Lib Dems attempt to reverse Tory cuts in Suffolk

Lib Dems on Suffolk County Council have been thwarted in their attempts to reverse cuts in education and public transport. At the budget meeting on Feb 9th the Lib Dem group proposed the following amendment to the Conservative budget:

  • Re-instate Bury Road Park & Ride
  • Re-introduce the eXplore Card with a £25 admin fee
  • Allow those concessionary bus pass holders eligible due to disability to travel around the clock
  • Re-instate the bus routes cut last year – including evening and weekend services
  • Provide greater level of funding to the learning improvement service to allow for greater support to schools to increase attainment
  • Increase the budget for Looked After Children to help develop alternatives to costly out of county placements
  • NEETS Apprenticeship Scheme – allow S.C.C to employ 50 apprentices
  • Provide £2.5m of funding to Adult Services each year over the next two years to aid the transition to more preventative care

All of these schemes would have helped to re-enable individuals across the County, and would have been paid for by;

  • Reducing external room hire by 30%
  • Reducing business miles by 10%
  • Reduce the number of Cabinet posts by 1
  • Reduce the Road Management and Maintenance Budget
  • Reduce the cost of the CSD contract by £2m

 The amendment was, of course, voted down

Report to Parishes January 2012

REPORT TO PARISHES, Mid-Samford Ward: January 2012 

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, District Councillors

Budget items from Strategy agenda

The budget for the financial year 2012/13 is nearing decision time, and will be the subject of Strategy Committee’s meeting on 12th January and also a special Council meeting on the 26th

 Various options have been considered, the key elements being: whether or not to take the one-off extra 2.5% government grant; whether or not to introduce short-term parking charges; whether and how to use the New Homes Bonus and/or reserves; and whether to try to generate additional income from the brown bin scheme.

 Key recommendations coming through at this stage are as follows.

  • There should be a council tax increase of 3.5%, to provide degree of financial sustainability in future years, instead of accepting the Government’s one-off council tax freeze grant of 2.5%.  (Reasons for this have been outlined in previous reports to the Parishes.  Babergh’s proportion of the total council tax bill is approx 10%.  The impact on a Band D property is less than £5 a year, or some 9p a week.)
  • There should be a charge for short term parking in Hadleigh and Sudbury on Council owned car parks, together with a formal application to Suffolk County Council that they address the issues of on-street parking in both towns.  A free first hour is proposed, then a £1 charge for up to three hours, or the long stay charges that presently exist.
  • Councils can expect to receive income from the New Homes Bonus.  For next year it is proposed that there is limited and temporary use of this, or of reserves, to meet the remaining budget shortfall, with most of the bonus being used to support jobs, new homes or to invest in the achievement of long term savings.
  • The annual brown bin charge is likely to rise to £45, from the £40 of the last three years.  (Some household waste sites may bring in a charge for each visit, probably just for green waste, but this is not yet clear, and is not a Babergh decision.)
  • Council house rents are likely to rise by 5% (average rent currently £74.64 x 52 weeks.) The convergence formula would require a 7.8% rise, which in the view of the housing panel would cause undue stress for people on low incomes already likely to be affected adversely by housing benefit changes. Heating and lighting charges for those in sheltered and homeless accommodation are also likely to rise – possibly by around 9%.

 New single website and front page for the two councils

Despite criticisms, this is going ahead as a single website with a single home-front page.  Decisions on all aspects of the integration are being taken by the JMIB – Joint Member Integration Board – rather than the full councils.  This does of course speed up progress, which is highly desirable to maximise speed of integration and the early harvesting of joint savings, but it also concentrates the decisions into the hands of the few.  The use of the joint logo will also continue to be increased.

Integration progress

The JMIB haven’t met since before Christmas but the JAP (Joint Appointments Panel) will meet again early in January, having agreed a “long list” during December. Whilst not being able to divulge very much at this stage, I think we can say there has been huge interest in the two Joint Strategic Director posts (“Place” and “People”) – both in terms of volume of applications and the strength of the applicants. The recruitment process is already in hand with technical interviews and psychometric tests. Interviews will be held on 19th and 20th January, with further on-site assessments being carried out close to the interviews. It will be the same demanding process as for the previous internal applicants. Thereafter, it will be a matter of how much notice the two successful applicants have to give before they can take up the new joint appointments.

