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Suffolk Bitesize: Your weekly council round-up on issues affecting West Suffolk Archives, SEND provision and arts funding





Here’s some of what your representatives across the county have been up to since Monday, January 15

A damning Ofsted report has identified systemic failings Suffolk’s provision of services to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The report identified problems with pace of action, length of processes, and even leadership. This was the third such report since 2016 revealing poor performance.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks has recognised there is a lot more to do with regards to SEND provision. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks has recognised there is a lot more to do with regards to SEND provision. Picture: Suffolk County Council

Council leader, Matthew Hicks, said: “We know we’re not doing well enough yet, there’s a lot more to do, and we are very sorry to the children and families that haven’t had the service they deserve.”

But this has sparked controversy among charities, residents, and councillors of all political colours.

Cllr Sam Murray, a Conservative, has called for the axe to fall.

Sam Murray, county councillor for Whitehouse and Whitton, has two children with SEND, says she continues to experience first-hand what families have to go through top get their children the care they need. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Sam Murray, county councillor for Whitehouse and Whitton, has two children with SEND, says she continues to experience first-hand what families have to go through top get their children the care they need. Picture: Suffolk County Council

She said: “I feel disgusting for being part of a group that’s not doing anything.”

Local artists, residents, and councillors have gathered outside Suffolk County Council’s headquarters to protest the proposed changes to arts funding.

The changes would see funding cut from the council’s core budget and, instead, the introduction of a £500,000 pot which charities could apply for.

Cllr Richard Rout said this would mean charities from across the county would be able to benefit rather than the nine organisations which previously received it.

However, critics said the move would take away the security of the money being used as core funding.

Others have added that those nine organisations would be the biggest beneficiaries anyway.

Cllr Richard Rout has said tha the changes to arts funding would mean charities from across the county could benefit. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Cllr Richard Rout has said tha the changes to arts funding would mean charities from across the county could benefit. Picture: Suffolk County Council

The changes are part of the council’s budget proposals which include a larger £65m cuts package to address financial pressures.

West Suffolk Archive’s historic documents will be available on-demand as the county council continues its controversial plans to move the branch.

The plans would see the West Suffolk Archives branch from Raingate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, to The Hold, in Ipswich.

Cllr Bobby Bennett said the money saved by moving the branches would be used to improve the service. Picture: Suffolk County Council
Cllr Bobby Bennett said the money saved by moving the branches would be used to improve the service. Picture: Suffolk County Council

This, alongside the moving of East Suffolk’s branch, is in a bid to save about £140,000 a year as part of the county council’s £64.7m package proposal for budget cuts.

But Cllr Bobby Bennett said the money would be used to improve the service. This includes making documents available on-demand rather than having to be order them a week in advance.

Cllr Bennett will also be looking at making documents available online to allow those who live further away to access them without driving to The Hold.

Suffolk’s Health Scrutiny Committee chairwoman, Cllr Jessica Fleming, has said the council would hold off on calls for a public inquiry into a mental health trust.

This came after her counterpart from neighbouring Norfolk called for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to be investigated.

The call followed an independent report from June of last year which revealed the trust had lost track of patient deaths.

Cllr Jessica Fleming, chairwoman of Suffolk County Council's Health Scrutiny Committee, has responded to calls from neighbouring Norfolk for a public inquiry to be launched into the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Picture: Suffolk County Council
Cllr Jessica Fleming, chairwoman of Suffolk County Council's Health Scrutiny Committee, has responded to calls from neighbouring Norfolk for a public inquiry to be launched into the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT). Picture: Suffolk County Council

The report, which was conducted by audit firm Grant Thornton, also revealed that out of the 11,379 deaths of people in contact with the trust over five years, the number which could have been deemed avoidable was unclear.

The trust said most deaths did not relate to poor care.

Cllr Fleming agreed that urgent action was needed and said the committee would discuss on whether to formally support Norfolk.

Councillor Sam Murray said breaches of vulnerable children’s personal data were not being addressed fast enough.

In July of last year, a report revealed 588 information security incidents had happened at the council. Of these, 52 per cent, or 304, happened within children and young people’s services (CYP).

Stephen Meah-Sims, the council’s executive director of corporate services, said CYP breaches were a top priority, with some actions already under way as well as training and difficult conversations set to begin.

But Cllr Murray said: “We have heard this before, I have heard it repeatedly for three years — these conversations needed to have happened yesterday.”

A fuller report on the service’s improvements is expected in July.