Suffolk Day 2018

Suffolk Day

Today is Suffolk Day 2018, a great concept thought up by Mark Murphy of BBC Radio Suffolk last year and this years is bigger.  We launched it together on his show in early January as a way for us all, who live and work in our great county to take a moment to enjoy and remember how lucky we are to live in this part of the country.

Looking forward to hearing the Bells of St. Mary the Virgin Church ring out in Lakenheath and then on the Rural Coffee Caravan event at Stansfield Village Hall at 11 am.

http://www.ruralcoffeecaravan.org.uk

If you have never heard of the Rural Coffee Caravan its a great little charity that goes around Suffolk set up on villages greens and people come along and chat and get information about things in their community that they can enjoy and can offer support, you don’t get more Suffolk than that.

Can’t wait to see the first of the new signs I designed with Suffolk County Council Highways team for the entry points to our great county being unveiled – a fitting set of new signs for our great county.

There’s so much to do across Suffolk today and everyday, we are so lucky to live here in Suffolk.

http://www.suffolkday.co.uk

Have a wonderful Suffolk Day 2018.

Adult social care – a national or local Service

Just before I stepped down as Health and Social Care Spokesperson for the County Council Network I wrote the following for the Local Government Association which forms part of a think piece series ‘Towards a sustainable adult social care and support system’

https://www.local.gov.uk/about/campaigns/towards-sustainable-adult-social-care-and-support-system/2-adult-social-care-2

Adult social care has and continues to face significant challenges as a result of the current financial context, rising demand and evolving public expectations.

However, despite this, the notion of a national adult social care service is one that makes me break out in a cold sweat. I’ve read and heard from some people out there that adult social care is in the too difficult box for local government, with the easy option being that it be delivered on a similar size and scale to the NHS.

I would vehemently oppose such a notion. Local authority councillors and staff have worked hard to protect adult social care in the face of austerity and the significant reduction in public sector expenditure. For example, adult social care expenditure in counties accounted for 45 per cent of all service expenditure in 2017/18, excluding education, increasing from 42 per cent in 2015/16. Despite this, service user satisfaction levels remain high with social care in general, with 64.7 per cent being either extremely or very satisfied with the care and support services they received.

There is also an inherent risk in removing social care from local authorities that are legally bound to deliver a balanced budget year on year. Counties, and upper-tier authorities alike, have not shied away from making the difficult decisions required and re-routing money from the likes of transport, central services, and culture towards protecting these life-critical, people-focused, services. We have proven our ability to be prudent in a period of unpreceded financial cuts, often delivering more with less money. Following a similar model to the NHS, which continues to report regular and significant deficits on an annual basis, would most likely place additional and significant strain on the public purse.

As a councillor, I pride myself on the fact that I am democratically elected and the decisions that are made by me and my colleagues are accountable to the public we serve. I would be concerned for the future of democratic accountability if social care were to be delivered on a national basis, which would likely see it become subject to a similar democratic deficit as the NHS, something which was previously recognised by the Coalition Government through the creation of Health and Wellbeing Boards.

The Care Act made the promotion of individual wellbeing the organising principle of adult social care. Therefore, it would seem inconceivable to remove social care from local decision making on services that directly impact upon the health and wellbeing of every individual, such as public health, transport, education, plus housing and leisure in unitary areas.

What also seems clear to me is that a national adult social care service is incompatible with the ongoing impetus at both a national and local level to deliver care and support closer to communities and where possible away from acute settings.

For example, local knowledge will be essential to the Secretary of State for Health’s vision for reform that includes whole-person integrated care.

The personalisation agenda, including personal budgets and joint health and care plans, is built upon providing individuals with greater choice and control over the services and support that they can access locally. A ‘strength based’ or ‘asset based’ approach are used interchangeably. However, regardless of the label, a local social care service is ideally placed to work with adults, individuals, families and communities to deliver this agenda.

If we are to reduce the pressure on the hospital front and back doors a local approach is also essential. Ensuring that people are well informed of the best place to go to address their health and social care issues helps prevent attendances at A&E. The focus must be on maximising people’s independence, examining what outcomes a person wants to achieve and what is available locally to help them achieve that. Collaboration and coproduction with social workers who know the local area are at the heart of this approach.

