Susan van de Ven

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

Community Newsletter

by Susan van de Ven on 18 January, 2021

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 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 jose@josehales.me.uksusanvandeven5@gmail.com, or peter.mcdonald@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

VACCINATION: FIRST PRIORITY ROLL-OUT

Vaccination roll-out is being managed and delivered centrally by the NHS, with patient information provided by surgeries directly to the NHS.  Details on the first roll-out groupings can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-care-home-and-healthcare-settings-posters/covid-19-vaccination-first-phase-priority-groups
  • Vaccination commences at Royston next week Wednesday onwards
  • Invites are being sent by ‘NHS central’ by text, link in text for individual to book slot.
  • Those without mobile number in med records will be contacted by ‘the centre’ to have slot.
  • The Practices are not involved in invites at this stage.
  • Practice staff from Orchard Surgery Melbourn will be at the vaccination site each day so workflow will scale back to allow for this.

It’s important that you are registered at a local surgery for the vaccination roll-out – please do register if you’re not already.

Please help spread the word:  DO NOT ring your surgery, pharmacy or the NHS to inquire as to when your turn comes up, as all our health services are swamped and need to be freed up as much as possible to stay focused on the job in front of them.   You will be contacted by letter, email or phone and are asked to attend the slot provided.  We’re also asked not to turn up very early for vaccination appointments as this creates problematic queueing.

TRANSPORT TO VACCINATION SITES 

Help is available via the County Council for anyone who is stuck without transport to their vaccination appointment – please ring the Countywide Hub on 0345 045 5219.

PRESCRIPTIONS: HOME DELIVERIES

Prescriptions can be delivered directly to you by a number of methods.  Please ask your local pharmacist at WELL Pharmacy Melbourn (01763 260221) or Bassingbourn Pharmacy (01763 250660) – and note that Bassingbourn Pharmacy delivers to a wide area that includes all our villages. 

Please STAY HOME if you are unwell – do NOT visit your GP surgery or pharmacy to collect prescriptions.   Please contact one of us if you need help from your village Covid support group for help with prescription collections and we will put you in touch.  If you have been asked to visit the surgery please remember you must wear a mask and keep socially distanced.

GROCERIES AND ANIMAL FOOD: HOME DELIVERY

In addition to the big supermarket services, home delivery services of groceries and animal food is available from Fieldgate (01763 260737), Bury Lane (01763 260418) and Hillview (01763 244226).  For Leech & Sons butchers ring 260255 to collect outside in the car park at the back.

LAPTOPS FOR CHILDREN

The recent Meldreth Community Screenbank scheme saw the roll-out of a large number of donated, refurbished laptops to students at Melbourn and Bassingbourn Village Colleges.  But new need for laptops for children and young people is continually arising, and various local schemes are seeking to address the need.

South Cambridgeshire District Council is using part of a £30,000 grant allocated to the county to support Cambridge Online, a long-established digital charity that helps provide data packages and/or devices to children in families who currently have no internet access, enabling them to get online to learn and keep up-to-date with school work and to socialise.

For more details see Cambridge Online, email help@cambridgeonline.org.uk or call the Cambridge Online helpline on 01223 300407, quoting ‘South Cambs Winter Support Grant’.

WINTER SUPPORT PACKAGES

Cambridgeshire County Council is offering Winter Support Packages to families to make sure that, not only all children have access to food whether they are eligible for free school meals or in a range of other categories, but also that families and individuals who might struggle with other essential bills, such as utilities, can be supported.

Food support comes via a voucher sent to families automatically, using a system many schools are already using. Each eligible child receives a £15 voucher for each week of the school holidays (two weeks at Christmas and one week in February). Those eligible for the voucher will be those eligible for Early Years Pupil Premium, funded two-year-olds, eligible for Free School Meals (including those not currently on a school roll) and eligible for 16+ bursary.

In addition to the Food Vouchers, the scheme is also available to support these same families and individuals, as well as many more, with other immediate needs, including (but not limited to) other essential supplies and food, household energy and water bills and essential white goods in addition to those listed above, those eligible for this additional support will include: households who receive income-related benefits and households facing financial hardship – who councils are aware of; families identified as ‘just about managing’ by schools, anyone with an Education, Health and Care Plan, Care Leavers, Young Carers and people with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ status – such as asylum seekers. Anyone in need of additional support can access it using 0345 045 5219 or going to the website.

SUPPORT FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES

We are expecting further funding from Government to help support local businesses that have had to cease trading, or which have seen significant reductions in their income.  

