I gave details of the changes in leadership at County level in my annual report at our previous meeting. The impact on the cabinet portfolio holders is yet to be announced and that of course is necessary to judge future developments.
The dust is yet to settle on last week’s District Council elections and the impact of the results on County attitudes is not yet clear. However I would expect the electorate’s endorsement of Conservative policies may well attenuate the pressure for change that was evident in the lead up to the election. Labour, although up from its dismal showing of recent years is hardly a force to be reckoned with and the Lib Dem challenge has been damaged.
It is too early to judge whether the apparent changes in policy were just a smoke screen for the election, a real change in direction or just more clarity and better definition of the way forward.
There appeared to be considerable disquiet about the plans to axe school crossing patrols, shift library, parks, picnic sites and water meadow management to community groups, close household waste recycling centres and close or sell off care homes. Clearly all these were causing concern but not with those that voted at this election. The need to change has evaporated.
I have been concerned at the lack of clear business information, cost of operation and available funding and the confusion about timescales associated with the County’s “New Strategic Direction”. Just what the details of NSD mark 2 are we must wait to see but the announcement that library management will be via a Community Interest Company (CIC) with strong County involvement may indicate that the period of uncertainty is drawing to a close.
Home to School Transport
Proposals to remove the financial support for school transport which Suffolk County Council provides to young people attending Suffolk’s Roman Catholic schools, or studying for post 16 qualifications, have been revised following the announcement of extra funding for the next two years from government.
Now, instead of removing the subsidy entirely, which the council provides for transport for Roman Catholic students and increasing the cost for post 16 students to £200 per term, there will be a £20 increase in the price of bus passes to £150 per term.
There will be no changes in the eligibility criteria for passes for 2011/12 so no student already studying, or starting in September 2011 on a school, sixth form or college course should need give up their studies or move to another school due to the cost of transport.
The Local Enterprise Partnership, together with the County, has put in a bid to Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) for part funding for a plan to roll out real broadband to all Suffolk. They state “Our plan assumes an open access, wholesale platform across the whole county providing both fibre-based and interim solutions, to enable competitive retail service provision to everyone in Suffolk, and to enable the wholesale platform provider to manage the technology risk between the evolving fibre-based and interim solutions.”
This appears a realistic, technically and managerially, competent bid that should succeed.
Household Waste Recycling Centre – Bramford site Closure
I have yet to see any evidence of the local commercial scheme to replace the Bramford household waste recycling centre emerge.
At a recent MSDC scrutiny meeting Lisa Chambers explained her position expressing surprise that Mid-Suffolk was slow at formulating proposals for community based schemes. She emphasised that she did not want to see schemes set up that were, due to the cost of waste disposal, guaranteed to fail.
There will be an all-day scrutiny meeting on the 17th of May. Mark Bee will chair the morning session and I will chair the afternoon. We will be looking at the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership for Norfolk and Suffolk and the Stroke Rehabilitation services in Suffolk
The decision to no longer have a separate health scrutiny committee is being re-considered and a separate standing sub-committee is likely to be formed.
Station Road Footway
The response from County Highways to my request for action to maintain the footway on Station Road around the Quoits Field junction was :-
“There is one bad area adjacent to a manhole cover at the entrance to Quoits Field which requires immediate attention and this will be repaired. Apart from that, the footway is not in a dangerous condition but it does need to be included in our longer term programme for reconstruction.
There are some serious potholes in the car park of The Greyhound where it adjoins the private access road to Quoits Field and public highway. I wonder if this was the main concern.”
Could the parish, perhaps those that frequent the establishment, approach The Greyhound about the latter issue?