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News from the County Councillor: August 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/

I am unable to say at the time of writing (16 August) what impact the sudden abolition of Public Health England on 15 August will cause to local services.

Sudden closure of Age UK Suffolk  Age UK Suffolk ceased operations from Friday 24 July. This is a huge loss for our county, and I know that many residents will be concerned about the loss of vital support for themselves or elderly friends/relatives.Age UK stated that it had faced a number of financial challenges in recent years, and the impact of the pandemic on fundraising was the final    straw.  My group expressed public concerns about Suffolk’s vulnerable elderly residents who may struggle to cope, particularly given the current Covid-19 pandemic.We warned Suffolk County Council that this highlights the need to continue financially supporting charities and community organisations who provide support to vulnerable Suffolk residents.
Suffolk County Council  needs to remember it relies on such organisations and the care they provide to our residents, which prevent many people needing more intensive support from the council.
Suffolk County Council has published details of alternative sources of support:

https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/age-uk-suffolk/

Proposed changes to Highway Code to improve road safety will benefit cyclists and pedestrians  Wonderfully, the Department for Transport is currently consulting on amendments to the Highway Code to improve safety for vulnerable road users. The changes include the introduction of a “hierarchy of road users”, making clear that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others. Other amendments include guidance on pedestrian priority when crossing roads and guidance on safe passing distance when overtaking cyclists.

Road safety issues are an increasing problem on Suffolk roads, especially in rural areas. They form a significant part of my own increasingly heavy workload as Vice Chair of the Education Transport Appeals Panel, which now sits for a full day, twice a month hearing school transport appeals. For many Suffolk children, it simply isn’t an option to walk or cycle to school because it isn’t safe.

These proposed changes to the Highway Code will do much to protect pedestrians and cyclists. Most importantly, the new hierarchy of road users makes it clear that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others. I will have been on local radion this weekend on a prerecord putting this message out. Please could everyone respond and encourage others to do the same.

The government’s consultation ends on 27 October 2020 and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/review-of-the-highway-code-to-improve-road-safety-for-cyclists-pedestrians-and-horse-riders

Delay for children’s centre cuts after error spotted in report  I am reminding you of this, remind you of this, which I touched on in my last month’s report. The Cabinet was due to approve changes to children’s centres on 14 July. However, an error was spotted in the report at the last minute, which resulted in the Chief Executive pulling the report from the meeting. It will now be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 25 August.

There are currently 38 children’s centres in Suffolk. Under the proposed changes, this would be reduced to only 17 full-time and 11 part-time family hubs. Family hubs provide services for 0-19 year olds, whereas children’s centres currently provide services for 0-5 year olds. 8 centres would be repurposed for nurseries or SEND facilities, and another two centres will close completely, one of which is the Woodbridge Caterpillar. To remind you, Woodbridge Caterpillar centre was to be closed because, according to the report there were ample other venues in Woodbridge. The Caterpillar will remain open, as planned, to the end of its lease (2022), however no venues in Woodbridge had been identified beyond the GP surgery and the Library

As you recall, this was particularly contentious, as the closure seemed to reflect more about the length of the lease and quality of housing than local need for provision. None of which would have been an issue if SCC had not deliberately run down and then pulled down the pre-existing Youth Centre (now being rebuilt as Jetty Lane).

The Jetty Lane Centre boost The Jetty Lane Centre project in Woodbridge was given an amazing boost last month by the sudden, unexpected and very generous donation of 2 cabin classrooms by Eric Reynolds, of Woodbridge Boatyard. These can act as temporary activity spaces while the charity continues to raise the £3.5million required for the final building work.

The Jetty Lane Youth, Community and Arts Centre has been urgently required to fulfill unmet needs in Woodbridge since the previous longstanding Youth and Community Centre was demolished. And of course though the youth centre went, the need didn’t go away. Indeed, in cases  as with the proposed closure of the Caterpillar Centre (above), and the actual closure of AGEUK Suffolk (also above), the need has grown.   The social impact of coronavirus has made this need even greater.

