Category Archives: Caroline Page

Suffolk CC: June Whats been happening

LibDems in Woodbridge raise awareness of the school transport proposals – and what they will mean to everyone

Suffolk shows overwhelming public opposition to  proposed Tory school transport changes-   Leaked documents from Suffolk County Council show overwhelming public opposition to proposed school transport changes. Of the 3600 responses to Suffolk County Council’s recent home-to-school transport consultation, 85% “strongly oppose” the proposals and a further 5% “oppose” them.

This is the most responses received by a Consultation in recent years, and it is clear that parents, teachers and communities have very serious concerns about the proposals.

The Cabinet is due to make a decision on changing the school transport policy on Tuesday 19 June. Suffolk Lib Dems have opposed the proposed changes since they were first announced in September and we will continue to raise our concerns at the Cabinet meeting.

New Council Leader elected  Following the recent Conservative Group leadership challenge, Cllr Matthew Hicks has been elected as the new Leader of Suffolk County Council, replacing  hard-liner Cllr Colin Noble. His Deputy will be Mary Evans, former Chair of Scrutiny, and previously Chair of the highly effective crossparty Transport & Highways Policy Development Panel, before Cllr Noble abolished these on becoming leader a couple of years back.

Cllr Hicks has promised us a “new era” of politics at the Council, with a focus on mutual respect, collaboration and co-operation. We hope he will be more open to working with, and listening to, councillors from other parties.

The first major change has been the replacement of  the only-just-established  unwieldy and untransparent Cabinet Committees with new Policy Development Panels. We do not currently have full details on how these will operate but, well-organised, they provide excellent crossparty consensus.

Some ‘Outstanding’ Suffolk schools in Suffolk have had no Ofsted inspection for a decade   The National Audit Office has revealed that over 1600 schools in the UK have not been inspected by Ofsted for 6+ years!

In Suffolk, 23 outstanding schools – almost half of those rated ‘outstanding’ – have not been inspected for at least 6 years.  SIX of these schools were last inspected over a decade ago! This means that whole cohorts of students have gone through school without a single Ofsted inspection.

LDGI Spokesperson for Education, Lib Dem  Cllr Penny Otton, raised the issue and her concerns at a Council meeting on 24 May. The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education, Gordon Jones, assured her that he shared her concerns and would raise it with the head of Ofsted.

Ofsted have said that the majority of ‘outstanding’ schools are exempt by law from inspections. However, if a number of concerns or complaints are raised against a school, they would have the power to carry out an inspection.

Citizens rights of EU born residents  Our very own Lib Dem County Councillor Inga Lockington hit national and international headlines when the Home Office turned down her application for citizenship despite her 40 years uninterrupted  residence in the UK, married to an English doctor, her 19 years as an Ipswich Borough Councillor, her 17 years as a Suffolk County Councillor and a stint as Mayor of Ipswich! Apparently the Home Office felt she couldn’t prove residence!

Although Inga’s story ended with an apology and an offer of citizenship, she points out this would not have been the case for many others in her situation.

At May’s full council, Lib Dem leader Cllr Caroline Page  asked Matthew Hicks whether Suffolk was doing enough  to support such cases of Home Office injustice amongst its residents. Specifically whether we funded the Suffolk Law Centre -the only free law centre in Suffolk- and whether he would be prepared to talk to Centre Director Audrey Ludwig about unmet needs? The reply was cautious, unspecific, and referred to Suffolk’s CABs – all of which had funding cuts in SCC’s 2018 budget.

Unitary council discussions on hold? Back in March, it was announced that Colin Noble had unilaterally commissioned the think-tank Respublica to produce a report outlining the options for a unitary council in Suffolk. This news was not well-received by the (almost all Conservative) leaders of District and Borough Councils, who had not been consulted by Cllr Noble.

However, in the lead-up to the Conservative Group leadership election in May, Cllr Noble announced that work producing the report had been suspended. It is not yet clear whether this work will resume under the new leader, Cllr Hicks.

Possible U-turn on Lowestoft records office At Council on 24 May, a petition was presented by the Save Our Record Office (SORO) campaign group, calling on the Council to reverse the decision to close the Lowestoft Record Office.

Cllr Hicks responded by acknowledging the importance of keeping local records in Lowestoft, and pledged to work with local residents and councillors to develop a long-term, sustainable solution for the storage of archives in the north of the county.However, he made it clear that there is currently no capital or revenue budget available for the project, and so the council would need to seek funding to help deliver it.