Pubs in South Cambridgeshire, where under half of the income comes from food, can now apply for Government financial support via the District Council. The Government’s Christmas Support Payment (CSP) has been introduced as a form of additional support over the festive period for ‘wet-led’ pubs. To claim the grant, which is administered by the Council, local pubs which derive less than 50% of their income from food sales can receive a one-off payment amounting to £1,000 each. Businesses may receive more than one grant where they have more than one eligible property. Applications close 31/01/2021.

MEET A MEERKAT – AND SUPPORT SHEPRETH WILDLIFE PARK

There are plenty of ways to enjoy and support Shepreth Wildlife Park during lockdown, where the animals still need to be fed and have no idea that the park is actually closed.

Animal talks featuring the meerkat, red panda, small bugs and reptiles, Egyptian fruit bat and many more are a wonderful free resource for the whole family during winter lockdown: https://sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk/talk/

Or you can adopt one of many creatures, which helps the park keep the animals fed – such as the American snapping turtle here: https://sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk/product/snapping-turtle-adoption/

SOUTH WEST CAMBRIDGE NEW TOWN:  PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETING 20 JANUARY

Following the sudden announcement on December 8th of a development proposal by Thakeham developers for a new town dubbed ‘South West Cambridge,’ consisting of 25,000 homes between and encompassing the villages of Meldreth, Melbourn, Foxton, Shepreth, Barrington, Orwell, Wimpole, Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth, and Whaddon, the ‘South West Cambridge Action Group’ was set up by district and county councillors representing these villages to see off what is clearly a speculative proposal that goes against the structures and principles of the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan population growth structures and processes.

The Action Group has been trying to learn as much as possible about the intentions of Thakeham, in particular their preferred route for achieving such an ambitious goal:  while the District Council has insisted that Thakeham work through the same transparent Local Plan processes as any aspiring developer, government has the power to facilitate channels that override local planning authorities.  In an early January meeting with Thakeham representatives, Thakeham confirmed that it is indeed pursuing those higher central government channels, which gives us great cause for concern. 

The Action Group is holding regular public information meetings via Zoom, the next scheduled for 20 January, 6-7PM.  Please follow the link here to register:

http://www.swcag.org.uk/news-and-events

Please contact info@swcag.org.uk to join the mailing list. 

FLOODING AND DRAINAGE IN OUR RIVER VALLEY

Flooding over the Christmas holidays took place all around the Cam River Valley, including the many areas already identified as flood risk areas by the Environment Agency.

Many people will have witnessed flooding in Meldreth Road, Shepreth and Station Road and Malton Lane, Meldreth.   We’re grateful to everyone who’s taken the time to log any drainage concerns on the Highways Fault Reporting Page – which is vital for ensuring a public record and action:

https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/travel-roads-and-parking/roads-and-pathways/roadworks-and-faults

And thank you for letting us know that you have reported a flooding concern – that is very helpful to us as we can give an extra push.  If you are in immediate danger, please call 999. Otherwise, please call Floodline on 0345 988 1188, or see the Floodline website here: https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/warnings

Long-standing highways surface water drainage problems in Meldreth and Melbourn were the subject of a recent visit by the lead officer for Highways maintenance.  A number of system problems were confirmed and logged and a plan was agreed for basic attention to drains on a number of key roads. 

WATER ISSUES AROUND THE A1198

The gigantic pothole that appeared on the A1198, unsurprisingly, in the path of the steady trickle of water from what appears to be an artesian well leaking onto the pavement and highway, was given a quick emergency repair and will need more than another patching job.  Hopefully Highways will have been out by the time you read this, to correct the problem in one way or another.  Meanwhile, the horrendous state of the mud along Byway 10/Footpath 24, which runs toward residential properties in the fields between Kneesworth and Melbourn, has been reported and hopefully, the byway will shortly become passable for residents through emergency remedial measures.

REDEPLOYMENT OF COUNTY COUNCIL OFFICERS

Please be aware that as Covid figures mount officers from all parts of the County Council are deployed to manage various pandemic-related functions.  As of December, there were 360 members of staff available for redeployment of which 18 are currently redeployed although currently most support is to the Countywide Hub and contact tracing. We will likely see in the next few weeks these redeployment rates increase to support mass vaccinations and lateral flow testing which means – apologies! – that all other services provided by the council will take second place in the queue.

GOOD NEWS: RESURFACING WORKS

We’re delighted to thank Highways officers for their recent work on completing road resurfacing at Park Close Bassingbourn, after years of severe deterioration; and also the pavement at Meldreth High Street, which has now been partially completed after being ‘on the list’ for many years.

