County Councillor's Report
1st October 2020
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Water Street – Verbal update
The Cabinet met in late September to consider its response to EDF’s application to Government to build Sizewell C. The Cabinet unanimously agreed to oppose the application. The main objection was EDF’s plan to use lorries to deliver materials to site over the 10 plus years construction phase, rather than use rail or sea.
Council takes giant loan for ballooning costs of Lowestoft bridge
The Cabinet in late August decided to borrow the County’s largest ever single sum - £65m - to finance the ballooning costs of the planned third crossing at Lake Lothing, Lowestoft. The cabinet heard that estimated costs had risen from £92 million to £145m. The interest costs alone for the loan will be £3.3m a year for the next 30 years. This is essentially a road bridge (although with a footway attached) and personally I do not see how it matches with the county’s goal of reaching zero carbon by 2030.
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
Climate emergency recommendations for Suffolk wide reductions published
When on July 14th, the County Council Cabinet approved a plan to bring Council carbon emissions to zero by 2030 it also authorised the Suffolk Climate Partnership to commission a report detailing how emissions by the wider county could be brought to zero by 2030. That initial report, by consultants Ricardo, has been published and is due to go to public consultation via series of five workshops. It is available on the county council website https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/planning-waste-and-environment/pledge-to-climate-emergency-declaration/
It includes proposals for eliminating one in four car journeys across Suffolk by 2030 and massive investment in electric charging points to enable the remaining three in four cars to be electric by 2030.
Closures of Children’s Centres goes ahead after scrutiny gives it the nod
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.
My group worked with the Labour group to “call in” the Cabinet’s decision to Scrutiny Committee on 11 September. The Scrutiny Committee decided to nod through the decision.
Consultation on division boundary changes begins again for 2025
The Boundary Commission has begun consulting on changes to Suffolk County Council division boundaries which will bring the number of County Councillors down from 75 to 70. In the Babergh area it will mean nine divisions rather than the current ten. The changes, initially meant to come into force in the May 2021 election will not now happen until May 2025. It is unclear whether the Government will press ahead with its White Paper – promised this Autumn - which aims to replace all or some County and District Councils with Unitaries, with a rumoured timing of May 2023 – to coincide with District Council elections.
The Cabinet has given Highways £235,000 from last year’s budget surplus to promote Quiet Lanes where parish councils request them. I understand that these are generally for roads where the national speed limit applies but there is low traffic and demand for use by pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders. The aim is not to calm traffic but to make drivers more aware and encourage more foot and cycle traffic. I have heard from one parish that it has worked to reduce speeds of traffic but they would like more national publicity about what a Quiet Lane is.