April 2014 Report to Mid Samford parishes

From Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

Mid Samford covers the villages of Capel St. Mary, Holton St. Mary, Stratford St. Mary, Little and Great Wenham

In this report:

  • Renewable energy technologies
  • Suffolk’s energy-from-waste site
  • Development of planning policy
  • New Anglia’s Strategic Economic Plan
  • Community Land Trusts
  • 2014 Housing Needs Survey

Renewable energy technologies

Generating energy from renewables is key to the Council’s intention of reducing its carbon emissions.  The first phase of a programme to deliver this is the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on suitable council housing.  Further phases might include other council owned buildings and private and community buildings.  We hope to approve the business case shortly to install an average array of 10 standard, photovoltaic panels on appropriate properties, beginning in June this year. Some 1,250 homes in Babergh are thought to be suitable, and 900 in Mid Suffolk.  Including all borrowing costs and maintenance, a 20-year surplus of £7.5m is predicted for the two councils.  Tenants’ bills could also reduce by up to £150 per property. 57% of council properties house people in receipt of Housing Benefit – a proxy indicator of known financial issues.  Based on currently available figures the scheme could result in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of 1,950 tonnes per year.

 Suffolk’s energy-from-waste site has been judged among the best construction sites in the country – winning a silver award under the national Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Under the scheme registered sites are regularly inspected and are rated in five categories. Those who score highly are shortlisted for national recognition – with bronze, silver and gold awards being presented to the top performing 7.5% of sites in the country.  Since picking up the silver award in March, the Suffolk site has had another unannounced inspection and again scored highly. It was described as ‘exceptional’ for safety – the site has now clocked up over a million working hours without a reportable accident – protecting the environment and respecting the community; ‘excellent’ for appearance; and ‘very good’ for valuing the workforce.

Development of planning policy

Having approved the Local Plan recently Babergh is now looking to review its planning policy framework to understand how it can deliver the required growth in a timely manner. Of relevance to this Ward, will be how the siting and development of some 1,050 homes in rural areas will come forward and be managed.

New Anglia’s Strategic Economic Plan

A full copy of the plan is available here. Government will be offering £2bn a year funding for six years, available through a “competitive pot” – the Local Growth Fund.  The Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) can bid for a share of these funds to target their growth priorities.  The New Anglia LEP, which covers Suffolk and Norfolk, also has to show how it intends to use the £94m allocated to the area from European Structural Funds.  This is now published in New Anglia’s Strategic Economic Plan – “more jobs, more businesses and more prosperity” focusing particularly on those sectors with the greatest potential for economic growth.

We have some world class capabilities, great natural assets and competitive advantage in our location. The five top sectors with key assets but where growth would not occur “naturally” are: energy – including low carbon; advanced manufacturing and engineering; food and agri-tech; life sciences; and ICT and digital creative.  The challenges to be dealt with include an ageing transport network, poor broadband and mobile coverage, slow business growth rates with low productivity and low skills levels.  Jobs and homes are strongly linked, with the A14 seen as the most significant growth corridor.  New Anglia are bidding for £413m to carry out a range of activity to support the drive for growth.  Infrastructure local to us will be major improvements to the A12/A14 interchange at Copdock and improvements to the A12 south of Capel St Mary.

Community Land Trusts

How can communities provide homes which will meet the future needs of their village? Until recently there have been a number of approaches to building new homes including:

  • Wait for a developer to come forward with speculative developments – which often has resulted in larger properties which do not meet the needs either of young families or people who want to downsize, say to a bungalow or flat.
  • Carry out an extensive housing needs survey in order to assess whether rented accommodation is needed. This would then be followed up by an approach to a housing association who would build the required number of units. Schemes are currently underway or are being built in nearby villages like Copdock and Hintlesham using this approach.

An alternative is for the community to acquire land via a Community Land Trust. The community can then decide what will be built. The basic principles are that the trust will:

  • Be a non profit organisation, led and run by local volunteers
  • Lock in community assets in perpetuity
  • Provide housing for local people

More details can be found on the Community Land Trust website www.clteast.org

There is also a national website.

A scheme is currently progressing in Lavenham which aims to provide affordable housing for local people as well as meeting the property needs of older people.

2014 Housing Needs Survey

For the first time local authorities in Suffolk are taking a collaborative approach to a housing needs survey. This will provide information about the factors that influence householder housing choices, and will identify in general terms the need for specialist housing e.g. for disabled residents and those with long term conditions requiring care.

A sample of around 25% of households will be targeted in each area. There will also be an opportunity for anyone to complete the questionnaire online. The printed survey will be sent to over 80,000 households across Suffolk and will include a prepaid envelope.

