Category Archives: School Transport

What’s happening – Woodbridge, Sept 2020

Caterpillar Centre closure & other changes to go ahead, despite opposition challenge  On 25 August, County Cabinet agreed to reduce the number of Children’s Centres in Suffolk from 38 to 17 full-time & 11 part-time Family Hubs. 8 centres will be repurposed for nurseries or SEND provision, whilst 2 will close permanently (Chatterbox in Ipswich and Caterpillar in Woodbridge).

The council has said that this is not a cost-saving exercise and that any savings will be used to fund additional staff for outreach work.
My group worked with the Labour group to collectively challenge the Cabinet’s decision at Scrutiny. We were given leave to question only the finance and the outreach proposals. I substituted for one of our group’s two regular scrutiny members. You can find our questions here https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/09/20/caterpillar-childrens-centre-lost-despite-our-best-endeavours/

Trading Standards I want everyone to make local residents aware of the ‘you must renew your washing machine (or some such appliance ) insurance’ scam that is doing the rounds by telephone. Recently an elderly Woodbridge resident was very nearly coerced into believing she should pay a significant sum of money by direct debit, because these heartless scoundrels insisted she had made a verbal agreement over the phone. The line is “they are renewing your insurance.” This is not the case.

Current Suffolk school transport arrangements, and other issues Suffolk County Council has confirmed that it will initially not be offering spare seats on school transport. This is due to social distancing requirements, which have reduced the capacity on school buses. However, parents may be able to apply for a spare seat from October half term.
The council has also confirmed the arrangements for masks and social distancing on school transport. The rules vary depending on the type of transport used:
• Dedicated closed routes (vehicle only carries school children) – social distancing will not apply, face coverings are recommended for children aged 11+
• Shared routes (most passengers are pupils, but may be some members of the public) – pupils should observe social distancing guidelines with members of the public but they can sit next to members of their family or school, face coverings are mandatory unless a child is exempt from wearing one
• Public transport – social distancing will apply, face coverings are mandatory unless a child is exempt from wearing one
There continue to be concerns and anxieties about schooling. At the end of Sept I asked  the Director for Children and Young People’s services the following questions:
• How many Suffolk schools have reported Covid infection or potential Covid contact incidents since the beginning of Autumn term 2020?
• What % children returned to school? Have they stayed there? Is full-class teaching the norm?
• What planned educational support is offered to children in care if their school locks down?
• Was there a Suffolk increase in reported child abuse stats after lockdown lifted?
• Given the numbers of schools outside local authority control, how can we best (or can we?) get a picture of children’s health and educational engagement across the county?
• Can you confirm the government’s statement that in the event of a second lockdown, schools will stay open?
• It became clear the care home infections were largely caused by peripatetic staff. As I asked before, is Suffolk tracking the movements of peripatetic school staff (music, language teachers, supply teachers etc?) If not why not?

(Do contact if you want the answers)

SizewellC – SCC withdraws support – but you must register to continue protesting In an amazing and welcome volte face Cabinet managed to approve a paper on Tuesday, recommending that ‘while the Council was always minded to support a new power station in principle – it cannot support the proposals as they stand today. “(Strangely, this is what my group asked of them in July but they voted en masse against https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/07/10/libdem-green-sizewell-vote-lost-suffolk-tories-and-labour-join-forces-to-vote-it-down/)

A reminder: If you want to continue commenting – or indeed objecting – to Sizewell C you must register with the planning inspectorate by 30 September, with a brief outline of your concerns . I have registered my objections as elected county councillor for a division affected by this proposed development. https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/09/17/register-fast-to-protest-sizewellc/

2025_Extraordinary Proposed New County Council divisions
Key to proposed new division names

New Boundaries proposed for Suffolk County Council seats
Despite having said it had abandoned the project, the boundary commission has now come up with its new slimline county council boundaries – and they bear no resemblance to those proposed by me or by Woodbridge Town Council. These will not be implemented till 2025 but will be decided on relatively soon.

They are bizarre in the extreme.