Incidents on the A14 and the A12

We have received the following update summarising the spate of dangerous incidents on these two major roads, and actions to be taken.

“So far a total of 22 motorists have been affected by debris thrown from bridges in 8 separate incidents on the A12 and the A14. There appears to be no pattern to these incidents and no set times when these are occurring. There are 32 bridges on the A12 and A14 and 8 of these bridges have been identified as high risk.

“All partner agencies have been asked to park marked vehicles on these bridges during down times and extra police patrols have been provided. In addition, notices in the press and on all partners’ websites have encouraged people to be vigilant and prompt in reporting any issues which they think may be related. CCTV is also being used in some cases.

“The use of the media is seen as very important and a robust communications strategy will continue to tell people of the consequences their actions could cause.

“Although there is no assumption that the perpetrators are young people, national research does suggest that this could be the case. Because of this the ‘Gold Group’ are looking at rolling out a teaching programme aimed at young people in schools along the A12 and A14 Corridors. This is being looked at and an action plan will be provided to their next meeting …

“Another proposal has been to engage closely with Parish Councils and encourage them to help eliminate this problem. It was suggested that they may be able to help ensure that no debris is left close to bridges and be the ears and eyes to report any information that may be useful to the operation. It is also recognised that the parishes will have good connections with the local communities who will be able to help. This will be progressed.

“A further action has been to commission posters to be installed on bridges which will encourage drivers and pedestrians to report any incidents immediately using 999. These posters will be installed on the high profile A14 bridges around the 9th January and further posters will be installed on the A12 soon after this date.”

Circulated to Babergh D C Councillors by: Community Safety Unit
Public Protection, Social Inclusion and Diversity
Suffolk County Council

Babergh District report to Mid Samford parishes Oct 11

Babergh’s Planning Blueprint for the next 20 years (Local Development Framework)

October 10th marks the start of Babergh council’s consultation on the latest draft of its 20 year planning blueprint for the District, the Local Development Framework. The consultation closes on Friday 2nd December. Copies of the document are available online here  Copies will also be available to view at Babergh council, Corks Lane, Hadleigh as well as in local libraries and mobile libraries.

 I thought it might be helpful to summarise what is planned for the villages which Sue Carpendale and I represent on Babergh:

  1. Capel St. Mary has been designated as a “Core village” as it is one of the larger villages in the District, providing services and for facilities for its own residents, as well as smaller villages surrounding it. In the next 20 years the plan envisages an additional 100 properties i.e. an average of 5 per year. Over the past few years we’ve seen a number of developments like The Drift and Dove Close, which have managed to blend in with the rest of the village and have been reasonably uncontentious. We hope that future developments can follow this pattern.
  2.  Hinterland village designation has been given to Holton St. Mary and Stratford St. Mary. In these villages development will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.
  3.  No additional development is envisaged in Little and Great Wenham, which are designated as countryside.

 According to early figures from the census there has been a significant decrease in the population of Babergh over the last 10 years. Young people are finding it harder to get on the first rung of the housing ladder and parts of the District have seen a significant influx of “retirees”, especially from the London suburbs. If we are to maintain a spectrum of ages in our communities we clearly need more affordable housing for purchase and rent. Every new property built will contribute to a fund which will pay towards a target of 100 affordable homes each year in the District.

 The planning strategy also wants to encourage new jobs – a target of 9.700 new jobs by 2031. It will promote “a healthy mix of retail and leisure growth in town centres” as well as “encouraging growth in new and locally important job sectors such as renewable energy and tourism.”

 Joint Housing Board for Babergh and Mid Suffolk

A joint housing board is to be set up with tenant and councillor representatives from Babergh and Mid Suffolk. This will deal with all the details of council house refurbishments, etc. Although many council houses have been sold under the right to buy legislation, the two councils still have around 7,000 properties between them.

