Category Archives: Dave Wood

SCC AGM: LibDem Leader’s response

Dave WoodIn responding to the Leaders statement, Lib Dem Leader, Dave Wood responded:

I wish to focus mainly on two areas that have hit the headlines innumerable times during the course of the last year – that is Suffolk’s Education and Suffolk’s Roads and Transport.

Over the last year headlines regarding Suffolk education have made appalling reading. In March Ofsted told us Suffolk County Council’s support for school improvement is ineffective, and that the life chances of young people in Suffolk are being damaged by the local authority’s failure to challenge and support schools. We have to ask if this is because the administration placed too much focus on the Schools Organisational Review programme. This has has resulted in the closure of several good middle schools, which in turn has resulted in additional classrooms having to be built in many Primary Schools to take extra pupils up to the age of 11.

As the result of a challenge by one of my group regarding the closure of Badwell Ash Primary School and others we are glad to see that Suffolk County Council is now consulting on ways to prevent further closures.

Yes we are aware that the Raising the Bar programme has had some early successes and I was only to pleased to attend the awards ceremony that saw a project from my area that I had nominated and provided a grant for win one of the awards . But one has to ask, is everyone committed to this initiative ? is everyone behind it and aware of it? and is it bringing about the change our young people need?

I am pleased to point out that LibDem intervention – including media coverage bringing the matter to scrutiny has resulted in change regarding the education of Suffolk children excluded from school – premises are now being registered, inspected and some were even closed down due to safeguarding issues.

Transport and Roads – always a thorny subject in our rural county. In October of last year the County Council finally managed to outsource Highway services to Kier MG after the debacle earlier in the year where the arrangements for a preferred bidder all fell apart at the very last moment. As regards the new provider – well I think we can all say that the jury is out regarding the service they are delivering. The headlines in the local media have hardly been glowing in the past few months. There have been significant teething troubles with extraordinary delays and hefty increases in Councillor funded projects. We are lucky we didn’t have a winter like the previous three or four or but the rain produced its own problems, and I’m afraid to say that our new providers severely dented their reputation with repairing of potholes throughout the county. Just one example – a pothole in the main street has been repaired at least four times to my knowledge and each time within a few days of the repair it is just as bad as it was before. When asked why this was, the workmen said, sorry this is just a temporary repair as we do not have the right materials available to repair it correctly. Is this value for money? I think not.

As regards transport, many of the knee-jerk decisions made in previous years – such as the abolition of the excellent Explore card, and the cancellation of many SCC subsidised bus services- have turned out to produce entirely predictable adverse consequences costing Suffolk much more than the savings made: with impact on rural isolation, NEETs, health, employment, training.Just as we predicted. Yes, SCC has finally introduced the Endeavour card – a poor replacement to the Explore card which they binned – but so far less than 1000 young people have registered – as opposed to the 28,130 16-19 year olds who held the Explore card when it was cut halfway through the academic year 3 years ago. Hardly a substitute, then.

Finally to finish on a positive note. Even though Suffolk Coast and Heaths and The Dedham AONB units saw a drastic reduction in their funds from government and locally, this resulted in a reorganisation of their resources to form a joint team while keeping their own individual identities. Both of these units have been extremely successful in obtaining grants from outside sources to enable important projects to be undertaken in their respective areas. An extremely successful European funded project has just reached its conclusion in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB which will bring benefits to tourists , inhabitants and businesses alike, as well as the Lottery Funded Touching the Tide project which is extremely successful and attracting great media attention. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Management Plan was adopted by all the relevant Local Authorities and enjoyed a successful launch. Such is the importance of these areas to businesses – bringing in millions per annum- that an active team, partnership and plan is essential and hopefully within the next year we will see an extension to the AONB ratified , with the inclusion of the South side of the Stour.Although in Essex I can assure you all it will retain the title Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.

Suffolk County Council Budget 2014

Suffolk County Council agreed its Budget at full council today. The LibDems had a free vote, but most – if not all – voted against the Administration’s proposals. As Leader, Dave Wood said:

bank-england_£Our group fully understands the financial needs of the County  – and the absolute requirement the Council has  to raise efficiency and to give good value for money. So of course, we fully support the proposed 0% increase in Council Tax.

However, we sincerely believe that the Pickles Bribe (eg central government’s council tax freeze deal) should actually be used, rather than placed in the reserves as seems to have become Tory practice. This money should be given back to the people of Suffolk – from whom it was extracted via their taxes – and used to support some of the services you are proposing to cut.

We are concerned – most particularly with Adult and Continuing Services – that apparent efficiencies are masking significant service resuctions. We have anecdotal evidence that this is the case.

It is a different case with Childrens and Young Peoples’ services. League tables show clearly that we are still performing badly, and yet we see substantial budget cuts. This just cannot be right. The  future of Suffolk depends on the aspirations of its young people.

We welcome the gains you propose to make from the moving of CSD  inhouse- but surely there has been a very hard lesson to be learned here.  This project has been very badly managed for years now. It is proof, if proof was needed that outsourcing services doesn’t always make savings and is not always best.. SO surely the savings made from this and the Energy from Waste project should be employed to rectify the problems I have quoted.

On a personal level I’m deeply disappointed that the Council has decided to cut their contribution to Suffolk’s magnificent AONBs  by 20%  – especially as it is on the back of them being forward-looking and restructuring I know it is only a small sumof money in the grand scheme of things – but what sort of message is it going to send out to our other contributing partners, considering AONBs  importance, and the contribution they make to the Suffolk economy? I wish that the reduction could have been phased in with a full consultation. As it is there  in black and white in today’s budget, I hope the Portfolio holder will reassure us that he will take no more from the AONBs for the duration of this administration.

2014 – Happy New Year!

May the coming year bring you peace and prosperity.

The Suffolk Lib Dems are committed to working for Suffolk and representing  you, the people of Suffolk – today and every day. We’re looking forward to continuing the fight to make our lovely county a place that everyone can enjoy living in  – from Kersey to Kessingland , from Bury to Beccles (and everywhere else in the bargain!)

With your support,  we can make 2014 a year to remember!

 

Dave Wood, Liberal Democrat Group Leader,  County Councillor for Peninsula  and Lib Dem  Spokesperson for Public Protection and Environment

John Field, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader,  County Councillor for Gipping Valley and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Resource Management

 

Dave Busby County Councillor for Belstead Brook and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Finance and Property

Inga Lockington  County Councillor for St. Margarets and Westgate, Ipswich and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Health and Adult Care

Penny Otton  County Councillor for Thedwastre South and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Education, Skills, Young People and Localities

Caroline Page   County Councillor for Woodbridge and Lib Dem Spokesperson for Roads and Transport

Julia Truelove  County Councillor for Bosmere