not free. It costs the student £600 a year. But the bonkers bus deregulation laws – aimed at promoting competition -won’t allow one to pay for a seat on a school bus if one has no discretionary entitlement. It’s a deeply unhelpful scenario for those who just need transport to get from A to B!.

I have yet to establish what is the situation of the rural young person who is literally unable to attend mandatory school college or training because there is no public transport and they do not drive. Are they sanctioned?

In February’s 2015 Budget debate, I suggested affordable transport was so crucial to education that  we take money out of reserves to support educational transport for disadvantaged  post-16 year olds. My plea was ignored. The council needs to revisit this decision.

I also call again on the county council to lobby for  the extra funding to support RPA. Compare the prospects of our rural young with those in  London – an Oyster card gives free, accessible and appropriate travel for all young people. We cannot continue to lose out to the Londoncentric  travel funding policies of successive governments – who simply ignore the problems faced by rest of us . Young people in Suffolk also deserve  to achieve their potential!

And finally, it is surely time for Suffolk to lobby for the re-regulation of local bus services, so that we do not carry on  spending our council tax payers money patching together pieces of a fractured system that fails in a rural setting

Caroline Page
LibDem Spokeman for Transport

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

SCC New Leader and LibDem’s midterm response

So, after all the lead-in,  the new leader of Suffolk County Council – Colin Noble – was elected without a hitch at today’s Suffolk Full Council. That is – every single Conservative, apart from Cllr Bee, turned up, and obediently voted him in.

A rainbow coalition of the opposition – the serried ranks of the LibDem, Labour, Independent, Green and UKIP joined forces to vote against him. A  few were absent. Brian Riley was – we presume –  in North Carolina.  Colin Noble was elected – third time lucky – 37:31. No abstentions. Time will tell where this far-from-ringing endorsement will lead.

Lib Dem Leader’s Response to  SCC Leader’s Executive Statement

The recent General Election proved a godsend for those opposite  – not just the result. What the campaign also managed to hide from the public scrutiny was the battle that seemed to be going on within the party who are in charge of the administration of our County.  Is such a seemingly divided party the best to be in charge at the present time?   Writers of  soap operas – Eastenders and Coronation Street – couldn’t have wished for better material for one of their productions, because believe me, to the casual observer that’s what it looked like!

That brings us to the present and one must wonder – is this the dawning of a new age or are we about to travel back in time.  We are all aware the new leader has a habit of looking back into the dim and distant past so God forbid,  are we about to see the re launch of THE NEW STRATEGIC DIRECTION and all that entailed?

Looking back over the past year:  yes, the roll-out of superfast broadband is proving to be a success –  although I still have a job persuading some of my electorate that it is coming. We must also applaud the roll-out of the Sunday Bus services in some rural areas – something that is essential to the way of life in these areas.

But sadly the last year has been overshadowed by the headlines Suffolk has attracted this week  – “County Slow to Improve Schools”, “Suffolk County Council too Slow” and “Not Enough is Being Done To Improve School Standards in Suffolk” – these are just but a few we have seen this very week.

We have heard the excuses and the supposed successes but this report is just not good enough.   It’s not good for our children, our future, our parents, our reputation and Suffolk as a whole.

When you consider that 25,000 children,  very nearly  the capacity of the football stadium next door,  attend schools that are classified as requiring improvement or are inadequate,  that clearly is not good enough.  This is especially so when most of those children live in Suffolk’s two largest towns,  Ipswich and Lowestoft.   Once again it has taken an Ofsted inspection to highlight our failings.   How many more times are we going to allow this to happen.   It would appear that the Raising the Bar Initiative is not working as it clearly needs to Raise its own standards.  Only this year we have seen Make Every Intervention Count by restructuring the schools improvement services to save a further £5 million.   Surely the time has come to use some of the Suffolk Council Taxpayers’ money being secreted away in reserves to seriously invest in the education of our children. After all we talk about what a wonderful County we have,  what opportunities we have here,  and will have here.   Our children are the future of Suffolk and we want them to be part of this story so let’s be serious about their future and put the resources where they are needed,  not just for education but also lets start reducing these levels of deprivation and see a real rise in attainment.

The care of our elderly has also come under the spotlight recently with the problems surrounding Care UK.  Reassurances were received that problems had been dealt with but then it all resurfaces again. Similarly with our highways contract all is not plan sailing there yet. We were told that by outsourcing these contracts it is the way forward but one must ask the question is it.

So as a mid – term report one can say, shown a slight improvement in some areas but could do better and in some areas MUST do better.

David Wood

Leader Lib Dem Group

You can read David’s tribute to Mark here

Liberal Democrat Membership Soars in Suffolk

Join Us

In the week after the General Election, Liberal Democrat membership across the country soared by over 25% and continues to  rise hourly. This surge has – of course –  been replicated  here in Suffolk. The LibDem fightback has begun.