 Localisation of Business Rates

Councils will at last get to keep the business rates collected in their own area. This used to happen until the early 90s. At present business rates are collected by local councils and then the money is passed on to national Government. They take their own share (called top slicing) before returning the rest to local authorities, using a formula based on population size. However, although it seems to be good news, it’s not quite as simple as it may at first seem, as the government still gets to keep a share of business rates and will be applying a complex formula to try to ensure that councils don’t lose out when the funding process changes.

 Draft National Planning Policy Framework

The new draft planning framework cuts the current 2,500 pages of planning guidance to 50 pages.  Babergh has responded to the consultation launched by the Department of Communities and Local Government, which ends on Oct 17th. Whilst the principle of streamlining planning has been welcomed, there has been considerable concern from bodies like the National Trust about the threat to green belt land. One of the key issues has been around the definition of “sustainable development”. The foreword to the government document says:

“Development that is sustainable should go ahead, without delay – a presumption in favour of sustainable development that is the basis for every plan, and every decision.”

 So the nub of the matter is around the definition of sustainability. There are concerns, for example, that villages like Capel St. Mary could be targeted for significant development, as it could be seen as being well connected by road to larger towns. However the argument against large scale further development in recent years has been around the issues that there is very little employment within the village, and poor public transport links. Ministers have been forced to reconsider this aspect of the new planning framework as a result of these legitimate worries.

 Each council’s Local Development Framework should be the prime source of planning policy in a local area. It will have been drawn up after extensive research and consultation with local communities. What government can do, however, is to reduce the bureaucratic burden faced by local authorities in producing these Development Framework documents. This should still allow, of course, for comprehensive public consultation on future housing and business development.

Report from Councillor Sue Carpendale

Budget challenge and council tax

The Chancellor’s announcement about money to enable councils to freeze council tax for a further year is being viewed with caution and some concern.  The impact on future years, and the detail of exactly how it would be allocated this year is not yet clear.

 Joint appointments panel – progress on integration

We hope to be making some new senior appointments very shortly, but the process is ongoing into December.  Strategy Committee are recommending to Council that a new joint housing board be established to comprise equal numbers of tenants and members from Babergh and Mid Suffolk.  Control over budgets and rents will remain separately with each council but the board will have the operational control.  There should be further savings accruing form this further service integration.

 Joint business evening – Babergh and Mid Suffolk: Suffolk ONE, 26 October 2011

Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils are hosting their first-ever joint Business Evening so that local businesses can network with each other as well as meeting council officers and councillors.

 All local businesses operating across the two districts are invited to attend this free event, where they can showcase their products, be involved in helping to shape the councils’ joint services and help to build a strong sustainable economic future for both communities.  Businesses will be able to find out more information on important schemes like the Suffolk Investor Club and Regional Growth Loan Scheme – as well as the chance to find out about procuring contracts from both councils.

 Housing Benefit reductions to single people under 35 years of age: There are changes to the housing benefit system which will affect single people under the age of 35 from January 2012. These changes apply to single people living in self contained one bedroom, privately rented accommodation. Tenants in Council or Housing Association owned properties will not be affected.

 These changes reduce the level of benefit subsidy these tenants receive by up to £35 per week. This is likely to have a dramatic impact on their abilities to stay within their present accommodation.

 Babergh has have identified 60 people who could be affected by these changes. There is protection for the most vulnerable and we will be working out who these people are and the support we, and others, can offer. The tenants live almost predominantly in our towns and larger settlements.

 For all housing related questions, to apply as homeless, or to join the Housing Register, people should contact the Housing Advice team, on 01473 825757.   For further information on the benefit changes, for claiming exemption or applying for a “hardship award”, people should contact the Shared Revenues Partnership. Their number is 01473 433838.

 Recreation Contribution – Funds Status: a report can be found on the Babergh website showing contributions for the provision of outdoor recreation facilities and open spaces secured from developers under Section 106 Planning Obligations, (Local Plan Policy HS32.) These relate to residential developments of under 1.5ha where it has not been possible to provide on site recreation provision.  Currently in Mid-Samford, only Capel St Mary has funds – these amount to £16,173.02.

