Category Archives: Councillors

Music Lessons Under Threat

In the summer the Government announced that it would fully fund the pay rise for all classroom teachers, yet it has since emerged that this will not apply to teachers employed directly by councils.  The majority of these  centrally employed teachers (CETs), provide music tuition.

The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is seeking assurances from the Government that it will meet the cost of the additional 1 to 2.5 per cent salary rise for CETs – estimated to be £5.5 million – which councils will not have budgeted for. The LGA says this burden cannot fall on local authorities.

If councils, which face a £3.9 billion funding gap in 2019/20, are left to pick up the cost then some would have little choice but to reduce CET services such as music tuition.

There are currently 4,900 CETs in England who either provide direct teaching to children and young people or play key roles in supporting education professionals, at least half of which are in music services.

While the majority of these posts are within music teaching, other roles affected include support for children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and traveller heritages; supporting disabled children; teaching outside schools such as within secure units; and supporting schools in early years provision.

Suffolk Liberal Democrat County Councillor  Penny Otton said:

“The UK has a proud history of musical excellence and many of the most well-known artists in the world over time would have benefited from music lessons. For many young people, it is a vital part of their education and future life opportunities, but this could be at risk unless the Government commits to fully funding the pay increase for all classroom teachers, including music teachers.

“While we were pleased that the Government announced that it would fully fund a pay increase for teachers in the summer, it needs to extend this to fund the pay rise for centrally employed teachers, such as those providing music tuition. We will fight hard for Suffolk to get a fair deal so our music teachers are fully funded.

“Local government is already under massive financial pressure with many services overstretched. If this additional cost is left for councils to pick up then they will be put in the very difficult position of being forced to reduce certain types of education provision including music teaching.

Suffolk Conservatives: Modified Support only for Green/LibDem Cycling Plans

The Conservative administration at Suffolk County Council  agreed yesterday to a motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group to develop a strategic costed cycling plan.  The motion, seconded by LibDem leader Caroline Page, and proposed by Green Robert Lindsay  first asked for a strategic, costed five-year cycling plan to be drawn up for Suffolk.  It secondly asked  for a commitment of 5% of the annual Integrated Transport Block (the equivalent of £160,000) to be spent on cycling infrastructure.
Both motions were vital: without a  commitment of funding, it will be impossible to implement a cycling plan. However, the Conservatives refused to commit any funding whatsoever  to cycling infrastructure – thus managing to have their fiscal cake and eat it.
In the past SCC used to have a cycling team and  a costed cycling infrastructure plan – which was allocated funds from the Transport budget every year.
Back in 1995 the then Country Councillors voted to fully support plans to develop the Sustrans’  National Cycle Network routes in Suffolk and steady progress was made with this for several years.
A cycling budgets also benefits other modes of travel:
1) Most off-carriageway cycle infrastructure is designed to be of equal benefit to pedestrians e.g. shared use cycle paths; Toucan crossing; bridges  – therefore ‘Safe Routes to School’ (for both cycling and walking).
2) More cycle commuters means less traffic on roads, leading to better journey times for those who really need their vehicles.
Since 2011, Suffolk and Ipswich were eligible for six sustainable travel grants from the Department for Transport, yet did not win a single one of these. By failing to commit a minimal amount of funding, it is likely that any future bids for funding will likewise fail.

What’s been happening, July 2018

Opposition’s “call in” of Suffolk County Council school transport cuts unsuccessful   On Tuesday 19 June, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet voted to change the Home to School Transport policy so that only children travelling to their nearest school would receive free transport. The changes are due to be phased in from September 2019.

As you may be aware,  LibDem Councillors and their Green and Independent colleagues  have been opposed to this policy change since it was announced in September 2018. As was the Labour group. There has also been very vocal opposition from schools, parents, carers and parish councils across Suffolk.

All the opposition cross-party worked collaboratively to call in the decision to Suffolk’s Scrutiny, with Cllrs Otton and Page as the Lib Dem signatories.

The “call-in” was successful on three fronts:
1. Concern at the quality and reliability of the financial modelling;
2. Whether the Cabinet were fully informed of the role of the Consultation Institute;
3. Whether there was enough analysis of the experience of Essex County Council, who implemented a similar policy in 2013.

Unfortunately despite the considered opinions of really competent and well-qualified members of the public, the Conservative administration failed to recognise their own financial forecasts were flawed. The decision will therefore go ahead.

Major review of Suffolk Highways announced The new Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Highways, Cllr Mary Evans, has launched a major review of the way highways in Suffolk are maintained.

Areas due to be reviewed include:
• Existing policy which determines how resources are deployed, known as the Suffolk Highway Maintenance Operational Plan (HMOP);
• How the location of potholes on the road is considered alongside the width and depth, recognising the impact they can have on cyclists and motorcyclists;
• How utility companies coordinate roadworks and are held to account for their actions;
• How residents, councillors and businesses are informed about road repairs and how they can access information;
• Financial control and contract management;
• How town and parish councils can work closer with Suffolk Highways to make the best use of their local knowledge, skills, money and time.

Consultation launched on future commissioning of specialist education services  Suffolk County Council have launched a consultation into the commissioning strategy for the development of Suffolk’s specialist educational provision.

Demand for specialist education places in Suffolk for children with SEND continues to grow, and currently the county council has a much lower number of specialist education places than other similar authorities. This means that many children in Suffolk are forced to travel out of county to access the education provision they need – and often Suffolk County Council foots the bill.

At a time when the Council wishes to reduce the amount of free home-to-school transport it provides citing fears of escalating costs, it is vital that we begin to provide more SEND provision within Suffolk.

The 6 week consultation will look at three options for meeting the additional demand for specialist provision. More information and a link to the consultation can be found online at: http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/SENDsufficiencyeducation