lost report: What’s happening in Suffolk – September 2013

(this report has mysteriously vanished from my blog so I have reconstituted it here)

This last month has a lot to do with transport in one way and another – Public health wants us on our bikes, but Greater Anglia would rather we didn’t take them on the train, and county council expenses support councillors remaining in their cars anyway. Operation of  highways services were transferred to MGWSP on 1 October – with so far unknown consequences – except that my Transport budget will go very much less far than previously:

Public Health Strategy –  Get out of the Car!  You may imagine I was personally very pleased when I read Suffolk’s Public Health report 2013 to discover it aims to get more people out of the car and into more healthy means of travel. This is seen as essential  for reasons ranging from health, through congestion, to potholes. The report – which was unveiled at September’s full council  recommends a wholesale transfer of many journeys or parts of journeys to the bicycle. In the case of this particular county councillor, they are preaching to the converted.

You can read the whole report for yourselves by following the link Moving Forward? travel and health in Suffolk and my blog on the subject .

Greater Anglia – consultation – no cycles on trains?  Worryingly, at the same time as the public health report  came out, Greater Anglia have published a consultation document for future development of services which states pretty unequivocally that they plan to get bicycles off the trains, apart, possibly, if we’re lucky, for folding ones. Whilst buried deep in a lot of apparently pro-cycle rhetoric, Their suggestion is that they will provide Boris bikes at various stations or link in with sustainable transport. It is a document clearly aimed at city dwellers, because such proposals will render the situation at- say – Wickham Market station in where there IS no sustainable transport or indeed a town within walking distance, even more dire. This consultation is made more difficult to answer because the link provided allows you only to download the consultation document  which you then have to print and read before replying. However, I urge anyone interested and/ worried to do just that via this link http://www.greateranglia.co.uk/about-us/news/2013/09/greater-anglia-consults-on-cycle-strategy-and-further-cycle-rail-improvements the end date is 1 November.

1 October: transfer of Highways services  As of 1 October, the long-heralded transfer of Suffolk’s Highways services has finally taken place and May Gurney in partnership with WSP (MGWSP) are now the new deliverers. We don’t know what this might mean in actual day-to-day terms, and I have concerns about specific issues such as winter maintenance. There has already been a sharp rise in the costs of Highways work as a direct result of this move which means that my County Councillor’s transport budget (that used to be called the Quality of Life budget) will not go as far as it  did last year. For example a Traffic Regulation Order which in the past came in at about £1400 will now cost £5-6000. My transport budget is £8000 a year. The first expense will be the TRO for Cumberland Street which was held over from last year. Although this was no fault of us in Woodbridge, the delay means that it will now cost us about £3,500, assuming it is the most simple one.

East Anglia Windfarm I am currently investigating whether it would be possible to use the intrusion of  the EAOne  windfarm electrical line laying to assist in upgrading local footpaths. I have specifically asked whether it might be possible to use this as a funding opportunity to re-establish the long-defunct sea wall path at Waldringfield.

I was also informed today (1st October) of Public  Information Days  for EA 3 and 4: Bawdsey on 1st October (eg today), Woodbridge, 2nd and Bramford on 3rd October. This seems to me to be unduly – if not perfunctory – short notice

Traffic Calming in Woodbridge This continues to be a contentious matter – many of the approaches made to me by Woodbridge residents are on this matter. I am currently sitting on the SCC Transport Policy Panel which is trying to create a  framework to allow for consistency in calming over the county as a whole. In the interim, my advice to councillors who are approached by people with specific concerns is to log it, and suggest they start up an action group. This should clearly indicate how universal such issues might be in actuality.

Woodbridge Library Reading Challenge The national Summer Reading challenge attracted a record 300 plus children from Woodbridge and around  to Woodbridge Library this year and a record number – 212 – were able to finish. The theme was ‘Creepy House.’ As well as presenting certificates and medals, I funded special balloons, and prizes for  a Creepy Short Story competition for 3 separate age groups to run alongside. As a ‘carrot’ – if any carrot were needed – I also  funded a visit from Mr Bean’s Reptile Encounters  -a variety of creepy creatures, including snakes, a bearded dragon and a chameleon for the children to look at, and handle!

Congratulations to all the children who took part , and huge thanks to the library staff,  to the library volunteers who gave so much of their time over the summer to support it – and of course to all the parents who supported this scheme, enabling their children to take part

Councillor Travel Expenses At last Full Council I questioned Leader Mark Bee about the current system of county councillor expenses. Far from encouraging county councillors to leave their cars at home,  SCC’s current is positively encouraging them to remain behind the wheel as the amount of money claimable is in inverse proportion to the exercise undertaken. Assuming I claimed expenses (which I don’t) I could legitimately claim the following expenses between Woodbridge and Endeavour House:

  • Car ( 45p per mile): £8.10
  • Rail (return ticket):  £5.80
  • Bus (return ticket): £5.60
  • Cycle (15p per mile): £2.70
  • *Pedestrian: nothing

In light of the 2013 Public health report this is particularly anomalous. I therefore asked Mark Bee  “ as you have made it a council commitment that Suffolk should be ” the greenest county” and that we should  ”strive to improve the health, lifechances  and life expectancy of our residents”,  will you now commit to a reduction of the extremely generous mileage allowance Suffolk County councillors get if they use their own cars for transport on county council business – and instead to incentivise county councillors  to set a good example  to the residents of Suffolk by travelling by public transport or bicycle?”

In response he promised to bring my question to the attention of the councillors’ independent remuneration committee.

*Pedestrian: to be fair, although I make this journey by foot occasionally, I am prepared to admit it is an unsustainable method of transport on a daily basis – as it takes five or six hours for the return trip!

DofE Gold Awards I was at St James’ palace last week where over 40 young people from Suffolk schools received their Duke of Edinburgh Gold certificates from comedian Jo Brand at a ceremony hosted by HRH Prince Edward. Nearly half of the Suffolk award winners were from Farlingaye HS and Woodbridge School!

Benches etc I have just been happy to fund three benches  in various parts of Woodbridge, to augment one I was able to replace in May. These are of great use, particularly  to people who have difficulty walking,  need to wait somewhere, or have  heavy shopping. Please do think of my locality budget if constituents come to you with  community needs.

My next Surgery will be on Saturday 19 October, 10am – midday as usual. No booking necessary, but at busy times you may need to wait

One thought on “lost report: What’s happening in Suffolk – September 2013”

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.