Tag Archives: bus passes

Latest county and town news, Woodbridge, April 2020


COVID-19 Update

– Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives

Latest Government advice: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Latest Suffolk County Council information: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

Woodbridge Emergency Response Group Woodbridge has set up and is running an efficient and effective volunteer and help group with an amazing community response. We have roughly 700 clients and volunteers at the moment. Remember, people can ring to register either to volunteer or to help on 01394 383599 (answered 9-6 daily, with an overnight answerphone), or email emergency@woodbridge-suffolk.gov.uk

Additionally, a Suffolkwide app and phoneline has been launched . For residents outside the Woodbridge area Suffolk has launched Home But Not Alone, a scheme intended to connect volunteers and vulnerable people via free app, called Tribe Volunteer, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. (Please note for ID purposes, the icon is a square with tribe across it, and two yellow-brown curves below it) If you are in Suffolk but outside the greater Woodbridge area you should phone. The telephone number for those in need of help is the same as for volunteering: freephone 0800 876 6926. The intention is that it will be staffed from 09:00 to 17:00, seven days a week. The service will mean willing volunteers, charities, town and parish councils, community and religious groups can all log their details and offers of support on an app, while people who need help can phone to request support. 

School closures and free school meals More information about school closures in Suffolk is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/schools-guidance/

A Voucher scheme has been launched for schools providing free school meals – Families are being offered weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus. The government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.

Effective immediately, schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families; they will have their costs covered by the Department for Education.

Bus passes can now be used before 9:30 Suffolk County Council is allowing concessionary travel for those with elderly and disabled bus passes before 9.30am. This is to allow these residents to access the exclusive early morning shopping times that supermarkets have arranged for these people. Of course, only helpful when those early morning timings match up with actual bus availability.

Public transport services reduced New timetables are now in place for most public transport services, including buses, trains and community transport until further notice. Suffolk County Council is advising those who ned to use public transport to check with their local provider to find out the latest timetable.

Further details can be found at www.suffolkonboard.com or by calling 0345 606 6171.

Funding available for food banks Suffolk County Council has made £60,000 available to support food banks in Suffolk

– Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives –

Other news
Suffolk County Council submits bid for Government funding for buses Suffolk County Council has submitted a statement of intent to the Department of Transport (DfT) for £580k to improve some of the county’s bus services.

The council has not yet released details of how they plan to spend this funding. However, we understand that they are not intending to use it to reinstate the subsidised bus services which were cut last summer.

The DfT planned to announce which statements of intent have been successful by the end of April, but it is likely that this will be delayed given the current situation.

EDF Energy delay application for Sizewell C Development Consent Order EDF Energy have decided to delay their application for a Development Consent Order for Sizewell C by a few weeks, due to the current situation.

In March, my LibDem Green and Independent group were planning to submit a motion asking Suffolk County Council to withdraw support for nuclear power and publicly oppose Sizewell C. However, the Council meeting in March was cancelled. This means that our motion has also been delayed, but we plan to submit it again at the earliest opportunity once meetings at the council start up again. We are concerned however that an application may yet be put in before this time.

Opt-in for 2020/21 free school transport Parents are now able to opt-in if eligible for free transport for the 2020/21 school year. This will be the second year of the new school transport policy. The deadline for opting-in is 31 May 2020.

If parents have a child who is already receiving SCC funded school travel, they must opt-in again to continue to receive it.

Parents whose child is not eligible for SCC funded school travel but who wish to purchase a spare seat, may do so. The application for spare seats opens on 1 July 2020.

To opt-in or for more information on the SCC school travel policy please visit; https://www.suffolkonboard.com/schooltravel/

SCC wins DfT funding for next stage of A12 works Suffolk County Council won £830,000 of funding from the Department for Transport, to develop an Outline Business Case to take forward its plans to improve the A12 East of Ipswich. Obviously this is of interest to us in Woodbridge.

This project is specifically looking to increase capacity and improve overall traffic flow at junctions and will explore the potential for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the A12.

Better Bus Passes WERE affordable all the time!

Emprotesting2 (2)
Bus passes are hugely important for both disabled and elderly bus users

Since Suffolk County Council took over administering the Concessionary Bus pass scheme from the district councils, they have managed a significant underspend every year  which they use to fund other things – not necessarily connected with public transport. This is cynical and inappropriate –and is defended by the council with the limp rationale that this money is ‘not ringfenced.’

Can I remind you of the importance of bus transport for the elderly and disabled in a large rural county like ours – and the impact on services which this cheeseparing decision has had, through the law of unintended consequences?

BUT , last week Suffolk County Council’s 2014-15 budget outturn (revealed at last week’s Cabinet) showed definitively a Passenger Transport  underspend of £400,000 due mainly to half a million pounds of savings in spend on Concessionary Travel. On being questioned, the  Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport has confirmed that  similar savings have been made every year since the County Council  took over the administration of the Concessionary Travel scheme from the district councils.

