News from the County Councillor: August 2020

COVID-19 Update

Latest Government advice is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus 

Latest SCC information is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

I am unable to say at the time of writing (16 August) what impact the sudden abolition of Public Health England on 15 August will cause to local services.

Sudden closure of Age UK Suffolk  Age UK Suffolk ceased operations from Friday 24 July. This is a huge loss for our county, and I know that many residents will be concerned about the loss of vital support for themselves or elderly friends/relatives.Age UK stated that it had faced a number of financial challenges in recent years, and the impact of the pandemic on fundraising was the final    straw.  My group expressed public concerns about Suffolk’s vulnerable elderly residents who may struggle to cope, particularly given the current Covid-19 pandemic.We warned Suffolk County Council that this highlights the need to continue financially supporting charities and community organisations who provide support to vulnerable Suffolk residents.
Suffolk County Council  needs to remember it relies on such organisations and the care they provide to our residents, which prevent many people needing more intensive support from the council.
Suffolk County Council has published details of alternative sources of support:

https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/age-uk-suffolk/

Proposed changes to Highway Code to improve road safety will benefit cyclists and pedestrians  Wonderfully, the Department for Transport is currently consulting on amendments to the Highway Code to improve safety for vulnerable road users. The changes include the introduction of a “hierarchy of road users”, making clear that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others. Other amendments include guidance on pedestrian priority when crossing roads and guidance on safe passing distance when overtaking cyclists.

Road safety issues are an increasing problem on Suffolk roads, especially in rural areas. They form a significant part of my own increasingly heavy workload as Vice Chair of the Education Transport Appeals Panel, which now sits for a full day, twice a month hearing school transport appeals. For many Suffolk children, it simply isn’t an option to walk or cycle to school because it isn’t safe.

These proposed changes to the Highway Code will do much to protect pedestrians and cyclists. Most importantly, the new hierarchy of road users makes it clear that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others. I will have been on local radion this weekend on a prerecord putting this message out. Please could everyone respond and encourage others to do the same.

The government’s consultation ends on 27 October 2020 and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-highway-code-to-improve-road-safety-for-cyclists-pedestrians-and-horse-riders

Delay for children’s centre cuts after error spotted in report  I am reminding you of this, remind you of this, which I touched on in my last month’s report. The Cabinet was due to approve changes to children’s centres on 14 July. However, an error was spotted in the report at the last minute, which resulted in the Chief Executive pulling the report from the meeting. It will now be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 25 August.

There are currently 38 children’s centres in Suffolk. Under the proposed changes, this would be reduced to only 17 full-time and 11 part-time family hubs. Family hubs provide services for 0-19 year olds, whereas children’s centres currently provide services for 0-5 year olds. 8 centres would be repurposed for nurseries or SEND facilities, and another two centres will close completely, one of which is the Woodbridge Caterpillar. To remind you, Woodbridge Caterpillar centre was to be closed because, according to the report there were ample other venues in Woodbridge. The Caterpillar will remain open, as planned, to the end of its lease (2022), however no venues in Woodbridge had been identified beyond the GP surgery and the Library

As you recall, this was particularly contentious, as the closure seemed to reflect more about the length of the lease and quality of housing than local need for provision. None of which would have been an issue if SCC had not deliberately run down and then pulled down the pre-existing Youth Centre (now being rebuilt as Jetty Lane).

The Jetty Lane Centre boost The Jetty Lane Centre project in Woodbridge was given an amazing boost last month by the sudden, unexpected and very generous donation of 2 cabin classrooms by Eric Reynolds, of Woodbridge Boatyard. These can act as temporary activity spaces while the charity continues to raise the £3.5million required for the final building work.

The Jetty Lane Youth, Community and Arts Centre has been urgently required to fulfill unmet needs in Woodbridge since the previous longstanding Youth and Community Centre was demolished. And of course though the youth centre went, the need didn’t go away. Indeed, in cases  as with the proposed closure of the Caterpillar Centre (above), and the actual closure of AGEUK Suffolk (also above), the need has grown.   The social impact of coronavirus has made this need even greater.

The Spaces themselves were originally part of Trinity Buoy Wharf Jubilee Pier and are constructed from four 20 ft shipping containers. They will be ideal for small groups of people to meet in, they’re quirky, fun and centrally-located and will be an asset to our project and the wider community. Jetty Lane’s priority has always been to provide space for people to meet and use in Woodbridge at a cost that they can afford. These cabins will enable the charity to start doing that.

Climate emergency recommendations published  On 14 July, the Cabinet approved the recommendations of a cross-party policy development panel outlining how the council should respond to the climate emergency and reduce emissions. This follows a motion from my group in March 2019, which declared a climate emergency and committed the council to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Key recommendations include:

  • All future decisions must take into account carbon emissions
  • Annual publication of a carbon budget alongside the financial budget
  • Publish a cross-council action plan by the end of 2020 for net zero emissions across Suffolk
  • Changing to a 100% renewable energy tariff
  • Replacing all pool cars and service vehicles with fully electric vehicles by 2025
  • Develop an investment programme for renewable energy generation on the county farms estate
  • For all existing council buildings (including maintained schools), switch away from oil, LPG and natural gas use by 2030 and invest in onsite renewable energy generation
  • Provide advice for academies/free schools to develop their own net zero emissions plans

 

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