Category Archives: Questions to Council

Suffolk CC: June Whats been happening

LibDems in Woodbridge raise awareness of the school transport proposals – and what they will mean to everyone

Suffolk shows overwhelming public opposition to  proposed Tory school transport changes-   Leaked documents from Suffolk County Council show overwhelming public opposition to proposed school transport changes. Of the 3600 responses to Suffolk County Council’s recent home-to-school transport consultation, 85% “strongly oppose” the proposals and a further 5% “oppose” them.

This is the most responses received by a Consultation in recent years, and it is clear that parents, teachers and communities have very serious concerns about the proposals.

The Cabinet is due to make a decision on changing the school transport policy on Tuesday 19 June. Suffolk Lib Dems have opposed the proposed changes since they were first announced in September and we will continue to raise our concerns at the Cabinet meeting.

New Council Leader elected  Following the recent Conservative Group leadership challenge, Cllr Matthew Hicks has been elected as the new Leader of Suffolk County Council, replacing  hard-liner Cllr Colin Noble. His Deputy will be Mary Evans, former Chair of Scrutiny, and previously Chair of the highly effective crossparty Transport & Highways Policy Development Panel, before Cllr Noble abolished these on becoming leader a couple of years back.

Cllr Hicks has promised us a “new era” of politics at the Council, with a focus on mutual respect, collaboration and co-operation. We hope he will be more open to working with, and listening to, councillors from other parties.

The first major change has been the replacement of  the only-just-established  unwieldy and untransparent Cabinet Committees with new Policy Development Panels. We do not currently have full details on how these will operate but, well-organised, they provide excellent crossparty consensus.

Some ‘Outstanding’ Suffolk schools in Suffolk have had no Ofsted inspection for a decade   The National Audit Office has revealed that over 1600 schools in the UK have not been inspected by Ofsted for 6+ years!

In Suffolk, 23 outstanding schools – almost half of those rated ‘outstanding’ – have not been inspected for at least 6 years.  SIX of these schools were last inspected over a decade ago! This means that whole cohorts of students have gone through school without a single Ofsted inspection.

LDGI Spokesperson for Education, Lib Dem  Cllr Penny Otton, raised the issue and her concerns at a Council meeting on 24 May. The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education, Gordon Jones, assured her that he shared her concerns and would raise it with the head of Ofsted.

Ofsted have said that the majority of ‘outstanding’ schools are exempt by law from inspections. However, if a number of concerns or complaints are raised against a school, they would have the power to carry out an inspection.

Citizens rights of EU born residents  Our very own Lib Dem County Councillor Inga Lockington hit national and international headlines when the Home Office turned down her application for citizenship despite her 40 years uninterrupted  residence in the UK, married to an English doctor, her 19 years as an Ipswich Borough Councillor, her 17 years as a Suffolk County Councillor and a stint as Mayor of Ipswich! Apparently the Home Office felt she couldn’t prove residence!

Although Inga’s story ended with an apology and an offer of citizenship, she points out this would not have been the case for many others in her situation.

At May’s full council, Lib Dem leader Cllr Caroline Page  asked Matthew Hicks whether Suffolk was doing enough  to support such cases of Home Office injustice amongst its residents. Specifically whether we funded the Suffolk Law Centre -the only free law centre in Suffolk- and whether he would be prepared to talk to Centre Director Audrey Ludwig about unmet needs? The reply was cautious, unspecific, and referred to Suffolk’s CABs – all of which had funding cuts in SCC’s 2018 budget.

Unitary council discussions on hold? Back in March, it was announced that Colin Noble had unilaterally commissioned the think-tank Respublica to produce a report outlining the options for a unitary council in Suffolk. This news was not well-received by the (almost all Conservative) leaders of District and Borough Councils, who had not been consulted by Cllr Noble.

However, in the lead-up to the Conservative Group leadership election in May, Cllr Noble announced that work producing the report had been suspended. It is not yet clear whether this work will resume under the new leader, Cllr Hicks.

Possible U-turn on Lowestoft records office At Council on 24 May, a petition was presented by the Save Our Record Office (SORO) campaign group, calling on the Council to reverse the decision to close the Lowestoft Record Office.

Cllr Hicks responded by acknowledging the importance of keeping local records in Lowestoft, and pledged to work with local residents and councillors to develop a long-term, sustainable solution for the storage of archives in the north of the county.However, he made it clear that there is currently no capital or revenue budget available for the project, and so the council would need to seek funding to help deliver it.

