Susan van de Ven

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

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Community Newsletter

by Susan van de Ven on 11 January, 2019

Liberal Democrat Community Newsletter January 2019


Melbourn Community Health Centre, 35 Orchard Road Melbourn, Wednesdays 9:30-11AM.  Drop-in session, run by Health Visitors for baby weighing, measuring and advice on health issues or concerns. This is a free service – if you’d like to visit but lack the transport to get there, please feel free to contact us.


As reported last month, we still await the outcome of the Mayor’s bus review, and a clue as to how current subsidized buses are to remain operational in the new financial year. The total annual subsidy cost is about £2m.  The County Council has been providing that subsidy on behalf of the Mayor but contingency funds for this purpose in 2019-20 have not been identified.  The 127 subsidized bus is a true lifeline service for many residents in Bassingbourn, Whaddon and Meldreth.


The County Council budget and next year’s council tax will be set at its February 5th meeting.  The level of savings required in the council’s current draft budget is based on a 1.99 % increase in general council tax and an additional 2 % for the Adult Social Care precept.  The council could, if it wished, raise general council tax by a further 1 %, yielding an additional £2.75m in council tax.

The Government has now confirmed that the council will not be subject to ‘negative Revenue Support Grant’ so will not have to pay £7.1m to the Government.  However, the council was not included in the forthcoming business rates retention pilot, from which the council had hoped for £7.67m in additional income.


In response to a resident’s query on our report last month, Philippa writes:

“One of the planks of James Palmer’s mayoral campaign was to claim that his office would cost under a £1 million a year to run. It was irresponsible to persuade Cambridgeshire and Peterborough residents that an office with the budget and responsibility which resides in the Mayor could be run on the cheap, but that is not in any way to justify the dizzying amounts that are now being spent. Nor does it explain the revolving door of Chief Finance Officers.

A Freedom of Information request from a concerned resident is one way to seek an explanation.  Another is to ask a question as a member of the public at a relevant Combined Authority meeting. There is an Employment Committee meeting on 16th January, 12pm, Hunts District Council or the next Combined Authority Board is Wednesday 30th January at 10.30am again at Hunts DC. Let me know if you are interested in attending either.”


They’re now called Child and Family Centres and zones with Outreach services.  It’s great to report the restoration of some key services at Bassingbourn, alongside a basic programme at Melbourn.  Please note that you can attend any or all regardless of where you live.

Bassingbourn services at the former Children’s Centre, now Bassingbourn Pre-School (which is leasing the premises) – from January 11:

  • Stay and Play, Fridays 10-11:30: Enjoy time together with your child whilst accessing a range of toys, crafts and activities. £2 per family.
  • Baby Group, Fridays 1-2:30: A welcoming environment to help parents relax and enjoy their baby (newborn until baby is mobile). £2 per family.

Melbourn Child and Family Zone, adjacent to Melbourn Primary:

  • Baby Group, Wednesdays 10-11:30. A welcoming environment to help parents relax and enjoy their baby (newborn until baby is mobile). £2 per family.
  • Stay and Play, Thursdays 10-11:30. Enjoy time together with your child whilst accessing a range of toys, crafts and activities. £2 per family.
  • Multiple Births Group, Fridays 9:30-11:30. For families with twins or more. No charge.
  • Baby Massage: 8 January, 4-week course. Learn techniques to promote bonding, stimulation and relaxation. For babies aged 6 weeks to 5 months. £20 charge per family.

First Aid, Post-Natal New Beginnings and Family Foods courses are scheduled for March – two of these with charges.

If you or someone you know would liketo access any of these services but find it hard to pay for them, or lack transport to get there, please feel free to contact us.


One of the biggest problems facing the County Council (and other councils across the country) is meeting the needs of children and young people with ‘special needs’ (SEND). These needs include physical disabilities, learning problems, behavioural issues, emotional and mental health difficulties. Meeting these needs is very expensive and often requires specialist help, one-to-one support and residential placements.

The current problem arises from the fact that there is a higher proportion of children being diagnosed and identified with SEND. Some of the reasons for that are obvious: better peri-natal and early post-natal care by the medical services is saving the lives of babies who, not many years ago, would have died very young. Other factors include greater domestic instability, more widespread poverty and homelessness and, more intangibly, greater ‘social pressure’ on young people through social media and educational demands.