Thank you for the queries that have come in about resurfacing a great number of other stretches of road and pavement.  It is extraordinarily difficult to get these works on the action list due to the widespread ‘managed decline’ status of our highway network – but we are doing our best to make the case and keeping that public record is vital.

WHAT IS THE OXCAM ARC AND WHAT’S IT GOT TO DO WITH US?

The OxCam Arc, also known as The Green Arc, is a geographical construct stretching from Oxford to Cambridge taking in five counties, ten universities and four Local Enterprise Partnerships.  About 3.8 million people live in the Arc participating with two million jobs and contributing £111bn to UK plc. Government sees it as a driver for economic growth which will benefit the national economy, especially post-Brexit when the national economy is under additional pressure.

Local authorities of all sizes need money to do things and the argument is that by working together through the Arc we stand a better chance of attracting significant amounts of investment into infrastructure, including green, water and energy infrastructure, economic growth as well as housing to address our huge problems of housing affordability.

The imminent improvements to the A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet is an Arc project. Admittedly this work is ten years overdue but anyone who has seen how dangerous and how congested it is will know that it’s really important. On a much larger scale, East West Rail is an Arc project – at least geographically.

So, it is important that we all engage with the Arc because if not we could end up with things being done to us with little opportunity for influencing it.  SCDC Leader Bridget Smith leads the work on the Environment work stream and intends to make the greening of the Arc the most significant thing about it.  This will mean agreeing to a set of principles for protecting, restoring and enhancing the natural environment. Land returned to wildlife, streams and rivers flowing all year round, clean air and significant biodiversity net gain. We also need low carbon transport accessible for all, greatly reduced car use and ownership and zero carbon homes which are cheap to run.  The list is as endless as the ambition is great!

There is a growing library of publications including an Economic Prospectus and an Arc Joint Recovery Strategy. The Arc Universities Group has its own report and website. The RSPB has published The Green Arc. Government is starting work shortly on developing a Spatial Framework for the Arc.

SOUTH CAMBS PLANNING: INDEPENDENT REVIEW

South Cambs District Council has welcomed the findings of an independent review of its Planning Committee, which says members have “a clear understanding of their role” and “good accountability for their decisions”. The review by the Planning Advisory Service (PAS) was commissioned as part of continuing work to further strengthen SCDC’s Planning Service, which it shares with Cambridge City Council.

The report praises the Council for reacting quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic and adopting new guidance, protocols and procedures to enable the Planning Committee to meet virtually. It praises the Committee’s accessibility, saying accessing it is “relatively easy both in its live form and via web casting”. It adds that the size of the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Planning Committee appears to strike the right balance of skills and experience and that “the Council has maintained a good focus on public engagement, especially through maintaining the capacity for public and parish councils to speak at Committee.”

In addition, the review also looked carefully at specific processes – including how Parish Councils can provide feedback and make a request for an application to be decided by Committee. This process is covered by the Council’s Scheme of Delegation. The Report says the current scheme, which was adopted last year, is “a much more transparent model”. As suggested by the report, this scheme will be reviewed this year.

The PAS report endorses existing plans for the service to provide additional training and support to Parish Councils on planning matters to foster closer working relationship and further improve Parish Councils’ knowledge and understanding of the planning process. It is also supportive of the service’s recently refreshed member development programme as a key means of helping members and officers to explore together the wide-ranging challenges facing South Cambridgeshire.

HOUSING: PEOPLE SEEKING REFUGE FROM OUTSIDE THE UK

Up to 12 families (around 48 people) from war-torn countries will be offered homes in South Cambridgeshire in a three-year plan agreed by the District Council.  Following a decision in 2019 to house a small number of families as part of our contribution to the national and international commitment to assisting people seeking refuge, SCDC has already helped four families (15 individuals) start new lives.   Councillors agreed to continue to provide help for up to four new families per year for each of the next three years, if funding and support continue to be available.

This will include those who have been forced from their homes in Syria, Iran or Sudan, who require urgent medical treatment, who are survivors of violence and torture, including women and children.

It is anticipated that the waiting time for local South Cambs families who are already on the Council’s housing waiting list, and who are in the greatest need, will not be affected. The Council will be able to decide which housing it offers to the programme, thereby ensuring the least impact on existing levels of need within the District. The Council is working with an existing resettlement team at Cambridge City Council to integrate the four families who arrived during 2019/2020 into their new homes and communities, and to ensure practical support is in place.