This must be underpinned by the work of local authorities, councillors, community leaders and others to help build community resilience and capacity to support the most vulnerable in times of need. A prime example is the recent cold weather, which saw local people and groups supporting their communities by ensuring that vulnerable people could access medical appointments and also basic provisions.

It must also not be forgotten that care markets are unique, with differing needs and complexities existing not only in all four corners of England, but also within regions and local authority boundaries. A significant proportion of residential, nursing and domiciliary care is provided by small and independent providers. Would a national care service be able to interact with the swathe of providers that are either very local or regionally based? Or would they be able to respond at the pace that local authorities do if/when a provider falls into financial difficulty?

Many of the issues outlined above are recognisable across the country, but local solutions that are flexible and utilise the unique strengths of each and every community are, in my opinion, the best way to improve outcomes for local people.

Cllr Colin Noble
Health and Social Care Spokesman, County Councils Network

Inaugural Chamberlain Lecture

On Monday evening I was invited to attend the inaugural Chamberlain Lecture hosted by BT at BT Tower in London. Sir Merrick Cockell, former Chairman of the LGA, opened the proceeding, introducing Lord Heseltine who spent the next hour weaving a fine speech about Chamberlain’s time in local Government, and as a Westminster politician with his own life story, his time influencing Local Government and snippets from his ‘No stone unturned’ paper.  Followed by a Q&A session chaired by Rt. Hon Stephen Dorrell.

He spoke of mayors and unitary authorities and his time as number 2 to Peter Walker the then Local Government Minister and the notion to reorganise Local Government broadly speak on County Boundaries in the 1970’s.  It never happened in England, but it did happen in Scotland where the Conservative government created county unitary councils, slightly ironic that since Scottish devolution the Scottish Parliament, with precious little to do, has taken stripped Scottish councils of the powers given to them by a Conservative government all those years ago, but I digress.

Fast forward to the Conservative Government of 2015, and Lord Heseltine found himself back in favour and following on from his paper ‘No stone unturned’ and with the support of the new Prime Minister, David Cameron and the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourn.  Lord Heseltine worked alongside SoS DCLG Greg Clarke MP to drive forward English Devolution.  I was leading Suffolk County Council at the time and remember well the meeting on 15th February 2016 we held in Cambridge where we discussed what was going to happen which proved to be very different to what actually happened.

2016_02_15 Devolution with Lord H & Greg Clarke

The picture above is from my archives, and I recall the blog I wrote on 16th February 2016 which you can find by scrolling down this page, how times flies!  Then, it was about Combined Authorities with a Mayor, and I think when I look at those created they are far too complicated.  Nowadays perhaps the debate is more centred on unitary councils forming.  To my mind, this is sensible.

Let’s face it unitaries make sense; two-tier does not.  Lord Heseltine did reform Local Government in Scotland and putting aside the issues with the Scottish Parliament, can you imagine today saying to the large county based unitary authorities in Scotland we are now going to propose two-tier.  Where some duties are going to remain you, but others are going to smaller councils, and the public will have to figure out for themselves which is which, confusing or what!  Once a place goes unitary no one would ever suggest a return to two-tier, and I think that is an acid test.

What struck me as I listened to Lord Heseltine on Monday evening, sitting next to Martin Tett the Leader of Buckinghamshire who is currently trying to lead a unitary Buckinghamshire bid, that each new idea in Government is often not that new and each has a window of opportunity that comes along and goes almost as quickly.  Today the debate seems to be is centred on the creation of new unitary councils, so fundamentally possible reorganisation with little new money attached; and slowly we seem to be moving to a discussion, not on Majors or devolution but the size of unitary councils rather than the concept of unitary.

Of course, Lord Heseltine continues to propose that change comes with Mayors as influential leaders of place able to get things down, a system that seems a bit un-British as we instead like our discussions and complexity.  But we do have some Mayors, and it is interesting to watch as they seek to forge a way forward for themselves and their embryonic power base.  I think the jury is out on these at the moment and of course, each of them has a complex system of governance to work with, not to mention fellow politicians and councillors!

