Death Knell for Hated New Strategic Direction (?)
NSD ‘s New Home?
No the title ‘Death Knell for Hated New Strategic Direction’ is not Coatesy’s.
It’s the headline from the print version of the Evening Star.
It’s the conclusion drawn from a change at the top of the Council’s leading group, the Conservatives.
The East Anglian Daily Times reports,
Waveney District Council leader Mr Bee won the leadership of the Conservative group at the county on the first ballot.
The exact results of the election are not published, but it is understood that Mr Bee won the support of more than 30 of the 54 Conservative councillors.
That included five of the nine members of the current cabinet.
Mr Bee’s election came after members of the Conservative group at all levels spoke of the need to see a change in emphasis for the county council.
And in attracting the majority of the cabinet, Mr Bee showed that this feeling extended to all levels of the political hierarchy at Endeavour House – this was a frontbench, rather than a backbench, rebellion against the policies of the New Strategic Direction and divestment of services.
Mr Bee did not waste any time in announcing his intention to change the way the council operates.
Anyone who lives in Suffolk and is interested knows that the New Strategic Direction (NSS) is a hard-right free-market plan to hive off public services. That is, to place them in barely accountable private hands, with the ‘big society’ in the shape of traditional voluntary organisations providing the cover. The pared-down provision on offer nevertheless still promised profits for contracting companies, a few ‘social enterprises’, and a burden of responsibility on local communities.
It could be called “the minimum state in one county”.
The NSD has created, justifiably, fear amongst ordinary people.
Those little hopes and dreams that make up our lives were under attack.
The feelings of love and care towards others were to be undermined.
This attack on the basic social democratic structure of society was bitterly resented.
The dislike of the County Chief Executive has been intense.
Stickers have appeared on Ipswich Lamp posts attacking Andrea Hill.
But is the ‘new course’ really underway?
We welcome the decision to backtrack on getting rid of ‘lollypop’ people, and the promise to reconsider other aspects of the plan.
But is it really a fundamental change?
Newly chosen leader of Suffolk County Council, Mark Bee, writes, after underlining the need for cuts,
…the county council made the difficult budget decisions it made this year, and why it is looking to find new ways of providing services wherever possible in the future.
Part of this will be looking to local communities and voluntary organisations to help provide alternative solutions.
I strongly believe that there is a Big Society out there, with people able and willing to play their part in their local community.
However, if we are to expect others to help, we have a duty to listen to them in return, to hear their concerns, and to build solutions together, at a speed that we can all follow.
That is why I’d like the time between now and the council meeting on May 26, to be a time for reflection and review.
He then says,
I believe that the direction in which we are heading is the right one, but that we need to be very clear about our aims, about what we are going to be putting in the place of the things we are stopping, before we actually stop them.
This is, in some cases, already happening. The council created a transition fund precisely so that communities could have some extra time to develop alternative means of meeting a particular need.
We heard just last week that the Household Waste Recycling Centres would be staying open for an extra three months to enable alternative solutions to be explored.
With school crossing patrols in mind, in the areas where the patrols are most needed, we will look to continue to fund these, unless or until a suitable alternative arrangement has been found.
Across the spectrum of the council’s work, such as with libraries, post-16 school transport, or any of the other issues of concern to people in Suffolk, I want to use this time to reflect, to think carefully about the pace with which we are moving, and be clear about how existing services will be replaced.
Suffolk is blessed with wonderful towns and beautiful countryside. This is just one of the reasons why I also believe that we must continue to strive to become the greenest county, and protect the environment for future generations.
We can build a better future for Suffolk, working in partnership with other local authorities, public bodies and our members of parliament.
Every sentence here needs weighing.