General Election 2019 – Suffolk deserves better

Ok, the SIX Conservative MPs who represent Suffolk do NOT cover themselves with glory  in terms of their ability to represent the people or localities that elected them. In fact most, including Suffolk Coastal’s Therese Coffey, are amongst the worst in the country.

Election 2019

This is according to a useful national “league table”: the People – Power Index 2019 https//www.change.org/l/uk/the-people-power-index-how-did-your-mp-score

Of parliament’s 650 MPs, Matt Hancock ranks 288th, Peter Aldous 370th, James Cartlidge 540th, Jo Churchill 558th, Suffolk Coastal’s  Therese Coffey (a perhaps unsurprising) 592nd, with Dan Poulter right at the bottom, ranking a shocking 627th!!!

This scoring represents each MP’s availability to constituents, representation of their constituency, and keeping their minds on the job they were elected to do.

Wake up Suffolk!

We deserve much, much better than this. And the solution is in our own hands – and the ballot box.

—————————————

ThePeople-Power Index looked at:

1.Your MP’s availability to their constituents. This looks at how your MP is available online (email and social media), offline (holding “surgeries” in your local area and a caseworker), and whether your MP is distracted by a second (or third) job. (Score out of 30)

2.Your MP’s participation in Parliament. This looks at your MP’s participation record for voting in Parliament, so that your constituency is counted when new laws are passed, and how often your MP raises issues from your constituency in Parliament. (score out of 10)

3.How an MP listens to the public. An MP’s top priority is their constituency, but they also have a responsibility to the wider general public to bring political attention to public campaigns and priority issues by discussing them in Parliament. (score out of 10)

No rights, on Carers Rights Day

No, being a carer is NOT a matter of patting a hand and making a cuppa. It is vital, stressful and done for love. It can involve skills as varied as advocacy, heavy lifting and divergent thinking

Okay, folks, it’s another Carers Rights day. Yet another. And I want to ask one simple question:

In reality, what  human rights do our country’s unpaid family carers actually have?

Right to equality? Try it. Next time someone asks what you do, say you are a family carer, watch how your status slips. Your  work is not even worthy of pay. Your conversation, contacts, experience not worth their time.

Freedom from discrimination? In law maybe, but in real life? How many carers suffer constructive dismissal? How many never get employment? And how many find their onetime friends ‘forgetting ‘them?  Carers are not cool.

Freedom from slavery? Many carers work around the clock 24/7 without a break, without pay, without consideration. And I do mean work.

Right to remedy by a competent tribunal/ right to fair public hearing/ right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. No way. We carers know we are the punchballs. We are relied on as workhorses by professionals who are paid, supported and unionised, to do unstinting work on their behalf, and yet we  are all too often ignored, demonised, blamed. We are Schroedingers carers:  ignorant but know-all, arrogant but timid, overprotective yet uncaring,  in the narrative of social care and NHS provision. Cinderellas who can be blamed without redress.

Right to Rest and Leisure. When a carer works 24/7, this is laughable.

Right to Adequate Living Standard? Look at all of the above.   Again, don’t make me laugh.

I am offended by the whole concept of a Carers Rights Day – a day when well-paid professionals and media pundits gather together to pat each other on the backs and moo “Ooooo – we care: we reeeelly care for your plight

Actions speak louder than words.

The truth is that they don’t.  Society doesn’t. Successive governments don’t.   And when I once asked Unison strikers why they were not striking for family carers they memorably replied “Because you don’t work!”  (That is, because we Family Carers don’t have paid hours, overtime, sick pay, holiday pay etc etc, we don’t work. I have never forgotten. Or forgiven.)

Carers wouldn’t need a Carers Rights Day if the state had ever given Family Carers any meaningful rights.  And the right to be accepted as a worker rather than patronised as a rather dim and unworldly saint  comes top of MY list.

If carers were seen as the workers they are, the real cost of that care: the working hours, the loss of careers, the impact of poverty and poor health, the absence of employment-related pensions – all these might be factored into the support offered to them.

As it is, people suggest they may like a session of aromatherapy!