Conservative History and Philosophy Seminar

Last week I returned from holiday to attend the much talked about Conservative History and Philosophy Seminar, having kindly been invited along with about 50 or so other Conservatives to discuss the future of Conservative ideology.

The seminar was Chatham House rules so no reporting of what was said, but its theme is important for Conservatives.  So much so, that its speaker list reads like a who’s who of the party, with Brandon Lewis MP, Chairman of the Conservative Party opening the proceedings.  Over the next few hours, we heard from Dominic Johnson CBE Vice Chairman of the party and organiser of the event and from Professor Andrew Roberts, Jesse Norman MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Anne Jenkin, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, Neil O’Brien OBE MP, amongst other great speakers.  In the last of the three sessions were heard about the future with speakers ranging from Dr. Eliza Filby and Dr. Anthony Ridge-Newman discussing how society, aspirations and social media are constantly changing.

If you take part in politics at any level, local or national one of the things that has seemed evident is the extent to which the left seeks the moral high ground, s if theirs is the only ‘moral’ way forward.  Well, it’s not, being a Conservatives should come with a conviction that it’s the right and moral way to organise society.  Let’s face it, time and time again socialism has proven to be a failure, it failed here with the last Labour government, and the one before that if like me you are old enough to remember 1979 and it continues to fail across the globe.

The Conservative Party has always been a reforming party, and this work is about making sure that beyond the day job, the party and its activists are thinking about how we reform our society.  How conservative values of hard work, individualism and making sure that success is rewarded not treated with suspicion as socialism would have you believe, has proven to be a success across the globe and with checks and balances is the best way to organise your economy and society.

Many people in the party look back to the Thatcher years with nostalgia.  But it was also a time when the Conservative Party has an ideological basis, as it turned the Hippies of the sixties into the Yuppies of the eighties, was it perfect, of course not, but it had a foundation, a conviction, an ideology.  Today the world is very different, and no one is suggesting a reinvention of Thatcherism. The millennial generation as not the same as when I entered adult life, but the future of the Conservative Party lies in its believes in itself, and its ideology as it shapes local and national policy.

A change of Leader at SCC

Last Thursday week was my last day as Leader of Suffolk County Council and quite a journey it’s been these past 3 years and in my 12 years as a Councillor holding various roles from Adult Social Care to Finance.

Along the way it’s been my privilege to meet with selfless people who are making a daily difference in their own lives and others. Remarkable leaders of organisations dedicated to the most vulnerable in our communities and skilled business leaders growing great companies right here in Suffolk. And it’s been a privilege to work alongside them all.

As the new Leader, Matthew Hicks must set out the challenges as he sees them and those of us in his group must face up to the difficult decisions to tackle the big challenges facing Suffolk.  To not address them is folly, as that have to be faced today or tomorrow but they will not go away.  I wish Matthew well and will work with him and the new team at the County Council, assuming they face up to the challenges ahead.

No county is an Island and they must look and learn from the experiences of others and understand the journey we have been on since 2010 with over £236Million saved and a staff team half what is was then, there is still more to do but the law of diminishing returns holds as true for Councils as any other organisation.

The future for County Councils lies in its relationship with the community it serves and its partner organisations and to be a catalyse for change, real change focused on the issues we face of the need for stronger families better able to provide the environment our young people need to grow and flourish. And stronger communities better able to support our ageing residents and working with our health partners to deliver better services more reflective of our residents needs than at times they seem to be.

Local government is the best performing part of the public sector. However, I still believe that local government must change – really change. The answers to the problems we face will not lie in a denial of realities ‘borrow and spend’ or trying to adapt to tighter budgets ‘managed decline’, but in our communities not the Council.

On a personal note, in my 12 years on Suffolk County Council in various roles from Adult Social Care to Finance I have spent most of time in the cabinet and it will be strange to have no role but such is politics.  If I can do so again, I will. I am grateful for the friendships forged and what we achieved together.

