Local Politics – you could not make it up

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Last week we had a FHDC by-election in Newmarket or to be precisely St. Mary’s ward following the sad death of long standing Councillor Bill Sadler.  And I am pictured here with our candidate Robert Nobbs and my fellow County Councillor Rachel Hood as we finished off the campaign in the evening on on Poll day.

After all the ups and downs of the past few months in politics, it was good to be out on the door steps in what was a very local election.  As we always do, we found a great candidate Robert Nobbs who is the manager of the Heath Court Hotel in Newmarket and who has worked his way up from porter to General manager over the years and is what Conservatives are all about hard work, determination and with skills, business skills, that we try to bring to the Council decision making processes.  With our literature he talked about the changes he want to make and how he go about our business.

On the opposition side of things, we had Labour with the Candidate who has manged to lose 4 general elections as the West Suffolk Constituency Labour candidate and been on and booted off the District Council at the next election, twice to my knowledge.  And what a contrast from our literature which was local, upbeat and full of what we want to do.  Whereas Labours was national, socialist and on two specific aspects quite a surprise!   Firstly, he commented on the Local Secondary school where, as its deputy Head teacher, it was one of the worse performing schools in Suffolk.  Since he left, the school has joined a star Academy group which started here in Suffolk at the Samuel Ward Secondary school in Haverhill and its results are improving with a new drive and determination to deliver the best possible education for its students.  So that was a surprise!

He also put in his literature he said if elected to FHDC he would spend more on the Memorial gardens in Newmarket that Conservative FHDC ever did.  Only two issues here, firstly it’s not the responsibility of FHDC and secondly, and he must know this because, as a Town Councillor he was Chairman of the very committee at the Town Council that has not spent the money on those very same gardens, he says he will if elected to FHDC.  You could not make this stuff up folks!

So to the results:

Conservative 338

Labour 276

Greens 60

Total 680. T/O 16.86%

Accordingly, Robert was duly elected with a 62 majority

Politics s is a funny old game but thankfully even with a traditionally very low by-election turnout our Candidate won the day and on FHDC we have a bright, younger energetic Councillor with great business skills representing the good people of St. Mary’s who has already hit the ground running sorting out issues he picked up during his campaign.

 

 

 

 

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.

Things have to change

Last Monday in my role as Chairman of the Improvement and Efficiency Panel of the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) I chaired a conference at the Cambridge Genome Campus Conference Centre, probably the most impressive venue in East Anglia.  The conference was entitled Positive Ageing and co-convened by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (EAHSN), which is an organisation within the Health system dedicated to new learning and bringing technology to the fore in the Health world, the other co-sponsors were NHS Confederation and Public Health England.

About 200 people from across the region’s Health and Social Care system gathered to hear speakers and life experiences of older age and how we, as a system, can help shape a positive vision and reality for people as they age in our communities.  An ageing population is often talked about but just living to a ripe of age is not enough it has to be a positive experience or what the point and that is the point I made in opening the Conference.

Here is conference brochure summary of what the day entailed:

‘With a significant ageing demographic the East of England is well positioned to be at the leading edge of accelerating the testing and scale up of self-care technology and health services in a way which can help make ageing work better for everyone.

This conference, led by Eastern AHSN, the East of England LGA, Public Health England and the NHS Confederation, will bring together NHS, local government, industry and academia stakeholders and aims to strengthen emerging solutions, new ways of working and shared plans for achieving healthier and happier ageing across the region.

In particular it will look to:

  • support the STPs to meet their ambitions on this agenda
  • identify opportunities to work collaboratively to further positive ageing agenda
  • position the region at the forefront of the UKs research and innovation communities.

The conference will be structured around six themes which include:

  • Defining successful ageing – What are the real demographics of ageing?
  • Sowing health habits – What can we do to ensure our own health and increase the chance of both a long life and a healthy life?
  • Rethinking work – How can society ensure the health and economic benefits of work for more people into older life?
  • Breakthroughs in technology – How can new research and innovations radically change our concepts of what old age means?
  • Connecting with others – How can we develop caring communities and multi-generational social networks?
  • Preserving purpose – How can health and social care systems focus on maintaining quality and purpose of life above the drive for extending life?’

