Susan van de Ven

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

February Community Newsletter

by Susan van de Ven on 13 February, 2023

Liberal Democrat Community Newsletter February 2023

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 know of someone not receiving this newsletter who would like to do so, please ask them to get in touch with any of us – our contact information is below.  If you would prefer not to receive this email newsletter, please use the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom.

Vacancy: Bassingbourn School Crossing Patrol Officer

This vital part-time job – helping children to cross the road to and from school in Bassingbourn – is still vacant.  If you are interested, please contact Andy Swallowe at the County Council on, or phone 07788 656502.  Hours vary between 8:15-9:00 and 14:50-15:50.  The council welcomes job sharing.

Police Information evening – and how do the Police work with the District Council on enforcement?

A local police information evening will take place 22 February, 7:30PM at the Bassingbourn Old School Community Centre.  Cambs Police Chief Inspector Paul Rogerson will provide a picture of the current state of community policing, and South Cambs District Council Enforcement Officer Ben Wilkin will be on hand to answer questions and add clarity on community issues that may sit between council and police. All welcome.

Free Health Checks, Melbourn Hub

A reminder that anyone can drop into the Melbourn Hub – now on Thursday mornings – for a free health check.  Get your blood pressure checked or just have a chat if something’s worrying you. This service is sponsored by the Meridian Primary Care Network, including surgeries in Melbourn, Harston, Royston, Comberton and Bourn – though anyone can take part.  More information:

The Vaccinators return – Melbourn Hub

The Vaccinators will be back at the Hub on the Sunday 12th Feb and 5th March, 10-3pm, doing Covid and flu jabs, health checks, life style advice, and childhood immunisations.

Rail User Group March 8th

This virtual meeting will include an update from our train operating company GRT on Cambridge South Station which now has approval and is expected to be delivered relatively quickly. There will be impacts on our services at certain points during construction.  Please get in touch for the joining link:

Rail Replacement Bus – We’ve discussed with GTR the fact that this service does not always work well and needs much better and clearer signposting. Action is promised.

GTR continues to be subsidized by government and is looking at 10% budget cuts due to inflation.

Ivy Farm Bridge

We’ve now had an update from the Herts and Cambs officers who are working together on the Ivy Farm Bridge project, following the public consultation last autumn.

This is an initiative of Herts County Council to realign Royston Footpath 17 around a railway crossing in Royston, and crucially, to create a safe pedestrian crossing over the A505 into Cambridgeshire by diverting the existing path to cross the A505 at the point of the Ivy Farm bridge.  The bridge has never had a public right of way across it, having been created for agricultural purposes, but Herts County Council which owns the bridge would like to change this to meet an obvious public need.  The consultation response was overwhelmingly positive (and over 100 positive responses from Cambs residents) with a strong indication that cycling rights are needed too.

Officers met with Network Rail on site at the railway in Royston in early January to look at detail of what’s needed there and are moving next to the bridge itself and the Bassingbourn connection.  They’d like to provide a more direct route to Bassingbourn village and will need to work with the landowner on this – the next step.

They are also looking at available public funds for bridge and path improvements – not all bells and whistles but a start on something workable.  The overall new proposed route is seen as equally beneficial to Herts and Cambs residents and there is a real energy on both sides of the county border to make this work.  More info to come.

Bassingbourn 20 MPH Scheme

The 20 MPH scheme is gradually being rolled out, with a further build-out in South End to be installed during February half-term, and two sets of speed cushions in Brook Road imminently.  The lack of police presence for local traffic issues is the reason for the buildout.  Susan requested removable buildouts, so they can be removed if in due course they proves to be problematic.   There will be a review of the scheme once it’s fully installed, around April, and then six months later.

Grants available: riparian owners and ditch maintenance 

The County Council is offering a ‘riparian grant’ to help with maintenance of privately owned watercourses, that would benefit adjoining networks for overall community drainage benefit.   Please feel free to contact us with any questions – we can put you in touch with an officer assigned to assess suitability of possible projects for grant funding.

Question for my health visitor about my baby or child 

Parents of young children with a health visitor question can get in touch with the Cambridgeshire Healthy Child Programme any time, via phone or text: 

  • Call 0300 0295050 
  • Text 07520 649887 

The Healthy Child programme is still catching up post-Covid but all children are being seen, albeit sometimes a bit late. So please don’t hesitate to make contact should you have any concerns or questions.