 This status report will be updated on Babergh’s web site at the beginning of each month.  To view the report you can use this link  which will take you to the ‘Recreation Contributions’ page of the Babergh website. The officer contacts are Nick Elliott (01473 825784) and Mark Tavernor (01473 825769).

 “Weekly bin collections”: Mr Pickles’ recent statement about money for re-introducing weekly collections of non-recyclate waste have raised more comments and questions than answers.  There appear to be many strings and conditions attached and it is not likely to be of any benefit to Babergh residents.  Babergh is, however, in the early stages of reviewing whether we could introduce a weekly collection of food and kitchen waste – this is generally seen as a better way forward.

 Removal of autumn leaf fall: Babergh’s policy for clearing leaves on public highways and Babergh grounds is as follows.

The removal of fallen leaves on public highways and Babergh grounds is included as part of the routine street cleansing and maintenance of these areas. Where they receive a report of fallen leaves between routine cleansing of these areas, they will try to arrange an additional cleanse of these, with the priority being:

  • leaves which have broken down
  • leaves which are obstructing drainage
  • leaves blocking a path
  • leaves which could pose a safety risk

 Leaves are not cleared from private property (even if the leaves have fallen from Babergh trees) nor do they clear leaves from grass areas – the only exception to this are Babergh parks and Babergh sheltered housing sites, where leaves are routinely cleared from the whole site on a weekly basis.

 Any enquiries or reports regarding fallen leaves on public highways and Babergh grounds, can be reported to the Open Space section, either by emailing open.spaces@babergh.gov.uk  or telephoning 01473 826654.

 “Lullaby Concerts”

In partnership with other Suffolk councils, Babergh has announced another series of Lullaby concerts, following last year’s success.  The City of London Sinfonia returns to Suffolk in October, with a programme to be presented by Claire Bloor. This year the theme of the concerts is magic, and audiences will be encouraged to dress up in this vein.  The orchestra will perform a range of classical pieces including The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas, and Mozart’s Magic Flute overture.  There will be lots of singing and participation for the audiences at venues in Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Halesworth and Thurston.  The Lullaby Concerts will introduce children aged up to seven and their parents and carers to live orchestral music in a fun, enchanting and accessible way.  At the end of each concert there will be an opportunity for everyone to try playing some orchestral instruments which are being made available by Suffolk County Music Service. The entire project is being produced by Orchestras Live in partnership with the councils.

County Council report to parishes September

Lucy Robinson appointed as Interim Chief Executive 

Last month Lucy Robinson was appointed as the interim chief executive at Suffolk County Council. She has been employed by Suffolk County Council since 2002 as the Director for Economy, Skills and Environment.  She had previously held a number of other roles across local and central government, and had been covering the role of Chief Executive since the previous Chief Executive was put on “gardening leave”.

The role is initially for six months, during which time the recruitment of a permanent Chief Executive will take place.  Mrs Robinson has been appointed on a salary of £150,000 pro rata.

 Petitions – concessionary passes

 At the last Full Council meeting the Liberal Democrat Group submitted a motion recommending that concessionary bus pass holders should be allowed to travel from 9am instead of 9:30am. In addition we recommended that those who hold concessionary bus passes due to a disability should have no time limit on use of the bus network.

The decision will be referred to Cabinet at some point in the near future as it was the original decision making body.  In the meantime Lib Dem County Councillor Caroline Page has launched a petition to highlight the public support.  You can sign the petition online. A printable version of the petition is available by clicking on this link COncessionary-travel-passes-petition:

More information on Caroline Page’s website  

Libraries update

The latest on the Libraries is that the administration has put forward a number of different options for the future structure of the service.  As part of the report to Cabinet on the 19th of July, these options below will go through a best value evaluation;

  • A Council Business Unit
  • A Council owned company/enterprise
  • Independent Company/Enterprise

This will be reported back to Cabinet on the 8th of November.  In addition to this the administration agreed to a consultation regarding the future of mobile libraries.

