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More transport diffculties for post-16 students

Decisions  about funding post-16 transport made by the SCC Cabinet in 2014 are now hitting the street. These resulted in a significant tightening of SCC’s ‘discretionary’  transport offer, due to a double whammy created by conflicting governmental expectations: On the one hand young people are now expected to remain in education, training and employment until 18 – thus creating a de facto if unofficial statutory leaving age of 18. On the other hand, continuing cuts in central funding, assisted by ideological reluctance to increase taxation at either national or local level  means that SCC are trying hard to cover impossible bills.

This has left many rural families with significant problems..

The London-based, urban-centric nature of  central government has a track record of making  decisions without funding support, that put rural-dwelling young people  at a very particular disadvantage. They have so much further to travel to education and so much less in the way of public transport to fall back on than their urban peers. This is my letter in today’s EADT, 2-07-2015.

Sir,

Many people have contacted me re with concerns about SCC’s new post-16 ‘discretionary’ policy which will offer students travel to the nearest place of education only. This sounds reasonable, until you look at the plight of the rural young.

The government’s Raising the Participation Age (RPA) insists on education, training and employment until 18. However, almost all support for travel finishes at 16. And for many rural post-16 students , there may be literally no other transport to education apart from the SCC-chartered bus the discretionary pass is used on,  because the bus services have been cut.

A few years ago SCC replaced many rural bus routes with ‘demand responsive transport,’ A Rural Transport PDP working group last year found this was incompatible provision for school attendance. Remaining bus  routes often run a regular service except for the one bus at school times which has been taken off-route so as to run a school- specific service – ironically for bus-pass holders only. And if a student wants to continue their studies at their catchment school since age 11 (Farlingaye, for example) – but there is another education provider a shade closer, too bad!

Let me remind readers that a discretionary bus pass is not free. It costs the student £600 a year. But the bonkers bus deregulation laws – aimed at promoting competition -won’t allow one to pay for a seat on a school bus if one has no discretionary entitlement. It’s a deeply unhelpful scenario for those who just need transport to get from A to B!.

I have yet to establish what is the situation of the rural young person who is literally unable to attend mandatory school college or training because there is no public transport and they do not drive. Are they sanctioned?

In February’s 2015 Budget debate, I suggested affordable transport was so crucial to education that  we take money out of reserves to support educational transport for disadvantaged  post-16 year olds. My plea was ignored. The council needs to revisit this decision.

I also call again on the county council to lobby for  the extra funding to support RPA. Compare the prospects of our rural young with those in  London – an Oyster card gives free, accessible and appropriate travel for all young people. We cannot continue to lose out to the Londoncentric  travel funding policies of successive governments – who simply ignore the problems faced by rest of us . Young people in Suffolk also deserve  to achieve their potential!

And finally, it is surely time for Suffolk to lobby for the re-regulation of local bus services, so that we do not carry on  spending our council tax payers money patching together pieces of a fractured system that fails in a rural setting

Caroline Page
LibDem Spokeman for Transport

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Fire Cuts – Enough is Enough

Suffolk already has the leanest and meanest Fire Service in the Country and following yesterdays announcement the Council are proposing to take a further £1m from an already stretched budget.

The Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham and the new Portfolio Holder Cllr Matthew Hicks are proposing a public consultation exercise to gain the views of the Suffolk public. I urge you to take part in this consultation and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. We have already seen Felixstowe Fire Station cease to have any wholetime Firefighters, Haverhills wholetime establishment cut and a cut in the number of wholetime Firefighters across the county.

Only today June 24th at 11:30 there were 10 Fire Stations off the run, including such stations as Hadleigh, Debenham, Framlingham and Adleburgh to name but 4. A further station was short crewed meaning it could not attend property fires and a further 2 had appliances off the run. So you can see further cut to our already stretched service would impact further on the safety of the residents of Suffolk.

So now is the chance for you to have your say –  details here -and I urge you to say NO MORE CUTS.

