Bassingbourn Parish Council County Councillor Report July 2017
County council budget planning and cuts
As you know, the County Council is undergoing a massive change due to the elimination of government revenue support grant, which traditionally made up 50% of its spending on public services. This means that council tax becomes the main revenue source for public service spending. However, council tax is being managed in a way that is making the cuts situation worse.
Last year the council made £31 million in cuts and this year we are being asked to prepare for £26 million in cuts.
Government allows a 1.99% basic council tax rise. A 1% rise generates £2.6 million. For the past two years council tax has been frozen – Cambridgeshire being one of the only local authorities in the country to impose a freeze. Therefore, Cambridgeshire’s tax base is now £10 million below what it would have been. Budget planning for 2018-19 is predicated on another council tax freeze, because that is local Conservative group policy and the council is now Conservative run.
Cuts arising just out of the 2017-18 council tax freeze are now coming forward – these are cuts that were easily unavoidable.
Bassingbourn Children’s Centre
The council is now looking to close 19 children’s centres, for the sole purpose of saving £1 million off the council tax freeze mentioned above. The word ‘redesignated’ is used but is a euphemism for ‘closure.’ Bassingbourn Children’s Centre along with Caldecote, Bar Hill, Histon, Papworth, Gamlingay and Linton are all proposed for ‘re-designation’. Melbourn, Sawston and Waterbeach will become ‘child and family zones’ but it isn’t clear what that means as premises there too will be ‘repurposed’. There is no information on what will happen to current premises at any of these locations, nor how children and families will get the support they need. There will be just one ‘Child and Family Centre’ in the whole of South Cambs, at Cambourne. Public transport to Cambourne is poor at best.
The consultation ends September 22 and there is just one consultation event in South Cambs, in Waterbeach on September 15 from 1-3PM. The officer charged with coordinating the overall project has left the council. I visited the Bassingbourn Children’s Centre last week to try and learn more but local children’s centre managers don’t know any more than we do. There is no phone number to ring for advice. There is an email for queries: email@example.com – I’ve written to this address to ask for full information on the Melbourn and Bassingbourn Division. Please respond to the consultation:
County Council allowances: The council is required to commission an Independent Remuneration Panel to make recommendations on councillor allowances. The IRP made recommendations that reduced overall public spending on councillor allowances, and reconfigured the way the pot would have been dispersed across various roles in the new council.
The IRP proposals were rejected by the council’s ruling Conservative group, which proposed a different scheme, increasing the pot by nearly £200K over the IRP’s recommendation and creating new unnecessary additional remunerated roles, like chairs and vice chairs for two new committees, which be costly to run, as well as new ‘Area Leads’ for each district of the county. The Area Leads are generously remunerated and have no electoral mandate over areas outside their county divisions.
Ironically, one of the new committees is called ‘Commercial and Investment Committee’ which sheds light on the changing nature of the council – it needs to find new ways of generating income.
Buses: The Cam Vale Bus Users Group has held its second meeting at The Limes last week, just before the end of the 27 bus. There are two main items to report to you:
1) Royston and District Community Transport has made a clear offer to provide a minibus link from Bassingbourn and Whaddon to Meldreth Station starting in September, for the purpose of enabling post-16 students to reach rail service to Cambridge. This will cost each passenger about £3.55 per day, and seats will need to be booked and paid for in advance. Thus far, demand outstrips capacity on the 16-seater minibus, so RDCT will look to deploy one of their smaller vehicles also. It was agreed that the Bassingbourn collection point should be no further than the Limes, so as to avoid High Street congestion, and probably also somewhere near Tower Close and also of course Kneesworth. RDCT will need to hire paid drivers to ensure a reliable service, and new backroom office staff to manage the service. Therefore, parish councils are encouraged to provide financial support to RDCT. Additionally, more volunteer drivers from the Bassingbourn area are needed. Most drivers are volunteers and this provides emergency back-up service.
2) It was hoped to provide an update for 127 bus users on the new service provider, following retendering of the service, to begin July 31, but information was not yet available. From the floor, three members of the audience introduced themselves as representing Cozy’s, the current operator. They claimed that the council’s preferred bidder had gone into liquidation, casting doubt on the running of the service from next week. It’s good to report news in today that the 127 bus will continue to be run, with a new operator, starting on 31 July. The timetable has minor changes and is now being printed. I can send this to anyone who would like a copy by email.
Please note that the county council subsidies for buses have no guarantee beyond next year, so we have work to do to keep essential transport in place.
Transport powers transferred to mayor: The County Council’s constitution has now been amended to transfer transport powers to the new mayor. The mayor has the ability to introduce new bus franchising powers. He was invited to the bus users’ group meeting but he couldn’t make it. He said he would be asking City Deal for funding to conduct a study into bus issues.
School Crossing Patrol and safe crossing: A few weeks ago I circulated to you a report of my site visit with the county officers, attended also by Mike Hallett, and the county officer’s memo on reasons why the various options are unsafe. Since then I’ve revisited the site with School Crossing Patrol Officer James Hockley to ask for his ideas, as he is the person best placed to advise. James is going to provide me with his ideas, to see if we can come up with any further thinking to take back to the council, who are clear that they want to invest in the site if a safe solution can be found – though understanding that any ‘permanent solution’ means that they will withdraw funding for the school crossing patrol officer post. I’ve also visited the primary school to keep them up-to-date.
GP Out-of-Hours service: This moves from Chesterton Hospital to Addenbrooke’s very shortly.
Cambridgeshire/Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group proposed cut to IVF services: The cut would save the NHS £700K per year. The consultation has been extended until 31 July. The service currently allows one cycle of IVF treatment; this carries a 60% success rate. About 200 women annually currently receive this treatment. Please respond if you are concerned about this cut. https://www.cambridgeshireandpeterboroughccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/consultations/ivfconsultation/
Fire Authority: The Police and Crime Commissioner is proposing taking over the Fire Authority – amalgamating the two with one politician leading both. The County Council is unanimous across all political parties that this is a bad idea – two very different services with all power invested in one person. Please respond to the consultation: http://www.cambridgeshire-pcc.gov.uk/police-commissioner-launches-consultation-changing-responsibility-fire-service/