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dwOctober Update

Latest Government coronavirus advice is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Latest SCC information is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

Children's Centres cuts given go-ahead by Scrutiny Committee

Following the Cabinet's decision in August to close 10 children's centres, my group joined forces with the Labour group to challenge this decision. Our challenge focused on concerns over the lack of financial analysis and the lack of clarity over the new outreach model.

The challenge was discussed by the Scrutiny Committee on 11 September. Unfortunately, the majority of the Committee voted against our challenge and endorsed the Cabinet's decision. This means that the planned changes to children's centres in Suffolk will go ahead.

Suffolk County Council decides to oppose Sizewell C

The Cabinet at Suffolk County Council agreed on 22 September that they can no longer support EDF Energy's proposals for Sizewell C in their current form. However, the Cabinet maintained their support for the principle of a new nuclear power station in Suffolk.

The Cabinet's key concerns were regarding transport impacts, site design and the environmental impact on the Suffolk coast. The Cabinet also believe that the current proposals do not sufficiently avoid, minimise, mitigate or compensate impacts of the proposed development.

These concerns will be submitted as Relevant Representations to the Planning Inspectorate.

Financial impact of Covid-19 on Suffolk County Council budget

Suffolk County Council has published their Quarter 1 Budget Monitoring Report. This focuses heavily on the impact of Covid-19 on the council's finances.

The council is currently forecasting a net overspend of just £0.4m (0.1%) for the 2020-21 budget. The headline figures are:

Boundary review restarts with consultation on draft recommendations

Following a delay due to Covid-19, the Boundary Commission has restarted the boundary review for Suffolk with a consultation on their draft recommendations, which include a reduction to 70 councillors. Any boundary changes will not be implemented until the 2025 elections.

The draft recommendations and boundary changes are available to view on the Boundary Commission's website: https://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/eastern/suffolk/suffolk-county-council

The consultation on these recommendations will run from 15 September - 23 November and can be found here: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/have-your-say/18495

September Update

Latest Government coronavirus advice is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Latest SCC information is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

Changes to Children's Centres challenged by opposition

On 25 August, the Cabinet agreed to reduce the number of Children's Centres in Suffolk from 38 to 17 full-time and 11 part-time Family Hubs. 8 centres will be repurposed for nurseries or SEND provision, whilst 2 will close permanently (Chatterbox in Ipswich and Caterpillar in Woodbridge).

The council has said that this is not a cost-saving exercise and that any savings will be used to fund additional staff for outreach work. However, I am very concerned that the loss of so many centres will have a detrimental effect on families, particularly those in rural areas who may now find it more difficult to access support.

My group worked with the Labour group to collectively challenge the Cabinet's decision. This challenge has been accepted as valid by the council's Monitoring Officer, and so the decision will be suspended until it has been looked at by the Scrutiny Committee on 11 September. The Scrutiny Committee will either confirm the Cabinet's decision or ask the Cabinet to reconsider the decision.

Update on school transport arrangements for September

Suffolk County Council has confirmed that it will initially not be offering spare seats on school transport. This is due to social distancing requirements, which have reduced the capacity on school buses. However, parents may be able to apply for a spare seat from October half term.

The council has also confirmed the arrangements for masks and social distancing on school transport. The rules vary depending on the type of transport used:

Cabinet agrees to £65m loan to cover costs of Lowestoft Third Crossing

The Cabinet has given final approval for the Lowestoft Lake Lothing Third Crossing, and revealed that the name of the new bridge will be "Gull Wing Lowestoft".

However, the cost of the bridge is now much higher than originally estimated. The report prepared for Cabinet estimated that the total cost of delivering the bridge is £126.75m, with an additional £19m allocated as a contingency for any unforeseen risks. The original estimate was £91.73m.

To fund the building of the bridge, Suffolk County Council will spend £6.9m of its own money, receive £73.39m of funding from the Department of Transport and borrow up to £64.96m.

It is expected that construction work will begin in Spring 2021.

Infrastructure Board established to oversee costs of large projects

It has emerged that Suffolk County Council established an Infrastructure Board in November 2019 to oversee large infrastructure projects and ensure they remain within budget. This is in response to a number of recent projects where costs have increased dramatically, including the Upper Orwell Crossings which was eventually abandoned after costs increased by £43m.

