Suffolk

on the sofa with BBC Radio Suffolk's Lesley Dolphin at the Suffolk Show

on the sofa with BBC Radio Suffolk’s Lesley Dolphin at the Suffolk Show

A couple of Friday’s ago, fresh in my new role on Suffolk County Council, I was on BBC Radio Suffolk Mark Murphy’s ‘Hot Seat’ an hour long grilling with phone in and tough questions from Mark. Earlier in the day the county council’s Labour Opposition Leader had described me as more acerbic and aggressive than my predecessor and I tend to think that is usually unfair but in his case when I have to listen to the unreformed Socialist nonsense he insists on repeating as he does, I suspect he gets that about right!

That aside, for me the interview was about setting out in part how we need to work together across Local government to protect services for the most vulnerable in our community that is Suffolk and deliver the services people expect from us, never sure the extent to which you get these things across in a free flowing interview but hope I did.

I also hoped I got across just how much I love our county, I am Suffolk Born and Breed and I am once, twice and always a Lakenheath Boy. My childhood was spent on a Saturday watching the Blues from the then new Portman Road stand and our summer holidays were spent in Felixstowe at my parents holiday home in Western Avenue. I literally went to school in the back of a builders van and growing up at the dinner table its was all about business and the community in which we lived. We do things a certain way in Suffolk and its important that we mirror that, proud of what we do well, careful in how we plan but open to changing things if we can find a better way working with our partners and communities and it is clear with the emerging agenda on Devolution this way of working will be how we take public sector services forward in Suffolk not just local government but Health, police, indeed potentially the totality of government spend in our communities. So for all the savings we have to make, it is still a very exciting time to be in Local Government.

And one of the wonderful things about being from Suffolk is the Suffolk Show, l was there last Wednesday and the weather was glorious and I had a pleasure to welcome the show President Terry Hunt and his wife Jane, to have a look around the County Council stand. It was designed to be how the public sector works with each and everyone of us as we make our journey through life and to be interactive, so it started with face painting for the kids from the team in Children’s services and finsihed with things like the Coffee Caravan, a voluntary sector organisation, talking about how they go out and explain the services available for older people in their community across Suffolk. Just before I left to travel back for the Forest Heath District Council AGM I popped along to the Radio Suffolk stand and had a chat with Lesley Dolphin about all the great things at the show, a truly lovely celebration fo all things Suffolk.

RAF Mildenhall Closure

RAF MildenhallOn Thursday we had the sad news that RAF Mildenhall was to close, and my first thoughts when I heard was for the 500 or so people who work there and the uncertainty the announcement makes for them.

A number of us were all geared up for the official USAF announcement embargoed until 3pm, however this quickly became a nonsense as the moment was entirely overtaken by social media in the morning because the Stars and Stripes carried the full story that morning in their on-line edition, someone somewhere does not quite understand the nature of an agreed embargo! For my part I watched the twitter feeds starting up and then took a call from Paul Geater of the EADT asking for a quote before speaking on BBC Radio Suffolk’s Mark Murphy Show. The following morning I was interviewed by Etholle George on her morning show at 6:30am at Mildenhall Market and a couple of times more up to 9am and finally I did a piece for BBC Look East that evening outside the base.

Of course the devil is in the detail and whilst this will be a blow to many it’s not quite as bad as if first appears. In the same announcement, it was confirmed that RAF Lakenheath will expand and take 2 squadrons of the new USAF F-35 fighter aircraft with new investment and an additional 1,200 personnel and their families. RAF Mildenhall will close over the next 5 – 7 years with the leaving of 3,200 personnel and their families. If you consider that it’s only a year or so ago that the numbers were added to by 1,200 personnel connected with the special forces and their very strange looking Osprey aircraft. So that means with all the various comings and goings the area will ultimately only down about 800 personnel from the position 2 years ago.

Of course alongside these departures 500 local people are employed in a variety of roles on the base and whilst some will no doubt get jobs at Lakenheath many will be made redundant, and this is the biggest challenge we face. But it is also the biggest opportunity we face. At Forest Heath District Council since we won the last election in 2011 we’ve refocused the Council on economic growth and so, assuming we win the election in May we are well placed to lead taking advantage of this opportunity. RAF Mildenhall is a busy World class airport with great community facilities and industrial potential to attract high value jobs into a spacious industrial park.

We have already hit the ground running, Matthew Hancock MP has announced that he is to chair a Westminster working party looking at the future of RAF Mildenhall, RAF Molesworth, and RAF Alconbury. And alongside Cllr. James Waters the Leader of Forest Heath District Council we are already discussing the askes we want to make of Government, key amongst them and to the MOD in particular is clarity so we can use the next period to plan the strategy, not merely replacing those jobs lost but to bring far more in so that on the far side of this closure it is viewed as an economic success storey for West Suffolk. The work has begun to make sure as the USAF close down their last security post, new businesses are moving in generating those high value jobs.

No small task, but one,Conservatives from our MP to us Councillors are entirely focused on.

