Tag Archives: road safety

Let’s try rescue Suffolk’s Explore Card PLEASE!

I ‘m hoping that as many people as possible – cardholders, past cardholders, friends and family of cardholders – will sign the SCC e-petition asking them to overturn SCCs latest shocking proposal – to abolish the young person’s eXplore Card (click here).

Up till now young people in Suffolk  have had the eXplore card to help with travel costs to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising. EXplore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and on many off-peak rail journeys.  Considering the scandalous cost of the average bus fare around here this is a huge advantage for them, and must have encouraged the continuance of various bus routes.   Additionally, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares – and a very good thing  it has been too!

 SCC’s abolition of the eXplore card has happened simultaneously with  SCC’s evisceration of the rural bus services. This  is creating a double whammy for the young and poor – particularly the rural young and poor – that our SCC administration would do well to back away from with shame and embarrassment!

The proposed abolition of the card will mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. Worse, it will put more young drivers on the road before they are safe and ready often in cars that are chosen for cheapness rather than any more reliable quality. On top of this, it will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads – where – as we’ve all heard – Jeremy Clarkson is advocating they should be knocked down for getting in his way  (No, I didn’t make that up, sad to say, click here: relevant section is at 21:44 and please don’t get me started on the appalling waste of public money HE represents. An expense of spirit in a waste of shame, that’s Jeremy Clarkson – but I digress). It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training.

SCC apologists – the ones I call the “Shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok“ brigade  (those who don’t want the victim to wriggle as the blade is shoved in),  say “shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok”.  These people speak loudly of their hope that individual bus companies might take up the idea of a paid-for version of the eXplore card for the future.  (Actually, I believe First have already rejected the idea.)

Such a scheme would, anyway, be of limited use unless all buses take it on the same terms. And one of the things SCC Transport has been constantly telling us in the past is that the bus companies have no desire to work together – this is the reason we were told that us poor bus users in Suffolk  never managed to get an integrated ticketing service as exists in most other places.

The  “Shh – be quiet, and it will all be ok“ brigade will also be out there telling you these cuts are sad but necessary. (By the way, the prerequisite of being a member of this brigade is never actually using a bus themselves.)

No, these cuts are not ‘necessary’ – Suffolk could well afford to keep the eXplore card, if Cllr Guy McGregor weren’t so determined to  stay in the good books of the car lobby. There is an extra £2m going to the roads budget this year. Explore card users, Park and Ride users, School Crossing patrols etc are all paying dearly for his partiality!

So, another epetition to sign. It is as urgent and vital as all the others!

Cuts in Suffolk – don’t ever forget who’s holding that knife!

As your county councillor I am horribly anxious about so many different  things simultaneously.  

This week  its been the almost certain loss of Suffolk’s libraries, school crossing patrols, care homes, bus services, the eXplore card, and services for families  that has  been most worrying me.  That, and the impact of these losses on the people of Suffolk.

For clearly, Suffolk residents are  likely to be losing all of these, losing them irrevocably, sacrificed to the ideological insanity of an ‘enabling’ council, run by affluent, untroubled  people who say:  “Do as I say, not as I do!”   It is  a Topsy Turvey world where those who run it can demand  pay moderation, job cuts, and employment freezes for everyone else but themselves;  can parrot the mantra of “Greenest County” and drive everywhere in a 4×4; can declare themselves determined to protect ‘the most vulnerable’  but do not include in this category the elderly, the very young, the disabled , or the disadvantaged.  

Pah!  

However,  I would urge you not to confuse national policies with our current disgraceful  local vandalism. For a start, such confusion could – no, WILL –  let those responsible off the hook! The New Strategic Direction has been a long time in the planning. It is making cuts greater than required in services the administration doesn’t value. A cynic would suggest that it is using the national situation as a cover for doing so.

Remember, in Suffolk the Liberal Democrats are not in any kind of coalition – they are very strongly the opposition party.  And as you know, both I and my colleagues have been fighting these cuts from the day they were first heralded, back in last September. Let us be clear here – although we are in opposition,  Suffolk Lib Dems are fighting this New Strategic Direction as a matter of common sense rather than party-political politicking.  We are fighting it because the effects will hit people of all ages, and backgrounds and political hue.

