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.”

 

Pupil Premium – a fairer society in Suffolk?

Suffolk schools pupil premiumA fascinating new interactive map will show you exactly how much extra funding  your local school has been able to claim via Pupil Premium

An extra £25,000? £75,000? £242,000?

Woodbridge county councillor Caroline Page is delighted to point out that ” this school year, Woodbridge’s excellent and inclusive  Farlingaye High School has been able to claim nearly a quarter of a million pounds to provide additional  support to pupils from hard-pressed homes. This is thanks to the  Liberal Democrats  in the Coalition government.”

The Pupil Premium – which is additional to main school funding – is an initiative introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government which intends to address the current underlying inequalities between children eligible for free school meals and their peer. It is doing this very practically by ensuring that funding to tackle disadvantage reaches the pupils who need it most.

You can click here to seach the map for yourself and find out for yourself what your  school has been able to claim.

However, getting the funding is only the start. “Its quite a revelation to see how much money is going into Suffolk schools. We now have to see what they are doing with it, ” points out Suffolk Lib Dem schools spokesperson, Penny Otton

Lets stop being modest about LibDem achievements

Dave WoodOn this Sunday’s  Politics programme, SCC  Lib Dem leader Dave Wood will be voicing robust support for his party at both local and national level  in advance of the Lib Dem party conference.

“After the initial shock at finding ourselves blamed for everything the Coalition government does, and the protest vote that cost us seats, we’ve realised that people have got into the habit of relying on us  to hold the worst excesses of the Tories at bay, without acknowledging any of the good things we do. They’re having their cake and eating it! “ he says.

“So, instead of just getting on and doing the job  – as we always do – we have to start shouting about our local and national successes. It’s  up to us to bring our out light from under the bushel because it is clearly in the interests of both Tories and Labour to keep it hidden.  But we do a lot. Let’s stop being so modest about our achievements.

Locally our hard work and dedication is acknowledged and respected. This is why no sitting Suffolk LibDem councillor lost their seat in the 2013 election. Yet for far too long we have been hard-working councillors that everybody knows and relies on without expecting the pat on the backs we deserve.  We need to be proud of what we have achieved and be proud to tell everyone about our successes. In Suffolk, our local defence of local services saw off Andrea Hill’s New Strategic Direction, while nationally, we are behind all those many innovations like the triple lock pension, tax-cuts for the low paid, the pupil premium, and bringing record numbers of poorer students into higher education etc. These are improving life for so many of us in Suffolk – and in the UK as a whole.

We need to confront people with the reality:  ask them what the Tories would be doing if we Lib Dems weren’t there to rein them in and keep watch on things. Unlike a lot of other European countries, the UK is not used to Coalition  governments and hasn’t fully understood how they work. Too many people choose to  see this Coalition as a friendship group, rather than what it is –  a temporary alliance of very differing views.  It suits the Labour party to support this view – after all the Coalition only exists to deal with the mess they left this country in.

We must not be afraid to tell everyone what we are doing and be proud to do so.”