If you are one of those people who tend to set out from home a bit late and are always in rush so you put your foot down to make up time, then you better mend your ways. And fast!
A new police speed camera van is being deployed on patrol around our local roads from the beginning of March. According to the St Edmundsbury planning blue print Vision 2031, speeding traffic is the number one community safety issue in the rural villages south of Bury St Edmunds. Certainly it is a subject which crops up at many of the parish council meetings I attend around the area.
Actually having seen the vehicle it is more of a speed camera hatchback than a van but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Last year the police and Suffolk County Council joined forces to run speed awareness courses. Previously they had been run by the AA with any profits going out of the county into the AA’s coffers nationally.
The idea behind having the programme administered in Suffolk was so that the proceeds could be re-invested in road safety measures. It is a sad reflection on our collective driving habits that so many motorists have taken the courses in the past 12 months that the RoadSafe Board has raised enough cash to buy two of these new smaller speed camera vehicles and recruit and train a drive-operator for each of them.
These new vehicles are smaller than the standard police camera van which you might well have seen (and hopefully not activated!) parked in an entrance way driving into Chedburgh or just past the start of the 30mph limit on the road into Bury.
Because of their size the new vehicles can be used on our narrower rural roads and I am told can be deployed to enforce 40mph as well as 30mph – so watch out on the A143 driving past the garage and shop at Stradishall and the Plumber’s Arms cross roads at Wickhambrook!
I went with the Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore to see the new vehicle launched in Clare last week and I will be monitoring reports to see how effective it is.
Speed is one of those emotive issues: some parish councillors say worries are blown up out of proportion while others like the members of Lidgate PC are very keen to take firm action. The village, which as you know lies on a busy road with traffic cutting through to and from Newmarket, now has a very strong community campaign about speeding with an active community speedwatch group.
In other villages, although people complain about speeding nobody wants to get involved and set up a speedwatch group. I have funded four Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) to be shared around the communities in the Clare area. Some of the 24 parishes I represent have signed up to the scheme, which involves recruiting volunteers to move the signs around, but about half have not.
All the evidence from the speed surveys conducted by our highways team at the county council and borne out by the data collected from the VAS machines is that it is often only a very few drivers who are causing most of the nuisance. The VAS doesn’t identify vehicles but logs the speed of each individual vehicle per hour during a 24 hour period.
It is very easy to spot a pattern, for example the VAS in Ousden routinely clocks a vehicle at around 6am in the morning Monday to Friday whizzing through the 30mph limit at 75mph.
The educated guess is that this is someone commuting to work who doesn’t give a fig about who else might be on the road – drivers, dog walkers, horse riders, cyclists. I’ve checked and the stopping distance for a vehicle going 75mph is just over 100metres. I can’t think of anywhere on the 30mph stretch through the middle of Ousden where there is a 100m visibility.
So two bits of advice: to the person who always leaves for work in a rush and roars through Ousden just beware: we are asking the police to bring in the speed camera vehicle early one morning to catch you and the thinking is a recording of 75mph in a residential road would result in a ban and a big fine. For the rest of us, it is probably best for a while not to go out for an early morning midweek spin on your bike around Ousden until this menace is under control.
Suffolk County Council’s Children’s Services has been rated GOOD by Ofsted – which is brilliant news and means the team at SCC, led by Sue Cook, and working with our most vulnerable children are truly among the best in the country.
The Ofsted report, which was published on Thursday praises the work of the council in protecting and looking after children and young people, with some areas of outstanding practice highlighted in the report. The rigorous nearly month-long inspection was carried out between 23 November – 17 December 2015.
Suffolk now sits in the top 22% of local authorities in the country. So far, 78 councils have been inspected under Ofsted’s new framework. No authority has been judged outstanding and of the last 17 inspections across the country, just one authority had been judged GOOD, until Suffolk’s rating.
Ofsted’s report highlights that “Leaders have a comprehensive understanding of what needs to be achieved and have made sustained progress since the inspection of services for looked after children in 2010 and child protection in 2013, which both were judged to be adequate”. It says “Suffolk County Council is led by dynamic and capable leaders and managers and is delivering a good service overall to children and their families.”
My colleague, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Children’s Services, Cllr Gordon Jones is rightly chuffed to bits – “I am absolutely delighted that we have received a GOOD rating from Ofsted. This achievement is testament to the work and commitment of all our staff at the authority and the support they receive from local community partners who share our drive and focus to protect vulnerable children and young people in Suffolk, and support families. The inspection team’s feedback demonstrates that we are listening to the children and families we work for and their views and experiences are positively shaping the way we do things.
