More roads, less buses, millions wasted on consultants and residents deprived of vital services for want of a hundred thousand or so – despite declaring a climate emergency, County’s strangely dual attitude to money and transport continues this month..
Suffolk County Council announces funding cuts to subsidised bus routes Suffolk County Council has announced that 23 subsidised bus routes will no longer receive funding from the council, in a bid to save £340,000. This means that over a third of subsidised bus routes in the county will lose their funding. This will include the early morning 71 we can take from Woodbridge to Ipswich to get us there in time for work/college.
The decision to cut £340,000 from the subsidised buses budget was made in February, when the Council agreed on the budget for the current financial year. I spoke against this cut at the time, as well as other cuts that will affect bus users such as the decision to no longer print bus timetables. It seems that not everybody listened.More details of which routes will be affected can be found at: http://www.suffolkonboard.com/
The council says that it will be engaging with bus operators to determine whether any routes can continue to run without council funding. I will keep you updated with further developments, but, as ever warn you: use it or lose it. And once lost, it is hard to bring a bus service back!
I have also written to our MP, Therese Coffey, to ask her to support a national bus strategy. I have not yet had any word from her in response.
Consultation for Ipswich Northern Route Suffolk County Council announced suddenly that it is consulting on options to create a new road to the north of Ipswich – a decision made apparently before the last election Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils, East Suffolk Council and Ipswich Borough Council, with support from West Suffolk Council, The claim is apparently that this would enable better journeys across Suffolk as well as enable future “growth”.
The three potential routes for a new east/west link between the A12 and A14 a) from Martlesham to Claydon, b) Woodbridge to Claydon, and c) Melton to the A140 near Needham Market. All of these routes will have a significant impact on the alreadly congested roadfs around Woodbridge and its surrounding districts.
Apart from this, I am concerned at the cost and how it can possibly be managed. As you can see from elsewhere in this report, the county council hasn’t got the money to fulfil its current commitments, and Highways England is reluctant to spend it. The minimum cost for this road is currently quoted at £500,000 – with estimates rising up to as much as £1bn.This in a county that has maintained for years that it is committed to growth, yet cannot afford £100,000 for roadside bus timetables!
Additionally, while supporters of a bypass scheme want it to relieve congestion in Ipswich, the government has said that to attract funding the scheme would need to unlock further housing growth north of Ipswich rather than exist to solve the towns traffic problems. We are looking at 10,000 to 15,000 extra houses declared – and possibly more.This scheme therefore seems to be the tail wagging the dog.
As such I am seconding a motion against this at the next meeting of the County Council , suggesting that the money spent on looking at such a scheme should be more profitably spent on sustainable transport solutions.
A public consultation allowing members of the community to comment on the project runs from Friday July 5 to Friday September 13. There will be a number of public drop in sessions. Locations closest to Woodbridge are:
|9 July||Grundisburgh Village Hall, 6 Ipswich Road, Grundisburgh, IP13 6TJ||1500 – 1900|
|13 July||Woodbridge Community Hall, Deben Annex, Station Road, Woodbridge, IP12 4AU||1000 – 1500|
|16 July||Kesgrave War Memorial Community Centre, Ropes Hall, Twelve Acre Approach, Kesgrave, IP5 1JF||1500 – 1900|
|20 July||Ipswich Library, Northgate Street, Ipswich, IP1 3DE||1000 – 1500|
|23 July||Henley Community Centre, Church Meadows, Henley, Ipswich, IP6 0RP||1600 – 2000
|26 July||Martlesham Pavilion, The Drift, Martlesham, Ipswich, IP5 3PL||1500 – 1900|
There is a campaign to stop this route. Details can be found at https://stopipswichnorthernbypass.co.uk/
SCC releases breakdown of Upper Orwell Crossing spend The final costs of the abandoned Upper Orwell Crossings project have been released, and show that Suffolk County Council spent a total of £8.1m before deciding to not build the Crossings. Of this, over £4m was paid in fees to consultants. My group do not feel this sits comfortably with the claim that ‘tough decisions had to be made’ when it came to county cutting £half a million from Suffolk’s rural bus transport in February or its suddent attack of entrepreneurial vim and vigour shown over the new Northern Route proposals.
