PCC supports research into domestic abuse

Stuart Agnew, Tim Passmore and Emma Bond, Senior Lecturer at University Campus Suffolk.

Stuart Agnew, Tim Passmore and Emma Bond, Senior Lecturer at University Campus Suffolk.

Domestic abuse is a very complex crime and one that can manifest itself in many ways.

Tackling domestic abuse is a key part of Tim Passmore’s Police and Crime Plan and a priority for Suffolk Constabulary; but understanding the extent of the problem in the county is a challenge, as it is largely under-reported by victims.

Tim Passmore said, “Domestic abuse is a terrible crime and the Constabulary is committed to dealing with it but it is difficult to deal with an issue unless you don’t really understand the extent of the problem.

“Working with University Campus Suffolk I have commissioned a research project so that we can better understand domestic abuse and how services can better support vulnerable victims.

“We need to really get to grips with the magnitude of this problem if we are going to deliver services that meet the needs of victims. I know this research by UCS will help us to really understand what we are dealing with here in Suffolk.”

Stuart Agnew, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at UCS said, “The focus of the project is to examine the perceptions and experiences of a particularly vulnerable and marginalised group who have been a victim of crime, during their journey through the criminal justice process.

“It is well established that victims of domestic violence have a wide variety of personal experiences and support needs. Our research team will work with victims of domestic violence, agencies who support victims of domestic abuse and professionals from the criminal justice system to highlight areas of good practice and further areas for development.

He added, “We expect the findings of this research to provide the Police & Crime Commissioner with robust evidence to inform of future policy developments.”

The PCC wants this work to truly reflect victims’ views and experiences, in order to support future service improvements. If you have been a victim of domestic abuse and would like to share your views and perceptions of the service you received, then please contact UCS on the email: cjsreview@ucs.ac.uk or call 01473 338559.

Fact Check: Have the hours been slashed for an East Ipswich Children’s Centre?

David Ellesmere, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich

David Ellesmere, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich

The row over Ormiston Children’s Centre took another couple of twists yesterday, as Labour accused the Tories of misrepresenting the facts, only to see their own arguments countered by the County Council.

Labour Parliamentary Candidate, David Ellesmere, took umbrage at the claim by Tory MP Ben Gummer that the number of hours provided by the replacement services for the Ormiston Children’s Centre catchment area had gone up, saying “The facts are there in black and white. The Ormiston Children’s Centre has been shut and the services it used to provide have been slashed. Parents know it. The staff at Ormiston know it. It is disgraceful that Ben Gummer and Suffolk County Council are still trying to pretend otherwise.”

Mr Ellesmere contacted IpswichSpy.com after reading comments by Mr Gummer yesterday, and he highlighted a number of services that he claimed were no longer being provided from the Ormiston Children’s Centre – evidence, he says, that the hours have been slashed from 28 hours a week to just 12 hours a week.

Strangely his own colleague, Labour’s shadow Cabinet member for Children & Young People on the County Council Sonia Barker, claimed in a local newspaper today that the same Children’s Centre had seen services slashed from 19 hours a week to just 3 hours a week.

Helpfully the County Council were happy to explain the reality. It seems Mr Ellesmere was referring to the Summer 2013 programme, but actually the “last” programme delivered by the Ormiston Centre was the Winter 2013/2014 programme. In addition, Ormiston (now East Ipswich) Children’s Centre operated with Ravenswood and Treehouse. They do not operate in isolation. That means courses/sessions rotate around them and are, therefore, not always at one place. For instance, the ‘Incredible Toddlers’ session advertised on OCC’s summer 2013 list was, in fact, run from Ravenswood. This is in the notes on the course.

In addition, many of the activities listed on the Summer 2013 schedule were not commissioned by SCC or were provided or commissioned by other organisations, for instance the NHS, at the venue. So if they’ve stopped that is nothing to do with SCC. So they have no bearing on the new programme which is delivered by SCC.

