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.

Meeting with Suffolk’s MPs

Tuesday afternoon I had a meeting with the Suffolk MPs, well some of them, Tim Yeo was not able to be there due to other commitments and Matthew Hancock and Peter Aldous had secured adjournment debates and were due to be speaking in the House so they were unable to attend; so my meeting was with Therese Coffey, Ben Gummer, David Ruffley and Daniel Poulter.

The main subject of conversation was the Residential Care Homes and my promise to keep them updated every step of the way with how things are going. I had a good chat with Peter Aldous about the council homes in his patch before the meeting by phone.

Each was eager to discuss the care homes in their patches and how the visits went and what progress we were making towards which route I would be taking back to cabinet in March and they added in their thoughts and some of the comments they had from their colleagues about the experiences in other counties that have or are attempting to do much the same thing as us. I talked about the market provider consultations we had and the active discussions we are in the process of having; not to mention the discussions and visits I had undertaken with my counter parts in Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and was about to have in Birmingham in January.

We discussed the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers and how we all wanted them to be involved in both the decision I would be presenting to cabinet in March and if the decision is to sell or transfer then for them to be active bidders so that we help build on our strengths albeit taking into account the current rules and hand tying that exists with Local Government and European tendering and procurements regulations.

We also discussed the progress of the New Strategic Direction and their support for this strategy to make further efficiency savings and delivery a Suffolk version of the Big Society.

We moved on to discuss the implications of the Comprehensive Spending revue and the level of savings this would require Suffolk County Council to make, I said It was equivalent to £27M this year and will cost pressures and inflation that amounted to some £43M in total for the coming year. With ACS being asked to save some £12.7M next year, as an example of the cost pressure in my portfolio I mentioned the 20 people a month who are coming to social services unable to continue to pay for their residential care home placements and asking us to support them in the future. I went thought some of the cost pressures in Adult and Community Services and how challenging it is to decide upon cuts at the same time as having to grapple with significantly year on year increase demands for services..

We discussed the positives about very sheltered housing and the need for this to be developed not only to replace District and Borough sheltered housing where there is increasing voids occurring but through Suffolk Flexicare programme we are trying to work better across our different responsibilities to create an environment where providers can more easily develop VSH and Residential Care Homes.

Therese spoke about Day Care and we had a good discussion on social enterprise, Ben talked about Crabbe Street Day Care Centre and the challenges it faces and I talked of Newmarket Day Care Centre that has never been an SCC enterprise, always a separate Charity delivering Day Care services, but one that was looking forward to the challenge of Personalised Budgets as an opportunity not a threat; lots of work to be done on this issue of the next year or two.

I closed by saying that SCC’s future role must be about people, the growing number of people that will need a service, the role of Suffolk Flexicare, our future role in standards of care homes and in shaping the market working with providers to deliver a more robust provision of very sheltered housing and an increased number of quality Residential Care Homes to support our ageing population. All in all a very useful and constructive meeting and I promised to keep them in the loop on this most difficult of issues before us.

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