We – like any sane, sensible people – think there IS such a thing as society, and that  actually in Suffolk we had – till recently – a society that ran quite well. One that looked after its old and its sick and disabled, that tempered the wind to the shorn lamb. We think a  County Council should respond to its residents and their needs:  that the council is there to represent  and protect them and serve them. We are not so arrogant that  we forget that SCC  is paid for by the people of Suffolk, out of their own money! We feel that those who pay the piper should be allowed to call the tune!

 The council’s current bizarre ‘New Strategic Direction’ (which seems to combine ‘selling off of the family silver’ with dumping some of it in a skip) does not seem to think  this way. Far from intending to deliver ‘the best’ for the people of Suffolk,  the NSD  does not intend to deliver anything at all!

 Care homes, libraries, bus services and school crossing patrols:  all of these are not just ‘optional extras’ to be dispensed with and disposed of  by those who do not use them (and seemingly fail to remember they do not own them).  Yet there is such a thing as society in Suffolk, and all these services are ones that make you proud that it still exists.

Suffolk County Council is cynically using the cuts in central government grants to justify what it plans to do, but central actions (whatever we think of them) do not in any sense explain what is being done here in Suffolk.  The Coalition government is not going to win any popularity contests while trying to recoup the eye-watering deficit bequeathed by Gordon Brown and the last thirteen years.   However it should not be expected to carry the can for the ‘scorched earth’ decisions being made – without reference to the public or even a business plan – by those who have created the ‘New Strategic Direction’.

But the CEO and the Tory administration at Suffolk County Council are not the only people to blame for this mess. There’s also the sheer apathy of all too many of the people of Suffolk to factor in!    

In late October/November last year I  – together with many other colleagues – trudged around a large area of Suffolk Coastal delivering 23,000 copies of an emergency leaflet which tried to alert the people of Suffolk to what lay ahead. 

The administration accused us of ‘scaremongering’ – yet our direst predictions were less terrible than the truth.

We did our best and gained a huge amount of support from those prepared to listen – but it was not enough. Far too few people took notice. Some hoped it wouldn’t  really happen under a Tory watch, others hoped to regain popularity for the Labour party by standing on the sidelines and letting our society crumble, others  just hoped that the problem would go away if they shut their eyes and buried their heads in the sand.   

So, once again I urge you to put aside party-political differences and take action!  After months of refusing to listen to the people it represents, Suffolk County Council has finally  put up an e-petition site. Register on it and add your name  to an existing petition or  start a new one. Or best – do both!

http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/

You can sign any petition – the only qualification is that you need to live, work or study in Suffolk (for example, I have signed all the Library petitions as I believe in an integrated service for the county) but current petitions that particularly affect you are :

Save our School Crossing Patrols – the St Mary’s School Woodbridge lollipop man is going to be cut along with the other 97 lollipop posts across Suffolk, to save a sum of money that equates to to less that 80% of the Chief Executive’s annual salary!

Save Woodbridge Library: it will not be closed –  but it is still in danger of ‘divestment’.

Save Woodbridge Buses  Cuts – confirmed yesterday – to SCC subsidised services will leave Woodbridge without any evening, sunday or bank holiday bus services, plus cut easy links to other towns and villages. This will cause huge problems to those who can’t, don’t, or can’t afford to drive 

Save the Explore Card  Up till now young people have had this card to help with travel costs to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising. Explore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and on many off-peak rail journeys. Additionally, the SCC post-16 transport policy relies on the fact that all post-16 students can have an Explore card to help with fares – and a very good thing too!. The proposed abolition of the card would mean there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. It will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads. It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training. The proposed abolition is a retrograde step that threatens the very education and employment opportunities that our young people need in order to help us out of our current economic crisis. It also makes a mockery of our ‘Greenest county’ aspirations 

(NB: A word of warning sometimes the e-petition links work poorly. If so , go to the site and navigate from there! And if it doesn’t work, keep trying until it does.)

