My report for Gipping Valley via InTouch May 2020

Council Status

The pandemic clearly requires a change in where and how we work.  Essentially 100% of the council staff are working from home and almost all work is online.  The overall response to the pandemic is managed through the emergency response structure.  A number of management “Cells” each look after a specific service area.  County, District and other agency staff are working together: some have been re-deployed to teams where demand is high.

Officers have risen to the Covid 19 challenge, the senior staff really have a grip on their areas, have a command of their subjects and are doing a good job.

There are some services where it is difficult to be sure what issues exist and why.  The spread of the virus in care homes is such an area, but action to put the necessary testing in place has been taken. We are told that residents leaving hospital are now assumed to have the virus and are isolated until testing proves otherwise.

The Government has reported the number of care homes which have suffered Covid 19 outbreaks.  In Mid Suffolk it is 55%.  There were some 91 deaths in care homes across the county between April 4th and May 1st.  When Scrutiny looks at quality of the Covid-19 response, we will examine these numbers and make comparisons.

The take up of school places for children of essential workers and those from disadvantaged families is low.  That is a concern and the Children and Young People service is trying to establish if the numbers can be improved.

Latest Government and SCC advice is available online.

Council meetings in the COVID-19 era

Committee meetings ceased when lockdown commenced but briefings switched online.  Now its legal to hold meetings online we are functional again. We held the` first online Scrutiny meeting on Tuesday 12th May.

Online meetings appear to work well, certainly briefings and pre-meetings do.  You will be able to participate in public meetings via the system we are using, Microsoft Teams Live.  The link will be published on the committee agenda.

Walking and Cycling

Walking and Cycling are vital for exercise and a safe way to get to work.  To ensure that residents can exercise safely and maintain social distancing, my group are encouraging the Council to close roads that are used by walkers and cyclists to get their daily exercise.  It has responded by closing Ipswich Waterfront to through-traffic for 3 weeks.

Government grants are available for these actions and as I wrote this Grant Shapps was extolling the virtues of such action and of cycling and walking to work.

If you have suggestions for roads that could benefit from a closure, please let me know and I will pass it on to the Cabinet Member.


During this period no one will be evicted for not paying council tax or rent to Mid Suffolk and the Communities team is giving help wherever it is needed.  Families struggling with financial hardship are to be given further support to reduce council tax bills, with letters due to more than 4,000 households in Babergh and Mid Suffolk.

If you have any queries, please ring 07545423808, 01473831306 or Email

Highways Work on the A14

Just to let you know that Highways England will be starting night time highways work on the A14 in May, starting on the 11th and taking some 12 weeks in total. They will be replacing some 22km of lanes in total spread over the east and westbound carriageway between Stowmarket and Claydon, a task that involves some 20,000 tonnes of material. The resurfacing will be of the full depth of the road to ensure it then has a 20 year life.

Your County Councillors insisted they considered contraflow working but they demonstrated that the road is not wide enough to support that. Queues during the day would be long and if ther was a breakdown or an accident it would be very difficult to get to for rescue or vehicle recovery.

So there will be diversions between 8pm and 6am on to local roads for quite a number of weeks. There would be speed restrictions on the A140 24 hours a day to allow traffic to run on that during the day.

They would do eastbound first from Stowmarket (Tesco) to the A140 with diversions via Dis (starting at Bury St Edmunds) and via Stonham starting at Stowmarket for the six weeks this phase would take.

They would then do the A14 eastbound starting at the A140 towards but not all the way to Claydon for two weeks with a diversion via Barham and Claydon, Norwich Road and Ipswich Road. Clearly that is a significant disturbance but traffic volumes at night are much lower.

The next operation would be the westbound carriageway from Claydon towards the A140. This would take some four weeks with a night time diversion via Great Blakenham and Needham Market. West bound traffic would access the A140 via Claydon and Barham but trafic from the A140 wishing to go west would go via Stonham to Stowmarket.

For details see the highways letter below

A14 Works J50 Stowmarket to J52 Claydon

Is our house building out of control under the Conservatives ?

We all agree that house building must match the growing population, and the government insist upon it. People are living longer, living on their own and emigrating to and within the UK to do vital jobs. However, new housing must be distributed in a way that does not destroy the Suffolk environment we all enjoy.

After much delay the new Mid Suffolk District Council Local Plan is at last nearing completion but just when will it be delivered? . It should have been produced much earlier to guide developers to locations that villages could tolerate.

Continue reading Is our house building out of control under the Conservatives ?

Report to Gipping Valley: April 2019

The turmoil and chaos around national politics and the Brexit disaster coupled with the need to focus on the District Council elections have been a significant distraction this month.  However, there is news from the County, a mixture of good and bad to report.

Investment for Special Educational Needs

In February I reported that the cross-party Policy Development Panel had recommended that the County invests £45.1m in SEND.  This will develop new Special Educational Needs & Disability schools and specialist units in Suffolk. 

I am pleased to say that this plan is going to Cabinet during April with a recommendation to proceed.  Some 800 places in the county to provide pupils the support they need locally will be a leap forward.

Children’s Centres

Less welcome is the news emerging from the cross party Policy Development Panel on the Family Services.  Regrettably this panel appears to be pushed in the direction of significant cuts.  The proposals are secret at the moment, and I can’t report how accurate the leaks in the press are.  However, this looks like an attack on a successful service that has great value.

