Suffolk County Council Labour Group Manifesto 2017 Draft

Suffolk County Council Labour Group is dedicated to making Suffolk a fairer, greener, healthier and safer County. 

All people in our County need to benefit from the sustainable economic development of Suffolk. We aim to encourage businesses, to improve our transport & IT infrastructure, protect our environment, support young people into work, and encourage the fairer distribution of wealth and income.

We believe that by delivering high quality public services to those who need them the most, we can create a more equal and a more productive County.

Our approach will be to prevent problems wherever possible.  We will invest in public services which enable as many people as possible to support themselves and contribute to Suffolk society.

We are committed to responsible budgeting, but are convinced that the £190 million that the Conservatives have built up in the County’s reserves is far greater than the amount needed to be safe, and that it makes no sense to continue to add to this enormous sum.

We will use the money that the County already has, to invest in

  • Education for our children and young people,
  • Care services that are preventative and early-intervention to improve health and reduce the need for expensive nursing care,
  • Roads and transport, that are safe and effective
  • Broadband to improve the productivity of our County, and in our
  • Fire Service, in Trading Standards and in Flood Prevention measures to improve our safety and make us better able to deal with emergencies.

We will put forward a budget amendment for 2017/18 in February, which will seek to achieve those aims.  If our budget amendment is not passed, and if we are then elected to form an administration, we pledge to introduce in full the amendments previously proposed in February at the Annual Meeting in May 2017.

We are opposed to the plans for a directly elected Mayor for Norfolk & Suffolk, because we believe local government should be as local as possible.  However, if the government decides that there will be an elected Mayor, we will work as closely as possible with the Mayor to gain the maximum benefit for the people of Suffolk from the additional resources for transport, planning and training.

 

Transport

The economy, the environment, and the well-being of Suffolk all suffer as a result of poor transport. The state of Suffolk’s roads is one of our residents’ most frequently voiced concerns about Council services. We will improve the quality of our roads.  And we will use the County’s resources to support public transport, and improve walking and cycling, to help those without access to cars, and to promote health and protect the environment.

A Labour-led administration at Suffolk County Council will:

  • Use capital to improve planned road maintenance to prevent potholes occurring in the first place
  • Use any available powers to create a more coherent, comprehensive and accountable bus service for Suffolk
  • Increase investment in passenger transport, and carry out a thorough review of bus services which have been cut, with a view to reinstatement where possible
  • Increase the number of, and improve existing bus shelters, raised-level bus stops, timetables and online information
  • Re-institute an effective and comprehensive transport discount card for young people in education or training, and restore 24-hour free bus travel for the disabled and for older people working in the voluntary sector
  • Restore funding for Community Transport and build up a new County-owned fleet of vehicles to support community organisations which cannot afford to purchase their own
  • Invest in an expanded network of high-quality dedicated cycle-paths, especially alongside waterways and on the tracks of old railways, for both commuting and leisure purposes
  • Develop coherent cycling plans for all the towns in Suffolk
  • Encourage cycle tourism and leisure cycling by improving existing rural cycling routes and developing new ones
  • Promote walking as an effective transport mode and as a healthy life-choice
  • Make road junctions in our towns more pedestrian-friendly
  • Introduce a programme of 20mph safety zones in residential urban areas, and make capital available to build physical safety measures where necessary
  • Re-open Bury Rd Park and Ride in Ipswich, and work with Ipswich Borough Council and bus service operators to find a stable financial model for all 3 Ipswich Park & Rides
  • Reduce congestion in St Helens Street and East Ipswich by introducing a bus and cycle lane in Rope Walk, with cycle contraflow, improve bus facilities for students, and re-allocate road space from the St Helens St bus lane and at Major’s Corner
  • Commit to a North-West Ipswich Relief Road to take traffic out of Norwich Rd and Whitton
  • Re-examine and, where feasible, improve the road layout, junctions and one-way systems in Ipswich, working with Ipswich Borough Council, local Councillors and resident’s groups, in order to:
  • Improve the flow
  • Reduce congestion
  • Reduce air pollution
  • Make the town safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists
  • Introduce electronic advance Car-Park signs to let drivers know where spaces are available and thus reduce unnecessary queuing
  • Produce a definitive footpath map for Ipswich
  • Ensure the building of the Lowestoft 3rd Crossing is commenced by the end of 2018, and finished by the end of 2020 as promised, and meet any shortfall in funding from County Reserves, if necessary, up to £30 million.
  • Investigate a possible Park & Ride scheme for Lowestoft
  • Work with bus service operators to improve bus services between North & South Lowestoft
  • Investigate a possible Park & Ride scheme for Bury St Edmunds
  • Commission a new study into restoring the Haverhill – Cambridge railway and push for it to be built as soon as possible.  Prior to the rail line being restored, institute a regular high-speed bus service between the two towns
  • Make a fresh case for a new station at Great Cornard
  • Take a more active role in pushing for the electrification of the Felixstowe to Nuneaton rail line and other major improvements to this route
  • Investigate all viable schemes for taking through-traffic out of Sudbury town centre, including a Western by-pass

 

Economy

Suffolk’s residents need and want fulfilling work which uses their skills and properly rewards their efforts.  An economy which provides those opportunities depends on having a well-educated and well-motivated population.  We need to play to our strengths: our countryside and environment, our ports, our proximity to London and to Europe, our links with IT and Insurance, and our relative abundance of space for businesses to start and to flourish.  And we need to identify and remove hurdles to achieving more, such as congestion, poor connectivity, and skills shortages.

