Sunday, January 30, 2011
I was shocked to learn that the three buses a day serving Little Waldingfield will be cut in the spring. Some people in the village rely entirely on the bus, and with the future of the community transport service very unclear, and its services intermittent at best, I am not certain how they will be able to cope.
Colin Spence, our County Councillor, and I were aware that the County Council was restricting some services, but we were lulled into a sense of false security because we could not identify much on the published list that affected Waldingfield Ward.
We understand that this service was not in fact on the list, but in any event, following a routine review, was cut due to lack of customers. As one resident pointed out however, being short of people is the nature of rural areas, and I do not see how any rural routes can ultimately be supported if this is to be a factor.
I am also not sure how this lies with the County Council's former pledge to make Suffolk the greenest county, but, as in other situations, the environment seems to be among one of the first things to suffer when economic priorities are being reviewed. As I have pointed out in other posts the County Council is not alone in this.
I know that Colin is looking into the matter, but I personally fear that it is unrealistic in the current economic climate to expect the decision to be reversed. It is a fact that the County Council has much reduced resources. I have in addition discovered, when taking up matters related to transport in the past, the local bus companies are a law unto themselves and are unlikely to respond to an appeal that asks them to put people before the bottom line.
Perhaps this is yet another opportunity for the Big Society? (These opportunities are coming alarmingly thick and fast at present.)
Friends and neighbours will need to be more ready to give lifts. My husband Nick reminds me how in Russia, even today, cars will regularly stop to pick up people without transport on rural routes (strangers and acquaintances alike) and drop them close to a bus stop or take them into town. This is particularly common on a Sunday evening when townsfolk are returning from their rural dachas, but happens at other times too. Perhaps the time has come in England to consider reviving the hitch hiking tradition that was alive and well in the 60's and 70's.
On a practical note, I understand that it is possible to swap a Pensioner's Bus Pass for taxi vouchers. This may partially alleviate the situation for people, but the amount on offer does not, of course, allow for regular taxi use.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
This morning I went along to the Sudbury Drop In Family Support Service at No 72, North Street to participate in the launch of a new online advice service, Housing, Help and Work Advice. Babergh has provided a computer to enable people to access the new site which offers personalised advice and help on a wide variety of topics. The picture here shows the computer in use.
The website has been developed as part of a government funded project by seven local authorities in Suffolk and Essex, and gives advice on housing options, health and support services, work opportunities and money advice, in addition to many other related topics.
It is still a fact that some 30 percent of people in the UK do not have access to the internet, and so this sort of service really fills a gap. There will be people on hand at Number 72 to give help in getting started, and finding the right advice, which is essential for those who are not used to using computers.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Do keep an eye open for thieves targeting your oil tank!
See police report below:
Theft of Heating Oil Field Close, Beyton, at around 3.05am, 21/01/11, Offenders entered the side passage of a residential property and whilst in the process of removing heating oil from the insecure tank they were disturbed and fled in a White Transit Van. A small quantity of heating was stolen, however, the Offenders in their haste to leave, left behind a pump and piping. It should be noted that the reason the householder was alerted to this event, is because he was disturbed by a buzzing type noise coming from outside and on putting his light on, he noticed this white Transit Van parked on the road, near to the side passage entrance of the property, with a side door of the van open and wires going from the van over the fence, with a battery used to assist in pumping the fuel out of the tank. Calls in relation to this incident should be made to PC Steve Duncan at Bury St Edmunds Response Team, Bury St Edmunds Police Station and quote Crime Ref: ST/11/233.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
If you have ever thought that you would like to become a councillor now is the time to get in touch with the political grouping of your choice! Many people who would be very good at the job do not think about putting themselves forward, which is a pity.
Many people think that it would be too time consuming, but official obligations are not particularly onerous, and basically you can make what you like of the role. I personally spend about 15 to 20 hours a week on it, but that includes time spent writing the blog, sitting on a couple of additional task groups etc.
The election process in itself is exciting, and the work, if you are elected, is very rewarding and interesting. At the local government level the role does not have to be over political. In fact if you want to you can stand as an independent candidate. If you do this however you will have to organise and pay for your own campaign, making sure that you have got your head around the rules. I suspect that there is help for budding independents on the internet, and I am sure that one of the independent Members at Babergh would also assist.
The Conservatives still have a few slots, and, of course, I cannot speak for the Liberal Democrats or the Labour party, but I suspect that they too may have some available.
To stand for Babergh you need to live or work in the District. Living in the Ward for which you are standing is ideal, but many councillors do not live in the area that they represent. I should make it plain however that there are no vacancies this time around for Conservative candidates in Waldingfield Ward.
Anyone interested in becoming a Conservative Councillor should in the first instance, contact the agent for South Suffolk, Peter Burgoyne on 01473 730674. Details for other parties are available on the internet.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It is unlikely that Suffolk County Council will act to resolve the traffic chaos that occurs twice a day in Folly Road. Other measures need to be considered to reduce the number of cars that drop off and pick up children every day.
Ever since I became a District Councillor almost four years ago one of the most intractable problems in the Ward has been the issue of traffic congestion at Great Waldingfield School.
Anyone who lives in Folly Road, or who drives along past the school in the mornings when children are arriving, or in the afternoon, when they are leaving, will know what I mean. There is no doubt that the situation is unsatisfactory and that the volume of traffic and pedestrians intermingling with one another presents a clear risk of injury or worse.
Responding to a request from the Governors of the School two years ago Colin Spence, our County and District Councillor, and I sought to have some action taken, but in the end, despite the fact that Babergh District Council was prepared to provide parking space on the playing field close to the school, no money was forthcoming from the County Council to facilitate any changes. The reasons given were that firstly funds were limited, and secondly it was not the policy of the County Council to encourage the use of cars to take children to school.
