Category Archives: Council reports

Reports I make on a monthly basis to Woodbridge Town Council

Woodbridge Town Council report July 2010

I must apologise for my delay in posting this – I got married the following week and clearly forgot to put it up online!

Closure of Embankment footpath

The Environment Agency has closed  the  footpath along the embankment from Woodbridge to Kyson point until October  (– I have asked them to ensure it is reopened briefly for the Regatta weekend) . There will be an alternative footpath route opened for the summer.When I asked the Environment Agency their spokesman explained:

” the Kyson embankment has been suffering from erosion by the tides (as all sea walls do). Recently the original revetment, which consisted of loose concrete and rubble blocks has given way, exposing the clay of the embankment and allowing the erosion process to speed up. To repair the embankment, we will be replacing the clay which has been eroded from the front of the bank and covering this clay with a new revetment, made of open stone asphalt. This material is extremely resilient, reducing our future maintenance costs, and helps to break the wave action, rather than reflect the wave energy, which helps to maintain the level of the salt marshes. The material will soon vegetate and in time become completely hidden from view. We will, in the time available, be addressing the worst areas of erosion this year and will then, subject to funding, return next year to continue the work.”

Locality Budget funding

At the Suffolk Coastal County Councillor Locality meeting county councillors  were given the notion that our budgets might be under threat – perhaps even for the current year. I currently have about five  to six  thousand left  to spend and would like it to go on things that will have some lasting concrete benefit to the town, just in case there is little forthcoming next year. I would also like to allocate this money fairly swiftly to prevent any possible chance of claw-back so welcome all ideas. Recent proposals have included a bench for Kingston Field,  and a litter bin to prevent litter problems at Mill View Close and assistance for the Art Club. Among my thoughts is whether a glassed in notice board advertising the courses and classes available at the Fred Reynolds centre would be useful for the community. I would be grateful for any ideas.

Roads etc

As you see patching work is being undertaken up and down the county at the moment – I was impressed with the speed and efficiency with the road surface was replaced on the Ipswich Road near Notcutts last night. Speaking as a cyclist, it was quite dangerous to go downhill there because the surface was so rough.

As you know there have long been concerns about speeding along Ipswich Road, particularly in relation to those walking and cycling to Kyson and Farlingaye schools. It is particularly crucial at the top of California where many students cross.  I had reserved £12,000 from Quality of Life money to build an island in the road which is being planned at the moment. Now the Highways department at Suffolk County Councilare working with FHS students to design of this island, so as to see the project through! This ought to mean it is designed to be fit for purpose. I enclose a copy of the design that has been agreed on. Proposals to calm Sandy Lane are currently with the director  in overall charge of roads in Suffolk.

After consultation twith the Mayor and the Town Clerk I have also written to her  wondering if she would be prepared to trial the recent proposal by ministers of a 20mph speed limit on urban roads in Woodbridge..

The reduction from 30mph would apply to all town centre and residential. It would be reinforced by signs rather than extra speed cameras and humps.

The new 20mph limit  can be introduced under existing laws and has been tested in Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Newcastle upon Tyne and Hull. York, Norwich and eight London boroughs, including Islington, have announced plans to follow suit.

http://www.roadsafe.com/news/article.aspx?article=1247

I reminded her that  Town and  District Councillors  (and me as County Councillor ) are all concerned about the need for calming on all fronts of the town. Within the last month I have been fielding complaints about the speed of traffic in the 30mph areas of Ipswich Road, Sandy Lane, Hasketon Road, Bredfield/Pyches Road and the Birkitt Road – that is, five of the six roads entering Woodbridge. Although the sixth (Melton Road) is on my colleague Cllr Michael Bond’s territory, I have had complaints about the need for calming recently from Melton residents whose children travel to Farlingaye.   My QoL money this year is destined for project to calm three of these problem places.  I think  it would be appropriate to offer the £7000 set to one side for Sandy Lane and the led sign in Ipswich Road towards 20mph signs  if she were to agree. All views welcome

I will let you know whether this will bear any fruit.

Olympians to train in Suffolk

Lowestoft has been selected by both Great Britain and Canada as the training base for their Gymnastic teams who will  be using  the Waveney Gymnastics Centre.  Suffolk has been actively seeking out teams to use the facilities in the county.  A total of ten sites were selected by the London 2012 committee to hold training facilities for the athletes, the bulk of which are in or near Ipswich    http://www.visit-suffolk.org.uk/suffolktrainingcamps/facilities.cfm . I don’t know if this will result in any improvement in transport provision locally but I hope it might.

