Susan van de Ven

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

Community Newsletter

by Susan van de Ven on 15 January, 2022

Caption competition?

Special Stop Order for an additional train service from Meldreth to Cambridge

As local rail users will be painfully aware, our half-hourly service, restored on December 12, was quickly pulled back again as Omicron thrashed train service staffing levels – just as it has impacted staffing levels in schools, hospitals, social care and indeed all sectors.

The temporary hourly service does not lend itself to the morning school run for all those children and young people heading to school and college in Cambridge, resulting in reliance on car commuting and all the problems that entails. GTR is adamant that the half-hourly will be reinstated as soon as staffing levels permit.

Meanwhile in response to strenuous representations, GTR have looked hard at possible measures to alleviate the current temporary situation and have come up with an extra service which will stop at Meldreth only on weekdays, at 8:01, from Royston and on to Cambridge. This involves using a special stop order which requires the driver to accept the instruction, as it will not show on their diagram. For this week this will only go into journey planners the evening before, typically overnight. Beyond this week GTR hopes to include this stop in the plan but this will take some time to confirm. The arrangement was tested out on Friday and worked well.

Our thanks to GTR for working with us to help local rail users in these extraordinary circumstances until such time as normal service is restored. Please remember to travel safely for yourself and others, and wear a mask while on the train.

Thakeham and Southwest Cambridge Action Group: update for parish councils

Local Parish Council representatives have been invited to attend a virtual meeting with the Head of Greater Cambridge Shared Planning, Stephen Kelly, in early February, for an update on the Local Plan and OxCam Arc in relation to Thakeham’s ‘Southwest Cambridge’ affected villages.

Thanks to all who responded to the Greater Cambridge Local Plan First Proposals, which make it clear that Thakeham’s vision for 25,000 homes in and around our villages is simply not compatible with the principles of sustainable development. Thakeham’s only route is via top central government channels where power exists to override local democracy. The Electoral Commission website lists continuing cash donations from Thakeham to the Conservative Party, bringing the total to well about £636,000.

Virtual decision-making for local councils – please listen, Government!

The legal requirement for parish, district and county councils to meet in person for formal decision-making is having an adverse effect on many councils as they try to maintain public health safety during the continuing pandemic, with meetings cancelled or minimized in terms of people attending and business covered. The Local Government Association is lobbying government to reinstate provision for meeting virtually where councils feel the need to, but so far Central Government isn’t changing its position.

Councillors at meetings must wear masks, keep socially distanced and make sure to have tested negative using lateral flow tests prior to attending.

This is the key time of the municipal year as budgets and precepts are being prepared by county, district and parish councils – but public participation is effectively discouraged due to the need to minimize numbers of people at present. While county and district councils live stream their meetings, parish councils are not set up to do so.

As this petition states, during the period earlier on in the pandemic when virtual meetings were legally permitted, public attendance and engagement shot up! https://www.change.org/p/uk-government-and-parliament-for-councils-in-england-to-have-the-choice-to-meet-remotely

Household Support Fund

Reminder! This fund aims to help those struggling to pay for food, energy or other essential items this winter. Cambridgeshire County Council has been allocated £3.58 million as part of the Government’s Household Support Fund to help people who need financial support.

The Household Support Fund itself is a new one-off grant, which is live until 31 March 2022. This usually provides £49 (for a family) or £29 (for an individual) to cover food or household energy costs, but more funding may be available for people who can demonstrate a higher need – for instance for higher costs of filling an oil tank or buying a new cooker. To be eligible for the Household Support Fund residents will need to earn less than £17,940 or receive any of the following: Income Support; Income-based Job Seekers Allowance; Income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Pension Credit; Universal Credit; Working Tax Credit.

Details of how to access the scheme are available here: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/coronavirus/household-support-fund

Road and pavement resurfacing

It’s great to see Tower Close Bassingbourn now properly resurfaced, after years of continuous tarmac collapse that the Dragon Patcher could simply not keep up with. Many thanks to our Local Highways Officer for his persistence in making this happen.

A key section of Meldreth High Street pavement has been resurfaced at last – again many thanks to Highways. Unfortunately, the extent of resurfacing work hasn’t been as much as we’d hoped but we’ll keep trying for the rest.

Potholes in the Melbourn traffic light junction area are getting worse and we’re working with Highways to try and get some funding directed at a good repair job.

Thank you to all residents who assiduously report faults on the Highways reporting page – this is an essential step, to make sure problems are logged and Highways made aware. You can also visit the page to check if a fault has already been reported: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/travel-roads-and-parking/roads-and-pathways/roadworks-and-faults.

Looking after your mental health – do you run a business?

A great deal of support including grant funding information is available to local businesses via the Business page at SCDC: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/business/

The past year has been a difficult time to run a business and many people’s mental health has suffered as a result. South Cambs are running a free webinar on 20 January from 12 noon to 1pm exploring how to look after yourself as well as your business. Please register to attend via the website above.

