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Summary

  1. Updates for Friday, 28 April, 2017
  2. Traffic lights or roundabouts?
  3. Should we dip into reserves?
  4. County Council as it is now
  5. Candidates bid for your votes

Live Reporting

By Philippa Taylor and Andrew Woodger

All times stated are UK

Get involved

That's it for our debate

Philippa Taylor

BBC Local Live

We've completed our coverage of this morning's live local election debate on BBC Suffolk, where we've been hearing from the leaders of the main parties at Suffolk County Council.

Scroll down to catch up with the issues that have been raised - and the responses they've elicited.

We're now going to resume our "normal" service on Suffolk Live - see you there.

Debate picture
BBC

Social care: Is the current system good enough?

Andrew Woodger

BBC News

Some private care homes claim they are not being paid enough to look after people by Suffolk County Council.

Hilary Gibbs, from the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers, said they are "turning people" away.

She said: "We have phone calls from the council and hospitals every day asking if we'll take particular people, but we can't take any more at that rate which the county is paying, and we're having to turn people away. 

"It's awful, people shouldn't have their health needs regulated by price. 

"The basic residential care rate falls far below what it actually costs - and homes are reluctant to take people because they can't afford to run their businesses at that cost."

Carer holding hands with care home resident
Thinkstock

Colin Noble (Conservative leader of the council) said: "Hilary admitted herself that we're paying 20% more and she's going to say that [the county doesn't pay enough] if it was 50% or 100% more. 

"The reality is we're the holders of the public purse. A care home is not a hotel, but it is a room. We buy 40% of care home beds in Suffolk and we say 'I will buy 40% of your care beds forever, what rate should I expect?' - and this is the negotiation we have with the care market. 

"We do not accept the argument about care standards and the amount we pay, because there are significant numbers of care homes that deliver excellent care."

Julian Flood (UKIP) said: "This is one of the biggest and most pressing problems that central government has got to address - where do you draw the line between the NHS and social care? 

"It's convenient for the government to leave social care with local government, so that when there's a shortfall the government can claim it's not their fault.. but it is.

"I would make the care very much the responsibility of central government. We can't afford to do it locally." 

David Wood (Liberal Democrat leader) said: "Care packages take far too long to put together and they aren't smooth. 

"We privatised it. We went away from council-run homes and we're not getting the service we thought we would." 

Mark Ereira-Guyer (Green Party) said: "There are going to be more calls on the public purse to look after older and vulnerable people better and that's one of the reasons I voted for the Conservatives' social care precept [tax] increase. 

"We do have a social care crisis, but we do need a sustainable plan where local government is supported by money from central government, which has been stripped away." 

Sandy Martin (Labour leader) said: "The CQC [Care Quality Commission - the watchdog which monitors standards in the NHS and care homes] has found problems with a large number of care homes in Suffolk and in almost every case it comes down to not enough staff and not enough training for staff. 

"If they're not being paid enough [by the council], they're not going to be able to employ enough staff. 

"We would want more of the council's resources being spent on helping people stay in their own homes." 

Colin Noble (Conservative) responded to the criticisms and said: "The government has announced there will be an extra £28m over three years on a budget that will be £600m.

"It's welcome but it's not going to solve all those problems. 

"We have a programme that's been running for 5-6 years called Supporting Lives, Connecting Communities, which is about supporting people to live in their own homes.

"From the day you arrive in hospital, your discharge is starting to be planned.

"Does it work perfectly? No, but everybody in the Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board [body involving local authorities, NHS, voluntary organisations], the CCGs [NHS clinical commissioning groups], the acutes - all of us are working together to deliver this." 

David Wood (Lib Dems) responded: "It's not working. 

"My daughter-in-law works at Ipswich Hospital and bed-blocking is a serious problem there. 

"People are staying in hosptial a fortnight, a month longer than they need to. 

"I don't see any proof that these care packages are working - that's what people are saying." 

A final word from Maureen, a care worker from Sudbury, who called BBC Suffolk: "Those in the studio do not understand how the job works. 

"There is so much paperwork now, that carers cannot do the one-to-one caring. 

"The person they are caring for may not see anyone else that day - people with dementia need time with their carer." 

