Susan van de Ven

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

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Bassingbourn report

Bassingbourn Parish Council February 2020 – County Councillor Report

County Budget Decision:

At the council’s budget meeting last week, the three main political groups submitted amendments to the proposed budget.  As expected, the ruling Conservative group amendment was voted though by that group.

Headlines:

  • council tax increased by less than the maximum allowed (1.59% vs 1.99%), bringing revenue spend for local services down by £1.7 million.
  • funds established for ‘climate action’ (£15 million) and ‘community capital projects’ (£5 million) – most of this goes to creating a new carbon-neutral County Council HQ building at Alconbury.
  • investment in highways. Additional £200K for Local Highways Initiative (LHI) schemes, and an extra £366K in 2020/21 and a further £1 million in 2024/25 for highways maintenance.   To put the latter into context, as I mention in my reports from time to time, a study several years ago concluded that £350 million was required to bring the Cambs County Highways network to a decent standard.

Under-funded special educational needs versus strapped school budgets: A recent decision by the County Council’s Children and Young People’s Committee has been to ask the Department for Education to allow the County Council to remove 1.8% of the main schools budget and put it in the High Needs Block to help meet the extra cost of providing for the increasing number and proportion of children needing extra help – and also to help pay off the £16 million deficit carried forward. This will mean, if approved, that the per pupil allocation in mainstream schools will go down by £50 – something of which local school governors will be all too aware. 

Park Close road repair: I’ve been in regular contact with our Local Highways Officer about improvements to Park Close road surface.  Park Close has been added to a Highways waiting list for a new type of road surface treatment, but we’ll have to wait and see if that transpires.  I was told: ‘As with all these programmes that CCC introduces, they are massively oversubscribed and there is never enough money to do all the eligible sites or even a fraction of them.’ 

Bus and community transport subsidies:  The subsidy for contracted bus services including the 127 now rests entirely with the Combined Authority.  The budget for the coming financial year has been agreed by the CA and remains the same as last year’s:  £5.8m for concessionary bus pass reimbursements; £300k for Community Transport; and £2.4m for subsidized bus services.  The concessionary pass item is demand-led with the greatest demand coming from the areas with the best bus services.

Combining county border bus services: Following on from the recent Cam Vale Bus User Group meeting, the proposal for amalgamating the 127 and 90/91 bus services, running in Cambs and Herts respectively, received unanimous support.  Please note that the entire route depends on council subsidies.

Various options for the new combined service were discussed, including one for connecting to Ashwell Station.  Council officers will now look at the detail and get back to us on the most viable routing (including most reasonable fares).  The idea would be to commence the new service at the start of school summer holidays.  Meanwhile, the Combined Authority has agreed to look at inspecting and hopefully refurbishing bus stops along the current 127 line.  An inspection tour will take place next week.  Meanwhile we await progress on the Mayor’s bus review and prospects of a broad, new and improved arrangement for rural bus services.

Model climate change policies for parish councils:  I’ll be meeting with CCC officers next week to discuss the basic elements required for parish level policies, where parish councils have declared a climate emergency.  I will report back in March.

 Bassingbourn Practical Solutions Group:  The PSG met on Feb 5th, with three results: 1) Bassingbourn Villages College will be inviting community groups to a concert in March  2) the College, with student leaders, will provide a display and presentation on their vision for Bassingbourn, at the Annual Parish Meeting in April; and 3) the Bassingbourn Conservation Group will organize a whole day community event to take place at the College on Sept 19, focusing on Bassingbourn and the impact of climate change.  County Youth Services will look to assist students with small grant applications, and students will be invited to join the village Conservation Group.

Royston and Herts Growth and Transport Plan and links over the A505: Please take a look at and respond to the ‘Hertfordshire County Council strategic Growth and Transport consultation’ that specifically envisages a cycle and walking link over the A505, albeit at the A10, but nevertheless clearly acknowledging and establishing the principle that we must be able to walk and cycle safely over the A505 between Royston and South Cambs villages.  We are asked to respond – it makes a difference and it doesn’t take long.  The consultation runs until March 30. 

To find the webpage, please Google ‘North Central Hertfordshire Growth and Transport Plan’ and find ‘Royston’ in the menu bar at the top – click on the icon at the far right next to ‘Baldock’. Or here’s the long URL:

https://hertscc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=6f7061f441ef445eb87bf31e6f637e7b

East West Rail Route E:  The recent announcement of Route E via Cambourne was South Cambs District Council’s preferred option, on the basis of least harm and greatest advantage to the environment.   As you know, the County Council decided it preferred Option A via Bassingbourn, but never convincingly argued the case.  Meanwhile, the expanding Cambourne and A428 community were clear in their desire for the route to come their way.  There is still some discussion about the final route into Cambridge, and the CamBedRailRoad group continues to lobby for entry via Cambridge North.

Heating Oil Club:  A bulk buying heating oil club was rolled out in Bassingbourn in 2017.  The intention is to help householders who depend on oil for household heating to get best available prices.  We work with a local supplier, Agricole Oil in Cambourne, which gets best available daily prices. There’s no joining fee and you can order just once.  At the end of the year, Agricole Oil provides a rebate of £5 per order which goes to community groups set up to benefit local residents.