Here is a list of some of the items for next week’s County Council Cabinet meeting (12th October):
1. Annual Public Health Report concentrates this year on health inequalities, and outlines some case studies which are improving health in Suffolk.
2. The future of the council’s residential homes for older people – The Firs in Felixstowe is owned by the County Council, but run by the Anchor Trust. The council is proposing the sale of the freehold of this property. The council currently owns a further 16 homes. Six of these could close: (see Option 3 below): Lehmann House (Wickham Market), Ixworth Court (Ixworth), The Dell (Beccles), Wade House (Stowmarket), Davers Court (Bury St. Edmunds) and Paddock House in Eye. It looks like the other 10 could be sold as going concerns to the “Independent sector”. There are 3 options on offer: Option 1: Close ALL the homes and commission alternative services from the independent sector. Option 2: Sell all of the homes as going concerns. Option 3 Close a number of homes (those listed above) and transfer the remaining homes to the independent sector. There will be a 12 week consultation period and the issue will come back to the Cabinet in March next year. The paper implies that Option 3 is their preferred option.
3. Closure of Holywells High School, Ipswich, which is scheduled to re-open as an Academy. This is not one of the new style of academies and has been planned for some time. There still seems to be opposition to this from parents.
4. Transfer of responsibility for concessionary fares to the County Council from Districts and Boroughs. This is a national initiative. There are currently winners and losers amongst councils across the country. In Suffolk Ipswich has had to foot a £1m annual bill for running the scheme, whilst many Districts are actually making money out of the grant received from Government.
5. Closure of Bury Road Park and Ride scheme. This was the second scheme to open on the outskirts of Ipswich. No individual figures have been given for this site, but it is a worrying development, and does not seem to marry with the Greenest County aspirations. I will be suggesting that they look at alternative ways of generating income: for example charging £1 for each car to park. Currently parking is free. Paying passengers could then pay £1 less for their bus ticket, but this would give the opportunity to raise income from over 60s, who currently travel free and, I’m sure, would rather keep the service and pay a small fee to park.
6. Street lighting – proposals for part night lighting and dimming. Estimated savings are £390k per year. I don’t really have a problem with the concept. There will be exceptions where safety is an issue eg pedestrian underpasses, some road junctions, busy roads etc. Many villages have no street lights, nor do they want them. As far as I am aware there are no increased crime levels in those villages. Effective consultation is essential, however.
7 Response to the Government’s consultation paper on the abolition of Primary Care Trusts and setting up of GP consortia. Also the establishment of Health and Wellbeing Boards. Unfortunately the Health Scrutiny committee was not asked for its views. Only Tory county councillors met to discuss this. This is very undemocratic as there are also 7 District and Borough reps on Health Scrutiny who were also excluded, as well as myself as the Lib Dem spokesperson.
8. Closure of nursery classes due to the change in the admissions policy. From September 2011 all children of 4 and over are to be offered a full time reception place. This is a national initiative. The schools in the first phase where nursery class closures are being proposed are Ilketshall St Lawrence, Reydon, Britannia (Ipswich), Boxford, Clare, Hardwick (Bury St. Edmunds), Houldsworth Valley (Newmarket), Kedington, Rattlesden and Westgate (Bury St. Edmunds). A 6 week consultation period starts in October this year and a final decision will be made in April next year. All papers are available to view at http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_14791