Two Suffolk towns, two new Bridges

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Just before Christmas I attended the latest Task Force meetings in Lowestoft for the 3rd Crossing over Lake Lothing to hear the results of the recent public consultation and I am delighted that 96% of those who responded were very in favour of the project. The work now progresses towards a Public Planning Enquiry which will start in July.

In Ipswich, Structural and environmental Ground investigations for the Upper Orwell Crossings are about to take place to finalise the detailed design. These ground investigation works, which could last up to three months are scheduled to begin on 15 January 2018. Contractors will dig trial holes and deep boreholes both on land and in the water. The works will determine the underlying properties of the ground and river bed.  Geotechnical Engineers will analyse the information and use it to design the foundations on which the three bridges will sit.

Once designed the next stage will be a similar Public engagement exercise ahead of a Public Planning Enquiry, just as in Lowestoft.

Both are massive investments and there are exciting times ahead for both projects and the towns. The funding for these projects were hard fought for and won, in doing so the government recognised the need for these two schemes over other bids for funding.  There are some who seem to think the complex bidding process is like a sort of ‘pick and mix’ and we could, at this stage, put the money somewhere else.  Let’s be clear if a scheme did not come forward, and I am convinced both of these should, the Government would switch the funding to the next scheme in the bidding round or simply withdraw the funding, not something different in Suffolk.  So, let’s get behind these projects and see them delivered.  In Lowestoft, everyone is behind the investment as they should be to justify such a massive investment by the Government and SCC, we need to same in Ipswich.

There are many other vital infrastructure projects, such as the Northern Relief Road for Ipswich which I am leading on for Suffolk County Council and we are funding the initial feasibility work to progress that.

Suffolk school travel consultation

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Suffolk County Council is looking for a long-term solution to providing affordable home to school transport as a major public consultation gets underway.

I know people who give their views as part of a consultation on the future of school travel in Suffolk will be listened to carefully and have the opportunity to influence the final outcome.

The two and half month consultation, which started on Tuesday 12 December, invites people to help the council shape the future of school and post-16 travel policies, tis coming to Lakenheath so parent from Row Heath’s schools can give their views in person to the team and myself when we’ll be at the Lakenheath Pavilion on Tuesday 23rd January from 7pm to 8:30pm, please do come along.

Suffolk County Council has already listened to head teachers and included additional options in the consultation document. The pledge today is to do more of the same as the authority seeks help to find a long-term solution to the funding issues facing home to school transport.

In Suffolk, £21 million of taxpayers’ money is spent per year getting children to and from school. Suffolk County Council has already introduced a number of efficiency changes to the service saving around £2.6 million.

Now, like many other councils across the country, we need to consider making more significant changes. We’re therefore consulting on changing its school and post-16 travel policies so the service can be affordable, sustainable, and capable of meeting growing demand in the future.

The council’s current school and post-16 travel policies go above legal requirements, which means around 2400 children and young people receive free/subsided school or post-16 travel that Suffolk County Council is not legally required to provide and that they wouldn’t get in many other parts of the country. In addition, around 2400 children receive free travel to schools further away than legally required to provide. The proposed consultation seeks views on changing these policies and includes three alternative options, pre-and post-16.

Option 1: In September 2019, change the school travel policy so that it is in line with the legal requirements.  This would mean implementing all the changes in one go, including ceasing free travel to the transport priority area schools where it is not the pupils’ nearest.

Option 2: From September 2019, introduce the changes year by year as a child joins or moves school so that it is in line with legal requirements. This means that we would introduce all the changes on a phased basis. This option would cost Suffolk County Council an estimated £8.8 million to implement.

Option 3: Make no changes to the school travel policy but make savings from other services provided by Suffolk County Council.

Suffolk County Council is also asking for feedback on several other matters, including using Rights of Way as part of the way distance to a school is measured and a range of local solutions, such as Local collection hubs and opt-in to travel, which we have developed with a range of schools.

