Category Archives: County

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

 

Report to Gipping Valley:  September 2018

Road Works

The road at Hackneys Corner is usable but not to a good standard.  The footways have still to be finished.  The county is fully aware of the issues and doing what it can to move the work by the developers forward.

Last month saw a great deal of poor communication and confusion and for some reason Anglian Water were allowed to re-start work in Claydon before the Bramford Road work was complete.  Utilities and developers MUST do better and so must the county.

Mary Evans, cabinet member for Highways, will be visiting Great Blakenham Parish Council to be informed of their and your views directly.

On a more positive note, the persistent flooding just the Claydon side of the A14 bridge will be fixed this month by a new pipe and soakaways.  The work is planned to start on the 10 September 2018 and continue for 3 weeks.  The County believe the flooding was due to damage done when the A14 was constructed.  I have been trying to get it solved for some years, so it is good to have Highways finally realise they need to finance a solution.

I have written to Highways asking for information on the issues on Chapel Lane and should get an update on the bus gate proposals which I can pass to you next month.

I have a letter from the County to MSDC pointing out County reservation about the cumulative effect of development in the area and proposing a meeting involving the county council, the applicants and Mid Suffolk to discuss options.

I have been asking for months for a professional attempt to propose actions that would address the problems we all believe the developments will cause.  I hope we are getting somewhere at last.

Suffolk County Council’s budget challenge

Last week, the council released its view of the scale of the financial challenge it is facing this year. They are projecting an overspend of £8.6 million this year.  Based on the first quarter results 1.7%.  of its £501 million budget.

Children and Young People’s Services, account for £5 million of the total.  This includes services for looked-after children, specialist social care for children and home-to-school transport.

Work is in progress to reduce spending and find new sources of income, including:

  • Adult and Community Services is strengthening its contract management
  • The Children and Young People department is cutting budgets that have historically underspent
  • The Passenger Transport team is optimising routes and renegotiating transport contracts which transport hundreds of children to school
  • Corporate Services are reviewing budgets line-by-line
  • Suffolk’s ten Transformation Programmes are continuing to develop savings through reducing demand and changing the way we work
  • Suffolk Fire and Rescue has begun a project to improve levels of staff absence
  • The council’s major projects programme is being reviewed
  • The council continues to lobby Central Government for more funding as part of its Fairer Funding Review.

These are actions long necessary and reflect issues we have examined in Scrutiny and recommended for action.   The crucial issue will be as always to produce real increases in efficiency not just service cuts to the most vulnerable, particularly where cuts produce increases in the budgets of other public bodies, such as the health service.

“Staying Close” scheme launched

The Department of Education is funding a three-year pilot “Staying Close” scheme to support young people leaving care in Suffolk.

The aim is to help young people at 15 to start planning for independent living with the assistance and support of residential care workers. This planning too often occurs close to the time a young person is due to move to independent living, causing unnecessary anxiety and distress.

Young people will also continue to receive emotional and practical support from their children’s home and residential workers after they have moved out.

District Council Issues

This month we looked at the programme to reduce the delay between a council house becoming vacant or “void” and the time it has been refurbished and is again occupied.

The delay, that has been up to 71 days, costs the council rent and people a home.  It is now down to about 20 days and should improve further.

John Field’s Report to Gipping Valley:   May 2018

Leadership Change

The leadership of the Conservative administration has changed from Colin Noble to Matthew Hicks.  We may see a less nakedly combative approach, but it would be naive to expect a major change in direction.  We could hope that some of the persistent problems, such as education performance, will be resolved or that more notice is taken of the wishes of a wider selection of the electorate.

Integrated Transport Strategy

A transport strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk has been produced by the Local Enterprise Partnership.  It gives a view of likely developments to the 2040’s  for transport, public and private and communication infrastructure.   It features the need to reduce congestion on the A14 and for an Ipswich northern bypass but also for improved public transport.

Pothole repairs

It was recently reported that Suffolk County Council had repaired 6500 potholes since the start of the year. However, there are still a number of issues with the way Highways carry out their repairs, and this headline figure does not paint an accurate picture.

