Voters Choice in the Euro elections

Whatever you think about Europe, there is no doubt that UKIP will have a good set of European elections here in the East. As I said in my blog yesterday the key for Conservatives rests on two things, one true of all elections and all parties getting our core voters out and the other I would say is how people view the Referendum promise.

Last week in Haverhill’s St. Edmunds Borough Council by-election quite a lot of people vote UKIP perhaps beyond their simply articulation on Europe it is of course convenient to peg it to this or that but you can’t ignore 54% of the vote share and to do so is a mistake. On politics in general they, like liberals before them, do not have to deal with the complexity of actually having to potentially run the country and they seek to represent a point of view to return to some sort of ‘how it used to be’ and whilst I do not think they are a racist party, they do tap into a cohort of people who are a bit shocked at the pace of change they see in their community. I personally welcome all people if they can contribute to our communities and I think that predominately those who have made this area home are hardworking and add to the rich diversity of our communities by I do recognize the sheer change in our market town and high streets with the variety of ethic shops is tough for some in our community to get their heads around.

Also I think it fair to say UKIP have, since the Liberals joined coalition government, become the party of protest, hovering up right wing conservative votes and liberals who are really a sort of protest cohort the liberals used to tap into but have found it increasingly difficult since they had to face the harsh reality of having to actually seek to delivery on some of their policies in coalition! And in this vein they seem to be picking up a, albeit smaller, cohort of Labour supporters who hark back to an imaginary better time.

So how to engage the electorate in the coming election and how to get across the conservative message. Vote Conservative and signal we want to continue to work hard to reform the EU and that you want a referendum where you get to vote whatever your views, for it gives David Cameron the leverage he needs in Europe to renegotiate the terms of our relationship with Europe and then for the first time we the British people can fully and openly debate this subject properly, a debate which will be rigorous on both sides of the argument, which is precisely how we as a nation make good decisions.

or:

Vote UKIP and signal out and hang the consequences. But even if you do, whatever you do, do not vote UKIP in 2015 because you will simply let Labour win, we saw this in Norfolk and look what an absolute mess Norfolk County Council are in with its rainbow hiatus.

Vote Labour and signal continue with membership as is (although I wonder if that will change in the run in to the General Election, if the conservative referendum starts to gather up voters)

Vote Liberal and err. I think it’s in or would you prefer out, we are nothing if not flexible in the pursuit of power, just look at their track record in coalition!

Hard Choices

On 22nd April I blogged about the visits I and county officers made to the Care Homes across Suffolk that would directly be effected by our PFI Funding bid for three new state of the Art Care Homes we were planning to build; and the many great people, staff, carers and customers that we met.

Now that seems like an age ago and the KEEP CALM and CARRY ON attitude towards the finances of this country has rightly been replaced with a realism about the national debt and the need to get it under control.

But for us that means we have hard choices to make about the things we want to do and the things we can afford to do. Simply put we do not have the budget to carry on with the proposals.

At the Cabinet meeting Tuesday I presented a paper and reiterated an important principle, at an unprecedented time of change in local government, we must be prepared to take difficult decisions if we are to provide, value for money and maintain essential services to Suffolk taxpayers.

This is why one I proposed we take is stopping work to pursue a Public Finance Initiative project to create three new care homes in Suffolk.  In making that decision I thought long and hard about the potential missed opportunity but can clearly justify my thinking for three reasons:

  1. Our financial assessment showed that the project would cost the county council an additional £3m in the first five years. This is simply unaffordable in the current economic climate.
  2. The county council owns 17 care homes and operates 16 of them. While the PFI credits would have benefited part of our overall estate, replacing four of the homes with three new ones, we need to consider the homes estate as a whole. This should be within the wider context of a need to develop a range of services for older people to meet their changing expectations. Options must be affordable, sustainable, and most importantly be truly fit for purpose.  
  3.  Our care homes provide a range of services which are important for the wellbeing of many older people, but we cannot provide these services in isolation. As part of Suffolk’s Flexicare vision, we must ensure we are working with partners to consider the long-term needs for older people in Suffolk. This includes delivering better services in a climate in which a growing ageing population will push up demand for services and when people expect to be able to have more choice and control over the care and support they need.

That said at this time I believe it is more important for us to consider how we can work smarter and more effectively, by reviewing alternative options to meet the needs of all older people in the coming years. 

Our work to develop the PFI option included a period of consultation earlier this year, which produced valuable and insightful feedback from many people.

Just before I wrap up my blog and as I said on Tuesday in presenting the papers I would like to publicly thank everyone who took the time to send in their comments about the PFI proposals and in particular those good people who took the time to meet myself and the team as we presented the proposals to people living in Mildenhall, Haverhill and Lowestoft; and would like to reassure them that their feedback will most definitely influence my consideration of future proposals.