The Spaces themselves were originally part of Trinity Buoy Wharf Jubilee Pier and are constructed from four 20 ft shipping containers. They will be ideal for small groups of people to meet in, they’re quirky, fun and centrally-located and will be an asset to our project and the wider community. Jetty Lane’s priority has always been to provide space for people to meet and use in Woodbridge at a cost that they can afford. These cabins will enable the charity to start doing that.

Climate emergency recommendations published  On 14 July, the Cabinet approved the recommendations of a cross-party policy development panel outlining how the council should respond to the climate emergency and reduce emissions. This follows a motion from my group in March 2019, which declared a climate emergency and committed the council to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Key recommendations include:

  • All future decisions must take into account carbon emissions
  • Annual publication of a carbon budget alongside the financial budget
  • Publish a cross-council action plan by the end of 2020 for net zero emissions across Suffolk
  • Changing to a 100% renewable energy tariff
  • Replacing all pool cars and service vehicles with fully electric vehicles by 2025
  • Develop an investment programme for renewable energy generation on the county farms estate
  • For all existing council buildings (including maintained schools), switch away from oil, LPG and natural gas use by 2030 and invest in onsite renewable energy generation
  • Provide advice for academies/free schools to develop their own net zero emissions plans

 

Trinity Buoy Wharf Cabins: big boost for Woodbridge’s Jetty Lane

Due to the generosity of Eric Reynolds, ( owner of Woodbridge Boatyard and founding director of Urban Space Management) Jetty Lane have been gifted cabin classrooms from Trinity Buoy Wharf so the charity can start addressing the huge pool of unmet need in greater Woodbridge, while  continuing to fundraise for the building.

The Jetty Lane Centre project in Woodbridge was given an amazing boost last month by the sudden, unexpected and very generous donation of 2 cabin classrooms by Eric Reynolds, of Woodbridge Boatyard. These can act as temporary activity spaces while the charity continues to raise the £3.5million required for the final building work.

“The Jetty Lane Youth, Community and Arts Centre has been urgently required to fulfill unmet needs in Woodbridge since the previous longstanding Youth and Community Centre was  of course demolished.And though the youth centre went, the need didn’t go away. In fact, as Woodbridge has become more expensive there has been much less affordable and available accommodation for community groups. Now, the proposed closure of the Caterpillar Childrens Centre, the sudden closure of Age UK and therthe effects of the pandemic have increased this problem.  We could not have received a better gift at a more appropriate time!

The Spaces themselves were originally part of Trinity Buoy Wharf Jubilee Pier and are constructed from four 20 ft shipping containers. “They will be ideal for small groups of people to meet in, they’re quirky, fun and centrally located and will be an asset to our project and the wider community,” says ViceChair Caroline Rutherford. “Jetty Lane’s priority has always been to provide space for people to meet and use in Woodbridge at a cost that they can afford. These cabins will enable us to start doing that  – and people will be able to see we are doing it.”

 

“When we were fortunate enough to get a phone call offering us these cabins, we jumped at it” says Cllr Page. “Eric Reynolds is definitely Renaissance man: both Man of Thought and Man of Action. He thought we would find them useful, and when we said yes please, they were on our site -practically before we could blink – with Eric, in his overalls, very much at the forefront of getting them installed. We cannot thank him enough.”

Eric has set up and ran/runs some of the most important people places in London since the early 1970’s including Camden Lock Market, Spitalfields Old Fruit and Vegetable Market, Gabriels’ Wharf, and Trinity Buoy Wharf and winner of the Regeneration & Renewal “Lifetime Achievement Award” for Regeneration in 2012.

Project Manager Cordelia Richman confirms: “Jetty Lane has achieved so much since 2017 but it hasn’t been visible. Now that we have the Activity Spaces everyone can see where Jetty Lane will be and our vision for the site is clear. As soon as we’ve completed a basic refurbishment of the Activity Spaces we will start putting them to use providing facilities for our community.”

