Meldreth Parish Council – District and County Councillors Report, April 2019
Empty Homes: South Cambs is planning to increase the council tax on houses that have been left empty for a significant amount of time. The Council offers a lot of help to landlords and owners of empty homes to help them get them back into use, but now has the option to significantly increase council tax where there are no convincing reasons for them to remain empty.
Currently the owners of homes that are left empty and substantially unfurnished for more than two years must pay an extra 50% on top of the regular bill. Following the full Council meeting, the 50% premium will be replaced by the following arrangements:
Currently in South Cambridgeshire, there are 100 properties that have been empty for between two years and five years. There are 41 homes that have been empty for between five and ten years. There are 39 properties that have been empty for more than ten years.
The number of council houses built by SCDC to double: This follows the Lib Dem administration’s decision to prioritise providing affordable homes – the aim will be to build 70 homes per year . The administration will also insist that from 2020 new homes are built to higher environmental standards, meaning reduced carbon emissions and lower energy bills for householders.
Solar Panels at Waterbeach Depot: SCDC has installed a large array of solar photo voltaic panels on the roof of the waste management depot at Waterbeach. The money to do this has come from a fund resulting from the business rates from the large number of solar farms in the district. This initiative will generate income for the council which it can invest in other green enterprises. The solar panels will generate around a quarter of all the electricity the building uses. This follows on from a recent Council commitment to work towards the ambitious target of making South Cambridgeshire carbon-neutral by 2050, as well as a purge on single-use plastics at the authority.
Local Plan: The government inspector requires us to now embark on a new joint Local Plan with Cambridge City and this is now getting underway. The first piece of work is to ask landowners to come forward and tell us about any land they are prepared to offer up for future development.
The consultation is to identify potential sites that can be technically assessed for housing and economic development, to meet the needs identified for the District, for inclusion in our next local plan. Anyone can put forward sites, but it is usually landowners, developers, land promoters, businesses, local interest groups, parish councils, local property agents, neighbourhood forums.
Not all the sites that are submitted will be included in the plan: this will depend on the spatial strategy the council decides on, and the assessment of the sites based on several factors including whether they are suitable, available, achievable, and viable. The selected sites will then go through the Local Plan process and become part of the adopted policy when the plan is found sound and adopted.
Mental Health support evening at the Hub, March 13: This event had a strong gathering of local residents. The Mind CPSL presentation raised awareness of the NHS 111 Option 2 phone line for people in a mental health crisis, which has proven effective in providing a far better support route than A&E.
Ofsted of CCC’s Children’s Services: Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children’s Services has recently been assessed by Ofsted. Sadly, Ofsted have downgraded the council’s children’s services from ‘good’ (in 2014), to ‘requires improvement’ less than five years later. This is not a ‘vote of confidence’ in the quality of Children’s Services in Cambridgeshire, as described by the County’s own press release, but a clear sign that the quality of children’s services has moved in the wrong direction. Details in the appendix.
Removal of computer charge in libraries: A report proposing the withdrawal of charges for computer access in libraries will be discussed shortly by the County Council. The £1 charge for computer access, introduced in May last year 2018, was part of a package of measures based on public feedback and trialled to ensure computers are available for those who most need them and to generate more income for the library service to ensure they remain financially sustainable for the future. In September, Members reviewed progress on these measures, including the charge for computer access. The recommendation to withdraw the computer charge comes in response to this review, as well as feedback collected in a customer survey and a detailed analysis of the anticipated income – all of which was entirely predictable.
Manor Farm, Girton: We would not normally write about individuals. However, we have been asked about this matter quite a lot, especially given its recent appearance in Private Eye. The Deputy Leader of the County Council was granted the tenancy of a County Council owned farm, and currently enjoys a rent abatement on that tenancy. Councillors had recommended an investment of £183,000 in an extension to the property (which the tenant will repay over time), without initially knowing that the tenant was a senior councillor. The councillor concerned chaired the Council’s former Assets sub-committee that had had responsibility for the Farms estate, and was the lead member for the council’s ‘Outcome Focused Review’ of the County Farms Estate and member champion for the council’s Farms Estate.
Community RePaint: A partnership with CCC, Cambridgeshire Community Reuse and Recycling Network (CCORRN) and Amey has collected and treated over 500,000 litres of paint in the last 8 years. The scheme collects used paint from Household Recycling Centres where it is sorted, tested and re-manufactured so that it can be resold or donated into the community. The scheme has a range of re-manufactured emulsion paint and chalky furniture paint in a host of great colours for great prices. So, if you are thinking of redecorating, upcycling or know of a community or school project that needs paint, why not visit CCORRN (located in March) or follow them on Facebook.