Save our Woodbridge Lollipop patrol!

Seven years ago Suffolk’s lollipop men and women were being hailed by Suffolk  county council as  ‘greatly appreciated frontline staff’ as the golden anniversary of this wonderful, useful and CHEAP service was being celebrated.

School crossing patrols were formally recognised in Britain by the Schools Crossing Patrols Act of 1953.  Lollipop people are one of only four agents entitled to stop traffic by law (The others being the police, traffic wardens and some members of the Armed Forces).  Lollipop men and women have long done a fantastic job for a pittance and little thanks. But worse is to come..

Today all 98 patrols  in Suffolk are being cut by order of the Suffolk County Council’s Conservative administration to save a paltry £174,000  ( that is, a mere 79% of the Suffolk CEO’s annual salary).  At the very same time, SCC  is  adding another £2m to its roads budget which will weigh in at a truly gobsmacking £18.2 million this  next financial year. You couldn’t make it up.

Do you ever get the feeling that the people running SCC have simply got their priorities well and truly WRONG? that they haven’t the faintest idea about what really matters in the real world?

Dear Cllr Pembroke, dear  Cabinet:  Lets get this straight. School crossing patrols  – like the one run here in Woodbridge  by our invaluable St Mary’s School lollipop man Terry – are  not set up on a whim.    No, they are established at sites where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school as assessed  – not by naughty bad people who just want to irritate you – but by national guidelines (establishedby the Local Authority Road Safety Officer’s Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents , no less)

So they’re not what you might call a frivolity …

Ten years ago in Woodbridge the Times reports on how the (then)  Woodbridge Lollipop man, Frank Howe, was knocked to the ground by an impatient driver while on patrol on Birkett Road, directly outside St Mary’s School.

“This driver was revving his engine,” Howe recalled. “I could see by the way his mouth was going that he was cursing me for keeping him. He mounted the kerb and went to pass me. His wing mirror caught me and I went down. He didn’t stop. Luckily, an off-duty policeman saw what happened and forced him to come back.

“The parents and children were very shocked, but they had taken down his registration number. He was prosecuted, given a £350 fine and eight points on his licence, but I never got an apology.”

Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet, can I ask you: has traffic become less busy in the last ten years?

The same article quotes the (then) SCC officer in charge  of the School Crossing service as saying:

“We want our lollipop men and women to know just how much we appreciate them. We see them as frontline members of staff, very visible!”

What a difference seven years can make, folks.

So, Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet – let’s get this straight

  • School crossing patrols were instituted and enshrined  by Act of Parliament because they were needed;
  • They have been running for over sixty years because they clearly continue to be needed;
  • Over these years the roads have got busier and busier;
  • Patrols only operate where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school (this danger assessed by national guidelines);
  • We want to get children out of the car and back onto their feet – to combat child obesity and encourage independence , as well as discourage the fumes and jams and road danger caused by heavy schoolrun traffic;
  • patrols are very very cheap to run – £2,500 – £3,500 a year
  • SCC also has (although in my opinion, totally self-serving, unrealistic and self-deluded) aspirations to be ‘the Greenest County.’

And you want to close  every school crossing patrol in Suffolk to save less money than you pay your Chief Executive as basic salary???

A final question, Cllr Pembroke: What is a cynic? According to Oscar Wilde,  its  A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Cllr Pembroke, you and your Cabinet need to recognise that the  tiny cost of the Suffolk School Crossing patrols bears  little  relationship to  their extraordinary value to the people of Suffolk! Let’s hope you  recognise this before we all learn the hard way the truth of Wilde’s other famous quote from the same play: Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.

If you wish to encourage Cllr Pembroke and his Cabinet to change their minds , you could always write directly to the Leader of Suffolk County Council at Endeavour House, Ipswich.  Closer to home, St. Mary’s School has  a paper-based petition available to sign in school.

You can also add your signature to the SCC e-petition on the subject  by clicking this link http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-our-School-Crossing-Patrols