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

Investment in Ipswich, Investing in Suffolk.

Really pleased that the news has been revealed that the Homes and Community Agency are helping to support the Development of the empty ‘wine rack’ building on Ipswich’s Waterfront officially it’s called Regatta Quay but its known as the wine rack for obvious reasons and is rather a symbol of the last property crash and so an important building to finally see developed.  The Agency will invest £15M and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (NALEP) of which I am a Director as Leader of Suffolk County Council, is investing £5M from our Growing Places Fund.  These are commercial loans and will be repaid with interest but they get things moving.

The work of the NALEP and more details on the announcement can be found here

www.newanglia.co.uk

Sometimes Ipswich seems a long way for Row Heath but battling for investment and growing our economy is vitally important.  As Leader of the County Council I have been on recorded as stating there is no such thing as a Stronger Suffolk without a Stronger Ipswich, the development of this icon structure on the waterfront alongside the £100M investment being made with Foster and Partners designing the Upper Orwell Crossing there is a determination for Ipswich to become the Powerhouse of Suffolk’s economy.  This benefits us here in the west of Suffolk because the more money that is generated in Ipswich through Business rate growth, shortly, will mean more money for the County Council to spend on vital services in our community.

We want to grow our economy here in West Suffolk as well but Ipswich is uniquely placed to benefit from an overheating London economy as it’s an hour from the heart of the city and we are working to make sure we capitalise on that geography. That’s why I sort and campaigned for there to be one Board to pull together all of the many, many plans I was presented with when I became Leader of the Council two years ago.  Today there is one vision one board, its called Ipswich Vision and I have lead Suffolk’s attendance at the principle Land and Property investment exhibition in London each year called MIPIM, as we seek to put Ipswich and Suffolk on the investment map.

You can read more about the Ipswich Vision Board here

www.newanglia.co.uk/…/major-players-come-together-to-agree-a-vision-for-ipswich/

The way local government is financed is complex but it is changing, I want the economy of Suffolk to be a powerhouse of growth with high value jobs and growing companies to be based here.  In the next few years the stronger our economy, the more money we will have to spend of protecting frontline services for the most vulnerable in our society. This is what we mean by Caring and Campaigning.  Unlike the Lib Dems and Labour who would spend all the money we have earmarked for investing in our economy and growth, they would simply spend it now, not making the savings we need to make and then as they always do when the money runs out, throw their hands up and demand more of your hard-earned money in Council Tax. We believe in investing is Suffolk’s growth and this coupled with a relentless drive to make the back office of the public sector in Suffolk more efficient is how we will deliver for Suffolk over the next 10 years.  We are planning how we go about this and develop a blueprint of growth and efficiency.

Out on the campaign trail

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Being filmed for the Politics Show -East, out on the campaign trail

So as I am out in my Division on the door steps, explaining our Manifesto and how it builds on what people have been saying to our Candidates over the past couple of years.  I also encourage people to go and have a look at Labour and the Lib Dems manifesto’s they are worth the worrying read that they are.

Our manifesto is packed full of new ideas as we seek to drive forward reforms to the council to protect Front lien services to the most vulnerable in our communities and help our communities be better places to live.  We are ever mindful that its your money not the councils and that making sure we plan for the future of services not just today and must taking account of everything that is told to us by Government for the next 4 years and beyond.

But contrast this with the Corbinista’s who’s manifesto is spend, spend, spend, their financial spokesman has even been quoted in the press that the financial outlook for local Government is getting better.  Well maybe it is in Corbyn’s La, La, Land but back in the real world, local government has to be careful with your money not reckless.

Or maybe go and have a read of the Liberals one, over the coming weeks we will see the only the liberals can win here, little yellow leaflets.  At the recent Annual Budget debate their Leader could not be bothered to turn up and their deputy leader did not bother to check how long he had to speak so did not even get through reading half the leaders speech. In the 11 years, I have been a Councillor they have never once tabled a budget amendment a shocking performance in February, yet they are out there telling people how committed they are to run Suffolk.  Truly, truly scary.

The next few years are going to be challenging but us Conservatives are up for the challenge.  Running a great county like Suffolk is an honour and a privilege for whoever you vote for and your vote matters.

You are voting on the careful running of important services like Adult Social Care and how we protect our young people.

