What’s been happening: my December report

I apologise that I continue unwell, after contracting Coronavirus at the beginning of November and am not yet back to normal working.

As  local Coronavirus figures are of especial interest to local residents, you can find regularly updated figures here:

https//digital.nhs.uk/dashboards/coronavirus-in-your-area

Suffolk Coronavirus update to 10 December
As of the 8 December there have been 8,103 total lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Suffolk of which I am one. In total there have been 1,064 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people. This is the lowest overall COVID-19 case rate in the East of England.

District case rate as of 8 December 2020

 

 

I am told that from 2 July, the number of lab-confirmed positive cases now includes those identified by testing in all settings (pillars 1 and 2). Pillar 2 refers to tests in commercial labs working in partnership with the NHS. Previously, only Pillar 1 confirmed cases were included (tests completed in NHS labs). Due to this change many cases previously not attributed to any area are now included in area totals. This is not a recent surge in cases – the cases now being reported occurred from April onwards. As the quality of this data continues to improve, these numbers may continue to fluctuate over time, but overall, case numbers and case rates in Suffolk remain low compared to the East of England and England as a whole.

Following the lifting of the four week national lockdown in England that ran from 5th November to 2nd December, all districts within Suffolk are in Tier 2.

In the 7 days up to the 8th December there have been 665 new cases of COVID-19 in Suffolk. This is an increase on the numbers in the previous week.

The rate of new weekly cases in Suffolk has increased and is now, at 76.6 cases per 100,000 people. This is below the rates for the East of England region (135.8 / 100,000) and for England as a whole (151.0 / 100,000).

In total, up to the 27th November, there have been 632 deaths in Suffolk where COVID-19 was recorded on the death certificate. There have been 20 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 7 days.The estimated ‘R’ value for the East of England is between 0.9 and 1.0 which has decreased in the last week, but remains slightly higher than the ‘R’ value for England (0.8– 1.0).

Pavement Parking Consultation Following the Government’s announcement of a consultation on potential reforms to the law on pavement parking – which I have mentioned in a previous report – I responded as Councillor for Woodbridge supporting option 3. I recommended other councillors and members of the public did the same. Like me, my group submitted a response supporting Option 3: a nationwide roll-out of a London-style ban on pavement parking.

Local Government Boundary Commission consultation on draft recommendations
My SCC LDGI Group submitted a response to this consultation, objecting to the proposed reduction in councillor numbers, which makes little sense given Suffolk’s growing population and the increase in councillor workload.
The Group also registered concern that the proposals from the boundary commission adhered too closely to suggestions received from the Conservative administration at the County Council. Some of the proposed division boundaries appear to divide traditionally non-Conservative communities and attach them to strongly Conservative areas. This means that the five council seats lost will largely impact non-Conservative councillors and increase the hegemony of the Conservative administration even further.
Finally, the Group objected to multiple instances of cohesive communities are being divided and lumped into divisions with other towns and villages with which they are not closely connected.
I as County Councillor, together with other persons and groups have put in co-ordinated revisions for Woodbridge, and the larger part of east Suffolk, in the hope of persuading the Boundary Commission to provide a more logical solution than the previous bizarre East Suffolk proposals.

County Councillors Local Highways budget As you know I have been saving my highways budget so that it could be used for the much needed calming and speed reduction measures to protect Woodbridge residents now, and so save from increased traffic in the future (particularly with the impact of Sizewell and Brexit). It has been a bone of contention with Suffolk Highways for the least years. Councillors were recently told that their budgets had to be committed by 10 December, or be lost by 31 December, but I have agreed with Highways that the Local Highway Budget funds set aside for this project are moved from the Suffolk Highways LHB team into the Transport Strategy team and be ring-fenced for my control.

Roadside sensors installed As part of the Live Labs trial project for ‘A Smarter Suffolk’, two roadside sensors will be installed during December:
• A roadside temperature sensor on a streetlighting column on the A12 near Woodbridge
• A salt use sensor inside a grit bin on Burkitt Road, Woodbridge (outside Woodbridge School)
Sensors are being deployed at different environmental conditions in urban, rural and coastal locations. It is hoped that these sensors – two of a variety the project is trialling: cameras with radars to measure vehicle classifications and volumes; road surface temperature sensors; air quality monitors; wind speed / direction gauges and gully monitoring sensors.
could revolutionise the way services are delivered by local authorities through the collection of more localised data from across the county.The two-year £4.4m ‘Smarter Suffolk’ research project (funded by the Department for Transport) will run until the end of 2021, supported by BT Adastral Park and the University of Suffolk as well as various sensor technology providers.

Successful biodiversity motion At Full Council on the 3rd December, the LDGI Group proposed a biodiversity motion, asking for:
• Delivery of an SCC biodiversity strategy.
• Assessment of how SCC can lead partner organisations in this field.
• Adoption of biodiverse land management options on SCC land.
• A letter to the Secretary of State calling for a clear and ambitious national biodiversity strategy
This was unanimously passed, which is excellent news for Suffolk.

OFSTED initial report on SCC’s SEND services released An initial report has been published by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) looking into the support for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Suffolk was one of eighteen local authorities taking part in the study to gather evidence to inform future national improvements for children and young people with SEND across Education, Health and Care.
The initial findings of the report suggest that SEND services were maintained during lockdown in Suffolk, and workers have increased collaboration and co-production. The stress level of young people and families had risen, but the County Council has established dedicated services to provide support, including distributing family support boxes to over 2000 families, and running a campaign called Back to School, aimed at helping SEND children transition back into school life.The findings of the initial report can be read here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/assets/council-and-democracy/council-news/Area-SEND-Interim-visit-summary-note.pdf

Carers Rights Day took place on 26 November with even less than Suffolk’s usual lack of official concern. This year the Covid pandemic has made the situation for Britain’s unpaid carers – statistically more often women than men – worse than ever. New research published by charity Carers UK shows that unpaid carers provided support valued at £530 million for every day of the pandemic. Some was due to the increase in those needing care because of the pandemic but part of this increase was because much of the limited support enjoyed by carers evaporated in lockdown.
As I am sure fellow members of the Woodbridge Emergency Response Group can testify.

 

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