New development with affordable homes in Cockfield  On 15 May, the Cabinet approved proposals for the development of a 4.5 acre site near Cockfield, which is owned as part of its County Farms estate. The development will be comprised of 51 units, including 12 affordable rented homes. There will also be homes specifically for first-time buyers, affordable shared ownership homes, and self-build plots.

This project is being treated as a pilot for future developments on Council owned land. The County Council is planning to work closely with design and property partners, and there will be a particular focus on local needs and benefits for the local community. The council will also benefit from financial returns as a result of developing the land.

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Community Transport – a Continuing Story

cropped-Dave-Wood1.jpgAt the last County Council meeting (14th July) during the debate on the Annual Equalities and Inclusion Report 2016, leader David Wood asked for the following to be clarified, on his own behalf and on that of Cllrs Penny Otton and Caroline Page :-

Referring to point 3 of the report – ” Empower more people with protected characteristics to live safe, healthy and independent lives”. Could the proposer please tell me how the recently awarded Community Transport Contracts fits in with this report – especially its equality objectives.

For instance I know in Mid Suffolk one cannot use a bus pass to access these services – yet in other areas of Suffolk you can.

In my own area I am receiving complaints regarding these new services: these come from a young person with Downs Syndrome; a person with visual impairment; and a wheelchair user –  all have been told they cannot access services they have come to rely on and have become an important part of their lives. In one case a person’s job is at risk; another is seriously considering moving away from the village she has lived in all her life.

My question is, how does this fit in with our equality and inclusion objectives?

Cllr Goldson could not provide an answer during the debate but has assured me he will look into this and will be replying to the question raised.

The Portfolio holder for Highways and Transport was strangely silent during the debate.

David Wood
Group Leader

 

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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

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Suffolk County Council Budget 2014

Suffolk County Council agreed its Budget at full council today. The LibDems had a free vote, but most – if not all – voted against the Administration’s proposals. As Leader, Dave Wood said:

bank-england_£Our group fully understands the financial needs of the County  – and the absolute requirement the Council has  to raise efficiency and to give good value for money. So of course, we fully support the proposed 0% increase in Council Tax.

However, we sincerely believe that the Pickles Bribe (eg central government’s council tax freeze deal) should actually be used, rather than placed in the reserves as seems to have become Tory practice. This money should be given back to the people of Suffolk – from whom it was extracted via their taxes – and used to support some of the services you are proposing to cut.

We are concerned – most particularly with Adult and Continuing Services – that apparent efficiencies are masking significant service resuctions. We have anecdotal evidence that this is the case.

It is a different case with Childrens and Young Peoples’ services. League tables show clearly that we are still performing badly, and yet we see substantial budget cuts. This just cannot be right. The  future of Suffolk depends on the aspirations of its young people.

We welcome the gains you propose to make from the moving of CSD  inhouse- but surely there has been a very hard lesson to be learned here.  This project has been very badly managed for years now. It is proof, if proof was needed that outsourcing services doesn’t always make savings and is not always best.. SO surely the savings made from this and the Energy from Waste project should be employed to rectify the problems I have quoted.

On a personal level I’m deeply disappointed that the Council has decided to cut their contribution to Suffolk’s magnificent AONBs  by 20%  – especially as it is on the back of them being forward-looking and restructuring I know it is only a small sumof money in the grand scheme of things – but what sort of message is it going to send out to our other contributing partners, considering AONBs  importance, and the contribution they make to the Suffolk economy? I wish that the reduction could have been phased in with a full consultation. As it is there  in black and white in today’s budget, I hope the Portfolio holder will reassure us that he will take no more from the AONBs for the duration of this administration.

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What your LibDem Councillors are asking SCC, 24 October 2013

BannerAt today’s Full council meeting, your LibDem councillors are asking the SCC administration the following questions. We will post the answers and any supplementary questions and answers arising from them

From Cllr Penny Otton to Cllr Lisa Chambers

16,000 pupils in England are severely bullied and cannot face going to school.  What alternative provision does Suffolk have for these children other than pupil referral units.

From Cllr Inga Lockington to Cllr Mark Bee

Is there anything in in any Customer First Contract between SCC and CSD to stop staff talking to a customer face to face.

