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Cllr Sue Carpendale

Monthly report October/November 2020


Babergh has good life satisfaction score

You may have seen a recent survey which has ranked Babergh as having the best life satisfaction in the County. The survey was done by the Office for National Statistics, rating life satisfaction from zero to 10/10. Babergh residents gave an average score of 8.24 - above the national average of 7.66 - putting the district in first place for life satisfaction ahead of other local authorities in Suffolk.

Housing and Land Supply

A new report shows that Babergh has a Land Supply of 6.74 years. This is good, however, Government recently published two consultation papers outlining major changes in planning. One sets out proposals for a completely new national planning system. The other suggests shorter-term amendments to the current system, which would take effect more quickly.

Included in the suggested short-term changes is the way local housing need is calculated. This could see a huge increase in our housing targets - rates which are felt to be undeliverable in our District, and unrealistic from the market perspective; they also take no account of the shortage of materials and labour. It would put towns and villages, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, under pressure to deliver more homes.

Proposals also suggest increasing the small sites threshold, below which developers are not required to contribute to affordable housing, from ten to 40 or 50 homes. This could almost half the number of much-needed affordable homes. Another suggestion would exempt developers from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which goes some way to helping local infrastructure to keep pace with housing growth. Since the start of the year £5million of CIL funding has been allocated to local projects in Babergh and Mid Suffolk, including over £2.5million for school improvements.

Babergh Council has relayed its concerns to Government.

Covid19 update

Babergh had one of the lowest infection rates in the country, but the financial impact of the virus remains, and we are now in a situation where infections are rising. The number of people claiming Universal Credit in Suffolk has increased by around 75% (approx. 24,000) since March, with a 238% increase in the amount of food handed out to single adults and families from Suffolk's foodbanks. There are also 104,000 people still furloughed from their jobs. The Suffolk Resilience Forum now has a phoneline to help residents access information or support relating to debt, benefits, housing or employment. Calls can be made free of charge to 0800 068 3131, from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Monthly report June/July 2020


Creating safer places in Babergh and Mid Suffolk

Covid-19 continues to dominate much of the council's workload at present, even though the regular services such as planning, housing, waste collection and so forth continue as normally as possible. Now that lockdown is easing, it is vital to establish safety measures for businesses and local communities. Across Babergh and Mid Suffolk, smaller-scale interventions that support social distancing such as clear signage to remind pedestrians to maintain a 2m distance, introducing one-way flow for pedestrians and marking 2m distances for queuing are being identified and implemented by local towns and parishes. Any medium or larger scale interventions e.g. road closures, parking bay closures or traffic diversions, will need to be routed through the Council for review before being sent to Suffolk County Council for implementation.

There is guidance for towns and parishes which can be accessed, along with the template for requesting large scale interventions and a range of social distancing guidance for businesses, on Babergh's social distancing web pages.

There is also a dedicated email address for queries about social distancing measures from shortly Babergh will launch a hotline number, specifically for businesses and community groups, to get answers to questions related to creating safer places through social distancing. Queries about creating safer places can be sent to: socialdistancing@baberghmidsuffolk.gov.uk .

Grants to businesses and other organisations
There are a number of grants currently available or coming on stream, both from the Government's support packages during the Covid-19 crisis, and from Babergh's own new fund specifically aimed at small businesses in the District. This is to help sustain and create jobs, provide opportunities to grow and innovate as well as react to the changing business landscape. Small businesses from start-ups to those looking to expand, will be able to apply for a grant from one of four different funding streams. Details are on the website.

Joint Local Plan (JLP)
Work continues on this much-delayed replacement for Babergh's Core Strategy. Once Council approves the final draft, probably later this summer, it will be subject to external inspection, with likely adoption in 2021. There is consternation in Capel St Mary at the prospect of a huge expansion to the village, which finds itself as a key target for growth, being a both a core village and on the A12. There is an overall distribution strategy for new housing, allocating significant growth along the A12 and A14 corridors, and to the core villages. Whilst there is also a plan emerging for infrastructure provision, funding for vital improvements, including the Copdock interchange, is not yet identified.

Monthly report May/June 2020


Help for small businesses.
Almost £35m worth of business grant funding has been distributed in Babergh and Mid Suffolk since the Government launched the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants in March. There are still around 1,300 businesses and organisations yet to claim. The grants are intended to support businesses with ongoing costs though the Covid-19 crisis, and so far, over 2,500 business have received either £10k or £25k. Approximately 1,300 businesses and organisations have yet to claim the grants that they are entitled to. Small businesses and shop owners, those in the hospitality industry and leisure sector, as well as organisations such as sports clubs, community buildings and village hall committees are urged to find out if they are eligible for the grant.
The council's Communities team has also contacted 90% of community groups and organisations to see where they can offer assistance and, to date, have received 54 applications for the Emerging Needs Grant.

