Susan van de Ven

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

March Community Newsletter

by Susan van de Ven on 1 March, 2022

Men with chickens

Liberal Democrat Community Newsletter March 2022

If you’d like to receive this newsletter directly by email, please sign up here.

Congratulations to Bassingbourn Parish Council: Old School Community Centre on the way

Congratulations to Bassingbourn Parish Council on the signing of a lease with South Cambs District Council that will allow The Limes Communal Room to become the Old School Community Centre.   The peppercorn rent is quite unique, the High Street central location is ideal, and the history of the building is absolutely fitting for community purpose.  It’s been good also to see the sharing of ideas and inspiration across the villages, with the Melbourn Hub team welcoming Basssingbourn parish councillors for a tour to discuss and compare notes.  At the end of the day, Community Hubs simply don’t happen without the vision, persistence and sheer hard work of local volunteers. 

Household heating: Oil Club rebate to Citizens Advice

This year’s household bulk-buy Melbourn and Bassingbourn Oil Club rebate will be going to North Herts Citizens Advice, supporting their work for our area and in particular their weekly drop-in service at the Melbourn Hub – every Wednesday, 10-12.  To book an appointment at the Hub please ring 01763 263303 or contact hubadmin@melbournhub.co.uk.   Or the North Herts Citizens Advice phone helpline is 0800 144 88 48, open 10am to 4pm,Monday-Friday.

The Melbourn and Bassingbourn Oil Club is open to all residents in our area; there is no joining fee and no obligation to make repeat orders.  The idea is simply to get the cheapest available local price on the day.  If you’d like more information, please contact our local bulk-buyer Jeremy Cole of Agricole, at 01954 719 452 / 07860 904 045 or  jeremy@agricole.co.uk.

Farmgate scandal: Investigation finds former deputy leader of County Council breached code conduct

An independent investigation has concluded that former Cambridgeshire County Council deputy leader Roger Hickford breached the Council’s Code of Conduct in six different areas – including bullying, improper use of his position and bringing the council into disrepute. 

The Council’s Constitution and Ethics Committee chaired by Sebastian Kindersley heard the independent investigator present his report and agreed for the confidential paper to be placed in the public domain. Links to report and recorded meeting are here. https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/news/investigation-finds-former-deputy-leader-breached-code-of-conduct

Reeling false yarns and other tales

If you’re looking to find out more about a particular aspect of village history, do check out the Cambridgeshire Archives, which are now based in Ely and within easy walking distance of Ely Station.

You’ll need to make an appointment to visit, but you can run an on-line search in advance to get a sense of what’s available – including reeling false yarns and other offences noted in the Cambridgeshire Quarter Sessions Court of 1775, and much more! 

Opening hours and making an appointment here: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/libraries-leisure-culture/archives

To search the catalogue go to https://calm.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/

20mph speed limits

New tools have landed in the Highways community kit box, which will be welcome news for all those communities with an interest in 20mph speed limits. 

There are two types of 20mph schemes which can introduced by the council – 20mph limits and 20mph zones. A 20mph limit typically covers individual or small numbers of streets and requires signs only, while 20mph zones typically cover larger areas and require both signs and markings. 

The former are more cost effective, but the latter have been found to have a greater impact in reducing speed limits, especially when accompanied by traffic calming measures.

The County Council Highways and Transport Committee will establish a new process for the implementation of 20mph schemes. This will allow third parties – such as parish councils – to make an application for a 20mph limit in their chosen area, with a number of schemes then progressing following a period of assessment and prioritisation.

Civil Parking Enforcement

South Cambs District Council  has now written to the County Council to ask them to submit an application to the Department of Transport to approve Civil Parking Enforcement for all of South Cambs.  The police will no longer be responsible for enforcing illegal parking but instead Enforcement Officers employed by the County Council will be. The plan is to have two officers active full time, moving between the villages and issuing parking fines to people who park where they should not.  The agreement of the Greater Cambridge Partnership to underwrite the first five years’ costs has made it possible which is extremely good news. The less good news is that the wheels of government move slowly so we don’t expect it to be implemented until 2023.

