Tag Archives: Citizens rights

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.

Inga Lockington: 20 Years a Councillor – but Home Office queries residence

    Inga – as Mayor of Ipswich 2007(one of those many years when the Home Office queried her residency)

Longstanding Suffolk LibDem Councillor  Inga Lockington has been denied citizenship by the Home Office, despite working as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Ipswich for 19 years, and as a county councillor for 17.

Danish Inga, lived in the UK since her marriage to Dr Tim Lockington in 1979, when the UK granted her indefinite leave to remain.  She was elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor to Ipswich Borough Council in 1999 and to Suffolk County Council in 2001 and has held these seats ever since (in the Borough elections last month gaining the highest number of votes of any councillor in Ipswich).

In 2007, she was elected Mayor of Ipswich.

Following the Brexit vote in 2016, Inga decided to apply for UK citizenship -spending  the required £1282 on her application. The Home Office rejected it, citing lack of evidence that she was permanently resident in the UK(!), and have refunded her only £80.

Residents and politicians in the town are shocked by the treatment of Inga, who has dedicated years of her life to the people of Ipswich and Suffolk. In local elections for Ipswich Borough Council earlier this month, she received 1493 votes in her St Margaret’s ward – the highest number of votes of any councillor in Ipswich.

Despite this the Home Office wrote to her saying: “As you have not provided a document certifying permanent residence or a permanent residence card issued by the Home Office, we cannot be satisfied that you were permanently resident in the United Kingdom on the date of your application for naturalisation (!!!) and it has been refused.”

According to specialist solicitor and director of PRC Solange Valdez-Symonds this decision doesn’t even conform to Home Office rules.: ” Mrs Lockington is a settled person with indefinite leave to remain granted in 1979 under immigration rules. Nothing to do with EU law (so reg 13(1) BNA Gen Regs 2003 is irrelevant) & wrong to have refused to naturalise her.”

Not only constituents and colleagues, but people across the country have shown themselves appalled and astonished by the treatment of Mrs Lockington, who has dedicated so many years of her life to the people of Ipswich and Suffolk.

As Caroline Page Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party at Suffolk County Council, says:   “This is truly a case of Brexit madness. Inga is well-known for her tireless work on behalf of all those she represents. Yet, as an EU national, she was unable to vote in the EU referendum – and is now told she is not welcome as a citizen in the country she has served so selflessly for so long. What kind of country has Britain become, that it turns its back on twenty years of public service  from a EU national and declares her unfit to be a citizen?

If Inga is ineligible, who on earth stands a chance?

There are many other people in Suffolk in Inga’s situation – and it is an expensive and frightening one to be in. Suffolk  LibDems urge the County Council to provide support through funding the Suffolk Law Centre to support our residents in retaining their Citizens’ Rights ”