All Change at County
The County Council has seen a number of high profile departures.
Firstly the County’s monitoring officer, Eric Whitfield, has left the organisation for personal reasons at the end of March. Secondly, Graham Dixon, the Director of Resource Management left to pursue other interests. Andrea Hill has taken up his role.
Finally, Cllr Jeremy Pembroke has decided to retire as County Council leader. He will also step down as a Councillor at the next election. Jeremy has been a Councillor for a total of 8 years, and leader of the authority for 6. The next leader will be appointed at the Full Council AGM in May, until then Cllr Jane Storey will step in as interim leader.
I think this shows the pressure from the current disorganised leap to a “New Strategic Direction
The meeting held on the 29th of March covered a number of important items:
- Suffolk County Council’s response to Government Consultation on Proposed ‘Right to Challenge’ and ‘Right to Buy’, two aspects of the Localism Bill.
- Arrangements for Admissions to Schools in 2012/13 – to consider the consultation responses on the proposed arrangements, and to approve changes.
- Suffolk Local Transport Plan 2011 – 2031 – adopting the Local Transport Plan for the next twenty years, which highlights areas for improvements in the County’s transport network. This will be put before the County at the next meeting.
- Suffolk Skills for the Future Strategy – Endorsing the strategy, which seeks to make a significant contribution to supporting employment, enterprise and economic growth.
- The Future of Fire and Rescue Control Services in England – response to the Government Consultation
- Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service Command and Control Function. To agree in principle to underwrite £500k redundancy costs which are no longer to be funded by the Government.
- Developing the Suffolk Approach for Older People’s Accommodation Needs: Options for the Council’s Residential Homes for Older People. This report basically delayed the decision to either close all 16 homes, sell all of the homes as going concerns, or close a number of the homes and transfer the remaining homes to the independent sector. The decision will be made on the 24th of May after a further report exploring the viability of the three options.
March Full Council
The Full Council meeting on the 17th March considered an update to the New Strategic Direction, a motion from the Green Group proposing a referendum to decipher whether the public supports the NSD and the adoption of the Waste Core Strategy.
The NSD update recommended that the County should seek to have wider ‘conversations’ with communities across Suffolk. Rather than focusing on individual services the Council should look to see what group of services local areas would like to take on. To help this process we now have an officer who will spend one day a week on “Our Space”. This should be a small help but will have a limited impact on the confusion.
A motion from the Green Group proposed a referendum to gauge the public’s opinion on whether the New Strategic Direction should continue. After a short debate, the motion was defeated, firstly due to the cost of holding such a referendum, and secondly after an amendment which would have seen the referendum become internet only, producing accessibility and security issues.
The final item on the agenda was the Waste Core Strategy, which identifies a number of “suitable” sites for waste treatment plants, two at Gt Blakenham, as well as policies to guide decision making on the disposal of waste. I did get, at a previous stage, a requirement to consider the impact of the cumulative effect of multiple sites in a locality rather than each separately. A lever to use at Development Control in July.
This is the final stage for the report, which had been through Council and has been assessed by the Planning Inspectorate. It is a legal requirement for the County Council to have a Waste Core Strategy and it was duly adopted.
The petitions on the Suffolk County Council website are still going strong, with more added every week. The petitions have been launched to enable residents to bring an issue to the Council’s attention, or to approve or disapprove a Council decision.
You can find the petitions at this link; http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/News/EPetitions.htm
In order for these petitions to be heard in Full Council, the number of signatures has to reach 3,675. They are also time limited, so cannot remain on the website indefinitely. Current petitions include saving a number of Libraries, Household Waste Recycling Sites, Country Parks, School Crossing Patrols, Buses, and scrapping the New Strategic Direction.
Household Waste Recycling Centres
As you will be aware there has been an intense campaign in the County to find some way out of the problem which would be caused by the County closing HWRC’s. Mid Suffolk and Babergh Councillors local to Broom, Chelmondiston and Bramford sites have, across party lines, tried to prevent closure. The waste portfolio holder Roy Barker has worked to ensure alternatives are in place and Michael Blakenham, Steve Wright and John Hooker at Bramford are working with Wally Binder on a possible local commercial solution.
It is, as ever, difficult to get good information from County but at a meeting involving us all, Lisa Chambers, County Officers and representatives of WRG, some data was extracted. There was also a statement that the site could be available for use at very low rent and a commitment to ask Cabinet for delay of execution.. However the county still had its long term contract with WRG to consider and at the time refused to accept that they should continue to pay for the disposal of household waste if it were collected by a private or Community Interest Company. :
I estimate annual cost as follows : recyclates are worth some £27,000, WEEE is cost neutral, wood costs £21,000, garden waste £17,000 and residual waste £84,000 giving a total cost of £95,000. Amortisation of equipment, site licences and management cost £85,000, and labour £50,000 giving a final balance of £230,000. A cost of some £95/tonne compared to landfill at £107/tonne. Clearly a local group could reduce some of these costs and perhaps gain value from the wood. Some of the shortfall could be recovered from an entry charge on the 30,000 visitors but there would still be a substantial deficit. We may still need alternative solutions.
Yesterday, Lisa Chambers, the portfolio holder for waste stated “This morning Cabinet made the decision to delay the closure of six of the seven household waste recycling centres that were due to close on the 9 May 2011 as a result of feedback from the public.
The centres will now remain open until 31 July 2011, during which time the council will be working with its partners in the district and borough councils and Suffolk communities to develop long-term solutions to the closures.” We may yet see people power work!
Chapel Lane & HGV,s
I have a report from the SORR (Save Our Rural Roads) expert on HGV problems, pointing me to enforcement at the district council rather than the Traffic Commissioners to resolve the problems we have. I will put the issue to the council when I have reviewed the data to ensure I have a clear understanding of the subject.