David Wood

Leader Suffolk Lib Dems

Spokesperson Fire & Public Protection

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Suffolks Schools – the link between poverty and education

So NOW the report on health in Suffolk has again pointed out the link between poor education results and poverty in Ipswich and Lowestoft, maybe the county council will at last take notice of what we have been saying and do something about it?  or are they just waiting until the schools are forced to become Academies –  then can let someone else take the blame???

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LIB DEMS SUPPORT “SHELTER” CAMPAIGN TO STOP SALE OF HOUSING ASSOCIATION HOMES

Suffolk Liberal Democrats are supporting the campaign by the housing charity “SHELTER” to stop the new Tory government selling housing association homes. Housing Associations are “not for profit” organisations set up to provide social housing, often using land given at no cost by local councils. Selling these homes will just make the housing crisis worse NOT improve it!!

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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy 1959 -2015

It is indeed very sad news to hear of the sudden death of Charles Kennedy.

He led our party to some amazing successes and will always be remembered for his stand against the invasion/war in Iraq. Charles Kennedy was the one UK party leader to oppose the 2003 war in Iraq

Charles was a very committed family man and our thoughts go out to Charles’ family at this very sad time.

David Wood
Leader SCC Lib Dems

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New Administration at Babergh

Dave Busby

Dave Busby

I guess a Tory majority had to happen at some point, just a surprise that in Babergh it took as long as it did – 40 years or so. Working in a ‘hung’ council had its positive and negative points but all of those are preferable to being on the back benches. Time will tell whether a Tory administration is good for Babergh but if the experiences at County are anything to go by then hold on to your hat it could be a bumpy ride.

Leader Jennie Jenkins assured those councillors not in the administration (8 Independants, 3 LibDems and 1 Labour) that their views were important and would be sought out, then proceeded to fill all of the policy panels with Tories.  Talk is cheap!

A message that it would seem fails to reach Tories, both in the District and County, is that their residents would prefer to retain the fabric of their community rather than slavishly follow a zero tax increase and the resulting cuts necessary to balance the budget. Just look around you, in the winter the roads look like a rolling rubbish tip with the lack of greenery exposing huge amounts of litter. Then the growth comes in and covers it up, but this creates blind spots at every rural junction.

Now I agree that you shouldn’t have staff levels that are geared to peaks but if you have a rolling peak throughout the year then a bit of flexibility within the workforce could eliminate this perennial problem, that and not trimming contracts so that rubbish is only collected up  to 2 metres from the curb when we can all see it up to and including the hedgerow.

Beginning to sound like a grumpy old man so I had better stop, but is it wrong to take a pride in our wonderful county?

 

Dave Busby

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Who will be the LEADER?

 

Join Us

Do you want a say in who will be the new leader of the national LibDem party?

We’ve had 15000 new members since the election. Each member who signs up before the 4th June is eligible to vote!

Don’t delay, join today!

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SCC New Leader and LibDem’s midterm response

So, after all the lead-in,  the new leader of Suffolk County Council – Colin Noble – was elected without a hitch at today’s Suffolk Full Council. That is – every single Conservative, apart from Cllr Bee, turned up, and obediently voted him in.

A rainbow coalition of the opposition – the serried ranks of the LibDem, Labour, Independent, Green and UKIP joined forces to vote against him. A  few were absent. Brian Riley was – we presume –  in North Carolina.  Colin Noble was elected – third time lucky – 37:31. No abstentions. Time will tell where this far-from-ringing endorsement will lead.

Lib Dem Leader’s Response to  SCC Leader’s Executive Statement

The recent General Election proved a godsend for those opposite  – not just the result. What the campaign also managed to hide from the public scrutiny was the battle that seemed to be going on within the party who are in charge of the administration of our County.  Is such a seemingly divided party the best to be in charge at the present time?   Writers of  soap operas – Eastenders and Coronation Street – couldn’t have wished for better material for one of their productions, because believe me, to the casual observer that’s what it looked like!

