Having just been re-elected Woodbridge County Councillor for the fifth time, I want to thank all of you who voted for me – and to assure everyone in Woodbridge – whether you voted for me, or not – that I have your backs!
I can’t promise to solve all your problems, but I can
promise to listen, to advocate, and to do my best to help. Pandemic permitting, I expect to restart my surgeries in September.
After the concurrent Town by-election, I am also now a new Woodbridge Town Councillor, together with Green, David Adelson.
In addition to my Woodbridge duties and concerns , I am also now leader of the Suffolk County LibDems, part of the Suffolk GLI (Green LibDem and Independent Group) who now form the official opposition on Suffolk County Council.
This means I am now Suffolk’s opposition spokesperson for Women, Adult Care, and Disability. I continue my long-term membership of Suffolk’s Education Transport Appeals panel and am now the party member on the Police and Crime panel.
Additionally, I carry on with my personal interests in sustainable rural transport and affordable housing, rural poverty and isolation, cycling and libraries.
I am really glad to continue to contribute my skills and experience to both the town and county.
Coronavirus update The covid infection rate continues to go downwards. According to national statistics, there were somewhere between 0 and 2 people infected in Woodbridge in the week ending 9th March. This is as opposed to 11 people on month ago. However East Suffolk as a whole has had a nearly 20% increase in new infections over the last 7 days. Do bear in mind however these are currently small figures: 6 new infections a day.
The vaccination programme is going very well in Suffolk. This is a testament to the hard work and efficiency of our wonderful local healthcare teams and volunteers. However, supply remains patchy. This is the one area outside local hands.
With the return of school pupils to the classroom on Monday, households, childcare and support bubbles of primary/secondary-age pupils and primary/secondary staff are being asked to take a rapid test for COVID-19, twice a week. Secondary school pupils and primary/secondary school staff will be given their tests by their schools. Farlingaye HS made the EADT for the sheer number of tests administered! (Primary school pupils will not be asked to test at this time.)
There are four ways to get a test. For more details go to the Suffolk County Council . The Woodbridge Lateral Flow testing site will be stood down from 31 March because it has been decided that home testing is more beneficial.
Finally: New Bus Shelter by the Cherry Tree Happiness is.. a new bus shelter! People have waited in the cold and wet at the bus stop by Cherry Tree Inn, Woodbridge ever since there was a bus stop there. A total wind tunnel. It has taken me four years to negotiate and and actually get this shelter in place. A small victory? Not for the residents of Morley Avenue! I’m thrilled!
Home to school transport contracts to move from Suffolk Norse to Vertas Following the end of the joint venture partnership with Suffolk Norse (triggered on the part of Norse), SCC will be moving the home-to-school transport service to the wholly owned company Vertas.
Suffolk Norse delivered a termination of agreement notice in August 2020, giving 12 months notice to the Council. The 40 home-to-school transport routes and a school swimming service will be delivered by Vertas from September onwards. The contract was not put out to tender due to the limited timescales, the legal requirement to deliver these services continuously, and the risk of redundancies if a provider able to deliver both swimming and home-to-school transport cannot be found.
Suffolk & Norfolk County Council submit joint bid for £6m flood funding Suffolk and Norfolk County Councils have submitted a joint bid to the £200 fund for Flood and Coastal Resilience, requesting £6m to invest in flood protection schemes across both counties. The proposed projects would also capture water for reuse. If the bid is successful town and parish councils will be encouraged to get involved through measures like permeable paving, water butts and ‘rain gardens’ that can cope with occasional flooding. These projects would be in place by 2027 if the bid is approved.
Consultation on proposed A12 improvements from A14 Seven Hills to A1152 Woods Lane Suffolk County Council was consulting on proposed improvements to the A12 between A14 junction at ‘Seven Hills’ and A1152 at Woods Lane, with the stated aim of increasing highway capacity in the area and preventing future congestion.
The “improvements” will include traffic lights on every roundabout but Seckford, and have an estimated cost of £60m. The lights would monitor congestion and use ‘intelligent flow’ to adapt to changing levels of traffic. The consultation finished on 19th March. I will post my response separately.
