Woodbridge: what’s been happening in March

Coronavirus update  The covid infection rate continues to go downwards. According to national  statistics, there were somewhere between 0 and 2 people infected in Woodbridge in the week ending 9th March. This is as opposed to 11 people on month ago. However East Suffolk as a whole has had a nearly 20% increase in new infections over the last 7 days. Do bear in mind however these are currently small figures: 6 new infections a day.

The most up-to-date picture across Suffolk is :

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

The vaccination programme is going very well in Suffolk. This is a testament to the hard work and efficiency of our wonderful local healthcare teams and volunteers. However, supply remains patchy. This is the one area outside local hands.

With the return of school pupils to the classroom on Monday, households, childcare and support bubbles of primary/secondary-age pupils and primary/secondary staff are being asked to take a rapid test for COVID-19, twice a week. Secondary school pupils and primary/secondary school staff will be given their tests by their schools. Farlingaye HS made the EADT for the sheer number of tests administered! (Primary school pupils will not be asked to test at this time.)

There are four ways to get a test. For more details go to the Suffolk County Council . The Woodbridge Lateral Flow testing site will be stood down from 31 March because it has been decided that home testing is more beneficial.

Caroline Page standing looking very pleased in a clearly new bus shelter with the ancient, yellow Cherry Tree inn behind her
The new bus shelter finally in place

Finally: New Bus Shelter by the Cherry Tree
Happiness is.. a new bus shelter! People have waited in the cold and wet at the bus stop by Cherry Tree Inn, Woodbridge  ever since there was a bus stop there. A total wind tunnel. It has taken me four years to negotiate and and actually get this shelter in place.  A small victory? Not for the residents of Morley Avenue! I’m thrilled!

Woodbridge Safe Streets Vigil On March 13th, Woodbridge was one of few places in the county (country) to hold a small  peaceful, safe,  sociallly-distanced police-sanctioned vigil to  remember Sarah Everard and call for greater safety for women in public places. Full details here  https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2021/03/15/safer-streets-for-women-woodbridge-holds-vigil/

Home to school transport contracts to move from Suffolk Norse to Vertas Following the end of the joint venture partnership with Suffolk Norse (triggered on the part of Norse), SCC will be moving the home-to-school transport service to the wholly owned company Vertas.

Suffolk Norse delivered a termination of agreement notice in August 2020, giving 12 months notice to the Council. The 40 home-to-school transport routes and a school swimming service will be delivered by Vertas from September onwards. The contract was not put out to tender due to the limited timescales, the legal requirement to deliver these services continuously, and the risk of redundancies if a provider able to deliver both swimming and home-to-school transport cannot be found.

Suffolk & Norfolk County Council submit joint bid for £6m flood funding Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils have submitted a joint bid to the £200 fund for Flood and Coastal Resilience, requesting £6m to invest in flood protection schemes across both counties. The proposed projects would also capture water for reuse. If the bid is successful town and parish councils will be encouraged to get involved through measures like permeable paving, water butts and ‘rain gardens’ that can cope with occasional flooding. These projects would be in place by 2027 if the bid is approved.

Consultation on proposed A12 improvements from A14 Seven Hills to A1152 Woods Lane Suffolk County Council was consulting  on proposed improvements to the A12 between A14 junction at ‘Seven Hills’ and A1152 at Woods Lane, with the stated aim of increasing highway capacity in the area and preventing future congestion.

The “improvements” will include traffic lights on every roundabout but Seckford, and have an estimated cost of £60m. The lights would monitor congestion and use ‘intelligent flow’ to adapt to changing levels of traffic. The consultation finished  on 19th March. I will post my response separately.

Cllr Caroline Page speaking via zoom: head and shoulders shot in front of bookshelves
Cllr Caroline Page proposes the motion at Full Council via zoom

Carers Database I proposed a motion to the last full council of the electoral cycle  to create a cross-county Carers database in order to help direct the Council’s limited social care resources most effectively so as to ensure that there will be maximum support for carers, particularly in times of crisis.  Wonderfully this was seconded by Suffolk’s Conservatives(although they had had no appetite for the schemewhen I proposed it to them directly last summer and the motion passed ‘by general acclamation.’ Full details here: https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2021/03/21/identifying-suffolks-unpaid-carers/

LDGI Group opposes Government’s last-minute approach to local authority grants Suffolk County Council will receive £27m for highways repairs, maintenance and drainage in 2021-22, a reduction in from £31m the previous year. This has necessitated the use of £2m of reserves to top up the grant. We feel that these cuts in Government funding make it impossible to plan long-term for road maintenance and repair. Due to the uncertainty as to whether this grant would materialise at all, some vital work has already been postponed.

