Labour’s call to introduce a ‘Permit Scheme’ to make roadworks more efficient and reduce congestion voted down at Full Council

Conservative Councillors vote down Labour’s ‘Permit Scheme’ Motion for faster and more cost effective roadworks at today’s session of Full Council.

The County Council Labour Group brought forward a motion on Thursday 16th March calling for the implementation of a new ‘Permit Scheme’ for highways maintenance – a programme that is already used by 85 Local Authorities across England and proven to increase the efficiency of roadworks, while reducing costs for the Council. More importantly, the use of ‘Permit Schemes’ is shown to reduce congestion caused by road works, improve journey time and reliability for all road users, and augment the information available to the public, including advanced warning and duration of works.

Under a Permit Scheme, anyone intending to carry out works on the road has to make an application to the relevant Local Authority for a permit. In addition, the Authority’s power to grant or refuse a permit, as well as applying conditions to the timings and/or work activity, is significantly increased. Through such capabilities, any Authority operating a permit scheme will be able to coordinate and control works on the road, with the aim to improve both the planning and preparation of works.

Labour Spokesperson for Transport, Sandra Gage, said “As a County Councillor, one of the most consistent concerns that residents have raised has been around roadworks. Whether they drive, bus, cycle or walk, all have come across the poorly organised, sometimes unoccupied, badly signed and often over-run roadworks. In towns and villages across Suffolk, journey times to work, college, school, doctor and hospital appointments are made unpredictable. This is deeply inconvenient for the public and costly for our local economy.”

Cllr Gage continued, “Permit schemes already in place elsewhere in this region – in Norfolk, Essex, Bedford, Hertfordshire, Luton and Southend – have been designed to ensure these councils can successfully undertake their ‘duty to manage’ and therefore minimise the disruption the public experiences. Currently in Suffolk, we have a longer duration of closure within which there will be some days of actual working on site. Sometimes, a stretch of road will be cordoned off for a whole week for maintenance that only takes half a day’s work to complete. By issuing permits only for the planned actual duration of works, these Councils across the East of England have been able to drive up efficiency and reduce inconvenience to the public. A Permit Scheme in Suffolk will also cost the Council nothing to run and stands to save the Council around £4.5million in highways maintenance costs after 3 years.”

Cllr Gage concluded “I am deeply disappointed that the Conservatives have decided to let political pettiness get in the way of their duty to Suffolk residents. Reduced congestion and fewer delays caused by roadworks is what I believe Suffolk residents are asking for. It seems that it’s just this Council’s Conservative Administration that is stopping Suffolk becoming the 86th Council to adopt a roadworks Permit scheme, and rid this County of poorly managed roadworks. If the Labour Group take control of the Council on May 4th, we will listen to residents and implement a highways permit scheme.”

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Labour Councillors provide over £5,700 to Cruse Bereavement

Cruse Bereavement Care has been providing support to bereaved people in Suffolk since the 1980s. Suffolk Cruse was formed in April 2009 to bring together the four branches: Suffolk Coastal, Ipswich, North Suffolk & Great Yarmouth and West Suffolk. The four branches still operate at a local level and the overall strategic direction of the charity is administered by an Area Committee.

Continue reading Labour Councillors provide over £5,700 to Cruse Bereavement

The Council Budget: Cllr Len Jacklin’s Letter to the Lowestoft Journal

A few weeks ago at the SCC annual budget debate, the Labour Group on Suffolk County Council put forward an amendment to the budget proposed by the Conservative administration.

The amendment recognised the damaging cuts to the Rate Support grant from the Conservative Government, which made setting a balanced budget extremely difficult and the need for responsible levels of reserves.

The Labour amendment proposed using £15.5m of the Council’s reserves to try and retain some of the services cut by the Tories who claim the cuts are not effecting front line services.

The Tories proposed to cut the budget for Adult Social Care by £6m, this at the time when nationally it was recognised that the service is in crisis. We feel that £5.5m should be used from reserves to try and help our services cope.

They then proposed in the same document to increase your Council Tax by the 3% allowed by government, while admitting that this increase would not even cover the cost of paying the living wage to care workers.

Labour proposed using £3.38m from the reserves to help the shortfall in Children’s and Young’ Peoples services to try and litigate some of the harmful effects that their cuts are having. We tried to persuade the administration to use £2.05m to pay for cuts to the Fire Service and to protect the Citizens Advice Bureau, as well as our hugely successful Trading Standards.

