July 2019 District and County Councillors’ Report
Kissing Gate, Footpath 9: Susan has had advice from the CCC Definitive Maps officer who believes that the kissing gate has been in place since the 1950s. Its removal requires the consent of the adjacent landowner even though the kissing gate itself is probably the property of the Parish Council. The officer is now on annual leave so a few questions pending around responsibility for the process of and funding for replacing the kissing gate with a staggered gate or bollard. Work in progress.
Bin: Footpath 9 through Burlton’s Farm. There’s a problem of litter emanating from the station exit onto Footpath 9 toward Melbourn. Mr Burlton does a lot of litter picking around the base of the London platform and asks if it would be possible to install a litter bin somewhere in the vicinity of the path as it approaches the station. Could this be added to the September agenda?
Passenger Benefit Fund: The Rail User Group will shortly draft a submission to GTR, due in late July. The Community Rail Partnership is able to attract some match-funding for some of the projects people have asked us to put forward, which widens the scope of what can be achieved.
Station tubs: Whaddon Parish Council has kindly offered to sponsor a Meldreth Station tub, which together with Cllr Gilmore’s offer to the same is much appreciated.
Station waiting room now being decorated: Thanks to gentle pressure exerted from Melbourn Science Park, and to GTR for prioritizing over other stations.
Rail services July 13-14 and August Bank Holiday weekend: The message from GTR is, ‘Don’t Travel.’ The tracks leading to King’s Cross Station need untangling, and bus replacement services will be the order of the day. This is the start of a process that will run for some time.
Melbourn Greenways consultation: Please respond to the consultation which you will have had through your letterbox. The A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign is suggesting that the bridge to Royston is listed as the overall priority for this scheme, as there are very few funding opportunities for infrastructure straddling a county border. Another accident took place on the roundabout on July 3, involving a cyclist. There is no way to cross other than with traffic. Please note that the Melbourn-Royston route is used in both directions by low-wage earners for whom cycling or walking to work offers significant savings on bus or train fares.
Dementia Friends at the Hub: The Melbourn Hub now in association with Dementia Friends looking to set up a support group this autumn, open to surrounding villages. Please contact the Centre Manager or Jose.
Hub Community Showcase 13 July – Local charities from Melbourn and surrounding villages will be promoting their cause, including: Timebank, Home-start, WI, Nicola Emerson Trust (young adult deaths), U3A, Melbourn Dynamos, Dementia Friends, East of England Ambulance. Tai Chi demonstration, live music by young singers from the area, photographic project, food. Any queries or ideas please contact Centre Manager or Jose.
A1198 speed limit: Susan is working with Whaddon and Bassingbourn Parish Councils, Bassingbourn Barracks, the Police and Highways to explore the possibility of a speed limit reduction along the A1198 between Kneesworth and Whaddon Gap.
Whaddon Church: We are sure you share our anger and disgust at the theft of the lead from the roof of Whaddon Church. Philippa has been in touch with the Church Wardens to suggest grant-funding organisations which might be able to help and we hope as many local residents as possible will go along to Whaddon Church Fete on Saturday 13th July to show support and solidarity with our neighbours.
Stagecoach Busway Consultation: Stagecoach have launched a Busway public consultation. Meldreth residents are accessing the Busway service that passes through Melbourn, either walking or cycling over, or parking in the Melbourn High Street Car Park (now financed by Melbourn Parish Council rather than SCDC). https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/cambridgeshirebusway
South Cambs District Council
Blue Plaque Scheme: South Cambs has just launched this scheme which has been running in Cambridge since 2001. The first plaque was unveiled yesterday at Girton College to honour its two principal founders, Barbara Bodichon and Emily Davies, who were pioneers in providing education at degree level for women in this country. South Cambridgeshire residents are now being encouraged to nominate a person or event
for commemoration. See www.scambs.gov.uk/blueplaques for further details and the nomination criteria.
Parking and Pavement Parking: At the Parish Liaison meeting last month many parish councillors and clerks expressed frustration about the lamentable figure presented of 22 parking enforcement notices issued in the whole of South Cambs this year. Obviously, that fails completely to address the problem that many of our villages are facing.
We have been under pressure from the Police and Crime Commissioner to agree a civil enforcement scheme for the district and it is surprising that he has failed to accept that the legislation prevents us from doing this and that responsibility for parking enforcement will have to remain his. The problem is that we cannot use council tax to fund such a scheme. It can only be funded from money earned from parking i.e. car parks, fines, residents’ parking schemes. We have no car parks and no residents’ parking schemes in the district and we know that income from fines would fall far short of the significant amount that would be needed to fund a district wide scheme.
The Police have reiterated that if regular offenders are reported to them 3 times they will take action. We suggest we put this to the test and if it fails that you let us know. On the subject of pavement parking there has been some discussion at government level about legislating but as things stand it is at the discretion of the police whether they issue a penalty notice or not. The advice we have had is that they will do so if the gap is not large enough for a wheel chair to pass through.
