Tag Archives: SCC

New SCC chief exec: Deborah Cadman

Yesterday Suffolk County Council appointed Deborah Cadman  as  Chief Executive, a unanimous decision by the multi-party Staff Appointments board. Ms Cadman is the chief executive of the (shortly-to-be-wound-up)  East of England Development Agency, and a former chief executive of  St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

At £155,000,  her salary is  £63,592 less than Andrea Hill was paid, with no bonuses or annual pay increments.  At a time of belt-tightening, this is laudable and appropriate.

According to Council leader Mark Bee, ” I want to continue the work we’ve started to restore public confidence in Suffolk County Council and allow our staff to get the recognition they deserve. Deborah is just the person to help us do that.”

My October Report: Woodbridge Town Council

Probably the most interesting thing to be happening in Suffolk County Council this month is the appointment of a new Chief Executive. Details were announced too late to go into this report,but merely announced that the final interviews would take place whis upcoming week.  A shortlist has been published in the EADT, but it is speculative, so I’m not passing it on.

Petitions and how they are handled

At the last Full Council meeting (22nd of September) a number of constitution amendments, SCC looked at  how the Council was to deal with petitions from members of the public , following disgraceful debacles over Libraries, Explore Cards, etc. The Lib Dems are still pushing for far more clearcut and SMART targeted amendments to the petitions process,  to improve democratic accountability and allow the people who sign petitions to have their concerns adequately examined and addressed at long last.  

Young People’s travel 

The group is examining the difficulties of transport for young people in Suffolk, particularly as a result of the removal of the eXplore card.  I  am a member of this group, and have asked that the evidence-gathering should be extended to half-term because people were initially asked during the school/college holidays. This means there is still time to give evidence.  The on-line survey can be found using the following link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/transport4yp

Alternatively, individuals and organisations can send their comments for the attention of the Task and Finish Group on Transport Issues for Young People to Democratic Services, Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House, Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk; or by Email to: committee.services@suffolk.gov.uk.

If you feel strongly, please do remember to respond.

Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation

This month  Cabinet discussedSuffolk’s Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation strategy to reduce off-street prostitution and sexual exploitation across Suffolk. In the briefing I was told that worrying evidence of exploitation was emerging all over Suffolk. I have therefore asked for details of issues and concerns local to Woodbridge and will pass on what information I receive.

Stars of Suffolk

 You can now nominate for  the Stars of Suffolk Awards 2011. These are a joint venture between the Evening Star and Suffolk County Council, with sponsorship from local businesses and organisations. Categories are:

  • Carer of the year
  • Courageous Young Person of the Year
  • Community Group or Champion of the Year
  • Fire Service Person of the Year
  • Healthy Lifestyle Champion of the Year
  • Hospital/Ambulance Hero/Heroine of the Year
  • Outstanding Bravery
  • Police Person of the Year
  • School Team of the Year
  • Search and Rescue Person of the Year
  • Social Worker of the Year
  • Unsung Hero/Heroine of the Year
  • Volunteer of the Year

Nominations for the awards will close on the 28th of October at 5pm, and can be made via http://www.onesuffolk.co.uk/starsofsuffolk

Last Stages of Mobile Library consultation

 The deadline for  SCC’s  Mobile Library Consultation is the 16th of October. The council is consulting on the plans to move from fortnightly to monthly or four-weekly Mobile Library stops and  to remove stops in communities that are served by a static library. SCC argues that this would save an estimated £225,000 a year, while maintaining the mobile library service to communities that do not have a static library.http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Consultations/MobileLibraryConsultation.htm

The results of this consultation will be published the Cabinet meeting,  8th of November , where the administration will decide the future structure of Suffolk’s Library Service.  This will then be put to Full Council in December. With the current majority, don’t expect an overwhelming vote against.  Changes approved will be put in place in April 2012.

SCC’s  Budget consultation

 This is to remind you again of SCC’s ongoing budget consultation. The Council has announced that it needs to reduce the size of its budget by £50m over the next two years, and wants to know the County’s view before decision are made. ( However, they have already cut £43m from its budget last year, without any sort of consultation.)

The consultation will allow everyone in Suffolk  to submit their views on what they feel are the most important parts of the County Council’s budget, as well as make comments about potential future savings that the Council may not have considered yet http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/CouncilAndDemocracy/Consultations/WeAreListening.htm


A petition that won’t lie down: democracy and post-16 travel cards

Last week Suffolk’s  ‘Save the  eXplore Card’ petition earned the right to be discussed at full Council – having received over 6,000 signatures.   (To remind you: this  young person’s travel card, a brainchild of SCC’s last Lib-Lab Coalition, has been cut halfway through this academic year without any form of consultation or risk assessment by Suffolk County Council.)

Unfortunately, it turned out that SCC – having set up their e-petition site as a legal requirement – had not thought at all about what should happen after an e-petition had reached 3675 signatures  and was discussed at full council – as is required by the SCC constitution .

From the first there was great confusion.