During the debate, Labour asked how the £20m financial shortfall to build our Third Crossing in Lowestoft would be met. The total cost comes to £100m, which represents the estimated £91m cost, plus a contingency of 10%: £70 promised but not yet paid by central government, £10 from the Capital Reserves from SCC – so we still need to find £20m.

The indignant replies were that the administration, the government and our MP had promised that the bridge would be built.

The question of where the money was to come from was not answered.

Needless to say, the Conservatives, along with UKIP Councillors, succeeded in defeating our amendment. This unholy alliance are all of the mind-set that money held by the Council on your behalf should be hoarded away year after year.

In my four years as Councillor for Oulton, we have seen the Councils reserves rise by £30. Each year the Tories supported by UKIP have told us that because of government cuts, the budget would be overspent and the reserves would be used.

But not a penny has been spent.

Last year alone, the Tories put £9m of your money back in to the bottomless pit of the reserves, bringing the total held by them to £191.2m.

Labour don’t believe them when they say they will be overspent this year – and if they are it will not be anything like the figures they predict.

They called us “madmen”, “dangerous”, “lunatics”. But they never questioned our figures.

They talked about their budget as “safe” and “prudent”, “wise” and “responsible”. But they never mentioned the dangers to our elderly who are suffering, or our most vulnerable children that are being failed, or our safety from fires that has been jeopardised… all of which are due to cuts that they have made.

In May, you can choose the uncaring miserly doctrine led Tories, propped by UKIP Councillors, or a caring and careful Labour-led administration.

It’s your money sitting in a vault, whilst many are struggling. It simply isn’t fair.

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Mandy Gaylard’s Speech on Libraries during Budget debate

I am speaking in support of the amendment.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) is the legal Library Authority required to “provide a comprehensive and efficient library service”. Suffolk’s Labour Councillors consider that the County Council acted unreasonably in pushing through its unnecessary divestment policies in 2011. In response to a ‘Consultation’ about the library service in 2011, 83% of respondents said that the libraries in Suffolk should be funded, managed and wholly run by the County Council as required by law. SCC, who still claim to listen to the people of Suffolk, ignored these respondents.

In December 2011 the library service was divested to Suffolk Libraries IPS (Industrial and Provident Society).

We still believe SCC should provide the Libraries as a public service, but we recognise the hard work that the IPS has done to provide a continuing library service under difficult circumstances.

However, we fear for the long term future. Each year we have opposed the cuts to the library service funding only to be ignored by the Conservatives. But they cannot afford to ignore the Suffolk Libraries IPS which is providing the service. The Suffolk Libraries board have designed a scheme which will save the County money and continue with the excellent services which our Libraries provide. But the County Council has not listened – the £200,000 cut in funding for Suffolk Libraries proposed by the Conservatives for next year is completely unsustainable without seriously damaging the service that is being offered.

I am struck by the utter hypocrisy of the Conservative administration. Over the past 4 years I have heard Conservative Councillors boast about what a good decision they made, and praise Suffolk Libraries IPS for their excellent service. And yet now they totally ignore the advice that is given to them by the people who have the best interests of the Library Service and the people of Suffolk as their guiding principle. The Conservatives have shown complete disregard for the Suffolk Libraries board, the hardworking library staff, the volunteers, and the people of Suffolk.

The Library service is valued and held in high regard, both by Suffolk people and nationally. “In terms of relative cost – for every £1 spent by the Council, less than 1 penny is spent on the library service.”

35,000 Suffolk residents campaigned in 2011 to save the Libraries Service.

Now the Conservatives will not listen to the Suffolk Libraries IPS Board, nor to the 44 library community groups, 1400 volunteers, 170 thousand people who attend events and a further 140 thousand regular users of the library service. The people of Suffolk will be able to decide in May through the ballot box whether they are fed up with being told by the Conservatives that they listen to them when obviously they do not.

Rosehill Library

Labour Back’s Library Campaigners to Support Suffolk Libraries

Labour’s pledge to support campaigners and reverse unnecessary cuts to Suffolk Libraries in bid to keep all Libraries in the County open.

Despite warnings from Suffolk Libraries – who offered the ruling Conservative Group a compromise that would see funds reduced gradually over time, while new funding sources were found and secured, ensuring that all Libraries remain open – the administration at Suffolk County Council last week voted through an extra £200,000 of cuts to the Library service. The Labour Group’s amendment, which was voted down by Conservative and UKIP Councillors in a debate at Full Council on the 9th February, proposed to reverse these cuts and continue negotiation with Suffolk Libraries over their long-term financial sustainability.