If you haven’t received a survey and would like to take part then click here.

sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk  kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

March 2014 report to Mid Samford parishes

Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk  kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

In this report:

  • Babergh Budget and Council Tax freeze
  • Housing Revenue account and rents
  • Babergh adopts its 20 year Planning Blueprint
  • Shared Ownership and Affordable Housing Events – Stowmarket and Hadleigh
  •  Supporting Futures – careers guidance for schools
  • Babergh Community Achievement awards

Babergh Budget and Council Tax freeze

The council has voted not to raise the council tax again this year. Over the past two years Babergh has had a big cut in core funding from Government and this is reducing by a further 12.3% in 2014/15. The council will spend £10.051m in the next financial year – a £90,000 increase on the current year.  This assumes income from: a further £325,000 of savings; £2.256m rate support grant; £1.9m business rates; £4.554m council tax and the use of £1.215m from the New Homes Bonus. £187,000 is being made available in grants to parishes for local council tax relief.  There are some additional small grants to Babergh including £49,000 from Government which is the equivalent of a 1% council tax rise.  General reserves at the end of March 2015 are estimated at £1.143m.

Because of additional grants and finance from the New Homes Bonus, overall spending power has only reduced by 1.9%.  Looking ahead to 2015/16, the Government’s indication is that funding for Babergh will reduce by a further 15.4% and over the next four years is likely to drop to zero. This is a very volatile situation for the Council.  Many fear that failure to raise council tax within the 2% limit each year, could prove very costly in the next few years.  The impact of such a rise would be around 5p a week for a Band D property.  Current forecasts are that Babergh will need to save, generate income or produce a return on investments of around £5.4m over the next 4 years to meet the forecast budget gap within the General Fund.  The key to making up this shortfall is economic growth – both through attracting new businesses and building new homes

Housing Revenue account and rents

On 1st April 2012 the council’s Housing Revenue Account became self financing. Previously national government had provided grants for council housing repairs, etc and “creamed off” surpluses in income from housing rents. This made long term planning difficult for local councils. So councils have been forced to effectively buy back their own council housing, and they’ve had to borrow in order to do this. In Babergh’s case this has meant long term borrowing of £89.6m. Any reductions in projected rent income will cause a loss to the council and affect its business plan.  Risks include: Government changes to the rent increase formula, the impact on income levels as a result of the Government’s Welfare Reforms and increased levels of Right to Buy sales. In June 2013 Government changed the formula guidance, which will have a detrimental impact on rental income in the longer term. Welfare changes are also impacting on revenue. We need to safeguard income, and enable us to build more social housing – currently there are 1183 people on the social housing waiting list in the Babergh area. Rents this year have increased by more than we would have wished, but the intention is to stabilise revenue in the future.  There will however be a fund to assist tenants as appropriate.


Babergh adopts its 20 year Planning Blueprint

Babergh has finally been able to adopt its planning “Core Strategy” which lasts until 2031. The recent delay was caused by a change to proposals for Brantham, which required additional work by the Planning Inspectorate.  Work began in earnest on the new Core Strategy early in 2009.  Since then a number of major planning changes have occurred at national level and the draft strategy had to be modified accordingly.  The Mid Samford ward (comprising Capel St. Mary, Stratford St. Mary, Holton St. Mary and Little and Great Wenham) is deemed to relate to two “functional clusters” – Capel St Mary and East Bergholt.  Policy CS6, Strategy for Development in Core and Hinterland Villages, is particularly relevant to this ward, since 40% of new development in Babergh is proposed to be in these more rural areas.  In addition to planning permissions already granted, for example at Chilton near Sudbury, and a “windfall” figure of 750 homes for the second half of the plan period (2021 – 2031) provision will also be made for 2,500 new dwellings to be built across Babergh District. “Windfall” dwellings include infill on existing housing plots, conversion of, for example, former agricultural buildings and housing built on redundant industrial land.

Information about the process so far can be found here. The Core Strategy document should appear on the website shortly.

Shared Ownership and Affordable Housing Events – Stowmarket and Hadleigh

The Strategic Housing officers for Babergh and Mid Suffolk have been holding shared ownership and affordable housing drop in events for the local community in Stowmarket and Hadleigh. The event in Hadleigh takes place on March 20th at Hadleigh Town Hall and is for people who would like to buy a house but can’t afford to get onto the housing ladder. Contact Louise Barker 01449 724787.

Supporting Futures – careers guidance for schools

Babergh and Mid Suffolk recently held a morning’s workshop for teachers, careers advisers, councillors and expert speakers with a view to improving the careers education, information, advice and guidance presently available to children in our schools. Employers are being asked to become much more involved in helping young people so they can develop employability skills and make successful career choices. Key messages from the workshop included: careers guidance should be offered through from the ages of 13 to 18 – as well as engaging with children at primary school to introduce them to new fields and work options; work experience is not working effectively and needs revision; the demise of the Saturday job has robbed many children of opportunities to develop skills and attitudes of great future value; parents  need help to lobby schools for greater provision and to support their children in preparing them for the world of work.  Needless to say – the lack of resource, and the already heavy burden on schools, are a source of concern, as is the rural nature of our county and the lack of transport and access to training opportunities.