Melbourn Hub

Melbourn Hub enters 2022 with its wide range of services and activities for the local community. The newly extended and refurbished building provides even more space with four excellent meeting rooms for businesses and community groups to hire for their activities. There is something for all with a library with access to a range of books, services and forthcoming activities including ‘meet the author’ events. Storytime is held weekly for pre-school children, a lunch club for older residents to socialise and an art gallery where local artists can exhibit and sell their work for a month at a time. Appointments can be booked also for Citizen’s Advice weekly. The Bookmark café with a menu of hot and cold food, fresh bakes and barista coffee, provides a safe and stylish environment to relax and socialise. For more information on Hub services, events and activities – or to enquire about room hire or exhibiting art, please see www.melbournhub.co.uk or contact The Hub on 01763 263303 option 1.

Covid in schools – staff impact

Case numbers in schools before Christmas broke records week after week, as parents and children will know all too well. In the first January week of return to school, about half of all cases of Covid in schools across Cambridgeshire represented staff. Melbourn and Bassingbourn Village Colleges report superb generosity of spirit as volunteers have been supporting the administration of Covid testing for students. Our continuing thanks to all school teachers and support staff and of course community volunteers.

Melbourn Mobile Warden Scheme

Melbourn Mobile Warden Scheme (MMWS), a registered local charity since 1996 continues to provide social contact and practical support for the elderly and/or mobility impaired in Melbourn, Meldreth and Shepreth. Regular visits and phone calls are provided to build friendships as well as being able to carry out local errands such as basic shopping, ordering and collecting prescriptions or going to the post office etc. MMWS produces regular magazines and other activities to bring together people who are on the scheme. 

The scheme’s aim is to help prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation and to provide practical support to enable people to continue to live independently in their homes – a need that has been highlighted for many people by the pandemic.  If you would like more information about the MMWS services for yourself, a relative or neighbour please contact Jeannie Seers 07808 735066 or email the MMWS secretary on secretary@mmws.org.uk.

Health and social care reforms juggling act – Zoom chat March 9th

A major reorganization of health and social care is happening now, with legislation in the process of passing through Parliament. This sounds heavy! Is it important? We think it impacts on us all.

The reforms include raising money through the National Insurance contributions that working people pay; widening eligibility for County-funded social care from about 4% of the population now to an estimated 14%, in Cambridgeshire (which must be paid for of course); and requiring the local NHS (our local GPSs, hospitals, etc) and the Local Public Health and Social Care Authority (Cambridgeshire County Council) to collaborate and integrate, and think at a ‘neighbourhood’ level. Prevention is a constant theme – how can we live better and avoid getting sick in the first place? How can we give children – from birth – the best chance of a healthy life? What more can local communities be doing to play a part?

Some of the principles seem overwhelmingly positive but other aspects of the reforms are daunting. These are huge bureaucracies and whatever new money is raised will be directed first to the enormous Covid-induced waiting lists. That will take time to work through.

Nevertheless, from July this year it will be a legal requirement for ‘Integrated Care Systems’ to be up and running with the basics in place. This means that all of these organisations, already working to deliver vaccinations, tackle waiting lists and attract new staff to a depleting workforce, also need to find time to reflect and prepare for new obligations under the Health and Care Bill.

Given that this new legal requirement involves local government, we’ve been learning fast and furiously. Susan is chairing the ‘Cambridgeshire Health and Wellbeing Board’ where the NHS and Local Authorities formally come together. If you’d like to know a little bit more, or if you can teach us a thing or two through your own experience and expertise, please join us for a Zoom coffee and chat on March 9th, 6-7PM – just let us know your contact details and we’ll send you the link.

Bassingbourn Mission Ready Play Area – thank you!

Thanks to all who responded to the call-out for toys for young children, for a new Stay and Play area at Bassingbourn Barracks. This new family creche has now been created as a welcoming environment, as a place for their young children to enjoy at weekend. The Barracks Welfare team: ‘The continued support from the local community is greatly appreciated by all in Bassingbourn Barracks.’

Zoom Cuppa Surgeries Wednesdays 5-6PM

If you’d like to meet with your councillors by Zoom, to bring any concerns or ask any questions, please come along to our weekly Wednesday Zoom Cuppa Surgery, 5-6 PM. Please contact Sally Ann for a link:  sallyannhart@riskingonpurpose.com.

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.  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. Learn more about or join the Liberal Democrats at http://www.libdems.org.uk.

Sincerely yours,

Sally Ann Hart, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon
sallyannhart@riskingonpurpose.com, Tel 07791 233303

Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon
jose@josehales.me.uk, Tel 01763 221058

Peter McDonald, County Councillor for Shepreth, Foxton, Heydon, the Chishills and the Duxford Division villages, Peter.mcdonald@cambridgeshire.gov.uk, Tel 07912 669092

Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon
susanvandeven5@gmail.comwww.susanvandeven.com, Tel 07905 325574

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