Many of the activities were also delivered on demand and by referral. Therefore if the demand or referrals aren’t there, the course won’t be for a period of time either. Additionally, Suffolk County Council is providing information and support from Ormiston Centre for 24 hours per week and we have agreed to fund room hire for an Adoption Support Group so this can continue at the Ormiston Centre.

Mr Ellesmere suggested eleven specific courses that he believed were no longer being provided at all, but the County Council had answers for each specific claim:

Ante-natal support from the local midwife is a session that NHS Midwifery ceased to deliver at Christmas and is now delivered at the Treehouse Children’s Centre instead. The NHS Midwifery service considers this to be sufficient service coverage for East Ipswich. Parentcraft days for parents continue to be delivered at Ravenswood Children’s centre.

A session named Bumps to Babies, where new parents get parenting information and advice, meeting other parents with bumps to babies up to 6 months old, was renamed Baby Babble and is being delivered at a community venue in the reach area.

The County Council insist that a session called Child-minding Group, a session where parents looking for childcare could drop in and meet local child-minders, was not offered at Ormiston Children’s Centre, and it is not advertised on their previous timetable.

Development Reviews for 1 Year Olds – by appointment with the health visitor. SCC say these are offered across East Ipswich by the Health Visiting team parents select a venue to attend according to the convenience of the day and time, there is no reduction in the number of appointments being offered.

Freedom Programme – for women who have been or are affected by domestic abuse. This is offered at one Children’s Centre at a time as numbers are small, there is a current programme running locally. SCC also chooses not to openly advertise the location of these sessions as they are for vulnerable women who require discretion. This doesn’t mean they are not running.

Incredible Babies is a 10 week course for babies aged 0-5 months, and Incredible Toddlers is a 12 week parenting course to encourage children’s co-operation and reduce difficult and challenging behaviour in 10 to 3 year olds.
The County Council say Incredible Babies/Toddlers/Years are parenting support programmes that run when there is sufficient number of parents being referred that is run in light of the referrals received and rotates from centre to centre in North East Ipswich depending on staff availability and the need for on-site child care support. Currently there are no pending referrals for these courses in Ipswich East according to the Area Parenting Co-ordinator. They do not run continuously and the next course is provisionally planned for the 15th of May. We are also delivering Triple PPP parenting support from next week at Treehouse.

Made of Money – group workshop on how to make money go further. SCC will consider re-running this course in the future if the demand is there. They say they wouldn’t run it without people requesting it/attending.

Polish Drop In – for members of the Polish community with children under-5. This was run by Ormiston Trust by a parent volunteer and not delivered by the Children’s centre. It ceased in February when the volunteer left. The cessation of this group is not related to changes in the contract to deliver a Children’s Centre service.

Self Esteem and Confidence Group – 6 week course to include feelings of self-worth, handling conflict and learning to be assertive. This was not on the previous Ormiston timetable. This course is delivered by Realise Futures. This was not being delivered in 2014 and therefore SCC has not sought to run it in the immediate transfer period. An identical course is running at Ravenswood Children’s Centre currently and courses will continue to be available in the future. The Realise Futures learning centre is situated in the Ormiston reach area and has a number of courses of a similar nature. The support and information service will be able to redirect parents to these pending courses.

Talk It Through – free and confidential counselling. This was not a Children’s Centre service, there is no reference to this on the Ormiston Children’s Centre timetable and was not delivered as part of their Children’s Centre contract. Ormiston Trust was funding counselling separately for one or two parents. SCC has referrals routes to Suffolk Wellbeing service and Suffolk MIND for parents requiring counselling.

A spokesman for the County Council added that between the 1st September 2013 and the 13th April 2014 some 68% of the parents accessing services attended the sessions that are still being offered directly from the Ormiston Children’s Centre.

Major rail improvements announced as Abellio Greater Anglia franchise extended for two years

Class 90 at Ipswich in Greater Anglia livery‘We are delivering on every promise’ says Ipswich MP Ben Gummer as next step in East Anglian rail improvements is announced.