The Highways team are currently struggling to keep up and are resorting to temporary repairs which are quicker to complete. They have recently introduced a more expensive temporary repair material that lasts longer. However, it damages the surrounding road material and will need to be replaced within about 18 months. Does this give value for money?

Suffolk Highways are also “blitzing” whole areas of the road at once, rather than making multiple trips to the same area. However, they will only repair potholes that meet their intervention criteria as defined in the Suffolk Highway Maintenance Operational Plan.

National Lottery funding for “The Hold”

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded an additional £10.3m towards “The Hold” project, a heritage centre to be built on the Ipswich Waterfront.  Building work will begin this spring, with The Hold scheduled to open by the end of 2019.

The total cost of the project is expected to be £20m. Suffolk County Council has pledged £5m for the building, and the University of Suffolk £1m.  The Heritage Lottery Fund had previously awarded £538,000, bringing their total to £10.8m.  The Wolfson Foundation and the charity “Suffolk Archives Foundation” will also contribute.

As well as providing public facilities and teaching spaces for the University of Suffolk, The Hold is expected to house the majority of Suffolk’s archival collections. This has been criticised by residents of Lowestoft and the surrounding area, who face losing their local Records Office.

There is currently no suggestion that this project will affect the Bury St Edmunds Records Office.

Chilton Woods development moves forward

The Cabinet has agreed to proceed with the Chilton Woods development near Sudbury as an “upfront land sale”, meaning land will be sold to developers, either in lots or as a whole, who will then work on the development over a 10 year period.

The development is expected to deliver 1150 homes, 25% “affordable” and supporting infrastructure, including highways improvements and a new primary school.

Suffolk Coasts & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Cabinet welcomed proposals by Natural England to extend the boundaries of the Suffolk Coasts & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Within an AONB and there is no restriction on how land is farmed and there is no presumption against development.

Planning

The Planning Referrals Committee decided it was “minded to refuse” the application for 300 houses on Barham Church Lane.  There were issues that it found concerning including the highways proposals, where the closure of Barham Church Lane appeared far less than certain, the impact on the church and on wildlife.

Changes have been proposed to address the concerns, including a reduction in the number of houses, certainty about the spine road and the possibility that the layout will be substantially as the outline.

The modified application will return.

If you have any queries, please phone me on 01473 831306 (you will need to say your name and press #) or 07545423808 or Email me at john.field@suffolk.gov.uk.

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

Locality Budgets

District Councillors for this year only have a £5,000 budget to deploy in their wards to fund projects by community groups.  They must of course align with Mid-Suffolk’s objectives.  Forms to request grants of £250+ are available and your councillors will make final decisions by early January.

As a County Councillor, I also have my locality budget available and about £12,000 remains, after providing support for a Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS) in Henley and Hemingstone, pond refurbishment at Henley Primary and LED floodlights for Bramford Football Club.

I would like to support local community organisations to meet the needs of local residents, ideally but not exclusively, where county money leverages in funds from other bodies.  Further VAS might be an idea.

Devolution-is it Progressing?

The devolution discussions are wending their way forward.  The government has stated that both Norfolk and Suffolk must be involved as in the LEP. A number of powers will be handed down only if an elected mayor controls a combined authority.

There is now a Norfolk and Suffolk Framework Document for Devolution, which gives a clearer list of ambitions.  It opens “Devolution offers an exciting opportunity for greater local decision-making and influence to power economic growth and productivity and unlock the potential of Norfolk and Suffolk.  The two counties have the scale, ambition and leadership to maximise the opportunities offered by additional freedoms and responsibilities. We also have the potential to grow our economy faster, with strengths in key sectors such as agri-tech, food & health, energy and the digital economy.”

The framework claims strengths as:

  • National hubs for key business sectors, eg financial industries, that need to be nurtured to become magnets for global inward investment
  • An all-energy coast at the centre of the world’s largest market for offshore wind
  • Globally-leading research in life sciences and agri-tech, and pioneering technical innovations in ICT research and development.
  • The UK’s busiest container port, in Felixstowe
  • A fast-growing creative digital sector, with Norwich recently recognised by Tech City UK
  • Market-leading food and drink producers
  • Our first-class cultural heritage attractions mean tourism is worth £4.6bn annually across Norfolk and Suffolk

However, while our employment figures are among the best in the country, our skills and productivity levels are below the national average.

