At the last County Council meeting (14th July) during the debate on the Annual Equalities and Inclusion Report 2016, leader David Wood asked for the following to be clarified, on his own behalf and on that of Cllrs Penny Otton and Caroline Page :-
Referring to point 3 of the report – ” Empower more people with protected characteristics to live safe, healthy and independent lives”. Could the proposer please tell me how the recently awarded Community Transport Contracts fits in with this report – especially its equality objectives.
For instance I know in Mid Suffolk one cannot use a bus pass to access these services – yet in other areas of Suffolk you can.
In my own area I am receiving complaints regarding these new services: these come from a young person with Downs Syndrome; a person with visual impairment; and a wheelchair user – all have been told they cannot access services they have come to rely on and have become an important part of their lives. In one case a person’s job is at risk; another is seriously considering moving away from the village she has lived in all her life.
My question is, how does this fit in with our equality and inclusion objectives?
Cllr Goldson could not provide an answer during the debate but has assured me he will look into this and will be replying to the question raised.
The Portfolio holder for Highways and Transport was strangely silent during the debate.
During the recent debate on the proposed cuts to the Fire Service the Conservative administration continually referred to the fact they could not support our motion as the results of the consultation were not known, hence we lost the motion by one vote
Well now the results of the consultation are known and have been published. What you the public are saying is a resounding NO to the proposed cuts.
What you said:-
Bury St Edmunds proposal
With the results now known it will be up to the Cabinet to make the final decision on the cuts at their meeting on the 17th May. So to all of those Conservative Councillors who were waiting for the results of the consultation before they made up their minds about which way they would vote what are you going to do now?
We gave you a chance to represent your voters the residents of Suffolk but you decided to sit on your hands and wait until you heard what the people of Suffolk had to say. Well they have had their say and it is a great big loud NO so how are you going to influence the gang of 9.
When we put our motion forward we were told by the administration that we had jumped the gun and should wait for the results of the consultation. What they did not say is that the whole Council is the Fire Authority and this was the only chance we had to have our say, as they had decided it would be the cabinet that would make the final decision and NOT the COUNCIL.
All of the way through we have been assured that this is a meaningful consultation and it will inform the final decision. Well we await with baited breath to see if they meant what they said. Because if they did and they take on board what the people of Suffolk have said then they only have one option open to them and that is to REJECT THE PROPOSED CUTS TO OUR FIRE SERVICE.
I thank you the people of Suffolk for taking your time to respond to the consultation and attending the various meetings.
73% of you disagreed (53% strongly disagreed) to the cuts.
NOW I HOPE THAT YOU ARE LISTENED TO.
Leader Lib Dem & Ind. Group
The findings of the consultation can be found on the Suffolk County Council Web Site.
Despite the best efforts of the Opposition Parties at the Suffolk County Council meeting of 17th March 2016 life threatening cuts to the Fire and Rescue Services are still on the Conservative administration’s agenda.
The motion to rule out these changes – put forward by Lib Dem Leader David Wood and seconded by the Leader of the Labour Group – was narrowly defeated by 36 votes to 35 at yesterdays Council Meeting.
Earlier, the Portfolio Holder Cllr Matthew Hicks had refused the FBU petition calling for the cuts to be the subject of a decision and debate by full council, despite a impassioned speech by the Fire Brigades Union rep Steve Hayward. (A speech that bought a standing ovation from opposition councillors ; sadly the Conservatives sat on their hands).
In a debate lasting 2 hours many worthwhile and important points were raised by opposition councillors as to why these cuts should not take place and why the safety of the people of Suffolk should come first. Time and time again, the Conservatives kept insisting that they were waiting for the results of the consultation to be made public before any decision is made.
But who will make that decision – the Cabinet and to quote the Public Protection Portfolio Holder Cllr Matthew Hicks “It Is important for the council to balance its books so the Fire Service must play its part”. Hence the reason for our motion, to let all of the elected representatives have their say on your Fire Service and its future.
During a passionate summing up Cllr David Wood referred to the extra money the council had been granted from the government from its rural sparsity fund ( a nice round £6.8m over the next 2 years), asking “Instead of putting it into reserves, shouldn’t a proportion of that be used to save these cuts? after all it does belong to the taxpayers of Suffolk!”
(Apropos of this, Cllr Wood was asked to withdraw his description of senior Conservative Cllr Guy McGregor stating “lets not waste money“. In the interests of keeping the meeting going he did so – however, if you listen to the Suffolk County Webcast do be sure to listen carefully to the Councillor, and especially his closing words.)
We may have lost the first round but the fight will continue to make sure the residents have a Fire Service that is fit for purpose.
Leader Lib Dem & Independent Party