Babergh Community Achievement awards

Babergh’s award scheme, which has been running for over 20 years, aims to highlight the work of those individuals and groups who make a real difference by giving up their time for the benefit of their local schools and communities. All winners have been notified and invited to a special awards ceremony to celebrate their achievement, and to receive their awards on Thursday 3 April 2014.  Mid Samford’s winner this time in the category “selfless service by an individual (over 18) to a voluntary body or to the community” is Mr Donald Umfreville of Stratford St Mary. For the past 30 years Don has volunteered for and supported several community groups in Stratford St Mary. He was Church Warden for several years and was a founder member of both the Ramblers Club & Bowls Club.  And even though he is now 80 years old he still helps out at the Carpet Bowls Club, Ramblers Club and is chairman of the Parish Room Committee and newly formed First Responders Group.

February report to Mid Samford parishes

From District Councillors: Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk  kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

Babergh’s 20 year planning blueprint ready for approval

Babergh’s “Core Strategy” document is now ready to be adopted by the council after it was approved by the Planning Inspectorate. Within the document, which covers the period 2011 -2031, there is a commitment that development in rural villages must be proportionate to the current size of each settlement. Sixty percent of the development will be in urban areas, namely Sudbury, Hadleigh and Pinewood, with the rest spread around larger villages in the District.

A working group is to be set up to look at additional planning policy documents which will be needed to supplement the Core strategy. These will include design guidelines for housing development, affordable housing, rural growth, sustainability, gypsy and traveller transit/short stay provision and design guidance and policies on wind turbines and solar farms. Plans will also need to be developed for strategic sites like the former sugar beet factory at Sproughton and industrial land at Brantham.

National planning guidance also requires that adjacent authorities must cooperate with each other on planning issues. For example Babergh council has recently agreed to appoint councillors to an Ipswich policy area board, as development in and around Ipswich affects Babergh, Mid Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal Districts.

The delay in bringing the Core Strategy to Council for adoption was largely caused by the application for development at Brantham. A further inspection was required.  We have now received the Inspector’s report, which confirms that the Core Strategy, as modified, provides an appropriate basis for the District’s planning over the next 20 years.

Recent major planning applications:

(a) HMS Ganges – Further progress can now be made towards granting of planning permission for a mixed-use development  on the HMS Ganges site, in Shotley, after a Government ‘stop’ on the issue of any planning permission has been lifted. Developer Haylink Ltd had its planning application approved by Babergh District Council’s Planning Committee in November last year (subject to the completion of the legal agreement). The scheme seeks to regenerate the area by building 285 homes, a 60-bed nursing home and a hotel, as well as retail and commercial buildings. But, in December last year, Babergh was advised by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)  that no planning permission could be issued until the Department had completed its consideration of the matter and  issued its decision about whether to “call in” the application for determination by the Secretary of State.  We now know that there will be no “call in” and Babergh will be able to determine this matter locally.  The former HMS Ganges site has been the subject of numerous planning applications over the years whilst the condition of buildings on the site has deteriorated. There is now a real opportunity for a mixed-use development to take place here, which could do much to improve the condition of the site and its buildings, and would also help to improve housing supply and the local economy.

However, there are significant caveats and very real local concerns about access and traffic through all the villages along the route to Wherstead. Local opposition is strong. Challenges have also been made, based on the fact that a development on this scale appears to be in direct contradiction to the policy not to develop hinterland villages and provides no affordable housing. The development of this site remains highly controversial and contested.

(b) Prolog, Sudbury – A long running application for a large development in Sudbury of a key employer has now been approved and could provide up to 500 new jobs. There was local opposition to the development and representations from Consultees but Members carefully considered that the public benefits of job creation outweighed  the harm to the setting of Listed Buildings and the environment.

Solar power initiative for council properties

Despite what you may have read in the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT), whilst Babergh is investigating the possibility of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to its council housing stock, we are some way yet from any firm proposals. There are a great many issues to be considered, but we will keep you posted as and when there is any progress.

Council Headquarters

Also in the EADT, and equally misleading, an item based on two separate interviews with council leaders Jennie Jenkins (Babergh and Derrick Haley (Mid Suffolk) regarding the process and long-term options for meeting the councils’ changing accommodation needs. Whilst most of the reporting was fine, a rogue opening paragraph seemed to suggest that Cllr Jenkins was actively calling for a location for any future headquarters to be by the A14. The attempt to summarise the issue was done badly and inaccurately.

Women’s Cycle Tour

On Sunday 11th May, Stage 5 of the Women’s Cycle Tour will be coming through this area. The race will be starting in Harwich and finishing in Bury St Edmunds, passing through Holton St Mary.  The Tour is a five day women’s elite International stage race with Suffolk having been chosen to host the final stage. This event will be attracting the very best riders in the world including: Olympic and World champions, spearheaded by our British Olympic champions – Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Lizzie Armitstead. The event will be televised nationally.

The Women’s Tour brings with it some significant local benefits which could include:

  • A unique free-to-attend event for the host villages and towns on route.
  • A significant impact on the local economy and businesses.
  • Increased Tourist days.
  • Promotion and marketing to Regional and National audiences.
  • A key platform to promote cycling as a ‘green’ sport and mode of transport, complimenting existing physical activity and cycling event programmes.
  • An opportunity to engage communities, schools and businesses in pre-event / on the day programmes.

