A Green administration would set two overarching priorities - improving the health and well being of Suffolk citizens and meeting the zero carbon by 2030 target. The two will complement and reinforce each other.
A Green administration would prioritise public transport, walking and cycling and reducing car dependency over building new roads and infrastructure for driving.
Suffolk has fallen way behind neighbouring counties in planning for and funding sustainable transport. We would ensure that the county council had sufficient staff to bid for cycle, bus and pedestrian funding as and when it becomes available.
We would reallocate road space in our towns to safe, segregated cycling lanes and space for walking to encourage more people to leave their cars at home. In order to meet the council's goal of zero carbon by 2030 we would set a goal of reducing car dependency in the county so that car journeys as a whole are reduced by 25% by the year 2030 as recommended by the Suffolk Climate Partnership.
To facilitate this we would hire a zero emissions transport officer to
Scope out where demand is for bus routes and a priority list for where future routes need to be, with cost estimates based on electric.
Run a feasibility study on establishing our own bus company to serve rural areas if commercial bus companies cannot.
Establish a plan for zero-emission transport infrastructure in Suffolk, including electric buses, focused around where the housing growth is.
Help drive the shift from car use to buses, walking and cycling, including creating milestones and targets on the road to 25% reduction in car use by 2030. We would also seek large scale funding for switching remaining fossil fuel powered cars to 100% electric. A renewed focus by the county on promoting car sharing would be part of this, once the pandemic allows. This would be reflected in planning and in Highways comments on planning applications for new developments which ought not to be car dependent.
Buses - We would invest the £0.5m needed to enable people to use their concessionary bus passes on community transport and demand responsive transport, which was removed from most of Suffolk in 2019. We would hire a zero emission transport officer, to complete the following projects:
A Green administration would ensure we are maintaining the local roads we have before spending multimillions on grandiose new road projects.
We would ensure there are enough officers in place to manage bids for funding for sustainable drainage and flood prevention projects, rather than building expensive, carbon intensive concrete barriers.
We would initiate a review of speed limit policy in Suffolk with a view to allowing communities to have the safest possible speed limit in residential areas (20mph) and lower limits than the national limit of 60mph on twisty single lane roads. Communities that do not want a lower limit, can opt out. Those that want lower limits would get one automatically without having to wait years, lay out lots of money and jump through lots of hoops. This would make our roads safer, in turn encouraging more people to walk or cycle within their community rather than drive to distant shops and other venues, which in turn would bolster local economies, shops and businesses in our villages and market towns.
We would hire an extra Project Manager for the floods team to increase their capacity to apply for grant funding from the government. The county council’s outsourcing of both road maintenance and road capital projects to a single, profit-driven, listed company has failed to build trust with the public.
We would aim to end the contract with Kier for road maintenance at the earliest possible opportunity and bring road maintenance back in house.
A Green council would scrap the cabinet system and return to a committee-based system which allows members of all political parties to contribute to decision making, rather than a select band of people who all share the same narrow political viewpoint. A Green council would democratise what is now the public sector leader’s board, to include councillors from all political groups elected in county and district councils on a proportionate basis, not just the leaders of political parties that already hold control in their district or borough. It would also make all meetings public, not just alternate ones.
A Green administration would focus on rebuilding local economies in Suffolk through encouraging more journeys on foot and by bike and by public transport, and fewer by car. We would invest in creating public open space which will serve biodiversity and neighbourhoods, reallocating space from parking and cars. We would invest in training for local people for the skills they will need in a circular, renewable economy. We would focus attention on skills that will be in demand in a zero carbon world, which will ensure jobs are sustainable and available to local people. Such skills would include retrofitting homes, including installing heat pumps, and working for the growth industries of renewables and renewable electricity storage.
Greens would end the county's current relentless focus on building new roads and new houses in the name of “growth” and instead focus on improvements to communities on a smaller scale, encouraging smaller, independent businesses that put more back into the local economy and pollute less. When granting Covid recovery money a Green administration would favour businesses that are prepared to commit to meeting the county’s zero carbon goals in their own operations, over businesses that will actively add to greenhouse gas emissions.