The Council has also moved to set up pilots for community run libraries.

The pilot libraries are:

  • Aldeburgh
  • Bungay
  • Eye, Debenham and Stradbroke
  • Sudbury
  • Thurston
  • Wickham Market
  • Gainsborough, Chantry, Ipswich, Stoke, Rosehill and Westbourne – working together.

These projects will begin in April 2012, and will look to increase the amount of local decision making, fundraising and activities and look to include more public services under one roof.

You can find a copy of the press release sent out by the Council on this matter, at this address

Mobile libraries

A consultation on mobile libraries, runs from Monday 5 September to Friday 14 October. 

The council is consulting on the plans set out in the July Cabinet paper, which were:

  • to move from fortnightly to monthly or four-weekly stops, as neighbouring library authorities have done, and
  • to remove stops in communities that are served by a static library.

This would save an estimated £225,000 a year, while maintaining the mobile library service to communities that do not have a static library. You can access the consultation document here.

 A report on the outcome of the consultation and subsequent recommendations will go to Cabinet in November, and full Council in December.

Broadband bid success 

Suffolk’s bid to improve Broadband across the County has finally been approved.  The £41m scheme, which has up to £10m backing from the County, has been given the green light by the Government. This follows a revised bid by the County Council in which they upped their bid significantly after the last submission was rejected.

 The total funding from the Government for this scheme will be £11m.  The private sector will be matching the bid from the public sector to reach the £41m total. 

A12 Campaign Update

The campaign by local Lib Dems,  and local residents, to improve the safety of the A12 between the Copdock Mill interchange and the Essex border highlighted recently that the cost of accidents and fatalities along this stretch of road amounts to £17.5m over the last five years (calculated using Department for Transport data).

This figure, along with the previous research, justifies the calls for a speed limit of 60mph, with average speed cameras and the closure of the central reservation gap at the B1065.

Unfortunately the Highways Agency disagrees, and has branded the suggested changes as uneconomic, even though they have spent £70m on electronic road signs for the A14, which will not reduce the level of accidents.

Public Questions to County Council and Cabinet meetings

As usual members of the public can ask questions to the administration at both Full Council and at Cabinet.

Questions must be submitted by 12 noon, four days prior to the meeting.  Questions to the next Council, which takes place on the 22nd of September, would have to be submitted by noon on the 16th.

 For more information, about the type of question that can be submitted, and for whom to send your question to, please click on this link

Brett Demand Responsive Transport and Buzabout

As the Council has reduced its funding for subsidised bus services they have had to seek alternatives to provide transport for those in our area, and many others.

 The Brett DRT service covers Hadleigh, Capel St. Mary, Stratford St. Mary, Holton St. Mary, Hintlesham, Chattisham and Burstall.

The service operates from 7am -7pm Monday to Saturday, enabling travel to any towns within the aforementioned area.  This could be for shopping purposes or to travel further afield with connecting services to Ipswich, Sudbury or Colchester.

 Travel must be pre-booked, and can be done a week in advance of your travel date.  If you do wish to book, please call 01473 828202; the line is open from 9am-12 noon Monday to Friday.

The Buzabout service, which covers the Peninsula, as well as Capel St. Mary, Copdock & Washbrook, Belstead, Stratford St. Mary, and Holton St. Mary, operates on a slightly different schedule.

 Operating Times are;

  • Monday: 0700 to 1900
  • Tuesday: 0700 to 0000
  • Wednesday: 0700 to 1900
  • Thursday: 0700 to 1900
  • Friday:  0700 to 0000
  • Saturday: 0700 to 0000

 The booking line for the Buzabout service is 0845 458 1920, and is open from 9am-4pm Monday to Friday.  Once again bookings can be made up to a week in advance.

 There are other DRT services which surround this area; for more information about connecting services and coverage maps please go to the Suffolk on board website

 Pylon update 

National Grid has announced its intention to build pylons along Corridor 2, travelling past Hintlesham, between Hadleigh and Upper Layham, and through the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty before getting to Twinstead. Curiously National Grid has failed to say whether it favours Corridor 2a or 2b.