Carers Database I proposed a motion to the last full council of the electoral cycle to create a cross-county Carers database in order to help direct the Council’s limited social care resources most effectively so as to ensure that there will be maximum support for carers, particularly in times of crisis. Wonderfully this was seconded by Suffolk’s Conservatives(although they had had no appetite for the schemewhen I proposed it to them directly last summer and the motion passed ‘by general acclamation.’ Full details here: https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2021/03/21/identifying-suffolks-unpaid-carers/
LDGI Group opposes Government’s last-minute approach to local authority grants Suffolk County Council will receive £27m for highways repairs, maintenance and drainage in 2021-22, a reduction in from £31m the previous year. This has necessitated the use of £2m of reserves to top up the grant. We feel that these cuts in Government funding make it impossible to plan long-term for road maintenance and repair. Due to the uncertainty as to whether this grant would materialise at all, some vital work has already been postponed.
Post-16 Travel Policy consultation My group has submitted a joint response to Suffolk County Council’s consultation on the Post-16 Transport Policy, which manages transport to schools and education for young people after the age of 16. This included:
Support for the expansion of the post-16 travel eligibility criteria for sixth form students and adult learners aged 25 and under with EHC plans, reflecting the change in age range for compulsory school attendance.
Support for keeping prices lower for SEND students.
Use of buses and trains for school transport must be supported. The needs of students and the numbers currently forced to use taxis or private cars to reach their schools must be taken into account when considering public transport. Students should be steered towards buses first, and the school transport service should support our local bus network in maintaining services to rural areas.
The Travel Training Scheme must be better funded, so that it can expand and promote its services
Four Years of Locality Budgets In the last four years, my locality budget has funded an amazingly diverse array of things to support local groups and the community in general. These included:
Entertainment for the individual Library Reading Schemes and prizes for the associated competitions (Animal Agents, Mischief Makers and Space Chase)
Funding towards a defibrillator for Warwick Avenue
A townwide Social Prescribing leaflet
A tenor soloist for the end of WWI Snape annniversary War Requiem
Additional bins and barrows for the Woodbridge Gritting Scheme (set up by me in 2010)
Advertising material: Woodbridge Farmers’ Market
Little City play shopping street experience for pre-schoolers
Plans for the interior of Jetty Lane Community Youth and Arts Centre
WTFC kit for the Junior team
Uniform jackets for Just 42 in-school mentors at FarlingayeHS
Benches and notice boards for areas outside the town centre
Funding for Woodbridge Festival
Promotional videos highlighting community need
The ‘Finish’ Arch for the Woodbridge 10k
Funding for Woodbridge Opera in the Park
Christmas presents for local children in need
Road trailer for the Woodbridge Coastal Rowing Club skiffs
Funding for Pirate Ship climbing frame, St Mary’s Primary School
9 laptops to support learning for individual FarlingayeHS students in lockdown
Benches to improve the shopping experience in Woodbridge Thoroughfare
After a slow start vaccinations in Suffolk are going very well. By Sunday 7th more than 1 in 4 residents had received at least one jab. This is a testament to the hard work and efficiency of our wonderful local healthcare teams and volunteers.
Last month I asked Public Health whether carers could not be vaccinated at the same time as the person they care for, and got what I felt to be a rather non-committal answer. Wonderfully this was not the end of the matter and, anecdotally at least, vaccination of carers along with those they care for is now beginning to happen which is very good news for community health in general.
Although the bad weather briefly closed the Woodbridge centre it was up and running again. The latest news is that Woodbridge is opening a lateral flow testing site sjhortly.
Suffolk County Council Budget The Suffolk County Council Budget was presented to Full Council last Thursday, February 11th. Key points included:
This year’s budget strategy focuses on responding to COVID-19, delivering transformation savings, making use of the risk reserve for this year only to deal with one-off pressures, and looking ahead while continuing to adapt.
The net expenditure budget is £597.877m.
Basic council tax will be raised by 1.99%, the maximum amount allowable without a referendum.
The Social Care Precept will be raised by 2%, rather than the full 3% allowed.
£16.702m from risk reserves will be used to balance the budget.
