We are writing to you, as councillors and campaigners for our interlinked cluster of villages, to keep you informed of local issues involving the District and County Councils. If you would prefer not to receive this email newsletter, please reply asking to be removed from the distribution list. If you know of someone not receiving this newsletter who would like to do so, please ask them to contact firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BASSINGBOURN SCHOOL CROSSING: TEXTING AT THE WHEEL
Drivers texting at the wheel is an increasing problem everywhere. Distracted by texting at the wheel, and stopping just in time, has become an all-too-frequent occurrence on the Bassingbourn staggered junction of North End, South End, the High Street and Brook Road – infamously described by County Council officers as Cambridgeshire’s worst school crossing point due to blind bends that prevent a safe controlled crossing point.
Last month the Bassingbourn School Crossing Patrol Officer and Susan met the Highways Road Safety engineer, whose approval is required for any new measures. They identified a list of potential measures which, collectively as a broad scheme, could mitigate current pressures. The goal is to get drivers to pay attention to pedestrians. The findings will be presented to the January 23rd Parish Council meeting.
MAKING THE WORST OF A BAD SITUATION
The County Council’s finances continue to worsen, ahead of next month’s budget meeting when £40M will need to be cut (or ‘saved’ in official speak). Committees have received proposals for spending reductions, but even if all these were to be agreed, well over £4M of savings are still to be identified.
Why are we in this mess? Two reasons: 1) Government is in the process of switching off the revenue funding tap completely – and that’s where a substantial proportion of council revenue funding has traditionally come from. 2) For the past three years, council tax, has not been allowed to rise, not even with inflation. This is now our main source of revenue. Most councils allow council tax to rise at Government permitted levels (usually about 2% annually).
Cambridgeshire is almost unique in freezing council tax, on the premise of saving people money but in fact necessitating even further cuts to essential services – often affecting people who most need support. It’s a false economy: if the Council forgoes a permitted council tax rise this year and loses its subsidized buses as a result, the savings in council tax per Band D household will barely cover a couple of taxi journeys to Royston.
If we’d raised council tax by the permitted 2% in 2014, 2015 and 2016, we’d now have £50M more to invest in public services.
Why did the ruling group allow this to happen? The ruling Conservatives were scared of losing more seats to UKIP and adopted their tax policies.
Does all this really have anything to do with you? Yes. A few examples are cuts to adult social care have led to more hospital stays and pressures on the NHS, potholes and broken pavements aren’t being repaired, children’s centres are being shut or reduced, and 16-18 year olds no longer receive any support for transport to education and training.
This year, the Council is permitted to raise council tax by 3%, which would raise £7.5M. It wouldn’t be enough to correct the underinvestment of the last four years, but it’s a start.
Even while squeezing council employees and public services, the ruling Conservatives have been taking more money for themselves in allowances – nearly £200,000 more than recommended by an Independent Remuneration Panel.
BREXIT IN SOUTH CAMBS: DUTIES OF CARE
Mindful of the profound and inextricable link between Brexit options and the local economy, Liberal Democrat councillors are proposing the following two motions at the upcoming South Cambs District Council meeting:
Impact analysis: “This Council allocates the sum of £10,000 towards the cost of commissioning, in collaboration with other councils and interested bodies, an analysis of the impact of leaving the European Union on the economy of Cambridgeshire in order to support residents and businesses in planning for Brexit.”
Single market: “This Council recognises that a significant part of South Cambridgeshire’s economy is dependent on frictionless trade with the EU, both in goods and services. This Council therefore requests that the Chief Executive write to the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU and to the Prime Minister to request that during the withdrawal negotiations, the government seeks to remain part of the single market and customs union.”
BUS CONSULTATION – STILL TIME TO RESPOND
As you know the County Council has been running a consultation on the 127/128 bus; this has been extended to the end of January. http://www.bassingbourn.org/238/service-127-bus-user-questionnaire/
The proposed changes, which include amalgamating the two routes and bringing Bassingbourn and Meldreth/Melbourn circuits into one, come at the initiative of the operator, and are being monitored by the Cam Vale Bus User Group. The December meeting was supported by the chair of Whaddon Parish Council and three Bassingbourn Parish Councillors, for which many thanks. Needless to say, an eagle eye must be kept on Council budgets and subsidies for next year. Any questions please contact us.
CHILDREN’S CENTRE CHANGES?
We continue to ask the County Council for details of changes that local families can expect from April 1st when the £900K reduction is spending takes effect. To date no meaningful information has been received, but Susan is meeting officers at the end of this month and would be glad to take any questions.
PARK AND RIDE CHARGES TO BE DROPPED, BUT
The Greater Cambridge Partnership has agreed to subsidize the removal of Park and Ride charges from April. Since the £1 charge was introduced, use of the sites has dropped significantly. Councillors have asked the Board also to review P & R opening times and the Stagecoach bus schedules that serve them – in particular for people working early and late, and for night time leisure activities in Cambridge.
Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable way of financing Park and Ride. Greater Cambridge Partnership funding is a one-off grant intended for infrastructure development, rather than supporting ordinary council services.
SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVING CARE: CAN YOU OFFER TIME AND SPACE?
The County Council has relaunched the ‘Supported Lodgings’ scheme and is looking for people with a spare room or annex who can support a young person aged 16-21 leaving care. Carers can be from a wide range of backgrounds and walks of life. An allowance of £250 per week is paid to them while they have a young person in placement. Although the Supported Lodgings scheme requires less intensive support than other types of foster care, carers do need to be able to make time for the young people in their care, as well as offer advice on all aspects of independent living such as cooking, washing and budgeting.
For more information please contact Cambs County Council’s Fostering Service on 0800 052 0078 or visit our Supported Lodgings webpage. https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/children-and-families/fostering-and-adoption/fostering-in-cambridgeshire/types-of-fostering/supported-lodgings/
This is a paid caring role with a fixed tax-free allowance of £10,000 per year plus an extra £250 for each person supported each week or part thereof.
YOUTH COUNCIL: HELPING YOUNG PEOPLE TO BECOME FUTURE LEADERS
Philippa has been investigating examples of youth councils elsewhere in the country, as part of her participation in a Future Leaders scheme. A good example arose from Somerset, where the age range was 12-19, comprising 12 members including a Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary. Elections could be held if seats were over-subscribed. Additionally, there were two non-voting members: a youth club representative and a member of the parish council.
The geographical remit was the parish, which makes sense in terms of feeding ideas back to the relevant local influencers. Most excitingly, it seems often easier for young people to apply for grants, and an early success was winning a £50k grant to upgrade the local youth club. Meetings were initially once fortnightly, then once monthly thereafter. There was also a yearly residential trip as a team building exercise. Philippa is reporting back to Meldreth and Shepreth in her District Councillor role.
BE A COUNCILLOR?
An informal drop-in event will take place on Saturday 3 February, 3-5PM, at the Elin Way Community Room Meldreth for anyone who would like to know more about the role of a parish, district or county councillor by speaking to someone currently in the role. While the event takes place in Meldreth, it is open to anyone who’d like to come along – including any past or present councillors. Please do attend if you are at all inclined to find out more. All welcome – of any political persuasion or none.
RECYCLING: EXTRA BLUE BINS AVAILABLE
Since paper caddies are no longer the means to put out paper for recycling, extra waste which residents are struggling to fit into blue bins has been rejected on some collection rounds. This is the advice which has been received from SCDC:
If the blue bin is full, excess recyclable material will be collected if placed in one transparent sack next to the blue bin. Please put any glass in your blue bin, not in the sack for safety reasons. One bundle of cardboard may be left next to your bin if it is of a size which would fit inside the bin if there were space. Please tape or tie into a bundle to assist collection. Please do not use other colour wheeled bins for your excess recycling. If residents find that they regularly have extra blue bin recycling, they can apply for an additional blue bin for free, via this link. https://www.scambs.gov.uk/recycling
Philippa is testing this service, and has received a new blue bin – but has found only one place selling transparent bags, which is Sainsbury’s. The Council does not supply them.
VISIT OUR RECYCLING PLANT & GET INSIDE A LANDFILL CRATER
We’ve had questions from people concerned about plastic consumption – inspired and distressed by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet TV show. The announcement by China and Hong Kong that they will no longer accept the importation of UK plastic waste will have a major impact on this country, focusing minds. Meanwhile, other Cambridgeshire waste is disposed of at the 165-hectare Waste Management Park just north of Waterbeach, on a County Council contract with Amey.
To find out more about the current state of recycling and what we can do to make a positive difference, we’ve liaised with the Park to arrange two open-day visits: 15 February (half-term), either 10-12AM or 2-4PM; and 27 February, 10-12AM. The minimum age for visitors is six and children are especially encouraged to visit. A tour of the site is followed by a workshop session with a chance to ask questions. If you’d like to come along, please contact Jonathan.email@example.com. And if you would like to attend and are up for lift-sharing, either as a passenger or driver, please contact us and we’ll put people in touch.
MELDRETH LITTER PICK
Although litter has not built up to the same levels as encountered last year, Philippa and Graham Borgonon propose a repeat litter pick to take place on March 4th. This coincides with the Keep Britain Tidy and Great British Spring Clean campaigns. If you’d like to take part, please bring gloves and high viz vests, and meet at 9AM at the water pumping station opposite 24 Fenny Lane. Litter picking devices will be provided.
Philippa would be very happy to be contacted by anyone wishing to run a litter pick in any village, or compare notes with other organisers.
COMMUNITY ENERGY FUND: PLUGGED IN
Jose reports: South Cambs District Council has set up an annual £55,000 grant pot to help community buildings across South Cambridgeshire become more energy efficient and help reduce energy consumption. The Community Energy Grant Fund will allow community groups to bid for funds from March next year. Organisations will be invited to bid for funding for initiatives ranging from insulation and lighting and heating controls for community buildings, to the installation of electric vehicle charging points.