Woodbridge Town Council Report June 2010

This one is mostly about spending – and mis-spending – public money, and transport!

Full Council :

The latest Full Council in Suffolk County council Annual General Meeting was held at the end of May. Eddie Alcock and Patricia O’Brien were respectively elected Chairman and Vice-Chairman for the upcoming year.

TheLib Dems had called in the administration’s desire to put aside standing orders and allow the Chief Executive to spend up to £122,000 on private consultants without putting the bid out to public tender or disclosing what these consultants were to do. The company Scintillate will be paid around £50,000 – £55,000 and Bedfordshire-based Fields of Learning will get up to £42,000 for two months’ work; and DNA will be paid around £30,000 for one month’s work. Fields of Learning has already received over £400,000 from Suffolk for training senior managers in blue-skies thinking.

At the meeting we were told by Deputy Leader that £122,000 was a tiny proportion of the annual council budget. I pointed out that £122000 may not seem a lot to the administration , but from the viewpoint of Woodbridge – where the Deben Family Centre closed for want of £50,000 – it’s a fortune.

Sadly, the Call-in was defeated: by 18 votes to 50.

This meeting also endorsed allowing the public to attend and ask questions at the monthly Cabinet meetings. This will be up and running by the next Cabinet meeting, which takes place on the 22nd of June. Questions would need to be submitted at least 4 days in advance.

Local Buses

Well, we finally got our plightcovered by the East Anglian with a very full article at the end of May, complete with a photo. The EADT asked First buses for comments. First told the paper that they had not changed their bus services for three years and that they had never received our letter – both of which were very questionalble statements. This allowed me to write a very forthright letter to the EAD|T which was published under the leadline “Bus Company’s reply to complaint is laughable” and I was fortunate afterwards to have an interview with Mitchell Bradshaw, SCC head of Transport Planning.

It has become clear that we CAN make a difference. For example, the 165 bus has had such a takeup it is wishing to operate outside County Council grants. He suggested that we should approach the smaller companies with ideas for services we need. I am now planning on contacting some of the smaller companies and – in the first instance – suggesting a Woodbridge bus that serves the very clearly defined visiting times at Ipswich hospital.

Bollards in Hasketon Road – at last!

For years the residents of Hasketon Road have been plagued by inconsiderate parking by a few thoughtless parents at school drop-off and pick-up times. Their cars churn up the verges and have posed a safety risk to the hundreds of students who cycle and walk to the school every day.

I have been talking to the highway authorities for eighteen months trying to get this solved. Although I have been able to agree double yellow lines around the corners of Ransom Road, we then needed some other solution for the adjacent verges. And there was some reluctance (to put it mildly) to see bollards as the answer.

Other options were recommended and explored – notably the officers’ preferred option of building up and reseeding the verge. This was attempted last May after a a wait of seven months and lasted precisely as long as until the contractors left the site. The residents were – rightly – incandescent.

A year later we have seen no further progress, and there was some suggestion that reseeding and building up should be attempted again. My view is that to even consider rebuilding the verges once more is a waste of everyone’s energy and a trial of their patience. For a start, it will involve another wait of a year as we were told 18 month ago that spring is the only time for building and reseeding. And for the likelihood of no better outcome than last time. I feel that the residents of Hasketon Road deserve better than this continuing putting-off. The other non-bollard option recomme nded was preventative planting – but local town councillors have told me of other places in Woodbridge where planting to discourage parking has been ineffective.

At this point – luckily – our wonderful community police came to the rescure and put down traffic cones along the Hasketon Road with immediate success. parking stopped just like that. The cones were placed exactly where we intend to place bollards. The success is not surprising – it mirrors the success of the bollards that are installed a couple of hundred yards further down where the Hasketon Road becomes the Burkitt Road, and which has discouraged dangerous parking by parents at St Marys.

As well as the police, I ‘ve sought the views of residents and both town and district councillors and the issue was raised at the last SNT tasking meeting by Woodbridge Town Councillor Miles. Bollards were agreed by all as the best solution.A nice set of concrete bollards costs around £3000 – a sum that I am more than happy to contribute from my locality budget to improve the safety of Woodbridge residents, students of Farlingaye, and the much tried inhabitants of Hasketon Road. I’ve filled in the paperwork and hoipe things will progress speedily.

Other Locality budget spends

Recent applications for my locality budget funding have included:

• Assistance to publish walking maps of Woodbridge

• An external canopy for Farlingaye High School

• Two bicycles for Woodbridge Town Pastors

• Grit bins to help Woodbridge residents de-ice their roads in the next cold spell

• Support for a Town Crier.