The originator (Patrick Gillard)  found that his petition had not been acknowledged:  it still registers as ‘failed to achieve the requisite number of signatures’ on the epetition site.  SCC had not invited him to speak as he asked (and was his constitutional right). When he insisted on speaking, another speaker (Greer Hill, Otley College) was un-invited by SCC. After pressure from myself and Kathy Pollard, both speakers were finally allowed their 5 minutes  – but this left only 10 minutes for discussion.  SCC offered no explanation for this.  This was a grave discourtesy to the speakers and to all those thousands of petitioners  they represented.

Although this  petition was heard in the middle of GCSE, A.A/S and college exams, it was handed to Transport Portfolioholder Guy McGregor by a very large group of  Just 42 youth club members, other young people,  MYPs, councillors, and representatives of schools and colleges. These were eager to  explain their anxieties. Cllr McGregor’s  response was his old traditional theme “you can only spend a pound once.” He did not explain why he had failed to consult on this cut or explored alternative options. No explanation of this has ever been forthcoming!

At this point it turned out that two teenage members of Woodbridge’s Just 42  youth club , who had scheduled a public question, had not had this question acknowledged at all by SCC. I had to  go to great pains to get their  right to speak agreed  and it was only very few minutes before the debate that it was confirmed. This was another grave discourtesy – in this case,  to the youngest public questioners ever to address the council!

During the meeting, SCC’s new Leader Mark Bee spoke about a new era based on the principles of  Listening; Openness/ transparency; and Practical, common sense solutions to problems.  Although he mentioned other cuts,  he never directly mentioned the Explore card. The resounding silence of SCC’s administration re this cut and the lack of any consultation is one of the great mysteries of this year.

After the petitioners had spoken, Councillors from all parties had the opportunity to speak briefly before  the portfolio holder replied.  (my speech below). Cllr McGregor did not repoond to these concerns raised but merely re- asserted that  the cut was necessary.

At this point it became clear that no-one had any idea as to what was to happen nextClearly ending the process undemocratically, without a vote,  by means of a response from the very person who had organised, agreed and implemented the cut made the whole epetition process completely futile. After a heated exchange in the chamber, a  short recess was announced. During this  Mark Bee and Guy McGregor spoke directly to the young people from Just 42 and  promised that the problems of their particular cut would go  before scrutiny. This was however, outside the chamber, and remains unminuted.

The strength of the young people’s clear, polite and determined  objections made it clear to the administration at this point – if not before – quite how much people care about  this cut . These young people were not coming here to observe democracy: they were coming to take part!

Three  things are clear –

  • the Explore card may be dead but it ain’t lying down;
  • SCC MUST tell the petitioners officially  now, exactly what is to happen next
    – and finally;
  • SCC’s procedure for dealing with e-petitions MUST be defined before the next council meeting in order to prevent this a repeat of Thursday’s shambles and to ensure these petitions to perform the constitutional function for which they were created.

My speech on the Explore card 26 May 2011

We’ve heard first hand – from the thousands of responses to the petition, from those  addressed us – most of all from individual young people in our divisions – that this cut was a bad idea – a short term fix  that didn’t consider the future.

There was no impact assessment for this cut –made  halfway through the educational year. Instead SCC boxticker noted  blandly that

There may be an adverse impact to the 15-19 age group – but there was  no need for an impact assessment  as it is a discretionary activity and has been identified as a budget saving proposal

In other words – it will have an impact but we don’t care!

Rather like saying I’ll  pay my council tax because I have to  but  I won’t pay into a pension because I’m feeling poor. The explore card expenditure is not just money paid out – it is money invested in the future  it  IS our pension plan – The young people of Suffolk – future builders, magistrates, nurses, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, firemen, soldiers, carers, taxpayers – are our future and we will be relying on them in the years to come. It is in our interests to support them now so we can get the best out of them when we need them later on.

The administration tell us that we can’t afford it and that home-to-school transport cuts are  ameliorated by help with post-16 discretionary passes, and tempering the Catholic transport decision.

This is a red herring.

The Explore card is the most important home-to-school pass we had because it was such excellent value for money – giving halfprice travel at all times to all places to all young people at a total cost to the council of less than £30 a year for each of its 55,000 users!

Where a discretionary pass  gives one school day, school hour  journey each way at the cost of £150 a term to the parent and a lot more to the council, the explore card  was much more flexible- used by those studying in the evening or  multi-site, by those  wanting to attend a distant college because the local school didn’t run the course,, those on training courses outside the scope of Suffolk’s transport policy, starting a first time job or going to job interviews to find one. Those who want to go out safely in the evening, without worry about road conditions and ability to drive. Those who we don’t want to hang about the bus stop because they can’t afford to get on a bus. All  this for £30 a head.

Colleagues, we can afford this investment in our future. I won’t remind you of some of the recent headlines on SCC expenditure  but  we all know that it is not as simple as “can’t pay wont pay” . Even in a time of cuts there’s a large element of what we choose to pay for. Suffolk is poor but resilient – we’ve enough in the reserves to pay to reverse  this decision and continue investing this  £30 a head in the future of these young people and our county.