You are voting for who can run the budget that truly protect and sustain Front Line services.

You are voting for who can work with our business community to grow our economy and bring higher value jobs and who is best places to deliver on your priorities.

You are voting for the party that respect its your hard earned money and we always do what we can to keep your Council Tax bill as low as is possible.

The Financially Dangerous Labour Party, who when the money runs out will come after yours.  The lazy and lacklustre Lib Dews who can’t really be bothered to have a plan. Or a Conservative group who have the passion, enthusiasm and drive to see Suffolk grow and be the best place there is to live, work, raise a family and retire in.

Vote Conservative on May 4th.

Suffolk County Council Conservatives – End of Term Report

29.03.2013 SCC campaign 2013 0%, 0%, 0%, 0% Council tax pledge

Our promise 4 years ago – Kept

Suffolk Conservatives are proud to have led Suffolk County Council for the last four-year term, ensuring that vital services are retained and keeping tax as low as possible.

Suffolk Conservatives have lived up to their pledge of freezing base Council tax since the last election, meaning that the residents of Suffolk are not paying a penny more than they did in 2010.  That’s a 7- year freeze!  We are committed to running a low-tax county council and maintaining services by being more effective and efficient with our resources rather than making the residents pay more.

In 2016 Suffolk Conservatives renewed more than 300 miles of roads across the county after an investment of an additional £10 million.  We implemented an online reporting system for potholes which has seen over 70% of customers move online where they can receive updates on works, greatly decreasing the response time.

Caring for Suffolk’s elderly and vulnerable residents has remained one of our highest priorities.  With an aging population, we have supported residents to live active and fulfilling lives.  To honour Suffolk Conservative’s commitment to adult social care, this administration has taken all opportunities presented to it to invest in front line services, for two consecutive years (2016/17 & 2017/18) we introduced the adult social care precept at 2% and 3% respectively.  This money is ring-fenced and goes directly to front line services.  In the 2017/18 budget the Conservative administration will be investing £12.3m in full to front line services and to those hardworking people who care for our elderly population.  We will target this money into the care sector to provide a sustainability and safe, high quality care.

Since the last election in May 2013 Suffolk Schools have gone from 60% ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ rating by OFSTED to an amazing 90%.  This means that 9/10 children in Suffolk now have access to the highest standards of education thanks to the tireless work of Suffolk’s Conservatives.  We are now ranked in the top half of all authorities in the country for GSCE results.

Suffolk Conservatives are dedicated to keeping the residents of Suffolk healthy. We have established sporting events across the county, which have inspired thousands of people, including “Park Runs”, almost 150 walks, the Women’s Tour of Britain and the inaugural Great East Run.  We continue to work closely with the NHS Mental Health Trust and with other services and charities to help support the most fragile.

Over the past four years we have managed to work with partners to secure millions of pounds of improvement to the rail network, with brand new rolling stock and reduced journey times under the new rail franchise with Greater Anglia.  Our continued investment in community transport through our Connecting Communities scheme has extended services in rural areas, allowing everyone to access public transport no matter how remote their location.

Suffolk Conservatives have worked closely with our MPs to secure money for two large bridge projects in Ipswich and Lowestoft.  These nationally significant pieces of infrastructure will help to ease congestion and attract economic investment.  The Upper Orwell crossing will be a bridge of international architectural significance after the announcement of Norman Foster + Partners designing it.  This will truly be a legacy bridge for all the residents of Suffolk to be proud of.

Suffolk is a beautiful county of rich green countryside and breath-taking coastlines and the Conservatives are proud to protect our county’s environment. We have invested in our historic market towns and the re-generation of Ipswich waterfront. The county’s energy from waste plant has enabled us to save money on landfill tax, generate electricity and earn income.  The plant was built to budget and on time. It takes all Suffolk’s domestic waste for incineration and powers 30,000 homes. As a result, waste going into landfill in Suffolk has been cut from 44% to just 1%!

