Woodbridge Town Council report Nov 2010

New Strategic Direction: When is a Consultation NOT a Consultation?

SCC has finally embarked on a consultation on the administration’s  New Strategic Direction proposals (proposals that were that were announced seven weeks ago on the 23rd of September) with an online survey for members of the public to respond to, on the Suffolk County Council website. I believe this survey closes on November 18th . Seven weeks to anticipate (and indeed according to the Leader, this was over a YEAR in the planning) and  just three weeks to make a comment. And then only if you are computer literate. This shows the  respect our administration have for the views of the people who elected them.

I am not sure what the administration plans to do to reach the many Suffolk residents who do not easily use or access computers.

We are told the responses from this consultation will be used to provide a report for the Full Council meeting on the 2nd of December.

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/AboutSCC/NewStrategicDirection.htm

Update: only responses recieved before November 15th will be used in the report to Full Council. So a considerably LESS than three week consultation for those who find the link.

You can’t OBJECT to the NSD on this survey, mind.

Ipswich Road made safer for pedestrians

The refuge island at the top of Ipswich road which I have been pressing for for a couple of years, and which I have funded from QoL  is finally being built.  Sorry for the inconvenience – but it will be worth it! The solar-powered flashing ‘30 ‘sign for halfway down  Ipswich Road (just before the blind bend) which I have also been fighting for has been ordered and should be installed shortly.

When these are in place we might consider looking at what else needs to be done to slow traffic  – and particularly traffic entering Woodbridge from the A12.

Martlesham Creek footpath revamp

I’mvery very pleased to be able to announce the temporary closure of Footpath 6 Woodbridge (Martlesham Creek) from Kyson Point westwards to Footpath 11/12 Martlesham for resurfacing! This stretch of the path is a nighmare in all but the driest weather,  and I have ben pestering the relevant  officer for a while now to see what she could do. Hopefully its closure until Februaryfor proper building up and resurfacing of the quagmire it has become  will result  in many happy years walking for both residents and visitors

SCC Care Homes ‘Consultation’ (as long as you give one of the pre-selected answers, that is!)

At the October Cabinet meeting the Cabinet announced they were looking at the future of SCC Care homes in the county, that is,  looking to divest the services that the Council provides.  They say this is ‘due to the cost of running care homes and ensuring that the care homes are of the highest quality for residents’. They have considered this solely in terms of money rather than the needs of the increasingly ageing population of Suffolk. This is of concern to us because of Lehmann House in Wickham Market, which is one of the homes for which complete closure is postulated

The  options on offer are:

Close the homes and commission alternative services from the independent sector. The council would close all of the homes and sell the sites, and re-commission the required places from the independent sector, as they state that places bought in independent homes are cheaper compared to the cost of providing in house. This relies on there being places  to buy and also brings up issues of who is  ensuring these places are of a suitable standard

Sell all of the homes as going concerns The council would sell the homes as going concerns to one or more new providers who would take over the care of residents, the employment of the staff and the maintenance of the buildings.  Residents could continue to live in the homes and the staff would transfer to the new provider or providers. It was pointed out at Cabinet that many homes could not be sold as going concerns because they were too expensive

Close a number of homes and transfer the remaining homes to the independent sector. This option would involve the closure of a number of homes and transfer of the remaining homes with an agreement to develop new services and facilities to replace the existing homes, which could include new residential homes or very sheltered housing.

Within the papers there is a list of six houses that ‘might be’ (read ‘are being’) considered for early closure

Lehmann House in Wickham Market

Ixworth Court in Ixworth

The Dell in Beccles

Wade House in Stowmarket

Davers Court in Bury St. Edmunds

Paddock House in Eye

An initial  12 week consultation  – that is, 9 weeks longer than the administration has allowed for the NSD – starts 1st November 2010 (consultation ending  24th January 2011) will ‘seek stakeholders’ views’ with a plan for divestment of the homes in March 2011.