Further details on these options can be found on the consultation website: www.suffolk.gov.uk/schooltravel

To have your say please fill out the consultation survey, alternatively you can download a hard copy from the website and return to:

Suffolk County Council – school and post-16 travel consultation
Endeavour House
8 Russell Road
Ipswich
Suffolk
IP1 2BX

The consultation will run from 12 December 2017 to 28 February 2018 and there will be a full programme of events and opportunities for discussion. This includes consultation workshops where you can consider themes from the consultation, the proposals and general questions and answer sessions.

 

Venue Room Date Time
Kesgrave Conference Centre

Twelve Acre Approach, Ipswich IP5 1JF

Orwell Room 16 January 2018 19:00 – 20:30
Eye Community Centre

Magdalen Street, Eye, IP23 2DH

Main Hall 17 January 2018 19:00 – 20:30
River Stour Trust – the Visitor Education Centre

Dove House, Great Cornard, CO10 0GF

VEC 18 January 2018 19:00 – 20:30
Beccles Public Hall

Smallgate, Beccles NR34 9AD

Main Hall 22 January 2018 19:00 – 20:30
Lakenheath Pavilion

Eriswell Road, Lakenheath IP27 9AF

Main Hall 23 January 2018 19:00 – 20:30
West Suffolk House

Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 3YU

WSH – GFR12 – Meeting Room 26 January 2018 5 sessions between 14:00 – 19:30

 

 

Primary School application deadline approaches

 

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January is an important time if you have children who will be going to school for the first time in September 2018 as Parents and carers have until Monday 15th January to make their application to secure their child’s place at a Suffolk Primary, Infant, Junior or Middle school for September.

Any child born between 1st September 2013 and 31st August 2014 is due to start primary school from September 2018. An application for a full-time school place must be made, even if a child is already attending a nursery class in an infant or primary school, a pre-school or a children’s centre next to a school site.

It is recommended that parents and carers apply online as they will receive confirmation of their application. Alternatively, parents and carers can apply on a paper CAF1 application form. Both applications can be accessed at www.suffolk.gov.uk/admissions. We are unable to acknowledge receipt of paper applications and therefore suggest that proof of posting is obtained.

A completed application must be submitted or posted for every child wanting a primary, infant, junior or middle school place from September 2018. If families are planning to move house or think their circumstances may change before September, it is still important to make an application on time. Advice and guidance about this process is available at www.suffolk.gov.uk/admissions

For guidance about the application process, parents and carers can watch the council’s ‘Applying for a Primary School place’ video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m90IgVibmck

Families who apply online will be able to log on to the Online Service on the National Offer Day, 16th April 2018 to see their school place offer, and will also receive an email to confirm this offer on the same day. Offer letters will also be sent by second class post to all applicants.

Information to help parents and carers make their application is available at www.suffolk.gov.uk/admissions

Please do tell your family and friends so no one misses the deadline.

We are Listening

Here’s my first column of the year for the EADT and Ipswich Star last week:

Happy New Year.

In the ‘lull’ between Christmas and New Year I like to reflect on what has taken place in the year behind us, as well as looking forward to the future.

One thing I’ll be hoping for in 2018 is greater participation from you, the public. Since the elections in May, I, along with my colleagues and our officers, have been working hard to give those we serve more chances to have their say and more opportunities to have their voices heard.

These are unprecedented times for local government. Savings have to be made and the way we provide our services will be changing. And we want you to be involved more than before.

Though this isn’t breaking news, our council meetings are open to the public. Members of the media regularly attend and report on them. Recently we’ve had more members of the public come to our meetings, and I’d like to see more people come along to further their understanding of how we make decisions and witness the debate between members first hand.

At our council meetings as well, the public are invited to get involved, in the form of asking a question or making a comment. In order to do this, all you need to do is send a request to www.suffolk.gov.uk/apply-to-speak-at-a-public-meeting/

However, if you can’t make our meetings, why not watch them online? All of our full council meetings are streamed online and we’ve recently upgraded the cameras in the council chamber to present a high definition quality stream to those either watching live or at a later date. You can find out more about watching our meetings online by visiting www.suffolk.gov.uk/webcasting/

We also want you to give us feedback on our services and how we provide them. We value the thoughts of those we serve, as they can help us shape what we provide and how. If you think something needs to be improved, let us know. If you feel you’re not getting the support you should be getting, we want to know. If you believe someone deserves recognition for their work, we’d like to hear about it.