Continue reading Report to Gipping Valley: April 2019


Last week at Mid Suffolk Planning

The “Reserved Matters ” for the Snoasis planning application were agreed Wednesday last week. That’s all the details that were not covered when the Secretary of State agreed the application after the public inquiry in 2007. In fact a number of items in the legal agreement, the “section 106” document were changed to planning conditions, a process the government likes as it usually reduces the delay between application and the start of work. However in this case the district council and the developer have taken 10+ years to ge to this point so I wonder just how speedily things will develop from now on. The problem with conditions is that they are agreed at officers discretion so local people have little input.

We were promised that the “Local Reference Group” rather like the Liaison Group that I chair at the Suez EFW plant. I hope that will help to keep residents and the parish group in touch and get the local voice heard.

My input to the meeting as Ward Member

Is this a wonderful opportunity to gain a world class winter sport facility or just a chance to spend further years being assured with little supporting evidence that “finance is in place” while wilfully blind optimism drives a project that is just not viable.  If it were a good business project would we now be 13 years down the road with little to show?

Continue reading Snoasis

Road Closure in Baylham


Just to warn those of you who visit relatives or friends in Baylham, the main way in to the village will be closed for seven weeks from Monday. The Care Centre is connecting its dysfunctional sewage system to the village drains by putting a pipe in a trench up the road.

They won’t use any of the shorter routes across the fields or round the field boundary. The contractor is using “traditional” methods, not fast trenching machines, so seven weeks not two. Thanks guys!

Highways of course just agreed-like in Barham, Claydon and at Hackneys Corner. Trying to get them to look after the residents is up hill all the way. The diversion routes are through Little Blakenham or along Circular Road (Back Street) from B1113. Both 4.3km with few passing places.

We are asking people to come in via Back Street and out via Little Blakenham but not all will do that, its not official, please be careful. Highways have promised to try to grit the road if it’s necessary.
The Care Home is still accessible from the B1113


County Council Election

County Council Election tomorrow, don’t forget to vote it’s vital for democracy. I am the Liberal Democrat Candidate. I enjoy representing you and I hope you will vote for me.
I have kept you informed through “In Touch” over the last four years letting you know what I have delivered, what the challenges are and what the County is trying to do.
Do you feel I have worked hard enough for you to select me again? I hope so and look forward to a tough four years as the UK changes its position and influence in the world and the County makes its contribution.

For the next four years, My targets will be:

  • To continue to deliver on local issues and needs, tackling problems that impact directly on your life.
  • To organise a Gipping Valley effort to develop a plan for our highways that will allow the housing expansion necessary to meet local needs without creating road chaos.
  • To continue to insist Highways respond to your needs effectively and maintain out roads well.
  • To make sure public transport and park and ride schemes are not further damaged,
  • To ensure the County makes the maximum commitment it can afford to social care, reducing the impact on the NHS of unfulfilled need and using, not hoarding in reserves, the funds it has.
  • To help local groups support and construct new facilities in the area.
  • To remain deeply involved with improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of County services.
  • Advocating investment where it will cut long-term costs, improving quality of life and reduce demand for services.

John Field

Question I Just Received on Highway Signs.

For several years it has concerned me, and many others I speak to, that trees, hedges and general dirt are being allowed to obscure road signs.  A while ago I searched for any rules that may apply as directed by the Department For Transport and found the attached from the Traffic Signs Manual (1982 Amended 2004).  I would bring your attention in particular to 1. Introductory, paragraph 1.2 and 5. The Design & Use of Signs, paragraph 1.31 (b) and 9. Maintenance of Signs.  All common sense, you would think?

Quite obviously these conditions are not being met.  For example: the road sign coming up to the Hadleigh Road mini roundabout at Sproughton from the Washbrook direction.  It is so obscured by the hedge that you cannot read the sign until you’re virtually next to it and nearly at the roundabout!!  Similarly, now the leaves are coming out on trees, other signs are disappearing behind them.  I cannot believe that this problem is not the subject of more of an outcry as with the pot hole debacle.  Being unable to read road signs from a safe distance is as dangerous as having to be more vigilant in avoiding potholes.

My Answer

Suffolk Highways needs to meet its obligations under these rules which are made for good reason.  I think you will have seen from my leaflets and “In Touch” contributions that I have been active in pressing for improved performance across the board although the key focus has been potholes .

I believe that the outsourcing of the highways contract has not worked and, despite the Conservatives rolling it on for another five years, it must either perform in short order or the work must be taken back in-house.  Suffolk people just can’t continue to put up with the issues you raise or the potholes.

We must have the management talent to guide the workforce to high performance.   As the government has been giving some relatively small but significant grants for such work and we could use a sensible amount, £2 million, from the £150 million reserves to make one-off improvements.  We should be able to do better!

You will get this if you ensure there is a strong opposition after Thursday to make sure that the mantra that everything must be privatised does not result in self-deception about the level of performance achieved.


John Field

Expansion at Claydon Primary

The plans to expand Claydon Primary to 2.5 form intake to cope with children from Blakenham Fields are almost ready to discuss with local residents.

The main resident concern will I am sure be parking and safety at the school entrance.  Busy parents or carers need to drop children off on their way to work, so they dont have time to walk to school despite the benefits the exercise brings.

If we could find money to resurface the car park at the recreation ground it would be more attractive.  The footway to the school would make it a safe option but the cost would be high.  We must get an estimate to see how big the task would be.

Unfortunately there is no space for a drop off point, a drive through school, where children could be handed to staff!

Gipping Valley News from John Field