Over half of  new members are aged under 35, and  the vast majority have never been a member of the LibDems before.

A warm welcome to all our new members here in Suffolk! We are thrilled you have chosen to join us.

If you want to join,  get in touch with our membership office on 020 7022 0988, via the national LibDem website, or simply click the ‘join’ button at the left of the page. And remember, if you join before 3 June, you are eligible to vote in the elections  for the new  LibDem  Leader.

Caroline Page

General Election May 7th – A Few Facts to Consider

LD rosetteOKAY – after all these weeks the finish line is coming upon us.

Your LibDem candidates on May 7th are:

Bury St Edmunds   David Chappell http://davidchappell.org.uk/en/

Ipswich   Chika Akinwale  http://www.libdems.org.uk/chika_akinwale

Central Suffolk& North Ipswich Jon Neal http://www.libdems.org.uk/jon-neal

South Suffolk  Grace Weaver http://www.libdems.org.uk/grace_weaver

Suffolk Coastal James Sandbach http://www.james4suffolkcoastal.com/

Waveney Stephen Gordon http://www.libdems.org.uk/stephen_gordon

West Suffolk Elfeda Tealby-Watson http://www.libdems.org.uk/elfreda_tealby_watson

A few things to remember when you cast your vote on Thursday:

In 2010 the Labour government left a mountain of debt for the nation. Liberal Democrats shouldered unpopularity to take the responsible step of forming a stable coalition government. In the last 5 years 2 million new apprenticeships and 2 million new jobs have been created and Labour’s deficit has been halved.

The following initiatives were in the LibDem 2010 Manifesto and would not have happened without us:

  1. Tax cuts: Low and middle income earners have had a tax cut of nearly £1,000 a year. Because we raised the income tax threshold – as we promised (though David Cameron said it was impossible) people who earn £10,500 a year of less pay no income tax at all. We want to raise this threshold to £12,500.
  2. Education: We have invested in education, targeting funding at the most deprived children. This has meant an extra £60m for Suffolk schools. It is making a real difference to literacy and numeracy and has provided, for example, one-to-one tuition, breakfast and after-school clubs. In addition we have given free school meals to 5-to-7 year olds.
  3. Health: We have provided additional funding for health and introduced the first ever mental health waiting time standards. We will invest an extra £8bn a year in the NHS each year by 2020. We are the only party to promise this and say how it will be funded.
  4. Renewable energy and environment: We have trebled the amount of energy generated from renewables. We will introduce 5 green laws including protection for bees and pollinators.
  5. We have cracked down on tax dodgers – getting £9bn tax back through deals with Switzerland, Liechenstein and the Channel Islands. We have also prosecuted 10 times more people for tax crimes than happened under the last government.

Some endorsements in the national press:

The Times  “Nick Clegg made a bold decision to take the Liberal Democrats into government. Power has been a justified gamble for the Liberal Democrats…Their signature policy of taking people who earn £10,000 or less out of taxation altogether has been one of their successes.” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article4430579.ece

Independent  “Many of the good things the Coalition has done are owed to the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg may not personally recover from the tuition fees debacle, despite being right (eventually). But history will record him as the man who turned a party of protest into one of government.  http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/in-defence-of-liberal-democracy-10224221.html

Sunday Times  “…[the Coalition] did survive and this has been a period of political stability that would have been the envy of many majority governments of the past. Mr Clegg deserves to survive and so do his closest Lib Dem colleagues in government. Tory supporters in Labour-Lib Dem marginals may wish to vote for the Lib Dem candidate… http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/article1551497.ece

 

Published and promoted by E Da Costa on behalf of the Liberal Democrats all at 16 Two Acres, Capel St. Mary, Ipswich IP9 2XP

Brian Riley – Hadleigh’s long distance councillor?

Dave WoodJust what does Brian Riley the Conservative Councillor for Hadleigh think he is playing at? It is just beyond comprehension that he thinks he can still represent the good people of Hadleigh from his new abode in the USA.

As leader of Suffolk Lib Dems i am particularly angry because for close on 30 years Hadleigh was represented by Lib Dem Councillor David Grutchfield who was truly a man of the people. David was well known throughout Hadleigh, could be contacted day or night, would often be seen in the High Street – or any of a number of functions that might be taking place. David was your model of a good local councillor – always there to lend an ear and help out. Now what have Hadleigh got?  an absent councillor who is under the misapprehension that he can do the job from miles away! Think again Mr Riley. and do the decent thing and step down thereby allowing the people of Hadleigh to have their voice heard again.

David Wood

 

You can sign our petition to remove Brian Riley here