Bassingbourn Parish Council – November 2017 – County Councillor Report
Barracks: I asked the County Council for a local contact for the Barracks, to put forward questions that come my way: problematic Guise Lane entrance to the Ski Slope, pedestrian link connecting the Barracks to Kneesworth, and use of leisure facilities on the site by community groups.
The answer received: We are anticipating the first arrivals on to the Bassingbourn site by September 18 but this is still dependent on building work being completed in time. It is too early to give any details of numbers of school age children. Our current position is to say ‘no’ to civilian access to the site. This will be reviewed once we have settled in and established our security procedures. It is worth noting that these leisure facilities (ski slope, Astroturf, climbing wall) are not part of the refurbishment plan at this time. There are not a high enough priority and there isn’t enough funding. We would welcome any improvements in public transport to / from the site. Apologies that I cannot be more positive at this stage but our priority is to get the site to a position from which we can deliver our operational output.
Third party-funded Highways improvement schemes: There are now two tiers of deposits required to take first steps on any Highways improvement scheme not already on the council’s work list: £250 for those that don’t require advice or consultation, and £500K for those that do. There’s every reason to try and use your county councillor to try and filter through for feedback on ideas, without having to make these cash deposits – please feel free to contact me.
Chestnut Lane and Kneesworth Road: After being contacted by a Kneesworth resident about difficulties accessing and exiting Canberra Close and Wellington Close due to rushing vehicle traffic I asked Meldreth Parish Council if it would be willing in principle to work with Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth on measures to calm traffic and perhaps to reduce the speed.
Royston and District Community Transport: 6th form lifts to Meldreth Station: Unfortunately, due to very poor take-up, Royston and District Community Transport has decided to end this service at the end of 2017, because it cannot afford to run a mostly empty vehicle. Through contacts developed over the summer holidays, it was anticipated that well over twenty people would be signing up for the lift service, and so it would have paid for itself. Ultimately it turned out to be just four. A driver had been hired to ensure that the lifts would run every day on RDCT’s minibus.
The cost of the lift (£3.55 per person per daily return journey), added to the rail fare and together with the restrictiveness of the offer (one journey time only) probably made this an unattractive choice for people with other options. But for those without other options some kind of solution needs to be found. RDCT have now written to everyone who originally wrote to express interest, and are working to see if they can help develop a lift-share service instead. This very difficult situation provides a harsh window on the severe problems we face around basic public transport.
Cam Vale Bus Users Group: There will be a meeting on December 4th, 7:30PM, at The Limes. The 127/128 operator would like to suggest some timetable changes.
North End/Fen Road junction: The bus operator cannot turn the bus at the top of North End, due to car parking on the junction. Having looked at the situation with the operator in detail, it becomes obvious that the bus can no longer travel up North End, and therefore its route will need to change. This will be discussed at the Bus User Group meeting on December 4.
Parking and traffic issues around the primary school: I’m meeting next week with the school headteacher and all relevant county council officers to consider the worsening problem of traffic approaching the school at drop-off and pick up times, resulting from the expanded school, as well as school crossing patrol and safe walking route issues. I’m in regular contact with James Hockley and alarmed at the number of dangerous incidents he has personally experienced, for example yesterday when a driver was texting at the wheel and nearly didn’t come to a stop. We’ve already asked County to respond with James’s suggestion of of pinch points on either side of the junction. James has also suggested that speed bumps are needed to help slow traffic down. The response is very slow and we still don’t know if these would meet rules and regulations that govern engineering works. Worsening traffic volumes won’t make this any easier.
Children’s Centre closures: As previously reported, the county council proposal was to cut £1 million spending on children’s centres (then refined to £900K), which would result in a large number of closures – and detail on revised services yet to be worked out. Bassingbourn would experience a deep loss of service, and with the scarcest of public transport links it is obvious that accessing services in other villages for families without a car would be impossible. In the rest of the county, there are many examples similar to Bassingbourn. Therefore, I voted against the proposal.
The council meeting at which the decision was taken was one of the most heavily attended I’ve ever attended. Overwhelming advice from professionals was that this cut would be harmful for young children and families. Unfortunately, expert opinion made no impact; the council’s ruling group won the day, with all other groups against. I have since asked for more detail on what will happen for Bassingbourn children’s centre services, but at the time of writing there has been no response.
It has been pointed out that here only needs to be a small number of children taken into care across the county as a result of the failure to provide these services for the saving to be wiped out.
County Council Area Champions – good use of public funds? In light of increasingly severe cuts to council services, it seems important to keep a scrutinizing eye on how the council is spending its scarce funds. Therefore, I am sorry to report on the new ‘Community Champions’ role, whereby one county councillor is paid £5K per year to ‘champion’ South Cambridgeshire (and one for each of the county’s five districts). I challenged the council on the creation of this role, in part because every village already has an elected county councillor to champion it (wasn’t that what we were elected for?) and because we are already remunerated for the basic councillor role. This scheme seems a waste of money.
North Herts Citizens Advice Bureau: Our area is served by ‘North Herts and District’ CAB, whose AGM I attended on Nov 1st. We heard a talk on the very difficult situations arising out of the roll-out of Universal Credit. A common question that has come my way is working out entitlement to a carer’s allowance. Unfortunately, the bookable service at Bassingbourn has been dropped due to lack of demand, and the nearest centres now are as follows:
Drop-in service on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays (9.30 am-12 noon), Melbourn Community Hub, and every Monday and Wednesday mornings (9.30 am to 12 noon) at the Citizens Advice North Hertfordshire offices at Royston Town Hall, Royston, SG8 7DA.