Suffolk County Council Newsletter – September 2016
Devolution outcomes considered by Norfolk and Suffolk Leaders
The outcomes of the Norfolk and Suffolk Devolution consultation was considered by council leaders on Wednesday 7 September, ahead of submission to the Secretary of State. Throughout the consultation period, councils and the New Anglia LEP engaged with a wide range of people including town and parish councils, councillors, businesses, members of the public and partner organisations, such as health and higher education. More than 10,000 responses were received via a range of channels. The majority of responses, 6080, were received via a telephone survey carried out by Ipsos-Mori. The survey gained views from a cross section of people, reflecting the population of the two counties.
- 53% supported the principle of devolution
- There was strong support for more decisions to be taken locally across a range of issues with decisions relating road maintenance funding coming out on top
- There was 52% support for a Mayor and 58% support for councils to act as a Combined Authority. 29% opposed election of a Mayor and 25% opposed a Combined Authority
- Job creation and young people either earning or learning came out as top priorities for the Combined Authority to invest in.
250 businesses of various sizes across the two counties were also surveyed by Mori:
- 54% supported the principle of devolution
- Strong support for more decisions to be taken locally across a arrange of issues with decisions relating road maintenance funding coming out on top
- 59% supported councils joining together as a Combined Authority and 47% supportive of a mayor, with 27% opposed
- Young people earning or learning is a top priority for the Combined Authority to invest in.
In addition, the New Anglia LEP, in conjunction with the Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce held a series of breakfast briefings during July and the Chambers of Commerce also produced their own e-newsletters. This activity has resulted in a number of business leaders sending letters to government supporting devolution. The survey was also available via the East Anglia Devolution website and council websites and more than 2900 people responded. The survey was open to everyone but the results show that certain groups and geographical areas were better represented than others. For example, less than 5% of responses came from under 24’s when in reality they make up more than 25% of the two counties’ population. Response levels were also not evenly spread across the various borough and district areas. Whilst there was less support for a mayor or combined authority through the self-service survey, more than 50% of people responding supported the principle of devolution. Again, strong support for more decisions to be taken locally with road maintenance coming out top and investment by the Combined Authority in transport and broadband infrastructure ranked highest. It is important to be clear that a Norfolk and Suffolk mayor would not be an ‘all powerful’ figure, making decisions without regard to the views of others. The Mayor would need support from other members of the Combined Authority for plans to progress.
A summary of all responses will be reported to the Secretary of State once it has been considered signed off by Leaders. If the Secretary of State thinks that the necessary statutory tests have been met, he will lay a draft order before Parliament. However, only if all the local councils and the LEP that endorsed the proposed deal in June approve the order will plans progress.
Better Broadband for Suffolk
Over the past few months, much progress has been made with the Better Broadband Programme. Having completed the first contract ahead of target, significantly under budget, and reaching more premises than planned, focus is being placed on repeating that feat for the second contract. Currently, we are at around 87% fibre coverage in Suffolk, and we aim to reach 90% by the end of the year. BT are currently re-modelling the rollout plan for the second contract, which will run to 2019. This is a result of a Suffolk County Council move to introduce the “clawed back” funding into the contract, pushing coverage higher, beyond the 97% by 2019 target. We are also pleased that other improvements are being modelled into the contract, including technological advances, but also improved engineering processes used to physically roll out the network. Much has been discussed recently about how positive this is for Suffolk, in that the overall outcome improves drastically each time the plan is remodelled. It does however pose a communications challenge, and the team remain committed to ensuring the most accurate and up to date information is available at any one time. In practice, this will mean that the next 6-12 months of rollout can be uploaded to the website on a quarterly basis, but those areas which are yet to be surveyed will need more careful messaging. We have also made improvements with the 2Mbps infill scheme, opening it up to wireless providers as well as satellite broadband providers, in attempt to ensure that residents and businesses have the widest possible choice of tactical suppliers whilst the fibre scheme and rollout ensues.
Lastly, the County Council is very pleased that Matthew Hancock MP has now been appointed as the Minister for Digital and Culture. Matthew is acutely aware of the need for fibre broadband, and has already been briefed to this effect locally and nationally. The team are working to seize the opportunity to influence national policy relating to the “final few percent” with a view to any spending announcements which may be forthcoming in the Autumn Statement. Finally, a reminder that the team are here to help with any queries and issues, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blue Light Property Sharing in Suffolk
Plans for blue light property sharing based around Felixstowe and Saxmundham fire stations have now been agreed by the Blue Light Executive Board, which is overseeing plans for increased collaboration between our emergency services in Suffolk. Building work, subject to planning consent, should start in September and October 2016 respectively, to accommodate local Police teams at the fire stations. The facilities will also be available, where desired, as ‘drop-in’ bases for ambulance crews. Feasibility studies are also being undertaken to determine whether sharing is advantageous in Beccles, Leiston, Stowmarket, Mildenhall, Newmarket and Sudbury. These projects, where supported, are likely to be taken forward from 2017. Sharing at Mildenhall is linked to the Mildenhall-Hub project, which is being led by Forest Heath District Council. A feasibility study is now well underway to establish the best location, in the centre of Ipswich, for a blue light response base for Fire, Police and Ambulance. Other partners’ requirements are also being sought with a view to optimising the use of the property. Options include redeveloping the current Princes Street fire station site or, instead, constructing a new building at an alternative location close to the town centre. We expect recommendations to be developed for discussion in the autumn and for building works, where approved, to start in 2017. The above works are substantially funded by the £4.93m DCLG transformation grant, received by the Council in 2014-15, and Home Office funding provided to Suffolk Constabulary.
Suffolk Record Office makes shortlist of International Digital Preservation Awards
Suffolk County Council is happy to announce that its Suffolk Record Office project – ‘Preserving Suffolk’s Digital Assets’ is a finalist for The National Archives Award for Safeguarding the Digital Legacy in the prestigious Digital Preservation Awards 2016. Run by the Digital Preservation Coalition, the awards are a world-wide celebration of those who have made significant and innovative contributions to ensuring our generation’s digital legacy will be available tomorrow. A small team from the council worked with external suppliers Preservica and Orangeleaf to transform how digital files are managed, preserved and shared. In a short space of time they have delivered a trusted digital repository (the equivalent of a strong room for paper records) and a brand new interactive website: www.suffolkarchives.co.uk which provides easy access to 900 years of Suffolk’s history, with links to over 326,000 electronic catalogue records, interesting information and stories, image galleries and online exhibitions. It also hosts the latest news on the Hold: A Suffolk Archives Service for the 21st Century project, which has attracted initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is in the early stages of the Development Phase: www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/thehold. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Welcome Trust in London on Wednesday 30 November.
County Councillor – Wilford Division
Tel: 07545 423799