So, this month deals with the SFRS cuts consultation, community transport , the PCC elections, and devolution
Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service cuts The independent report into Suffolk’s proposed cuts having been published. Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will make recommendations to May’s Cabinet.
The public consultation were summarised as the following:
The public focus groups were groups of people chosen at random by telephone number and given briefings as to the situation. Their conclusions seem in stark contrast to the rest of the consultation. In March’s Full Council I put the local case for Woodbridge retained fire station and its need for the continuing support of Ipswich fire crews,. Interestingly, the public focus group looking specifically at the Ipswich proposals were divided in their opinions, and didn’t support the cuts.
The same link will give details about
Rural Transport At the same meeting (March 18), in addition to raising the my concerns about the new rural transport franchises (details of my speech as LD spokesperson for Transport can be found here http://blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2016/03/18/lib-dems-support-community-transport/ )
I also asked the following question of the Cabinet Member for Transport
Norfolk is conducting a review of its HGV routes because of high-profile tv coverage of HGVs taking inappropriate routes and causing damage. Suffolk County Council’s route hierarchy has not been reviewed in the round for 30 years. In light of Suffolk’s current and future expansion and development, and the continuing increase in the size of HGVs, will the Cabinet Member agree to conduct a similar review for Suffolk, with the purpose of ensuring that as many HGV movements as possible are made via main roads rather than using unsuitable routes through rural villages and small towns such as Woodbridge – which continue to struggle with such traffic movements I got a rather inconclusive response.
Devolution for East Anglia A devolution deal for East Anglia was announced by the Chancellor in midMarch and now needs to be ratified by all County and District and borough councils and the (unelected) LEP boards involved. ( This may not be plain sailing – Cambridge City and Cambridge County have already shown themselves to be against this).
Although it is very difficult to get the Suffolk person in the street interested in devolution, it is vital that we do so because it is about a fundamentally different relationship between Government and local public services and it affects all of us.
The East Anglia Deal would see decisions currently made by Government on things such as infrastructure, growth, employment and skills being made by the Board of a new Combined Authority, consisting of all the Leaders of County and District Councils – and a directly elected Mayor. In other words it would be pretty much like the Cabinet system that currently operates in Suffolk County Council – with such noticeable democratic deficit.
It is proposed that the first mayoral elections would be in May 2017 alongside county elections.
The directly elected Mayor would act as Chair to the East Anglia Combined Authority and would have:
- Responsibility for a multi-year, consolidated and devolved local transport budget
- Responsibility for a new Key Route Network of local authority roads, managed and maintained by the Combined Authority
- Powers over strategic planning and housing, including £175m ring-fenced funding to deliver an ambitious target of new homes; the responsibility to create a non-statutory spatial framework for the East and to develop with Government a Land Commission and to chair the East Joint Assets Board for economic assets
The East Anglia Authority, working with the Mayor, would have:
- Control of a new additional £30 m a year funding over 30 years (£900m), to be invested in the East Anglia Single Investment Fund, to boost growth
- Responsibility for chairing an area-based review of 16+ skills provision, the outcomes of which will be taken forward in line with the principles of the devolved arrangements, and devolved 19+ adult skills funding from 2018/19
- Joint responsibility with the Government to co-design the new National Work and Health Programme ‘designed to focus on those with a health condition or disability and the very long term unemployed.’ (I am concerned that the longterm unemployed and the disabled are seen in the same sentence – aren’t you? ) There is also a commitment to continue improvements to local health and social care services, including continuing to join up services and promote integration between NHS and local government
I don’t know about you, but I am deeply concerned that any future deal involving education or NHS trusts will NOT involve the people of East Anglia shouldering the burden of PFI debt incurred by central government on educational an health sites (not only the local debts such as the PFI debt on Elizabeth Garrett Anderson building, but also the mountainous ones on the Addenbrookes site). I have asked for further information on this.
PCC election The election for Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner will be on May 5. There will be a hustings for all candidates in Ipswich at University Campus Suffolk, 6-8 on 21 April http://www.stop-watch.org/events/details/suffolk-pcc-hustings-6pm-8pm.
All the candidates’ details can be found here