New development with affordable homes in Cockfield  On 15 May, the Cabinet approved proposals for the development of a 4.5 acre site near Cockfield, which is owned as part of its County Farms estate. The development will be comprised of 51 units, including 12 affordable rented homes. There will also be homes specifically for first-time buyers, affordable shared ownership homes, and self-build plots.

This project is being treated as a pilot for future developments on Council owned land. The County Council is planning to work closely with design and property partners, and there will be a particular focus on local needs and benefits for the local community. The council will also benefit from financial returns as a result of developing the land.

New Leader for Suffolk County Lib Dems

New Suffolk County Council  Lib Dem leader and Suffolk County LibDem Green and Independent Group Deputy Leader, Caroline Page, with new Suffolk CC LDGI Leader Andrew Stringer (Green)

After  May’s AGM , Suffolk Lib Dems has a new leader: Cllr Caroline Page. Cllr Page was also also elected  the  Deputy Leader of Suffolk’s Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group. The new Suffolk LDGI Leader is Green councillor, Andrew Stringer.   

Cllr Caroline Page, the county council’s first group spokesperson for Women,  is a passionate campaigner on a diverse range of issues.

She says “David Wood has been a fantastic leader, and I am excited at the prospect of building on the foundation he set out.  I am very grateful for all that he has done for Suffolk LibDems over the past years. I am excited to be taking on this new responsibility for the party, and alongside Andrew Stringer, for the LDGI group. We will continue to hold this administration to account and work for the good of residents across Suffolk As a group we all believe gender balance in politics is important, so it is pleasing to see this better reflected within our own leadership structures.” 

The LDGI Group was formed following the elections in May 2017, bringing together 12 councillors from different political backgrounds. The Group has pledged to work together to hold the Conservative administration at Suffolk County Council to account, whilst still encouraging free thought, debate and voting within the Group. If you would like to find out more about it, click here

Speaking Up for Suffolk’s Women

Caroline Page, LibDem Green and Independent Group Spokesperson for Women

When the Suffolk County Council LibDem Green and Independent Group was formed, Caroline Page was appointed Group Spokesperson for Women.  She says:

“We are the first and only Group in this county to have this role. Interesting, because there IS no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.

So why am I spokesperson? Exactly because there is no Suffolk County Cabinet member for Women for me to shadow.  And this has significant consequences for the women and girls of Suffolk.

29% (22) of Suffolk County Councillors are women –  which is below the national average. But even nationally the picture is poor. Latest research shows:

  • Only 33% of local councillors are women 
  • 28% of women councillors say childcare is a barrier, compared with 18% of men.
  • 47% of women (almost double the % of men) experience clashes with other caring duties. Unsurprising, considering half of all women aged 59 are, or have been, unpaid carers. Men don’t achieve such odds till age 75. 
  • 38% of women councillors report sexist comments within their party, and one-third in council chamber
  • 43% of women councillors have faced sexist assumptions about what they could do based on their gender rather than their career, qualifications or capacity.
  • Yet women councillors are just as ambitious as their male counterparts: 45% of women and 47% of men say they want to progress to a more senior role in the council

This  lack of recognition, representation and respect  of women within local authorities, results in lack of local authority recognition and funding for issues that disproportionately affect women – whether it be outcomes for girls, or the plight of family carers or the funding of refuges and safe houses. We see examples of all these in Suffolk.

Seems that Suffolk – nursery of those indomitable seekers after equality, Elizabeth and Millicent Garrett – is in need of a reminder that equality is still a long way off.

We need Spokespeople for Women to ensure that gender equality in Suffolk is a fact rather than a fiction, to make sure that the best person gets the job, that the girls in our schools are wholly supported to have same aspirations and futures as their male peers.

Alongside this we need a clear understanding of the utter necessity for certain woman-specific provision. We can all dream of an equal society, but whilst 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence, whilst one British woman is killed by a man – generally one she knows – every 2.4 days, women and children desperately need refuges,  support, safe spaces for access, and the funding for all this. And everyone, whatever their gender who believes in equality realise this as truth.

But without a woman to speak up for equality in the Suffolk administration – what happens to it?  It is ‘assumed’ as existing without existing. The funding gets lost because the issue has no direct relevance to those in charge – and the whole county suffers.

Sad but true.

So  I am going to be here to carry on pointing it out, until the Suffolk  administration realises this too.”