Woodbridge: Whats happening, February 2021

COVID-19 in Suffolk.

In Woodbridge itself there were 4 new infections in the week to 16 February. At 48.6 infections per 100,000  we are now below the national average, having been above last month.

For up-to-date data go to https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/ where you can search by postcode.

Head shot of person in blues sheepskin hat with earflaps. Her face is covered with a blue mask with white stars on it. Her eyes look apprehensive
Waiting for my jab. I had the Pfizer vaccination on Tuesday 16th

After a slow start  vaccinations in Suffolk are going very well. By Sunday 7th more than 1 in 4 residents had received at least one jab. This is a testament to the hard work and efficiency of our wonderful local healthcare teams and volunteers.

Last month I asked Public Health whether carers could not be vaccinated at the same time as the person they care for, and got what I felt to be a rather non-committal answer. Wonderfully this was not the end of the matter and, anecdotally at least, vaccination of carers along with those they care for is now beginning to happen which is very good news for community health in general.

Although the bad weather briefly closed the Woodbridge centre it was  up and running again. The latest news is that Woodbridge is opening a lateral flow testing site sjhortly.

Suffolk County Council Budget  The Suffolk County Council Budget was presented to Full Council last Thursday,  February 11th. Key points included:

  • This year’s budget strategy focuses on responding to COVID-19, delivering transformation savings, making use of the risk reserve for this year only to deal with one-off pressures, and looking ahead while continuing to adapt.
  • The net expenditure budget is £597.877m.
  • Basic council tax will be raised by 1.99%, the maximum amount allowable without a referendum.
  • The Social Care Precept will be raised by 2%, rather than the full 3% allowed.
  • £16.702m from risk reserves will be used to balance the budget.

CHart of Council Tax Band increases 21-22 SuffolkThe full detail can be found in the Cabinet papers from January 26th 2021. Link:

https://committeeminutes.suffolk.gov.uk/DocSetPage.aspx?MeetingTitle=(26-01-2021),%20The%20Cabinet

LDGI Group Budget Amendment My group constructed a Budget Amendment which was submitted alongside the administration’s Budget. Costingd and workings out were done after seeking advice from the SCC financial officers the The key change proposed by the LDGI Groupwould be to authorise the use of the full 3% social care precept, unlocking the maximum available funding without impacting SCC’s reserves. This would generate an extra £3.452m for social care at a cost of only £13.41 per year to a Band D household, freeing up general council tax funds to be spent on other projects and investments including:

  • £700k for establishing a COVID-19 grant scheme for Suffolk charities and arts & culture venues.
  • £500k for a solar energy scheme for Suffolk businesses.
  • £200k for creating an electric bike rental scheme for Ipswich and Lowestoft.
  • £500k to re-enable the use of concessionary bus passes on community transport and demand responsive transport across Suffolk.
  • £1m for a 30mph scheme to convert residential 30mph zones to a default speed limit of 20mph over four years.
  • £15k for a citizen’s assembly on how Suffolk can build back better while recovering from the pandemic.
  • £75k to enable community reviews of highways signage in the local area.
  • £50k to expand the flood management team to ensure SCC is applying for all flooding grants it is eligible for.
  • A demand-scoping exercise on where demand is for bus routes, a priority list for where future routes need to be, and a feasibility study on establishing an SCC-owned bus company to serve rural areas if commercial bus companies cannot.

The Conservative administration their budget through by a healthy margin, Labour abstaining on both the amendment and the budget vote.

WOman with earphones looking serious in front of shelves and shelves of books
Speaking on Zoom at the Budget meeting

By opting not to take the full 3% social care precept, the administration is voluntarily giving up £3.452m of funding for adult social care that must be made up from the general council tax fund, meaning that worthwhile projects such as those above cannot be pursued. I spoke specifically on the subject of bus pass usage and the inability of those entitled to them to use them on community and demand responsive transport due to a specific £300,000 cut in 2019. (The details for this are on my blog).

For full details you can watch the entire debate online on the County Council’s Youtube channel.

Dark figure of a woman holdong a red snow scraper with which she has scraped the pathe through the snow in the forground. Behind her is all white: a fairyland tunnel of snow covered branches with a little blue wheelbarrow in the distance
Clearing a path in the snow

Woodbridge Gritting: Although I started and funded the Woodbridge pavement gritting scheme 11 years ago and continued adding bins in subsequent years, the last few years have given us such mild winters that  people have dropped their guard a little.

In this last cold spell there were magnificent efforts from councillors of all parties plus a number of volunteers to make key pedestrian routes less lethal but I suggest that we need to feed in immediately all the areas people noticed as having a significant problem, a lack or bins or volunteers or all three. We also need to alert people as to the purpose of these bins. I was told off by one woman for taking sand from a bin because it was for ‘our hill’.

A12 scheme proposal: Seven Hills to Woods Lane Consultation The county is consulting on whether to spend £60million on various improvements to the We A12 between the A14 at Seven Hills and the A1152 at Woods Lane which will include dualling the section between the Seckford and Dobbies roundabouts and adding traffic lights at most roundabouts. This is a scheme which will have a great deal of local impact and on which there are likely to be many views so I would be grateful if to ensure as many residents as possible respond.

The consultation started on 9th February and will l continue until Friday 19 March.  All details are  available at  www.suffolk.gov.uk/A12improvements  During the consultation there will be two public virtual events to be held where people can hear a presentation on the proposals and then ask questions – details and link on the webpage.

Census 2021- next month The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have confirmed that the 2021 Census will go ahead as planned on Sunday 21st March 2021.

This is the first “digital-first” census, with people being encouraged to respond online on mobile phones, laptops, PCs or tablets. People can also complete the census over the phone, with the help of ONS trained staff, or by using the traditional paper form.

As  some individuals and communities may need support with the ‘digital-first’ approach, field officers will give help and encouragement to those who have not yet filled in their census questionnaire online or on paper after Census Day. They will be operating in the same way as a postal or food delivery visit. Field staff will never need to enter people’s houses; they will always be socially distanced, wear PPE and work in line with all government guidance.

The information the census collects is vital –  it helps plan and fund services in Suffolk:  transport, education and healthcare amongst other things. Charities also use census information to help get the funding they need. Businesses use it to decide where to set up, which creates job opportunities. It is important to take part.

A total of 94% of people took part in the last census in 2011, helping each county receive its share of public funding. Please help us beat that figure in 2021

Please see attached a Census Handbook designed specifically for Councillors. Links to this and other information are below:

Census 2021 and coronavirus – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/consultations-petitions-and-elections/census-2021

About the census – Census 2021

https://www.suffolkobservatory.info/