Category Archives: John Field

Suffolk Lib Dem Group: Suffolk’s 2015-16 Budget

BannerThis year we have chosen not to attempt a detailed amendment to the budget but to comment on matters of principal at a strategic level on those service areas we consider most important.

The Liberal Democrat group is fully aware of the overall financial situation and supports the government focus on reducing the budget deficit.  However it believes that many services provided by local government are valuable and should not be a first priority for cuts.

We believe that the county should use the resources provided by government and those it raises locally to support the local population and the economy.  The Tories have diverted significant funds into reserves “for a rainy day”, and we have seen reserves grow dramatically during the financial crisis.  They appear to be saving for a “rainy decade” while cutting services NOW.  Funds could be used on today’s issues using reserves set aside for activities that will never occur.

The county must fund infrastructure that supports the local economy and ensure it is fit for purpose.  For broadband we can see some progress but highways maintenance is slow and inadequate.

The county should provide services that support a good quality of life for vulnerable people and those who have difficulty getting work.  We need to help people into work or help them into work re-enabling people who have had problems whenever possible.

ACS–Services for the elderly and vulnerable   Within ACS the administration continuously seeks to reduce demand making no increase for inflation or demographic change.  We support continuous pressure to improve efficiency removing bureaucracy and deploying new techniques and technology.  However, we must ensure that people are not just forced out of relative low cost services into those with much higher spend.  Into acute hospitals due to a lack of care places for instance.  The county should collect data on local needs, understand it and focus on those needs.  There should be clear evidence that needs are being met.

The cycle we see too often in our divisions, of a chaotic and disastrous end to life bounced from service to service must cease.  We find it difficult to believe that this can be achieved in the face of an increasing elderly population while we put money in reserves “for a rainy day”.  The problems experienced with care homes within the County’s contract are inexcusable.

The County must watch its strategy closely to be sure that the vulnerable are not being pushed out of the support system.  Cost reductions purely from lower wage rates or working hours are not acceptable.  They just move the budget problem to the benefit bill.

Public Health  Mental health services are clearly inadequate but at national level Liberal Democrats are taking action and we welcome the moves by Norman Lamb to establish maximum times for referral.  We believe that the County must play its role in this area.

CYP– Children’s services with emphasis on education  These concern us concerns us most.  The performance of many of our schools, particularly those in deprived areas lags the national picture.  While there are improvements, in key stage 2 reading, writing and maths Suffolk has improved moving us up the Local Authority rankings from 145 to 141 this is not good enough.  The Tory response is to cut the overall CYP budget by £6.6 million.

We have the “Raising the Bar” initiative but find it difficult to detect any real enthusiasm for it in Suffolk Schools or a belief that it is an effective approach.  A school governors commented recently “If the Local Authority continues to focus on such non-events as the distribution of meaningless and infantile rosettes, I think we can be confident that the Bar will remain firmly on, or near, the floor.”  Currently we appear to have a learning inspection service and we need a learning improvement service.

Leadership is essential but the enthusiastic effective leadership teams in our good and outstanding schools just don’t have the budget to cover supply replacements while they help others to make the leap in teaching and learning required.  They can’t neglect their own schools and let them fall back.

We still believe that the County should fund supply cover and in addition establish a small number of “excellence” teams who could work with the leadership teams in failing schools to remove pressure, determine what needs to be done and put it in place.   Excellence teams would need people with proven track records who enjoy a challenge and would need to ensure that necessary management decisions are taken.

The cost of such teams would not be trivial but would be small compared to the County budget and must be less than the continuing cost of failure.

The Conservative administration have been in control of our children’s education now for ten years and in many areas a whole generation of Suffolk young people have been through a failing education system.  This system must be improved and “Raising the Bar” is not working.