DISTRICT COUNCIL FINANCE

Despite Covid and other financial pressures facing every council, South Cambs District Council is in a good financial position going forward to 2023 and we will be working on plans to meet the need to find some £5 million in savings over the course of the coming five years through efficiencies and new income streams which we have every confidence in achieving.

The current Medium Term Financial Plan has taken a worst case scenario approach with no provision for the Government providing support for the loss of Business Rate income arising from Covid-19 and an expectation that the Fair Funding Review will now happen for the financial year 2022/23 and that it will result in the council losing a substantial amount in Business Rate income as a result of the redistribution of that income to council’s with adult social care responsibilities.

In Quarter 1 it was difficult to give a full assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on the council’s finances.  Unfortunately, Quarter 2 is just as difficult, because Government support for the loss of income for the first four months of this financial year has only just been received and we have only just been asked to submit our bid for the next four months.  Moreover we still await the Government’s decision on

whether or not it will reimburse us for the loss of Council Tax and Business Rates due to Covid-19.

The loss of income has impacted on Commercial Waste and Planning but Government has promised to make good for most of these losses, but the money is slow in coming through. As to additional costs arising from Covid 19 the Government has promised £1.9m to support us with so far £1.8m received.

The Government emphasises in the Spending Review that spending power for local authorities (i.e. the total amount of money that a local authority has to spend) will increase by around 4.5% for 2021/2022 however the majority of this will be funded by Council Tax. This will worsen the situation in rural areas for rural residents. Already in 2020/2021 rural residents pay, on average, 22.7% (£105) per head more in Council Tax than their urban counterparts due to receiving less government grant and rural residents fund 68% of their Local Government Spending Power through Council Tax compared with urban residents who fund theirs by 55%. So, rural residents pay more, receive fewer services and, on average, earn less than those in urban areas and that is inequitable – don’t you think?

WHAT DOES MY COUNCIL TAX BUY?

Councillors often get asked “What does my Council Tax buy?” so we thought we’d supply some examples over the next few months. 

You may be aware that when a child comes into care, the County Council becomes that child’s Corporate Parent.  This means we have the collective responsibility as a Council, i.e. elected members, employees and partner agencies, for providing the best possible care and safeguarding for the children who are looked after by us until the age of 25. 

Latest data shows we have 714 children in care for whom we are responsible. 74 of them are unaccompanied children seeking asylum and 229 are in long term placements or foster homes. Sadly, this figure is declining – mostly due to Covid – and so if you are interested in fostering do please get in touch!  65 are disabled and 77% come from a white ethnic background. At any one time between 20 and 30 of these children are ‘missing’. The good news is that the number of adoption orders granted is up by 15% and increasing.

HEALTH SERVICES AND BASSINGBOURN: CAMBRIDGESHIRE OR HERTFORDSHIRE? 

The perennial problem of mix-up in specialist health services and whether a Bassingbourn patient is in Cambridgeshire or Hertfordshire needs regular reporting – so thanks to residents who’ve been in touch when this has been a problem.  This is being forwarded on to the Clinical Commissioning Group and Healthwatch so they are aware.

A10 CORRIDOR CYCLING CAMPAIGN ZOOM MEETING: 18 JANUARY

All welcome to the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign’s Annual General Meeting, 18 January 7:30-8:30 PM, via Zoom.  The agenda and Zoom joining link are posted at https://a10corridorcycle.com – or please email Susan directly.  The meeting will include updates on the Melbourn Greenway scheme (which includes the bridge to Royston) and a proposed long-term cycle path maintenance model, based on our learning from several years of grant funding from AstraZeneca.

TRAIN SCHEDULES: PLANNING FOR BETTER TIMES AHEAD

It was great to see our half-hourly services resumed in December, though of course now we are in a new lockdown and all timetables have been put on a reduced schedule again.  Nevertheless, GTR have invited Community Rail Partnership representatives to meet and discuss future ‘peacetime’ timetable adjustments, in line with our aspiration to reintroduce additional morning peak services.  We welcome the chance to examine any opportunities with GTR.


ANYTHING WE CAN HELP WITH? ISSUES WE CAN RAISE?

We would be delighted to address any concerns you may have or help raise awareness of issues affecting our community via this newsletter.  And any questions or concerns, please contact us any time – details below.

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.   Join the Liberal Democrats here http://www.libdems.org.uk

Sincerely yours,

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

susanvandeven5@gmail.com, Tel 07905325574, www.susanvandeven.com

Peter McDonald, County Councillor for Shepreth and the Duxford Division villages

Peter.mcdonald@cambridgeshire.gov.uk, 07912 669092

Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon

jose@josehales.me.uk, Tel 01763 221058

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