Park-and-ride: What does the future hold?

Ipswich used to have three park-and-ride schemes, and now has two, after the decision was made to close the service operating along Bury/Norwich Road for financial reasons.

The candidates were asked what they'd do with the services in future:

David Wood (Lib Dem) said: "We'd definitely look at reopening the Bury [road] one to see if that's feasible".

"Park-and-ride will lose money unless you promote it, unless you encourage business to get their people to use it."

Colin Noble (Conservative) said park-and-ride is working around the town: "It is alive and well and happening here in Ipswich."

He added: "There is an issue in Ipswich in as much as we [the county council] are trying to maintain a service, but at the same time, the [Labour controlled] borough council are developing new car parks to offer £1.50 to £2 daily parking and that is a problem."

Sandy Martin (Labour) said: "We want people to come into Ipswich. We want the Ipswich economy to flourish, we want people to come shopping in Ipswich.

"Park-and-ride needs to be a part of the whole package... we need three park-and-rides."

Mark Ereira Guyer (Greens/Independent) said: "Park-and-ride in Ipswich may be a mix of the solutions but it's not for every town.

"We've looked at it for Bury but we haven't got the road infrastructure. We would say you've got to focus away from the obsession of cars and go for more sustainable transport."

Julian Flood (UKIP) said: "You need park-and-ride and you need good parking within the town.

"The trouble is there are too many cars, there's too much development. Suffolk is hurting and our defenders are not defending us."

Park & Ride bus
BBC

Traffic lights: What do the other parties think?

David Wood (Lib Dem) said Travel Ipswich "isn't working" and suggests "let's look at it again".

He said he would finish the computerisation of the scheme.

Asked whether he would welcome more traffic lights on the A12, he said he would "listen to what engineers have to say, but they will need to speak to local residents and businesses".

Mark Ereira-Guyer (Greens/Independents) said people in the county are "overwhelmed by the amount of development we're looking to have in our county and that is going to put huge pressure on our infrastructure" and that there is an "obsession with cars and traffic lights".

He added that there needs to be more ways that people can get around safely, whether it's walking, cycling or using buses.

Julian Flood (UKIP) said: "The trouble is growth has been prioritised. There are 95,000 dwellings coming to Suffolk in the next 14 years.

"Public transport should be prioritised."

Bus
BBC

Traffic lights: Conservatives say there are 'lessons to be learnt'

Colin Noble (Conservative) said the Travel Ipswich scheme was introduced in preparation for the growth that's coming to the area, adding that traffic lights are about a "long-term strategy to manage a large number of cars".

He's not of the opinion that roundabouts (which have been removed in several parts of Ipswich to make way for traffic lights) should be put back, but admitted there are "always lessons to be learnt".

Stoke Bridge in Ipswich
BBC

Traffic lights: Should some be replaced with roundabouts?

Listener Martin has contacted this morning's live election debate, to ask what the candidates think about the number of traffic lights across the county.

He said he wonders when they'll learn that generally, roundabouts allow traffic to flow, while lights slow it down.

Sandy Martin (Labour) said: "There are a lot of junctions where traffic lights make sense, but others where roundabouts do."

He said Travel Ipswich has not gone well, and that "an awful lot of money" has been wasted.

Mr Martin added that if Labour controlled the county council, they would go back to basics, and put some roundabouts back, but that they'd need to look again at the way all the junctions in Ipswich work together.

Sandy Martin
BBC

Reserves: Tory leader dismisses 'conspiracy theory'

Colin Noble (Conservative) was dismissive of UKIP claims that his ruling administration only spends what the Conservative government says they can spend.

He said: "The conspiracy that UKIP put forward all the time is utter nonsense. 

"We lobby relentlessly and talk to the government about money.

"Labour are going to spend their reserves and then turn round and say 'we've run out of money'. They'll then come to the people and say 'you pay more'."

Sandy Martin (Labour) defended his party's record when it had a ruling coalition with the Lib Dems between 1993 and 2005.

He said: "We didn't bankrupt Suffolk in 12 years.

"The council tax as a proportion of people's income was roughly the same in 1993 and 2005."