The dreadful thing about this underspend is that SCC do not allow the elderly or  disabled people to use their bus passes before 9.30 in the morning, because they say it is ‘unaffordable,’ AND in July 2011 Council voted to support a motion put forward by myself -as Shadow Spokesperson for Transport –  to change this! They voted  that concessionary bus pass holders eligible due to age should be able to travel using their passes from 9am during the week, in addition to removing all time limitations for disabled pass holders. (Full details here)

This decision was undemocratically quashed by Cabinet on the grounds of cost (estimated at that time to be around £200,000).

In other words, four years ago  the entire membership of Suffolk County Council voted for an action that would help the most vulnerable members of our county, the Cabinet undemocratically overruled the council’s decision on the grounds of cost, and now it seems as if the over-ruling was made on a spurious and mistaken basis – to put it mildly!

In full council last week I reminded the current Cabinet Member for Transport of the decision to overrule Councils vote and I asked: “As arguments of cost are groundless from the evidence of these outturn figures,   will the Cabinet member now engage to  revisit and reinstate that decision, so that the concessionary pass holders of Suffolk can once again enjoy the same benefits they had before the County Council took over administration of the scheme – and which, in some cases (the blind, for example) they had enjoyed since the Second World War!”

September’s report to Woodbridge Town Council

This month my report is principally to do with bus passes and  libraries. SCC’s county-wide consultation on further cuts is also covered

Interim Chief Executive
Lucy Robinson, Director for Economy, Skills and Environment has been appointed interim chief executive at Suffolk County Council. She had been covering the role of Chief Executive since the previous Chief Executive was put on “gardening leave”. The role is initially for six months, during which time the recruitment of a permanent Chief Executive will take place.  Mrs Robinson has been appointed on a salary of £150,000 pro rata which is apparently the kind of figure Suffolk might expect to be paying for our new Chief Executive’s salary.

 Concessionary Travel: Explore, over-60 and disabled persons passes
After the success of the recent petition, the Explore card cut (together with other obstacles to young persons travel  is currently being investigated by a SCC scrutiny task and finish group. I am a member of this three-person group, and urge anyone who wishes  to give evidence to do so. The committee is taking evidence till half term; the contact is Teresa Harden at SCC.

At  the last Full Council meeting the Liberal Democrat Group submitted a motion recommending that concessionary bus pass holders should be allowed to travel from 9am instead of 9:30am whilethose who hold concessionary bus passes due to a disability should have all time restrictions removed. The motion was passed with a single amendment , so this decision will be now referred to Cabinet.  In the meantime I have set up a petition to highlight  public support.  You can find the epetition on the SCC epetition website http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Bus-Passes—we-need-to-travel-before-9-30- , while a paper  version of the petition can be downloaded from: http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2011/07/15/bus-passes-new-hope-for-the-elderly-and-disabled-of-suffolk/

Libraries update

Future: the administration has put forward a number of different options for the future structure of the service, and the options below will go through a ‘best value’ evaluation. I asked  for the parameters of ‘best value’ to be made very explicit;

  • A Council Business Unit
  • A Council owned company/enterprise
  • Independent Company/Enterprise

This will be reported back to Cabinet on the 8th of November. The Council has also moved to set up pilots for community run libraries at:

  • Aldeburgh
  • Bungay
  • Eye, Debenham and Stradbroke
  • Sudbury
  • Thurston
  • Wickham Market
  • Gainsborough, Chantry, Ipswich, Stoke, Rosehill and Westbourne – working together.

These projects will begin in April 2012, and will look to increase the amount of local decision making, fundraising and activities and look to include more public services under one roof.

Local news: I am funding the children’s writer and illustrator Jonathan Allen to come and cartoon at the Woodbridge Library on Sunday – the day of the Reading Scheme presentation awards.

Mobile libraries: theres  a consultation  running until 14 October on plans to move from fortnightly to monthly or four-weekly stops and  to remove all stops in communities that are served by a static library. We are told this would would save an estimated £225,000 a year, while maintaining the mobile library service to those communities that do not have a static library.

SCC Consultation  on further budget cuts 
As suggested by the Lib Dems last October,  SCC has decided to undertake a major budget consultation exercise with Suffolk residents, businesses, partners, the voluntary sector and other stakeholders. The idea is to get  people to tell us which  services matter most to them and to share their ideas and suggestions on how the Council could save money or improve services.  I urge everyone to make their opinions known. This is the only democratic way to arrive at necessary cuts   www.suffolk.gov.uk/WeAreListening

Public Questions at Full Council & Cabinet
As usual members of the public can ask questions to the administration at both Full Council and at Cabinet. Your question must be submitted by 12 midday, four days prior to the meeting.  This means that questions to Full Council, which takes place on the 22nd of September, have to be submitted by the 16th http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/DecisionMaking/PublicQuestionTimeatMeetingsoftheCountyCouncilandCabinet.htm

Locality budget
I am wanting to  fund  more bike racks in the Market Square, outside the Community Hall, and down by Cafe Nero. Hoefully this will encourage greater bike use – essential in a town where parking is so short