Planning department: The planning service at SCDC is merging with Cambridge City Council and is nearing the end of its transformation programme. The new shared planning is the first service area to receive the ICT hardware and telephony for the Council Anywhere Programme which will enable its staff to work between two offices but also out in the community. There is a national shortage of planners and areas of the planning department are running high vacancies: much is being done to recruit more planning officers but it has meant that some applications are failing to meet target deadlines and also that planning officers have not been as available to residents as they would like to be. Philippa is working hard with colleagues to improve the service.
Contact Centre and Customer Portal: We know that some residents have experienced long wait times trying to reach SCDC by telephone. The Contact Centre has also been dogged by staff vacancies and difficulties in recruitment but it is hoped that it is now back on track. We are committed to putting the customer first and this means giving our residents plenty of choice in how they communicate with the Council. As we’ve reported previously, if you are able to get online, please do check out the mysouthcambs Portal on the website homepage – once you are registered, which only takes a few minutes, you can contact the Council online for a wide range of reasons, ranging from reporting fly-tipping, booking a planning officer appointment, making a complaint or maybe even paying a compliment!
Green to the Core – New initiatives at SCDC: Electric powered bin lorries? Some of you will have seen reports in the local media of the Waste Service (SCDC and City) investigating switching to electric powered bin lorries. The current fleet meets the highest environmental standards for diesel engines but the trucks only manage 4-6 miles to the gallon and the fleet of 50 bin lorries and 18 street sweeping vehicles costs around £46,000 every four weeks to fuel. The cost of their replacement by electric powered vehicles is high and the two councils are exploring how this might be best achieved.
Going paperless – All councilors to be encouraged to view paperwork online, bringing paper usage to a minimum.
Green energy initiatives – SCDC has pledged to generate 25% of its income from investments by the end of this administration. If we can do this and also tick our Green to the Core pledge then all the better. Green energy, be it battery storage, solar, EV charging points or others are all possible future investment opportunities for the Council. To this end, Philippa attended the Cleanpower and Smart Grids Conference in Cambridge earlier this week.
Changes to SCDC Streets Team and Road Sweeping: We’ve been reporting on the Melbourn and A10 path pilot; meanwhile these overall proposed changes apply to all of South Cambs – here’s the full picture:
SCDC Streets service is provided by 11 staff covering works teams and 5 LGV sweeper drivers. We cover 106 Parishes over 901.6 Square Kilometers, servicing 156,705 residents We empty 1003 Litter bins and 704 dog waste bins per week approx. We Sweep 1,186,125 meters of adopted roads require sweeping and 56,893 meters of adopted paths require sweeping.
Phase 1- Streets Team. Traditionally we had several groups of staff covering the SCDC area performing separate individual tasks and criss-crossing the district with no clear round structure or accountability. The works teams have now been restructured into five zone teams. The purpose of remodeling the works teams was to achieve improved efficiency and work area accountability. To achieve this we have devised 5 works team zones covering all of the SCDC service area and consolidated bin and dog waste rounds with other work team tasks such as litter picking, fly tip removal, dead animal recovery and other adhoc streets tasks.
We now have 2 streets operatives / vehicles dedicated to each of the five zones, within each zone the team of two are responsible for all works tasks within their zone. The improvements we expect to see from the smaller zones (previously 4) are that we respond proactively not reactively to fly tips, litter and waste bin emptying with an emphasis on improving overall service to residents and decreasing complaints and service requests. Each zones assigned operatives can work individually in a single vehicle to cover a greater area of a zone or combine efforts for larger tasks such as fly tip removal or safety critical tasks that requires multi operatives present.
Phase 2 – Mechanical sweeping. Traditionally our 3 large sweepers and 2 small sweepers covered the SCDC area predominantly on a reactive basis and there was limited monitoring of sweeping locations or forward schedules routes. Therefore, work has been undertaken to remodel the mechanical sweeping teams in to 5 work zones. Up to a maximum of 5 mechanical sweepers will operate each given zone for two weeks before moving onto the next zone for two weeks moving around the zone map in a clockwise direction.
The benefit of this system is very valuable as it ensures that each zone receives a full two weeks of cleaning up to 5 times per annum and from that a schedule can be produced and published advising the public on which weeks of the year their area is due to be swept. Whilst we visit each zone 5 times a year it’s important to note that this does not mean a zone within its entirety will be cleansed, each area will be assessed and cleansing will be performed on a as required basis including targeting hotspot areas. Adding the zoned structure ensures that the sweepers are clear on their works areas and the tasks within those areas which will consist of deep cleaning of arterial routes as well as general sweeping tasks. Other parish or works team tasks can also be scheduled throughout the year to correspond with the mechanical sweeping schedule to aid clean ups and joint working.
Further sweeping efficiencies are also being sort by the siting of two skips into the community to enable our smaller sweepers to be able to tip off without returning to the land fill site enabling a second load. For both works teams and mechanical sweepers we expect that there will be an acceptable level of deviation from zones to take into account the need to act responsively to unforeseen situations that may arise or seasonal demands. This deviation time has been factored into both teams work plans within each zone.
