All posts by Caroline Page

Woodbridge – new county boundaries. Have your say

Woodbridge county council division to get new boundary: and YOU  can help choose

Seemingly the Boundary Commission  “is minded to recommend that Suffolk County Council should have 70 councillors”, instead of the current 75 (this with me working 100 hour weeks already. Sigh).

More reasonably, they also want to redraw the councillor boundaries to have more equal numbers of residents per division, and potentially get rid of 2-member divisions.

The Commission is asking both local councils and the public to help decide where the new boundaries should be.

Our Woodbridge division has  to change to increase the number of persons included . If nobody contacts, the commission  will redraw the boundary to its own thoughts – which they admit can have no local knowledge of or understanding of local linkings.

Woodbridge division needs, ideally to acquire an extra 1600 -1800 people within its county council boundary. (This has no effect on existing parish boundaries. Eg  the current Woodbridge division already contains  some of Martlesham Parish) While the east, west and south boundaries of the Woodbridge division have a clear rationale, currently its northern border with Melton is confusing.

My personal view is that it would seem sensible for both sides of Pyches Road, the Woodbridge Primary school, developments like Bury Hill and Saxon Way, and all (rather than some ) of Bredfield Rd to be included in the county boundary.  It is an area which is in the Parish of Melton – but which thinks of itself as Woodbridge and uses Woodbridge shops and services and whose roads are wholly interlinked. It makes sense for it to be in the Woodbridge county boundary rather than the neighbouring division of Wickham. This would enable  eg roads and schools to be administered together. Currently the  county boundary is the broken line down the middle of Pyches Road – separating Woodbridge  even from its own primary school.

You can  helpdo something to change this.
The boundary commission’s consultation is here
and you can add your views. If you support this idea, which would turn this necessity into  a benefit to residents, or indeed have other ideas, do add your voice to the consultation.
If nobody contacts the commission,  it will redraw the boundary to its own thoughts – which the Commission freely admits are based on having no local knowledge or understanding of local linking. Your input is therefore crucial.
Suffolk County Council  current divisions

The consultation will run until 13 January 2020, and proposals can be submitted here: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/node/18495

Note: There is nothing explicit to say that submissions have to be based on a council size of 70, but anyone making a submission on any other council size would have to put forward strong supporting arguments to justify this. This would likely need to be linked to the practical impact of division patterns. The Commission also has the right to “adjust by one or two” the council size it has proposed, if this adjustment fits its preferred pattern of divisions. This would be reflected in the next stage of the process, when draft recommendations are published and consulted on.

Submissions should address the following three factors, and must be backed up with evidence and examples. These are statutory criteria that the Boundary Commission must consider, and all three will be given equal weight.

  1. Electoral equality
  • The new boundaries should leave each councillor representing roughly the same number of voters across the county.
  • The data to use for this is the 2025 forecast electorate (592,066), which gives an average electorate per councillor of 8458 (assuming 70 councillors). If the submission is based on a different council size, then obviously the average electorate per councillor will need to be adjusted to reflect this.
  • In general, the Commission will accept variances from the average number of electors per councillor of up to +/- 5%. Anything over that may be questioned and may require justification.
  1. Community identity
  • The boundaries should, as far as possible, reflect community interests/identities. This must be evidence-based and cannot just be asserted.
  • Issues to consider include: transport and communication links within the proposed division; community groups or local organisations that represent the area; facilities, such as where people go for shopping, medical services and leisure facilities; identifiable boundaries, such as rivers, woodland, roads or railway lines; parish boundaries; shared interests or concerns within the community, which aren’t relevant to neighbouring areas.
  1. Effective and convenient local government
  • Issues to consider include the number of councillors per division, the geographic size of divisions, and the relationship with district boundaries.
  • The Commission has confirmed that it will attempt to draw-up a pattern of single-member divisions for Suffolk.  There are seven two-member divisions in East Suffolk:
    1. Beccles
    2. Felixstowe Coastal
    3. Gunton
    4. Kesgrave and Rushmere St Andrew
    5. Lowestoft South
    6. Oulton
    7. Pakefield
  • Legally the electoral divisions must be wholly contained within a district: a division can never straddle two district councils. (It can of course straddle parish councils: the Woodbridge county division has long contained a section of the Martlesham parish council.) While the new division boundaries should try to match district ward boundaries as far as possible, there is no requirement for them to be coterminous.

