by Susan van de Ven on 14 July, 2023
Liberal Democrat Community Newsletter Summer 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.
Meldreth Station: announcement on nationwide station ticket office closures
The rail industry has announced a short consultation on closure of ticket offices – from July 5-26, allowing little time for meaningful public response. This comes at a time when ridership is struggling to recover to pre-Covid levels, which for Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Stations has meant the loss of the half-hourly off-peak service.
Please note that the proposal is not to close station premises – waiting rooms, toilets, etc – at
Meldreth or any other station, but rather to deploy staff currently selling tickets behind the counter to a different set of responsibilities on site, and at the same hours that ticket offices are currently open. So, staff would be present to assist passengers with any manner of help needed, including buying tickets from the machine, and future trip planning. One of the reasons for the proposal is that generally more tickets are sold from machines and the call on behind the counter ticket sales is dropping.
However, the Meldreth Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group is concerned about any diminishing of confidence in using the railway, especially for anyone who doesn’t use automated machines, or doesn’t have access to a smart phone or the internet for travel planning. The Rail User Group will be asking for a clear, convincing picture as to how those people will be genuinely served and supported, especially given that station staff will not have access to computers for journey planning.
Meldreth Station offers a personal and warm welcome, encouraging train ridership – and human presence is cherished. Ticket office closures will be considered on a station-by-station basis, so it is definitely worth having your say on this issue.
The watchdog group Transport Focus is asking for feedback here: https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/train-station-ticket…/
The Meldreth Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group will be submitting a formal response to the consultation.
If you have a view that you would like to be included, please comment below or contact email@example.com
And Whittlesford, Ashwell and Morden, and Royston Stations too – Pippa’s petition for train ticket offices
Royston, Whittlesford Parkway and Ashwell and Morden stations are also included in the England-wide list of proposed ticket office closures. Please feel free to sign Pippa Heyling’s petition which is asking the rail industry to reconsider the overall move to decision and stop the closures: Petition to save our ticket offices
Royston Recycling Centre
As previously reported, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire County Councils are working hard to formalize an arrangement for South Cambs residents to continue using the Royston Recycling Centre, which is owned and operated by Herts CC. A Cambs County Council meeting on 13 July approved ‘the principle of exploring and implementing a reciprocal access and cost sharing arrangements with Hertfordshire County Council…to not disadvantage Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire residents from using the nearest recycling centre to their homes in the Thriplow and Royston areas.”
This is a long way of saying we hope the Royston tip will remain available to Cambridgeshire residents in the long term.
Reporting all faded road markings at junctions and on bends, and signs obstructed by foliage
We’ve asked Highways whether it is necessary to report the many vital lines and signs which are currently not visible due to wear and tear and spring/summer vegetation growth. Local Highways Officers have been tasked with adding all to the Reporting Log to ensure they are in the queue – meaning everything in Shepreth, Foxton, Melbourn, Meldreth, Whaddon, Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth, Litlington, Heydon and the Chishills and all.
And these key road markings on accident sites
Meanwhile an urgent request for refreshed road markings has been made to Highways, to restore clarity at the following sites. In the first three cases, multiple accidents have occurred this past year; the fourth is a former accident blackspot where refreshed road markings were part of the road safety effort.
Melbourn 20MPH scheme – signs and road markings
Melbourn’s new 20MPH scheme, covering the whole village, has been implemented over the past couple of weeks, though apologies that this could not all happen on the same day, avoiding confusion. We’ve had it confirmed that the scheme implementation will shortly be inspected against the plan, to ensure that nothing has been overlooked.
Final implementation of A1198 speed limit reduction scheme, Whaddon Gap-Kneesworth
While the speed limit along this stretch officially dropped to 40MPH some time ago, the completion of the scheme – mainly improvements to the Whaddon Gap turn off – take place this week. The scheme is Whaddon Parish Council’s Local Highways Initiative.
Reporting overgrown footpaths
At this time of year footpaths may have become overgrown – if that’s the case please report them here:
Spring Lane Bassingbourn
Disruption to residents owing to construction of the new development behind the GP surgery has been checked against planning conditions, with regard to working hours, dust and parking. The planners will speak to the contractors about working hours and dust. Parking on the public highway is permissible and not restricted in planning conditions. Please feel free to get in touch with any specific concerns, which can then be logged here: https://www.greatercambridgeplanning.org/planning-applications/planning-compliance/
Meanwhile, Susan is working with the Parish Council to progress new parking restrictions along Spring Lane between the High Street and Pepper Close where visibility is obstructed – and thanks to much feedback from residents.
