Tag Archives: Cabinet

Woodbridge Town Council report December 2010

That NSD ‘consultation’ in full…

The SCC Full Council meeting on the 2nd of December voted  again on the New Strategic Direction – that is, the vision (some might prefer to call it a nightmare) of Suffolk County Council as an ‘enabling’ council rather than providing services.  Council looked at both the levels of ‘engagement’ SCC has reached with the public and local organisations, as well as developments in how the Council plans to implement the policy.

I pointed out that ‘engagement’ was very different from consultation (the engagement questionnaire never asked whether the people of Suffolk wanted this to happen, only whether they understood what was happening – go figure!), and  that the NSD had in fact been driven through without any public consultation by the ten members of the current SCC cabinet.  I referred to the 1500 (and counting) responses I had personally received from Suffolk residents against the NSD, which was three times as many as was recieved by SCC’s engagement exercise by the same date.  Additionally,  my colleague John Field mentioned that the 30% reduction in costs over 4 years bore very little relationship to the maximum 11% total loss of income Suffolk was actually going to suffer over this period (You can find the figures for this here and the full text of my speech here ). I voted against continuing with the NSD until proposals were properly budgeted, but the motion was carried 44-11.

This decision has huge – and apparently adverse – significance for our local services across a wide range of provision, from elderly care, to young person’s transport, to weekend and evening bus services, to who runs our library and how, to highways services.

I will keep you informed when I have any more concrete information – which is unlikely to be soon. The decision has been made without any of those who voted for it having any idea of what they are planning to do!

Two funds that might be useful in extremis

Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund & the Transforming Suffolk Community Fund

Presumably as a direct result of the above, Suffolk County Council has teamed up with the Suffolk Foundation to launch two different grants for voluntary and community projects across the county.

The first is the Transforming Suffolk Community fund, which looks to aid smaller community groups with a one off grant of between £500 and £5,000  to aid with the cost of the projects which will meet one of these four priorities;

  • Creating a stronger and vibrant community
  • Green issues including carbon reduction
  • Learning and skills
  • Health related projects.

This grant is for one-off funding and requires the spending to be completed within 12 months of receipt of the funds.

The second is the Transforming Suffolk Innovation Fund run by Suffolk County Council, which looks to provide a grant over three years of up to £50,000 to innovative voluntary and community projects that;

  • Will integrate existing services or develop new ones with the objective of long term sustainability;
  • Will support sustainable voluntary and community organisations by helping them to help themselves;
  • Carry out research into needs and service provision;
  • Will develop innovative and/or transferable practices for delivery of new and improved services.

The fund totals £2.5m for the whole county, and is available through an application process at the County Council  For more information, and for access to the application form, you can contact either:

The Suffolk Community FoundationTel: 01473 734120  www.suffolkfoundation.org.uk

Or

Suffolk County Council’s External Funding team: Tel: 01473 264283

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/BusinessAndConsumer/RegenerationAndCommunityDevelopment/Funding/

I’d be very interested in getting personally involved with this

Call-in of Fire and Rescue Control Room  move

After the SCC Cabinet meeting for December  the Liberal Democrats felt obliged to ‘call in’ Cabinet’s decision to move the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Control room out of the county to Cambridgeshire. This means the decision will now have to go to  to a scrutiny committee to  examine the justification behind the decision – and possibly overturn it!

The Lib Dems asked for the call-in in respect of  the following points

  • Out of Office services – will these be transferred to Cambridge as well, if so what is the affect on the provision of these?
  • Why was this matter not taken to Full Council to ensure a debate  and vote amongst all members of the Council,  particularly as the County Council is the Fire Authority.
  • How will Suffolk maintain effective control of matters relating to the efficiency, scrutiny and monitoring of a service that will be run by an adjoining fire authority.
  • What mechanism will be in place for Suffolk to manage and rectify errors which may have a reputational or life safety implication bearing in mind that the S.C.C remains responsible but will have no direct line management over the people delivering the service?
  • Who is liable for errors – at the moment SFRS are directly responsible, have monitoring processes and the ability to rectify?
  • Why has the control room got to be exported out of Suffolk, why cannot this continue within Suffolk, for example with the Police?
  • What happens if an agreement with Cambridgeshire Fire Authority does not allow transfer of service until after the Colchester Road Fire Station has closed?”

