As I write this the election for the County Council is sufficiently close that there are few meetings being held and clearly County facilities must not be used to gain advantage for any candidate. The council of course continues to function, decisions are taken and services deliver to residents but some actions are constrained.
At our last full council meeting on 16th March, there were a number of annual reports.
The Audit Committee gave the results of the audit by Ernst and Young, an unqualified opinion, and some details of fraud investigation work routinely undertaken. There were no items requiring other than normal attention.
The Scrutiny committee summarised its last year’s work and Education Scrutiny, Health Scrutiny and the Police and Crime Panel reported their activities. We had all been active in our role as critical friends seeking to understand service performance, the views of residents and service users and to encourage and advocate improvement.
The Pension Committee introduced the changes necessary to move funds into the pooling arrangements that the Government is forcing through. Their intention is to reduce the performance-based fees paid to city institutions for investment advice and activity. The committee were far from certain savings will be as rapid or as large as predicted. However, we have made the best decision possible in the interests of Suffolk taxpayers and pensioners of the many bodies involved, dominantly the County and District Councils.
A change to the constitution aimed at reducing delays in the speed limit approval process. Transferring the setting of criteria to the Assistant Director of Highways with the Speed Limits Cases Panel and a revised set of processes was agreed. I hope this will make the limits that people want in Claydon and Barham easier, not more difficult to achieve.
Some parish councils meet for their normal functions and some for annual meetings. I will of course attend them and make reports on the issues where I can give progress information but much work like the Zebra in Great Blakenham is stalled for a few weeks.
I have been getting a number of “mud on road,” flooding and pothole complaints which I am forwarding for action when it again becomes possible but of course no decisions will be taken at the moment.
I do not feel I can report on most of the other Cabinet Member documents since I can’t really do that without political judgement on the content, which is not appropriate in this magazine.
One where I will just quote the data presented is school improvement.
At the end of 2013, 72% of Suffolk schools were judged “good” or “ better” by Ofsted; as of mid-February 2017, that figure has risen by 17% to 89%. Over the same time nationally, the rise has been 9%, from 80% to 89%.
Suffolk’s national ranking at Key Stage 2 has risen from 141st in 2013/14 to 123rd in 2015/16 for attainment, and from 146th to 127th for progress.
At Key Stage 4, the attainment ranking has risen from 125th to 109th, while the progress ranking has risen from 112th to 55th, which puts Suffolk in the top half of all Local Authorities for this measure
The number of “good” schools is a great improvement. The other results still leave much room for improvement if or young people are to be well equipped for the changing and demanding world they face.