From Cllr Caroline Page to Cllr Alan Murray

Following Friday’s permanent closure of the Sexual Health clinic at Ipswich hospital, I am reassured that Public Health is working hard to ensure some services will continue be available in Ipswich while a future location is created. Can you please tell me what  facilities for immediate STI diagnosis (eg microscopy), for immediate on-site free dispensing of drugs (as opposed to by prescription collected from a pharmacist) and for co-ordination of contact tracing  Public Health is ensuring are put in place in the immediate aftermath of closure?

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Answers to LibDem questions: Full Council, 19 September

Questions we asked this month concerned Homecare packages, closure of Lowestoft’s  EAOTAs centre and the  disparity between amount of expenses Suffolk county councillors can claim for different forms of transport.

Below in full are the questions as tabled by your Suffolk Lib Dem Councillors at September’s Full Council on the 19th, together with a summary of  the appropriate  Cabinet member’s reply (plus supplementary question and response where appropriate).

Inga Lockington  to Cabinet member for Adult Care & Health  Allan Murray

Question: How many residents assessed as needing care support and living alone in Suffolk receive Homecare visits of no longer than 15min within their care package?

Answer:  We only commission packages that meet the needs of the patients and the basic package is for never less than 30 minutes.  However an extra package may be added in certain circumstances. This may be a 15 minute package

Penny Otton to Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Young People Lisa Chambers

Question: Following the interview I did with Sally Chidzoy on BBC LOOK EAST in July I am pleased  to discover that the EAOTAS centre in Lowestoft has NOW closed . Why did this take so long??

Answer; EOTAS is run by external contractors – despite SCC working closely with the last company we were unable to come to an agreement, so they were given notice.  The scheduled closure is Oct 25th.

Supplementary question: How are you supporting the children?

Answer: We are working closely with the parents to ensure a smooth transition.

Caroline Page to Mark Bee, Leader of the Council

Question: Cllr Bee, as you have made it a council commitment that Suffolk should be ” the greenest county” and that we should  ”strive to improve the health, life chance and life expectancy of our residents”,  will you now commit to a reduction of the extremely generous mileage allowance Suffolk County councillors get if they use their own cars for transport on county council business – and instead to incentivise county councillors  to set a good example  to the residents of Suffolk by travelling by public transport or bicycle?

Answer:    Council are committed to encouraging healthier / cheaper forms of transport.  Allowances and expenses are being reviewed by the remuneration review panel. Cllr Bee  says he will put these concerns to the panel

(you can read Caroline Page’s blog about her question here)

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Lib Dem Questions for Suffolk County Council: 19 Sept 2013

BannerEvery Full Council, elected members have the opportunity to put questions to the Cabinet members at Suffolk County Council.

These are the questions Lib Dem county councillors are asking this September. I will post the replies after the meeting

Inga Lockington  to Cabinet member for Adult Care & Health  Allan Murray

How many residents assessed as needing care support and living alone in Suffolk receive Homecare visits of no longer than 15min within their care package?

Penny Otton to Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Young People Lisa Chambers

Following the interview I did with Sally Chidzoy on BBC LOOK EAST in July I am pleased  to discover that the EAOTAS centre in Lowestoft has NOW closed . Why did this take so long??

Caroline Page to Mark Bee, Leader of the Council

Cllr Bee, as you have made it a council commitment that Suffolk should be ” the greenest county” and that we should  “strive to improve the health, life chance and life expectancy of our residents”,  will you now commit to a reduction of the extremely generous mileage allowance Suffolk County councillors get if they use their own cars for transport on county council business – and instead to incentivise county councillors  to set a good example  to the residents of Suffolk by travelling by public transport or bicycle?

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Lib Dem Questions for Suffolk County Council: 18 July 2013

Every Full Council, elected members have the opportunity to put questions to the Cabinet members at Suffolk County Council.

These are the questions Lib Dem county councillors are asking this July. I will post the replies after the meeting

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?

Penny Otton  to Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Young People (Lisa Chambers )

It has been reported that many primary schools have overcrowded class rooms – ie that there are more than 30 pupils to a class.  In which primary schools in Suffolk does this occur?

 Caroline Page to Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport (Graham Newman)

Public transport is an essential part of supporting the future welfare of the county – particularly in rural areas. And yet it is coming under increasing pressure and failing to meet needs just at the time Suffolk needs it most.

I would like to ask the Cabinet member when he is going to press 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 last decades

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.

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