Woodbridge: what’s happening. My November 2019 report


Decriminalisation of Parking (CPE) is finally to go ahead across Suffolk The long delayed decriminalisation of parking (CPE) held up for the last year by the huge amount of additional parliamentary time spent on Brexit will go ahead as soon after 31st Jan 2020 as training of staff can happen!

This is good news for many beleaguered communities across Suffolk.

Simultaneously the Thoroughfare TRO, also held up by the same issue (though for a different reason: the requirement to make a whole-Suffolk TRO map) is now ongoing,  the funding has been put aside for a year now  from my locality budget.

Please pass this good news on!

County makes huge cut to Health visitors without democratic mandate You may remember that earlier this year, there were reports that Suffolk County Council planned to cut 25% of Health Visitors. We have now learned that the council has in fact reduced Health Visitors by 35%, without informing either the public or councillors. The staffing cuts were made as part of an internal restructure of the 0-19 Healthy Child Service in order to save £1m.
In England, it is mandatory for families to receive five visits to check on the health of children/parents during pregnancy early childhood, and the guidance states that these checks should be undertaken by health visitors. However, as a result of these staffing reductions, in Suffolk only three of these visits will be undertaken by specially trained health visitors, with staff nurses expected to take on the other two checks.
My group proposed a motion at Council on the 17 October, asking the administration to reconsider these cuts, which unfortunately was voted down.

Woodbridge and Martlesham representatives with senior First bus officers

Confronting the Bus Cuts After the meeting of 13 parishes with First Buses at the end of October,
In which we pointed out we reoresented 46,000 people and asked for specific assistance in restoring the status quo,  we have heard unexpectedly of the proposed saving of a portion of the erstwhile 71 route (Sudbourne to Woodbridge), because it has been taken over by First, with proposed through-ticketing to Ipswich. This a first feather in the cap of joint working between the parishes.

Concerns about Adult Safeguarding funding The annual report of Suffolk’s Adult Safeguarding board confirmed that it had had to spend £40,000 of its £87,000 reserves on ‘transformation’ in 19-20. If if does the same next year it would be left with reserves of £7,000. I have asked whether there future plans involve cuts to services or persuading further funding contributions from colleague organisations. The answer was that were looking at both options.

Sizewell Detailed Emergency Planning Zone. These days, a statutory duty of county is contingency planning in case of nuclear accident.

Suffolk’s updated plan for Sizewell was dIscussed at Cabinet in early November. Provision has to be made to deliver iodine tablets and evacuate residents within a 30km radius of Sizewell within 24 hours of a radiation leak. Just to remind residents – Woodbridge is within a 30km radius of Sizewell. I made it my business to point this out loud and clear at the meeting. We appear to be in a footnote:  we are the second biggest down in the fallout area. We need to be at the front of everybody’s minds.

Additionally I asked what provision has been made for climate change – specifically the wholly predictable rising of sea levels –  in the emergency plan.  None, apparently.

Review of new School Transport policy  After months of public condemnation, Cllr Mary Evans, new Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, has apologised to families affected by the new school transport policy and has confirmed that there will be a review of the policy. However, it is likely that this review will only focus on the implementation of the new policy, rather than the inherent problems with the policy itself.

Since the introduction of the new policy, there has been a large increase in the number of transport appeals: 141 appeals were submitted from 1 July – 18 October, compared to an average of just 21 for the same time period in previous years.

Furthermore, over 70% of these appeals have been decided in favour of parents who had initially been refused transport by the council. The situation has been compounded by the decision to count Rights of Way as appropriate means of walking to schools. Some are more appropriate than others, and it has led to significant councillor walking of routes to establish safety and viability.

As vice chair of the Appeals panel, I can confirm that the panel now sits for two full days a month and panel members can walk as many as ten early morning safety routes a month.

Boundary Consultation extended, Childrens Centres consultation delayed. Because of the General Election, the consultation on new division boundaries for Suffolk County Council has been extended to early  January 2020. As part of this review, the Boundary Commission are proposing to reduce councillor numbers in Suffolk from 75 to 70. I have already offered you my view on this.

You can find out more information and respond to the consultation here: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/1849

For similar reasons the county has now announced that their contentious Childrens Centres consultation is delayed until after the election