Conservative and Labour councillors at Suffolk County Council yesterday chose to not oppose the development of Sizewell C, despite acknowledging the irreparable harm it could cause to the Suffolk coastline and economy.
However, the motion was lost after both the Conservative and Labour groups stated that they would not support it. There were just 12 votes in favour, 50 against and 4 abstentions.
Colleagues, we represent the people of Suffolk. But, in supporting Sizewell C it is as if their concerns and objections did not exist.
Why would anyone support it?
Economic benefit? We’re told Sizewell C will bring in £100m annually. But the tourist benefit of the Suffolk Coastal AONB, coastal heaths – plus all the natural environment around is £240m annually. Who will visit a building site? Sizewell C will lose us money.
We’re told SIzewell will bring local jobs? Yet 75% of the workers will need purpose built accommodation. So, not very local.
Not forgetting Sizewell C will lose Suffolk Coastal jobs by inflicting permanent damage to the tourist industry the Suffolk coast relies on – and for which it is famed. Sizewell will trample over an AONB, damaging a vital resource: the age-old countryside in which it sits. What an own goal.
As the sheriff says in Fargo: “All for a little bit of money.”
Our beautiful Suffolk coast is now rebranded the Energy coast. 7% of UK electricity will come from Sizewell. Yet the impact of building and running it will have a 100% impact on the Suffolk coast and its residents. And that impact is negative.
Do remember, the waste from Sizewell C will be stored “temporarily onsite” – just as the waste from Sizewell B is still being stored “temporarily onsite”. They’re still looking for solutions. What will it cost? Who pays?
So, Suffolk gets to lose maybe £140million a year, for loss of AONB and ancient countryside, while gaining many years’ impact of building works, much additional traffic despite our green commitments, and the longterm problem of nuclear waste.
This is for a power plant that is already obsolete before it is built. With the advance of wind generated energy, the financial case for nuclear power no longer adds up.
Sizewell does not make economic sense, environmental sense, common sense
Words like ‘mitigation, compensation’ fall very short of addressing the destruction of an historic way of life for people and environment. When these words get used to describe the wholesale destruction of our countryside and way of life for no apparent gain whatsoever, it is time to halt this idiocy.
Colleagues, we all know Sizewell is a dinosaur. There is no need for us to play Jurassic Park.
Last week – National Carers Week – passed with even less than its usual muted tootle.
Not sure why. The pandemic has meant that unpaid carers are busier, lonelier, more stressed, less supported than ever. Maybe everyone was clapped out for the ‘real’ carers – you know, the ones we pay.
Carers Week is generally when those lucky enough not to be carers briefly acknowledge their plight, and then forget it again. This year we didn’t even bother to remember. The official hashtag #carersweek is matched by the unofficial #realcarersweek. Have a look: it is very illuminating. I’ve spent twenty years watching paint dry when it comes to raising awareness of the very existence of unpaid carers and their lives. It’s dispiriting.
Putting national apathy aside (and it was total) all I can imagine is that everybody in Britain – including our Prime Minister – is unaware of the void of difference between care workers (staunch, hardworking, poorly paid – but, crucially, paid) and unpaid carers, whose invisible lives are defined by high levels of ill-health (both physical and mental), poverty, stress and isolation. Carers are seven times more likely to be really lonely compared with the general public. Carers are in effect slaves, held hostage by love, saving the state billions. Many work 24/7 without a break for months, maybe years at a time. Unpaid carers have no pay, no sick leave (let alone sick pay), no holiday (let alone holiday pay), no employers pension contributions
Suffolk doesn’t even know how many unpaid carers it has – old couples locked behind doors, children worried sick that a parent may be collapsed when they get home, a sibling trying to keep a family member safe.
We do know that we have about 100,000 of them, because unpaid carers make up 13% of the population.
This year, lockdown gave everyone a sudden taste of being shut up involuntarily, unable to get out, unable to contact friends, losing livelihoods, careers, opportunities, very stressed, very concerned, very worried. And, like becoming a carer, it happened in a flash.
I am calling on the people of Suffolk – and those who represent them – to think what it would be like being locked down for life – for love. Without all the food parcels, the zoom quizzes, the sudden support networks and all the initiatives that are on offer now that sudden loss of of so much has hit the zeitgeist.
Clap for the carers? “Oh, of course we mean you you too.” Clap for no pay, no sick leave, no holiday, no work-related pension, no union representation – because you only work. You are not counted as workers.
Are the carers charities finally going to lobby to make real improvements to unpaid carers lives? Lobby for pay, sick leave, holiday entitlement, work-related pension contributions (because, sure as hell, carers work their socks off)? £67 Carers Allowance for the few, and a dismissive pat on the head for all is simply not enough!
This is the time to admit to and take responsibility for those hidden 100,000, many of whom – appallingly – we still can’t identify, still living lives of quiet desperation behind closed doors, whether the lockdown eases or not.
And having -finally – taken responsibility for them, we must be morally obliged to do something to make their lives better.
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
Secure Children’s Homes
Residential Special Schools
Local Authority: childrens social care, adult social care or healthy child services
Mental Health community/adult social workers
Hospices and Palliative Care
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.
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.
Caroline Page, LibDem County Councillor for Woodbridge