Department for Transport refuses funding for four village bypas The Department for Transport has decided to not support the proposal for a £133m four village bypass in Suffolk, aka the Suffolk Energy Gateway. The key reasons for the government’s decision were:
- It is concerned about the overall value for money of the project;
- It felt the council had not provided enough money for it and neither had EDF as part of the case to build Sizewell C;
- There are concerns about the environmental impact of the road.
All rather ironic when one considers the devastation a Northern ROute would cause.
Cross-party call for independent inquiry into SEND services On 14 June I signed a cross-party letter to the Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council, asking her to establish an independent inquiry into the provision of SEND services in Suffolk.
This follows the Ofsted and Care Quality Commission reinspection earlier this year, when Suffolk County Council’s SEND services were deemed to have made insufficient improvement.
SCC misses children’s care plan targets in 75% of cases
The Department for Education has published figures showing that Suffolk County Council exceeded the legal time limit of 20 weeks for issuing new education, health and care plans (EHCPs) in 75% of cases in 2018. This means that hundreds of children were left waiting for the appropriate support and is a significant increase compared to 2017, when 53% of cases went beyond the legal time limit.
Suffolk County Council has admitted that there needs to be rapid improvements to this process, and in the last few months it has managed to increase the proportion of EHCPs completed within the legal time limit to 42.5%.
Reports that health visitor numbers will be cut It was reported in the Guardian and Observer newspapers that Suffolk County Council is planning to dramatically reduce the number of health visitors in Suffolk in order to make savings.
These plans have not been shared with councillors or the public yet, however the media claim to have seen internal SCC documents showing that the number of health visitors will be reduced by 25% through redundancies in order to save £1m. Health visitors would also have a reduced workload and only focus on the most vulnerable families, rather than all families in Suffolk. The rest of their current workload would need to be picked up by nurses or social workers. I have been contacted already by several residents concerned by this.
Final Council overspend on 2018-19 budget The final outturn figures for the 2018-19 budget have been published, showing that Suffolk County Council overspent by £4.5m (0.88% of the budget). Key areas of overspend included:
- Home to School Transport (£1.7m), due to the increasing demand for out-of-county SEND transport arrangements;
- Adult Care Purchasing Budget (£4m);
- Early Help and Specialist Services (£4.8m), due to the increasing number of children in care, especially those requiring specialist placements.
These areas of overspend were mitigated by underspends in other directorates.
Suffolk Junior Road Safety Officer awards I attended the awards ceremony for this last week, and was very proud of Woodbridge’s
Kyson School whose JRSOs gained silver certificates in helping promote Road Safety awareness. If you have passed by, you may have noticed banners up around the school gates asking parents to park and drive considerately? This was part of it. This is definitely how to change road behaviour at grass roots level! I do hope the other Woodbridge primary schools will join this scheme too
Miscellaneous I am chasing county highways officers about where we are with the Thoroughfare scheme. Back in March I agreed to fund the next stage:
- new sign design
- produce draft TRO and carry out formal consultation and advertisement and responding to any objections
- investigate the need for any advance signing before entering the Thoroughfare
- draft a committee report if needed
- prepare a works estimate and job pack.
I have since had it confirmed by Highways Officers that this is in the pipeline – I have even an end-date of December confirmed.g, despite several reminders.
I am funding a bus shelter at the Cherry Tree west-bound stop, which is a chilly, windy and unsheltered place to wait at any time of the year.
You will be pleased to hear that St Mary’s School has now found and employed a lollipop person.
My surgery is on the third Saturday of July as usual. Just a reminder, it breaks for August.