Susan van de Ven

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

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Meldreth report

Meldreth Parish Council, County Councillor Report October 2017

Council changes I neglected to report on over the summer:  The council is no longer under no overall control, and administrative changes have come in swiftly under the new ruling group.

  • County Council allowances: The council is required to commission an Independent Remuneration Panel to make recommendations on councillor allowances. The IRP made recommendations that would have reduced overall public spending on councillor allowances, and reconfigured the way the pot could be dispersed across various roles in the new council and accounting for changes under the new boundaries now in place.  The IRP proposals were rejected by the council’s ruling group, which proposed a different scheme, increasing the overall expenditure by nearly £100K and creating new additional remunerated ‘special responsibility’ roles. Two new committees have been formed, which duplicate the work of others.
  • County Council new special responsibility posts: The council has created new remunerated ‘Area Champions’ whereby one councillor acts as champion for an entire district, even though they have no electoral mandate to do so.  They are paid a special responsibility allowance of £5K per year.  It is not clear how they work for the parishes and I have yet to be contacted by the champion for our area.

Childrens Centre consultation: The responsible committee has decided not to make a decision on children’s centre closures but to send the matter to full council. Consultation responses by early years professionals have been highly critical of the loss of service that these closures will mean, and long-term implications for child and family support and development.

Deposits on third party-funded Highways projects: As you know, this accounts for any works not covered by the LHI scheme.  This has been refined somewhat. There are two categories of projects for which a deposit is required, one requiring design and consultation (£500 deposit) and one that needs no design or consultation (£250). The fine print isn’t quite clear and I’ve asked for more information.  Please note that officially the policy refers to ‘Privately Funded’ schemes but I’ve pointed out that of parish councils are public bodies levying a precept.

Chestnut Lane and Kneesworth Road:  Does the parish council wish to work with Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth on speed limit reduction on the stretch of road connecting the two parishes?  I have had requests from Kneesworth residents to look at this. The 60MPH limit could be considered anomalous against the 50MPH limits on nearby stretches of the A1198 and A10.

High Street near the station:  Station commuter parking on residential roads is legal but a nuisance for affected households.  A request to consider adapting the current yellow line scheme in the High Street near the station has come from one household.

Bus User Group:  A meeting was held in Meldreth on 27 September. Nearly 30 people attended from the wider area served by our subsidised bus service, all without private transport.  The 128 operator, Royston and District Community Transport and the County Council attended.  The situation for people dependent on bus services is very sobering,  in terms of increasing fares and pressures on viability of services.  I will circulate the notes of the meeting under separate cover.

Community Rail Partnership:   Community Rail Partnerships receive support from the Department for Transport and have access to grants for community projects.  CRPs should be consulted on transport-related projects, for example the rural travel hubs project. The Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton CRP is an overarching group with a strategic outlook, and the Rail User Group sits under it to deal with day to day train service issues.

While we are often working in frustration on rail related issues, the parish benefits from what the CRP has been able to secure and keep in place: 50% student rail discount for sixth formers (a unique arrangement nationally), greatly reduced parking charges, continuation of the booking office, and according to British Transport Police a significantly lower rate of crime and anti-social behaviour than we would expect at a station of this size.  We have good lines of communication with the rail industry and arrangements with local business that reduce the number of cars needing to access the station.

Given that the train service itself will greatly increase from next year, with new problems and opportunities, the CRP seems important to maintain.  Therefore, as you will remember,  last year funds were raised toward the establishment of a part-time paid post.  The CRP decided to establish a community interest company to provide an accountable financial and legal structure.  To this end, South Cambs District Council (which is a member of the CRP) has provided professional advice in the establishment of a CIC, agreed to initially host the CRP paid post to ease the administrative burden, and to contribute £5K per year for two years toward the post, which will top up the funds committed by Meldreth, Melbourn, Shepreth and Foxton Parish Councils and Govia Thameslink (£700 each).  The CIC Articles should be signed shortly, and the part-time paid post will be advertised next month.   At the same time, the CRP’s terms of reference will be refreshed to reflect these changes.  Working in cooperation with parish councils is fundamentally important and an invitation to join the partnership will be sent out as soon as all these administrative jobs are completed.

Hopefully, these changes will make the Community Rail Partnership a well-supported and sustainable endeavour that brings benefit to the local community.