New approach to pothole repairs
A Highways Improvement and Innovations Board has announced that Suffolk Highways, at the Phoenix House depot, will be piloting a new approach to prioritising pothole repairs over the winter.
It aims to tackle more potholes during a visit, potholes down to 200mm width and to reduce the number of temporary repairs. The travelling time of maintenance crews will be reduced, and more potholes will be filled. Improvement at last!
The Board has also been looking into improving the coordination of road closures, reducing the number of roadworks which overrun, and exploring ways for Suffolk Highways to work closer with town and parish councils. I hope the lessons of Hackneys Corner will be learnt.
I expect a progress report from the Board at Scrutiny in December.
Second Suffolk children’s home judged “inadequate”
A children’s home run by Suffolk County Council has been judged “inadequate” by Ofsted, following an inspection. This is the second council-run children’s home to receive an inadequate rating in the past 2 months.
Ofsted were particularly concerned over unsafe behaviour management techniques used. They found a significant increase in the number of physical interventions.
Council signs up to 100% nuclear energy deal
At the Council meeting on 18 October, members of my political group called on the Council to recognise the benefits of renewable energy. This is now low cost as well as low carbon. We asked them to commission a report into a smart grid for Suffolk. This would allow the array of renewable, top up and storage facilities for electricity supply to be managed optimally.
We also asked for a commitment to ensuring that at least 50% of the Council’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2025. Unfortunately, the Conservative administration amended the motion to remove any clear actions or targets.
It was also revealed that the Council have recently signed off on a 100% nuclear energy deal for the next three years, to commence in March 2019. This represents a major step backwards, since the current energy contract includes 18.7% renewables.
No funding to help end “period poverty”
The Labour Group asked council for a budget commitment of £15,000 to help tackle “period poverty”. Many girls suffer embarrassment and frequently miss school because they are unable to afford sanitary products. We asked the Council to fund products for such girls in all local authority-maintained schools in Suffolk, and to encourage academies to implement similar measures.
Unfortunately, the Conservative administration once again amended the motion, removing all funding.
New Home Care operating model
Cabinet has agreed the new Home Care operating model. It was acknowledged that the previous model had been a failure. Smaller care providers were expected to give up their contracts and residents receiving home care wereexpected to change provider.
We were assured that “lessons had been learned” and that greater care had been taken to develop the new operating model in partnership with stakeholders.
The funding to providers will be set by the County and will vary dependent on the availability of care in each parish. There will be five steps from £16.49 to £ 22.24 per hour of care.
That sounds quite reasonable, but the County does not pay for travel time and providers frequently do, together with a small allowance for travel expenses. There is also a need to fund holidays and sickness so the £ per hour a carer receives is substantially lower.
I fear that the rate paid to carers remains too low to attract the number of people required.