In an official statement after the vote, the Chair of Suffolk Libraries, Tony Brown, said “Negotiations and discussions between Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Libraries have been continuing over the past year. Though less than originally proposed, we have reluctantly agreed to accept the £200,000 reduction for 2017/18. In our discussions with the council we have made it clear that we have reached a point at which we cannot make further efficiency savings so a reduction of this level is going to be challenging.”

A spokesperson from Rosehill Campaign Group said, “We are shocked at the Council vote. The County Council is squirrelling away money into its reserves instead of spending it on public services. Yes, we need some financial reserves but not to this level; it cannot be justified. This decision means that essential public services will continue to suffer. This includes our much-loved library service.”

“A few years ago thousands of people signed petitions in Suffolk to keep our libraries open. We are deeply concerned that continued cuts will undermine the viability of our library service. People rely on libraries for a wide range of services. We need to keep our libraries open, keep them healthy and build on their success. The cut-backs suggest that the County Council is completely out of touch with its residents. We have the County Council elections coming up in May – so watch out Suffolk County Council as it will then be our turn to vote…”

Library campaigner, Jennifer Greatrex, said “Just how are the libraries’ board objectives to “protect and improve the service” going to be achieved when £200,000 is cut from their budget? I feel very sorry for all the staff and the volunteers in friends’ groups across the county who have worked so hard to try to ensure that the service evolves to meet the needs of local communities. In times of economic hardship, the libraries are even more important. The ruling group on SCC seems to be obsessed with cuts for cuts sake.”

Labour Spokesperson for Communities, Mandy Gaylard, who was also an active Libraries campaigner in 2011, said “When I became a Councillor in 2013, I promised myself that I would continue the fight to keep Libraries open. Every year, the Conservatives have cut the Library service and refused responsibility for any of the consequences. Every year, Suffolk Libraries have struggled as a result. This cut goes too far and only underlines how little they actually care about the County’s Libraries or listen to the people they claim to represent.”

Cllr Gaylard continued, “What strikes me most is the callous hypocrisy of the administration’s position: they claim to listen, to negotiate with Suffolk Libraries. Yet, when the Library service says that they cannot cope with this cut and go to extraordinary lengths to offer them a viable alternative, they ignore them.”

Cllr Gaylard concluded, “It is heartening to know that important campaigners and activists, who have fought so hard to make our Libraries the excellent resource that they are, support the Labour position. As we head to elections in May, we pledge to immediately reverse these cuts and continue negotiation with Suffolk Libraries if we form an administration after May.”

Notes for Editor

Full Statement from Suffolk Libraries available here: https://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/news/suffolk-libraries-statement-following-suffolk-county-councils-budget-decision/

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Labour Councillors provide over £3,000 to women’s leadership project in Ipswich

WoW! is a free community development and leadership programme designed to support women who may be interested in running events or community projects in the Whitehouse area.

Set up by Kim Trotter, from the community interest company, Future Female Society, WoW! will help local women to lead their projects, developing their confidence, leadership skills and their ability to network with professionals in the community who can provide inspiration and support for their ideas.

Kim Trotter, Managing Director of the Future Female Society and founder of WoW! said, “This project is designed to empower the Women of Whitehouse and enable them to become active members of their community and support them to develop their own projects. The programme will work with a cohort of women to develop their confidence and self-belief alongside communication, project planning, event management, and interview and presentation skills.

Miss Trotter continued, “WoW! is running for 6 months, starting this week, and will aim to recruit 10 women. The skills they learn, and further developed through the growth of their own projects, are all transferrable into the work place, with the women being actively supported to become work ready.”

Labour County Councillor for Whitehouse, Kathy Bole, said “In Whitehouse, we can often feel left out, with most facilities and community projects so focused on the centre of town. WoW! is precisely the sort of project that will make a big difference to the Whitehouse community. Not only will local women gain valuable skills that are easily transferable to the workplace, but their ideas and projects will be of continuing value to the area for many years to come.”

Cllr Bole continued, “The opportunity to support a project that can really benefit people in my division is one of the reasons I put my name forward to represent the area as a Councillor 4 years ago. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this project’s labour in coming months.”

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Labour Councillors provide over £2,500 for Ipswich night shelter

Since 2010, the Selig Trust has been running the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter (IWNS), which provides an overnight shelter during the three coldest months of the year, hosted each night by one of seven town centre churches.

Throughout the coldest months of the year, the shelter provides 12 guests with a hot nourishing evening meal, a warm and safe place with friendly company, a clean and comfortable bed and a good breakfast in the morning. The shelter runs 7 days a week, including Christmas and New Year.

