Suffolk Broadband passes 90% on its way to 100% coverage

speedtest-icon

For many of us Broadband is something we consider to now be the forth utility and if you have ever streamed a movie or tried to fill returns on line it a vital part of our leisure and work lives.  So I’m really pleased that Suffolk Conservatives drive to expand the Broadband network across Suffolk continues at pace, when we recently reached another Broadband milestone with 90% of Suffolk properties now have access to fibre broadband. Around 315,000 properties now have the option of using fibre broadband, an increase of more than 127,000 from when the Better Broadband for Suffolk programme started deployment in 2013.

I say ‘option’ as another important point to make is that the switch to fibre broadband will not be automatic. Each household or business will need to contact its broadband service provider to upgrade, once the cabinet system near you has been upgraded.  Providers usually direct mail an area so residents know they have the option but at the moment only about 40% bother.  I sometimes ponder that people think there will be an improvement anyway, there won’t or that it will cost more; often with the various deals around remarkable little extra on what you might pay already and if you have things like Virgin or Sky often the packages are very competitive.  The key as with everything in life is to ‘shop around’.

Of course while it’s great that 90% of Suffolk homes and businesses are now connected to fibre broadband, there is still more work to be done to get the entire county connected to high-speed internet. This includes lobbying Government to support full rollout to the most rural areas and we are working on plans to ensure every Suffolk property, regardless of its location, can access high-speed broadband services.

So, we have agreed to extended the agreement with Openreach, the local network business which is part of BT Group, to make high-speed broadband available to around 50,000 more properties, reaching 98% of all properties during 2020, and we have made a commitment to ensure every Suffolk property, regardless of its location, can access high-speed broadband services.  We remain committed to delivering that, and making sure that no-one is left behind.  So really pleased that at Suffolk County Council, my Deputy Leader Jane Storey, on behalf of the council, has agreed a new contract with Openreach to extend coverage to 98% during 2020.  This new agreement to reach 98% during 2020 is a big leap forward, and adds to the significant increase in broadband coverage since we started this work in 2010.

If you have not got it yet, please check if your property can access superfast broadband, visit the website at www.betterbroadbandsuffolk.com and check your area for coverage. The roll out is ongoing and Suffolk County Council is committed to completing coverage as quickly as possible. – no-one will be left behind.

Suffolk County Council ‘Our Priorities”

SCC Priorities Doc front page

At any election, you stand on a manifesto and if you win you have to translate that manifesto into a document that the organisation you will be running for the next term can make sense of what you are about and what as an Administration you want to achieve and the way in which you want to go about it.  So, it’s fitting that post the AGM of the Council at our next meeting on 20th July, I presented the first strategy document of the New Council the Conservative administration’s ‘Our Priorities’ document which was debated and passed almost unanimously as we Conservatives detail the SCC priorities for the coming 4 years. This will also inform our budgets and business plans for the term.

There will of course be many more documents to come as we look to how at the wider Suffolk system across all tiers of local government and with our Police, Health partners alongside Businesses and Voluntary organisation plan for Suffolk’s future.

The ‘Our Priorities’ 3 themes are:

  • Inclusive growth – improve education standards, protect our unique natural and historic environment, support business growth, develop skills for future employment, improve transport and digital networks
  • Health, care and well-being – keep Suffolk safe, reduce mental health issues, improve life styles, support vulnerable people, support for elderly and disabled care
  • Efficient and effective public services – maintain our low tax status, make our services more accessible, find savings in our operations, reshape our workforce to improve services.

You can click the link below to read and download the document.

Suffolk County Council ‘Our Priorities’ 

EADT – A new weekly column

On Tuesday in the EADT and the Ipswich Star I wrote the first of a weekly Column as Leader of Suffolk County Council, well I say weekly it will be every other week as I shall alternate with SCC’s Cabinet Member for Ipswich Paul West who will write more about Ipswich issues as I concentrate on a pan-Suffolk approach.

These will be a mixture of the issues that are happening as the papers go to print and some of my thoughts about how we develop Suffolk as a place to live and work over the next 20 years.  Suffolk County Council is a large organisation delivering services to some of the most vulnerable people in our Community but it is but one players and how we work in partnership across the Public sector, with private businesses and voluntary organisations is key to how we build the place we all want to live.

“Yesterday in Lowestoft, as I witnessed the initial stages of the ground investigations that will shape the final design of the Lake Lothing Third Crossing, I saw the good of our democratic bodies working together.

The investigations, taking place on land behind the offices shared by Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council, is another step in the right direction to getting the £90million project, funded by both central government and the county council, completed. The benefits will not only be reaped by those living in the town, but across the wider area too. We simply would not have funding for the project had this not been the case. The business case for this project, along with the Upper Orwell Crossings in Ipswich, was put together by people who work very hard and want the best for our county.

This also rings true for the senior bosses and directors who work on our behalf. They all, like the democratically elected councillors, work hard to make a difference to Suffolk and those who live and work here. Pay in the public sector has always been a fiercely-debated issue, and even more so in recent times. It’s not just politicians and those working in the public sector – we’ve all seen the furore over the salaries awarded to the highest earners at the BBC, as well as the gender pay gap.

Last week we published our accounts, as we do every year and are required to do so. As has been reported, the majority of our staff received the 1% pay rise, in line with other public sector workers up and down the country. However, a select few members of staff received honorariums as they stepped up to fill roles, either on a temporary or permanent basis.

Indeed, they are pay rises, but they are reasonable, considering they come with greater pressures and expectations. There is no hiding from the changes that will be coming to the United Kingdom in the next two years and these people will be there assessing and dealing with those challenges. Alongside that, as an organisation we are looking to save £56million over the next four years and, along with the cabinet, these people are key to making difficult but effective decisions.

Bringing in new people to the roles would have cost the council even more money. Not just for the roles themselves, but for the cost of advertising the position. Then there is the time element too, as staff will be taken away from working on policy and serving the community as they filter applications and sit in interviews.”

Our recently introduced priorities are based on three core principles; inclusive growth, health care and wellbeing, and efficient and effective public services. These are ambitious targets – but ones I know we can achieve during the term of the administration.

This is because of the hard work and commitment of our staff, regardless of pay grade, and our councillors – and not just those in control of the administration, as opposition provides checks and balances and the chance to challenge us on policies.

Sound financial management is needed, along with careful planning and the will to find new ways to deliver and protect our frontline services. One of these methods Suffolk is leading on nationally – inspired by the work of a Dutch community, using the Buurtzorg model of care (to deliver dedicated personal and healthcare to patients in a neighbourhood) in the west of the county with our partners in health.

The work we have been doing here is something I am proud to champion in my position of Health and Social Care Integration spokesman on the County Council Network. It is something I truly believe is a strong contribution to the national debate about how we re-shape the healthcare system to serve the ever-changing age profile of our communities. I’m sure there will be more of this to come in the weeks and months ahead as the trial continues.

We, and our partners, work extremely hard to provide the best for our residents. Despite the challenges we will come up against, our staff continue to excel every day in a concerted effort to make savings and provide a better life for those we serve.

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