A further attempt to promote a traffic management scheme at the school was made during the consultation in respect of the reorganisation of the Education System throughout Suffolk. However at the public meeting when the matter was raised it was made clear by the officers that they preferred to spend scarce resources on education itself, rather than on parking spaces and other measures that would only be used for a limited period every day.
This is not a problem that is confined to Great Waldingfield. The position in Acton is little better, and anyone driving from Acton to Sudbury at the ‘wrong’ time of the day will know that a chaotic situation sometimes pertains at All Saints Middle School in Acton Lane. Drivers into Ipswich during the rush hour are often held up for several minutes by traffic outside Hintlesham Primary School. The truth is that this is at least a county-wide, and probably a nationwide problem.
So what is to be done?
I think that it has to be accepted that the County Council is unlikely to change its mind on this one, bearing in mind that the council’s financial position is markedly worse than it was even two years ago.
I have made some suggestions over the years that might serve to at least mitigate the problem, and one of them, that our local PCSO Siobhan should make regular appearances in Folly Road to encourage safe practices, has been taken up. However the school governors and the parents might consider other measures, which, while not solving the problem, might reduce the number of cars arriving at any one time.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
I can't help wondering whether we have seen the last of the snowy weather. I do hope so! Unfortunately, although the last day or so has seemed quite springlike it is still only the middle of January so I am not too optimistic.
In connection with the recent snow and ice, a reader of the blog from Great Waldingfield has written to me as follows:
'I would like, through you, to thank the refuse collection team for their first class service throughout the bad weather and Christmas. Their service was impeccable, as it is throughout the year, and I rewarded them in the traditional way.'
I too thought that the refuse team did an excellent job. They were just a day late collecting our bin during the very worst of the weather, when our little road was like an ice rink. Otherwise the collections seemed to carry on as usual.
I will be forwarding the congratulations above to the relevant officers.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
On Thursday at the Strategy Committee at Babergh, Councillors took a break from discussing the arrangements for closer integration with Mid Suffolk District Council in order to take time to examine the pressing issue of balancing the Council’s budget for 2011/12.
Now that we know the worst with regard to our grant settlement from central government for the next two years we are able to finalise the numbers. We have to make up for something close to a 15% reduction in the grant, which, taking cost pressures etc into account, amounts to £1.3million in cash terms. It goes without saying that given the size of the overall budget (around £11m), this cannot be achieved without some pain.
Staff costs are a good proportion of the council’s expenditure and thus, sadly , more than half of the cost reductions are being met, in one way or another, by a reduction in costs related to Babergh’s employees. So far we have managed to avoid compulsory redundancies and a good deal has been achieved by slow, or no, filling of vacancies, natural wastage, early retirement and the like. Members of staff have also been flexible in accepting reductions in performance related pay and other benefits. Unfortunately, it is hard to see how compulsory redundancy can be avoided indefinitely.
Another area in which quite significant savings can be made is the area of public toilets. Babergh does not have a statutory duty to provide these, and is now seeking to pass responsibility to the parishes or towns in which they are situated. On the whole these are either urban or rural tourist areas such as Long Melford. Concern was expressed by one member, from East Bergholt, that failure to maintain the facilities will cause major ‘inconvenience’ to visiting coach parties etc, and this might deter tour operators from visiting our beauty spots. I hope that this will prove to be wrong.
We also expect to see the benefit, a saving of £25,000, from the recent pilot merger of legal services with Mid Suffolk District Council, and next year could see some first savings from the new Revenues and Benefits partnership with Mid Suffolk and Ipswich.
Finally some cuts are likely to be made once again to grants to the community. Next year they will be some 14 % lower than this, when they amounted to a little over £300,000. The choices that have to be made here are amongst the most difficult. It is important to recognise that the reductions are not made as a result of whim and caprice, although it may seem like that when one of one’s favourite good causes receives less money. There is a policy in place, which was last reviewed in October, and this aims to ensure that adequate funding is maintained for those activities that are most closely aligned with the Council’s long term aims and priorities.
One of the reasons that many of us are keen to increase co-operation with Mid Suffolk is to ensure that at least some of these grants are secured for the future.
To see the current budget proposals in full go to the Babergh Website and click on Council and Democracy/Council and Committee Papers/Strategy Committee/January 13th Agenda/ Paper 166. They still have to be scrutinised by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and then, after any amendments, will be voted on by mid Council in due course.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Police are warning people not to put out their bins until a collection is due. (In our case this will be rather difficult given that the truck arrives at the crack of dawn!). Otherwise bins should be kept out of sight.
I became aware of these fires because I have signed up to Police Direct.
If you want to learn about crime in your area you can sign up to Police Direct and receive information about local problems by text, e mail or phone.
Information is available on the Suffolk Constabulary Website (google 'Police Direct Suffolk') or from your local PCSO.
Before Christmas I wrote a post in which I said that there would soon be a good deal of activity with regard to plans for open land to the north of Church Field Road in Chilton.
At a special meeting last week, members of Chilton Parish Council debated their response to the application by Prolog for planning permission for a head office building plus warehousing on the site. I understand that, although they are in favour of the development in principle because of the employment that it will bring to the area, the Council does have reservations, among other matters, about the scale of the proposals, the impact on nearby historic buildings, and also the intention to work 24/7.
It is not too late for Residents of Chilton to have their say on the proposals if they wish and comments can still be forwarded to Babergh. I am not entirely certain when the planning application will be heard by the Development Committee.
In this connection, proposals for the adjacent site to the west, which is owned by the Health Authority and is earmarked for a new health facility, will be on display in Sudbury Town Hall on Tuesday 18th January between 2.30 and 6 p.m.