Highways, flooding

The flooding issue at the A14 bridge on Station Road has been fixed at last!  Years of emails have paid off.

Scrutiny in September

The County performance report indicated that the review of highways currently underway will include “How utility companies cop-ordinate roadworks and are held to account for their actions”.  A subject dear to our hearts.  It said: “this will now have to be taken forward with the Secretary of State for Transport expectation that a permit scheme is in place in Suffolk by March 2019”.  At Scrutiny we decided permits should improve control significantly, so this is good news!

Scrutiny of Absence

The County Council has a high level of absence due to physical and mental health issues, far higher than other comparable authorities, particularly in the Fire and Rescue service.

I was concerned the issues could be due to the turmoil and stress caused by the many re-organisations that have occurred, the job losses driven by reducing budgets or just a lax management attitude.

In the Fire and Rescue Service in 2017-18 9,260 days were lost in total, 85% to long term sickness. Nottinghamshire loses 2.6 % days to sickness, Suffolk 9.73% and Warwickshire 14.55%.  Why the difference?

In Highways the absence rate was much lower at 4.52%.  This is in an area which has suffered much re-organisation and therefore a lot of employment related stress but absence is lower than average.

Across the County the average is 5.38% days lost, a total of 55,014 days.  With staff costs at around £144m the cost of lost time must be around £7.75m.

A more rigorous regime is being introduced to ensure that all sickness is genuine.  It will also ensure that issues are picked up early.  Staff will be supported when they have either physical or mental health problems and any underlying causes are addressed.

More specialist education placements

The projection is that there will be an 18% rise in the number of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) between 2018 and 2020, compared to only a 4% rise in the overall number of children. These will mostly be moderate learning difficulties, ASD and speech and language needs.

Suffolk cannot meet current or future demand.  Many children have a long wait for specialist education or are placed far from home in expensive out-of-county placements.  Suffolk will need to develop a further 300-400 places using new specialist support centres attached to mainstream schools, with some new special schools.

New “care at home” model

Three years ago, the County got the design of its Support to Live at Home contract very wrong.  The problems mean it provides only 29% of home care.  It is developing a new “model of home care” and a new contract.  This appears better but I have doubts that the new rates offered will attract providers and people into the system.  They look attractive but don’t address travelling time separately.  It can be a large % of the task.

There will be three main elements:

Responsive: will help when people urgently need a response.  For example, a frail older person living at home has called the GP or an ambulance but is not very coherent and it is difficult to determine a diagnosis.

Care may involve medication, ensuring fluids and food are taken and assessment of on-going condition.  Later It will offer rehabilitation or reablement to maximise independence.

Bespoke – For people with long term conditions, brain injury, recovering from a stroke, or a condition such as Parkinson’s and may require live-in-care to be able to remain in their own home.

Locality – The main service for planned long term care.  It will allow local community-based solutions to be developed

The County will work with the 85 care providers in Suffolk.  It will not seek to move people between providers or reduce the budget.

District Council Issues

MSDC lost an appeal to a developer who claimed that they had not applied the new version of the Government’s Planning Framework properly and had mis calculated the number of approved deliverable sites.  The inspector agreed so it appears our 5 Year Land Supply was short lived.  Development is again less constrained.

Gipping Valley News from John Field