I believe the need to work with Norfolk and a wider variety of political parties has helped clarify the way forward.  Negotiations continue.

Community Transport

This month a cabinet decision to tender for continuing community transport using a new structure was “called in”.  Community transport is services like Dial a Ride that provide “on demand” transport to people not served by scheduled buses or trains.  There have been a number of these services under various brands serving different communities and user groups.  Their vehicles have been provided by the county and the services largely specified by county officers.

The proposal is that seven contracts would be let, one per district council so that people can easily know which they should phone to book a journey.

The current vehicles would be sold to the providers, a move that would allow a wider range of customers to be served.  When the county owns vehicles providers cannot use them to provide some desirable services.

In addition, they can then select vehicles to meet the need as they see it rather than having to use what the county provides.

The county hopes that this will allow competition for services such as some forms of home to school transport that will use the assets more intensively.

So why was this called in?  Well, among other issues, the intention was that, not only would the county no longer provide free vehicles saving some £570k but also it would reduce the subsidy from £1.4m to £700k over the next four years.  The revenue from the new freedom to provide services was supposed to compensate.

Scrutiny believed it more likely that, although the providers would survive, service to people without other transport options will be cut.

We referred the decision back but cabinet decided there would be no change, so much for democracy!

Re-Elected to The District

Well, after all the activity and stress,  I am again District Councillor for Bramford and Blakenham.  Combining this with my responsibilities as County Councillor for Gipping Valley is a challenge I enjoy.  It is great to be able to deliver things people want across the spectrum of Council activities from planning to potholes and waste collection to care.  However it is on occasion very frustrating when I can’t get something simple, like the bollards in Bramford Road in Gt Blakenham, cleaned adequately.

Many people have told me they value my efforts to keep you informed by writing in “In Touch” and by this web-site and I will continue to do so.

Unfortunately I have lost two valued, hard working colleagues, one in Claydon, and Liberal Democrat replacements were rejected.  As you know it was not our day across the country.  The Gipping Valley, from Woolpit via Stowmarket to Bramford and Sproughton is a great dumping ground for things not wanted in the dormitory areas of High Suffolk.  It is close to Ipswich and the A14 so a logical area for growth but we must ensure it stays a good place to live with the schools, doctors’ surgeries and shops we need to keep our Suffolk way of life.

I believe we will now suffer even more traumatic austerity and the outsourcing of services to the advantage of private equity groups.  People on benefits will take a hammering, and pensions are the largest part of the benefits budget so we must wait to see just who suffers to repair the damage some major banks did to the world economy.

The proposed IN/OUT referendum on Europe I see as a profound risk.  It is democratic to seek the peoples opinion but I fear the power of biased parts of the media.  They don’t like the power of a European Commission they can’t control.   Will they persuade people to believe in some simple, exaggerated and wrong basis for decision?  I do hope that people get enough clear information to make a sound judgement.

I will continue to work hard for you all

John Field

Results:     Turnout    71.64%

Candidate Party Votes
John Field Liberal Democrats 885
Kevin Welsby Conservative 829
Aprille Meakin Conservative 697
Linda Scott Suffolk Together 668
Neil Harrison UKIP 561

School Admissions in Gipping Valley Area 2015

The county have announced the outcomes of the placement process for primary school pupils this year.  The PAN is the planned admission number, essentially 1/2, 1 or 2 classes.  The 22 pupils who would have liked to go to Henley will have come from a wide area attracted by its “outstanding” rating and good reputation.

The families that have been refused a place at schools of their choice have a right of appeal and will not be left with nowhere to go.  However, this does show the need to have a clear plan to address the pupil numbers which will generated by new developments in our area.

 Primary School

PAN

Refusals

Comments

Bosmere CP, Needham Market 45 3
Bramford CEVCP 30 9
Claydon PS 60 3

All catchment children and the siblings of out of catchment pupils were accommodated.

Three out of catchment were not

Henley PS 15 22
Somersham PS 15 3
Sproughton CEVCP 15 3
Witnesham PS 15 7