by Susan van de Ven on 10 December, 2018
Liberal Democrat Community Newsletter December 2018
We are writing to you, as councillors and campaigners for our interlinked cluster of villages, to keep you informed of local issues involving the District and County Councils. If you would prefer not to receive this email newsletter, please reply asking to be removed from the distribution list. If you know of someone not receiving this newsletter who would like to do so, please ask them to contact us – details are below.
COUNTY COUNCIL STAFF CHRISTMAS PARTY PAY CUT
County Council Leader Steve Count’s proposal to impose three days unpaid leave at Christmas for council employees earning over £25K per year, in order to make savings for the council, comes to the Council in the form of a motion on December 11. This means that council officers are forced to help fund public services out of their own pay. Many of those staff who would be hardest hit are women working part-time, with caring roles outside of work.
The only reason why CCC needs to consider making officers take unpaid leave is because the administration froze council tax over the last five years despite funding from other sources going down and demands for council services going up. This has deprived the council of over £25 million this year and is seen by many as gross financial irresponsibility – indeed Cambridgeshire is one of the only local authorities nationally to have adopted a council tax freeze policy.
The Council’s ‘difficult financial situation’ is certainly not the fault of council officers who have been under tremendous pressure to deliver cost savings and themselves work in difficult circumstances. The Leadership says it will show solidarity if councillor allowances are also stopped for three days. Most councillors show solidarity with officers by treating them with respect, by championing their rights to a decent working environment and by challenging a system which is unable to properly fund the jobs which we ask them to do.
This is the same Leadership that brought councillor allowances up well in excess of the level recommended by the Independent Review, such that nine County Councillors (all Conservative) now earn more than £25,000 a year.
QUESTION FOR THE LEADER
Susan has submitted the following question to the Leader of the Council for the December 11th council meeting:
‘As Leader of the Council, what are you doing to improve staff morale this Christmas?’
WHO’S SEEKING CITIZENS ADVICE HELP AND WHY?
We asked the North Herts and District Citizens Advice Bureau, who provide free advice for South Cambs residents at the Melbourn Hub on first and third Mondays from 9:30-12, for a picture on who’s accessing the service and why. Data covering October 2017-September 2018 shows that top issues were benefits, tax credits and debt. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau wouldn’t exist without a remarkable base of volunteer support, and the Hub service is funded through SCDC.
SCDC TARGET OF CUTTING LOCAL CARBON EMISSIONS TO ZERO BY 2050
Members of all parties at South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) unanimously backed a motion proposing that ‘South Cambs shows responsible climate leadership by supporting the transition to zero carbon by 2050 in the next Local Plan.’
This means that the next Local Plan will consider how new homes, jobs and services will support that commitment to making South Cambridgeshire Carbon-neutral by 2050. This will be a joint local plan with Cambridge City Council, which is aiming to make Cambridge zero carbon by the same date. It will look at ways that SCDC can press for a carbon-free area through the design of homes and other buildings, land use including open space, transport links, energy supplies and waste and recycling services. Jose and Philippa would be pleased to answer any questions.
JESSAMINE OF BARRINGTON: NEW GERMAN CITIZEN
Jessamine Davis, who grew up in Meldreth and Barrington and attended Melbourn Village College, has written a compelling piece on the life she has established in Berlin.
SCDC FINANCIAL POSITION
Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr John Williams has urged parish councils to raise as much as they can to support services in their villages, as central government cuts to local authorities continue to rage. Local authorities have faced especially deep austerity cuts, and council tax rises are capped, leaving a significant gap in the ability to fund public services.
SCDC spend £19 million on services, from which £9 million is raised through Council Tax. The council is capped at either 3.99% or £5 per annum per household, whichever is the larger. Business Rate Receipts raise about £6 million. We are OK for the next two years but the Fairer Funding Revenue will bite in Year Three.
New Homes Bonus: £5/6 million per year is spent on the A14 upgrade, in order to avoid the eventuality of a toll road. The Fairer Funding Review may well also look at the New Homes Bonus, which means that this funding stream is uncertain.
Council housing: SCDC borrowed £205 million to keep our housing stock on the expectation that we would be able to raise rents in order to keep building council housing. However, Government then ordered councils to reduce council rents incrementally for the next three years, which effectively halted the house building programme.