For now, I will continue working for the residents I represent in Lakenheath, Beck Row, West Row, Thistly Green, Tuddenham St. Mary, Eriswell, Isleham Marina, Higham, Cavenham and Tuddenham St. Mary and on the soon to merge and become West Suffolk Council representing my home village of Lakenheath.

Who know what happens in politics, but I remain privileged to serve the community I have grown up in and the county I love.

 

We Are Listening event

On Wednesday I attended Suffolk County Council’s latest We Are Listening event is the picturesque market town of Halesworth and for a couple of hours, Cllr. Tony Goldson, who represents the town and surrounding area on Suffolk County Council, Council Officers and I, chatted to shoppers and resident about their issues and how they view the services provided by the County Council.  I started these events three years ago, and they have grown and formed part of how Suffolk County Council looks to engage.  It is only a small part but its essential for Councillors from across the parties and for Officers who come along, to hear first hand what people think.

www.suffolk.gov.uk/wearelistening

The event came just a couple of days before a challenge for control of the Conservative group and ultimate who leads Suffolk County Council, which I and my supporters lost.

Comms Officer:  I hope you win on Friday.

Me: Why?

Comms Officer: Well we’ve just had some leaflets with your headshot and name printed.

Me: How many?

Comms Officer: 80

Me: 80,000? such faith!

Comms Officer: no, 80!

Visit by Secretary of State Chris Grayling MP & Suffolk 2050

Here is my article I wrote for this weeks’ EADT and Ipswich Star yesterday.

Last Friday, Councillor Paul West, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Ipswich, and I welcomed the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, to Ipswich for a visit to talk about the infrastructure that is needed in and around the town over the coming years.  We started by driving him across town to see the impact the Upper Orwell Crossing will have. Only polite as the government is committed to providing some £77.546 million towards its cost, with the balance being provided by the County Council. We looked at the design and the landing points, which will change the traffic flows around Ipswich. They will also unlock a significant section of redevelopment land to house world class tech and manufacturing companies, which bring the kind of high value jobs we all want to see more of in our County.

After a whistle-stop tour, we visited the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. We met with local business leaders to talk about the challenges they face doing business in Ipswich, as well as senior representatives from the ports of Ipswich and Felixstowe who spoke of the challenges they face over the next few years. Conversations centred on the A14, including when the Copdock Interchange is going to be upgraded. The number of times the Orwell Bridge seems to be shut by Highways England, far more frequently than previously and far more than we would all want, was also a pressing issue. We talked about the need to improve the rail links to the West Midlands for the Port of Felixstowe. We pressed the Secretary of State on when the funding might be provided to undertake rail improvement here in Suffolk, and how soon the Ely North junction might be started and completed. This is vital to increase rail capacity on the line from Felixstowe.  What struck me in those conversations was the drive and determination from business leaders to grow their businesses here in Suffolk and to work with the County Council to lobby Government for the funding we need to unlock Suffolk and Ipswich’s potential.

We also discussed the Northern Relief Road and the business case that is being worked up after the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders approved funding.  I promised to have that report on the Secretary of State’s desk by the end of the year, to demonstrate why we need it and to lobby him for funding to enable it to be built. The business case can’t simply be about a new road cutting through the countryside north of Ipswich; nor can it just be about preventing the A14 and its main junctions increasingly grinding to a holt.  It has to be about the future of Ipswich and unlocking growth both in terms of new jobs and new homes.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Suffolk A14 Gateway strategy. A key component of that is to highlight to Government our infrastructure needs and the need for funding.  Importantly, we want to do this in a planned and strategic way – setting out, through strategies such as the Suffolk A14 Gateway, how we intend to grow and develop Suffolk over the next 30 years or so to Suffolk 2050.  Over the next year we will be bringing together the different public sector partners, our health partners, businesses groups, key business leaders, and residents to work on this long-term vision for Suffolk. This year’s growth conference will be about launching the Suffolk A14 Gateway. Next year’s conference will be about launching Suffolk 2050 and going back to the Secretary of State for Transport with our plans. We will remind him of his visit to our county and the commitment we made to lobby him for infrastructure funding that supports our plans for growth to 2050.

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