Virtual meetings
Following the Government's decision to grant local authorities powers to meet and make decisions using digital technology to ensure public safety, Babergh has so far held two virtual meetings - Cabinet (4th May) and Planning (30th April.) Meetings are conducted via Skype and members of the public can watch the live stream of the meeting via the councils' YouTube channel .

Babergh's Cabinet had one substantive item of business which was to approve a fund of £150,000 for grants to small and start-up local businesses looking to expand. They will be able to apply for a grant from one of four different funding streams when the scheme is launched later in the year. The grants can be used in a variety of ways from improving environmental outcomes and sustainability, accessing professional advice and training, improving disabled access and business frontage or for the development of technology-based business solutions. The grant value will be up to £2.5k for each of the funds except the Enterprise and Innovation Fund which will have a maximum limit of £5k.

Homelessness and Covid-19
All Local Authorities were asked by government to ensure that anyone who was street homeless or currently living in dormitory style emergency housing should to be accommodated to minimise the risk of them contracting Covid-19. A Housing Task and Finish Group was created to source immediate accommodation for those who have certain underlying health conditions, have nowhere to safely self-isolate or are rough sleepers.

Monthly Report April 2020

Writing this in early April, I am only too well aware that in no time at all, the world may be dramatically different yet again. It changes by the hour, as the Prime Minister's fortunes prove only too clearly. We are well-served in my ward of Capel St Mary, having a strong community, thoughtful neighbours, dozens of volunteers and people who have brilliantly and quickly organised information hubs via Facebook [both the Capel St Mary Covid-19 Mutual Aid and the Capel St Mary Noticeboard.] I have forwarded all these details to David Clarke, Communities officer at Babergh, who is best placed to receive any updates or identified needs. Other villages and parishes are also well organised, but where there are gaps, there's the broader help system.

Any vulnerable residents in the District who have a genuine need for assistance with the delivery of groceries, medicines and other supplies can also telephone freephone number 0800 876 6926, which is open from 09:00 to 17:00, seven days a week. When this was first launched, it really wasn't ready to go live, but now things have settled somewhat, it's functioning much better.

There is a huge amount going on out of sight. Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils (BMS) have reacted to the emergency by re-deploying many staff into different roles, and re-aligning priorities. For example - the focus in the Public Realm team is now on: health and safety, dealing with reports of anything dangerous such as damaged structures or trees; dog bins, the emptying of dog bins to prevent them overflowing and posing a risk to health; litter bins, the emptying of litter bins to prevent them overflowing and posing a risk to health; staff re-deployment to assist Serco - to help collect domestic waste. For the time all grass cutting and routine maintenance in our parks, open spaces and amenity areas is suspended, but so are the council's car parking charges if you need to get to Hadleigh or Sudbury. Parks are closed.

Crimes such as fly-tipping continue. You can't keep a good criminal down! A Babergh contractor recently found a caravan abandoned by a quiet rural road in Little Cornard, absolutely stuffed with old tyres. The sheer weight of them had snapped the axle and the criminals had fled. The council acted fast, anxious that they might return to set fire to the evidence, leading to environmental pollution and damage to the road surface.

All planning applications, correspondence and payments should now be submitted electronically. BMS will continue to validate applications and expect to consult and publicise as usual, though this is likely to be challenging at present. The need for virtual committee meetings is currently under discussion. Councillors need training to understand how this will work and information about future arrangements will have to be made available including to press and public. There are Government regulations in place now that allow remote/virtual decision-making meetings to take place. Protocols are being worked out as to how chairing such meetings and voting will happen. Cabinet briefings continue - these are restricted - but the political group leaders are meeting on a weekly basis, with updates being shared. The council's AGM has been postponed, which means that all members currently "in post" will remain until the next AGM can take place. Thankfully the budgets, etc, were set before the Covid-19 lockdown.

We are told that there WILL be a Planning meeting for each council before the end of April, and there must be opportunities for consultations and public speaking. This is one of the processes that needs to be sorted out. Licensing hearings will also need to be held in the next few weeks.

It's possible that a full Council and a Cabinet could be held sometime in May, assuming the IT can be worked out. In virtual meetings, every vote would have to be "recorded" - a laborious process but a requirement in the circumstances.

To date, the staff are holding up well, and are largely working from home. They can still be contacted, preferably by email, but also by phone.

