Report to Gipping Valley: February 2017

Great Blakenham’s Zebra

The money for the Zebra Crossing is now with the County so Highways will now go ahead.  They are insisting that the delay since the design was completed means that a review is necessary so we will not see progress just yet.

Parking at Bramford Primary

Highways have refreshed the road markings at Bramford Primary and installed the notices that make them enforceable.  The Police want to shift the responsibility for parking enforcement to the local authorities as they can retain the fines they collect.

Tim Passmore and Gareth Wilson assured me that parking enforcement will continue during the two years it will take to get the new system in place.

SnOasis

Mid Suffolk are still waiting for the new environmental impact statement but expect it by the end of the month.  When it arrives, the consultation process will re-start.  The environmental statement will include modelling of the cumulative impact of other developments.  Assessment will be external experts.

The Budget Final Setting

The administration presented its final budget proposals to the full County Council on 9th February.  It is increasing the social care “precept” to 3% in 2017-18 and 2018-19.   The data for 2017-18 and 2019-20 show a rise in council tax of just under 2% in addition.

Despite proposed use of £8.5m from reserves, there is a need to save some £30m next year.  This must have a concerning effect on services although some of the savings are of estimated inflation, financing charges and unused contingency budgets.

The Police and Crime Panel

I attended the Police and Crime Panel that scrutinised and approved an increase just shy of 2% in the PCC’s precept.

We discussed the increased attention on Cyber Crime and the police effort to combat it.  I always have doubts about the ability of the police, or Trading Standards for that matter, to deploy and direct staff with the ability to work in this area but I came away convinced that the efforts were valuable.

A team of graduate specialists have the skills required to defeat the criminals in Suffolk but when hackers can defeat US government and military systems experts, one wonders just how effective they can be.

Scrutiny: Blue Light Cooperation

Blue Light collaboration has been a Suffolk focus for some time. The benefits of Fire, Police and Ambulance operating from combined bases appear obvious, although the locations may not suit them all. However, schemes so far have worked well and the services are enthusiastic.

There is, at present, a trial of corresponding, so if you are unfortunate enough to have a cardiac arrest you might find a firefighter gets to you first and saves your life.  Clearly, for many incidents all services attend so even closer cooperation is a benefit.

The benefits of the Police and Crime Commissioner becoming responsible for Fire and Rescue is less obvious but is a major thrust of the current Government’s thinking.  Evidently, pressure for neighbouring forces to amalgamate has vanished so it will no longer be Suffolk and Norfolk Police but Suffolk Police and Fire.

We asked for a clear view of the wider benefits that services expect from the range of ideas presented.

Barley Homes

Barley Homes is to be a company owned by Suffolk, Forest Heath and St Eds. tasked with developing sites they own as housing for sale, market rent and affordable rent.

Officers had a good understanding of the capability required to do this successfully and to manage risk but it is always of concern when organisations move out of their normal sphere of activity.  We asked they accelerate the acquisition of skills from outside local government.

Roads

As you will be aware, a brief study of the options for a northern bypass for Ipswich has been undertaken.  Of the three routes considered, the one that benefits Ipswich least passes Coddenham to reach the A140/A14 junction coming from Wickham Market.  The other two end at Claydon.   The County don’t want to give more precise definition of the routes since it is still flexible and uncertain details might blight existing properties.

These ideas are at a very early stage and if they do come to fruition, it will not be for about 20 years, four governments away.

Forum Close

The first houses near Kingfisher Drive are complete and by the time you read this, people will be enjoying their new homes.  These with the two in Bramford are the first for a long time in Gipping Valley to be built and let by Mid Suffolk District Council.