A two year extension to the franchise for the Great Eastern Main Line has been welcomed by a group of MPs and businesses working to make improvements to the mainline to London. The extension was announced by the Department for Transport this morning, and means Abellio Greater Anglia will continue to run services on the line until 2016.

The extension will include major improvements to the service provided to commuters and other rail users, with the upgrading of the current rolling stock beginning immediately. The Mark III coaches used for most mainline rail services to London will be upgraded, including new carpets, new seat covers and new lighting, as well as controlled emission toilets and power points. Class 321 commuter trains, mainly used on the slower stopping services, will be upgraded to include more accessible toilets and wheelchair spaces.

News that the toilets on mainline trains will no longer be dumping raw sewage onto the tracks will be welcomed by those who live near by the rail line, and by Network Rail staff who blame “sewage mist” for unexplained incidence of illness among rail maintenance staff. Network Rail will be investing £2million in new facilities at Norwich, Ipswich and Southend to handle the new controlled emission toilets.

A new cleaning regime for both trains and stations will be introduced to improve standings in the National Passenger Survey, and the conversion of buffet vehicles will provide additional seats and a more consistent catering offer.

The Great Eastern Main Line Rail Taskforce, led by Ben Gummer MP, Chloe Smith MP and Priti Patel MP, along with the Chairman of the New Anglia LEP, Mark Pendlington, welcomed the major improvements to the East Anglia rail service. The taskforce promised to refresh the rolling stock and reduce journey times to the region and the announcement today is billed as evidence of real progress in achieving this.

The first victory came last year, when the Chancellor announced his backing for the Ipswich in Sixty campaign. He appointed the taskforce to make it happen and since it has been working to deliver a better, faster and more reliable rail service to an area with vast economic potential in the east of England.

Those close to the taskforce acknowledge there is much more to be done, however, and that bigger problems remain. Whilst overseeing this refresh to rolling stock it will also be committed to ensuring that these bigger problems are also overcome; in particular that journey times from London to Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk are significantly reduced. The aim is to achieve a journey time of sixty minutes from London to Ipswich and of ninety minutes from London to Norwich, with shorter journey times to stations along the way.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said:

“This is another important step along our journey to a better rail service. This will improve the travelling experience in the short term for commuters and travellers going between Ipswich and London until the new rolling stock – that my colleagues and I are working on procuring at the moment- is ready to go. It is understandable that people are frustrated with how long they have had to wait for these improvements but I want to re-iterate that we are reversing sixty years of under-investment. We are delivering on every promise – whether it is the Ipswich Chord or the refurbishment of existing rolling stock- to the travelling public.

“We now need to get on and deliver ‘Norwich in 90’ and ‘Ipswich in 60’. We also need to deliver a better, faster and more reliable service to Ipswich with new rolling stock. It is only if my colleagues and I are returned to Parliament in 2015 that we will be sure to achieve this.”

Chairman of New Anglia LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) Mark Pendlington said:

“This very welcome new investment in the quality of our rail service is the best possible news for passengers, and provides a real boost for all those who see a top performing transport system as fundamental to business success. This is a turning point after years of under investment in rail in the East, and encourages us all in our campaign to achieve even greater improvements in the vital rail services that serve all parts of this area.”

Work on upgrade of Mark III trains will start immediately with other improvements to services beginning later in the year.

Labour accuse Gummer of betrayal on Sure Start

Cllr David Ellesmere - Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich. He wrote that "To say parents and staff feel let down is an understatement. They were promised by Ben Gummer and David Cameron that Sure Start was “Safe with Conservatives” when it patently is not. And they were led to believe by Ben Gummer and Suffolk County Council that Ormiston Children’s Centre had been saved – at least for 12 months – when again it patently has not. "They feel betrayed, and rightly so."

Cllr David Ellesmere – Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich. He wrote that “To say parents and staff feel let down is an understatement. They were promised by Ben Gummer and David Cameron that Sure Start was “Safe with Conservatives” when it patently is not. And they were led to believe by Ben Gummer and Suffolk County Council that Ormiston Children’s Centre had been saved – at least for 12 months – when again it patently has not.
“They feel betrayed, and rightly so.”

