Tag Archives: Explore card

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

Save not spend: Suffolk’s Tories vote in 2015-6 budget by narrow majority

Today Suffolk County Council  was  discussing the County Council Budget 2015-16 – always an occasion of much grandstanding and  some polite(ish) mudslinging.

I am always flummoxed at how Suffolk Conservatives accuse  opposition parties wanting to spend money of ‘lacking ambition,‘  Yet clearly the height of Conservative ambition (as articulated in these selfsame meetings) is to put their money under the mattress  and hope for the best.  Astonishing.

Apart from anything else, as my colleague, Lib Dem Deputy Leader  John Field reminded them,  “You save for a rainy day – not for a rainy decade!”

Then of course there is the exhibition that Cllr Colin Noble makes every year, bellowing “11.9%!” and “18%!“. He never once forgets to accuse Labour of having once raised something by such amounts. He never once  mentions whether it was value for money. Oddly enough, although he grandstands frequently  about ‘big black holes‘  into which money has fallen, Cllr Noble never ever once remembers to mention the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds of hardworking Suffolk taxpayers’ money he  wasted on Suffolk Circle via a decision made in camera. Strange but true.

So I reminded him – and now I’m reminding you too. (You can brush up on all the details if you read my blog post The Short Life of Suffolk Circle and what it Cost Us Suffolk Taxpayers).

Some of those hundreds of thousands of wasted pounds would have come in very handy this year, Cllt Noble.  Conservative budget proposals included savings (a polite word for cuts) of £38.2 m, leading to a budget requirement of £454,981,413. Reserves are forecast as reaching £165million by the end of March. A long Labour amendment detailed reinstatement of £12m of the cuts. The Liberal Democrats did not agree with all of these reinstatements – but we agreed with £8.5million of them and so we supported the Labour amendment.

I spoke passionately  with special reference to supporting educational transport for  disadvantaged  post-16 year olds. We don’t need to take money out. Affordable transport to education is crucial. A recent Commons report tells us that 30% of young people NEET (not in education employment or training) would have been in post-16 education if they had money to cover the transport;40% of young people in the kind of work with no training element ditto. And of course the economic impact to these young people extends far beyond the economic year.

I reminded the Cabinet Spokesman for Transport, Cllr Newman,  how hard I had fought for the a restoration of the Youth travel card, and how, though successful, the new Endeavour card was just a “pale and washy simulacrum” of the Explore card it replaced: operator take-up isn’t universal, it doesn’t cover train transport and the actual discount is much less.

I said I knew Cllr Newman would tell me that bursaries would cover the deficit.  But the same Commons report tells us how inequitably these bursaries are disbursed, especially in rural areas.

“Unless we provide young people from disadvantaged families with the proper support to travel to study or training, we are not supporting them, we are not widening participation, we are not extending them the helping hand they need to alter long-term outcomes. And more, we are creating a postcode lottery in which the rural young people are particularly disadvantaged,” I said. “I urge my colleagues opposite to think again. You are putting your money into reserves? Invest instead in these young people, and save the spend in budgets of the future.”

The debate continued until nearly 6pm, but the Labour amendment was lost 38-30, and the Tories managed to vote their original budget in, 37-31.

Close – but no cigar.

 

 

Votes at 16: true democracy

Last week Parliament made history by supporting the LibDem motion to give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote .  At last. This is something we Lib Dems have been proposing since the last Millennium.

I can’t see why anyone finds this the slightest bit controversial. Surely if you are old enough to marry, join the army and to pay tax, you are old enough to vote on who can marry, when we fight and how much tax we pay?

Those  who argue that many young people ‘don’t know enough’ to vote, need only look around at their own peers.  No-one is making the case that people are ever too old to vote.

I’m certain that lowering the voting age would change politics for the better. If politicians have to appeal directly to 16 year olds as well as 46 and 66 year olds it will broaden their priorities.

Would the Suffolk Conservatives have scrapped the Explore young person’s travel card  two years ago  if the  cut impacted as fully on the ballot box as it did on young people’s lives?

I suspect not!