I am sure that you will know that there was a leadership spat in the Conservative group that controls the county council this month. This resulted in some changes in the cabinet members who control decisions, particularly in finance, environment & waste and children’s services.
I hope that the split in responsibilities separating education and other services for children will make the jobs more manageable and lead to the improvement we need. Meetings were delayed until new members are formally appointed and therefore I have only a few countywide items to report.
I have not reported for some time on my Locality budget. I have helped Thurleston Care Home with a reminiscence pod and iPad for work with people with dementia. Henley Community centre have funds for safe access to upstairs storage, Claydon Village Hall for an internet hub and Bramford Playing Field Committee for repairs to a gate. At Henley Primary I supported midi keyboards for music activities, Claydon High for an “Eat what you grow club” and finally Barham Parish for a Notice Board. In most cases, my funding encouraged donations from others.
The new Suffolk Empowering Communities Fund will enable the voluntary and community sector in the county to develop social action projects. It will provide further capital funding, working in parallel with our Locality Budgets helping us improve the quality of life and wellbeing of our local communities.
It will top up locality funding by up to £4 for every £1 of locality grant awarded. The minimum will be £4,000 and maximum available is £8,000 but at least 50% of the total required should come from sources outside of SCC.
Possible uses are:
- Library diversification
- Community Heritage projects
- Community owned/run pubs
- Community and neighbourhood planning
- Community shops
- Environmental improvements to an area
- Community based social enterprise development
- Village hall improvements
- Community play and sport projects
The MSDC and Babergh Councillor group I am involved in have moved on from planning policy to working with officers on the structure of a possible new levy, the Community Infrastructure levy (CIL) to replace, at least in part, existing charges on development.
Currently developers pay a levy to fund for open spaces, village halls and sports centres and have to sign a legal (section 106) agreement to fund the schools, roads and affordable housing that the development requires. It is not easy to add together the payments for a large number of smaller developments to fund things like major road improvements. Therefore, the government is changing the rules to reduce the emphasis on section 106 and introduce a Community Infrastructure levy (CIL).
A list of types of infrastructure to be funded by the CIL: education, strategic transport, health, sports facilities, pedestrian and cycle facilities for instance will be agreed. A levy of perhaps £115 per square metre of new development will be determined, different for each major type of building and from area to area.
Those involved in development will be consulted, decisions will be made, and if we proceed, the new system will be in place by next year. Communities will benefit, as they will receive 15% of the CIL for local use, capped at £100 per existing dwelling or 25% without a cap if they have a neighbourhood plan.
A number of highway actions are in progress although particularly since the outsourcing of the contract, progress has been glacial. At Henley Square, we are proposing road markings and a “Village Gateway treatment” to reduce speed and risk. In Claydon, a new bus shelter by the Greyhound to serve the Needham Market direction will, I hope, be possible. Revised waiting restrictions on Church Lane and in Edinburgh Gardens opposite the school should help reduce congestion. I have agreed a disabled bay in Bramford and speed markings in Hemingstone.
A Zebra crossing in Gt. Blakenham to provide access to the bus stops, playground and Community Centre has been designed but we need at least £20,000 to fund construction.
Difficulties in Rede Lane are hard to address; private vehicles, goods vehicles, and agricultural machinery continually overrun the verge and speeds are often suicidal. Most possible actions have little effect on people in a hurry and at best divert problems to alternative vulnerable routes.
Finally, a cycle path to Sproughton may be achievable if shared use with pedestrians can be achieved, with widening of the route restricted to a few passing bays using low cost surfacing. However funding will again not be easy