Holiday voucher scheme

The Christmas holiday voucher scheme closed at the end of January with around 3% of vouchers unclaimed—significantly less than in previous rounds. The Council intends to run a voucher scheme for February half term. Each eligible child will be issued with a £15 voucher for the half term; criteria are published on the council’s website:

Food bags for vulnerable families, rise in children on free school meals

Nearly 1,200 vulnerable families across Cambridgeshire were given special food bags as part of the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) Programme this Christmas. 

The ‘Take and Make bags’—funded by the Department for Education—contained long-life food items worth up to £35 to allow families prepare nutritious meals for the New Year. Bags were distributed to 1,178 families, and eligible children were also able to attend a holiday scheme which provided them with a nutritious meal and a variety of experiences such as sports, cooking and play opportunities. Requests for free school meals have increased by 24% in the past 16 months. 

Free school meals information

Helpful cost-of-living support listings:

Foster caring

Cambridgeshire County Council is continuing to seek residents who would like to make a real difference to the lives of a child or young person by becoming a Foster Carer. Applicants must be over 21 years of age, have a spare bedroom, and be willing and able to provide a stable and loving environment in which a child or young person can thrive. Foster Carers can benefit from local training and development, generous pay and benefits, 24/7 support from a Supervising Social Worker, as well as local support groups and networking opportunities.

  • Information
  • Email, 
  • Call 0800 052 0078
  • Text FOSTERING to 60777

Anglian Water information for residents

Following our meeting with Anglian Water last month about issues in our area, first some basic public information provided by AW, to be followed as soon as it’s available with updates on the specific issues we asked about.

“Keeping the community informed of our works:To keep local residents informed about what we are doing locally and provide updates on our works to resolve any issues in the area, we provide open access to our interactive ‘In Your Area’ map,, which through filtering map layers at the top right, allows you to see details about sewerage and drainage issues, maintenance and improvements, roadworks, reservoirs, key sites and private pumping stations.

“Reporting issues: Residents can call us at any time on 03457 145145 or request a free call back on our contact page

to report an incident, including a pollution. Alternatively, they can contact us via our website –  or via our Pollution Watch site:

“We have information pages to offer advice to customers including:


Potholes have worsened dramatically following the December freeze and continuing wet weather, unsurprisingly given the effects of freezing temperatures and water on long neglected infrastructure resulting from decades of underfunding and a policy of ‘managed decline.’  Last summer’s drought has had an additional impact on soil beneath road structures, causing further problems.

Reporting is vital – and thank you to everyone who is already logging potholes on the ‘Cambridgeshire Report a Fault’ webpage.  Just google those words.  You can see if potholes you are concerned about have already been logged.  If not, please do log and note the reference number.  If there is a problem with the reporting page do let me know.  Please note that currently, when the subcontractors go out to fill potholes, they can only address what has been logged on the system, though the council is looking at whether this can be changed.

Believe it or not, for Cambridgeshire as a whole, this year has seen a reduction in the number of potholes, despite further real term budget cuts from Government.  Over the past year the council has adopted the use of new scanning technologies to identify surface defects so it can intervene earlier.  They also have larger area patching systems.  However, the system still needs sufficient people and funding in place.  Our Local Highways Officers, who read the daily log and creates the work list, are each stretched across a ‘patch’ consisting of 25 or more villages.   

Domestic Abuse Housing Accreditation

Two years ago, South Cambs District Council signed up to complete its Domestic Abuse Housing Accreditation (DAHA) and has been officially accredited.  You’ll find helpful resources on what to do if you are worried about domestic abuse here:

Disability home adaptation grants

Cambs Home Improvement Agency (HIA) has a range of grants available to people with disabilities to help adapt homes. This may be particularly relevant to those who are elderly, vulnerable or have family members with disabilities as well as friends or neighbours. 

The Disabled Facilities Grant is a mandatory Government grant aimed at people with disabilities and older people on low incomes or low-income benefits, which helps towards the costs of making changes to their home to allow them to continue living there safely and comfortably. Each year Cambs HIA enables around 300 older people and people with disabilities to adapt their homes. Although some work such as ramps, stairlifts, specialist toilets, automated door entry systems and level access showers require an Occupational Therapist’s referral, other work such as new boilers, roofing repairs, new doors and windows do not. The agency can help homeowners or those in housing association properties make a wide variety of adaptations and repairs. 