You can do so by visiting www.suffolk.gov.uk/about/give-feedback-or-make-a-complaint/ but by also speaking to us using social media – we regularly respond to queries on our Facebook page, which can be found by searching for @SuffolkCountyCouncil as well as on Twitter @SuffolkCC – if you don’t already ‘like’ follow us I would suggest doing so as there is an array of useful information posted regularly.

If it’s something in your town or village that you have comments on, it may also be worth speaking to the councillor in your division, who may be able to assist. As councillors we are here to serve our residents and we are regularly working hard on local issues. If you don’t know who your councillor is, you can find them on our website here – www.suffolk.gov.uk/find-your-councillor/

We also consult residents and service users when changes are being made. In the past year we have consulted on a number of things, such as the Lake Lothing Third Crossing in Lowestoft, roadworks in Bury St Edmunds and roadworks in Ipswich. We currently have two consultations live at the moment – high needs funding and school and post-16 travel. We want your views – the better the response, the better informed we are moving forward on any potential decisions.

Last year I was joined by councillors and officers at five ‘we are listening’ events across the county – in Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Haverhill, Ipswich and Lowestoft. These events are something I enjoy doing as it gives me, and others at the council, the chance to speak to the electorate about issues affecting them. It also gives a personal touch and the fact we are actively seeking views may make it easier for people to share their views.

At those events we received a number of comments which have since been acted on with the help of officers, giving positive outcomes for many.

These events are something I’m wanting to continue this year, and I hope to see as many of you as possible as and when they are held, across the county.

So why not make a new year’s resolution to get involved where you can at Suffolk County Council?

A very happy New Year

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I always like to start the year with a reflective blog on last year and a few thoughts about the year ahead.

It was an eventful year with the General election in June and a few weeks earlier the County Council elections at the beginning of May.  At the county elections, I led a strong conservative team of 74 Candidates campaigned on a manifesto for Suffolk.  Voters were excited to vote Conservative and we were returned with a thumping majority with 52 out of 75 Councillors and a majority of 29 with Labour plummeted from 19 to 9! – pinned back into Ipswich with just a couple of seats outside in Sudbury and Lowestoft.  Our manifestos could not have been in starker contrast – ours talking about careful prudent management of the finances and Labours was spend, spend, spend!  We fought every single Division whether we thought we could win it or not, Labour abandoned Rural Suffolk and only fought only in the divisions they targeted, a cynical campaign.

Then we had the General Election and I think it’s fair to say the mood in the country changed during the course of those intervening few weeks and the party lost its slim overall majority.  To me it was a very mixed picture as across Suffolk most of our MPs increased their majority and in particular the very hard-working Peter Aldous cemented his Constituency of Waveney. But the political swing-o-meter began to move dramatically to the left and unfortunately the excellent Ben Gummer lost his seat in Ipswich to the very man who organised such a cynical county council election campaign the County Council labour group Leader Sandy Martin.  The most surreal few weeks I have seen in my political life time and I suspect we will not see the likes of such a dramatic swing again.

With our strong County Mandate, we have set about the budget and the savings we have to make over the next 4-year period coupled with rising demand for services for the most vulnerable in our communities.  But I want this next 4-year term to be more than prudent management of the council I want it to be about the future so we are setting about more ambitious and significant long-term planning than has ever been attempted in Suffolk before.  Together with our partner District and Borough councils, Public Health, the Acute Hospitals and our Clinical Commissioning groups we are working on a string of new strategy documents which once completed this year will be about Suffolk 2050.  I come from the management school of the 4 Ps, poor planning equals poor performance and my very favourite business mantra is ‘aim at nothing and you’ll hit it with remarkable accuracy!’ so the plans will not be party political but about building a broad consensus across the public sector including the health services and with the business community about what we want Suffolk to look like in 2050 and how we get there, in terms of infrastructure, industrial growth, roads rail, social and Health care and the sort of places we want to live in.

Watch this space.

A very Merry Christmas

It’s that wonderful time of year were we all pause, relax and spend times with our loved one and family to celebrate Christmas and then the year just past and look forward to the year ahead.  However, for some it’s also a time of reflection of loved ones gone and sadly missed.  So, as you rush about maybe drop a card off to an elderly neighbour or pop round for a cup of tea and a chat about their Christmas, no one should be alone at Christmas.  It does not have to take much time but can make all the world of difference to them at this time of year.