Further, confirmed details will be available nearer the time but schools, communities and businesses may want to take advantage of this advanced notice to think about possible responses locally.

Babergh’s performance against targets

Babergh’s strategy committee has recently discussed the half year performance figures from April to September 2013. The following targets are being met:

  • Collection of business rates
  • Percentage of major planning applications determined within 13 weeks
  • Percentage of household waste collected, recycled and composted (43%)
  • Increase the number of garden collection (brown bin) customers. Target 20% but this has been exceeded as one on 4 households now have a brown bin.
  • Average time to re-let council houses

The following targets are not being met:

  • Percentage of minor planning applications determined within 8 weeks, but this is improving and there is only a small difference between the target and the actual outcome
  • Average time taken to process new housing and council tax benefit claims. This has been caused mainly by changes to the benefits scheme introduced in April 2013. Applicants don’t always supply the required information which is causing delays. Online applications, on the other hand, are being dealt with immediately, as all the required information is supplied.

Report on Health Scrutiny committee Jan 14th 2014

The Health Scrutiny committee is made up of councillors from Suffolk County Council and each of the 7 District and Borough councils in the County. The papers are available here

At its last meeting there were three major items on the agenda:

  • Radical redesign of Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk

Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust has hit the headlines in recent days as the union Unison has lodged an official complaint about the “radical reorganisation” of services which is currently underway.

The Trust provides a range of mental health services including alcohol treatment, learning disability and eating disorder services. Due to growing demand and financial constraints – it has to make savings of £40m by 2016 – the Trust has had to look in a radical way at how it delivers its services.

In a story in the East Anglian Daily Times in late December Chairman of the Trust Gary Page commented on the changes:

“Gary Page did accept that some of the changes introduced by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust had caused unforeseen problems – and were being partially reversed.”

Health Scrutiny committee members were very concerned about this radical redesign of services when they first looked at the issue last year. The new bodies responsible for commissioning mental health services in Suffolk are also keeping a close watch on the performance of the Mental Health Trust. Here are links to some of the recent stories, including a website dedicated to highlighting the problems, which is run by a group of volunteers.

East Anglian Daily Times


Suffolk and Norfolk  website campaigning against changes

  • Suffolk Community Healthcare

On October 1st 2012 Serco took over as the new provider of community healthcare services in Suffolk. This is a three year contract. The contract is managed by the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning group (CCG) and West Suffolk CCG. These two bodies are the successors to NHS Suffolk, which was abolished in April 2013.

When Health Scrutiny first looked, in 2012, at the changes to be brought in by the new provider of community health services there were a number of concerns about reductions in the number of district nurses and occupational therapists. Serco seem to have taken these concerns on board and performance looks better – at least on paper!

The community equipment service is also experiencing problems with delays in providing equipment. This service is jointly provided by Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Community Health. We hope that the delays are now being addressed.

A representative from the West Suffolk CCG commented that Serco had taken over a poorly performing service. However  in December 2013 Suffolk Community Healthcare had met all its response time targets and views of patients were positive. Staff morale is still low – as it is across the rest of the NHS. Suffolk Community Healthcare employ 924 people and have now partnered with Bromley Healthcare, a social enterprise which is highly rated by staff.

  • Proposals for Liver Resection Services

NHS England (East Anglia) has been working on a project to implement a single specialist surgical centre for patients with liver metastases (secondary cancer of the liver). This centre would cover people living in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and north Bedfordshire.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends that a liver metastases service should cover a population base of at least 2 million people. This is to ensure that sufficient expertise is built up by the team involved. Reorganisation of such services is always controversial as it means that patients (and their relatives) have to travel further for treatment.

Suffolk education’s long hard road to recovery

At last Suffolk is beginning to claw its way back up the education league tables according to an article in today’s East Anglian Daily Times. Well it had to, as the only way was up from a woeful 142nd place out of 151. GCSE results in the County have now climbed 5 places – not much, but movement in the right direction. For years we warned the Tories that the massive schools reorganisation programme would destabilise education in Suffolk. We also advised against the huge cuts which they made in the budget for school improvement.

When the Lib Dems jointly ran the council from 1993 to 2005, Suffolk was widely admired and our results placed the County near the top of the English league table. For twelve years we prioritised support to schools, in the face of national Government cuts to local authority budgets (plus ca change!). When the Tories took control they were hell bent on abolishing Middle Schools, whatever the cost. They must judge in hindsight how much that decision has damaged a generation of pupils in Suffolk. Ironically the County Upper school in Bury St. Edmunds (the only remaining three tier area in Suffolk) is in the top three best performing state secondary schools in the County.

Let’s hope the Tories have now realised the error of their ways and that they will at last give schools the support they deserve.