For the first time, Selig are employing a full time, year-round Support Worker to help their guests rebuild their lives. The Support Worker will work to identify suitable Night Shelter guests, provide signposting and follow-up for each individual case, and liaise with other key agencies that also work with the homeless.

As part of the continuing process of maintaining and improving the Night Shelter, Labour County Councillors have provided the charity with £2,500 of their Locality Budget funds to buy bedding, laptops, desks, chairs and first aid equipment.

Julia Hancock, the Night Shelter’s Manager said, “The IWNS was formed 6 years ago by a group of people who wanted to meet the needs of those people who are homeless. This group included a social worker, a vicar and a school registrar. Since then, our organisation has grown. We now have 7 trustees and over 300 active volunteers from across the whole of Suffolk.”

Miss Hancock continued, “We work to ensure that people who are homeless have somewhere warm and safe to stay throughout the winter months. And we work to help them to get off the street and rebuild their lives.”

Mandy Gaylard, Labour Spokesperson for Communities said, “The number of people sleeping rough in Ipswich has hit its highest level for at least five years and the funding for important charities that provide relief for this problem – be it from Government or the County Council – is only getting lower. The dedicated volunteers at the Night Shelter provide a vital service, supplying shelter and comfort during the harshest months of the year. More than that, by helping their guests to get off the streets, they work to lower the numbers sleeping rough in Ipswich.”

Cllr Gaylard concluded, “Councillor Adams, Armitage, Clements, Gage, Gardiner, Martin, Quinton and myself are delighted to have been able to support this charity and hope that it continues to deliver the services and support that are so important to many people across Ipswich and the County.”

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(Photo caption Councillors Mandy Gaylard, Helen Armitage and Sandy Martin with volunteers at night shelter)

How Can We Help Our NHS?

There are a few political decisions which virtually every person in our country now supports – Council Houses, the Minimum Wage, Pensions, and above all the National Health Service.

In 1948, Nye Bevan said “Despite our financial and economic anxieties we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world – put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration.”

There were people then who said the NHS would bankrupt the nation and would not produce better health.  Well, the NHS is not cheap, but it costs us a lot less than the insurance based system in the USA and (for the average person) it keeps us healthier than the Americans too.

Some bad decisions have been taken recently – in particular, reducing the training places and bursaries for young people to become doctors and nurses.  And although the Government claims to have increased funding for the Health Service, in many cases that money has actually been taken from another part of the health and care system, or absorbed in the top-down reorganisations the government has imposed.

We now need to do two things to help our health service and make ourselves healthier at the same time.

First, we must reduce the number of people going into A&E.  The County Council can help here, promoting health education especially through Children’s Centres, ensuring Care Homes take measures to avoid injuries, and supporting charities dealing with mental health, drink and drug addiction.

And then we need to make sure that as soon as people are ready to leave hospital, they have somewhere safe and healthy to go.

It is absurd that someone who no longer requires hospital treatment should be stuck in a hospital bed, at risk of picking up infections from the other patients and gradually losing the ability and motivation to do things for themselves.  And of course it doesn’t help anyone else either, costing the NHS thousands, using valuable nursing resources, preventing serious medical conditions from being treated because there aren’t enough beds.

We need more home carers, more residential care homes, more care home staff.  We need more support and help for families who want to care for their relatives at home, but need respite care time, and day-care centres, and adaptations at home.

There has been a lot of unhelpful argument about exactly what is being paid to whom.  The fact is, we all know that people are being stuck in hospital beds, we can see it with our own eyes, and no amount of clever statistics are going to cover that up.

And we know that Care Homes are closing because they can’t afford the trained staff, and we know that Age UK Suffolk and others are closing Day Care Centres because the County Council has slashed their grants.

After 1948 this country picked itself up, went back to work, paid off its debts, and became the sixth biggest economy in the world, partly because we were also one of the healthiest nations in the world.

People need the security of knowing that, if they do become sick, they will get the treatment they need.  They also need to know that, if they need care in their old age, that will be available too, and it will be safe and supportive.

I don’t believe that we have to make a choice between enabling people to get the most out of life and saving money.

If the people of Suffolk are secure and healthy and can get the education they need and can travel to work or college on good roads or decent public transport, then our County will thrive and the County Council will get the money it needs.

If the Council cuts away the support people need to pursue their lives, then I don’t think the residents will forgive them.

Labour Leader, Sandy Martin

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