Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

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Annual Report

by Susan van de Ven on 24 May, 2018

County Councillor Annual Report 2018

The council make-up is 36 Conservatives, 14 Lib Dems, 7 Labour, 4 Independents.  My main responsibility is on the Health Committee, where we scrutinize Cambs NHS budgets and oversee the council’s Public Health function.  This provides a fascinating window on demographic trends.  I also chair a steering group for bus subsidies and substitute on a variety of other committees.

CCC still has another £100 million to ‘save’ in spite of catastrophic cuts over the past several years.  As I have been reporting relentlessly, the elimination of central government revenue support grant leaves a shortfall that cannot be made up by other means and has been exacerbated in recent years by a ruling group policy to freeze council tax. This year saw a return to council tax rise but a ruling group decision to place new revenue into reserves not services.  I have consistently voted against council tax freeze.

Evidence of these cuts is all around us:

  • Failure to maintain roads and paths
  • Closure or demotion of many children’s centres and all youth clubs
  • End of sixth form transport assistance, near-to-end funding of rural bus services
  • Squeeze on funding supporting severely disabled adults
  • Increasing targeting of public health programmes to areas of greatest deprivation

The council obviously needs a revenue stream to meet its legal obligations and council tax is not enough. It is now spending government grant funding intended for infrastructure on Park and Ride subsidy, not a sustainable solution.  It has created a commercial development company, ‘This Land’, in order to sell off publicly owned land upon which it will build market housing to make money.  In Bassingbourn this is playing out in the case of The Rouses, a highly sensitive piece of land in the heart of village green space.  Whaddon and Melbourn too are noteworthy for county landholdings.

The council will move out of Shire Hall, and in a decision I vehemently opposed will build a new HQ at Alconbury rather than make use of existing partially empty buildings.  Meanwhile CCC’s Transport Authority function has been transferred to the Mayor and Combined Authority. The new Mayor says Local Government is too crowded; there is a view that Alconbury could end up as a Mayoralty HQ.

Parish councils and members of the public have been picking up the pieces but it is not a sustainable solution to devolve ever more cost and function downward. On a patchwork pattern, parish councils are now at their own discretion funding some social services and highways improvements, and members of the public are operating council-owned equipment to clear paths.

My main work is in the villages I represent, where casework reflects all of the trends described above.  I seem to have created a growing number of local user groups – rail, cycle, bus and two groups supporting projects for young people – in order to provide a local voice.

The busiest group right now is the Rail User Group, overseen by the Community Rail Partnership.  The introduction of 8-car trains on a half-hourly timetable, a lack of parking & turning space at Meldreth & Shepreth, full barriers at Shepreth and longer journey times for London commuters keep this group busy.  We continue to see reduced parking charges, a 50% discount for 16-18 year-olds, and a staffed ticket office.  A steady stream of Duke of Edinburgh students help local volunteers keep station gardens going, which in turn is credited by BTP for keeping down crime and ASB.

Through case work and association with these groups and parish councils, it is a privilege to be part of a very active and caring community.

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