January report to Mid Samford parishes

Report to parishes January 2013

From District Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk  kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

Increasing income from waste recycling

Babergh and Mid Suffolk have a joint contract for waste disposal. Councillors have been working with officers to look at further ways of making the necessary budget savings in the coming years. One of the suggestions has been to encourage residents to recycle more than they do at present, in order to generate extra income. Just to provide a bit of context for you, Here are a few basic facts and figures:

  • Suffolk County Council are responsible for waste disposal and currently we throw away about 135,000 tonnes of residual waste across the county a year into landfill. This costs about £100 per tonne, and equates to £13.5m per year
  • Suffolk County Council pay the Districts and Boroughs about £55 per tonne for recycling
  • All Suffolk Districts and Boroughs recycle about 55,000 tonnes of dry recyclate and 65,000 tonnes of organic waste.
  • The total waste stream is therefore 135,000 + 55,000 + 65,000 = 245,000 tonnes. 1% of the waste stream would therefore be 2,450 tonnes.
  • If we collectively improved our recycling efforts by 1%, removing 2,450 tonnes from the ‘dirty’ bin into one of the recycling bins it would produce a saving to the whole of the County of £245,000 (split between Suffolk County Council and the waste collection authorities).
  • Mid Suffolk and Babergh’s proportion of the 1% improvement would be about £30,000 – not an insignificant amount.

So you can see from the above that a 1% improvement in our collective recycling efforts across the whole of the County would result in a £245,000 saving. We want to develop a campaign across Suffolk that encourages people to recycle more, thereby allowing that saving to be used for other purposes. Just a 1% improvement seems so small but would make such a difference.  Improving the take up of textile recycling would also provide additional income.

Information about Babergh’s waste collection service

We have mentioned previously that we are trying to provide more information electronically, so that people don’t need to phone the council. Currently the waste service alone receives 8,000 calls per month.

When there are adverse weather conditions collections are sometimes disrupted and people ring to find out when their bins will be collected. The answer is always to leave your bin out and crews will collect them when they can. A new phone system is being put in place which can automatically give out this information, instead of staff having to repeat it over and over. More information on the Babergh website: www.babergh.gov.uk

Applying for benefits online

Many Babergh residents don’t realise that they can apply for council tax benefit and rent relief online.  Ipswich Borough council have been encouraging their residents to apply for benefits online and the take up is substantially higher than Babergh or Mid Suffolk. Apparently when people call in at their customer contact centre at the Corn Exchange they show them how to fill in the forms online.

E-claim forms – percentage submitted electronically in 2013.

July August September October
IBC 59% 59% 59% 55%
BDC 34% 38% 30% 35%
MSDC 42% 43% 36% 32%


IBC = Ipswich Borough Council

BDC = Babergh District Council

MSDC – Mid Suffolk District Council


Early indications re Council Tax

It is likely that Babergh will vote in favour of taking the Government’s equivalent of a 1% council tax increase, or £44,000 in order to maintain a council tax freeze again this year.

This is a more complex decision than it at first appears, because it could be storing up problems for future years.  We have been told that within four years all government rate support grant will disappear.  Over that same period, if we build new homes, there will be “incentivised” grants – i.e. both a New Homes Bonus (NHB) and a retained portion of any increases in business rates.  These will help to compensate for the loss of grant.  However, once the six years of NHB payments expire, councils will have no income other than council tax,  income from growth in business rates,  or money raised through charges.  A council tax rise now of less than 2% would cost band D householders approx 5p a week extra, and help to safeguard current and future services.

Council housing rents

These will increase in line with policy, both to ensure delivery of the revenue account business plan and to enable more social housing to be built.

November report to Mid Samford parishes (Babergh District)

From District Councillors Sue Carpendale: sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk and Kathy Pollard: kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

In this report:

  • Babergh/Mid Suffolk in Parliament
  • Transformation Challenge Grant success
  • The future of Council accommodation
  • October storm
  • Fly-tipping doesn’t pay – two recent successful prosecutions
  • Hadleigh – East House plans

Babergh/Mid Suffolk in Parliament
MPs in the House of Commons recently debated the issue of local government finance. David Ruffley MP, whose constituency includes the western part of Mid Suffolk district, made a number of positive references to the integration achievements of Babergh and Mid Suffolk, whilst the local government minister Brandon Lewis praised the Suffolk-wide family of councils for their achievements in making savings through sharing services and collaborative working.

Transformation Challenge Grant success
DCLG has allocated Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils £167k from its Transformation Challenge Award fund.  To put this into context the £6.9m fund was heavily oversubscribed – 145 bids totalling £66m.  DCLG advised that our work “caught their eye for a number of reasons“ and demonstrated “… commitment to delivering transformational changes to the way that we work “ and that “as an exemplar … offers a strong model for other authorities and public service organisations”.  The money will be used to support our development in several ways, some to support the on-going work of the transformational enquiry groups (TEGs) and also to produce material and learning for other organisations (part of the criteria for the bid was “transferable learning”), whilst the bulk of the cash will support the costs of changing the way the two councils operate, implementing the ideas generated by the TEGs; this could include support for business plans, legal issues with new operating models and the direct involvement of communities.