Although central government makes a grant to local councils for ‘High Needs’, this has not kept pace with the rising costs and pressures. Nor have County Councils any longer got the flexibility in their own budgets to plug the gaps.  Cambridgeshire is likely to overspend in the current year by over £6 million in a budget of just over £60 million.

Setting realistic budgets in a time of prolonged austerity is extremely difficult for local councils who are at the front line of providing these services. If we believe that the mark of a good society is one that gives priority to those in greatest need, we need to face this challenge honestly and transparently. It is of course true that sometimes more cost-effective ways of meeting needs can be found and these must always be explored and then used. But ‘transformation’ cannot, of itself, solve this problem. We must use whatever infuence we have, locally or nationally, to provide the financial support required.


In December, Susan attended Health and Adult Social Care Council committee meetings that crystalized current information on our health and social care workforce:

  • GP recruitment: There is a national shortage of GPs, with ongoing concern as a high proportion of GPs are nearing retirement and not being replaced by new British recruits.  Last year Government initiated a £100 million International GP Recruitment drive:  nationally the target is 2000 new GPs by 2020; for Cambridgeshire the target is 30.  The drive has been focused on GPs from European Economic Area countries, whose training is recognised in the UK under European law and who get automatic recognition to join the General Medical Council’s (GMC) GP Register. At the close of the first year, Cambridgeshire’s target of 30 new GPs saw a total of just three new recruits.  The programme continues and will look to expand its net to Australia.  The idea is to keep recruits in the UK for at least three ye


  • ‘Bed Blocking’: We hear much in the national press about ‘bed blocking’.  The correct term is ‘Delayed Transfers of Care’ or DTOC, and is one of the headline issues being grappled with by Addenbrooke’s and County Council-commissioned adult social care.  A key component in addressing DTOC is domiciliary care.  South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge face a unique challenge in hiring enough domiciliary care workers to support people at home, due to lack of affordable housing, coupled with lack of affordable and viable public transport networks – salaries are not high enough to make the profession viable.  In addition, the fall in the pound since 2016 has made the profession uneconomic for much of its significant European workforce.  Because South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge are anomalous in their cost of living barriers, the local shortage of domiciliary care workers is not reflected in the Government’s Immigration Shortlist – but it needs to be.


  • Addenbrooke’s: retaining European staff: EU nationals make up approximately 12% of the Addenbrooke’s workforce – about 1000 employees. Together with Cambridge University, Addenbrooke’s was invited to take part in Government’s piloting of the European Settlement scheme, to be rolled out nationally on March 30. The idea is to facilitate early settled status for staff (though not for their family members, who will have to wait to apply after from March 30).  The pilot ran from November 29 to December 21.


Addenbrooke’s, which does not have cash to spare, covered the £65 fees.  The application process operated only via a specific Home Office App on an Android device – iPhones could not be used.  So Addenbrooke’s purchased a number of Android devices for this purpose, but then the Home Office app proved problematic.  It is unclear how many staff successfully completed the application process.  Meanwhile, the legal firm Mills and Reeve was hired by Addenbrooke’s to answer staff queries and concerns.

Advice from Mills and Reeve for guaranteeing continuing residency and working rights is to apply for British citizenship, the cost of which could not be borne by Addenbrooke’s and would fall to staff.  This currently amounts to £1330 per adult, and £1012 per child under 18.  One must first secure Settlement Status; an application for citizenship can be made after 12 months.


If you happen to be thinking about spring volunteering slots, please contact Jose or Susan who can help via the Melbourn Hub or the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership.


We’ve received more casework on wrongful parking charges at Meldreth, Shepreth and Royston Stations.  Please be aware that at Royston, if you wait with your car for an arriving passenger within the car park for more than 20 minutes, Automatic Number Plate Recognition will trigger a significant fine.  The Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group is endeavouring to pool these concerns and provide basic advice – please do feel free to get in touch.


All welcome on January 22, 7:30PM, Melbourn Hub – a chance to hear from the Police about their work in our area, and for raising any questions or concerns.


All welcome on January 23, 7:30PM, The Limes Bassingbourn – please get in touch if you need a lift and we’ll try and arrange this.


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.


We would be delighted to address any concerns you may have or help raise awareness of issues affecting our community via this newsletter.


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

Sincerely yours,

Philippa, Jose and Susan


Philippa Hart, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon, 07811323571, Facebook


Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon, 07703 262649, Facebook:


Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon,, 07905325574

Twitter: @susanvandeven, Facebook:




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