THE MAYOR’S TWEET
The Mayor’s Bus Review results were expected to be announced in November. On Nov 12, the Mayor tweeted that results will be announced early in the new year. Other than his tweet, there has been no communication from the Mayor on our fragile network of subsidized rural transport.
Currently bus subsidies come out of County Council funds, even though the Mayor and Combined Authority constitute the Local Transport Authority. Officially, the Mayor can levy funds to cover bus subsidies directly from the County Council. The County must agree its budget on February 5th but has yet to receive any directive from the Mayor, and is still looking for ways of meeting huge savings requirements. For the past few years, we’ve seen a stay of execution at the end of every financial year and it’s unclear if clever accounting can achieve another stay for 2019-20.
The current cost of subsidizing Cambridgeshire buses is £1.7 million; another £300K is received from government in the form of a specific bus grant. The Mayor contributes £1K toward the cost of the Number 46 service connecting March and Wisbech.
CAM VALE BUS USER GROUP: THE LIMES BASSINGBOURN 23 JANUARY
The Cam Vale Bus Users Group meets on January 23, 7:30PM, hopefully with updated information. Our meetings rotate between Meldreth and Bassingbourn; this time we’ll be at The Limes Bassingbourn. Please contact Susan if you’d like to go but need a lift, or if you have a car and can help transport people on the night.
MAYOR AND COMBINED AUTHORITY: HOLDING POWER TO ACCOUNT
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority recently met and discussed its draft budget for 2019/20 – a long cry from the minimal spend on overheads promised by the Mayor during his election campaign. The CA’s Finance Director was then shown the door after he presented a warts and all review of the CA’s finances to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee which the Mayor claimed misrepresented the true situation. When the Director refused to read a prepared statement putting out the Mayor’s views, his services were judged to be no longer required. There have been immediate calls from the leaders of SCDC and the City Council that an urgent external review be undertaken of all the finances in order to restore public confidence that money is being spent wisely. The cost of running the Mayoral office had been promised (by the Mayor) to be less than £1 million but is now substantially over £7 million.
In the Autumn the Universities of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin with senior business groups in Cambridge advised they were ‘deeply concerned’ about the breakdown in relationship between the Mayor and the Greater Cambridgeshire Partnership (formerly City Deal). They say the Mayor is ‘damaging the strong relationships between the academic and business community and local government.’ And have written to the Minister for Local Communities for ‘urgent government intervention’, saying he is not building trust but reducing it.
At almost the same time County, City and District Council bosses, the NHS, the Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer complained to Government in a joint letter that the Combined Authority was only giving limited or incomplete information on a number of major projects in which they would be involved.
CAMBRIDGE ‘SOUTH WEST’ PARK AND RIDE (M11/A10 JUNCTION)
Anyone who depends on Trumpington Park and Ride will know that it is frequently full. With so many villages cut off from any workable public transport, Park and Ride and onward journeys into Cambridge by bus or bicycle are the only way to get into town.
How to expand provision is a difficult question. Please check out what’s being proposed here – consultation ends December 20.
KNEESWORTH AIR QUALITY
In response to questions from concerned residents, Susan has queried whether Kneesworth, which largely straddles the busy A1198, could be added to the South Cambs Air Quality Monitoring programme – and this has been agreed. More information to come.
SOLAR STUD LIGHTS ON THE A10 PEDESTRIAN/CYCLE PATH
It’s great to have enough solar stud lights on the pedestrian/scooter/cycle path between Shepreth and Harston to help commuters find their way home on dark nights. A big thank you to the cycling team at Cambridgeshire County Council who made this happen.
A couple of cyclists have asked us to help raise awareness of the importance of wearing high viz, whether on a bike, scooter, roller blades or walking. Cyclists want to be careful of other path users. Please make sure you are seen.
RAIL USER GROUP UPDATE
The picture from Govia Thameslink Railway is patchy. December 10th should mark the restoration of the May 2018 weekday timetable, but weekend services are not set to be restored – to pre-May 20th timetable standards – until May 2019. Yes, you read that correctly! In spite of this (and a concerted lobbying effort by all rail user groups between our villages and London) the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will impose a rail fare rise in January. Please note that fare rises are the domain of the Department of Transport, not Govia Thameslink Railway.
The Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group meeting on December 5th dealt with a range of issues big and small. Network Rail was present to help examine the inconsistent and unreasonably long down times at Shepreth station-side level crossing (including a record 17 minutes down, which caused traffic chaos). We agreed to revisit this in a month’s time, after the new weekday timetable has hopefully bedded in. Restoration of the unofficial car park and the need for a ticket machine on the Barrington side would alleviate problems, and we hope that the car park situation, at the very least, will be resolved sooner rather than later.
We also discussed GTR’s unfortunate failure to spend a Department for Transport grant for high quality cycle parking at Meldreth and Shepreth (the grant was actually spent somewhere else, and therefore the opportunity lost for Meldreth and Shepreth). The Rail User Group will be pressing for that work to be restarted.
We are aware of two very steep and implausible parking fines at Meldreth and Shepreth Stations – work in progress, and we’ll report back. An astonishing fine amounting to £170 at Shepreth, which is a free car park, is in the process of being contested. (This did not involve parking in a disabled bay.) Unfortunately for the car park contractor, but fortunately for the Rail User Group, the fine was imposed on a barrister!
EAST WEST RAIL CONSULTATION DELAY
It appears that the expected consultation on the Bedford-Cambridge section of East West Rail won’t happen by the end of 2018 as previously announced. The Chancellor’s Autumn Budget announced a further £20 million to develop a Strategic Business Plan.
The options will be presented together with the economic development and housing numbers which would respectively be needed to bring each of them forward. SCDC doesn’t have a fixed position on CamBedRailRoad’s proposed alternative route, but have lobbied for it to be included in government’s potential routes.
SCDC’S MOBILE WARDEN SCHEME GRANTS
Community groups in South Cambs can now bid for a share of £20,000 as part of a Mobile Wardens grants scheme that helps older residents to stay in their own homes, and tackles loneliness.
Last year, the Council supported 11 Mobile Warden schemes covering 20 villages, benefiting around 260 elderly residents. The Warden schemes are complementary to statutory care services, and don’t duplicate or replace the medical or social care services that individuals may also require. Applications from new or existing community schemes close 5pm, 25 January 2019. Please get in touch with Jose or Philippa if you’d like to know more.
HOME-START: PARENT AND GRANDPARENT VOLUNTEERING
Home-Start writes: ‘Our volunteers are all parents or grandparents who can give a few hours a week to help families who are finding it difficult to cope. All parents need emotional and practical help to get through the first few years, but not everyone has friends or family nearby. This is when Home-Start volunteers can help! A nine-session training course for new volunteers will run on 28 and 29 January; 4, 5, 11, 12, 25 and 26 February; and 4 March; all from 9:30AM – 2:30PM. For more details contact Sarah or Jackie at Home-Start Royston & South Cambridgeshire: Tel 01763 262262 or email@example.com.
SUPERFAST BROADBAND, MARYS WAY
This update has been received from the Connecting Cambridgeshire team: ‘It was hoped that Superfast Broadband for Marys Way could be delivered by the end of 2018. The planned delivery date from Openreach is now within the first half of 2019 but this is dependent on final detailed survey work. We have asked Openreach to prioritise this area and will continue to push for the earliest delivery date.’
COMBINED WASTE BINS
SCDC Environmental Health is going through a phased programme of replacing just dog bins with a combined dog waste and ordinary litter bins which are bigger, cheaper, easier to empty and don’t need to be fixed to a post. Parishes will be notified if a replacement is scheduled.
POLICE INFORMATION MEETING
All welcome at the Melbourn Hub on 22 January, 7:30PM, for what we hope will be a very useful information meeting with the Police to learn about their current work on behalf of villages in our area.
DROP-IN ADVICE SURGERY
We are at the Melbourn Hub every first Monday of the month, 3-4PM, and Susan is at the Limes Community Room Bassingbourn every third Monday of the month, 3-4PM. If these times are inconvenient for you, let us know and we’ll arrange another date and time to suit.
ANY ITEMS WE CAN HELP TO RAISE?
We would be delighted to address any concerns you may have or help raise awareness of issues affecting our community via this newsletter.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. Learn more about or join the Liberal Democrats at http://www.libdems.org.uk
Philippa, Jose and Susan
Philippa Hart, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon
Philippajoyhart@gmail.com, 07811323571, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/phillipa.hart.963
Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon
firstname.lastname@example.org, 07703 262649, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jose.hales.9
Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon
Twitter: @susanvandeven, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SusanSouthCambs/
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