HIA can also help self-funders who are unable to organise and oversee the work themselves.  All info is here: – or ring the council direct on  01954 713330 or email

Budget meeting 7 February – County Council 

Tuesday 7 February is the date of the annual County Council budget meeting.  Government announced its ‘financial settlement’ for councils just before Christmas and proposed that Cambridgeshire County Council’s ‘core spending power’ (the overall revenue funding available for council services) should increase by 9.5%, less than the current rate of inflation. 

Half of that 9.5% is from the council’s power to raise council tax—in other words, the Government expects local council taxpayers to shoulder a lot of the extra costs. 

The County Council proposes to set a balanced budget for 2023-24, in the face of a national funding settlement which takes no account of Cambridgeshire’s population growth. The Government’s decision to move its fair funding review back for a further two years leaves Cambridgeshire with a formula which takes no account of recent population growth, and in some cases bases funding on population figures which are more than twenty years old.

The proposed budget seeks to bridge a potential funding gap for the coming year of £21.4M, even after finding more than £10M of additional savings or income, in the face of levels of inflation not seen for forty years along with rising costs for energy and essential services.

The proposed budget also outlines how the Council plans to spend more than £15M in one-off funds from reserves next year including

  • £1M to continue free school meal vouchers for eligible children
  • £1M into highways schemes including rural roads drainage
  • £1M investment into flood mitigation
  • more than £1.3M into libraries
  • £380,000 investment in community services.

The council’s new ‘triple bottom line’ approach to the social and economic impacts of budget proposals has seen increased investment in biodiversity improvements, and in ensuring all new schools are built to net zero standards.

The budget proposal would see band D properties paying an additional £73 per year in council tax, although more than half (64%) of the county lives in homes rated band C or below and would see rises of between £49 and £65 per year. In total this would raise £17.8M towards setting a legally balanced budget for 2023/4 and help to mitigate the additional costs of adult social care.

Council will also be asked to approve a five-year business plan, based on its Strategic Framework, which sets out a vision for a ‘greener, fairer and more caring Cambridgeshire’, and is based around its seven key ambitions. Over the next five years, the business plan looks to deliver

  • £122M for new primary school places
  • £164M for new secondary school places
  • £13.3M investment into converting streetlights to LED, delivering both environmental and financial benefits
  • £2.5M into a new highways materials recycling operation
  • A £7.2M upgrade to the March and Milton household recycling centres

District Council tax position

For the District Council the government settlement is somewhat better than expected. New Homes Bonus stays and SCDC will get more than we thought from the Rural Settlement Grant as well as from Business Rates. Council tax is likely to be increased by £5 for a band D house (equivalent to 3.5%) which represents a reduction in income with inflation running above 10%. Council house rent will also need to increase by the maximum of 7% in order for the council to continue delivering the new council house building programme though housing benefit does increase in line with inflation so 40% of tenants will not be affected by the increase.

Combined Authority precept

A Mayoral Precept of £12 per year per Band D property has been agreed, to ensure continued subsidy for bus services restored following the Stagecoach cuts last year.   The Combined Authority was able to step in before Christmas to provide a 6 month subsidy for a large number of threatened rural service but this was from financial reserves and it was always known that a longer term solution would be required. The effort now needs to go into improving bus ridership so that in the longer-term large subsidies will not be required.

Police council tax position

The Police & Crime Commissioner advises that with the current cost-of-living pressures impacting on people’s incomes “asking you to contribute more to police funding is not something I want to do.” but proceeds to do so in any case because “inflation applies to policing as well – with police vehicles, fuel and training all costing more than they did this time last year” thus proposing a 19p weekly increase (for Band A properties), 29p for Band D properties. 

National Lottery funding

Funding of up to £10,000 is available for events and activities through the National Lottery Awards for All programme. National Lottery Awards for All does not have a deadline, but can take up to twelve weeks from the point of submission to receiving funding, which means applications for the Coronation weekend should be made before the middle of February.

Zoom Cuppa Surgeries Mondays 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 Zoom Cuppa Surgery, on Mondays from 5-6 PM. Just let us know if you’d like to come and we’ll send you the link.

Anything we can help with?  Issues we can raise?

We would be delighted to talk with you any time – our contact details are below.  We can also 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

Sincerely yours,

Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon and District Councillor for Bassingbourn and Litlington,,, Tel 07905 325574

Sally Ann Hart, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon, Tel 07791 233303

Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon, Tel 01763 221058

Peter McDonald, County Councillor for Shepreth, Foxton, Heydon, the Chishills and the Duxford Division villages,, Tel 07912 669092

James Hobro, District Councillor for Foxton and Fowlmere,, Tel 07768706670

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