Last night at Mid Suffolk we considered the Independant Remunration Panel recommendation that we should increase our allowances in line with the average increase in earnings, 2.7%. In the current economic mess when people are losing their jobs and taking wage cuts increasing our allowances appeared totally unreasonable. A zero allowance increase was proposed and agreed.
For those who wonder what Councillors get the rate for an ordinary member is £3,684. The amount of work done varies with the councillor and I doubt that many of us measure it accurately. Ten hours a week would make the hourly rate £7.37. However most councillors do far more than that not only preparing for and attending meetings to take decisions that effect lives throughout Mid Suffolk but also investigating issues for the people they represent.
Out delivering leaflets in Bramford on Loraine Way at about 7pm. A number of older children were playing on the footway. The speed of a few drivers in a 40mph limit has to be witnessed to be believed. Of course you can only guess the speed from the noise and the way the car or bike rides but when they get to flat out in third they are around 70, certainly nowhere near 40mph. There have of course been fatalities at the Fitzgerald Road junction but no doubt the Jeremy Clarkson types think they are so skilled that nothing will happen. When it does a family is left traumatised.
How do we change the culture and temper the fun with some understanding of the risk and just how devastating it is to be responsible for someone’s death?
The £15 charges made for day care to disabled people always appeared to be unreasonable. However we are always told that few people will suffer the chages as those on benifits will have the charge payed. Today I was able to discuss the issue with someone with direct experience of the way the charges penalise families who are caring for close relations. They are saving the taxpayer large sums of money but being rewarded by being charged for the little they ask of the County. Just how can this be justified? I need to investigate this. If a family is driven to cease to provide care the cost to social services can be dramatic. Typical Tory logic, look after the pennies but cause pounds to be spent elsewhere.
Some village people were present, slightly more than the number of councillors, but no Michael Blakenham.
I issued my report and added a few details about the County preparedness for Swine Flu where all reasonable actions are being taken, SnOasis, Road Safety issues and J Few’s heaps of minerals.
There was some healthy challenge and discussion. The issues were speeding, mud on roads, the need for a pedestrian crossing on Stowmarket Road, SnOasis and the proposed Incinerator.
SnOasis appears to be stalled to the joy of some, particularly the parish council, and the dissapointment of others. There was a lengthy debate on the Incinerator and the possible impact on it of a failure of the SnOasis project to come to fruition. Mid Suffolk District Council has yet to receive any applications to determine the “reserved matters” on any elements of the SnOasis application.
Speeding is a problem on the B1113 Stowmarket Road and Gipping Road. At the Safer Neighbourhood Tasking Meetings I regularly ask for increased police action to bring more effective enforcement of speed limits in this area. The County Council is giving councillors a local budget for “Quality of Life” improvements to local roads. I intend to use this on improvements local people want rather than target chasing.
The recent trial of electronic speed signs I organised in Gt Blakenham was outstandingly successful. The signs are now being tried in Somersham but I have asked that one be returned. This is a real chance to reduce our speeding issues without major spend on traffic calming like speed humps that although effective are a nuisance to everybody. These signs are becoming more affordable and I will insist that more are purchased and are used widely.
The parish council would not accept the plans for a pedestrian crossing I persuaded the County to produce some time ago and since then action has been waiting on SnOasis.
We held the first meeting of the Mid Suffolk South Community Board last night. It covers the Gipping Valley and Bosmere areas. It’s been a long time getting underway and still lacks a common clear understanding of what it will do. However, that said, it is becoming clearer.
There is still concern that when two tier local government is about to be replaced by unitary authorities, this will just put another body between the parishes and the unitary (County). It is a Pilot so details can be worked out or even experimented with as we progress.
We agreed the terms of reference, a chairman from Wattisham who is not a councillor, and the range of groups of people who would be asked what they believe their area lacks or needs to improve. Of course it will be difficult to ensure that this “consultation” is representative and more meaningful than most.
Martin Redbond and I have been working to get extra activities for the older part of the community. We would like the sheltered housing to be a hub for this but the District and County won’t fund any extra effort and want the residents to do it themselves, perhaps with a little financial help. The need is most noticeable at Cherryfields in Bramford where the County withdrew its respite and day care facilities. They used to organise entertainment and other activities that the sheltered housing residents miss. The warden helps a lot but can’t do a vast amount as well as all her other tasks.
Martin has been getting a group together and on Tuesday we had a first meeting at St Peter’s Court to sort out who in the community would lead. We got a way forward and will meet again Friday week to map out a programme.
Carpet Bowls will be one item to join the successful craft activities that go on now.
Why do the smaller villages appear to have more active organisations than the larger? Perhaps they just tend to report at the annual village meeting.
Mid Suffolk planning procedures didn’t meet with approval. The level of debate at the committee is too limited ,with issues that worry villagers not examined in detail. The few powerful contributors tend to short circuit the process. Just the same views as were expressed after the SnOasis meeting some time ago. How do we councillors provide more challenge?
The County’s traffic survey to find where HGV’s go on the B1078 met with approval but the five buses every morning and evening from Otley College cause consternation on narrow country roads like Clay Lane. Is there an alternative route? I need to take this up again .
Footpath issues still exist and County Highways short-lived attempts to rebuild damaged verges with earth that promptly gets spread across the road, was felt to be a waste of money. Not the first village with this concern. I must take it up again but we would not want great ditches left by the road side. Perhaps such areas should be made into passing places.
Suffolk County Council has been consulting about five sites it is proposing for waste disposal. Two of these are located in Great Blakenham. I am concerned that the roads are not adequate to carry extra traffic from SnOasis and the planned new housing developments in the area, let alone two new waste sites. I have asked the District Council to look at this and can’t see why they don’t have a realistic plan for the area. The other sites are at Sproughton, Stanton and Eye where protest groups are forming.
The County has declared that its preference is to site an incinerator at Great Blakenham to burn domestic waste. I think that the long term effect on people’s health from chimney stack emissions cause grave concern. I favour Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT), which is becoming the technology of choice in the UK. This involves several flexible and adaptable operations. After mechanical sorting, anaerobic digestion is used to process the biodegradable waste producing gas which generates electricity efficiently. Metals recovered in the sorting process can be re-cycled.
Please let me have your views.
The County position can still be changed. Planning consent for a mass burn incinerator in Surrey is to be quashed following a hearing in the High Court in January 2009.
Gipping Valley News from John Field