My I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and successful New Year.

Social Care article for The Guardian

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Week before last I wrote an article for the Guardian Newspaper about the future of social care and things our Government needs to consider as they ponder the way forward:

When you consider the plethora of social care papers that have come and gone down the years, irrespective of governments, you’d be forgiven for taking next summer’s review with a pinch of salt.

Yet, there is a feeling that this cannot go on for much longer. County areas are withstanding some of the greatest pressures in delivering and procuring social care services, coupled with the deepest reductions in core government grants.

If there was an easy answer, we would not be arriving at social care paper number 13.

Any solution must be long-term in its vision, but early noises suggest that next summer’s review could narrowly focus on funding options for older people.

Exploring a wide-range of options to ensure long-term sustainable funding, firstly to meet the £1bn funding gap that counties face in delivering social care, and for the individual to protect them from facing huge care costs, is paramount.

Whilst this is clearly crucial, the County Councils Network (CCN) argues for a more holistic approach, which brings together prevention, housing, workforce, and integration as well as sustainable way to fund social care.

We argue for a culture shift; turning the existing system on its head. It is currently too focused on the end result, or dealing with issues as they arise, rather than exploring ways to mitigate a person’s health troubles. From the individual’s point of view, who wouldn’t want to live healthier and independent longer?

This is best illustrated by how much media airtime delayed discharges get; an example of the reactionary nature of the system. We must shift thinking towards stopping people from entering hospital unnecessarily in the first place instead of institutionalised care; enabling them to be in control of decisions about the type and location of care they receive.

Housing reform will play a big part in this shift of mindset. The ability for people to stay at home and receive care – or at least to choose to do so – is hampered by the lack of adaptable housing, whilst for those exiting hospital, there are not enough reablement and rehabilitation services in England.

Another issue that often slips under the radar is the dearth of retirement property development: with 7,000 built yearly, whilst analysis suggests 30,000 are needed. The need to keep pace with England’s rising elderly population is obvious, but an increased prevalence of care housing and adapted properties will allow people to live independently longer. In turn, this means less demand on social care services and fewer delays in exiting hospital.

The green paper should seek to create the conditions to encourage more development of supported and retirement homes, including reforms to the planning process to better incentivise the building of these properties.

Integration of health and social care has been labelled a solution, especially in reducing demand. Yet for a variety of reasons, the agenda has not had lift-off. Considering that full integration by 2020 as originally planned is unlikely to happen, we should consider reforms to the way the current system works.

Instead of gunning for wholesale change in a short timeframe, government should be considering pooling its NHS and social care budgets as a precursor to full integration. Some counties already are; with councils and local NHS providers making joint decisions based around the individual; with the aim of keeping people out of hospital for longer.

At the same time, the NHS Tariff, which rewards acute trusts for patient contacts rather than outcomes should be reviewed; to reward providers for preventing people from entering crisis care unnecessarily.

In essence, we should try to build a preventative ecosystem that allows people to maintain their health for longer. This means widening the debate, to tightening the links between adult and children’s social care, and crucially, public health services.

It should also aim to ensure those currently ‘in the system’ live as independently as possible. Here, having consistency in carers is vital. Yet Brexit could impact on workforce projections, not least in areas such as Essex where one-third of its care home workforce are EU nationals. CCN is calling for flexibility in immigration rules to allow providers to recruit from Europe should they be unable to internally.

These solutions are only a cog in a much larger machine; there is no silver bullet to making social care sustainable. No-one is under any illusions of how difficult a task this is for a government, least of all an administration that does not have Parliamentary arithmetic on its side.

But without thinking long-term, and a culture shift that brings prevention into focus, next summer’s green paper could ultimately go the same way as its precursors.

Cllr Colin Noble, County Councils Network Spokesman for Health & Social Care and Leader of Suffolk County Council

The link to the article is:

https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2017/dec/07/there-is-no-silver-bullet-for-social-care-but-ministers-must-not-dodge-the-issue?CMP=share_btn_link

 

 

 

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