Over the past four years of Conservative Administration at Suffolk County Council services have been not only maintained but in many cases improved.  We have greatly improved Suffolk’s schools and protected those most vulnerable in our society. We have invested heavily in our road and transport network, ensuring that they are fit for purpose for growth in the future.  We have protected all of our libraries, secured nationally significant infrastructure projects and taken huge steps in preventing damage to our environment.  We have achieved all of this without raising our base Council tax by a single percent.  Suffolk Conservatives remain dedicated to serving the people of Suffolk and providing the services, prioritising our spending on protecting the frail, elderly and young who are at risk.

Conservative leadership delivers.  We are proud of our strong stewardship of Suffolk. If we form the administration in May 2017 we will continue to work in the best interests of all who live and work in our county.

Two Bridges, One Suffolk

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On Friday I walked along the Ipswich Marina dockside and the sun was shining as I headed for the press announcement of the Architectural Practice we have appointed to Design the Upper Orwell Crossing in Ipswich…Foster + Partners who are one of the world’s foremost practices.  Who also have a wonderful track record in Ipswich having already designed the iconic Willis Building in 1975 that looks as if it was completed yesterday.

Earlier in the day I was ready about the press launch of the Lake Loathing Bridge announcement which was led by my colleague Guy McGregor.

These press events follow years of lobbying and hard work by Councillors and our great Local MPs Peter Aldous and Ben Gummer. The County has provided all the technical answers to the various questions and loops you must go through when obtaining funding and this has resulted in £73.39M from central Government for the Lowestoft bridge and £77.546M for the Ipswich bridges.  The County Council took a paper to Cabinet in May 2016 pledging the reminder of the monies £18.3M for the Lowestoft Bridge and about £19.1M for the Ipswich bridges.  Which demonstrated our commitment to these two exciting projects, both have different aims but both demonstrate Conservatives are committed to investing in our county’s infrastructure across Suffolk.

As you can see from the visuals the bridges will address the difficulty in getting about in Lowestoft and in Ipswich the bridges will open up significant high value employment land in a beautiful part of our County Town.

In the recent Annual Budget the Labour party proposed the spending of the general reserve over the next two years and then they would be eating into the very money allocated for these Bridge projects, their manifesto would cost so much that by the time the Council needed to contribute the sum we have promised there would be no money left with which to do so and we would have to borrow it!

So, imagine the irony when last week when Labour said the money is not there to build the Lake Loathing crossing in Lowestoft.  While I would not go as far to suggest this is “Fake News’, it would be fair to say the claim is entirely false. The funding required to complete Lake Loathing Third crossing is there and we are committed to ensuring the projects are completed. The shamelessness of the Corbynistas is just staggering.

My response to Labour’s comments was simple “The bridges will be build”.

And what I mean by that is, back in the real world, we have made a financial commitment to these two important projects in our County and if elected they will be built by a Conservative County Council.

Vote Conservative on 4th May.

On the campaign trail – Beck Row

0% County Council Tax rises for Beck Row

Out on the campaign trail in Beck Row

So, we have voted in the 2017/18 Suffolk County Council Budget having defeated Labour’s financially dangerous spend, spend, spend plans and delivered on our key 2013 Manifesto pledge of 0% base Council Tax increases, making 7 year at 0% since 2010.

Our manifesto has been a year in the making and is completed, a mixture of innovation and careful financial planning ever mindful of the need to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and ever mindful it’s your hard-earned money.  We will launch it on 17th March both in paper form and on our web site http://www.suffolkconservatives.org.uk/

So, our regular survey and canvass work steps up on the streets talking to resident about our track record and plans for the future.  They say all politics is local and of course that is true so as I start my campaign off as I always do in Beck Row there are a mixture of concerns from a highways parking problem at the local convenience store which I am getting sorted out, to the bigger picture of what is going to happen with Mildenhall Air Base, (its really RAF Beck Row as you can see in the picture on the left) which we are working on but will take a bit longer!

As I am out and about I am asking residents to fill in my survey or do it on line as we now have our surveys up to make it easier for residents.  The one for Beck Row is http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/beckrow

It’s going to be an interesting few months as we set out our vision for Suffolk County Council’s Future and Labour and the Liberals promise as they do, everything your heart’s desire, just one small problem they never ever tell you that they can’t deliver it.  Same old Labour always spending your hard-earned money and same old Lib Dems always…well that depends what you want them to say. As for UKIP… we are leaving the EU so move on.

The battle lines are drawn and now to the campaign.

 

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