As you are all aware the Lib Dems are members of a rainbow group at the County Council comprising of 5 LD's, 3 Green and 4 Ind. We did have an extra Ind. member but he decided to jump ship during the year to the Conservatives, I think he was worried about losing his seat at the forthcoming elections. We are now led by the Green Cllr Elfrede Bramley-Crawshore as has been our policy we have changed leadership every year, she took over from Penny Otton who is now her Deputy. I must admit we continue to punch well above our weight and are really the most effective opposition, although Labour are the official opposition they have proved sadly lacking at times.
It has been a strange last 12 months starting off in a far different world that we are now part of. At the Council we saw massive cuts in subsidised bus routes which has resulted in huge cuts in rural areas, something that we fought against but with no luck. We also saw the proposed Orwell Crossings bite the dust but not before they had spent £8.1m on the proposals! Late last year consultation also took place on the proposed Northern By Pass which was also suddenly dropped at a cost of a further £1m plus. The new school transport policy was also introduced, to say it was a fiasco would be an understatement causing councillors in rural areas a headache to say the least. A review of this policy later in the year found 19 major faults. Also last year saw a Boundary Commission review start, proposals have since been made to reduce the number from 75 to 70 this would mean the Babergh area will have one less councillor. Consultation is still underway on the proposed wards. Their recommendation will be effective from the 2025 election unless of course the 2021 elections are delayed.
March saw a tremendous change in how councils operated with all meetings cancelled for a while. Until we saw the start of virtual meetings/briefings which I must admit have been quite successful although attires overly long, they will in my view never replace face to face meetings as you can no longer interact as you used to. I very much doubt we will see an end to these meetings during the life of the present council. During this crisis amongst the many things undertaken by the council we saw the continuation of free school meals, bus pass use available at anytime, food banks funded, PPE supplied to all primary care workers if I made a list it would go on forever. After much pressure from my group June saw the reopening of the re-cycling centres. A test and trace centre was opened at the London Road Park and Ride. June also saw the limited reopening of schools. July also saw the first Council meeting since February. As a result of Covid spare seats will not be offered for sale on school transport. With a lot of pressure from ourselves a Climate PDP was formed with the target of the council being carbon free by 2030. The recommendations have been released and include, all pool cars being electric and electricity used being 100% renewable.
During the corse of the year my group has put forward a motion at every opportunity, including, the Reinstatement of the Loss of 35% of our Health Visitors, Oppose the construction of Sizewell C, Introduction of 20 mph speed limits. Whilst gaining a lot of publicity Countywide all of the motions were not supported by the Conservatives so were lost. Labour did not support the Sizewell C motion and a few Conservative did abstain. Interestingly the administration has refused to support the planning application for Sizewell C.
During the crisis the Council has received £40.1m from the government mainly to assist with social care but are still facing quite a large overspend by the end of the financial year.