Mark Ereira-Guyer (Green) said: "This is like bald men fighting over a comb. We need more Green and independent councillors."

Reserves: UKIP hasn't produced budget due to 'lack of resources'

On the question of spending reserves, Julian Flood (UKIP) said: "I'd spend a little bit on roads. 

"We didn't produce a budget because we don't have the resources." 

BBC host Mark Murphy asked him: "You have no financial plan?"

Mr Flood said: "What we said is we would support the Conservative plan against the Labour plan, because the Labour plan would get rid of all the reserves in about three years - fiscally not prudent and it would not have been passed. 

"The elephant in the room is that we have a leader [Mr Noble of the ruling Conservatives] who does not speak for the residents of Suffolk. 

"He goes down to London and tugs his forelock and does what he's told - squeeze and cut, squeeze and cut." 

Election debate at BBC Suffolk
BBC
Julian Flood makes notes during the debate

Reserves are a 'blue herring' according to the Greens

Mark Ereira-Guyer (Green) said: "The Greens believe you should be prudent - that's why I voted for the council tax freeze this year, but more money for social care.

"[Reserves] is a blue herring. 

"Over the years, the central Conservative government have taken huge amounts from this county. 

"We think the roads should be safe for all users and the Conservatives did the wrong thing by privatising the Suffolk highways service. 

"We need better value for money from highways."

Reserves: What would the Lib Dems do?

David Wood (Lib Dem) said they would dip into reserves: "Initially, we are planning to dip into reserves with £2m to attempt to fix these potholes that people are very concerned about. 

"Whoever you speak to, you get a different set of figures. 

"Some of these reserves are earmarked for projects that will never see the light of day. 

"[We will spend more on] social care, potholes, rural bus services - and that's a total of £8m in our first year.

"This is just the first year - then we will look and see how things stand."

Old Cattle Market Bus Station, Ipswich
Ipswich's Old Cattle Market Bus Station

Reserves: Labour response

Sandy Martin (Labour) responded to the Conservatives, saying: "We have a plan for spending at least £2m extra on maintaining roads. 

"We have a total reserve of over £220m, now some of that includes schools and not all of it can be spent. 

"The point is you can allocate money to a lot of stuff that isn't going to happen.  

"The levels of the reserves have gone up year after year.

"We have reserves in Suffolk that are at least twice the level we need them to be and we would spend down about half of that. 

Colin Noble (Conservative) said: "According to Labour, he says the picture will be rosy.

"Perhaps that's the Corbynista money tree coming to fruition? I do not know."

Reserves: Can we dip into them?

Andrew Woodger

BBC News

Listeners have been sending in their questions to BBC Radio Suffolk's Mark Murphy, who asked whether we should be dipping into council reserves to spend on services - such as repairing roads.

Colin Noble (Conservative) said unallocated reserves currently stand at £49.5m - about 10% of the annual budget (not including spending on schools).

He said: "This is very much in line with what CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) and the Society of County Treasurers say we should have.

"Labour have said you can have 1% and they have been told by the finance officers at the county council that they would not be allowed to do it - they are financially dangerous. 

"This year we have dipped into reserves for children's services, because that's what reserves are there for to deal with - the peaks and troughs. 

"What I know is that for the next 5-10 years, we will have to live within our means and spend our reserves very carefully."

Local election debate: Your comments on Facebook

Philippa Taylor

BBC Local Live

This morning's live election debate is also being broadcast live on our Facebook page, where comments are starting to come in about a lack of leaflets being distributed around the county:

  • Richard King writes: "I have had nothing from the parties other than a leaflet from Labour and another from a group of three new prospective independents!"
  • Jason Loane posts: "Haven't seen anything from anyone"

You can join in too, by clicking on our "Get involved" link at the top of this page.

Candidates bid for your votes

The live debate has kicked off, with each of the five main parties arguing their case as to why they deserve your vote.

Julian Flood (UKIP): "We work harder and we make the other parties up their game. 

"We want to try and break the culture of secrecy and obfuscation that goes around a lot of council business."

Mark Ereira Guyer (Green): "We're opposed to over-development - looking to try to slow life down and have a peaceful community life. 