 As part of Stage 2 of the consultation, National Grid has been holding a number of community information events, and will in the future be looking to create community forums along the route to involve the local population. This second stage still allows responses to the decision, and the form for doing this can be found on the website

According to their website, the next stage of National Grid’s plan to build a new line between Bramford and Twinstead, will give greater consideration to mitigation measures such as woodland planting, shorter pylons or using underground cables.

The Lib Dems continue to oppose the use of pylons across Suffolk’s valuable countryside.  The effect of building an overhead transmission line could damage both the local tourism economy, as well as lower house prices in the area affecting residents.  We believe that undergrounding is a viable option to prevent the irreparable damage that could be caused, and studies have shown the cost of this is not the 12 to 17 times that has been quoted by National Grid, but is actually less than 4 times the cost of overhead lines.  As previously reported we are also interested in future technologies that would see electricity transmission taken undersea to places of great demand, preventing need for pylons to be constructed.

Visit Suffolk’s “Green” buildings 8th-11th Sep

The Suffolk Green Buildings Network are taking part in English Heritage’s Open Days 2011. A range of buildings are open to the public between 8th to 11th September and the brochure is attached: Heritage Open Day leaflet

You can visit a number of private homes including a 19th century cottage in Ipswich. Other venues include the HQ of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the iconic waterfront building of University Campus Suffolk, West Suffolk House in Bury St. Edmunds  and the Mill Green Brewery in Edwardstone. Some need to be booked in advance and full details are in the attached brochure and on their website.

Suffolk fails in Greenest County ambition

Research by the Lib Dems has revealed that Suffolk County Council has failed drastically to meet its own carbon emissions reduction target.

 The Conservative administration, which has been proclaiming its ambition to be the Greenest County for a number of years, originally set a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 4% per annum, which would lead to a total reduction of 60% by 2025.  The Liberal Democrats wanted to the Council to set a higher target, in line with many other councils, and put forward a motion to the Council to sign up to the 10:10 agreement. This aimed to reduce CO2 emissions in 2010 by 10%.  On both accounts the administration has failed spectacularly.  It emerges that since 2008/09 (the baseline year) emissions have only decreased by 0.25%.  What makes it worse is that in the last financial year, the County has actually produced 1,000 tonnes more CO2 than in 2009/10.

 Cllr John Field, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Environment and Waste said “This more than anything shows the lack of commitment from the administration to the environment.  How they can continue to claim to be the Greenest County, or include it as one of their decision making priorities is beyond belief, as it clearly isn’t.”

“Other Councils like Norfolk have succeeded in reducing CO2 emissions, so why can’t we follow their lead?  This situation desperately needs to be addressed, as the County can’t claim to be even close to being Green with this track record.”

Cllr Caroline Page, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Roads and Transport said “This shows that the Greenest County claim is nothing but Greenwash. Suffolk residents have heard enough of this empty rhetoric that has now led more to embarrassment than environmental progress.  The County needs to prove that reducing carbon emissions really is a priority before or it will become the Least Green County”.

The story made front page news in the East Anglian Daily Times on Saturday 20th August. 

Table of carbon emissions

Aspects of Suffolk County Council’s carbon footprint (tonnes of CO2e)
Greenhouse gas emissions data for 1 April to 31 March
  2010-11i 2009-10 2008-09ii
Scope 1 (direct)iii 32,835 31,887 33,868
Scope 2 (energy indirect)iii 44,432 44,309 43,239
Scope 3 (other indirect)iv 5,019 5,120 5,050
Total gross emissionsv 82,285 81,316 82,158
Carbon offsets 0 0 0
Green tariff 0 0 0
Total net emissionsvi 82,285 81,316 82,158

 More information can be found on the Council’s website at;

http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/Environment/FactsAndFigures/CarbonEmissions.htm

Amazing response to Suffolk library petitions

Nearly 19,000 signatures have been collected at libraries across Suffolk and they were all handed in yesterday to the County Council. This shows some of the strength of feeling about maintaining the network of 44  libraries and six mobile libraries. The story is in the East Anglian Daily Times today  Supporters of Suffolk libraries come from all political parties and none, as was evident on the Ipswich march last month.