The board is currently only made up of officers.

Locality Fund Grants

If you know of any organisation that would appreciate a grant from my "Locality Fund" please ask them to contact me as I will be unable to carry any over to next financial year due to the local elections in 2021.

August Update

Latest Government coronavirus advice is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Latest SCC information is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

Changes to Home But Not Alone phoneline

From 5pm on 31 July, the Home But Not Alone phoneline will no longer provide:

Shielded residents in Suffolk have been written to by Government and are aware of these changes.

However, these support services are designed to be reintroduced and stood up once again if there is a significant local outbreak.

For the short-term, the team at Home But Not Alone will still be able to offer help/advice and signpost to neighbourhood or countywide support. As a reminder, the number is 0800 876 6926.

Sudden closure of Age UK Suffolk

Age UK Suffolk ceased operations from Friday 24 July. This is a huge loss for our county, and I know that many residents will be concerned about the loss of vital support for themselves or elderly friends/relatives.

Age UK stated that it had faced a number of financial challenges in recent years, and the impact of the pandemic on fundraising was the final straw.

Suffolk County Council has published details of alternative sources of support: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/age-uk-suffolk/

Delay for children's centre cuts after error spotted in report

The Cabinet was due to approve changes to children's centres on 14 July. However, an error was spotted in the report at the last minute, which resulted in the Chief Executive pulling the report from the meeting. It will now be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 25 August.

There are currently 38 children's centres in Suffolk. Under the proposed changes, this would be reduced to only 17 full-time and 11 part-time family hubs. Family hubs provide services for 0-19 year old's, whereas children's centres currently provide services for 0-5 year old's. 8 centres would be repurposed for nurseries or SEND facilities, and another two centres will close completely.

Climate emergency recommendations published

On 14 July, the Cabinet approved the recommendations of a cross-party policy development panel outlining how the council should respond to the climate emergency and reduce emissions. This follows a motion from my group in March 2019, which declared a climate emergency and committed the council to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Key recommendations include:

All future decisions must take into account carbon emissions

Annual publication of a carbon budget alongside the financial budget

Publish a cross-council action plan by the end of 2020 for net zero emissions across Suffolk

Changing to a 100% renewable energy tariff

Replacing all pool cars and service vehicles with fully electric vehicles by 2025

Develop an investment programme for renewable energy generation on the county farms estate

For all existing council buildings (including maintained schools), switch away from oil, LPG and natural gas use by 2030 and invest in onsite renewable energy generation

Provide advice for academies/free schools to develop their own net zero emissions plans

Conservatives and Labour vote against anti-Sizewell motion

At the Council meeting on 9 July, my group proposed a motion calling on the council to oppose the development of Sizewell C and set up a cross-party group to consider whether the council should maintain its current 'in-principle' support for nuclear power.

However, the motion was not passed after both the Labour and Conservative groups voted against it.

I am very concerned about the environmental impact of Sizewell C on the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, and the negative economic implications for the tourism and hospitality industries that will accompany this.

The development of Sizewell C is due to be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 22 September.

JULY UPDATE

Latest Government advice is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Latest SCC information is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

Suffolk Local Outbreak Control Plan published
Suffolk County Council has published a Local Outbreak Control Plan which sets out how Suffolk would prevent and respond to a localised outbreak of COVID-19. A copy of the full plan and an executive summary can be viewed here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/suffolks-response/

Suffolk has received £2.79m from the Government to support the delivery of the plan.

The plan focuses on:

- Preventing and managing outbreaks in 'complex settings and groups' e.g. care homes, schools, health settings, workplaces, public spaces, BAME communities and those that are shielded;
- Strategic and coordinated approach to COVID-19 testing in Suffolk, with a focus on care home testing, hospital testing, lab capacity and workforce for swabbing;
- Suffolk COVID-19 Data Centre, which will continue to monitor the local situation;
- Providing clear guidance on NHS Test and Trace and what to do in the event of a local outbreak.


Concessionary travel rules reintroduced on public transport


Suffolk County Council has announced that concessionary travel rules, which had been relaxed during lockdown, will be reintroduced from July 6.


This means that from Monday 6 July, concessionary bus passes in Suffolk will only be valid Monday to Fridays from 9:30am to 9pm, and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. The council has stated this is necessary to support social distancing on peak bus services, as more people return to work and school.