Health and Social Care reforms: All welcome to compare notes

A reminder – a major reorganization of health and social care is happening now, with legislation in the process of passing through Parliament and lots of questions for us at ground level:  what does all this mean for my community and me?  Susan chairs the Cambridgeshire Health and Wellbeing Board which has a role to play alongside the NHS.  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.

Community Chest Grants for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

SCDC would like to support communities in marking ‘The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee’.  For this reason, the criteria for the Community Chest Grant scheme has been flexed on a temporary and one-off basis until 12 April to allow Parish Councils and community groups to make Jubilee-related applications of up to £700. Applications will then be assessed at the Grants Advisory Committee meetings to help parishes plan ahead.

Maybe you’d like to purchase a Commemoration bench? Or plant a tree or a rose in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee? These are just a couple of ideas! We welcome your application, and if you know of any community groups wishing to undertake a Jubilee-related project, we would ask you to make them aware of this fund.  Applications should be in the spirit of the rest of the Community Chest grant criteria. For further details: Community Chest Grant page

Park Close Bassingbourn ‘container’ on the move at last

A container that has been sitting in a car park space in Park Close since before the pandemic will finally be moved, removing blight and freeing up a much-needed car park space – we are told this  will happen in the very near future!

Accidents: please report them

We’ve become aware of a couple of cycle-motor vehicle collision accidents at junction points along the A10 cycle/pedestrian path which need clearer priority access indications, including at the BP Station in Harston – though none of these have been reported to the police.  Please note how important it is to log any accident data with police, because without it there is no knowledge at Highways of problem areas, and no basis for seeking remedial improvements.

A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign meeting March 21st

A broad update on the Melbourn Greenway – improving cycle, walking and scooter links between Cambridge and Royston – will be provided at the next meeting of the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign on March 21, 7:30-8:30PM, via Zoom.  The link is available from the campaign – contacta10cycle@gmail.com

Station garden tidy-up & Duke of Edinburgh volunteering opportunities

A gardening day led by the Meldreth Veg Club and other volunteers has been organised for Meldreth Station on March 12, with a skip provided free of charge by Amey, the County’s contractor – many thanks to all.  This will also include this year’s Duke of Edinburgh volunteers.  As always, please contact the Community Rail Partnership if you’d like to get involved in station gardening, or if you know of a DoE volunteer who might be looking for a sponsor. 

Rail Service improvements from 28 February

Upcoming changes:

  • From 28 February-15 May, we’ll see the same current hourly base timetable, but with additional scheduled morning and afternoon stops designed to accommodate Meldreth-Shepreth-Foxton-Cambridge school travel  The additional stops will consist of:
  • 08:06 (Meldreth), 08:10 (Shepreth), 08:12 (Foxton), 08:23 (Cambridge)
  • 16:06 (Meldreth) 16:10 (Shepreth), 16:12 (Foxton) 16:23 (Cambridge)

and

  • 07:57 (Cambridge), 08:06 (Foxton), 08:09 (Shepreth), 08:12 (Meldreth) – usual station calling pattern to arrive King’s Cross at 09:20
  • 15:57 (Cambridge), 16:06 (Foxton), 16:09 (Shepreth), 16:12 (Meldreth) – usual station calling pattern to arrive King’s Cross at 17:20

There will be no change at this time to services to London – but this should improve in May. So, continuing with the current service of two trains per hour running between Royston and London King’s Cross, with one of these picking up at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton.  Note parking is free at Shepreth Station and cheap at Meldreth Station (£1.50 daily before 10AM, 50P daily after 10AM).

While the overall position is improving, some individual depots still have very significant absence levels, and there is a legacy of two years of disruption to training.  We are now starting to see more people return to rail, albeit in much lower numbers than before the pandemic, particularly with many still working from home. Ridership on our line is at about 60%.

In the short term, GTR are focusing on reliability, so that passengers can be confident that trains will turn up as scheduled. Reliability has been very high since January 1st.  The next timetable change will take place in mid-May.  The plan then is to restore the pre-pandemic half-hourly weekday service.

Thakeham: the number you are calling is not in service

On Feb 3rd, South West Cambridge Action Group (SWCAG) invited parish council representatives for villages within Thakeham’s ‘South West Cambridge’ new town area to meet with the Director of Greater Cambridge Shared Planning, for an update on the OxCam Arc, the Greater Cambridge Local Plan and Thakeham’s new town proposal.