Quality of Life money: Ipswich Road and Sandy Lane

Congratulations are due to the Year 8 members of Farlingaye High School (and their teacher Millie Simonds) who chose to address transport and walking to school in relation to Ipswich Road traffic when working on a Make a Difference programme. You may have heard the youngsters on BBC Radio Suffolk a couple of weeks back, as they investigated the speeds of traffic on Ipswich Road. The students interviewed me, very well and professionally, as a part of their project, and I also commented live on the issues on Mark Murphy’s breakfast programme on 20 May, before attending their assembly at Farlingaye that morning.

As you know there have long been concerns about speeding along Ipswich Road, particularly in relation to those walking and cycling to Kyson and Farlingaye schools. I had reserved £12,000 from Quality of Life money to build an island in the road which is being planned at the moment. Now the Highways department at Suffolk County Council have invited the FHS students to take part in the design of this island, so as to see the project through! This ought to mean it is designed to be fit for purpose.

Measures for calming Sandy Lane continue. I walked the lane with Martlesham Cllrs Forbes Green and Brome some weeks back, and have since had input from residents at the Woodbridge end. I have put all ideas to the Suffolk County Highways dept. and asked for any further ones from them. I am also consulting Sustrans, because the bulk of Sandy Lane is also Cycle Route 1. Any good ideas for making £4000 stretch as far as possible would be gratefully received.

SCC Olympics consultation

The Suffolk County Council website is currently holding a survey on the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics. This is in order to help with the planning of events relating to the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

This survey is there to rank your expectations of what you think should happen in Suffolk for the Olympic Games. Questions include ‘A Big Screen in town centres showing Olympic Games coverage’ and ‘Olympics activities in Schools’.

Please find the survey here http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HJ3965G

Report to Woodbridge Town Council AGM

Another busy year has passed. Not only has the recession continued to hit, but it is expected that the situation will worsen considerably over the next few years, putting further pressure on future budgets.

The other main story is that SCC  will continue to exist after the Government announced no change in the structure. What a waste of time, energy and money, eh!

Locally, I was delighted to be re-elected as your County Councillor in June.

This year I have been interested in Woodbridge transport in the widest sense: roads, buses, trains, parking, cycling, walking…

County Budget for 2010-11

One of the most important jobs for the Council is to set the budget for the upcoming year.  The strain on the public sector is starting to bite, and this budget will probably be the last before the 15-20% cuts, which have been suggested, will start to hit.

This year the council increased the level of Council tax by 2.4%. This – as well as a slight increase in the level of Government Grant – means that there will be some areas in the Council eligible for additional spending, these include:

  • £1.5m as a one-off payment for roads maintenance to help deal with the effects of the particularly harsh winter (eg potholes)
  • £1.7m to investt in social workers to help support vulnerable children and their families
  • £1.6m to pay for the additional numbers and more complex placements of young people coming into the care system
  • £4m to help care for older people who most need specialist support
  • £1.6m to pay for extra landfill tax

However, there are still areas within the budget that are overspent, including Children and Young Persons by £2m, mainly due to the increasing cost for Home to School Transport and for Adult and Community Services by £1.7m due to the increasing number of elderly residents in our county.  In addition to this within the capital budget, Schools Organisation Review will be costing over £100m

At the Full Council debate the Liberal Democrats focused on the discovery that 500 additional employees now worked at the Council compared to the previous year.  Some of these positions were entirely Government funded forming some of the staff for the newly created Children’s centre.  However many of these aren’t funded from Government grant, and come at a time when the public service is under pressure as the recession bites.

Local Government Review

Throughout the year almost every Parish report has included updates on the Local Government Review.   The process which promised so much at the beginning has been regularly stalled, by court cases not only from Suffolk, but the other affected counties as well.  It was eventually reignited when the court cases were thrown out last December, after the Boundary Committee appealed.

After this decision, the announcement from the Boundary Committee about which form of local Government they would prefer was announced, with a recommendation to the secretary of state, of either a one Suffolk Unitary Authority or a North Haven Unitary Authority and a Rural Suffolk Authority.  This was then followed by a short six week consultation in which the public could react to the announcement from the Boundary Commission.

Onthe 10th of February the Minister of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government  announced that there would be no change for the County of Suffolk.  Instead there would be a County Constitutional Convention which would provide a new form of unitary government for the council hhas remained completely schtumm about how this could possibly be implemented or even a timescale to when it should begin.

