Category Archives: Council reports

Reports I make on a monthly basis to Woodbridge Town Council

News from the Woodbridge County Councillor for June 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/

As of 17 June, confirmed Covid deaths in Suffolk are:

Ipswich 351 255.2 per 100,000 resident
East Suffolk 623 251.0 per 100,000 resident
Mid Suffolk 183 178.5 per 100,000 resident
Babergh 153 167.4 per 100,000 resident
West Suffolk 235 131.4 per 100,000 resident
Suffolk 1,545 203.7 per 100,000 resident

This puts deaths in East Suffolk  significantly above the Suffolk average. It has the highest Covid death rate of any Suffolk  rural district.

Further opening of schools  From 1 June it was expected that school s would gradually begin to reopen to more pupils, in addition to accommodating children of key workers and vulnerable pupils.

The phased opening of schools was to start with pupils in nurseries, reception, year one and year six. Secondary schools and other schools such as pupil referral units and special schools will also gradually increase the number of children and young people they can accommodate. For secondary schools this will start with year 10 and year 12.

Suffolk County Council has been supporting schools in preparing for the possibility of increased pupil numbers and have provided all schools with a risk assessment checklist.  Schools did not uniformly open for more pupils from the first of June. The council has been clear from the outset that it supports school leaders in making their best endeavours to meet the government’s ambitions for wider opening, based on robust local risk assessment. Schools in Suffolk are very diverse and for some, opening to more pupils will be dependent upon staff availability, physical space and the logistics of social distancing and other issues that might emerge from school leaders’ risk assessments. Some schools have also chosen to delay opening to more pupils based upon their local interpretation of the SAGE advice and the position of some unions.

In Woodbridge, as of 20 June, Kyson, Woodbridge and St Mary’s Primaries have a bespoke offer for eligible pupils, as has Farlingaye High School. Contact the schools for details. The Caterpillar Childrens Centre remains closed but the clinic is being run at Framfield. As regards Childrens Centres in general, Cabinet will be looking at  their future on 6 July.

As I may remind you, they looked bleak in thre consultation, which gave no option except for closure.

Important: It is not compulsory for parents to send their children to school at this time and there will be no penalties for families who choose to keep children at home.

More information is available at: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/parent-guidance-about-schools-during-covid-19-pandemic/

Mask wearing which I’ve been promoting from the start, despite some opposition, is becoming more and more de rigeur in public places, as people finally realise it was never about infection, but about transmission.. Essential on public transport, it is becoming an issue on school transport I have asked particularly what the county’s responsibilities are to the drivers of this transport – bearing in mind the London bus-driver mortality rate – but was told this was an issue for the contractors who provide the service.

Cycling and Pedestrian schemes This brings us on to cycling and pedestrian schemes. Country realises that it cannot afford the impact of the single use car usage that is is the outcome of the likely post-lockdown reduction in both public transport and public transport usage. In particular, having done their sums, county realises it is going to have significant problems with covid-secure school transport and is promoting walking and cycling as the way forward. Unfortunately not easy options in the countryside unless better provision is made for cyclists (and pedestrians, come to that). Yet currently the emphasis on spending the government’s cycling & pedestrian funding is on town schemes. I was on the cycling policy development panel and made a plea for rural dwellers and the need for inter small-town cycling. In Cabinet we were told that the programme is rolling and ears are open to new schemes.

My group have also been encouraging the county council to make more radical changes to the road layout to support cycling and walking. The Department for Transport has announced a £2bn package to boost cycling and walking capacity in the UK, and this is an opportunity for councils to tackle historic congestion problems by encouraging a change in the behaviours of their residents by giving a fairer share of road space to walkers and cyclists. I recommend that Woodbridge proposes the 20mph and calming  scheme  which is ready, agreed, designed, , supports both the towns pedestrians and cyclists, will take pressure off school transport if issues  occur later in the year, and may help take illegal cyclists off footpaths https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/20mph-woodbridge/.

I am urging  Woodbridge Town Council to put forward the existing designed  20mph and calming scheme for Woodbridge if it has not already done so. Not only does it support pedestrians and cyclists within town, to school and to shops, but it will improve air quality: helpful, as air pollution is proven to be a factor in higher rates of covid deaths. As such, it will tick a lot of funding boxes.

I have just also put in a call for the A12 pedestrian/cycle path from near Ufford to join up with the new Woods Lane crossing.

Changes to pavements/roads to aid social distancing    Suffolk County Council has confirmed that local councils and communities can make some small-scale temporary changes to pavements without needing to seek consent from the county council. These will be local safety measures on pavements that outline queuing areas, social distancing reminders or simple painted markings on pavement surfaces for pedestrians. I congratulate Woodbridge Town Council on its work to provide a temporary closure in the Thoroughfare.