Post-16 Travel Policy consultation My group has submitted a joint response to Suffolk County Council’s consultation on the Post-16 Transport Policy, which manages transport to schools and education for young people after the age of 16. This included:

  • Support for the expansion of the post-16 travel eligibility criteria for sixth form students and adult learners aged 25 and under with EHC plans, reflecting the change in age range for compulsory school attendance.
  • Support for keeping prices lower for SEND students.
  • Use of buses and trains for school transport must be supported. The needs of students and the numbers currently forced to use taxis or private cars to reach their schools must be taken into account when considering public transport. Students should be steered towards buses first, and the school transport service should support our local bus network in maintaining services to rural areas.
  • The Travel Training Scheme must be better funded, so that it can expand and promote its services

Four Years of Locality Budgets    In the last four years, my locality budget has funded an amazingly diverse array of things to support local groups and the community in general. These included:

  • Entertainment for the individual Library Reading Schemes and prizes for the associated competitions (Animal Agents, Mischief Makers and Space Chase)
  • Funding towards a defibrillator for Warwick Avenue
  • A townwide Social Prescribing leaflet
  • A tenor soloist for the end of WWI Snape annniversary  War Requiem
  • 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
    Gritting: Caroline Page clearing the footway above the Ipswich Road with equipment supplied by the gritting scheme

    Additional bins and barrows for the Woodbridge Gritting Scheme (set up by me in 2010)

  • Advertising material: Woodbridge Farmers’ Market
  • Little City play shopping street experience for pre-schoolers
  • Plans for the interior of Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre
  • WTFC kit for the Junior team
  • Uniform jackets for Just 42 in-school mentors at FarlingayeHS
  • Benches and notice boards for areas outside the town centre
  • Funding for Woodbridge Festival
  • Promotional videos highlighting community need
  • The ‘Finish’ Arch for the Woodbridge 10k
  • Funding for Woodbridge Opera in the Park
  • Christmas presents for local children in need
  • Road trailer for the Woodbridge Coastal Rowing Club skiffs
  • Funding for Pirate Ship climbing frame, St Mary’s Primary School
  • 9 laptops to support learning for individual FarlingayeHS students in lockdown
  • Benches to improve the shopping experience in Woodbridge Thoroughfare

Let’s Identify and HELP Suffolk’s Unpaid Carers


Last

Cllr Caroline Page speaking via zoom: head and shoulders shot in front of bookshelves
Cllr Caroline Page proposes the motion at Full Council via zoom

Thursday I proposed to Suffolk County Council that we create an “all unpaid carers opt-in” database administered by the respected charity @suffolkfamilycarers to help the unpaid carers of Suffolk. This would allow county to target support at those that most need it.
We literally have no exact idea how many such carers there are in the country/county or what their needs might be: the last true numbers were taken at the last census in 2011: the #ONS will tell us in due course what the current figures are from this year’s census. The estimate for Suffolk is around 164,000 – and the estimated 1400 carers in Woodbridge alone (!!!) have saved the state (eg us) £20MILLION over the last year. Let’s be frank, such carers will generally be happy to pass on getting the plaudits and claps that haven’t come their way – if they could get all the help and visibility they need.
Wonderfully, Suffolk Conservatives seconded this motion, and it was passed “by general acclamation” by all of Suffolk County Council.
So pleased – because so badly needed!

My speech in full:

Colleagues, I am not going to read through our motion. It is self-explanatory.

Instead I am going to highlight some of the reasons why we are asking you to vote to help a crucial and often invisible  group of  Suffolk residents – our unpaid carers.

We’re extremely pleased that the Cabinet Member for Social Care is prepared to second this motion. Unpaid care is a issue that crosses all party boundaries.

We all know carers, many of us are carers, and sadly, any one of us, of any age, could either  become  a carer or someone needing care, in a heartbeat.

In this last year the pandemic increased the number of Britains unpaid carers by half – from around 9 million, to about 13.6 million  giving us 164 thousand in Suffolk – 1400  in my small Woodbridge division. The figures are approximate because  carers aren’t counted except in the census!

We know of sone. Some GP surgeries list them. The small percentage eligible for Carers Allowance are known, social services are aware of specific cases, Suffolk Family Carers has about 10%  of the total currently on their books,  but the large majority are known only to themselves and maybe a couple of family members or friends – carers who are children caring for adults, elderly couples with one caring for the other,  people in anxious or vulnerable situations, people who are simply scared of ‘the council’   – most of these fly under the radar.

