Bassingbourn Parish Council March 2019 – County Councillor report
Bassingbourn Practical Solutions Group
The Bassingbourn Practical Solutions Group had its termly meeting this month, again with Bassingbourn Village College students taking the lead. Together with Bassingbourn Primary School, County Council Children’s Services, Parish Council representatives and Police Community Support Officers, our goal is to support younger and older people and bring them together in new ways. More plans are underway including handover to new student representatives currently in Year 10 – thanks to all and especially to Ed and Cassie, outgoing College Captains headed now to sixth form, who have been brilliant.
Bassingbourn Oil Club and rebate donation
The Bassingbourn Oil Club was set up to help get cheapest prices on household heating oil, by working with bulk buyer Agricole Oil. There’s no joining fee and no minimum order requirement. Every year the club gets a small rebate from our supplier, based on the number of purchases made. This is given to a community group providing social support.
This year’s rebate goes to supporting Young Carers at Bassingbourn Village College – these are 11-15-year-olds upon whom a family or loved-one depends for care.
To find out more about the Oil Club, please contact me or our supplier, Dr Jeremy Cole at Agricole
Office: 01954 719452 | Mobile: 07860 904045.
East West Rail and County Council’s recommendation
It was only via a press release that I learned of the County Council’s endorsement of Route Option A, running through Bassingbourn – published even before the relevant committee had met to form a view and vote on the matter. I’m very grateful to parish council representatives from Bassingbourn, Whaddon and Meldreth for joining me at a meeting of the Economy and Environment Committee at Shire Hall on 14 March to give our views. The committee’s debate seemed to take in all the points that we – along with those of speakers from other parishes – had put forward.
One committee member said that the report read like a report prepared for the East West Rail Company, not for a council committee with the interests of Cambridgeshire residents as its key priority. The officer who had prepared the report stated that none of the five options met value for money tests and emphasized that the report was a narrow appraisal of a railway track only, without any consideration of development issues. The potential closure of multiple rights of way was acknowledged with concern. Some councillors indicated they would support Route A but gave no reasons.
It seemed possible from their discussion that the committee might decide that it was not appropriate to endorse any of the options, given the argument that a private railway company is taking the lead on what is ostensibly a planning matter – the creation of a new town, to justify a railway alongside it. Absence of infrastructure planning, lack of flood risk and environmental assessments, and the adherence to planning processes that exist precisely to protect the integrity of new development, were all discussed in some detail.
And yes, as local people know, Bassingbourn Barracks is spoken for – perhaps the East West Rail Company was not aware that this is an active MOD site with ambitious plans for redevelopment as a training base for British troops heading for overseas deployment.
The committee then voted 5-3, with one abstention, in favour of endorsing Option A. This was difficult to understand given the debate that had just taken place.
Prior to the meeting, a parish councillor had raised a query as to whether the chairman of the Economy and Environment Committee, Cllr Bates, had a conflict of interest, as he had been chairman of East West Rail for many years until recently, and is still a member of the East West Rail Consortium.
The County Council’s Monitoring Officer’s advice was that technically the Chairman was allowed to participate in the meeting so long as he made it clear that he did not come to the meeting with any bias or predetermination. Those of us who attended the meeting felt very keenly that for the sake of transparency and avoidance of doubt, not participating and certainly not voting would have been helpful. The Chairman had not contributed his views to the debate on the recommendation, but led the vote in favour of it.
You can look up any county councillor’s register of interests on the internet: https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/council/councillors-&-meetings/county-councillors/
Any questions, please get in touch. I’ve sent my own consultation response to EWR to the PC under separate cover.
Bassingbourn Barracks visits
Following the recent reopening of Bassingbourn Barracks, Elaine Douglass and I paid a visit to the team heading its redevelopment as an MOD site dedicated to the training of British troops for overseas deployment. We were warmly welcomed by Col Ian Crowley and Lt Col Paul Morris, and discussed various concerns shared by the wider community. I paid another visit on March 13 for a coffee morning, where some of the same topics were raised by families living on site.
Bassingbourn Children’s Centre Baby Group
Following the reinstatement of a Baby Group in the former Children’s Centre premises, six weeks on County Children’s Services made the decision to discontinue the group, which they explain had only one attendee during those six sessions.
Needless to say, this is very disappointing, and was brought home poignantly when I visited the Barracks coffee morning and learned from mums there that some had gone along to the Baby Group only to discover that the group had been cancelled. The Children’s services team has invited me to meet them to discuss. Meanwhile the Friday Stay and Play Group is going well, which is good news.
Ofsted of CCC’s Children’s Services
Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children’s Services has recently been assessed by Ofsted. Sadly, Ofsted have downgraded the council’s children’s services from ‘good’ (in 2014), to ‘requires improvement’ less than five years later. This is not a ‘vote of confidence’ in the quality of Children’s Services in Cambridgeshire (as described by the County’s own press release) but a clear sign that the quality of children’s services has moved in the wrong direction in recent years.
It is not surprising that with cuts to early help services across Cambridgeshire, the massive reduction in the number of children’s centres by almost half, and the removal of almost all the locality teams who used to provide early help services to families of older children, that the number of children coming into care in Cambridgeshire has continued to rise. This figure is now significantly above the national average, whereas a few years ago it was significantly below.