The Liberal Democrats are particularly concern about the risk associated with moving such an important facility to Cambridgeshire, and the fact that this decision was made by ten people without consultation, preventing all councillors to debate an issue which might adversely affect the whole county. I have been approached by both local and county fire service representatives, anxious to point out  that this is a potentially dangerous decision to make. An option might be, for example, to see if the control room could be combined with the Police control centre in Suffolk, thus making savings while retaining locality.

These are the papers for the Call-in of the Fire and Rescue Service command and Control Function.

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_15012

Gritting

Due to our advance planning, Woodbridge is at the forefront of keeping people safe and mobile . Early in the year after we had all been anxious at the potential  impact of snow  and icy weather on Woodbridge residents  I offered to fund grit bins and equipment for local volunteers to keep the pavements clear and  Woodbridge Town Council were very proactive in drawing up a scheme of potential troublespots that needed addressing. And due to this forward planning Woodbridge has been able to tackle the ice and snow relatively efficiently.  Ten grit bins are on site and another four on order: Cross corner;  St Johns Hill/Castle St;  California/Ipswich Road (where I’m the volunteer); Fitzgerald Green; Mill Lane; Haughgate Close; Colletts Walk; Warren Hill Road; Market Hill; Victoria Road; Peterhouse; Portland Crescent and Farlingaye. There is also a few grit piles, one of which we hope to establish at the back of the Doctors surgery in Little St Johns Street to prevent breaks. It could also be used to ensure safe arrival at the library.

I hope you saw we were covered in the local papers, together with a nice picture of me, town councillors and volunteers in front of the shire hall.

As a volunteer, I personally spent 15 hours gritting around California, around the Seal and down the footpath that runs along the top of Ipswich Road.  I reckon that totalled about 15 miles of roadway walked and gritted. The interesting thing was that by doing this, it encouraged more volunteers to come out to help. Particular thanks must go to Jill and Ian W, Pauline H, and Patrick G who have all helped nobly keeping the Ipswich Road/California axis clear

So, if people express any interest, do urge them to contact the  Town Clerk and volunteer. Many hands make light(ish) work– and lets face it,residents will find it so much more productive than moaning that somebody else hasn’t done it.

Volunteers get to use a barrow, a snowshovel and a a hi-viz jacket; they’re covered by SCC insurance and the benefits include a slimmer figure, the warm glow of having helped –  and lots of gratitude. Not a bad deal, really

Appropos of this I would like to pay tribute to the people who run the gritting lorries who go out day and night trying to keep as much of the thousands of miles of Suffolk roads passable as possible.

It seems to be fashionable amongst certain Suffolk car-drivers to criticise these heroes pretty well without thought or reflection.  Me: I have nothing but the utmost admiration for them. The service is run via a handful of people working throughout the nights and they do a fantastic job – and all without expectation of any kind of thanks at all.  I rang a highways officer at 11am on day in the last cold period. He sounded a bit dazed (tho very competent). It turned out he’d just got back into the office having been out on the roads personally gritting since midnight the night before!

As well as remembering to be grateful that our service is so good, we MUST also make sure that any hamfisted attempts at divestment protect the efficiency and effectiveness that we are currently managing in-house. Other counties with privatised gritting services are not managing half so well.

New traffic island at the top of Ipswich Road (Clarkson’s Crossing)

There will be some sort of official naming ceremony for this at some time as – due to the input of  the Farlingaye students – Woodbridge now has the only named crossing in Suffolk (they christened it the Clarkson crossing, after the local anti-slavery activist). I am happy to see the crossing  seems to be used by the very people it was intended for, and I also think it might be slowing the traffic on entering Woodbridge. The LED sign half-way down Ipswich Road – which is on order but has not yet arrived – should also help reduce speed.

Suffolk’s NSD – a Noddy Style Democracy?

Sadly, at full council yesterday the Conservative administration used its large majority to carry on with its horrifyingly unformed proposals of divestment  – and STILL without any public mandate.