That brings us to the present and one must wonder – is this the dawning of a new age or are we about to travel back in time.  We are all aware the new leader has a habit of looking back into the dim and distant past so God forbid,  are we about to see the re launch of THE NEW STRATEGIC DIRECTION and all that entailed?

Looking back over the past year:  yes, the roll-out of superfast broadband is proving to be a success –  although I still have a job persuading some of my electorate that it is coming. We must also applaud the roll-out of the Sunday Bus services in some rural areas – something that is essential to the way of life in these areas.

But sadly the last year has been overshadowed by the headlines Suffolk has attracted this week  – “County Slow to Improve Schools”, “Suffolk County Council too Slow” and “Not Enough is Being Done To Improve School Standards in Suffolk” – these are just but a few we have seen this very week.

We have heard the excuses and the supposed successes but this report is just not good enough.   It’s not good for our children, our future, our parents, our reputation and Suffolk as a whole.

When you consider that 25,000 children,  very nearly  the capacity of the football stadium next door,  attend schools that are classified as requiring improvement or are inadequate,  that clearly is not good enough.  This is especially so when most of those children live in Suffolk’s two largest towns,  Ipswich and Lowestoft.   Once again it has taken an Ofsted inspection to highlight our failings.   How many more times are we going to allow this to happen.   It would appear that the Raising the Bar Initiative is not working as it clearly needs to Raise its own standards.  Only this year we have seen Make Every Intervention Count by restructuring the schools improvement services to save a further £5 million.   Surely the time has come to use some of the Suffolk Council Taxpayers’ money being secreted away in reserves to seriously invest in the education of our children. After all we talk about what a wonderful County we have,  what opportunities we have here,  and will have here.   Our children are the future of Suffolk and we want them to be part of this story so let’s be serious about their future and put the resources where they are needed,  not just for education but also lets start reducing these levels of deprivation and see a real rise in attainment.

The care of our elderly has also come under the spotlight recently with the problems surrounding Care UK.  Reassurances were received that problems had been dealt with but then it all resurfaces again. Similarly with our highways contract all is not plan sailing there yet. We were told that by outsourcing these contracts it is the way forward but one must ask the question is it.

So as a mid – term report one can say, shown a slight improvement in some areas but could do better and in some areas MUST do better.

David Wood

Leader Lib Dem Group

You can read David’s tribute to Mark here

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Liberal Democrat Membership Soars in Suffolk

Join Us

In the week after the General Election, Liberal Democrat membership across the country soared by over 25% and continues to  rise hourly. This surge has – of course –  been replicated  here in Suffolk. The LibDem fightback has begun.

Over half of  new members are aged under 35, and  the vast majority have never been a member of the LibDems before.

A warm welcome to all our new members here in Suffolk! We are thrilled you have chosen to join us.

If you want to join,  get in touch with our membership office on 020 7022 0988, via the national LibDem website, or simply click the ‘join’ button at the left of the page. And remember, if you join before 3 June, you are eligible to vote in the elections  for the new  LibDem  Leader.

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Don’t forget – Suffolk also has District, Town and Parish elections on May 7th

BannerDon’t forget there are also District, Town and Parish elections taking place across Suffolk this coming Thursday May 7th.

Local elections matter!

Support your local Lib Dem Councillors. These are the people you meet in the street, at local events,  the ones who listen to your concerns about the areas in which we all live. We are the ones who act and try to make things better for us all. We don’t grab the headlines, but go about our business thoughtfully and diligently to the best of our ability. We are the ones who live in the areas we represent – we might even be your neighbour – we care passionately about our areas and want to do the best we can to maintain them.

“Just local elections”? No way! When you are casting your vote for the national picture this coming Thursday don’t forget to remember to vote for your local councillors  as well. And make sure you vote for the person you can rely on to work for you.

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