MAKE A DONATION
Will you help build Jetty Lane to make a positive and lasting difference for local people?
Go to www.jettylane.org and click on DONATE or Telephone 01394 383128 or Email info@jettylane.org

 

 

News from the County Councillor: July 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

Suffolk Local Outbreak Control Plan published   Suffolk County Council has published a Local Outbreak Control Plan which sets out how Suffolk would prevent and respond to a localised outbreak of COVID-19 should one occur. A copy of the full plan and an executive summary can be viewed here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/suffolks-response/

Suffolk has received £2.79m from the Government to support the delivery of the plan. The plan focuses on:

  • Preventing and managing outbreaks in ‘complex settings and groups’ e.g. care homes, schools, health settings, workplaces, public spaces, BAME communities and those that are shielded;
  • Strategic and coordinated approach to COVID-19 testing in Suffolk, with a focus on care home testing, hospital testing, lab capacity and workforce for swabbing;
  • Suffolk COVID-19 Data Centre, which will continue to monitor the local situation;
  • Providing clear guidance on NHS Test and Trace and what to do in the event of a local outbreak.

Suffolk’s concessionary travel pass rules now reintroduced on public transport   Concessionary travel rules, which had been relaxed during lockdown, were reintroduced from July 6. As from Monday 6 July, concessionary bus passes in Suffolk are only valid Monday to Fridays 9:30am to 9pm, and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. (‘9pm’ is a joke considering the time of the last buses to Woodbridge and beyond which leave Ipswich before 6pm)

The council says this is necessary to support social distancing on peak bus services, as more people return to work and school. I travelled from Ipswich to Woodbridge on Saturday 11th July and noticed that a maximum 12 passengers are allowed on a regular single decker bus.

All passengers are now required to wear a face covering on public transport.

Sizewell C: Planning Inspectorate accepts plans for Sizewell C; Suffolk County Council votes down motion opposing it   On 24 June, the Planning Inspectorate agreed that EDF Energy’s DCO application for Sizewell C could proceed to the examination stage.

The formal pre-examination stage of the process (Section 56 Notification Stage) began on 8 July running to 30 September. If you wish to be involved in the examination process, you need to register on the Planning Inspectorate website to become an ‘Interested Party’ and provide a written summary of your views on the DCO application.

All registered Interested Parties will be kept informed of progress and about opportunities to participate in the next examination stage.

More information about the application and how to register as an Interested Party is available here: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/eastern/the-sizewell-c-project/?ipcsection=overview

The LDGI Stop Sizewellc speakers: Cllrs Caroline Page, David Wood (Proposer), Andrew Stringer (Seconder, replacing Elfrede Brambley Crawshaw), Penny Otton, Robert Lindsey, Inga Lockington Note their names & faces.Together with
@JohnFieldjd
they made a stand for our future

Both Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council have raised concerns about the adequacy of EDF’s consultations so far, particularly with regards to the level and quality of information that has been made available throughout the consultation exercises.

On 9 July, my LibDem Green and Independent Group proposed a motion to Suffolk County Council asking the Council to oppose the development of Sizewell C. Astonishingly and sadly, both the Suffolk County Conservative and Suffolk County Labour councillors joined forces to vote this motion down: 50- 12 (with 4 abstentions). You will find details on my blog: https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/07/10/libdem-green-sizewell-vote-lost-suffolk-tories-and-labour-join-forces-to-vote-it-down/.

If you are interested in watching the full debate, the Council meeting is available to watch on Suffolk County Council’s YouTube channel https://youtu.be/Nt_s4jAjvPM

County Cabinet approves 5-year cycling plan for Suffolk   On 16 June the Cabinet approved a 5-year cycling plan for Suffolk, which identified 148 potential routes to be prioritised. This is as a result of a motion proposed by my group in July 2018, which called on the council to produce a strategic costed 5-year cycling plan.

Funding has not been secured for these routes, but county maintains the cycling plan will provide a strong basis to bid for funding as and when it becomes available.

The 148 routes identified by the plan are intended to be starting point, rather than a fixed programme of works. The Cabinet’s approval of the plan means that discussions can begin with district and borough councils on developing the five-year-plan further. I know that Woodbridge/Martlesham has known routes in the area it would like to see improved or created via the 20mph calming scheme, and I am feeding this into the process.

Road closures to support cycling and walkingAs part of the Covid-19 recovery and to support social distancing, the Department for Transport has told local authorities that they are    expected to make significant changes to road layouts to support cycling and walking, with all measures implemented within the coming weeks. The Government has also asked that evaluation is included in the emergency interventions put in place so that authorities can make temporary measures permanent where possible, enabling a long-term shift to active travel.