I’m sharing below the speech I made against this decision. Unfortunately, despite its undoubted brilliance, and despite equally superb and  accurate speeches by my leader Kathy Pollard, deputy leader, David Wood, and colleague John Field, all the backbench conservatives voted with their leaders rather than their consciences  to support this unformed, uncosted, un-budgeted,  and undemocratic piece of ideologically-driven decision-making.

So in the years to come, folks,  you need to remember that this decision to ‘divest’ is NOT a coalition decision. This is NOT a national decision. It is NOT based on national cuts . No, the responsibility for the NSD  lies squarely in the hands of Leader Jeremy Pembroke, his Cabinet  – and all the Tory backbenchers on Suffolk County Council with huge reservations – not one of whom had the bottle to vote so in public!

My speech against the NSD

In September this council agreed  – via its socking Tory majority –  to push through the Cabinet recommendation , the NSD

–  Which stands for… what exactly?  Me, I think Noddy-style Democracy sums up the process pretty fairly!

Now there are lots and lots of reasons to object to this Enid  Blyton fantasy, the NSD, but I’m only given 3 minutes.

So, I won’t mention their spurious 30% cuts, nor the value of the services they want to sell off or throw away .  As regards its  lack of logic and responsibility to the people of Suffolk – I’ll confine myself to quoting the Deputy Leader :

“If people don’t value a service, it won’t be delivered. If no-one comes forward with an offer to deliver it, that’s proof it’s not needed.”

(What a superbly Toytown approach to service delivery that is, by the way! So, if no-one comes forward to unblock your loo, is that proof your loo’s not blocked? )

No, my three minutes is going on the democratic deficit that led to this decision – and the democratic deficit that underpins your  subsequent  ‘consultation’.

Now, I missed last meeting for serious personal reasons and so couldn’t cast my vote against the NSD. Did it matter?  Not a jot!

Why? Because the future of Suffolk’s services lies

  • not in the hands of its half a million plus electors,
  • not in the  hands of the 75 county councillors who represent them,
  • – and, – NOT  – in the hands of the  55 Tory councillors opposite who hold a majority vote.

NO, it  has been made by my esteemed colleagues, the Leader and  cabinet.

These ten people have unilaterally decided to  ‘transform Suffolk public services”.

Last September, Council also agreed “proactive and wide-ranging engagement across Suffolk to establish whether the key NSD proposals found favour with the communities.”  Note that  weasel word ‘engagement’ rather than ‘consultation.’

I’m sorry Jeremy, but your ‘proactive and wide-ranging engagement’ is a farce. Nowhere in your ‘engagement activity’  did you ask the VITAL question, “Shall we do it?”

Instead you askedDo you understand it?” And indeed, by 21 November you had 528 responses – 63% of who DID ‘understand’  Jeremy, the concept of ‘selling the family silver’ is very easy to understand.

What people don’t understand  is WHY you’re selling it without asking the family first.

So we Lib Dems decided to hold our own ‘engagement process’. We  actually walked around, we delivered 23,000 leaflets, we visited not a single town, once – as several of the Conservative councillors say they did – but town after town over and over again and talked to many residents  about your NSD.  And, you know what? People had never heard of it.

They were appalled, Jeremy!  We didn’t get 528 responses– we’ve had over 1500, and rising.

Aren’t you – even a little bit – aware of  just how angry most people are?

Or maybe this is the area where YOU ‘don’t understand’!

Now, some of my constituents think your plans ridiculous,

Some  of them think they are reprehensible.

But maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe they’re just WRONG.

Couldn’t you all  just admit you’re wrong?  There are lots of my colleagues opposite, who I know are privately very unhappy about what’s happening and how.  Of course you are. You’re friends of democracy – no fans of fairytales. You represent the people of Suffolk with as much passion and dedication as I do.

So why not go for it! Why not summon up the courage of all those thousands of crosses on your ballot papers?  People voted for democratic values. For Suffolk values!  NOT for Noddy Style Democracy. Suffolk is not Toytown! Playtime is over! So lets  consult properly – and LISTEN to the replies. The people of Suffolk aren’t  children. They don’t need fairy-tales. You can trust them to make grown-up decisions!

