Air-pollution deaths and Suffolk transport choices

I blogged the other day about air-pollution in Suffolk. No – not sand from the sahara that you can’t do anything about, but particulate matter which comes from – wait for it – the internal combustion engine and coal fired energy.

Now the Evening Star has published Public Health England’s verdict. “Suffolk: Air pollution was contributory factor in more than 800 deaths in 12 months”  What seems to be happening is that smoking-related deaths are going down but ones related to air-pollution are rising. Surprised?

Hardly

We haven’t much coal fired energy here – but we do drive a lot of cars – partially because transport is so poor.

District Council Boundary Changes – how do you want Woodbridge to look?

DO you know about the Woodbridge proposed district council boundary changes? Will they matter to you?

Our local MP, Therese Coffey has suggested, and the Local Government Boundary Commission propose extending the Woodbridge district ward out to Great and Little Bealings and Hasketon.

If you think this isn’t sensible – or if you do – get onto the Local Government Boundary Commission website and join the consultation: they want to hear from you. You can even use their interactive map to draw an improved version! You have until 28 April.

I personally do not think it is geographically sensible, nor do I think it fits any convenience or criterion other than that of mere number crunching. (And that to a degree that is by no means essential to any argument.) My colleagues agree with me.

This therefore is the submission that your Woodbridge Lib Dem Councillors at County, District and Town have submitted to the LGBC:

We, the elected Liberal Democrat Councillors representing Woodbridge, wish to comment on the draft proposal, with particular  reference to paragraphs 91 to 96.

We accept the arguments by all who put the case that Woodbridge and Martlesham North be regarded as a single electoral area, the latter being effectively an overspill allied to the town of Woodbridge.   There is no suggestion by any of those putting cases as to how to redraw ward boundaries to make these 3 single member wards, and we cannot see any clear arguments for such a re-drawing.   The territory would thus logically fit a simple 3 Councillor ward, being entirely urban, and geographically compact.   The elector figures for 2014 amount to 6428 and for 2019 to 6544; both figures lie quite comfortably within the outside variation of 10% from the norm sought.

However, the proposal by the local M.P., supported by the Inspector, that the rural parishes of Hasketon with Great and Little Bealings be lumped in with Woodbridge does not appear to meet the terms of reference requiring a reflection of identities, local ties and identifiable boundaries.   None of the criteria set out are satisfied, except the convenience of playing with numbers.

The Bealings villages are tucked geographically beside Playford, Culpho and Grundisburgh;  the Inspector’s recommendation for a Grundisburgh ward with fewer that average electors could absorb the two Bealings parishes, thus combining genuinely rural parishes in a single ward.   Hasketon, which the M.P. and the Inspector suggest should fall into a Woodbridge ward, is also sited beside Grundisburgh, with common borders aligned also to Boulge, Burgh and Debach.   Any logical view of a Grundisburgh-centred ward should therefore include Hasketon, even if this results in an electorate marginally above the average.

We suggest furthermore that a large ward centred on the urban population of Woodbridge has no conceivable common interest with Hasketon (population 314), Great Bealings (230) or Little Bealings (360), with the added problem that these 3  parishes are the ‘wrong’ side of the A12.

Woodbridge is a sizeable, compact town with a population over 6000.   Its character and identity over the last half century owes much to the early by-passing of the A12, making Woodbridge a sought-after destination for visitors, beneficial tourism, yachtsmen, shoppers and property buyers.

We can see no logic in pretending it has interests or character in common with Hasketon or either of the Bealings parishes.   Furthermore, the two Bealings parishes recognise themselves as having a commonality with Playford, with whom they have produced a joint Neighbourhood Plan, recently accepted by the District Council as appropriate.

We therefore conclude that our suggestion for a Woodbridge ward boundary falls within the terms of reference of the exercise, as does our definite proposal for excluding Hasketon and the two Bealings.   Thus we recommend a 3 councillor ward comprising Woodbridge and Martlesham North.

