Tag Archives: Suffolk

Devolution voted in by SCC (though not by me)

At the SCC Devolution debate last week , councillors broke party lines to speak and vote their mind.  I was one of the 20 county councillors who – after much thought -opposed  the offered Devolution deal (despite my personal support for the concept of Devolution). This was in line with my party’s stance: we approve of giving local authorities more control over spending, but this proposal leaves much  of the crucial decision-making with the government.

My concerns were: the clear democratic deficit  this devolution deal will offer – an overarching authority will have one member from every council; the thorny question of an elected Mayor (and all the extra bureaucracy that would go with that post); the relative smallness of the sums offered to Suffolk;  the fact that  the Government  will still  oversee everything it wishes to oversee, but just without the responsibility, thus making the county the ‘fall guy’ for its more unpopular decisions  – and possibly most of all – the government’s target for Norfolk and Suffolk to build an additional 240,000 houses in Suffolk and Norfolk by 2031.  This is the equivalent of creating in Suffolk 4 extra towns the size of Ipswich, or increasing every town and village by 35%. This magnitude of growth is not needed to satisfy local demand, but is intended for people moving out of London.

Suffolk badly needs housing, but not to this extent. We specifically need starter homes, disability-specific housing and accommodation for older people wanting to downsize – all for a population already living in Suffolk. (And whose needs are not catered for). Our towns, roads and commuter rail are  already congested. How will our county cope with growth of this magnitude? Why is it needed?

Such largescale  development would  only be viable if there were also appropriate local jobs on offer and a well designed transport infrastructure to match (unless the intention is to house Suffolk residents in new build and sell off the picturesque housing to second home owners).

Despite such reservations voiced by many, devolution was voted in by a resounding majority (40 for, 20 against, 3 abstentions, and a couple of hurried departures just before the vote…).

A public consultation including a MORI telephone poll and an online survey has opened and will remain open over the summer only. You can find it here .  As ever, I suggest you should respond if you want your views to be counted.

(Whilst of course, we wait to see if Devolution still has legs.  It was very much Cameron and Osborne’s baby. Will it survive a new leadership, especially a post-Brexit one where so much governmental time will have to be taken up negotiating the nation’s way out of the mess we got ourselves in to? )

Suffolk Fails Disabled People

Caroline Page, County Councillor, Woodbridge
Caroline Page, County Councillor, Woodbridge

At SCC’s full council last Thursday, I asked  a very  pertinent question about SCC’s poor funding of Concessionary Fares which you can read if you follow this link.  More, I hope will follow!

I also commented forcibly on Suffolk’s current Equalities and Inclusion policy ( accessed here – Agenda Item 7 ) – which has surrounded itself with a sufficiently large number of walls to allow it to congratulate itself for being responsible for doing not very much – not half enough, in my opinion. In particular it completely excludes having to contemplate the situation of all the disabled people in Suffolk  and their inability to find work because they have not received adequate or even appropriate training or education – an extraordinary omission for such a policy, one would think (and also one I have drawn attention to before now!)

“Whilst I notice and applaud what I have read, I want to draw your attention to a noticeable gap in our current priorities for Equalities and Inclusion, which I have already raised at Cabinet.

I am therefore saying the following on behalf of the many people with disabilities who have been failed and continue to be failed by our education and training.

In Cabinet last Tuesday, SCC’s Adult Learning Strategy highlighted Suffolk’s woeful performance in educating young people with disabilities for employment.  We heard that ‘people with disabilities in Suffolk are not gaining the skills to access meaningful employment.”

Low academic achievement among Suffolk students with learning disabilities is too often put down to the failure of that student, rather than the failure of the Suffolk school system to educate. And very convenient it is for the Suffolk educational system to think so!

It is is not enough to call students with such disabilities  ‘special,’ and pat them on the head, and give them gold stars, and tell them they have completed ‘challenges’  which did not challenge them – if it fails to prepare them adequately for a world of work. It is certainly not enough for educators to wave such young people out of the educational door at the other end of a life of gold stars and unchallenging challenges without taking any care or responsibility for what they have been offered and whether it was fit for purpose! We must challenge this!

And we need to ask employers to help us: neither we or they have qualms in telling schools where they have failed in educating other school-leavers. Can’t we all do the same for those with disabilities?

And we and our schools should be pointing out to employers that  if school leavers with disabilities can overcome such hurdles it doesn’t make them ‘as good’ as non-disabled employees  Dealing daily with an unsympathetic able-bodied world  gives such people the potential to be not only more determined and more competent,  but more resourceful, more resilient, more capable of dealing with failure and finding other ways round a problem. Better, in other words.

So, a plea for next year. I want Suffolk’s  equalities and inclusion policy to actively recognise and support Suffolk’s  disabled residents (of all ages) to achieve what they are capable of rather than to patronise this potential out of them!”

Air-pollution deaths and Suffolk transport choices

I blogged the other day about air-pollution in Suffolk. No – not sand from the sahara that you can’t do anything about, but particulate matter which comes from – wait for it – the internal combustion engine and coal fired energy.

Now the Evening Star has published Public Health England’s verdict. “Suffolk: Air pollution was contributory factor in more than 800 deaths in 12 months”  What seems to be happening is that smoking-related deaths are going down but ones related to air-pollution are rising. Surprised?

Hardly

We haven’t much coal fired energy here – but we do drive a lot of cars – partially because transport is so poor.