It seems that following an extremely busy period and much investment around strategic planning over a period of several years, OxCam Arc activity has slowed down considerably.   

The Local Plan First Proposals were published for consultation last November and are based on a comprehensive base of evidence and underpinned by principles of sustainable development.  First Proposal sites do not include any development land for Thakeham’s new town and Thakeham has to date submitted nothing to the Greater Cambridge Local Planning process.

The Electoral Commission website lists no further donations from Thakeham to the Conservative

Party since April 2021 – that donation of £100k was listed in October (total standing at around £636,000).

Thakeham continues to have options on a number of parcels of land within its area of new town ambition.  Information is in the public domain and available via the Land Registry. And Thakeham’s website continues to display its South West Cambridge new town vision in some detail, naming the villages encompassed within it:  https://www.southwestcambridgeshire.com/

Thakeham’s contact phone number takes the caller to a recorded message:  ‘The number you are calling is not in service at this time. Thank you for calling. Goodbye.’

Given Thakeham’s considerable financial investment toward the new town ambition, SWCAG will keep a watching brief.

Council budgets – forward thinking in difficult times

We set out here the results of February budget setting by our District and County Councils, both of which offer a great deal of creative and forward thinking on our most crucial issues, against an incredibly challenging financial picture.  Parish Council precepts, together with Police and Fire Authority precepts, make up the other elements of our council tax.

You can use the Cambridgeshire Archives to search budget decisions for our area in previous centuries!

South Cambs District Council Budget & Tax

South Cambridgeshire District Council has now approved its budget for next year and set its Council Tax charge from April:

Continuing to have one of the lowest Council Tax charges in the country, Lib Dem councillors agreed to raise it by 10 pence a week or £5 a year for a Band D property to enable the Council to continue to transform council services and deliver £230,000 of savings every year.

Not to have raised Council Tax by even this small amount would have led to a deficit of £1.5 million over the coming five years and cuts.

The budget supports the Council’s zero carbon strategy with over £6 million to be spent on items such as a solar farm for our Waterbeach waste depot, more electric bin lorries, electric vehicle charging points and more money for the renewables fund which we use to fund green community initiatives across the District, such as the electric bicycle scheme in Teversham.

This coming year it will cost over £80 million to run South Cambridgeshire District and Council Tax will bring in £10.7 million.  Business Rates bring us £11.6 million, which is why one of the first things the new Lib Dem administration did was to set up a business development team, which has proved invaluable in distributing Covid grants to stop businesses going to the wall during the Lockdowns.  But you can see how important business is to delivering council services.  As to the Government we expect to get just £2million in grants from it.

As to the difference between the £80 million and the £25 million income from taxation and grants, our investments play a big part delivering over £5 million in income.  Our investments include Ermine Street our wholly owned housing company providing private rented accommodation, such as houses in multiple occupation for single people, the Cambridge Ice Rink and even Cambourne Youth Centre.  We are also supporting business start-ups and the development of tech industries by investing in the Cambridge Science Park which is in South Cambridgeshire and receive income from rents.

We also receive income from our fees and charges and contributions from fellow councils for the cost of running the shared planning and waste services.  But unlike many other Councils we do not have income from car parks or civic amenities such as a sports centre.

As to our council housing stock, this is now growing again and with 189 new council homes having been built over the past three years it now stands at over 5,500.  However, we have to fund this mainly from council rents as unlike Cambridge City we get very little money from Government for house building and cannot use Council Tax and Business Tax income.  Given the hundreds on our council waiting list we must continue to build more.  This means we have no choice but to increase council rents.  Rents will bring in nearly £32 million in the coming year and we will be spending £17 million on new build and £7 million on refurbishing existing stock to reduce tenants’ heating bills.

We appreciate that in these difficult times those on lower incomes are struggling that’s why we well have more officers advising those finding themselves in financial difficult and pay Citizens Advice £85,000 a year to help our residents.  Apart from Housing Benefit we also have a Local Council Tax Support Scheme and discretionary support for Council Tax.  As a result of this support, last year we were the best in the country for collecting Council Tax and in the top ten for the collection of Business Rates.