New Litlington affordable housing – rent and shared ownership
Thanks to the Accent Group social housing provider and the South Cambs District Council Housing Officer for attending the July meeting of Litlington Parish Council, to provide an update on the affordable houses for rent and shared ownership under construction in Royston Road – for which Accent is the developer. Accent is working closely with the community and SCDC to ensure that social housing need can be matched up with new available housing, all of which is being constructed to high environmental standards including air source heat pumps and readiness for EV charging. It’s hope that first dwellings will be ready for occupancy at the beginning of 2024. Please get in touch if you’d like further information.
Anglian Water remedial work, Meldreth homes
Thank you to residents who’ve kept us updated on any issues affecting domestic properties. Some remedial work is due to take place in July at properties we have been bringing to attention. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any further concerns.
Clean up our rivers!
In September last year, South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) passed a motion proposed by Cllr Pippa Heylings on sewage dumping in South Cambridgeshire District’s chalk streams at its full Council Meeting.
One of the key actions from the motion was to ask its Cabinet to consider the possibility of a formal application to Defra for an inland bathing water stretch along the River Cam in South Cambridgeshire, together with Anglian Water and local partners such as Cam Valley Forum. This was based on the work done by local communities, such as the River Mel Action Group, together with Cam Valley Forum to test the water quality in our chalk streams. This testing has been continued in partnership with Anglian Water. The results have shown some concerning results regarding levels of sewage and e-coli bacteria and everyone is in agreement that more needs to be done to clean up our rivers.
Earlier this year, the Head of Climate and Environment at South Cambridgeshire District Council commissioned a consultancy to carry out an initial scoping study of the requirements for application to Defra for designation of an inland bathing water stretch on the River Cam. This study was finished last month and has identified potential sites and the results have been shared with Cam Valley Forum, Anglian Water and with Cambridge City Council where the most feasible bathing site is located. Meanwhile, South Cambs District Council will continue engaging with Anglian Water to push for continued water quality monitoring and for further improvements to the small sewage treatment works on our chalk streams.
Cambridgeshire NHS survey for the Royston area
Royston is within the Cambridgeshire NHS footprint, with all of its GP practices falling into South Cambridgeshire primary care networks. Much of the NHS and primary care estate in Royston is no longer new, prompting necessary thought and consideration of what next.
Please have a look at, and complete the survey, by Aug 11, if you can. The Integrated Care System, our local NHS, is considering best ways of delivering various levels of health care in the future, which also needs to take the current estate into consideration.
Let’s talk Royston: https://www.cpics.org.uk/lets-talk-royston
Holiday Activities and Food Programme:
The County Council’s summer HAF programme, funded by the Department for Education, is open for bookings. Children in receipt of income-related free school meals can book a holiday scheme place for 64 hours, subject to availability. Each scheme offers enriching experiences, a meal and snacks.
The HAF Team can arrange transport for families unable to access the programme otherwise. Ukrainian and other refugee families are also eligible for places as well as families ‘just about managing’ financially. There is a video on YouTube youtu.be/WSOEpJIXY5c showing what’s involved. And look out for the HAF Programme on Facebook and Twitter too.
Please search ‘Cambridgeshire Holiday Activities and food Programme.’
The 4-day-week trial – financial savings, workforce stability
This initiative by South Cambs District Council has generated intensive national press interest. Some inaccurate information has been perpetuated. Please do read the reports on the SCDC website (link below) for a fuller picture.
The key impetus for the trial was a stubborn difficulty in recruiting to posts and reliance on more costly agency staff to fill vacancies – coming with a big cost to the public purse. Some areas of the council, for example planning, are especially prone to losing newly trained staff to higher paid private sector jobs. Councils can’t match private sector pay but they can offer different ways of working.
The premise of the four-day-week is that productivity must not be adversely affected and that a healthier workforce may perform more productively, making up that ‘lost’ time. The world has changed, and many factors have had a profound impact on the local authority workplace: technology, financial crisis, deep cuts to public services, changes in the international workforce since Brexit, and a general decline in population health.
Disruption of staff turnover is something people may recognize through their own experience: multiple successive planning officers dealing with a planning application means lost institutional memory. Training new staff is expensive, and when staff don’t remain in post for long that training cost is lost – this is public money.
Prior to the announcement of the trial, a survey was undertaken on staff health. When the trial concluded, results showed improvement, while productivity was unaffected. Although the short trial was not intended to measure recruitment, there was evidence of improvement in recruitment as well as retention, bringing savings of over £300K. It was therefore decided to further the trial to a 12-month period.