Proposed new Woodbridge division (32) loops neatly around Melton to take in Ufford on the other side. Why do the Conservatives, who proposed this, fear linking Melton to Woodbridge? Rhyme or reason is there none

The new Woodbridge boundary (32) would continue to have the boundary division down the middle of Pyches Road, dividing the community in half. It then skatesneatly around the whole of Melton but loops back to include Ufford!

The multiple Woodbridge community connexions with Melton (including having the Woodbridge CP IN Melton Parish , has been ignored.The Boundary Commission tells us that this extraordinary and  unreasonable proposal is the local Conservative group proposal. It has neither rhyme nor reason. Of course Melton has an identity of its own – but surely it is closer to Woodbridge  than Hollesley, Bawdsey, Rendlesham and the other Wilford parishes to which they are proposing it should be joined instead.

It  excludes  many people who consider themselves residents of Woodbridge excluded by the completely bonkers line down the middle of Pyches road, which makes them now Wilford  residents – linked  with the division across the Deben – to Hollesley, Bawdsey and all the land up to just below Aldeburgh.

It includes people who would not define themselves as residents of Woodbridge –  the residents of Ufford for example, who are geographically on the same Old Yarmouth Rd as excluded Melton – but further away. It’s crazy.

It is almost as if the Conservatives designed this,  hoping that this topsy turvy division might finally deliver Woodbridge back into their hands.  (But of course no party would be so inappropriate.)

Sadly they appeared to have misread the conditions. “You cannot split a parish,” declared a longstanding ex-District Councillor. He had clearly forgotten  that the Woodbridge county division already contains a section of Martlesham parish (one side of California, Dukes Park and the whole of the Fynn estate…)

Among the many additional issues of this whole unnecessary exercise I must point to the utter fatuity of division 19 created out of much of Carlford and Wickham (to be called Grundisburgh and Wickham Market.) In reality this stretches from Tuddenham St Martin and Westerfield next to Ipswich to Stratford St Andrew and Farnham at the other end. Again, an exercise in creating a division that cannot be reasonably represented and is not representative.

This at a time when county councils are already being asked by government to do more for less, and people are losing touch with who represents them.

The final consultation for the next stage of the boundary review is here: Look at the map, read the justifications, and respond before NOVEMBER – please – in the name of local democracy. https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/have-your-say/18495

Infrastructure Board established to oversee costs of large projects It has emerged that Suffolk County Council established an Infrastructure Board in November 2019 to oversee large infrastructure projects and ensure they remain within budget. This is in response to a number of recent projects where costs have increased dramatically, including the Upper Orwell Crossings which was eventually abandoned after costs increased by £43m.
The board is currently only made up of officers.
Co-incidentally, though Cabinet has recently given final approval for the Lowestoft Lake Lothing Third Crossing, the cost of the bridge is now much higher than originally estimated. The report prepared for Cabinet estimated that the total cost of delivering the bridge is £126.75m, with an additional £19m allocated as a contingency for any unforeseen risks. The original estimate was £91.73m.

 

 

 

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.

 

Woodbridge: What’s been happening in Suffolk, Jan and Feb

End of Ipswich Northern Route project?  County Council  Leader, Matthew Hicks,  has announced that he will be recommending to  Cabinet that the Ipswich Northern Route should not proceed to the next phase  when it meets to decide the future of the project on 25th February. He had a very uncomfortable time at  February full council when  his plans  (Interim Study, and a Strategic Outline Business Case) and the public  consultation were publicly and comprehensively roasted by Nick Green of the Stop campaign.

To remind you – because so many county councillors seem very keen to forget –  Suffolk’s Conservative and Labour County Councillors spoke in favour of the route, and voted  en masse against my group’s motion (last July  -click for my seconder’s speech)  to abandon thoughts and costs of this route in favour of a sustainable transport strategy. However the public consultation found that over 70% of respondents were  also against the route. The sums just didn’t add up.  Continue reading Woodbridge: What’s been happening in Suffolk, Jan and Feb