Category Archives: Your councillor

Woodbridge: what’s been happening in March

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 most up-to-date picture across Suffolk is :

For up-to-date local coronavirus data go to https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/ where you can search by postcode.

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.

Caroline Page standing looking very pleased in a clearly new bus shelter with the ancient, yellow Cherry Tree inn behind her
The new bus shelter finally in place

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!

Woodbridge Safe Streets Vigil On March 13th, Woodbridge was one of few places in the county (country) to hold a small  peaceful, safe,  sociallly-distanced police-sanctioned vigil to  remember Sarah Everard and call for greater safety for women in public places. Full details here  https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2021/03/15/safer-streets-for-women-woodbridge-holds-vigil/

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.

Cllr Caroline Page speaking via zoom: head and shoulders shot in front of bookshelves
Cllr Caroline Page proposes the motion at Full Council via zoom

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
  • Dark figure of a woman holdong a red snow scraper with which she has scraped the pathe through the snow in the forground. Behind her is all white: a fairyland tunnel of snow covered branches with a little blue wheelbarrow in the distance
    Gritting: Caroline Page clearing the footway above the Ipswich Road with equipment supplied by the gritting scheme

    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

Woodbridge: Whats happening, February 2021

COVID-19 in Suffolk.

In Woodbridge itself there were 4 new infections in the week to 16 February. At 48.6 infections per 100,000  we are now below the national average, having been above last month.

For up-to-date data go to https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/ where you can search by postcode.

Head shot of person in blues sheepskin hat with earflaps. Her face is covered with a blue mask with white stars on it. Her eyes look apprehensive
Waiting for my jab. I had the Pfizer vaccination on Tuesday 16th

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.

CHart of Council Tax Band increases 21-22 SuffolkThe full detail can be found in the Cabinet papers from January 26th 2021. Link:

https://committeeminutes.suffolk.gov.uk/DocSetPage.aspx?MeetingTitle=(26-01-2021),%20The%20Cabinet

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.

WOman with earphones looking serious in front of shelves and shelves of books
Speaking on Zoom at the Budget meeting

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.

Dark figure of a woman holdong a red snow scraper with which she has scraped the pathe through the snow in the forground. Behind her is all white: a fairyland tunnel of snow covered branches with a little blue wheelbarrow in the distance
Clearing a path in the snow

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:

Census 2021 and coronavirus – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/consultations-petitions-and-elections/census-2021

About the census – Census 2021

https://www.suffolkobservatory.info/

 

 

Woodbridge – County news Jan 2021

Local Coronavirus Update   The rate of COVID infection increased in Suffolk over the Christmas break, leading to a new national lockdown on the 6th of January. As of the 24th January there have been a total of 24,503 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Suffolk, which is a third more than there were on 6th January.

However, on 6th January, COVID infections were 517 per 100,000 while now they are 334, which is below the national average..

Since the pandemic started, there have been 879 Suffolk deaths where there was COVID-19 on the death certificate, and 1054 deaths within 28 days of a COVID test in Suffolk.

In Woodbridge 41 People tested positive for COVID-19 in the week up to 19 January equivalent to 498.3 per hundred thousand resident population: this was down on the week before, but still is a high number (well above the UK average of 406 per hundred thousand). However the population numbers of a place like Woodbridge are so small that looking at infection in terms of numbers per 100,000 can be misleading.Over the same seven day period, East Suffolk reported 727 new infections, down by 332 from week before. This means that the rate of infection in East Suffolk as a district is 348 per 100,000 residents. As the figures are updated daily, it is worth checking them out on https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/ where you can get figures by postcode.

t is clear we need to continue sending out the same hands, face, space message and ensure people realise it really applies to them personally.

Vaccination Strategy At a briefing on Suffolk’s Vaccination Strategy last week we were told that Suffolk had speeded up vaccinating after a relatively slow start: and had quadrupled COVID-19 vaccinations over the last week. The Pfizer vaccine had been used since early December, and the Oxford AstraZeneca from January.

This is the largest vaccination effort in history and is being rolled out as a partnership between councils, NHS organisations, voluntary and community organisations overseen by the CCG. Patients who have a mobile phone will receive a text and those who do not are being posted first-class letters.