Woodbridge Town Council report Nov 2010

New Strategic Direction: When is a Consultation NOT a Consultation?

SCC has finally embarked on a consultation on the administration’s  New Strategic Direction proposals (proposals that were that were announced seven weeks ago on the 23rd of September) with an online survey for members of the public to respond to, on the Suffolk County Council website. I believe this survey closes on November 18th . Seven weeks to anticipate (and indeed according to the Leader, this was over a YEAR in the planning) and  just three weeks to make a comment. And then only if you are computer literate. This shows the  respect our administration have for the views of the people who elected them.

I am not sure what the administration plans to do to reach the many Suffolk residents who do not easily use or access computers.

We are told the responses from this consultation will be used to provide a report for the Full Council meeting on the 2nd of December.

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/AboutSCC/NewStrategicDirection.htm

Update: only responses recieved before November 15th will be used in the report to Full Council. So a considerably LESS than three week consultation for those who find the link.

You can’t OBJECT to the NSD on this survey, mind.

Ipswich Road made safer for pedestrians

The refuge island at the top of Ipswich road which I have been pressing for for a couple of years, and which I have funded from QoL  is finally being built.  Sorry for the inconvenience – but it will be worth it! The solar-powered flashing ‘30 ‘sign for halfway down  Ipswich Road (just before the blind bend) which I have also been fighting for has been ordered and should be installed shortly.

When these are in place we might consider looking at what else needs to be done to slow traffic  – and particularly traffic entering Woodbridge from the A12.

Martlesham Creek footpath revamp

I’mvery very pleased to be able to announce the temporary closure of Footpath 6 Woodbridge (Martlesham Creek) from Kyson Point westwards to Footpath 11/12 Martlesham for resurfacing! This stretch of the path is a nighmare in all but the driest weather,  and I have ben pestering the relevant  officer for a while now to see what she could do. Hopefully its closure until Februaryfor proper building up and resurfacing of the quagmire it has become  will result  in many happy years walking for both residents and visitors

SCC Care Homes ‘Consultation’ (as long as you give one of the pre-selected answers, that is!)

At the October Cabinet meeting the Cabinet announced they were looking at the future of SCC Care homes in the county, that is,  looking to divest the services that the Council provides.  They say this is ‘due to the cost of running care homes and ensuring that the care homes are of the highest quality for residents’. They have considered this solely in terms of money rather than the needs of the increasingly ageing population of Suffolk. This is of concern to us because of Lehmann House in Wickham Market, which is one of the homes for which complete closure is postulated

The  options on offer are:

Close the homes and commission alternative services from the independent sector. The council would close all of the homes and sell the sites, and re-commission the required places from the independent sector, as they state that places bought in independent homes are cheaper compared to the cost of providing in house. This relies on there being places  to buy and also brings up issues of who is  ensuring these places are of a suitable standard

Sell all of the homes as going concerns The council would sell the homes as going concerns to one or more new providers who would take over the care of residents, the employment of the staff and the maintenance of the buildings.  Residents could continue to live in the homes and the staff would transfer to the new provider or providers. It was pointed out at Cabinet that many homes could not be sold as going concerns because they were too expensive

Close a number of homes and transfer the remaining homes to the independent sector. This option would involve the closure of a number of homes and transfer of the remaining homes with an agreement to develop new services and facilities to replace the existing homes, which could include new residential homes or very sheltered housing.

Within the papers there is a list of six houses that ‘might be’ (read ‘are being’) considered for early closure

Lehmann House in Wickham Market

Ixworth Court in Ixworth

The Dell in Beccles

Wade House in Stowmarket

Davers Court in Bury St. Edmunds

Paddock House in Eye

An initial  12 week consultation  – that is, 9 weeks longer than the administration has allowed for the NSD – starts 1st November 2010 (consultation ending  24th January 2011) will ‘seek stakeholders’ views’ with a plan for divestment of the homes in March 2011.

