New forum gives community a voice

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THE Our Place Forum, which aims to increase communication between the community and the town’s county council representatives held its first meeting on Tuesday.

The forum was chaired by Mark Ereira-Guyer.

Cllr Ereira-Guyer said: “We feel its important for us, the four county councillors, to have a forum to consult with the people we represent.”

The other three councillors present were Craig Dearden-Phillips, Stefan Oliver and Trevor Beckwith.

The meeting was attended by representatives from local schools, residents associations, voluntary and community organisations and members of the public.

The key topics identified for discussion were schools, libraries and transport.

Phil Whiffing, project leader of the Schools Organisational Review, spoke to the forum about their concerns regarding the implementation of the two-tier system in Bury St Edmunds.

Cllr Dearden-Phillips said: “It’s apparent there is a lot of uncertainty in the system with the effect that for parents it’s getting to feel like a free-for-all.

“It looks like this process could go on to 2020. I’m sure the effect of the uncertainty on schools has not been good over the last few years.”

In response, Mr Whiffing said: “We have seen that the transition can be done without a negative effect on students.

“Schools are encouraging change for the long-term benefit of the school system.

“Our biggest challenge is making sure that we have the resources in place to create the extra places that will be needed.”

Headteachers will meet representatives from the county council on March 26 to discuss the cost of the bringing in a two-tier system.

Libraries manager Steven Taylor reassured attendees that Bury library was not at risk of closure despite no community group having come forward to take a role in running it.

However ,he did accept that some cuts would be made.

Mr Taylor said: “There are going to be fewer staff but these cuts should come from management.

“Part of the savings will also come from reducing the number of mobile libraries they are very expensive and the majority of people do have access to static libraries.”

Transport policy specialist Suzanne Buck also spoke to the forum, inviting suggestions on how the department’s £498,000 budget could be spent.

The forum’s next meeting will be held on June 11.