“This is confirmation that we are on the right path and in the areas where we have recommendations for improvement, Ofsted acknowledges that we already have plans in place to deliver success in the future. We are not at all complacent in light of this rating, the team will want to demonstrate further success the next time we welcome Ofsted to Suffolk.”
Key points made by Ofsted in the report recognise the work of the authority in the following areas:
Strong leadership, an ambitious and well-articulated vision and robust governance arrangements are leading to improved outcomes for children, young people and families. The lead Councillor and the Chief Executive and senior team demonstrate commitment to corporate parenting and show an ambitious drive to transform services for children and families
Early help services for children and their families are good and there are early signs of increased impact through the integrated teams. Children receive timely, suitable and comprehensive early help with appropriate assessment of needs
Substantial improvement in services for looked after children has been achieved since the inspection in 2010, delivering significant advances in assessing and addressing health needs and producing good outcomes that focus on safety, stability and permanence; workers try to ensure that children and young people remain in their families wherever possible; these teams are successful and demonstrate positive impact.
Assessing new and emerging risk for children in care is a high priority. Children who are at risk of child sexual exploitation are being appropriately identified and strong cooperative working relationships with the police have been developed.
Social workers act quickly to ensure that children are safe. They know children well, understand their needs, visit them often and listen to what they tell them to establish trusting relationships
The adoption service in Suffolk is well run, well managed and appropriately resourced. It is offering an exceptional service through foster to adopt and concurrent placements
Parents say they receive the right sort of help when they need it, they value the support and that it has helped them.
As part of the same inspection period, Suffolk’s Local Safeguarding Children’s Board also received a GOOD rating. The Board is independent of the council and is set up to ensure that partner organisations have good safeguarding arrangements and work together. It also ensures that members of the local community have increased understanding of the work that is being carried out to help keep children safe in Suffolk
Ofsted also recognises that the authority underpins its services through the adoption of the Signs of Safety framework; an internationally recognised approach to organising and managing casework. Suffolk County Council is one of only a handful of local authorities to fully embed this system into its service and it is clearly bringing positive results.
The full Ofsted report can be viewed on their website at: www.ofsted.gov.uk
Really good news – the upward trend in education continues as the county’s schools kicked off the New Year in great style as the proportion of Suffolk schools rated as Good or Outstanding by Ofsted continues to grow.
Truly significant progress is now being made towards the administration’s ambitious objective that all children in Suffolk can attend a Good or Outstanding school by January 2017. Through its Raising the Bar initiative, the county council is tackling levels of educational attainment and is striving to ensure that every child can achieve their full potential.
The percentage of Suffolk schools now rated good or outstanding is at 79%, an improvement of 5% compared to this point exactly one year ago. Admittedly, the projected target for January 2016 was initially for 85% of schools to be rated Good or Outstanding. However, this prediction was based on the evidence available at the time, including the rate at which Ofsted would inspect schools previously judged as requiring improvement.
There remain around twenty schools which are currently rated as “Requires Improvement” which were due to be inspected by the end of 2015, but have not yet been visited by Ofsted due to changes that have taken place in the way that they operate. Previously Ofsted planned to re-inspect “Requires Improvement” schools by the end of four terms, but this has now been amended to within six terms. Whilst the county council recognises the pressures on Ofsted, this has undoubtedly impacted upon its chances of hitting the 2016 target. Our education team, however, remain committed and confident that the overall target set for 2017 will still be achieved.
Suffolk’s GCSE and A-Level results are on the rise
We have also had confirmation of just how well Suffolk teenagers did in their exams last summer. Verified exam results released towards the end of January by the Department for Education show that Suffolk students have performed strongly, and are above the national average at GCSE, A-level, academic and vocational qualifications for the first time in several years. It’s exceptionally pleasing to see this continued improvement in Suffolk’s exam results and this is clear evidence that the county council’s Raising the Bar strategy is paying dividends
The statistics from the Department for Education show that:
54.5% of Suffolk pupils achieved 5 or more A*-C grades including English and Maths
The national figure for all schools was 53.8%.