A row is brewing over the provision of children’s centres in Ipswich, after Ben Gummer MP was accused of betraying the parents and staff of the Ormiston Children’s Centre in Felixstowe Road.

Labour Parliamentary Candidate, David Ellesmere, wrote at length about the closure of children’s centres since 2010 in his column in a local newspaper on Monday. He was specifically targeting the pledge that Mr Gummer made before the General Election in 2010, when Gummer challenged Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman, branding her claims that a Tory victory would lead to Sure Start centres closing “lies.”

Suffolk County Council announced the closure of Ormiston Children’s Centre last month, claiming that EU procurement rules meant that it wasn’t possible to continue the contract without a full tendering process. However the intervention of Mr Gummer led to a rapid U-turn and it was thought that the service was safe.

Mr Ellesmere now alleges that the U-turn is a fig leaf, as Council funded hours delivered at Ormiston has fallen from 27 hours to just 2 hours a week.

“Conservative-run Suffolk County Council who are in charge of children’s centres are claiming that the children’s centre is still open but this is cynical spin. Council-funded activities at Ormiston have dropped from 27 hours a week to just 2 hours,” wrote Mr Ellesmere.

He added that: “The Tories claim that the rest of the children’s centre services are being provided elsewhere. Regardless of whether you can meaningfully have a children’s “centre” which is spread over multiple locations, even this isn’t true. The number of courses and activities has actually been halved to just 14 hours a week.”

Ben Gummer confronting Harriet Harman back in 2010. He accused her of lying about Tory plans for Sure Start, saying at the time "I have a very simple message for anyone involved with Sure Start in Ipswich: the Conservatives have no plans to close any Children's Centres."

Ben Gummer confronting Harriet Harman back in 2010. He accused her of lying about Tory plans for Sure Start, saying at the time “I have a very simple message for anyone involved with Sure Start in Ipswich: the Conservatives have no plans to close any Children’s Centres.”

However Mr Gummer insists that Mr Ellesmere’s figures are simply wrong, and challenged him to get his facts straight.

“I am disappointed that some people want to reduce what is probably the most important issue facing the future of Ipswich, and one that I’ve taken a particular proactive interest in, into a partisan mudslinging competition.

“To set the record straight, there has been no reduction in the number of children’s centres. In fact we have one more now than we had at the election in 2010. There has been no reduction in the number of hours provided by children’s centres, although it is true that they are being provided from different locations. Indeed the number of hours in the Ormiston reach area has gone up, not down.

“It is also true that had it not been for my intervention, Ormiston would not have remained open, and it is my job to fight both for local people but also for the things that I have promised.”

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt MP, has indicated a more nuanced approach than simply arguing closures are wrong.

Tristram Hunt spoke at the NSPCC conference a fortnight ago, telling practitioners that it would be hard to justify funding services that did not deliver improved educational outcomes – he cited baby yoga as an example – when money is tight.

“In the context of scarce resources it can’t be right to fund activities with dubious impact for cognitive development,” he said.

If Labour wins the May 2015 general election it is unlikely to pump additional money into children’s services, Hunt said, because of the “scary spending situation” it is likely to inherit.

“In reality there will be no magic funding wand Labour can wave,” he added. “We have to think smarter about what we do with precious resources.”

That is likely to mean the closure of 580 children’s centres over the past four years due to local funding cuts will not be reversed, Hunt suggested.

“There will be challenges about that provision. Are universal services best delivered in having a children’s centre in every community? We should use the difficult economic circumstances we inherit to look at innovation,” he added.

Shock as 366 people killed by air pollution in just one year

Robert Lindsay, Suffolk Green Party.

Robert Lindsay, Suffolk Green Party.

Suffolk Green Party is renewing its call for the county council to act to reduce car dependency as new government figures estimate that some 366 Suffolk people were effectively killed by air pollution in one year.