All passengers are now required to wear a face covering on public transport.

Planning Inspectorate accepts plans for Sizewell C and begins examination process


On 24 June, the Planning Inspectorate agreed that EDF Energy's DCO application for Sizewell C could proceed to the examination stage.


The formal pre-examination stage of the process (Section 56 Notification Stage) will begin on 8 July and run to 30 September. Anyone who wishes to be involved in the examination process will need to register on the Planning Inspectorate website to become an 'Interested Party' and provide a written summary of their views on the DCO application.


All registered Interested Parties will be kept informed of progress and about opportunities to participate in the next examination stage.


More information about the application and how to register as an Interested Party is available here: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/eastern/the-sizewell-c-project/?ipcsection=overview

Both Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk Council have raised concerns about the adequacy of EDF's consultations so far, particularly with regards to the level and quality of information that has been made available throughout the consultation exercises.


On 9 July, my group will be proposing a motion to Suffolk County Council asking the Council to oppose the development of Sizewell C. If you are interested in watching the debate, the Council meeting will be available to watch on Suffolk County Council's YouTube channel.


Cabinet approves 5-year cycling plan for Suffolk


On 16 June the Cabinet approved a 5-year cycling plan for Suffolk, which identified 148 potential routes to be prioritised. This is as a result of a motion proposed by my group in July 2018, which called on the council to produce a strategic costed 5-year cycling plan.


Funding has not yet been secured for these routes, but the cycling plan will provide a strong basis to bid for funding as and when it becomes available.


The 148 routes identified by the plan are intended to be starting point, rather than a fixed programme of works. The Cabinet's approval of the plan means that discussions can begin with district and borough councils on developing the five-year-plan further. If the parish council has known routes in the area it would like to see improved or created, please let me know and I can feed this into the process.


Road closures to support cycling and walking


As part of the Covid-19 recovery and to support social distancing, the Department for Transport has told local authorities that they are expected to make significant changes to road layouts to support cycling and walking, with all measures implemented within the coming weeks. The Government has also asked that evaluation is included in the emergency interventions put in place so that authorities can make temporary measures permanent where possible, enabling a long-term shift to active travel.


Suffolk County Council plans include closing off sections of roads to motorised vehicles, widening existing footpaths and cycle lanes, providing temporary footpaths and cycle lanes and changing traffic signal timings to reduce waiting times at puffin and toucan crossings. The Council has been allocated £337k from the Department of Transport, with the potential for further funding if the measures they put in place are successful.
Details about the various schemes are available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/active-travel-improvements-for-cycling-and-walking/


No spare seats will be offered on Home to School Transport buses


Suffolk County Council normally allows families who are ineligible for free school transport to purchase a spare seat on the council's school buses. However, due to social distancing requirements, school buses will only be able to transport a smaller group of children. The council have therefore stated that they are not in a position to be able to offer spare seats for September.


All affected families will be emailed directly to inform them of this change. If changes are made to social distancing rules, the council will review the guidance to see if they can safely offer spare seats.
Individual family circumstances will be considered under the usual review and appeal procedures, and the council will use its discretionary power to offer transport arrangements where it is clear that this is absolutely essential to enable a non-eligible child to attend school. The usual cost of a spare seat will apply where a discretionary seat can be provided exceptionally.


Any parents who are concerned by this change can call 0345 606 6173, and information will also be available on www.suffolkonboard.com.

JUNE NEWS

COVID-19 Update
Latest Government advice is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Latest SCC information is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

Further opening of schools


From 1 June it is expected that school will gradually begin to reopen to more pupils, in addition to accommodating children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. The phased opening of schools will start with pupils in nurseries, reception, year one and year six. Secondary schools and other schools such as pupil referral units and special schools will also gradually increase the number of children and young people they can accommodate. For secondary schools this will start with year 10 and year 12.


Suffolk County Council has been supporting schools in preparing for the possibility of increased pupil numbers and have provided all schools with a risk assessment checklist.


Important: It is not compulsory for parents to send their children to school at this time and there will be no penalties for families who choose to keep children at home.


More information is available at: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/parent-guidance-about-schools-during-covid-19-pandemic/

Testing in SuffolkA regional testing centre for Suffolk and surrounding areas can be found at the London Road Park and Ride, Copdock, Ipswich. It is open from 8am to 7pm, every day.