Libraries are used by all age groups across the social strata and they are not just about books. They are also social meeting places. In addition many people still don’t have internet access at home and rely on libraries. The issue will be discussed again at the County Council meeting on May 26th. Let’s hope that common sense prevails.

Well done to all those who have campaigned and collected signatures. Photos and videos from yesterday are on James Hargrave’s blog and Andrew Grant Adamson’s blog

Suffolk Circle – update

I have been challenged on my recent blog post on whether the newly set up Suffolk Circle is duplicating services already offered free of charge  in Suffolk. In March Suffolk Circle are offering a range of interesting activities, including a guided walk, a visit to a film in Sudbury, a visit to West Stow Anglo Saxon village, going for a meal. All very commendable. Also members can purchase tokens which then allow them to get help with a range of activites. According to their website :

“Members can buy tokens at any time. These can be used to book a helper to get all sorts of things done, from practical tasks from like putting up curtain rails and gardening to learning something new like how to send a text message.”

The issue is whether such activities were already available in Suffolk, without Suffolk County Council having to spend out £3/4 million pounds in grant aid to this new social enterprise.

Below are some extracts from the Age UK and Suffolk ACRE websites on friendship groups and Good Neighbour schemes. (The Bury St. Edmunds Age UK friendship scheme charges £5 a year for membership, compared with £30 for Suffolk Circle) I will let the extracts below speak for themselves:

Age UK’s Friendship Centres are a great way to meet like-minded people in your area. Activities are organised by the groups themselves and may include lunches‚ holidays‚ outings‚ walking‚ bowling and much more. So do get in touch with your local group to find out more!

Suffolk ACRE is continuing to build a network of individual sustainable Good Neighbour Schemes around the county. There are currently 21 schemes up and running with many more under development. In each scheme local volunteers help other people in their community with small services such as

  • Transport – giving people lifts to hospitals, doctors surgeries, shops or social trips
  • Domestic tasks – changing lightbulbs, testing smoke alarms, moving furniture and many other household jobs
  • Mobility problems – volunteers can help by collecting prescriptions and pensions, shopping and posting letters for anyone who is incapacitated
  • Befriending – visiting the lonely or bereaved to give emotional support
  • Advocacy – help with letter writing or filling in forms
  • Outside jobs – occasional garden tidying, dog walking and other odd jobs

All the services are offered free with the exception of giving lifts for which the driver is compensated for his/her running costs by the client, usually at 35 pence per mile.

Bury Road Park and Ride closure latest

Yesterday the East Anglian Daily Times covered the story: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/politics/anger_as_park_and_ride_closure_rubber_stamped_1_705576

Then we heard that the Government had given the go ahead for the £25m project “Ipswich Fit for the 21st Century”, which aims to reduce congestion in the town and improve facilities for bus users, cyclists and pedestrians. As Suffolk County council has also received £830,000 European funding for encouraging workers in small and medium sized enterprises to use their cars less, it makes even less sense that they are closing Bury Road Park and Ride.

New Head of Communications at Suffolk County Council

The appointment of a new Head of Communications at Suffolk County Council is causing quite a storm in the media. The pay is between £400 and £700 a day and at the upper end equates to just over £180,000 a year – which is more than the Prime Minister.

Yesterday the story appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times. Today it’s in the Daily Mail and Telegraph with my comments. It beggars belief that a council which is trying to save money is spending these sums. The council has also paid out substantial sums in gagging orders to comms staff with whom they have parted company.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1284586/Tory-councils-spin-doctor-Jill-Rawlins-182k-year–40k-PM.html http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7807912/Conservative-councils-press-officer-to-earn-more-than-David-Cameron.html http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/politics/council_spin_doctor_will_earn_up_to_700_a_day_1_403953