Suffolk County Council plans include closing off sections of roads to motorised vehicles, widening existing footpaths and cycle lanes, providing temporary footpaths and cycle lanes and changing traffic signal timings to reduce waiting times at puffin and toucan crossings. The Council has been allocated £337k from the Department of Transport, with the potential for further funding if the measures they put in place are successful.

Details about the various schemes are available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/active-travel-improvements-for-cycling-and-walking/

Alert: No spare seats will be offered on Home-to-School buses County Council normally allows families who are ineligible for free school transport to purchase a spare seat on the council’s school buses should there be space. However, due to social distancing requirements, school buses will only be able to transport a smaller group of children. The council have therefore stated that they are not in a position to be able to offer spare seats for September.

All affected families will be emailed directly to inform them of this change. If changes are made to social distancing rules, the council will review the guidance to see if they can safely offer spare seats.

Individual family circumstances will be considered under the usual review and appeal procedures, and we are told the council will use its discretionary power to offer transport arrangements where it is clear that this is absolutely essential to enable a non-eligible child to attend school. The usual cost of a spare seat will apply where a discretionary seat can be provided exceptionally.

Any parents who are concerned by this change can call 0345 606 6173.

Woodbridge Resident Ashley Meyer and County Councillor
Caroline Page are deeply concerned about the threatened closure of Woodbridge’s Caterpillar Children’s centre

will also be available on www.suffolkonboard.com

Children’s Centres Report delayed again The controversial and long-awaited report on the fate of Suffolk’s Children’s centres was due to be discussed in Cabinet on 14 July. Astonishingly, this 522pp report was withdrawn literally at the start of the meeting and will now be discussed in the August cabinet

To remind you, Woodbridge Caterpillar centre was to be closed because, according to the (pulled) report there were ample other venues in Woodbridge. The Caterpillar will remain open, as planned, to the end of its lease (2022), however no venues in Woodbridge had been identified beyond the GP surgery and the Library.

Suffolk County Council prevents likely FGM deportation I asked the following question about FGM  at last full council (9th July 2020).

I’m sure you will join me and all councillors in congratulating our social work team and the lawyers in their last-minute success in preventing the home secretary ,Priti Patel, from having an 11year girl deported , with the extreme risk of being subject to Female Genital Mutilation in her home country. FGM is illegal in this country. Please can you tell us what processes the council has in place to make sure any girl in Suffolk threatened with FGM will be protected.”

Although the answer was reassuring, the understanding of the chasm between the immigration courts (who consider children merely as dependents) and the family courts (who look at the human rights of the child) is disturbing.

ASB meeting I attended this on Thursday 16th, and brought two particular concerns to the meeting. One was the vandalism occurring in local parks, and the other was the concerns about dog theft and the anxieties of local residents.

Both of these were mirrored by surrounding parishes.

However, there was also the concern that anxieties were being amplified and increased by the ‘chinese whisper’ effect of unmoderated social media platforms such as NextDoor. For example, one parish representative pointed out that a description circulating of a particular van and two men, matched exactly the profile of a local gardening team who would naturally be visiting a number of properties. Similarly the police pointed out that chalk marks on the pavement ( which were being described as thieves marks) could as easily be marks used by utilities companies.

The general consensus was, while it is wise to take sensible precautions – as ever – it would be unfortunate if older or vulnerable residents become became worried by problems which had been amplified by social media.

Jetty Lane is delighted to announce it has been fortunate to have been gifted two classrooms by Eric Reynolds owner of the Woodbridge Boatyard. These generous gifts – until recently part of Trinity Wharf – were put in place last week as a temporary solution to Woodbridge unmet needs. All permissions are, or have been applied for, but it had to be a fast operation.

You can see a charming short showing the cabins’ installation, speeded up and set to music on the Jetty Lane YouTube channel https://youtu.be/HAEPyR41Sy8 ).

These ‘Activity Spaces’ will be cleaned and made ready to meet Woodbridge’s unmet needs – in a covid-compliant fashion – as soon as possible.