And, while the government has made it mandatory for young people to remain in education or training until 17 it seems deeply inappropriate to have no fundng mechanism in place to support the poorest young people of the county for this last year of what is now statutory education, as exists up until 16. Our view is  that you need to speculate in order to accumulate – that savings should be measured longterm. A small investment from our our rainy day millions now could reap dividends in years to come

The Suffolk County Council Lib Dem Group

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

Great Blakenham pollution – a non-answer

John Field Great blakenhamReaders may remember that when Cllr John Field tabled a question about the health impact of pollution in July’s Full Council meeting he found on the day that his question – although submitted correctly, and acknowledged as such by the Suffolk County Council Monitoring Officer – had been disappeared from the Full Council agenda and therefore coud be neither asked nor answered.

To remind you,  it related to the Great Blakenham incinerator and was asked of the Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste and Economic Development (Richard Smith). John Field asked:

The “Escape” study published in the Lancet Oncology journal indicated substantial increases in Lung Cancer at levels of PM2.5 and PM10 pollution significantly below the EEC recommended limits.  A second study from Nicholas Mills also in the Lancet linked heart failure rates to PM2.5 and PM10 pollution.  These studies raise concern in the population local to the incinerator under construction in Gt Blakenham whose emissions are designed to meet European standards.  While I don’t wish to be alarmist these new studies warrant attention.  Will the Cabinet member ensure that the implications of these reports for my division and the wider area are studied thoroughly and reported to councillors and local people?

After being chased up, a response from the Cabinet Member was eventually forthcoming –  although far from helpful. It went as follows:

“The Lancet reports referenced in the question refer to the medical consequences of air pollution, although no direct reference appears to be made to incinerators, or energy from waste plants, as a specific source of the air pollution problems in the summaries of these reports. The reports help from a backdrop for the vigilance required when dealing with potential sources of air pollution. To this end, the ultimate responsibility for the control of air pollution, and specifically emission limits, lies with the regulatory authorities who will have our full support.

The Council’s Energy from Waste contract signed with SITA UK has 6 principal obligations, the relevant one in this case being that the Service be provided in accordance with legislation. The emission limits for the facility at Great Blakenham will be monitored by both SITA and the Environment Agency for compliance with the statutory limits.

The County Council does not have the primary role of monitoring the emissions, neither does it have the technical expertise and knowledge so as stated above we will ensure that the relevant statutory bodies have our full support in the carrying out of their duties.

SITA have designed and constructed the plant to perform well within the current emission limits, and have published their emission policies as far as monitoring and publicising them are concerned. The links to these documents are:- http://www.sita.co.uk/downloads/SuffolkEfWCLGAirQuality-web-1101.pdfhttp://www.sita.co.uk/downloads/EfW-BriefingNote-web-1106.pdfhttp://www.sita.co.uk/downloads/SuffolkEfWBriefingNoteAirQuality-web-1206.pdf

However, a failure to keep within the emission limits could have serious consequences, not only for the health of Suffolk residents, but also the delivery of the service. The County Council will ensure emissions information is published once the facility becomes operational, and currently publishes quarterly reports of air quality in the locality on its website.

The European Union and the UK Government employ experts who keep emission limits under regular review so if at any stage the emission limits for energy from waste facilities are changed, there are clauses within the contract which allow for the necessary capital expenditure to be approved, and the consequent cost of the service to be amended.

Give the above we are confident that the emissions at the Energy from Waste plant will be well managed.”

Right.

It is not easy to see where this confidence comes from.  The whole burden of this  reply – in as many unnecessary words as possible –  is that as long as the EU emission limits are adhered to, who cares if the Lancet has found increased incidence (please note ‘incidence’ – not risks but actual occurrence) of lung cancer and heart failure at well below EU emission limits?

Its hard  to see how anyone could write these paragraphs as an answer to John Field’s  question. They are clearly nothing more than an excuse for not answering the question.

None of our business guv.

Or as John Field more politely  puts it: “This answer is very general and does not address the possible need for a new evaluation of the pollution in Gipping Valley.”