However there is ongoing debate about the government’s decision to delay the second dose until 12 weeks after the first dose There is ongoing debate about the UK government’s decision to delay the second dose of vaccine until 12 weeks after the first dose, instead of following the recommended dosing interval of 21 days.

In our area delivery is by the Suffolk GP Federation, which is running the COVID-19 vaccination programme for 28 of the county’s 62 GP practices (This must not be confused with your actual GP surgery). Priority is as the national priority list:

1. Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers
2. 80-year-olds and over and frontline health and social care workers
3. 75-year-olds and over
4. 70-year-olds and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
5. 65-year-olds and over
6. 16- to 64-year-olds with serious underlying health conditions
7. 60-year-olds and over
8. 55-year-olds and over
9. 50-year-olds and over

Critical deadlines: all Suffolk care home residents should have received their first vaccination by Sunday 24th January. We were assured that the first 4 cohorts should have received their first vaccination by 15th February.

The key message is: Don’t not contact your GP: you will be contacted, by text or by letter. The Federation is aware of anomalies – they were made aware of many in the briefing I attended – and is doing its best to fix them as soon as possible.

As a separate issue, I am contacting the CCG to see where exactly the Cinderellas of social care: the unpaid family carers sit within this.

As many clinically extremely vulnerable people live at home, supported solely by a family member, it would seem appropriate that they are always vaccinated in the same cohort and at the same time as the person they care for,
More information from https://sneevaccine.org.uk/

New Head of Adult and Community Services: Georgia Chimbani
Georgia was a social worker for 25 years, working in London boroughs, unitary authorities, and county councils. She has also worked in hospitals and with voluntary organisations. Her most recent role was director for local delivery in the south of Essex. Equality and diversity are very important values to her, and she believes in promoting individuality and self-determination. She wants to help service users become independent and live a good life, whatever that might mean to them.

Georgia will be devoting the first few weeks of her time to listening and learning, understanding the way things are done in Suffolk.

I have raised concerns that certain specifically older people are having to choose between being either unsupported or directed toward support they do not want, through a corporate mantra of ‘choice,” pointing out that often they are in situations not in any way of their own choosing. She has promised to look at individual cases I have three on hand, but if anyone has any egregious examples please contact and I can put them all in together.

A wild landscape: trees, reeds, reflected in a running streamLDGI Biodiversity strategy adopted
You will be very pleased to know that at Suffolk County Council unanimously passed a motion that will see Suffolk County Council developing a biodiversity strategy and embracing biodiverse land management practices. The motion was proposed by the LDGI Group and supported by all other groups. I was asked to second it but unfortunately was still convalescent. The motion will ensure:

• Delivery of a biodiversity strategy that will set out how we could increase Suffolk’s biodiversity, halt the loss of habitats and species, and reintroduce declining species in suitable locations.
• Assessment of how the council can lead organisations across the county in efforts to improve biodiversity.
• Adoption of biodiverse land management options on council land.
• A letter to the Secretary of State asking what further support can be made available to local authorities to enhance bio diversity within their areas.

The SCC Budget 2021-22 & Medium Term Financial Plan
SCC is currently preparing its budget for 2021-22, and my group will be contesting some proposals. The long-term Budget Gap ( the difference between forecast resources and expenditure) is looking gloomy, with a predicted constant overspend leading to a predicted cumulative budget gap of just under £160m by 2024-25.

Consultation on the Suffolk Climate Change Action Place  SCC is currently running a consultation on its proposed Streets Guide, which will assist with the design of new residential developments showing how best to create sustainable transport layouts that promote walking and cycling.

A new Street Guide has been commissioned to update guidance for residential streets. Comments on the draft guide are welcomed and there is a survey to complete. The consultation closes at 5pm on 10th February 2021.
Link: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/planning-waste-and-environment/planning-and-development-advice/suffolk-design-streets-guide/

Locality Budget  I think I have now spent my full locality budget, having provided 9 laptops for lower-income students. I say ‘think’ because there is a small amount that might be returned. If so I plan to spend it on benches or noticeboards for the community.