At the 6th December Council meeting three proposals were put to members. My group called on Suffolk County Council to do more to tackle single-use plastic waste in the county. All councillors agreed to use sustainable or re-useable plastics in all council buildings, and to create a “plastic-free Suffolk network” of councils, businesses and other organisations.
Later, the administration refused to set an annual “carbon budget” and create targets for reducing carbon emissions. This seemed strange as the County Council already checks its carbon emissions. We proposed the council makes this process open, transparent and accountable.
Cooperation returned when we unanimously agreed to commit Suffolk County Council to follow the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and do all it can to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking in Suffolk.
In addition, the Council will review its procurement processes to see where they can be strengthened to fully comply with the Modern Slavery Act
Cuts to Citizens Advice
After budget scrutiny it was decided to phase the cut to CAB funding over 2 years. It will be reduced by £184 000 in 2019/20, before being removed entirely in 2020/21.
I remain concerned by these proposals, which will have a huge impact on a service that is great value for money and supports our most vulnerable residents.
I have been trying yet again to get Highways Network Assurance to take account of residents’ views as well as the interests of the businesses concerned when road closures are proposed. Unfortunately, the total resistance I get to any attempt to minimise disruption to people’s lives is in line with the problems other councillors suffer.
The renewed effort was encouraged by a proposed closure of the road into Baylham village for seven weeks to enable the Care Centre to lay a pipe to connect its sewage processing plant to the village mains drains. Seven weeks of a single-track diversion route with few passing places appeared unreasonable. Other routes for the pipe exist.
New equipment, that heats the road surface and melts the material surrounding a repair, is being used to try to produce longer lasting pothole repairs. It is too early to report the impact, but I will keep you informed.
Work appears to be progressing again with new contractors. Mary Evans, the Cabinet member, visited Great Blakenham Parish Council and issued a series of apologies for the contractor’s delays and poor county council communication. What we need is improvement – apologies don’t do a lot of good.
At Scrutiny last month when reviewing the quarterly performance report, we found wide variations in spend on temporary staff and contractors across the Council. We shall be investigating this in in detail.`.
Information about Suffolk Highways performance did not include comparison data for the same season last year. It will next time together with the time taken to respond to residents’ issues.
The Cabinet Member for Highways, after some grilling about delays to highways works particularly in Gipping Valley, was asked to review the Highways Reporting Tool and make it easier for residents to report problems.
As we reviewed the Highways Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey Results, we were told that Suffolk’s approach to highways management has received national recognition and the Assistant Director is clearly deeply engaged with governmental and national organisations on behalf of Suffolk.
MSDC draft Budget
MSDC’s Cabinet is recommending a 2% Council tax increase this year, generating an added £185k and expects a growth in the tax-base (the number of dwellings) of 1.3% per yielding £83k.
It is surprising that the tax rise is necessary given next year’s estimated surplus of £1.6m. However, there are considerable uncertainties in the economy.
A new £1.6m Commercial Risk Management reserve will be created to mitigate risks associated with the commercial investment and development that the Council is undertaking. The investment is £25m in commercial property and £6m in the Gateway 14 project.
Despite concerns about this form of investment, Cabinet is now recommending a further £25m investment by 2021/22, to generate another £435k per year income.