Indeed, as I write this there is not even a government…

County Councillor’s Quality of Life budget

Last year I allocated Quality of Life transport money to three projects:

  • The Seal Crossing;
  • Cross Corner project and
  • bridging  the muddy ditch from Houchells Meadow to the back of Farlingaye High School.

Of these, the only one to have been completed last year was the smallest: the muddy ditch.  At the same time as this was done, (and at my request) SCC workmen altered the bars at the entrance to the footpath round the school grounds so that students cycling from Melton could access the school more easily. ) I have just been sent the plans for the Cross Corner scheme, which hopes to open out the area round the crossroads to provide greater accessibility for pedestrians and cycles.

The Seal Crossing

Although I allocated money for this last year, progress has been slow. I’ve therefore added an additional £5,000 from this years funding to the money I allocated last year for the island crossing at the top of Ipswich Road.  The aim is to get something that will allow people to cross in two stages, that will also encourage drivers to slow down by alerting them to the fact people (school students, mothers with buggies, elderly bus users and cyclists)ISurveyors have now been out to identify the best place and that plans are being drawn up.

Calming Ipswich Road

I’m allocating £3000 hopefully for a speed activated sign – – a solar-powered LED maybe?  for further along Ipswich Road, where it slopes steeply  down to the John Grose garage. Because the banks are steep and there are no pavements, no-one can safely do speed checks and there is subsequently a new entrance to the new housing coming out onto the road after a blind bend. I and the police and the town council are all really – and legitimately -worried about the danger of this.

The remaining £4000 is to go to traffic calming/cyclist and pedestrian protection in Sandy Lane. The difficulty with Sandy Lane is that not only are issues about pedestrians etc going along from adjacent houses, but it is a National Cycle route AND  at every high tide and a couple of hours on each side, the other footpath from Woodbridge to Martlesham is impassable (three feet depth of water across two or three hundred yards at the creek) meaning all sorts of walkers ramblers dogwalkers twitchers etc have to divert onto the road which is very windy and with steep banks and high hedges on the Woodbridge side of the railway bridge. I have walked this with three Martlesham parish councillors to get their ideas.

County Councillor’s Locality budget

The year’s Locality Budget covered a range of things:

  • An awning for Woodbridge Bowls Club
  • Funding a feasibility study for the Whisstocks  Development scheme
  • Contribution to the Woodbridge Shop link Radio Scheme
  • A new laptop for Homestart
  • Funding for Walking Maps of Woodbridge
  • A canopy for Farlingaye High School

Money has been carried over

  • to pay for measures to prevent poor parking in Hasketon Road (bollards!), and
  • grit bins for various Woodbridge locations so that future bad weather can be quickly and efficiently dealt with..

Public transport

In March Suffolk County Council mwas asked to respond officially to  the forthcoming Greater Anglia rail franchise tender . This was important, because it defines what we want from a new rail franchise provider for the next ten to twenty years. The response, which rested on the findings of the Rail Policy Group (of which  I am a member) saw much support from across the political spectrum to improve the quality and quantity of train services across the region. Important areas that were stressed included:

  • The need for an hourly service to Peterborough;
  • the hourly service to Lowestoft (this should be up and running as far as Saxmundham by December); this further depends on the building of the Beccles loop;
  • adjusting the timings of interconnecting trains to correspond better;
  • greater parity of  equivalent fares across the franchise area – currently the cheapest day return fare to London from Ipswich is twice what it is from Cambridge to London
  • more advance notice of replacement bus services and ensuring they carry luggage and bikes  that were carried on the train
  • more provision for bikes on trains
  • better links with bus services

We have had a much less satisfactory response to our councerns about buses. Although Woodbridge Town Councillors joined with me and members of the Seckford Almshouses to complain about poor bus services  these complaints have been met with the usual resounding silence from the authorities approached –  that is, the bus company and the  county council officers – and indeed our then MP John Gummer and the then Labour junior transport minister, Ipswich MP Chris Mole. Indeed, neither MP even acknowledged the letter.

Woodbridge Parking review

It seemed to have been going on forever, but the complicated and long-drawn-out process that is the new parking review for Woodbridge was nearly finished by the end of the year. In the last few months Suffolk County council sent out all finalised proposed changes to consultees (Fire, Ambulance, HGV etc) and the legal orders for changes to restrictions were written out.  All that now remains to be done is for the changes to be  formally  advertised on site / newspaper before the lining / signing changes to roads are made.