To help with submissions, you can download the “Electorate Proforma” for Suffolk from https://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/eastern/suffolk/suffolk-county-council-0.  (Via the link on that page under Further Information, which says ( 2) Division Arrangements Consultation). You will need to amend the “Number of Councillors” figure at the top right to reflect the council size you are working with (e.g. 70 councillors). This will then show which divisions are forecasting a variance from the average electorate per councillor in 2025

General Election 2019 – Suffolk deserves better

Ok, the SIX Conservative MPs who represent Suffolk do NOT cover themselves with glory  in terms of their ability to represent the people or localities that elected them. In fact most, including Suffolk Coastal’s Therese Coffey, are amongst the worst in the country.

Election 2019

This is according to a useful national “league table”: the People – Power Index 2019 https//www.change.org/l/uk/the-people-power-index-how-did-your-mp-score

Of parliament’s 650 MPs, Matt Hancock ranks 288th, Peter Aldous 370th, James Cartlidge 540th, Jo Churchill 558th, Suffolk Coastal’s  Therese Coffey (a perhaps unsurprising) 592nd, with Dan Poulter right at the bottom, ranking a shocking 627th!!!

This scoring represents each MP’s availability to constituents, representation of their constituency, and keeping their minds on the job they were elected to do.

Wake up Suffolk!

We deserve much, much better than this. And the solution is in our own hands – and the ballot box.

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ThePeople-Power Index looked at:

1.Your MP’s availability to their constituents. This looks at how your MP is available online (email and social media), offline (holding “surgeries” in your local area and a caseworker), and whether your MP is distracted by a second (or third) job. (Score out of 30)

2.Your MP’s participation in Parliament. This looks at your MP’s participation record for voting in Parliament, so that your constituency is counted when new laws are passed, and how often your MP raises issues from your constituency in Parliament. (score out of 10)

3.How an MP listens to the public. An MP’s top priority is their constituency, but they also have a responsibility to the wider general public to bring political attention to public campaigns and priority issues by discussing them in Parliament. (score out of 10)

No rights, on Carers Rights Day

No, being a carer is NOT a matter of patting a hand and making a cuppa. It is vital, stressful and done for love. It can involve skills as varied as advocacy, heavy lifting and divergent thinking

Okay, folks, it’s another Carers Rights day. Yet another. And I want to ask one simple question:

In reality, what  human rights do our country’s unpaid family carers actually have?

Right to equality? Try it. Next time someone asks what you do, say you are a family carer, watch how your status slips. Your  work is not even worthy of pay. Your conversation, contacts, experience not worth their time.

Freedom from discrimination? In law maybe, but in real life? How many carers suffer constructive dismissal? How many never get employment? And how many find their onetime friends ‘forgetting ‘them?  Carers are not cool.

Freedom from slavery? Many carers work around the clock 24/7 without a break, without pay, without consideration. And I do mean work.

Right to remedy by a competent tribunal/ right to fair public hearing/ right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. No way. We carers know we are the punchballs. We are relied on as workhorses by professionals who are paid, supported and unionised, to do unstinting work on their behalf, and yet we  are all too often ignored, demonised, blamed. We are Schroedingers carers:  ignorant but know-all, arrogant but timid, overprotective yet uncaring,  in the narrative of social care and NHS provision. Cinderellas who can be blamed without redress.

Right to Rest and Leisure. When a carer works 24/7, this is laughable.

Right to Adequate Living Standard? Look at all of the above.   Again, don’t make me laugh.

I am offended by the whole concept of a Carers Rights Day – a day when well-paid professionals and media pundits gather together to pat each other on the backs and moo “Ooooo – we care: we reeeelly care for your plight

Actions speak louder than words.

The truth is that they don’t.  Society doesn’t. Successive governments don’t.   And when I once asked Unison strikers why they were not striking for family carers they memorably replied “Because you don’t work!”  (That is, because we Family Carers don’t have paid hours, overtime, sick pay, holiday pay etc etc, we don’t work. I have never forgotten. Or forgiven.)

Carers wouldn’t need a Carers Rights Day if the state had ever given Family Carers any meaningful rights.  And the right to be accepted as a worker rather than patronised as a rather dim and unworldly saint  comes top of MY list.

If carers were seen as the workers they are, the real cost of that care: the working hours, the loss of careers, the impact of poverty and poor health, the absence of employment-related pensions – all these might be factored into the support offered to them.

As it is, people suggest they may like a session of aromatherapy!