Public Health England warned that tiny particulates from burning fossil fuel in vehicles, power stations and domestic heating penetrate deep into people’s lungs and over years will build up, shortening people’s lives and contributing to the deaths of people with asthma or heart or lung problems.

The government body Public Health England estimates that of the 6,995 people that died in Suffolk in 2010, 366 or 5.3% were killed by long term exposure to air pollution.

Across the UK it is estimated that 25,002 people died because of air pollution in 2010. That includes 2,844 people in the East of England.

Robert Lindsay, spokesman for Suffolk Green Party said: “The smog we experienced in Suffolk a few days ago and these latest figures are yet another reminder of the need to act.

“We agree with Public Health England that much of the solution to this is in the hands of local transport authorities such as Suffolk County Council. With a push to increase cycling and walking, invest in public transport and safer roads, car dependency in the county would be reduced and so would air pollution.”

Graham Newman, Conservative Cabinet Member for Roads & Transport on Suffolk County Council, responded by saying:

“The whole point of the cycling strategy which we are currently writing is to bring together both the public health benefits (eg physical fitness, avoidance of obesity and the reduction in pollution levels) with the sustainable transport benefits (eg less congestion and fossil fuel consumption).”

SCC hosts summit on aligning streetworks

Councillor Graham Newman, Cabinet Member for Transport, addresses a Streetworks Summit at Endeavour House last Friday.

Councillor Graham Newman, Cabinet Member for Transport, addresses a Streetworks Summit at Endeavour House last Friday.

A conference to align “streetworks” agencies and suppliers took place at Suffolk County Council headquarters on Friday.

The summit brought together transport and utility companies, service suppliers and the joint authorities group UK to look at opportunities to minimise disruption to road users, businesses and communities.

It follows an incident last year, when National Grid Gas announced plans to carry out work on a gas main in Silent Street, Ipswich, a few weeks after other works in same street had been completed

There has been an increase in various agencies carrying out maintenance works across routes, at various times, causing disruption to services. This summit explored the opportunity to better communicate and coordinate these essential maintenance works across Suffolk.

The need to coordinate is clear as, annually, the highways network team processes as many as 20,000 utility works requests, 500 event applications, 700 temporary traffic regulations (planned works) as well as 20,000 Suffolk County Council highways works requests. The team manage approximately 117,000 occupancy days of works a year as well as a number of days due to events and other activities on the highway.

In 2013/14 the average duration of works was 11 days with 5% of all works overrunning.

The summit heard the views of scheme promoters such as utility companies and Suffolk Highways, whilst assessing the impact on public transport services, business interests and the local community. Last year, concerns were expressed by Suffolk County Council about the use of temporary traffic management where it was noted that no works appeared to have been carried out on the highway in Lowestoft.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for roads and transport said:

“We recognise that works on the highway are necessary and inevitable, but it is important to consider the impact these will have on road users in all plans. The key aim for this summit is reducing the amount of occupancy days of works and how any potential work, can be communicated and coordinated in a way that will minimise the impact on road users, businesses and communities. I share the frustration among Suffolk residents about the amount of road works we are all generating with a lack of communication a key issue.

“I am pleased that we will be hosting representatives from various companies as we all need to get around the table and align our aims and our timetables. The event is a real step forward as we all share the same goal of improving the amenities used by Suffolk residents.”

Discussions at the summit fostered opportunities to share examples of good practice, new ways of working and improve procedures.

Control Room merger endorsed by Norfolk – pressure rises on PCC Passmore

Stephen Bett (left) and Tim Passmore (right) are the Police and Crime Commissioners for Norfolk & Suffolk respectively.

Stephen Bett (left) and Tim Passmore (right) are the Police and Crime Commissioners for Norfolk & Suffolk respectively.

Plans to merge emergency control rooms for police forces in Suffolk & Norfolk were endorsed by the Norfolk Police & Crime Panel in a letter released yesterday.

Suffolk’s Chief Constable Douglas Paxton, along with his Norfolk counterpart, proposed merging the command & control room currently based at Martlesham, near Ipswich, with Norfolk’s control room based in Wymondham, saving the force £700k. Plans have been under discussion for a year, but were brought out into the open when Suffolk’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, held open hearings on the issue in February.