Suffolk’s results have improved by 2.8% from last year’s results and see Suffolk rise in the overall league table from 125 to 106 (out of 151 Local Authorities). Suffolk is making significant improvements with a higher percentage of pupils making the expected levels of progress in English and Maths; the county has climbed from 108th to 79th in Maths, and from 119th to 87th in English. Encouragingly, the performance of Suffolk’s disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for free school meals or children looked after) has shown a 4% increase on the previous year; this is despite the national figure remaining static. The results also see Suffolk ranked in 21st position for A-level results in 2015. In key measures of A-level, academic and vocational attainment at key stage 5, Suffolk is above the national figure for points per student.The average point score per student for Suffolk’s A-level cohort was 799.8 compared to 778.3 nationally, and for all academic entries was 801.9 compared to 785.4 nationally. For Suffolk’s vocational students the average points per student was 578.2 compared to 577 nationally.
Childhood obesity is a major threat to the health and wellbeing of the next generation but Elaine Wyllie the inspirational head teacher of St Ninians Primary School in Stirling, with not a penny in funding, has transformed the health, happiness and work levels of the children at her school.
She had one really simple, really clever idea.
At some stage during the day, every child in each class goes out to walk or run a mile around the school field. As we know across the UK cases of childhood obesity are rising but there is none at St Ninians.
I heard a great radio interview recently with Mrs Wyllie in which she stressed the benefits came from the children getting out in the fresh air.
I can vouch for that. Bury Bootcamp re-launched three weeks ago and I have signed up to sessions on all the weather pitch at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club at an unearthly hour of the morning. It’s been cold, windy and wet but it is so much more invigorating to be outdoors as dawn breaks than to be indoors in a gym.
I want to take issue with Paul Geater re the article he has written in today’s East Anglian Daily Times suggesting that all 38 Tory County Councillors will be claiming mileage for attending tomorrow’s Conservative Group meeting.
For the record: I wont be claiming.
The group meeting, where we are to discuss the budget, is being held in place of the full council meeting which was cancelled because of lack of business.
I don’t claim to attend a group meeting; that is political business and why should my residents pay?
I feel that the subtext of the article is a suggestion that ‘Fat Cat’ Tories are claiming all the allowances going.
That’s not true.
Not all Tories claim all allowances. For starters, members are sensible and share lifts.
As a matter of principle I don’t claim mileage to group meetings as they are part and parcel of being a Conservative. I don’t expect my residents to pay for my political activity. Nor do I claim meal allowances, nor do I attend the hot buffet lunch which is now provided pre full council meetings. Why should my neighbours pay for my lunch? I would eat lunch wherever I was, so I should pay: not the tax payer.
When the hot buffet lunch was introduced in July by Cllr Jane Storey the chairman of the council, I wrote to her saying
“I won’t be joining you for hot lunches pre-council. Fundamentally, I think this is an inappropriate use of public money especially at a time when we are seeking to make further budget cuts and our staff face a pay freeze.”
I don’t claim for mileage for council work in the division as I believe that is covered by the allowance I receive.
I do claim mileage for SCC briefings, training and meetings. So when I was assistant cabinet members for highways I had a high mileage claim because on behalf of SCC I attended highways meetings as far afield as Peterborough, Marks Tey, Lowestoft, Police HQ, and Bungay. Where possible I shared lifts with officers but that wasn’t always feasible.
I believe Suffolk County Councillors must be much more open about what they claim.
This is public money and the public has the right to know why and how it is being spent.
I am taken with how these matters are handled next door in Essex where on the county council’s website each councillor has a page with a set format listing the training that has been undertaken, the hospitality and gifts that have been received the electoral history etc. However the section on expenses and allowances just refers the reader to the scheme and doesn’t give the details of claims.
I think it should. So I would like to see us adopt the Essex format and add to it to include each individual councillors’ allowances and expenses and the spending from their locality and highways budgets. Voters have the right to know what their councillors cost.
Big thanks to the new South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge for raising in the House of Commons the cancellation of the proposed Assington Green mobile ‘phone mast.
We are blighted in this area with very poor infrastructure. We need good phone and internet access in rural areas if our communities are to survive and thrive. It was good to hear our MP fight our case in the Commons
A major drive to help people stay well this winter was launched today by Public Health England and NHS England. It kicked off with a national flu vaccination programme for children, which this year seeks to help over three million 2-6 year olds, as the programme is extended to children in school years 1 and 2.
For the first time, all our youngest primary school children will be eligible to receive the free nasal spray vaccine, making this the largest school-based vaccination programme in England involving children in 17,000 schools.
As in previous years, the adult flu vaccine will also be offered for free to those in groups at particular risk of infection and complications from flu. The groups being offered the adult flu vaccine are:
Those aged 65 or over
Those aged under 65 with long-term conditions