This will bridge the short gap until the long-delayed TRO agreed by the community two years ago but held up by CPE is put in place, as an emergency TRO. This will prevent all vehicular access to the Thoroughfare except for access to resident parking or delivery. Delivery  is limited to 15 minutes. As it is an emergency TRO we will have some months to decide whether this still fits the bill  for businesses, residents and shoppers -and to tweak it if it does not.

EDF submits application for Sizewell C DCO  On 27 May, EDF submitted an application for a development consent order for Sizewell C to the Planning Inspectorate. My group had written to Alok Sharma MP (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), urging him to delay EDF Energy’s application for development consent for Sizewell C until after the Covid-19 crisis. We were very concerned over the ability of stakeholders to fully engage in consultations during the current crisis: professional bodies are coping with staff sickness and redeployment; members of the public are preoccupied with looking after ill friends and relatives and/or grieving; and local authorities are rightly focusing on keeping residents safe. It therefore does not seem appropriate to start a consultation on Sizewell C until social distancing restrictions are lifted.

And indeed, EDF’s decision to go ahead with an application during the current crisis, will be much more difficult for the public and stakeholders to fully scrutinise the plans and participate in the consultation process. 

I am particularly concerned in view of last minute changes made to Suffolk Coastal Local Plan which appear to make it significantly easier for the large energy companies to  develop our countryside with significantly smaller penalty or hindrance. There is still time to consult on these changes to the local plan. They are being consulted on, I believe, until  the first week of July. I urge both the council and individuals to read them and respond.

Suffolk coast  just before sunrise on midsummers day black foreshore and a blush of peach in the sky over the sea. in the distance you can see Thorpeness on a spur sticking out into the sea, and behind it, to the left, SizewellThe development of Sizewell C will have a catastrophic impact on the Suffolk countryside, particularly the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB (seen here at sunrise, on midsummers day. Sizewell can be seen to the left) . As well as the environmental damage, there are countless other problems with nuclear power as an energy source, including the risks of storing waste material. It is deeply disappointing that the Planning Inspectorate have approved EDF’s plans for Sizewell C and progressed them to the next stage. Given the current situation with coronavirus, it will be difficult to ensure proper engagement with local residents and stakeholders.”

The Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group will be submitting a motion for the 9th July Council meeting, calling on Suffolk County Council to publicly oppose the development of Sizewell C and retract any ‘in principle’ support for nuclear power. Suffolk County Council agreed to support the principle of nuclear power back in 2007 and hasn’t reconsidered its position since. We are calling on the current Council members to recognise that the world has changed since then – and its time our position changed too.”

Carers Week 2020. Carers week, two weeks back came and went with absolutely no interest from either county, the media or the public, with the sole – and noble – exception of BBC Radio Suffolk , who gave me a 10 minute interview on the subject.  I cannot tell you how shocking this is. There are at least 100,000 unpaid carers in Suffolk – 13% of the population. Looking after another 13%. It is clear  that most people, from our PM down are  either unaware or plain uncaring of the void of of difference between care workers (staunch, hardworking, poorly paid – but, crucially, paid) and unpaid carers , whose invisible lives are poorer, bleaker and seven times lonelier than other people’s.The lockdown has given the rest of the country a small taste of the isolation and sheer despair that is many carers’ lives for literally years on end.  Yet every unpaid carer becomes one in a heartbeat:  by a roadside, in a bedroom,  in a hospital – me as i was baking a cake. Carers are not other people. Thy could be you – at any moment.

Black Lives Matter: after a disturbing video shot in the centre of Woodbridge went viral, became  aware that  racism was well esconced in its midst and that it needed to change. More details here  https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/06/24/black-lives-matter/

Track & Trace Testing in Suffolk  The national failure to provide a service is a problem as our local service was planning on piggy-backing on the back of it.

However, for individual tests, there’s a regional testing centre for Suffolk and surrounding areas at the London Road Park and Ride, Copdock, Ipswich. It is open from 8am to 7pm, every day. I have had personal experience of being tested there and can assure you it is efficient – even if they are surprised if somebody turns up in a 2cv (no electric windows). There are also various mobile testing units across Suffolk. In addition, home testing kits can be requested. We have yet to hear however of any improvement on the 20- 25% false negative results.

More information on how to access a test in Suffolk is available at  https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-testing-in-suffolk/

Domestic Abuse helpline available 24/7    The existing Domestic Abuse Outreach Service, run by Suffolk County Council and Anglia Care Trust, has extended its 0800 977 5690 freephone number to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Anyone with concerns including professionals who may be supporting clients, as well as friends and families who are concerned for loved ones, can access this local support.