There are also various mobile testing units across Suffolk. In addition, home testing kits can be requested.

More information on how to access a test in Suffolk is available at: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-testing-in-suffolk/

Changes to pavements/roads to aid social distancing


Suffolk County Council has confirmed that local councils and communities can make some small-scale temporary changes to pavements without needing to seek consent from the county council. These will be local safety measures on pavements that outline queuing areas, social distancing reminders or simple painted markings on pavement surfaces for pedestrians.


However, if the activity that the community wants to carry out requires working on or in the road, then the county council will need to be contacted first. If communities are unsure of where their proposed changes fit, they are encouraged to contact the county council at: transport.schemes@suffolk.gov.uk.


We have also been encouraging the county council to make more radical changes to the road layout to support cycling and walking. The Department for Transport has announced a £2bn package to boost cycling and walking capacity in the UK, and this is an opportunity for councils to tackle historic congestion problems by encouraging a change in the behaviours of their residents by giving a fairer share of road space to walkers and cyclists.

EDF submits application for Sizewell C DCO


On 27 May, EDF submitted an application for a development consent order for Sizewell C to the Planning Inspectorate.
I am very concerned about EDF's decision to go ahead with an application during the current crisis, as it will be much more difficult for the public and stakeholders to fully scrutinise the plans and participate in the consultation process.

Domestic Abuse helpline available 24/7


The existing Domestic Abuse Outreach Service, run by Suffolk County Council and Anglia Care Trust, has extended its 0800 977 5690 freephone number to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Anyone with concerns including professionals who may be supporting clients, as well as friends and families who are concerned for loved ones, can access this local support.

Recycling centres reopen with booking system
Suffolk County Council have reopened household waste recycling centres, following weeks of closure due to the lockdown. They are operating on a booking system, to help reduce traffic disruption on roads around the sites and support social distancing on site for staff and members of the public.


Members of the public will need to book a 15-minute slot online at www.suffolk.gov.uk/recyclingcentres or by calling 0345 606 6067. It is not possible to access the sites without a booking.


The following temporary rules apply:
• No access to site without pre-booking
• Cars, car-derived vans, and pedestrians only - no larger vans, trailers or commercial-type vehicles
• One adult to unload, unless 2 adults needed for heavy items
• No staff assistance to unload vehicles
• Chargeable DIY waste (soil, rubble and hardcore) will be accepted, but payment must be made using contactless cards only
• No trade waste, textiles or re-use items accepted

APRIL 2020 COVID-19 Update


Latest Government advice is available here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Latest SCC information is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/

SCC meetings
Suffolk County Council have cancelled meetings for the foreseeable future. During this time, the Chief Executive will use her emergency powers to make any necessary decisions on behalf of the Cabinet/Council through the delegated decision-making process. Details of any decisions made will be published on the SCC website.

App and phoneline launched to support vulnerable residents
The free app, called Tribe Volunteer, can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The telephone number for those in genuine need of help is freephone 0800 876 6926 and will be staffed from 09:00 to 17:00, seven days a week.
The service will mean willing volunteers, charities, town and parish councils, community and religious groups can all log their details and offers of support on an app, while people who need help can phone to request support. As the number of offers and requests grows, they will be matched so that the right help can be given where it's most needed. This support could include delivering groceries, medication or essential household goods, in line with Government social distancing guidelines.

School closures and free school meals
More information about school closures in Suffolk is available here: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/schools-guidance/
To support children eligible for free school meals, schools will be able to purchase meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops.
The government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.
Effective immediately, schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families, and they will have their costs covered by the Department for Education.

Bus passes can be used before 9:30
Suffolk County Council is allowing concessionary travel for those with elderly and disabled bus passes early in the morning (before 9.30am). This is to allow these residents to access the exclusive early morning shopping times that supermarkets have arranged for these people.

Public transport services reduced
New timetables are now in place for most public transport services, including buses, trains and community transport until further notice. Suffolk County Council is advising those who must use public transport to check with their local provider to find out the latest timetable.

Further details can be found at www.suffolkonboard.com or by calling 0345 606 6171.

Funding available for food banks
Suffolk County Council has made £60,000 available to support food banks in Suffolk. It is not yet clear how this funding can be accessed. I will update you as and when more information about this funding becomes available.

Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.