And here is the link to the presentations from the day and if you have a look please look out for the Buurtzorg Health Care Model as that is a programme I am championing here in Suffolk and is a part of our contribution to the national debate about how we re-shape the healthcare system to better serve the changing age profile of our communities.

http://www.eelga.gov.uk/events/east_of_england_positive_ageing/

 

 

 

Independent Remuneration Panel

Every 4 years any Council is required to appoint an Independent Remuneration Panel to look at and report on the Allowance scheme for members of that particular Council.

So, last year we asked the monitoring officer of the Council to put together an independent panel to undertake the work.  The panel is unpaid and seeks to balance the need to make sure the scheme reflects the work undertaken with the need to keep costs down.

4 year ago the previous panel recommended work be undertaken before the next panel to look at various roles and to provide job descriptions to the next panel.  So, a year ago we asked the Audit Committee of the Council to draw up job descriptions for all the different roles Councillors undertake.  When the new panel formed last September, we asked that they be asked to take time to interview as many Councillors as possible.  We also asked that they reflect our scheme in the context of the schemes and levels of allowances from Upper Tier Councils across the East of England, which they have done.

The panel is made up of Sandra Cox who chaired the Panel and is a local government expert, Dame Lin Homer who has had a long career in Local and National Government roles, Mark Pendlington a Director of Anglian Water and Chairman of the NALEP and Andy Wood CE of Adnams.  So, by any one’s measure an expert panel who are all recognised as leaders of industry with years of experience in making tough decisions in large organisations.  The panel met 7 times between November 2016 and June 2017 to fully consider the scheme which will apply for the next four years.

We did ask them to consider the age and profile of the Councillors, as this is a concern to us all and how we could increase the number of women, younger people, and BME representatives of our community to better reflect our population.  In essense should the allowance scheme be increased to attract more diversity in the Chamber because people can’t afford to do it but they felt that in these difficult times that must be achieved by other means.

The Panel is recommending no change to the level of basic allowance county councillors receive but is suggesting an increase to the level of allowance for the roles of Leader, Deputy Leader and Cabinet by raising the way this is calculated which is by a multiplication of the basic allowance so Leader – from 2.5 to 3, Deputy – from 1.75 to 2, Cabinet – from 1.5 to 1.75.  These recommendations put Suffolk County Council in line with other county councils.

They have looked thoroughly at all aspects of the allowance scheme and make a number of recommendations that seek to remove outdated payments (breakfast/lunch etc.).  They also felt that in comparison to other Councils we now have too many Committees and so have recommended mergers of some with the removal of two Committee Chairman and less Members with Special Responsibility which we have reflected in the number that have been appointed to 4.  The overall effect of the proposals is cost neutral and that means they will not cost the Council tax payers of Suffolk any more money.

So these recommendations offer a revised allowance scheme with no additional burden to local tax payers.  The proposals will come before the Full Council next Thursday 20th July.

I believe there is little point asking an independent Panel to look at a scheme if you do not accept their findings and I believe it is fair and reasonable to accept their findings.

Commitment to the Upper Orwell Crossings in Ipswich

Upper Orwell CrossingOn 8th June, Sandy Martin, the Leader of Labour opposition on Suffolk County Council was elected as Ipswich’s MP.  Ipswich has always been a bell-weather seat and given the extraordinary General Election he just pipped the hard-working Ben Gummer ‘at the post’.  During the campaign and subsequently as MP one of the first things he did was declare his dislike for the Upper Orwell Crossings (UOC) in favour of a Northern Relief Road which I think was a shock to the business community and other Ipswich partners on the Ipswich Vision Board, who are entirely behind the regeneration project to open up derelict / low value land in the heart of Ipswich’s waterfront and bring with it the sort of new high worth tech jobs the town so badly needs.  Instead Mr. Martin said the money should be ‘switched’ toward the Northern Relief Road, a project the County Council entirely supports but as the next mayor infrastructure project, but not instead of the UOC.  This change of direction must have also stunned his colleague David Ellesmere who as Leader of the Borough Council and member of the Ipswich Vision Board, has been supportive of the scheme since its inception.