Registrars & Coroners It has turned out that while County has made provision for providing both birth and death certification during lockdown, unfortunate wording on the website has left people under the impression they will have to wait 10 months to get a ‘Notice of Marriage’ for a civil marriage. I have investigated, and although these have been on hold for three months because each certificate requires a face-to-face meeting with both parties, all should now be (shortly) back on track. The minimum time is four weeks of working days, not 10 months.

Latest County and Town News May 2020

Walking and cycling are now the recommended forms of transport

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/

News is changing daily. I also put  information on Facebook and Twitter:

https://www.facebook.com/Caroline.Page.Woodbridge/
https://www.facebook.com/CllrCarolinePage/
https://www.twitter.com/Cropage/

Virtual SCC meetings   SCC is now holding some meetings virtually – including school transport panel appeals. Public meetings, or public sections of meetings  can still be attended by members of the public. The link to the virtual meeting will be included on the agenda for the meeting. I have already sat on one  virtual  appeal panel.

If meetings are cancelled, the Chief Executive uses her emergency powers to make any necessary decisions on behalf of the Cabinet/Council through the delegated decision-making process. Details of any decisions made will be published on the SCC website.

Supply of PPE   In light of increasing concerns about care home transmission/ infection, it is worth noting that SCC  is supplying emergency PPE to primary care and other service providers who are unable or struggling to source their own supplies. This includes:

  • Adult residential and domiciliary care: care homes, personal assistants or homecare
  • Children’s Homes
  • GP surgeries
  • Secure Children’s Homes
  • Residential Special Schools
  • Court
  • Funeral Services
  • Local Authority: childrens social care, adult social care or healthy child services
  • Mental Health community/adult social workers
  • Hospices and Palliative Care
  • Primary Care
  • Pharmacists
  • Emergency Dentists

I have been assured by the director of Adult and Community Services that where taxi drivers are undertaking hospital transfers, they can also apply for PPE from the above source.

More information on how to make an order, is available at: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/suffolks-response/personal-protective-equipment-for-frontline-workers/       Questions about ordering PPE should be sent to PPE@suffolk.gov.uk

Donation of EU-compliant masks to Woodbridge from Xi’anGift of PPE from Xi’an, China
I was able to hand a gift of EU-compliant medical masks to Deben View as a gift from concerned friends in China.

Covid Funding  from Government  Suffolk County Council has received £34.7m from the government to help with the council’s coronavirus response.

However, the council is currently forecasting that the financial impact of the crisis will be at least £56m (due to both extra expenditure and lost income) by the end of March 2021, and so more support from the government will be needed.

Finally, my group is having regular q&a sessions with the heads of highways, children’s services, adult services and public health. If you have anything you want to ask, I am happy to pass on your questions and ensure they get answered.

Street closures to protect walkers/cyclists exercising outdoors My LDGI group are encouraging Suffolk County Council to close roads that are used by residents to get their daily exercise, to ensure that walkers/cyclists can exercise safely and maintain social distancing.

The county council have indicated that they are willing to consider these closures and have already closed Ipswich Waterfront to through-traffic for 3 weeks.

If you have suggestions for roads that could benefit from a temporary closure, please let me know and I will pass it on to the Cabinet Member, along with suggestions for measures to encourage cycling and walking , especially as the Government has just announced  emergency  funding for this.

I have also raised my concerns about residents unilaterally deciding to block public Rights of Way, citing Covid as an excuse. At Martlesham Creek, the residents alongside PROW13 have coned off the Right of Way and are denying walkers access, because they are ‘self-isolating.’

Public rights of way are paths which the public have a legal protected right to use, and the County Council a legal duty to protect. They provide a healthy, safe and sustainable way to access the countryside and other local services. I have reported this to the County Council  as one of several local attempts to prevent local walkers from enjoying legitimate and government sanctioned exercise.

Review of Suffolk ‘s County Council boundaries  delayed The Boundary Commission has announced that it will be delaying its review of Suffolk County Council’s electoral arrangements and division boundaries. The Commission was due to publish its draft recommendations and consult on them in May-July 2020, with the intention of implementing the new electoral arrangements (including , we believe, a reduction in councillor numbers) at the 2021 local elections.

Given the delay to the consultation on draft recommendations, the new arrangements will now not be implemented until  the 2025 elections. Given the situation we are currently in – and the uncertainty as to how or when it will end –  to consider any current reduction in local representation would seem  a very poor idea).

 

Cost of post-16 Home to School transport increases by £90   Plans to increase the price of post-16 school transport were approved by the Chief Executive using delegated decision-making powers, because the Cabinet was unable to meet.

The price of mainstream post-16 school transport has been increased by £90, whilst the price of post-16 transport for SEND students has increased by £30. This is despite the fact that a consultation on the proposed increase indicated that 75% of parents who responded felt that the increase would have an adverse impact on them.

