John Field’s Report to Gipping Valley: March 2016

Grants

I have received further requests for locality funds to help local groups and have supported the Bramford Bowls Club, the St Peter’s 60+ Club in Claydon, the Great Blakenham Parish Room, Gipping Valley Bowls Club and last but not least the Loraine Victory Hall.

Greenhouses

It is sad to see the plan to use waste heat from the incinerator halted.  I feel the County has made little effort to push the Little Blakenham Common Greenhouse project ahead with speed to meet green subsidy deadlines.  Its refusal to risk any public money has not helped.

The County talk about being entrepreneurial and risk taking but do not walk the walk.  It is difficult to understand why Combined Heat and Power schemes like this are such a success throughout Europe but not in Gt Britain.

The promise from Sterling Suffolk is the project will continue and Gipping Valley will still get 200 new jobs but this county failure destroys the logic behind the associated planning decisions.

Devolution (probably signed by the time you read this)

We now have Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge involved, the latter reluctant to join but under government pressure to do so.  The larger combined authority would benefit from Cambridge’s world-class organisations and university and become a major eastern economic powerhouse.

The draft shorthand view for leaders to consider is rather large so I won’t try to reveal all.  In brief, proposals for an infrastructure investment fund of some £75m a year, devolution of transport budgets at £200m a year and a housing investment fund of £175m a year among other funds are beginning to look large enough to make the disruption of devolution worthwhile.  At last we are beginning to see some detail and where progress is being made.

One important question is how will devolved power be exercised?  The Government’s wish for an elected Mayor is still something people appear to be quietly accepting but hoping will go away.  The need for some form of democratic overview and constraint on a Mayor appears essential.  The proposal is that the current public leaders group, the leaders and chief execs of the current authorities and business leaders from the LEP will do the job.  The council majority groups elect leaders so there is some democracy but will this be sufficient.  I am not convinced.

Broadband

We need to get on with the rollout plan to spend the £3.9m gained from high take up in the first broadband contract.  The Government has agreed with the EU that there must be a one-month consultation, finishing on 8th April.  It must show that no commercial plans exist in the areas we plan to target.  We may then complete the rollout plan contract with BT.

A map on the website will shade out all areas of the 95% coverage currently planned: commercial, first public funded contract and all postcodes targeted with the public extension funding.  Another colour will highlight the areas where the additional £3.9m will be re-invested to add a further approximately 2% coverage.  This map will change as plans are finalised.

The £30m Superfast Extension Programme is progressing.  To date 35 cabinets have been enabled reaching over 3,000 premises.  The target is 1,000 cabinets and 50,000 premises by the end of 2019.

Future of Specialist Educational Provision in Suffolk

The recent Options Review produced a very large number of responses.  These included a number of new options for Specialist Support Centres, for Residential Provision in Special Schools, and Alternative Provision in Pupil Referral Units.

The next stage is for the County to develop formal proposals for consultation, taking into account the information, alternative ideas and suggestions collected in the review.  Consultation should occur in June and a decision in mid-September.

The EU Referendum

June 23rd is the date for a vital decision that will affect the lives of us all.  A major problem will be presenting real information on a complex subject as clearly as possible.

We must help people decide if a leap in the dark is justified by the belief that others dictate the compromises we currently make for the common good.  Just shouting our personal prejudices or working for our own advantage will not help anyone come to a clear choice as to where our best interests lie.

The next two months will be noisy, confusing but vitally important.  I hope to help with clear information on our www sites that would not be appropriate to spell out in this magazine.