However, there is a fundamental problem with the stance of the new MP as Government funding for the UOC is not geography based it is project based so it’s not some sort of ‘pick and mix’, that can be switched. The funding of the UOC and the Third River Crossing in Lowestoft comes from a funding pot called Local Majors and across the country Highways Authorities such as SCC had to make extensive, detailed and through business cases to bid for funding.  Fortunately, given the chronic congestion issues in Lowestoft holding back business growth and the massive economic benefits to Ipswich the UOC brings, both won through.  Should the new MP succeed in getting the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department of Transport to look again, the most he could achieve would be that the scheme could be dropped and the next scheme that it beat in the funding round, would have a windfall.  This would be an absolute tragedy for Ipswich’s economic future.  Tomorrow there is a meeting of the UOC Task Force which I now Chair and like other members we all hope Mr. Martin can attend so he can understand how the funding works and the importance of the UOC to the future of Ipswich.

I have heard criticism from some that Mr. Martin was keep in the dark on the project and so is hardly surprising he wants to look again at the project, this is utter nonsense.  Mr. Martin is not new to Ipswich or the project.  He has been the Leader of the Opposition on the County Council for the past 8 years.  All the papers and reports on the project are a matter of public record, they are as is the way of these things slightly complex but as an experienced Councillor Mr. Martin was/is better able than most to read the hundreds of pages on the project, I have. Every document is listed at

https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/UpperOrwellCrossings

Equally virtually no one was better placed to understand the project than Mr. Martin, as Leader of the Opposition, he or his team was present at the very meetings where we took the decisions to commit funding and had every opportunity to ask questions and seek further information.

We all agree for Ipswich to grow it needs a Northern Relief road to help easy traffic over the Orwell bridge and in the north of Ipswich but also to allow housing growth.  However, the economic growth that the UOC and the regeneration of the waterfront with new Hi-Tec companies and high worth jobs, comes first.

So as part of our campaign to stress, my and SCC commitment to this vital infrastructure project I have written to the DCLG Secretary of State Sajid Javid MP and the same to Chris Grayling MP the SoS for Transport to re-confirm Suffolk County Council’s commitment to the Upper Orwell Crossing and to exploring a Northern Relief Road Route for Ipswich.

‘Dear Sajid,

I am writing to confirm and emphasise the very strong support for the Upper Orwell Crossings from Suffolk County Council and our partners locally and nationally.

Upper Orwell Crossings

The County Council with its partners is driving forward the delivery of these bridges which will link the east and west banks of the River Orwell, providing a long needed new route for cross-town traffic, and access to the port’s island site – opening this newly created Enterprise Zone site to development. This £96.7 million investment into Ipswich will have a transformative impact on Ipswich’s economy and signals our ambitions for the town.

A compelling outline business case for this project resulted in the announcement, in the March 2016 Budget, of £77.546 million funding from the Department for Transport.  The local financial contribution of £19.1 million – is confirmed and available. Following a hotly contested international Architectural Team competition, we have recently appointed Foster and Partners as the architects for the bridges.  In addition to ongoing stakeholder engagement and scheme design and development, we have completed extensive environmental surveys and a local consultation.

The Upper Orwell Crossings has a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 4.01 and has therefore been categorised as being a very high Value for Money scheme; with around £300 million of Transport Benefits and £6.5 billion of wider economic benefits.

Delivery of the Upper Orwell Crossings is one of the 21 Commitments made by the Ipswich Vision Board. Ipswich Vision is a partnership of local authorities, New Anglia LEP, Chamber of Commerce, University of Suffolk, Ipswich Central – the Business Improvement District and the local MP. It was established in 2015 to develop and publish a blueprint for the development of Ipswich and increase investment in the town, with clear commitments, including developing the waterfront as a high tech, innovation and learning quarter. The Vision Board is a sub-committee of New Anglia LEP, chaired by Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP. The partnership working which has been achieved through the Vision Board is ground breaking for Ipswich.

Part of the Island site to be opened by the bridges will house incubation units for fledgling start-ups and provide a link between academia and the major digital employers already located in Ipswich (such as British Telecom, Intel, Cisco Systems, Nokia and Huawei Technologies). Ipswich has a cluster of ICT businesses, recognised in the Tech Nation Report 2017. The investment in the Upper Orwell Crossings will significantly develop the opportunities for high tech companies to locate and grow in Ipswich, within a new high-technology hub linked to the University of Suffolk.

The Island Site and surrounding regeneration area is a 10 minute walk from Ipswich Railway Station which has fast and frequent Mainline service into the heart of London’s financial centre and high tech cluster in Farringdon.