Essentially, this is despite the fact that there is now a de facto SSLA (statutory school leaving age) of 18 as the law now requires all young people in England to continue in education or training until at least their 18th birthday. This places a particularly unfair financial burden on low-income families, most particularly in rural areas.

County claims that if families are concerned about their ability to pay for school transport, they can apply for the 16-19 Bursary Fund which is managed by post-16 provisions and may be able to support eligible disadvantaged young people by up to £1,200.. It is a limited budgett.

Increase in social worker pay   Suffolk County Council has (finally) agreed to increase the pay of children’s social workers to match the remuneration offered by neighbouring councils, in order to attract and retain skilled social workers in Suffolk. It is estimated that this pay increase will cost £1.4m and will be funded from council reserves.  I am pleased that the council has taken this step, because my group proposed this exact policy as part of our budget amendment in February.

 

Latest county and town news, Woodbridge, April 2020


COVID-19 Update

– Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives

Latest Government advice: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Latest Suffolk County Council information: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

Woodbridge Emergency Response Group Woodbridge has set up and is running an efficient and effective volunteer and help group with an amazing community response. We have roughly 700 clients and volunteers at the moment. Remember, people can ring to register either to volunteer or to help on 01394 383599 (answered 9-6 daily, with an overnight answerphone), or email emergency@woodbridge-suffolk.gov.uk

Additionally, a Suffolkwide app and phoneline has been launched . For residents outside the Woodbridge area Suffolk has launched Home But Not Alone, a scheme intended to connect volunteers and vulnerable people via free app, called Tribe Volunteer, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. (Please note for ID purposes, the icon is a square with tribe across it, and two yellow-brown curves below it) If you are in Suffolk but outside the greater Woodbridge area you should phone. The telephone number for those in need of help is the same as for volunteering: freephone 0800 876 6926. The intention is that it will be staffed from 09:00 to 17:00, seven days a week. The service will mean willing volunteers, charities, town and parish councils, community and religious groups can all log their details and offers of support on an app, while people who need help can phone to request support. 

School closures and free school meals More information about school closures in Suffolk is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/schools-guidance/

A Voucher scheme has been launched for schools providing free school meals – Families are being offered weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus. The government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.

Effective immediately, schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families; they will have their costs covered by the Department for Education.

Bus passes can now be used before 9:30 Suffolk County Council is allowing concessionary travel for those with elderly and disabled bus passes before 9.30am. This is to allow these residents to access the exclusive early morning shopping times that supermarkets have arranged for these people. Of course, only helpful when those early morning timings match up with actual bus availability.

Public transport services reduced New timetables are now in place for most public transport services, including buses, trains and community transport until further notice. Suffolk County Council is advising those who ned to use public transport to check with their local provider to find out the latest timetable.

Further details can be found at www.suffolkonboard.com or by calling 0345 606 6171.

Funding available for food banks Suffolk County Council has made £60,000 available to support food banks in Suffolk

– Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives –

Other news
Suffolk County Council submits bid for Government funding for buses Suffolk County Council has submitted a statement of intent to the Department of Transport (DfT) for £580k to improve some of the county’s bus services.

The council has not yet released details of how they plan to spend this funding. However, we understand that they are not intending to use it to reinstate the subsidised bus services which were cut last summer.

The DfT planned to announce which statements of intent have been successful by the end of April, but it is likely that this will be delayed given the current situation.

EDF Energy delay application for Sizewell C Development Consent Order EDF Energy have decided to delay their application for a Development Consent Order for Sizewell C by a few weeks, due to the current situation.

In March, my LibDem Green and Independent group were planning to submit a motion asking Suffolk County Council to withdraw support for nuclear power and publicly oppose Sizewell C. However, the Council meeting in March was cancelled. This means that our motion has also been delayed, but we plan to submit it again at the earliest opportunity once meetings at the council start up again. We are concerned however that an application may yet be put in before this time.

Opt-in for 2020/21 free school transport Parents are now able to opt-in if eligible for free transport for the 2020/21 school year. This will be the second year of the new school transport policy. The deadline for opting-in is 31 May 2020.

If parents have a child who is already receiving SCC funded school travel, they must opt-in again to continue to receive it.

Parents whose child is not eligible for SCC funded school travel but who wish to purchase a spare seat, may do so. The application for spare seats opens on 1 July 2020.

To opt-in or for more information on the SCC school travel policy please visit; https://www.suffolkonboard.com/schooltravel/

SCC wins DfT funding for next stage of A12 works Suffolk County Council won £830,000 of funding from the Department for Transport, to develop an Outline Business Case to take forward its plans to improve the A12 East of Ipswich. Obviously this is of interest to us in Woodbridge.

This project is specifically looking to increase capacity and improve overall traffic flow at junctions and will explore the potential for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the A12.