The future of Council accommodation
Last year, both councils agreed that they would retain their main offices for a period of three to five years.  It has now been agreed that in the face of predicted government support dropping to zero in five years that a full evaluation of options should be considered.  A year ago the councils were concerned about a loss of sovereignty; each having a main office gave a real sense of identity. However, there is wide recognition that sovereignty and accommodation need not be linked.  Many officers are working across both sites which has an adverse impact on efficient and effective working, and on public access.  Our two main buildings cost us £1.1m per annum.
The East Anglian Daily Times ran a story on the review and decided we are off to Ipswich! but at the moment there are no options on the table. The first stage is essentially research, consultation, timeframes and identification of options that the councils could practically achieve. Public access is a key priority, but we are prepared to ask some very radical questions about how we proceed.  Nothing is decided, but somehow we have to find a further £8.4m of savings between the two councils in the next few years.

October storm
Monday 28th saw the worst storm to hit our region since the gales of 1987.  The impact was felt by many for the rest of the week, with thousands of homes without power, many phones not working (the majority of modern phones need to plug into the mains) significant disruption to travel and damage to homes, vehicles and other property.
On the Wednesday and Thursday, drop-in centres were set up by a number of agencies, supported by Babergh’s Housing Services, Emergency Planning, UK Power Networks (UKPN) and voluntary organisations who were providing hot drinks and hot food for people who turned up and were still without power.  This enabled them to discuss their individual concerns with a UKPN rep and to charge their mobile phones.  BBC Radio Suffolk let people know about the facilities at Ofton Community Centre, Long Melford and Great Waldingfield village halls. This event showed how well communities fed in information to the councils and the effective ways in which the different agencies and teams on the ground all worked together.

Fly-tipping doesn’t pay – two recent successful prosecutions
In January this year, a member of the public reported that a a Transit van load of waste including televisions, computer monitors, wooden furniture, plastic tubs, a number plate, fuel receipts and general waste had been dumped on a verge by a field gateway. The waste was cleared by the Council’s Rapid Response service and the culprit traced. A Sudbury man has been ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and to pay costs of £852.80.  In another action last week, an Ipswich man was ordered to pay a total of £520, after he pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that waste in his possession, but given to others for disposal, would be properly dealt with.

Hadleigh – East House
A public exhibition on the revised proposals for the redevelopment of East House, George Street, Hadleigh was held on 8th November at Hadleigh Pool & Leisure Centre.  The revised proposals will also be on Babergh’s website from week commencing 11th November.  The council still intends to use funds from the sale of East House towards the costs of the leisure centre in Hadleigh which was opened in 2012.

October report to Mid Samford parishes

From District Councillors Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard

sue.carpendale@babergh.gov.uk  kathy.pollard@babergh.gov.uk

A14 Tolling

Babergh District councillors recently debated the issue of tolling on the A14 near Huntingdon. The Highways Agency have been consulting on the issue, but there was a tight deadline for responses by October 13th. More details of the proposed scheme are available on the Highways Agency website

Improvements to the route will cost £1.5bn, and the consultation suggests that motorists should contribute towards these costs by introducing tolls.  Recently announced road improvements elsewhere in England do NOT include tolls. Suffolk’s Chamber of Commerce point out that an A14 toll would be a major departure from current practice. Until now there have only been tolls on river crossings or the M6, where there is a clear alternative for all traffic. Details of their “No Toll Tax on Suffolk” campaign are on their website

There will be much needed improvements to the Girton interchange on the Cambridge Northern Bypass. The toll would be imposed on the new section of the A14 near Huntingdon and the proposal is to use automatic number plate recognition. We are unclear about how this will work with foreign vehicles.

The majority of Babergh councillors supported the view that vehicles should not be tolled. The campaign against tolling is being led by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and has the support of all councils in the County as well as many commercial organisations. A fuller account is available on Kathy’s blog (see address above), but here are some extracts:

  • Tolls on the A14 would be discriminatory, adding costs to businesses in the East of England.
  • Many heavy goods haulage firms have a policy of not paying tolls. Tolls on the A14 will lead to traffic diverting onto less suitable alternative routes leading to an increase in congestion and accidents on those routes.

Textile recycling

Don’t forget that you can recycle textiles including shoes and handbags in the special bags provided. These should be tied up and placed inside the blue bin on top of your other recycling. However the bags are not being replaced automatically and to order replacements you have to ring 0845 603 9412, or email:  textiles@suffolk.gov.uk or call in at the library.

Please continue to give good quality items to charity shops and other good causes. The textile recycling service is really for items that would otherwise go in your black bin and be sent to landfill.

More information at www.greensuffolk.org/recycling/textiles-recycling/

Better Broadband initiative

Suffolk currently has some of the poorest broadband coverage in England, with no coverage at all in some parts of the County.  Suffolk councils have agreed to allocate investment to a maximum of £11.68m, which is matched by a further £11.68m from national Government. BT were awarded the contract to carry out the improvements.