You will notice that although there has been no costings attached to this  – beyond the assurance that some council-run Care Homes are ‘too expensive’ (right up there with the ‘feel’ that Bury Road P&R users will just switch to London Road) there is NO OPTION  to maintain the status quo in the  consultation. So much for the democratic process, eh

I am visiting Lehmann House this Friday. You can respond to the consultation, and read the report that went to Cabinet at this address;

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Consultations/carehomesconsultation2010.htm

Bury Road Park and Ride to close despite its popularity. Sums don’t count!

Also on Oct 12th the Lib Dems ‘called-in’ Cabinet’s decision to close the close the Bury Road Park and Ride site in January, just after Christmas in the belief  that this would save significant amounts of money. We continue to believe that the three Park and Ride sites are valuable for Suffolk and Suffolk residents alike, and, in addition to contributing to our ‘greenest county’ aspirations could contribute significantly to the Suffolk exchequer is managed sensibly.

The rationale for the closure was based on things like ‘a feel’ for the situation (I kid you not), and without business analysis to explain a sudden drop in profits that coincided with transferring the new contract from  Ipswich Buses to First. Additionally, there was no mention of the cost of changing the contract, and the information they chose to provide  about the level of use was not per site sites. This was particularly interesting because, when we tracked it down, it durned out that the usage at Bury Road is much higher than at Martlesham – nearly double!   We also discovered that the County has just  received £830,000 in European funding to promote sustainable transport around the town of Ipswich, while only recently the Government has committed to spending £25m in Ipswich on sustainable transport including new bus stops and real time information.

None of this was accounted for in the SCC decision, no was there any consideration of introducing a charge for concessionary fares. (This is extraordinary because charging for concessionary fares was due to be introduced in all three Park and Rides three months later and the figures for projected increase in income MUST therefore be available. It is unbelievable that they were not considered as part of this decision-making process – or indeed part of the scrutiny).

We estimate that if each concessionary user paid £1.50 for the service, then the Park and Ride would actually bring around £644,000 worth of income into the County, rather than the current apparent deficit of £800,000.  Our survey of nearly 500 regular users suggests that 10% or less would refuse to pay this modest charge: the decision was based on the administration’s ‘feel’ that 50% would refuse. Again, were there hard facts? No way!!!

Unfortunately the scrutiny committee refused to refer the decision back to Cabinet, with the voting split on political lines rather than those of scientific financial planning. There were 13 out of 14 Conservatives voting for the decision to be upheld, the two Liberal Democrats on the committee voting for the decision to be referred back with support from the one Labour member.

For more information including the original papers, please head to;

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_14828

Lose CONNEXIONS – Upcoming Cabinet Items

November’s cabinet meeting has a significantly reduced agenda compared to many meetings in the past. Two issues have specific interest for  people in Woodbridge:

Development of a New Integrated Youth Support Service. Alas, like so very many of the SCC administration’s  ‘positive title’ initiatives this is  misleading. This  is not looking at yer actual ‘development’ at all but  the possible divestment of open access youth clubs (destruction rather than development in other words), and to approve the establishment of a ‘Divestment Fund’ to enable communities to take over the running of existing SCC provision or start up a new type of provision.  The Youth and Connexions service will no longer exist in their current form. Although this is supposed to be up for consultation, we are told in advance that ‘the new service will have fewer features, but have more investment in targeted support for vulnerable people.’

I have already been approached by the heads of two separate youth services worried about the impact of this on their community

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=doc&id=1_14859&format=doc

The Cabinet is also being asked to agree SCC’s future role in effective management of Suffolk’s natural environment, and to support a bid for the County to be a pioneer authority in delivering the Government’s Total Environment agenda.  The report describes how within the New Strategic Direction it is possible for the County Council to contribute to delivering the Government’s green agenda.

How this links in with the Park and Ride closure , for example, or the fact that the Council’s carbon footprint for private vehicle use went UP this last year while its usage of sustainable transport went DOWN remains to be seen.

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=doc&id=1_14860&format=doc

Please don’t forget that members of the public are able to ask questions of the administration at each Cabinet meeting.  Please head here to find out more:

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/CommitteesAgendasReportsandMinutes/PublicQuestionTimeatMeetingsoftheCountyCouncilandCabinet.htm

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