We are one of a few councils in the country to have set a balanced budget for the coming financial year with a small surplus going into reserves to off-set possibly deficits in the future.

County Council Budget & Council Tax

A Local Government Association peer review team visiting Cambridgeshire last summer, consisting of senior councillors from all political parties and senior officers from several local authorities, concluded the following – this was directly after the elections and change in administration:

“The Council is entering a period where future years budget gaps and required mitigation are of a significant magnitude and urgent. A forecasted budget gap of £64m over the MTFS period requires detailed and immediate planning. There has been a reliance on one-off balances and some use of reserves across previous years to fund the budget shortfall which has resulted from a lack of financial strategic planning which is not sustainable. Although balancing the budget from the general fund balance is possible in the short-term, using reserves is seen as high-risk and should be avoided.  Historic decisions not to increase council tax by the maximum possible has resulted in significant ongoing lost income. There is now a need to establish a clear Council Tax strategy for the next 4 years.”

The council has now agreed its budget for 2022-23, which closes a projected £22.2 million gap using efficiencies, savings, and the government’s one-year financial settlement. It also starts to address a projected gap of more than £80 million over the next five years.

Budget gaps have continued to grow.  Between the December and January there was an increase of £2.5m in the costs of providing care and our own social care workforce, as a result of significant pressures (supply chain, cost of living rises) and labour shortages facing the sector.

The headline government announcement was that Cambridgeshire’s core spending power would increase by 8%, but around two-thirds is due to the additional Council tax that the settlement allows us to precept, and that government assumes will be utilized.

There has been no indication of any continuation of government support for free school meals during the holidays, or for the household support fund.

The County Council share of council tax will increase by 4.99 per cent – 1.99 per cent for general services, and a 3 per cent rise for Adult Social Care. This will mean an extra charge of 90p per week for a Band A household, £1.04 per week for a Band B household, and £1.19 for a Band C household. The increase in Band D is £1.34 per week, which will still leave the County Council’s council tax share below the average for shire counties.

The increase comes at a time when many families are struggling with increases outside the council’s control, such as National Insurance, energy bills, and food price rises. The council’s budget therefore offers a safety net for those least able to pay.

The budget also offers support through

  • The Household Support Fund – a one-off £20 payment open to all 39,000 Cambridgeshire people on universal credit, as well as extra help for specific bills or replacement of essential items such as cookers, washing machines or fridges.
  • Continued funding for Free School Meals throughout the school holidays – £15 per week for each eligible child.
  • A 100 per cent council tax rebate for care leavers until they reach the age of 21, and a targeted fund to support them, if they need it, until they are 25.
  • A £1 million ‘catch up’ fund to help children catch up on activities which help them learn skills, build self-confidence and make friends.

In addition, the council’s business plan pledges to deliver a ‘Just Transition Fund’ towards a more equal and sustainable Cambridgeshire –with scope to include flood prevention and environment and climate action as well as a variety of social enterprises, such as repair cafes and social care enterprises.

The council’s business plans also includes:

  • A £2.9 million countywide programme to support older people living in their own communities and homes for longer – part of a proposed investment in a new vision to create a more localized care workforce.
  • Increased investment in projects which support biodiversity and access to open spaces.
  • More investment to improve safety on roads, and the accessibility of footways and bridle paths.
  • A continued roll out of the Real Living Wage, not just for lowest paid council staff but working with contractor and supplier organisations to make this aspiration a reality as soon as possible.

May Elections: Be a councillor? 

Have you ever thought of being a councillor? 

May 5th will see elections for most parish councils and the whole of South Cambridgeshire District Council.  Parish councils are the most local level of democracy and can genuinely shape the future of a community – but there are vacancies on many parish councils. 

Information including how to stand in an election at any level of local government, and how to request a postal or proxy vote is available on the council’s website here.  https://www.scambs.gov.uk/elections/elections-2022/

Be Kind

We continue to help spread the message for the ‘#BeKind’ campaign on behalf of all those working in public services that are struggling amidst accumulated pandemic and other pressures. 

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

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

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

https://www.scambs.gov.uk/elections/elections-2022/
   Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>