  • The average broadband speed currently experienced by Suffolk’s consumers and small businesses is under 5Mbps (Megabits per second).
  • This average masks wide variations in speeds across the County; around a quarter get between 2Mbps and 4Mbps, and nearly one fifth (60,000 premises) get less than 2Mbps, with some parts of Suffolk unable to receive any broadband service at all.

The vision for Suffolk’s Better Broadband Programme is to deliver Superfast Broadband, offering typical speeds of 100Mbps, to everyone (100% of homes and small business) in Suffolk by 2020.  The interim objective is to get faster, more reliable broadband services to everyone in Suffolk by 2015.

However there will still be “black holes” in the coverage in sparsely populated rural areas and an alternative technology “fix” will be needed there.

Once deployment is completed in October 2015, 90% of Suffolk will have fibre broadband (85% of which with access speeds of at least 24Mbps), with the remaining 10% accessing speeds between 2Mbps and 24Mbps via a range of technologies.

To check the rollout of the programme in your area please look at the website: www.betterbroadbandsuffolk.com

Suffolk County Council’s Scrutiny committee looked at this issue at their meeting on Sep 26th and the above information is taken from the report which is available here

Babergh District Council meeting 19th Sep

The following items were discussed at the meeting:

  • A14 tolling (details included in this report)
  • Annual Treasury Management Report 2012/13
  • Scrap Metal Dealers Act
  • Statement of Accounts for the year 2012/13
  • Terms of reference for joint committees of Babergh and Mid Suffolk
  • Allocation of lead member roles to councillors: Kathy is the lead member for Public Access

Further details available on the Babergh website

September report to Mid Samford parishes

Bungalows are back on planning agenda
Councils are being urged to build a new generation of bungalows as part of a planning revolution to create bespoke homes for people aged over 65.  The Times  covered the announcement by Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for local government, which said that new rules will stipulate that local councils should match new development to the type of accommodation needed locally to cater for the ageing population.
Planners will have to ensure that they have enough properties of the right type — including clusters of bungalows that can be let only to older people. Pensioners will be encouraged to downsize, freeing up family homes.
Councils will have to plan for this in order to cater for the increasing numbers of elderly people.
Bin collections
In a response to a Daily Mail report that weekly rubbish collections will need to be scrapped to meet EU regulations, local government Minister Brandon Lewis wrote to the paper, saying:
•    Contrary to your report (Daily Mail, 17 August 2013), it is not the case that weekly rubbish collections will need to be scrapped to meet European Union regulations.
•    In March, the government won a High Court case, confirming that councils can continue to provide ‘comingled collections’. Councils are not required by any diktat to make householders separate rubbish into 5 separate bins.
•    Nor is it the case, as suggested in the report, that the government has dropped its support for weekly rubbish collections. As the Daily Mail highlighted on 21 November, our £250 million Weekly Collections Support Scheme has safeguarded the weekly collections for 6 million households, and we are supporting innovation in weekly schemes, from better recycling technology to rewards for going green.

Annual report of Babergh’s Planning Committee 2012/13 – some key statistics
•    Paper N51 to Strategy Committee, 12th September, highlights some key statistics.
•    1147 applications were received and 1116 were determined, nearly 86% of which were approved, more than 88% being delegated decisions by officers.
•    Fee generation applications and other related income generated £412,327.
•    The New Homes Bonus, which has replaced the former award of Housing and planning Delivery Grant, was £578,616 for 2012/13.
•    Building Control received 926 applications and undertook 6,969 inspections.  There was a total income from this service of £327,960 (down from £379,296 last year.)
•    Three formal complaints were lodged and pursued, with others resolved informally.
•    Babergh has nearly 3000 listed buildings of which 273 are Grade 1 or Grade 2*.  There are also 28 conservation areas.  Further resources are being recruited to deal with the assessment and determination of heritage applications.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk plan for budget cuts
As councils across the country face continuing budget cuts councillors from both councils have been working over the summer months to radically alter the way both councils deliver services. We want to ensure that frontline services are affected as little as possible and this is not an easy task. We will update you as we hear more news.

July report to Mid Samford parishes

REPORT TO PARISHES, Mid-Samford Ward: July 2013
Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors

Localism Act: Strategic tenancy policy – flexible tenancies and succession rights.
The Localism Act 2011 introduced a new statutory duty for Councils to develop a Strategic Tenancy Policy.  We have to explain the different types of tenancies the Council and housing association partners will grant and define the process for renewal where fixed term “flexible tenancies” are being introduced.  A flexible tenancy is a fixed term tenancy rather than a secure tenancy which offers security for the lifetime of the tenant.  There are limits to the entitlement of people to take over a tenancy following the death of the secure tenant.  Government believes changes are necessary because some people are allocated a home at a moment of crisis in their lives, and continue to live there long after their particular need has passed.  There may be significant under-occupation of homes. Meanwhile, there are people waiting for a home who face much more difficult circumstances.  This is perceived as being unfair and an inappropriate use of valuable public resources.  Fixed term tenancies are likely to be for five year periods, but subject to review and renewal subject to certain exclusions which include sheltered housing tenants and people with disabilities or on state pensions.