The Upper Orwell Crossings will enable improvements to connectivity and the public realm within Ipswich and will be a transformative catalyst to the regeneration of the area. Their delivery will facilitate high density employment and residential development, and enable the creation of a quality urban realm which will attract both developers to develop and people and businesses to invest. The elements needed for the realisation of this exciting opportunity, to create a high tech knowledge cluster in an attractive location, to improve connectivity and the public realm are now in place, and I strongly believe should not be jeopardised.

Ipswich Northern Relief Road

The County Council and its partners are committed to developing a scheme to improve road capacity in the north of the town. This is to support significant housing development in the wider Ipswich area. The development of this scheme cannot be seen as being an alternative to the Upper Orwell Crossings. The latter is focussed on economic regeneration and improving the quality of the environment between the town centre and waterfront, with some transport benefits arising from relieving some traffic on the A14 and the central area, whereas a Northern Relief Road would enable the delivery of a substantial number of new homes to meet the needs of our residents.

All of the Suffolk Local Authorities have been working together to establish how we can deliver significantly increased housing numbers. In part, this work was started as a result of our devolution discussions with government, during which we committed to delivering around 95,000 new homes across Suffolk. Ipswich has a very great role in delivering a significant proportion of that growth as the county town and driver for growth in Suffolk. But in order to deliver this level of housing growth, we need to ensure that the required infrastructure is provided.

We have just concluded a significant piece of consultancy work to understand the future for planning and infrastructure in Suffolk. This concludes that the delivery of an Ipswich Northern Relief Road, located to the north of Ipswich between the A14 in the west and A12 in the east, will be necessary to support the growth of the Ipswich area beyond levels set out in current local plans. Failure to provide the Ipswich Northern Relief Road is expected to have significant implications for the surrounding strategic and local highway network (i.e. A14, A12, B1078 and Ipswich Radial Corridors), and the long term economic performance of Ipswich, and the opportunities available to its residents.

Furthermore, the growth planned in current local plans is forecast to be at the limit of what can be accommodated by existing road infrastructure. Therefore, to ensure infrastructure is provided to support development, Suffolk Public Sector Leaders have dedicated funding from their pooled Business Rates to begin developing a scheme to deliver the Northern Relief Road in Ipswich.

In conclusion

The Upper Orwell Crossings will transform the economy of Ipswich and Suffolk. The project will deliver high quality urban realm improvements, create better connectivity across the town, provide benefits for the A14 and enable the growth of the Ipswich Waterfront area as a location for high tech companies and high quality residential development. Work to deliver these bridges is underway and should not be jeopardised.

We are beginning to develop a scheme for a Northern Relief Road for Ipswich using pooled Business Rates. A Northern Relief Road will be necessary to support housing growth beyond what is contained in current local plans and we ask government to support the development and delivery of this road to enable Suffolk’s ambitious housing delivery plans.

It is not a case of either the Upper Orwell Crossings or a Northern Relief Road – Ipswich needs both if it is to grow and realise the ambitions we and our partners have for it.

Councillor Colin Noble

Leader of Suffolk County Council

Deborah Cadman

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Deborah and I with Shaun Whiter at the Suffolk Raising the Bar Awards last night where Shaun spoke of his challenges in life and how he sets himself goals – inspirational stuff.

Today the news will be breaking that Deborah Cadman the Suffolk County Council Chief Executive is leaving us for a new role as Chief Executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

She told me last week that she was being considered and was offered the job on Friday.  I shall personally be very sad to see her leave but fully understand the exciting challenge and thus reasons for her move.

Deborah has been outstanding, leading our Staff these past 6 years, she steadied the ship when she arrived and has lead the team through major staff reductions and changes in the way they work together and with our partners across Suffolk. Her impact in her time with us cannot be underestimated. Educational attainment levels in Suffolk are now significantly higher, with 86% of schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. Over £200 million of essential budget savings have been delivered and staff morale is much higher than when Deborah joined us in 2011.

Today Deborah and I will present to the Cabinet and Senior officer team senior a draft paper which turns our Conservative County election manifesto into corporate priorities, her enthusiasm for this and her vision as we plan with our partners for our great county has been exceptional.  Deborah’s ability to lead partnership working will be something that WMCA will benefit from immensely as it forms its strategies for the long term as well as the short term.