Greens would invest in a smart grid for Suffolk with an aim to make it 100% renewable by 2030, generating genuinely sustainable, skilled local jobs. Greens would end the council's support in principle for a new nuclear power station at Sizewell, ensuring that our energy supply is clean and will not leave a toxic legacy lasting thousands of years.
The danger of the proposed new Freeport East tax haven zone around Felixstowe is that it will displace jobs rather than create them. New businesses that move there to enjoy tax and other breaks would compete on an unfair basis with existing, generally smaller scale Suffolk business that decide not to move but that actually generate more local jobs and put more back into local economy than the larger players. A Green administration would end the unconditional support for a Freeport tax haven zone around Felixstowe.
Suffolk council recently unanimously approved a Green Party led motion calling for biodiversity to be accounted for in every decision it takes. Nevertheless the county has been slow to act on this and in recent years has run down funding for vital services that give us the expert data and knowledge we need to make those decisions. A Green administration would reinstate funding for the Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service and promote and highlight its work and fund it to renew mapping exercises last undertaken some time ago. This includes the groundbreaking hedgerow survey conducted by volunteers across the county more than ten years ago. This existing data urgently needs digitalising and made more easily available to communities and parish councils.
The contract the county council has with the operator of the Blakenham incinerator means that the county is locked into provided a certain amount of non recyclable waste to feed the plant every year. Burning waste increases the county’s emissions and encourages the production of more waste. For this reason a Green administration would seek an early end to the incinerator contract and focus instead on efforts to reduce the amount of rubbish consumed. We would investigate the use of biodigestion to generate power from organic waste. Despite agreeing to phase out single use plastics, the county council has done very little to discourage its use by organisations and businesses across the county. A green administration would put genuine focus on encouraging a phasing out of plastic use across the county, by rewarding and encouraging local businesses that do so, through a Plastic Free Suffolk campaign.
We aim to divest the £3bn Suffolk County council pension fund from fossil fuels within two years. This would both comply with the county’s zero carbon goal and remove the risk of pension members being exposed to stranded assets that are likely to become worthless.
There should be clearer monitoring of schools’ performance with funding and support applied to those that need to improve. All schools should be supported to be at least "good" as judged by school inspectors and we would encourage all to be maintained by the local authority.
A Green administration would reverse as far as possible the disastrous new school travel policy which has split villages, with children from one village being sent in two different directions with two different buses for secondary schools. School buses should be funded to a child’s known catchment school, where the child can expect admission, not to a new concept of “nearest” school.
It is great news that the county’s Public Health Department has finally taken complete control of test and trace from central government and its expensive private contractors. A Green administration would have insisted from day one that our own Public Health department take control of test and trace rather than allow government to pay contractors to do it.
The Green Party believes that local authorities and communities are far better at dealing with health and other crises than national governments and their favoured contractors.
A Green administration would seek approval for major projects and policies from the Director of Public Health and encourage the department to play a more independent and proactive role than it currently does, by seeking its advice on how policy changes might improve public health.
For example, for advice on the public health impact of years of failing to deal with traffic congestion and air pollution in the dozen or so known areas in Suffolk where toxic air pollution has for years breached EU limits. We would also seek its input on the public health impact of traffic accident injuries and what to do about it. Green support for buses and public transport and for building local communities through protecting and enhancing public space is an effective measure to reduce rural isolation and loneliness and improving mental health. After the pandemic a Green administration would also prioritise mental health, particularly for children in schools, with a review of what measures would improve child mental health and support for open air schooling such as that provided by forest schools.
Green councillors helped draw up as part of a cross party panel the current programme of capital investment to expand Special Educational Need provision within Suffolk both with new special needs schools and new facilities within existing schools. A Green administration would put more effort into promoting and publicising transport training for children with special needs to allow them to use public transport with confidence.