Localism Act: Community rights
The intention behind this part of the Act is to encourage communities to become more actively involved in developing and delivering local services.This will include Neighbourhood Planning and two “rights”: to bid for “assets of community value”; and the right “to Challenge”.  Neighbourhood planning came into force last year and is designed to give local communities a formal say in how their area is developed. It is intended to support the growth agenda – and cannot be used to block development of new homes and businesses. What it can do, is influence the type, design, location and mix of new development.  The community determines the area they intend to be covered by the plan as well as the aims and objectives.  Following independent inspection, if a public referendum is successful, the plan is formally adopted by the Council. A government grant of up to £30K is available to assist with the costs of inspection and referendum. Support will be available from Babergh’s Communities team.

Since Autumn 2012 community groups have been able to nominate local land or buildings as “assets of community value” (ACV). This can be applied to many (non-residential) buildings, or land, in public or private ownership, if current or past use “furthers the social wellbeing or social interest of the local community”. This could be cultural, recreational or sporting.  If agreed by Council, the asset can then not be sold without the community being given the opportunity to put a purchase bid together. There is currently a request concerning “The Case is Altered” in Bentley.

The Community Right to Challenge aims to give communities the chance to shape and run local public services where they think they can do so better, cheaper or differently, and more responsively to local need. They can be on any scale within the authority’s area.  As with any of these three community rights, there are processes and checks.

Transformation agenda
The final stage of the officer integration plan is nearing completion, with many people in the new Operational Delivery Teams now appointed to the evolving dual Council structure.  There are still uncertainties for some staff and some unfilled posts.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk Councils are proposing to submit two categories of bid to DCLG for funding to support the transformation process.  One of these is a multi-authority bid with other Suffolk Councils – this could be worth up to £2m.  The other is an authority award, ranging from £50K to £500K to add capacity and capability as we progress the transformation agenda.  At the LGA Conference last week, DCLG Minister Brandon Lewis complimented Suffolk on our work to date and promised that we would not be disadvantaged in our bid, just because we are already ahead of the game.  This week also sees the beginnings of the transformation enquiry groups in the two Councils.  Kathy is a Lead Member on the group addressing public access, and Sue is a member of the economy and growth group.
Committee seats and the “ungrouped” member
There was some clarification at the last Council on the rights to committee membership of councillors who cannot or will not “group”.  An amendment to the Local Government Act has in fact recognised this potential situation.  Legal advice from Counsel has confirmed that where seating allocations permit, an ungrouped member can take up an available seat if there is one once all calculations have been made.  Therefore, the prior informal arrangement, whereby the Independent group gave up one of their seats to Mr Clive Arthey, has now been ratified as an entitlement.

Awards and recognition
At the recent prestigious Municipal Journal national awards event, Babergh and Mid Suffolk were presented with the top award in the “shared services” category.  This is a high profile acknowledgement of the leading work done in our two authorities.  The Leaders of the two Councils also made a presentation on our experience of sharing a chief executive to a well attended breakfast seminar at the LGA Conference last week, speaking on the same platform as the DCLG government minister.  The MJ award is more about prestige and profile, but bids are about to be made which could also have significant monetary value.  These are referred to above.

Timing of council meetings
With a view to encouraging younger/working people to consider standing for election, and also bearing in mind that the public may take more interest in proceedings, both the Strategy committee and full Council have now agreed to experiment with meeting times alternating between morning and late afternoon starts.  Other committees appear to have retained their 09.30 time slots.

Health Scrutiny looks at Ambulance Trust performance and the future of Mental Health services
The meeting on the 10th July will discuss two important issues:
East Anglian Ambulance Trust
The poor performance figures for the Ambulance Trust have been much in the news. The Trust has produced an improvement plan which includes management restructuring and the recruitment of 82 specialist paramedics, 149 paramedics, 24 emergency medical technicians and 96 emergency care assistants. They hope that these plans, in addition to reducing staff sickness and reducing spend on private ambulances, will enable the Trust to provide the equivalent of an extra 25 of its own 24/7 double staffed ambulances.
Pressures on the service have included delayed handovers at hospitals, as well as significant increases in the number of 999 calls and additional pressures from the new 111 service. Distances which must be travelled in a very rural county add to the difficulties. As the population ages this also increases pressure on the Health Service in general. Ambulance attendance times did improve between April and May this year and the Trust has set itself some challenging targets.

Mental Health Services
Norfolk and Suffolk Health Scrutiny committees set up a joint working party to look at a radical redesign of the Mental Health Trust. The Trust is planning to make 20% savings between 2012 and 2016. In order to do this it was proposing to substantially reduce the number of consultant psychiatrists it employs as well as the number of inpatient beds.
The Trust is putting its emphasis on prevention, wellbeing, recovery and keeping people out of mental health hospitals.  The joint scrutiny report supports this approach but makes a number of recommendations including improved consultation with service users and organisations such as Healthwatch. It also suggests that the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (formerly the Primary Care Trusts) should make available adequate funding to support the Trust in making a safe transition in order to achieve longer term cost savings.