Serco have a number of workers off sick or in isolation, hence the need to suspend temporarily the garden waste collections.

All of the council's building projects, including the Hadleigh pool have been suspended. There is no activity on any site on any project.
To help business, there is support with grants are available. Businesses should check with: https://www.midsuffolk.gov.uk/features/support-available-for-businesses-in-babergh-and-mid-suffolk/ . Please help to circulate this information to any and all of our local businesses.

The (Covid-19) Emerging Needs Grant allows groups and organisations to apply for up to £2,500 to cover increased costs incurred as a result of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), including: general running costs related to existing projects/activities, ongoing staff costs, volunteer expenses, utility bills, the purchasing of food and other consumables. Applications do not require sign off from District Councillors and there is no closing date as yet for receipt of forms. Information is on the council's website.

Monthly report : March/April 2020

Budget and Council tax increase

Babergh's Budget for 2020/21 has been set at £10.2M. Funding sources include "earmarked reserves - £615K, New Homes Bonus - £683K, S31 Grant - £1,107K (covers a variety of specific needs and local government responsibilities,) Business Rates - £1,892K, Rural Services Delivery Grant - £227K, and, of course, Council Tax - £5,466K.

Council voted to increase Babergh's share of council tax by £5 a year, but once other precepts are added - County, Police and Parish, the overall increase in our bills will be higher. The new, total annual charge for a Band D property in Capel St Mary, for example, will rise to £1814.70. Babergh's portion of this is £186.86; for Police and Crime Commissioner it's £222.75, and County £1343.61. The parish precept makes up the balance.

District Councils are the collecting agencies for all of these local taxes. They also collect non-domestic (i.e. business) rates, but they do not set the level of these. The Valuation Office Agency determine "the rateable value" and the "multiplier" is set by Government. NDR apply to many properties that are not always for business use - e.g. beach huts, village halls, solar farms, doctors' surgeries, schools and hospitals. Agricultural land and buildings are exempt, as are churches, sewers, parks and bee keeping! Examples of local RV are: Partridges, Hadleigh RV £120,000; Tesco at Copdock Mill RV £2.5M; Stoke by Nayland Golf Club RV £418,500. The "multiplier" means that just under half of the RVs is actually payable.

National award for Council Planners
Planning officers for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have been recognised for technological advances as part of 21st century planning. The Development Management team, which looks after planning matters for both councils, won silver in the Best Use of Digital and Technology category at the annual iESE - Public Sector Transformation Awards 2020. The category recognises the innovative use of digital tools and technology in order to improve services for residents. Judges were impressed by how the team had streamlined the planning application process for residents across the districts, becoming one of the top performing authorities for timely planning decisions. The team has also introduced electronic case management and a mobile app in order to put vital information at the fingertips of officers and the public - with public searches of information leaping from 600,000 in 2017 to 1.3m in 2018

Monthly report : February/March 2020

Next steps for Hadleigh's new pool

Work to build a new swimming pool at Hadleigh will enter its next phase this Spring. All existing facilities including the current pool have so far remained open and unaffected during most of the works. However, to enable final preparations ahead of its demolition later this year, the current pool will close on Friday 20 March. The new pool will be connected to the plant room and a link corridor between the buildings will be constructed. Hadleigh Pool and Leisure's other spaces and activities, including the gym, group exercise classes and the community and social rooms will remain open throughout the works.

Funding support for Citizens Advice approved
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District have approved funding support for Citizens Advice (CA) of more than £420k. In Babergh, there will be at least £160,500 for Sudbury and District Citizens Advice over a three-year period, some £53,500 per annum. Smaller levels of funding for the Suffolk West, Diss and Ipswich CAs will continue to be agreed annually.

Parking Plan
This is to enable local councils to support communities by allowing parking where possible, and controlling it where necessary. Powers are being transferred to the districts from April this year. The aim is to support economic growth and reduce emissions to aid a healthy environment and also to improve road safety and security. In theory this should improve the quality of life for residents. The plan is not about introducing paid parking, nor parking arrangements for specific areas. However, there are suggestions that longer-term parking charges should be increased possibly by 50% - from £2 to £3.

The past year yielded a significant New Homes Bonus (NHB) sum for Babergh of £548K. Unfortunately, unlike previous years when NHB was paid for four years, this latest and largest will only be for the one year. 2022/2023 will be the last year of any NHB payment, which at present is a cause for concern for Babergh's finances. There will be some increases in charges next year including bulky waste collection - up to £42.50 for up to five items or 10 sacks of household waste or garden refuse; and brown bin renewals will be £52.50 for the year. Babergh's portion of council tax is likely to rise by £5 a year.