Lots more here:
Cambs County Council financial position:
Cambridgeshire County Council ended the past financial year (2022/23) with a overspend of just 0.2 per cent of its annual budget.
Despite growing inflation on all the goods and services the council buys, the council kept its overspend to just £728,000, a figure it had been predicting with some accuracy for the second half of the year.
The council set its 2022/3 budget in February 2022 at a time of great uncertainty, and during the year which followed inflation reached record highs, meaning that in-year the council had to manage more than £43M of additional pressures.
The final position shows that increases in some areas such as high levels of inflation in home to school transport, lower than expected income in some areas due to a slow recovery from COVID, and the impact of a national shortage (and consequent spiralling costs) of placements for children with very specialist mental health needs had largely been mitigated by underspends elsewhere.
The central issue remains however that Cambridgeshire County Council is woefully underfunded by central government, leaving residents of this county severely disadvantaged.
Cambridgeshire is a growing county, but despite this our funding formula remains fixed to population figures from more than ten years ago. In effect, while more Cambridgeshire residents are contributing to national taxes, our settlement has not been updated to supporting the area’s direct local needs, leaving the council with problems to fix that will need many years of detailed work, not just short-term patching. The leaders of all four political groups on the county council wrote again to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up earlier this year, putting the case for change and a funding settlement which truly meets Cambridgeshire’s local needs, but received no acknowledgement.
Cross-party appeal to Levelling up Secretary – fair funding for Cambridgeshire
The leaders of all four political groups on the County Council wrote again to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up earlier this year, putting the case for change and a funding settlement which truly meets Cambridgeshire’s local needs, but received no acknowledgement.
Last week there was also an historic national cross-party and cross-sector consensus of district and county councils, housebuilders, housing associations, charities and planners expressed in a joint letter and in a Ministerial Roundtable with the Minister for Housing, urging the government to not proceed with the proposed changes to the way in which affordable housing and vital infrastructure is paid for. The current planning system is not perfect but it places an obligation on developers to provide upfront funding towards GP surgeries, schools, transport links and affordable housing alongside any new development.
Everyone, including housebuilders and housing associations, agree that existing and new communities need access to these services early in the development process. However, the proposed changes mean that developers would only pay this contribution once the first houses are built and sold, therefore leaving all the burden and financial risk on cash-strapped district and county councils. There is deep concern about the impacts on provision of vital transport infrastructure and affordable housing in our area.
The Ministerial Roundtable was attended by Cllr Pippa Heylings in her role as Deputy Chair of the national Board for Environment, Housing and Transport of the LGA (representing all councils in England and Wales)
Council phone numbers – who does what and how to get in touch?
‘The council’ can mean so many different things – parish, district and county are separate organisations, and overarching them all is the Mayoral Combined Authority!
To contact South Cambs District Council (housing, planning, bins, environmental health, licensing, benefits and more) the main telephone line (01954 713 000) is open 8am to 5:30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; on Wednesday from 8am to 6:30pm.
The County Council has a different number for each of their service areas (children’s services social care, public health, highways, more planning, waste disposal and recycling centres, and more). Numbers are listed here https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/council/contact-us
Or please ask us!
Become a mentor for care leavers
The County Council annual meeting heard a compelling presentation from a young person who had grown up in care. The council has an ongoing recruitment campaign for foster parents, and now also a mentoring programme to support young people in mapping out life choices and strategies.
Find out more: Become a volunteer mentor in Cambridgeshire for young care leavers. https://www.goal17.global/cam
A10 cycle/walk/scoot path maintenance grant
A new maintenance grant from Melbourn Science Park’s Melbourn Community Impact scheme will enable better vegetation cutback along the A10 path between Melbourn and Trumpington. Cambridgeshire Highways cuts the verges and does spot work where it can, but more is needed to keep the path in best condition. The grant was awarded in April; with nesting season nearly over, a late summer hard cutback is now being planned. The grant is held by the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign and deployed in liaison with Cambridgeshire Highways. If you’d like to be involved in the Campaign, please get in touch.
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 join 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 http://www.libdems.org.uk.
|Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon and District Councillor for Bassingbourn and Litlington|
firstname.lastname@example.org, 07905 325574
|Sally Ann Hart, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon|
email@example.com, 07791 233303
|Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and Whaddon|
firstname.lastname@example.org, 01763 221058
|Peter McDonald, County Councillor for Shepreth, Foxton, Heydon, the Chishills and the Duxford Division villages Peter.email@example.com, 07912 669092|
|James Hobro, District Councillor for Foxton and Fowlmere|
firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel 07768706670