Sufffolk’s welcomes the Paralympic Flame

On Friday I attended the Suffolk Civic reception to welcome the Paralympic Flame as it makes its way into the county for a bank holiday weekend of celebration and entertainment. It was collected by local Needham Market artist Amy Nettleton during a special ceremony at Trafalgar Square in London and transported back to Suffolk in a miner’s lantern.

After the civic reception I popped down to Needham Lakes where 1000’s of people had a gathered to take part of an afternoon festival of free entertainment and sport; it was a real party atmosphere and great to see so many disabled people taking part in the activities.

At 5:15 I was interviewed by Leslie Dolphin from BBC Radio Suffolk as a part of their live outside Broadcast; we discussed the weekend of sport that was taking place so people could go along as see the range of disabled sporting activities and a taster of the Paralympics ahead. After we had finished I have a quick chat with Suffolk Paralympic athlete Brian Alldis who was the star attraction in the broadcast and wished him good luck for the games; later on, he led taking the flame on a lantern procession around the town, before returning to the Lakes where there was a great spectacular fire work display to close the event.

Having watched a truely wonderful Olympic games where the very best sports people took part I can’t wait to watch the Paralympic games where the bravest sports people are taking part; come on Team GB.

The Mark Murphy Show

Today I was interviewed on Mark Murphy’s show ahead of the BBC One Panorama Programme with Dame Joan Bakewell tonight, talking about our aging population, who is going to pay for their care and some of the initiative ways people are taking care of themselves.

Tonight they will discuss the national figures and I suspect it will make for worrying reading, in Suffolk what we know is that today there are 715,000 people living here, 140,000 some 19% are aged over 65; 40,000 6% of us are aged over 80. Today 10,000 people live with dementia Suffolk.

By 2015 the number of people aged over 65 will have increased to 169,000, rising to 211,000 by 2025 – an increase of 50%; the number of people aged over 80 will have increased to 46,500 rising to 67,000 by 2025 – an increase of 63% and by 2015 the number of people with dementia will have increased to 11,700 rising to 16,000 by 2025 – an increase of 60%.

It is too easy to think we face an overwhelming challenge, but as I said to Mark with all of this in mind we are working hard to work out ways Suffolk can be at the forefront of aging well.

If we are to succeed, we must make essential changes that could amount to revolutionising the way in which we offer care and support to Suffolk’s older people in future.

To start with Suffolk County Council has to change, last September we launched the New Strategic Direction because despite the then Labour Government saying KEEP CLAM and CARRY ON, we knew cuts and big ones at that were coming our way at a time when we also know we need to do something radical to address our aging population.

Different Councils are starting to talk about how they are going to deal with the coming cuts many are talking about becoming more efficient which whilst we will continue to be more efficient we know that other Councils have not been on the sort of efficiency journey we have been on since the Conservatives took control of the Council in 2005, we have saved over £60M of operational costs and are now rated as the second most cost efficient County Council in England and so we cannot find the savings that way.

That’s why we are changing through the New Strategic Direction vision.

That’s why we have launched Suffolk Flexicare which is about all local public services and providers looking at our whole care structure from housing to health care with all of Suffolk’s public bodies engaged in this work.

That’s why we are launching Suffolk Circle to change people’s perception of help and networking, support not charity.

That’s why we are working on new ways for our strong third sector, charities, community groups and social enterprises to be empowered to delivery services.

Beyond the national debate about how we pay for care for our aging population, beyond the demographics, we are determined that Suffolk shall be at the front of changing the perception of getting older and of caring.

Maybe just maybe tonight the programme will touch on the very embryonic thoughts about the value of caring, not just the unbelievable difference you can make to the life of another person whether they be your partner or parents but to the economic success of the country. In Suffolk there are 98,000 carers and if they stopped caring tomorrow the county care services would collapse, conversations about how we as a nation value that care is really important, conversations are just starting up around this and I hope the Royal Commission takes this debate on board.

I hope tonight’s programme picks up on the first conversations around, how we as a nation, value carers and encourage caring for another as a worthwhile profession; in short, how do we recognise that without making payment which we simply cannot afford.

Professor Heniz Wolff calls it care4care and we are very keen on this debate, its very very early days but we are working on it , so you heard it here first, Suffolk care4care, as with all the very best thinking we are determined that Suffolk should and will be at the forefront of such things. 

But what is care4care well it’s the theory that for every hour you spend caring for another, whoever that is, you bank that hour and one day if you need care yourself you can cash it and another person provides the care you need for free in the knowledge that they are banking that hour as well; and because everyone is giving of their time freely it cost the county nothing beyond the administration. Sounds simple, but is in fact full of if’s, but’s, and maybe’s that make it a very complex thing indeed, but we are working on it.

So, there you have it in a nutshell, Suffolk has an aging population and is getting less and less funding from Central Government to deal with it; but we are working on it, with Suffolk’s New Stratergic Direction; with Suffolk Flexicare; with Suffolk Circle; with Suffolk’s care providers and the third sector and long-term with all of us here in Suffolk working towards the Bigger Society David Cameron is talking about nationally and that’s what I told Mark Murphy this morning.

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