Additionally many do not see themselves as carers until they recognise they need to plan for every moment’s  absence.

We need to know them ALL.

We need to know them because we need to be able to help them:

The life of many unpaid carers is anxious, impoverished, and vulnerable to both physical and mental health issues. Caring is hard to fit around earning, the Allowance is a pittance, and the stresses of caring impact on both the body and the mind.

Caring is so far from simply patting a hand or making a cup of tea. Yet we rely on carers to carry our NHS and social care on their shoulders. Those  1400 carers  in Woodbridge alone saved us around 50 thousand pounds a day – that’s  20million pounds last year.

The cost of replacing an unpaid carer is extreme.

We REALLY need to offer them targeted support to prevent burnout, or breakdown or tragedy.

And how can we offer targeted support unless we know who to target.

Many carers live lives of quiet desperation behind closed doors, invisible even to their own neighbours. Their support us often fragile and unofficial. This makes it easy for things to fall apart  when any crisis happens. I think all of us can think of local cases which came to light during the pandemic which  showed how much Suffolk was relying on unrecognised care. In  Woodbridge, our emergency response group have ended up as quasi carers for several people whose fragile unofficial  network was not covid proof.

We also worry very much about child carers, some primary school age,  many bearing an overwhelming load they can barely understand and seldom disclose. How have they been identified during this last year?  We must find a way of helping them – for their own futures as well as their present needs.

Our motion suggests how we start to answer these issues – via the respected Suffolk Family Carers charity working with other interested partner organisations.

I’m asking you to vote to support them in expanding their database to cover all carers within Suffolk -with initial information to be drawn from community organisations, schools, and all GPs, who must offer carers registered with them the option to register on the countywide database. We would be trying to reach every possible carer so as to, for example, target specific support in a pandemic, improve communications in general, and enable us to consult with carers about carer-specific policies and issues.

This would make Suffolk a national beacon of good practice. More importantly, start to solve a huge problem which we all share and which we know we have to solve together.

Colleagues I commend this motion to you.

Safer Streets for Women: Woodbridge holds vigil

Three people - very distanced - in front of ancient brick building. Two are masked. The third - Caroline Page - is speaking
Caroline Page speaking in front of the Woodbridge shire hall at the vigil, arranged by Jane Basham.  Woodbridge Mayor Sue Bale, to her right, also spoke

Woodbridge held one of very few police-sanctioned vigils in Suffolk  on 13 March, the wake of the Sarah Everard murder.

About twenty  people – masked and socially distanced – gathered together as dusk fell  outside the Shire Hall in the centre of Woodbridge to light candles, remember Sarah Everard and recognise the risks women face every day, just for being women. A 118 second silence was held by Jane Basham  – that is, one second for every woman known to be killed by a man in Britain last year.

Speaking as Woodbridge County Councillor, and LDGI Group Spokesperson for Women, I said:

We’re gathered here to remember Sarah Everard.

We’re gathered to recognise all the women of Britain for whom public spaces are not a place of safety. Women who not only hesitate to cross a park at dusk, leave a pub, go to a club – but who recognise that risks can occur if walk down the road in broad daylight. It’s not a question of age, or dress or location. I was nearly punched in the face by four big strangers on the East Suffolk line a year or two back, threatened with violence because they didn’t like my hat. I was small, and alone, and a woman.

Easy target.

It’s my birthday today – I’m 63. And in my adult life – and it’s been the lucky life of a middle-class white woman living comfortably in Britain – I can think of at least ten incidents, ten serious incidents, which involved actual physical harm or the threat of serious harm from strange men. In one, maybe two cases, I think I was actually in mortal danger.

I didn’t go out of my way to court a single one of them.

The most shocking thing is? I don’t know a single other woman who hasn’t experienced something similar. At least once, most more than once. It’s Everywoman.

Every woman, but not every man.

I don’t mean to demonise men. Almost all men are good people – but how can we women tell which ones are not?

This problem is not universal. I have travelled in countries where I could genuinely expect to cross a park alone at night without fear of harassment or attack. And have done so.

In Britain, 1300 years ago, in Northumbria, they boasted that a woman could walk with her new-born babe from coast to coast without suffering any harm.

Enough is enough. It is time to make a stand. If it was possible so long ago it is possible now. Time for every good man to join with every woman to ensure our public spaces are free from harassment, from threat, from fear.