Report to Gipping Valley: March 2019


Opt-in for funded school transport

From September 2019, you will need to apply each year if your child is eligible for free school transport.  You must “opt-in”: you will no longer be automatically signed up. There will no longer be empty places reserved for eligible children who don’t want them. 

New mental health strategies for Suffolk

Since Spring 2018, the Suffolk and Norfolk Clinical Commissioning
Groups have been leading work to develop new mental health strategies for Suffolk.  Not before time you might say.

The strategies describe the vision for mental health and
emotional wellbeing in an integrated physical, mental and social care system.  There is a strong emphasis on prevention, wellbeing and expanding community and primary care mental health services.

The next phase will focus delivery plans, a programme of work and
timetable.

SEND inspection revisit

Inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission returned
to Suffolk in January to see how SEND services had progressed since their inspection in December 2016. 

Inspectors have acknowledged that some improvements have been
made but say children and young people relying on SEND services have not yet felt the benefit.  They concluded that sufficient progress had been made regarding governance and leadership of the
strategic planning and delivery of the 2014 national SEND reforms.  However, improvement is still required in:

  • the poor timeliness, integration and quality of SEND statutory assessments and plans and the delivery of subsequent individual
    packages of support
  • the lack of understanding among parents and carers of the support available and the inadequate quality of the local offer,
    including access to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), and
  • the lack of joint working to monitor, quality assure and maximise the effectiveness of work undertaken to improve outcomes
    for children 

Ipswich Northern Route.

SCC have given the timescale for work on the feasibility of the
Ipswich Northern Route and outlined the next steps in producing the Strategic Outline Business Case. 

The stage one study and report into possible highways options was
completed in 2017.  The options assessment, commissioned in May 2018, is required to look at all viable transport and traffic mitigation options.  It will confirm whether the road alignments published in 2017 are indeed the best solution for the county.

Public consultation on the route details, alignment, and junction
options with the A14 and A12 will begin in Summer 2019.  The completed document will be shared with Government, local MPs and the public in Autumn 2019. 

Roads

I have reported the condition of the footway on Chapel Lane again to try to get some of the £6m extra Government funding that must be spent by April.  I received a promise that some of the footway will be improved now and the remainder is in the plan.

SnOasis

The “reserved matters” for this much delayed project will be at MSDC planning on 13th March.  They should have been delivered in October 2016.  Notice of the formal appearance at Planning to your councillors and the Parish Alliance was short, just a few days.  

Is this a great project for a world class winter sport complex in Suffolk or just a project going nowhere that blights our villages?

2019/20 budget agreed

Suffolk County Council’s 2019/20 budget was agreed on Thursday 14 February. This will see an increase in council tax of 3.99%, and savings across the council’s directorates totalling £10.1m. 
I am concerned by a number of the cuts, in particular:

  • Removal over two years of all grant funding from Citizens Advice.
  • Reducing the amount spent on Housing Related Support, for those at risk of homelessness (£0.45m)
  • Reduced funding for sponsored bus services (£0.34m) and eliminate roadside bus timetables (£0.1m)
  • Reduction in highways maintenance (£0.23m): no cleaning of road signs, maintenance of mandatory road markings only and less frequentn weed treatments in rural areas
  • Staffing reductions across all directorates (£2.968m).

Reduction in 2018/19 predicted overspend

The latest budget monitoring report suggests the County’s 2018/19
budget will be overspent by £5.9m. This is a reduction since quarter 2, when they were predicting an overspend of £7.5m.

Although it is positive to hear the overspend is reducing, I am
concerned that the majority of these savings are due to ongoing staff vacancies, particularly in social work teams. 
Just who is not getting the service these people would provide and what is the unintended consequence of that?

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