The full detail can be found in the Cabinet papers from January 26th 2021. Link:
LDGI Group Budget Amendment My group constructed a Budget Amendment which was submitted alongside the administration’s Budget. Costingd and workings out were done after seeking advice from the SCC financial officers the The key change proposed by the LDGI Groupwould be to authorise the use of the full 3% social care precept, unlocking the maximum available funding without impacting SCC’s reserves. This would generate an extra £3.452m for social care at a cost of only £13.41 per year to a Band D household, freeing up general council tax funds to be spent on other projects and investments including:
£700k for establishing a COVID-19 grant scheme for Suffolk charities and arts & culture venues.
£500k for a solar energy scheme for Suffolk businesses.
£200k for creating an electric bike rental scheme for Ipswich and Lowestoft.
£500k to re-enable the use of concessionary bus passes on community transport and demand responsive transport across Suffolk.
£1m for a 30mph scheme to convert residential 30mph zones to a default speed limit of 20mph over four years.
£15k for a citizen’s assembly on how Suffolk can build back better while recovering from the pandemic.
£75k to enable community reviews of highways signage in the local area.
£50k to expand the flood management team to ensure SCC is applying for all flooding grants it is eligible for.
A demand-scoping exercise on where demand is for bus routes, a priority list for where future routes need to be, and a feasibility study on establishing an SCC-owned bus company to serve rural areas if commercial bus companies cannot.
The Conservative administration their budget through by a healthy margin, Labour abstaining on both the amendment and the budget vote.
By opting not to take the full 3% social care precept, the administration is voluntarily giving up £3.452m of funding for adult social care that must be made up from the general council tax fund, meaning that worthwhile projects such as those above cannot be pursued. I spoke specifically on the subject of bus pass usage and the inability of those entitled to them to use them on community and demand responsive transport due to a specific £300,000 cut in 2019. (The details for this are on my blog).
For full details you can watch the entire debate online on the County Council’s Youtube channel.
Woodbridge Gritting: Although I started and funded the Woodbridge pavement gritting scheme 11 years ago and continued adding bins in subsequent years, the last few years have given us such mild winters that people have dropped their guard a little.
In this last cold spell there were magnificent efforts from councillors of all parties plus a number of volunteers to make key pedestrian routes less lethal but I suggest that we need to feed in immediately all the areas people noticed as having a significant problem, a lack or bins or volunteers or all three. We also need to alert people as to the purpose of these bins. I was told off by one woman for taking sand from a bin because it was for ‘our hill’.
A12 scheme proposal: Seven Hills to Woods Lane Consultation The county is consulting on whether to spend £60million on various improvements to the We A12 between the A14 at Seven Hills and the A1152 at Woods Lane which will include dualling the section between the Seckford and Dobbies roundabouts and adding traffic lights at most roundabouts. This is a scheme which will have a great deal of local impact and on which there are likely to be many views so I would be grateful if to ensure as many residents as possible respond.
The consultation started on 9th February and will l continue until Friday 19 March. All details are available at www.suffolk.gov.uk/A12improvements During the consultation there will be two public virtual events to be held where people can hear a presentation on the proposals and then ask questions – details and link on the webpage.
Census 2021- next month The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have confirmed that the 2021 Census will go ahead as planned on Sunday 21st March 2021.
This is the first “digital-first” census, with people being encouraged to respond online on mobile phones, laptops, PCs or tablets. People can also complete the census over the phone, with the help of ONS trained staff, or by using the traditional paper form.
As some individuals and communities may need support with the ‘digital-first’ approach, field officers will give help and encouragement to those who have not yet filled in their census questionnaire online or on paper after Census Day. They will be operating in the same way as a postal or food delivery visit. Field staff will never need to enter people’s houses; they will always be socially distanced, wear PPE and work in line with all government guidance.
The information the census collects is vital – it helps plan and fund services in Suffolk: transport, education and healthcare amongst other things. Charities also use census information to help get the funding they need. Businesses use it to decide where to set up, which creates job opportunities. It is important to take part.
A total of 94% of people took part in the last census in 2011, helping each county receive its share of public funding. Please help us beat that figure in 2021
Please see attached a Census Handbook designed specifically for Councillors. Links to this and other information are below:
Caroline Page, LibDem County Councillor for Woodbridge
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.