You will notice that although there has been no costings attached to this  – beyond the assurance that some council-run Care Homes are ‘too expensive’ (right up there with the ‘feel’ that Bury Road P&R users will just switch to London Road) there is NO OPTION  to maintain the status quo in the  consultation. So much for the democratic process, eh

I am visiting Lehmann House this Friday. You can respond to the consultation, and read the report that went to Cabinet at this address;

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Consultations/carehomesconsultation2010.htm

Bury Road Park and Ride to close despite its popularity. Sums don’t count!

Also on Oct 12th the Lib Dems ‘called-in’ Cabinet’s decision to close the close the Bury Road Park and Ride site in January, just after Christmas in the belief  that this would save significant amounts of money. We continue to believe that the three Park and Ride sites are valuable for Suffolk and Suffolk residents alike, and, in addition to contributing to our ‘greenest county’ aspirations could contribute significantly to the Suffolk exchequer is managed sensibly.

The rationale for the closure was based on things like ‘a feel’ for the situation (I kid you not), and without business analysis to explain a sudden drop in profits that coincided with transferring the new contract from  Ipswich Buses to First. Additionally, there was no mention of the cost of changing the contract, and the information they chose to provide  about the level of use was not per site sites. This was particularly interesting because, when we tracked it down, it durned out that the usage at Bury Road is much higher than at Martlesham – nearly double!   We also discovered that the County has just  received £830,000 in European funding to promote sustainable transport around the town of Ipswich, while only recently the Government has committed to spending £25m in Ipswich on sustainable transport including new bus stops and real time information.

None of this was accounted for in the SCC decision, no was there any consideration of introducing a charge for concessionary fares. (This is extraordinary because charging for concessionary fares was due to be introduced in all three Park and Rides three months later and the figures for projected increase in income MUST therefore be available. It is unbelievable that they were not considered as part of this decision-making process – or indeed part of the scrutiny).

We estimate that if each concessionary user paid £1.50 for the service, then the Park and Ride would actually bring around £644,000 worth of income into the County, rather than the current apparent deficit of £800,000.  Our survey of nearly 500 regular users suggests that 10% or less would refuse to pay this modest charge: the decision was based on the administration’s ‘feel’ that 50% would refuse. Again, were there hard facts? No way!!!

Unfortunately the scrutiny committee refused to refer the decision back to Cabinet, with the voting split on political lines rather than those of scientific financial planning. There were 13 out of 14 Conservatives voting for the decision to be upheld, the two Liberal Democrats on the committee voting for the decision to be referred back with support from the one Labour member.

For more information including the original papers, please head to;

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_14828

Lose CONNEXIONS – Upcoming Cabinet Items

November’s cabinet meeting has a significantly reduced agenda compared to many meetings in the past. Two issues have specific interest for  people in Woodbridge:

Development of a New Integrated Youth Support Service. Alas, like so very many of the SCC administration’s  ‘positive title’ initiatives this is  misleading. This  is not looking at yer actual ‘development’ at all but  the possible divestment of open access youth clubs (destruction rather than development in other words), and to approve the establishment of a ‘Divestment Fund’ to enable communities to take over the running of existing SCC provision or start up a new type of provision.  The Youth and Connexions service will no longer exist in their current form. Although this is supposed to be up for consultation, we are told in advance that ‘the new service will have fewer features, but have more investment in targeted support for vulnerable people.’

I have already been approached by the heads of two separate youth services worried about the impact of this on their community

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=doc&id=1_14859&format=doc

The Cabinet is also being asked to agree SCC’s future role in effective management of Suffolk’s natural environment, and to support a bid for the County to be a pioneer authority in delivering the Government’s Total Environment agenda.  The report describes how within the New Strategic Direction it is possible for the County Council to contribute to delivering the Government’s green agenda.

How this links in with the Park and Ride closure , for example, or the fact that the Council’s carbon footprint for private vehicle use went UP this last year while its usage of sustainable transport went DOWN remains to be seen.

http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=doc&id=1_14860&format=doc

Please don’t forget that members of the public are able to ask questions of the administration at each Cabinet meeting.  Please head here to find out more:

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/CommitteesAgendasReportsandMinutes/PublicQuestionTimeatMeetingsoftheCountyCouncilandCabinet.htm