Norfolk Police & Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett

Norfolk Police & Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett

Mr Passmore’s Norfolk counterpart, Stephen Bett, backs the plans and has been actively promoting the idea, telling IpswichSpy.com that without the savings on offer, police officer numbers would have to be cut to balance the books. However Mr Passmore has been noticeably cool on the issue, claiming the business case presented is “not sufficiently robust”.

Yesterday’s letter, from Councillor Alec Byrne, Chairman of Norfolk’s Police & Crime Panel, confirmed that the Norfolk Panel “unanimously agreed to back the proposals put together by the Chief Constable of Norfolk and Suffolk that the Control Room be located at Norfolk Constabulary HQ in Wymondham and that the Shared Services Partnership be based in Suffolk.”

The letter followed a discussion held in Norfolk on 4th April and confirmed what Mr Byrne had told the Chairman of Suffolk’s Police & Crime Panel, Councillor Patricia O’Brien. Mrs O’Brien told IpswichSpy.com that she was aware of the decision by Norfolk, but that as Mr Passmore was due to give Suffolk’s Panel a verbal update on 25th April, prior to his meeting with Norfolk PCC & Chief Constables on April 30th, she thought it was important that we understood that the Panel had no decision making powers.

Patricia O'Brien, Chair of Suffolk Police & Crime Panel

Patricia O’Brien, Chair of Suffolk Police & Crime Panel

“The Panel takes no part in Tim’s decision, as we are purely a scrutiny panel that challenges or supports the PCC. But, of course, members will have a view. At the moment I have an open mind and would like answers to questions such as where will the £700k come from if this merger does not take place.”

Labour’s David Ellesmere, who has been fighting to keep the Control Room in Suffolk, insisted that the Norfolk decision didn’t change anything:

“This doesn’t change anything. The closure of the Suffolk Police Control room can only go ahead if both Police and Crime Commissioners agree to it so the fate of our Control Room still lies in Tim Passmore’s hands.”

Mr Passmore refuted suggestions it increased the pressure on him. “I don’t think it adds any pressure to the decision I have to make. I’ve always said that I will only do what is considered to be the best for Suffolk- nothing more and nothing less. I think it will be very interesting to hear what is said at the meeting in Wymondham on April 30th, when our Chief Financial Officer will be commenting on the robustness and accuracy of the business case and associated budgets that the Chief Constables put forwards.

“I certainly do remain to be convinced that it is the correct way forwards but also know that we must bridge the budgetary shortfall somehow. This is why, in my opinion, I owe it to the electors of Suffolk to examine every possible way to save money so the control room can stay in our county. Whilst work has started it is not yet complete.

“The reason for floating the idea of a combined control room in Suffolk across all blue light and other services is because in the long run it may well be better for us in Suffolk. I was at a meeting of Police and Crime Commissioners with the LGA in London this afternoon where there was significant support for developing such ideas. It is after all government policy to look at joining up blue light services including the coast guard wherever possible.

Suffolk's Police & Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore

Suffolk’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore

“Hopefully we will be able to provide a much clearer sense of direction after April 30th. You do need to remember that Stephen Bett thinks there should be a regional police force and I do not. He is entitled to his view and I likewise have mine, so we will see how matter’s progress.”

Mr Passmore also hit out at critics who have, in recent weeks, implied that he had reneged on some sort of back room deal to move the control room, or that he had performed a U-turn.

“I would reiterate that, contrary to what some individuals are saying, I have never agreed to move the control room. I did agree to examine the business case which is merely a common sense approach and it states very clearly in our Police and Crime Plan that we will be conducting an estates review, an ICT review alongside a zero based budgeting approach and we will examine all major changes on receipt of a proper business case and such decisions will only be made when all the information is publicly available so we are completely transparent. The Chief Constable has an obligation in the legislation to deliver our Police and Crime Plan which he has signed up to.”

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