A Labour-led administration will use the influence and resources of Suffolk Council to:

  • Press ahead with the high-speed Broadband programme to empower homes and businesses throughout Suffolk
  • Fight for, and where necessary invest in, good mobile phone 4G coverage across the County and especially in our towns
  • Expand apprenticeship programmes within the County Council and its contractors, paying a decent rate to apprentices, and, if viable, set up an Apprenticeship Training Agency to better enable courses to match real need.
  • Run a programme facilitating apprenticeships in small businesses in Suffolk, by providing legal and administrative support
  • We will ensure that at least 2.3% of County Council staff are apprentices
  • Ensure that quality apprenticeship programmes are established with all companies awarded contracts by Suffolk County Council
  • Ensure that all apprenticeships in Suffolk are providing education and training for their apprentices to the required standard, and where applicable institute County-wide standards
  • Invest in a new managed workspace programme, to ensure that there is an adequate supply of appropriate accommodation for start-up companies.
  • Institute a County Enterprise Loan scheme to provide or guarantee loans to small businesses which are unable to access private finance
  • Institute a young entrepreneurs scheme to provide start-up capital for new businesses
  • Use the power of the County – including financial power – to provide the infrastructure to enable sustainable house-building to meet identified local need, including social rented housing
  • Promote the agricultural and rural economy and work with businesses to encourage decent terms and conditions for agency labour in Suffolk
  • Establish an innovation support programme to improve the profitability of farm and forestry businesses in Suffolk
  • Encourage more environmentally friendly tourism, aimed at holiday stays rather than day-trippers
  • Promote the Living Wage and genuine career progression in the Tourism industry

 

Environment

Suffolk’s environment directly affects both the quality of life for its residents, and its appeal for tourists. Labour is committed to making our county cleaner, greener and more energy efficient.

A Labour-led administration will:

  • Restore free organic waste bin collections throughout the county
  • Re-emphasise waste reduction and recycling to reduce the cost of residual waste
  • Introduce food-waste collections on a trial basis, and invest in anaerobic digestion
  • Expand the hours of opening at our busiest Household Waste Recycling Centres
  • Re-open a Household Waste Recycling Centre in Beccles
  • Promote and encourage the introduction of renewable energy schemes, including on the Council’s own buildings and land
  • Produce an effective air-quality plan to reduce the levels of pollution in our urban “hot-spots”
  • Support a programme for protecting and enhancing our indigenous species, and stimulate a tourist market to enable our wild spaces to be financially supported

 

Education and Young People

Suffolk Labour will not tolerate a situation where half of our schools are flourishing, while the other half struggle. All children in Suffolk should be able to attend local schools which are of the highest possible standard.

A Labour-led administration will pledge to move Suffolk from being one of the worst performing local authorities in England to one of the best. We will:

  • Build a coherent and effective Children’s Centre service offering a full range of services including health, counselling, basic educational advice and support for parents, benefits advice and signposting for other public services, and play and exercise opportunities for babies and small children, and open new centres where there is the greatest unmet need
  • Explore continuing services in Children’s Centres for children as they progress into primary school
  • Ensure an effective diagnosis and early-intervention regime for Autism, ADHD, language difficulties and other childhood conditions, to prevent these becoming insurmountable problems for children as they access mainstream education
  • Work with schools, GPs and social workers to identify young people with mental health problems and find whole-life solutions which deal with the causes and not just the symptoms
  • Provide targeted educational advice for parents and carers with children with additional needs
  • Provide a wider range of support for more challenging children or children with more complex needs, in order to reduce the need for out-of-County placements
  • Ensure a full range of provision – both in mainstream schools and in special schools – to meet the educational needs of children with varying degrees and types of special need
  • Introduce significant additional support for underachieving school and academy pyramids, including financial and administrative support, and help with recruitment, governance and school improvement partners
  • Run teacher recruitment campaigns, and especially head-teacher recruitment campaigns, to bring additional expertise to Suffolk schools
  • Establish a countywide ‘Challenge Partnership’ that encourages best practice and the exchange of new ideas between schools whether they are academies, free-school or state run.
  • Ensure that the ‘Challenge Fund’ initiative is taken up by struggling schools, actively encouraging and supporting ` RED` RAG rated schools to organise projects and tap in to the funding that is available
  • Use other departments of the County Council, and work with other public sector bodies, to provide enhanced PSHE and out-of-school education, to enable our children and young people to grow socially and emotionally as well as gaining educational qualifications
  • Build on what we have learnt from the Mix and other young people’s service centres to institute a county-wide network of young people’s service centres, offering the services which will be most beneficial to them and which they will value in a way that they prefer to access them, including careers advice services where appropriate.
  • Put in place a fairer system for over-16 transport so that no young person is prevented from accessing school, college or training

 

Social Care

Suffolk has a thriving older population, which will reach around 250,000 people by 2021. We are committed to making sure the enormous contribution that they make in our communities is recognised and supported.