Streets enquiries should continue to be emailed to: email@example.com as opposed to an individual officer as this ensures during times of absence or leave enquiries can be handled promptly by the team. On reporting or enquiring about a streets issue it is important beforehand to have a detailed location of the report as well as any photos or supplementary information that can aid handling of the enquiry. We have asked when the specific timescales on this and when the timetable for street sweeping will be available.
Money Matters: The national tables showing Council Tax & Business Rates collection have just been published and South Cambs has retained its place as 3rd best in the country at collecting Council Tax. From total Council Tax due of £114.2m, we had just £716k outstanding at the end of the financial year. For Business Rates, we’ve improved on our position of 26th in the previous year, to achieve a placement at 16th nationally. Business Rates collection rate was 99.5%,compared to 99.4% for Council Tax, with just £404k outstanding at the end of the financial year from a total charge o nearly £88.4m.
Housing Update: South Cambs is top nationally for SAP ratings in the Housemark tables (energy efficiency in council houses) and second for rent collection. The new administration pledged to double the number of new council houses it builds from the inherited target of 35 per year to 70 per year and this work is well on track and likely to be exceeded this year.
Bridget’s Blog and OXCAM Arc: On the South Cambs website is Council Leader Bridget Smith’s new blog which will hopefully keep you up to speed on some of the many things she is doing these days. The success of South Cambs over the past year has meant that its local members are being asked to help out with many projects and issues across a much wider geography. The most important of these is Bridget’s new role as the political lead for the environment for the OXCAM Arc. In simple terms this is our version of the Northern Powerhouse – an economically vibrant area with huge potential, in government’s eyes, to grow the national economy. The risk is that more jobs and more houses damages both the environment and the quality of life for people already living in the Arc. Bridget’s role will be to ensure that every opportunity to improve the environment and consequently our quality of life is taken and exploited to the full. Bridget has also been elected as the Lib Dem spokesperson on Safer Communities for the Local Government Association.
NHS cuts and ending or decommissioning of services: In addition to its own responsibility for commissioning Public Health services, the County Council has a statutory duty to scrutinize the consultation process that accompanies any significant NHS service change. Unprecedented NHS savings targets are forcing ‘difficult decisions’ that look set to see the end of financial support to the voluntary sector especially pertaining to services for older people, as well as some NHS services.
Local NHS services are commissioned by the Cambs/Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The population area includes 950,000 people and is one of the largest CCGs in the country. Our CCG operates on a budget of just over £1 billion; it is the third lowest nationally in terms of funding. Its unique pressures include a rapidly growing population that is not calculated into its funding formula.
In preparation for the next financial year, decommissioning of services mainly for older people and provided by the voluntary sector were proposed by the CCG Governing Body on July 2; a decision was deferred until July 16. The following illustrates the scale of what is at stake:
Cease funding or decommission the following:
The CCG would seek to renegotiate service provision and/or payment for the following:
It will be recommended that the CCG continues to fund:
IVF services discontinued
The CCG will also be reviewing its 2017 decision to pause Specialist Fertility Services or IVF, and the recommendation will be that it does not reinstate service provision (as opposed to continuing suspension and reconsidering when financial position improves). Meanwhile Government which has not corrected the funding formula is strongly condemning those local authorities forced to cease IVF services.
Schools spending is £7 million over budget. Like health funding, funding follows growth making planning and investment for growth very difficult.
High cost of living in South Cambs: adversely impacting key public sector employment including teaching, nursing and social care.
Mayor and Combined Authority
Local Transport Plan: The Combined Authority are consulting on the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough LTP.
It is disappointingly road-focused when there is the opportunity to push for better sustainable
transport links and better public transport. We know that building bigger roads just encourages more cars on to them especially when there is no alternative. Please do take part in the consultation to share your views: https://bit.ly/2JeHwIN
Part of the Devolution Deal was £100m for affordable housing to be targeted at areas where housing was least affordable. Using this criteria, South Cambs should have had a fairly large chunk of the money in the form of grants. However, the Mayor has ring fenced £40m for a rolling fund of loans, about 90% of which has so far gone to East Cambs, where the Mayor lives. SCDC Leader Bridget Smith voted against a loan of over £4m going to a developer to turn offices located in the centre of Ely into flats. Only 4 of the 25 flats will be in any way ‘affordable’. The government recently changed planning laws to allow commercial properties to be turned into accommodation without planning permission.
The Mayor has put forward the A10 north for government funding and refused SCDC’s plea to also put forward the A505 which already exceeds its limited capacity. SCDC Leader Bridget Smith had previously persuaded the CA and the Mayor to develop a project confined to upgrading the junctions on the A10 north at a cost of about £40m, rather than the A10 north dualling, costing £500m, which the Mayor favours – both projects now submitted.