Out Campaigning with Matthew Hancock in Haverhill

Campaigning about the NHS at Haverhill Saturday Market with Matthew Hancock and the team

Today a large group of us were out with Matthew Hancock in Haverhill Town Square on a busy Saturday morning’s market. The weather was sunny and the response from those we talked to about the NHS and our plans to improve it, was really postive and well received. So many people told us of their personal experiences of going into Hospital, the Doctors and Nurses are wonderful but they simply cannot believe the number of people with clip boards, buzzing around all the time.

Thirteen years of this Labour Government has brought investment but it has also brought a middle management Culture of form filling and report filling that has nothing to do with delivering world class health care but actually blocks it as so much of the funding goes in management costs not front line services and this culture has to be reversed.

After the mornings campaigning on the Market Square we set about knocking on doors and asking people their views were, on probably my favourite estate to canvassing in the whole constituency Roman Way, lots of houses, not too many long driveways and once you have been up the hill, its down the other side and back around to your car; if only all canvassing locations were like this one!

There was a real improvement on the door step from just a week ago and I think this is largely due to David Cameron’s far better performance than Nick Clegg’s this week on the Leadership Debate and I can’t wait until we actually get to poll day and residents real opinions are heard loud and clear and Matthew Hancock becomes the new MP for West Suffolk.

Visits to Care Homes to discuss New Homes

Over the past couple of weeks I have been visiting Care Homes in Mildenhall, Lowestoft and Haverhill.

The tour was to meet with the Customers, Families, Carers and Staff at each home that will be relocated to three brand new homes if our bid for £30M of PFI Credits is successful which will allow the County Council to build 3 new Care Homes in the county over the next 4 years.

At each home I and a small team of Officers went through what and why we are building new homes and was a great opportunity to hear and learn what residents and their families wanted from our outline proposals. If you were one of those who came along thank you for taking the time to come and listen to what I hope was helpful information about our proposals to build a fantastic new care home facilities as part of a round of investment of £30million pounds for older people in Suffolk.

These meetings were residents opportunity not only to find out more, but to ask questions and have your say on the proposals.

We took along a scale model that intentionally was not meant to be any sort of finished model but to demonstrate the concept about what we are thinking to achieve and it proved quite a talking point at each presentation.

The first question we tried to answer was why we were thinking of bulding new homes. All 16 of the County Council care homes in Suffolk are rated core either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ according to the Care Quality Commission and the homes we visited were no exception.

I personally think this is both reassuring and points to the high standard of care for older people in Suffolk we currently and want to in the future provide.

However, we know that the demand for care will increase in future with a growing older population and more people who will have special care needs, particularly associated with dementia or memory difficulties and other issues.

We need to plan for this demand increase this means meeting the standards of excellence expected of care homes in the 21st Century, supported by research which shows that careful building design can be a tremendous aid to people’s health and wellbeing. We want to reflect this in our homes and meet the high expectations of the people we serve.

Of course, our main focus is to support people to live independent lives at home wherever possible, but when that is no longer achievable, we have a duty to ensure that we can provide the best care and support wherever people live.

So if the proposals go ahead, all the residents in the four homes we visited will be able to move into a new home in 2015 in their town, and we will help them prepare for the move well in advance and all along the way.

What we prosing will be cutting edge and what we actually mean by modern cutting edge is a home that in the background is efficient with modern kitchens and the best equipped bathrooms etc., but at the same time is designed as, you or I, would want it to be.

I think the danger when you here about a larger home is that you might think that it will be some large impersonal institution and that is absolutely not what it will be.

It will be design around small clusters of rooms to deliver a home within a home, warn, friendly, a place where residents will get to keep the friendships they have built up with their neighbours in their home and those who care for them.

We got lots of very useful and interesting feedback that will become an integral part of my thinking as we finalise our plans to bid for Government Money to build the new homes.

Haverhill Valuing Older People Event

This morning I was asked to open the Haverhill Valuing Older People Event and say a few words, by the Haverhill Older Persons Forum.

It really was a very informative and exciting event. Frankly it is more important than ever before that Suffolk organisations work together to support people in their communities to get the help and information they need; and although the day’s focus was on older people and their families and carers, this applies to everyone, no matter whom they are and where they live.

It was great to see the sheer range and breadth of services available from so many different organisations.

Haverhill is a thriving community, and whether you want to know more about local activities to help you stay fit and well, equipment to help you remain independent at home or even tips for healthy eating, was there at the Leisure Centre today.

I was at the end of the event told a wonderful story about one lady who visited the Suffolk Family Carers stand and was seen crying as she left, she was asked if anything was the matter and she explained that she had become a carer for her mum and thought she was alone in dealing with an increasingly difficult role and she was so relieved to find that there are others in her situation and that organisations and people are here to help, that shows the importance of putting on such events.

I would like to say a big thank you to Haverhill Older Persons Forum who have worked so hard to make the event such a resounding success.

This clearly shows what can be achieved when organisation work together with energy and commitment to improve the lives of older people.

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