Signed on behalf of Woodbridge Liberal Democrats by

Caroline Page, County Councillor 

Diana Ball, Town and District Councillor

Kay Yule, Town Councillor

Vic Harrup, Town Councillor

Patrick Gillard, Town Councillor

The short life of Suffolk Circle- and what it cost us Suffolk taxpayers!

SuffolkCircle 21April2014

In March – just as I left the country – Suffolk Circle folded and Suffolk Tories quietly wrote off nearly three quarters of a million pounds of our money.  What a surprise!

Even back in 2010 when SCC’s Conservative Cabinet unilaterally decided to give just under £700,000 sight unseen to produce a “Pay-annual-subscription-to-get-a-good-neighbour-scheme” you could see there were potential problems (see blogpost July 2011) .

The notion was ‘spun’ to the people of Suffolk as long-term assistance to the council’s social care budget by supporting the vulnerable elderly. But as the Circle defined ‘the elderly’ as anyone aged over 50, this included over a third of Suffolk’s population. Such a ludicrously long-term ‘long-term solution’ should have raised alarm bells with anyone of even average mathematical ability. Unfortunately it seems there was no such person overseeing Suffolk Circle.

Furthermore, despite spending a year and £100,000 of taxpayers’ hard-earned money on a ‘scoping exercise’ – neither the (then) Cabinet Member for Adult and Continuing Services – Colin Noble – nor Suffolk Circle itself appeared to be aware of the huge number of pre-existing interest groups and services for both the over-50s and the ‘frail elderly’ that were already operating in Suffolk * (I know, I know. You couldn’t make it up.)

Colin NobleSuffolk CircleSo unsurprisingly Suffolk Circle missed its modest targets from the beginning.

In the first year it spent £350,000  and only got 362 members. These members had paid a minimum subscription of £30 each and STILL cost the council £1000 a head. Nice going! (362 people make up 0.16% of Suffolk’s over-50s, by the way).

The  modest target-setting continued. Suffolk Circle’s target membership was supposed to be 1630 members by March 2013 and 3500 by March 2014 when the funding finished and the scheme could soar to dizzy heights without it. As it was, Suffolk Circle ground to a halt in March the moment the money ran out, admitting it had achieved no more than 2000 members in its entire existence.  Paid for by the hardworking Suffolk taxpayer, who had had this scheme foisted on them – without consultation and in secret – by a set of ideological nitwits who had picked up the notion from goodness knows where.

No oversight, no claw-back, no responsibility taken. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen, shall we?

But don’t you think the frail elderly of Suffolk deserve more? and all the local groups, from Age UK Suffolk to Wickham Market and District Family Carers who could have taken that money and spent it wisely and responsibly?

I do.

Colin Noble – until last week Cabinet member for Finance at SCC – has suddenly (and perhaps in view of the above, inexplicably) become rather passionate about debate in policy-making:

 “We believe that the members of the council should debate policy and come up with proposals that are taken up by the cabinet and then implemented by the senior officers,”  he is quoted as saying last week. “At present we feel it is developed by the cabinet and senior officers, and then given to the backbenchers for them to approve. I believe it is best when policy is robustly debated before being adopted and taken forward to be implemented.”

Cllr Noble, we members of the council would have loved to debate the issue of Suffolk Circle if the decision hadn’t been made by you and your colleagues in camera. As it was, non-Cabinet members first saw the briefing documents for Suffolk Circle when we scrutinized its shoddy performance one year on.

Don’t you think it’s a bit rich to start talking about debating policy now, after you threw the better part of a million pounds of Suffolk taxpayers’ hard-earned money down the gurgler?

 

*Just in the area local to Woodbridge this could be taken to include: Church groups, Suffolk Carers, Royal British Legion, WI, English Country Markets, Library groups, writers groups and book groups, amateur dramatics and play readings, Good Neighbour Groups, Tea dances, Ramblers, Age UK (including their telephone befriending scheme), Wickham Market Family Carers Support Group, political parties, WRVS, lunch groups, charity work, NADFAS, WAMRAG, and groups for those interested in art, photography, music, opera, ballet, the theatre – to name but a few.