"We want good public services - and are against the social policies we have in the country." 

David Wood (Lib Dem): "We're the sensible party of the central ground.

"We want to support schools, libraries, fire service and social care. Public money should be spent on public services."

Colin Noble (Conservative): "Our manifesto is brimming with ideas. 

"We have frozen base council tax for the last seven years. Other parties would run our cash reserves out."

Sandy Martin (Labour): "If you think roads are in a fine state, it's ok for frail elderly people to be in inadequate care homes or for children to be in underperforming schools then vote Conservative.

"If you share our vision for Suffolk - extra help for struggling schools - fully staffed fire service- then vote for your Labour candidate."

Meet the candidates

Vikki Irwin

BBC Radio Suffolk political reporter

The big election debate has kicked off - here are the people taking part:

Mark Ereira-Guyer (Green Party): Leader of the Greens and independents and has been a councillor for 22 years.

Mark Ereira-Guyer
BBC

Julian Flood (UKIP): Elected as a county councillor in 2013.  

Julian Flood
BBC

Sandy Martin (Labour): Leader of the Labour Group and the main opposition leader at Suffolk County Council. He’s been a county councillor since 1997.  

Sandy Martin
BBC

Colin Noble (Conservative): Has been the Conservative group leader and leader of the county council since 2015. Colin Noble was first elected as a councillor in 2006.

Colin Noble
Suffolk County Council

David Wood (Liberal Democrats): Leader of the Liberal Democrats and independents, he’s been a councillor since 1999 and was previously a fireman.

David Wood
Suffolk County Council

Suffolk County Council: As it is now

Vikki Irwin

BBC Radio Suffolk political reporter

There are 75 seats across Suffolk up for grabs next week. At the moment the council is led by the Conservatives and has been since 2005. 

Technically there's no overall control at the council, as the Conservatives have 37 seats and all the other political parties and independents make up the other 37 seats - with one vacancy. 

But in reality, when it comes to getting the policies voted through at full council, the Conservatives have the numbers. 

The main opposition party is Labour, which has 15 councillors. Its seats are all from the Ipswich and Lowestoft areas. In the last elections in 2013, the Labour group won 15 seats and has not had to defend any of them at a by-election. 

The next largest party is UKIP, which has nine seats and is spread across from east to west - with councillors in Haverhill, Lowestoft, Stowmarket and Ipswich. 

It also had nine councillors in 2013, but has lost and gained through by-elections to maintain its numbers. 

The Liberal Democrats have eight councillors and recently won a by-election in Hadleigh from the Conservatives. Its support is strongest around the outskirts of Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

The Greens have two councillors, both based in Mid Suffolk. There are also three independents.

The council is run on a cabinet model, where the leader of the largest political party selects a group of councillors to become cabinet members.

They all have responsibilities for the main council departments. This group presents and approves all the major decisions, from education to budget setting. These decisions are then voted on in full council. 

This means that the party in control calls the shots.

Entrance to Endeavour House, Ipswich
BBC

If you're not sure how to vote, we're here to help

If you haven't decided how you're going to vote in the local elections on Thursday 4 May, tune in to the big debate on BBC Suffolk, which starts at 08:30. 

You'll hear from representatives of the five main parties on Suffolk County Council. 

You can listen to it by clicking here and we'll be broadcasting it live on Facebook, where you can air your thoughts and send in your questions.  

We'll bring you a profile of each of the candidates, so you can learn a bit about their backgrounds.

We'll also bring you some analysis from our Political Reporter Vikki Irwin... that's coming up next.

Welcome to our election debate coverage

Philippa Taylor

BBC Local Live

Good morning, and thanks for joining us on the day BBC Suffolk holds a live debate with the leaders of the five main parties on Suffolk County Council.

On Thursday 4 May, residents will go to the polls to elect 75 councillors, so this is your chance to find out where each of the parties stands on issues that will affect everyone in the county.

My colleague Andrew Woodger and I will bring you updates from the debate, which gets under way at 08:30.

You can also follow it either via Facebook, as we broadcast it live there, or via BBC Radio Suffolk on the iPlayer.

Suffolk County Council HQ
BBC