We will work with older people to encourage independence, foster dignity, and provide good public services when they are needed.

A Labour-led administration will:

  • Cease all placements in Residential Homes rated Inadequate
  • Work with the Care Home providers to identify the necessary cost of providing quality and safe care, and ensure all care homes in Suffolk are Good or Outstanding within 4 years
  • Establish an in-house training programme for all care sector workers in Suffolk
  • Set minimum standards for training, pay, and terms of service for domiciliary care workers, and renegotiate contracts with domiciliary providers accordingly
  • Investigate the purchase of, or new build of, a limited County-owned care home estate, in order to provide resilience in the case of emergency closures, a benchmark for service in our contracted care, and the training necessary to enable County staff to understand and manage the sector
  • Improve the level of interventions and support for family carers, including increasing available respite care, in order to reduce the demand for County provision and enable people to remain with their closest relatives for longer
  • Work with the Director of Public Health and other public bodies to identify housing, transport and other needs which could be met in order to reduce the dependency of elderly or disabled people and increase their years of healthy life
  • Study good practice in mental health services in other Counties, and ensure County frontline staff have sufficient training to intervene appropriately in order to secure the help their clients need
  • Ensure that children and adults receive timely and effective assessments when referred
  • Restore a dedicated benefits advice service to improve the level of benefits advice given by Social Workers and others to all those who receive our services
  • Introduce a more effective alarm system, such as the HEARS system in Ipswich, to enable vulnerable residents to stay safe in their own homes, by fitting sensors and alarms which will link with a responder service

 

Community Services

Arts and voluntary groups provide important services to many of the county’s most vulnerable people, and create a more vibrant and inclusive community for us all.

We believe it is important that the council does what it can do to promote art and cultural events, and retain and improve the very popular library service.

Voluntary sector organisations tap into the valuable contributions of time and effort from our County’s volunteers, and enable their members and their clients to improve their lives.

A Labour-led administration will:

  • Pledge to retain every Library, unless it is replaced with a new and better Library
  • Investigate building new Libraries in North West Ipswich (eg Ulster Avenue), Moreton Hall (Bury St Eds), North Stowmarket/Stowupland
  • Restore the Library book-fund to enable the regular purchase of new books
  • Maximise the effectiveness of the Mobile Library service
  • Restore cuts in voluntary sector funding and increase investment in Suffolk’s charities and voluntary sector organisations
  • Work with Community Action Suffolk to identify a coherent fabric of voluntary sector organisations which can be most effective in supporting people across our County in ways which they would not be able to support themselves
  • Set up a county-wide joint voluntary sector advisory body with Boroughs and Districts to ensure public financial support for the voluntary sector is comprehensive, coherent and proportionate
  • Institute a welfare rights campaign, working with voluntary sector partners
  • Identify arts and heritage assets which need our support in order to survive and /or flourish, and maximise the tourism potential of these assets

 

Public Protection

The County Council has a duty to protect Suffolk citizens. We will always keep our Fire & Rescue Service, flood protection and prevention, and Trading Standards as top priorities, because the cost to residents of not doing so would be far greater than any supposed financial saving from making cuts.

If we are elected to lead the County administration, Suffolk Labour pledges to reverse all the recent cuts in public protection services.

We will:

  • Restore the Fire Engines and Crews cut in this year’s IRMP
  • Re-Introduce whole-time day crews in Sudbury and Felixstowe
  • Support joint working and colocation of Fire Service, Police and Ambulance wherever there are clear material advantages
  • Prepare a county-wide programme of capital investment in flood-prevention
  • Expand the capacity of Trading Standards and investigate possible new funding streams
  • Improve liaison between Trading Standards and the Police, and provide the additional staff necessary to make that happen
  • Lobby for more realistic fines, especially for Health & Safety violations, and seek to recover assets where applicable
  • Improve the County’s engagement with Community Safety, and institute joint support with the Police & Crime Commissioner for voluntary sector organisations working in the areas of community coherence, equality, domestic abuse, and drug and alcohol abuse

 

General

  • We will work towards becoming a Living Wage Employer, paying all our staff a living wage and ensuring all contractors pay a living wage to their staff
  • We will use our contracting power to phase out zero hours contracts in Suffolk
  • We will restrain the cost of allowances and ensure that the overall cost of ‘reimbursing’ Councillors does not rise in real terms
  • We will ensure openness and honesty by making all our decisions in public whenever possible, and work with the media to inform Suffolk residents of all that we do.
  • We will take consulting seriously, giving residents a genuine opportunity to help us change our decisions before they are set in stone
  • We will aim to make our Council genuinely democratic, so that all of your local Councillors will get the chance to refuse bad decisions and will no longer be vetoed by the Cabinet

 

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