I always knew this day would come.  I know she will not mind me saying that last year I managed to persuade her to remain with us when Government offered her a top job and in part that was because at the time there was the prospect of a Norfolk and Suffolk Combined Authority.  She was as disappointed as I was, that we did not manage to capture the imagination of all the councils in Norfolk to the concept.  So, her move to a Combined Authority that did form!, is no surprise to me.

She is going to the most challenging and exciting job in Local Government.  Andy Street the new Mayor of the WMCA has had a glittering career in Retail as the former CE of John Lewis but is new to the bear pit of politics which is the West Midlands.  I have undertaken work with officers in Birmingham and Sandwell and know some of the areas Leaders that make up the WMCA and if I pondered how complex the Norfolk and Suffolk CA was going to be, it has nothing on the complexity of those Councils working together with a Mayor.

I have known Deborah a long time firstly when she was CE of St. Edmunds Borough Council and in her time as CE of the East Anglian Regional Development Agency.  Funny story is that I was on the original panel who recruited her to the SCC role however for some domestic reason, she was first up and I missed her interview but at the end of the day’s other interviews I voted for her to get the job, she has and is one of this country’s stars of Local Government and blends her considerable operational skills with a deep understanding of the political ‘side of the coin’, as well.

Her personal support of me these past two years as I have started my Leadership role has been brilliant and at a very difficult time for me last summer when my father died in sudden circumstances, I shall long remember her kindness.

Suffolk’s lose is the West Midlands Combined Authority and its new Mayor’s gain.

Deborah is a Brummie and so is returning home, but I know she and Geoff will keep their Suffolk connections where she has forged much of her career and I wish her all the very best.

Deborah will be with us for much of the next three months as we careful plan her exit and together we will make arrangement with our excellent senior officer team, one of whom will cover the CE role as we go out to recruit a new CE.  I know from some of those excellent candidates who I hope will apply that we will have a rich pool of talent to pick our next Chief Executive.

Suffolk Decided – Conservatives

The weekend after a Poll Day is always strange, as you adjust back to normal after weeks of a different regime of delivery, canvassing and talking to people on their doorsteps, ends so abruptly. As a Councillor, you do these things on a regular basis but at election time it becomes your entire focus.

In many ways, it’s been a very different campaign for me for three reasons, firstly there’s the small matter of the General election being called in the middle of the campaign, then there’s social media which for the first time starts to play a part and last but not least, I had to juggle my own campaign with leading 74 candidates as Leader of my Conservative group.

In the end we have won a massive majority and now hold 52 out of the 75 seats on the County Council.  There are of course many reasons this has happened not least the hard work we have undertaken running the Council for the past 12 years, not to mention the position of the Conservative Party nationally as Prime Minister Theresa May seeks a mandate to send a strong message to Brussels that Brexit means Brexit and we will not be pushed about.

But this blog is also about what I think is disgraceful from the other parties.  We won because we fought every single Division to win.  Not to be paper candidates but to go out across Suffolk and engage with voters and talk about the issues we face on the County Council, sadly others did not.

To watch and listen to the Labour party campaign you’d think that Suffolk consisted of Ipswich, Lowestoft and Sudbury.  Even then they got a trashing losing three of their frontline spokespersons. Holding a few seats, 9 out of the 11 in Ipswich, one in Lowestoft and one in Sudbury does not mean you can speak for Suffolk.  In my own Division, the Labour candidate’s campaign consisted of putting an A4 poster in his window!

The Lib Dems were equally pathetic and truly got their comeuppance.  The flooded their own seats with material and as far as we could see they had just 4 targets seats so even if they would have won everything they aimed at, they would have ended up with just 12 seats clearly a position to then slither up to Labour if they won enough.  But they did not achieve even that and lost 3 seats, rather busts the myth that they are such great local Councillors no own would ever pick someone else.  They did and they are reduced to just 5 seats.

So now, we campaign in the general election and support our great Candidates across Suffolk.  Then it’s back to it and to use our mandate to implement our Suffolk Conservative manifesto with Strong and Stable Leadership of Suffolk, Caring and Campaigning for all of Suffolk’s communities and tackle the challenges ahead at the County Council.

 

 

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