The new scheme will provide £55,000 each year for parish councils, charities, voluntary groups, sports and social clubs and not-for-profit organisations. The maximum yearly grant will be £3,000 per organisation to make sure that the fund is distributed across a wide range of projects throughout the district.
The scheme will be funded from the business rates it retains from new renewable energy generation sites within the district so it can return some of the benefits from large scale renewable energy sites to the community. For more information please contact Jose.
REMINDER: GREENWAYS CONSULATION
A reminder that Greenways consultation events are happening soon – there will be five events geared to the ‘Melbourn and Comberton’ area, including one on 25 January, 5:30-8:00PM at the Melbourn Hub. It’s great to see that Royston has been included in the Melbourn Greenways report, as a start to addressing people’s everyday needs in our area. More information here. https://www.greatercambridge.org.uk/transport/transport-projects/greenways/
A10 CORRIDOR CYCLING CAMPAIGN: AGM AND MEETING 31 JANUARY
Thanks to Sartorius Stedim, Royston, for their generosity in hosting another meeting of the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign. This will also be the campaign’s AGM. The agenda is posted on at a10corridorcycle.com and the venue is directly opposite Royal Mail on the Royston Industrial Estate. Anyone interested in lending a hand or taking up a role in the campaign, please write to:
DRIVING THE COMMUNITY SWEEPER
A strong cluster of volunteers has come forward to help with this scheme and will shortly be receiving health and safety and operational training. Two volunteers are from Melbourn, one is from Foxton, and two are from Royston. They will be driving the South Cambs street sweeping vehicle on two separate routes: around Melbourn and the A10 cycle path. These routes will be agreed by the volunteers, and the scheme is being coordinated locally by Jose and Susan. Very many thanks to our volunteers – and if you missed this but would like to take part in the next round of training, do please contact us.
MELDRETH, SHEPRETH AND FOXTON RAIL USER GROUP MEETING: 5 FEBRUARY
The next meeting of the Rail User Group is 5 February, 7 for 7:30-9:00PM, upstairs at the Melbourn Hub. All welcome. An agenda will be posted nearer the time at meldrethsheprethfoxtonrail.org.uk
REMINDER – PART-TIME LOCAL JOB: COMMUNITY RAIL PARTNERSHIP
A new paid role is being created to support the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership. This will be a locally based part-time role. Applications due 21 January.
NETWORK RAIL PUBLIC INQUIRY UPDATE
The case for not closing the level crossing south of Meldreth Station Bridge was made by a number of local residents who gave up significant time to prepare for and testify at the Network Rail Public Inquiry in December. It’s worth noting that Network Rail intend to close ALL level crossings in the coming decade-plus. The issue here is the closure of a right-of-way on a well-used public footpath network, and a proposal to divert people over Meldreth Station bridge, which is not fit for purpose. No convincing case has been presented by Network Rail as to the need for the closure.
A vast space in the Bar Hill Hallmark Hotel was rented out for several weeks, and many highly experienced Council officers were required to spend a huge amount of valuable time just waiting to be called, and therefore unable to carry out their ordinary work. Susan intends to submit an FOI request on the cost of the Inquiry, after the result is known. The Inspector still needs a couple of months to write her report, and then we wait for the Secretary of State to make a formal decision.
OXFORD-CAMBRIDGE RAIL AND WHAT IT COULD MEAN FOR BASSINGBOURN AND BEYOND
The National Infrastructure Commission has published a report catchily entitled, ‘Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford Future Planning Options Project’. This appears to have been commissioned in anticipation of the Varsity (Oxford to Cambridge) Railway Line being re-opened/opened. You can access the document via this link:
While set in the long-term future, the headline information is the proposal for a new town with a railway station at Bassingbourn (p.78) and new ‘String City’ at Sandy. Consultation on Network Rail’s proposed routing of the Varsity Line is set to commence this year. The line itself looks as though it skirts alongside the River Cam from Bassingbourn via Malton to join up with the Great Northern line somewhere between Shepreth and Foxton.
RURAL TRANSPORT HUBS
Neither Meldreth nor Shepreth was included in the three villages going forward in the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s pilot Rural Transport Hub scheme (honours go to Sawston, Oakington and Whittlesford). Nevertheless, plans have been unilaterally published proposing additional parking at both stations, but on pieces of land which both have live planning applications for housing on them. We are finding out more.
CAN’T MANAGE THE MELDRETH STATION STEPS FOR YOUR TRAIN? FREE TAXI PROVIDED
We continue to field questions about the inaccessibility of Meldreth Station for people with any mobility needs, including prams and pushchairs. Great Northern will provide a free taxi lift for whichever leg of your journey you can’t manage due to the impediment of the steps over the tracks. You will need to book ahead of time but this should be routine: please contact Govia Thameslink Railway Assisted Travel to find out about all the options. https://www.thameslinkrailway.com/travel-information/travel-help/assisted-travel/accessibility-at-the-station
LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATION
The ongoing saga of South Cambs suspended Local Plan is limping to its conclusion. A consultation on the Planning Inspector’s proposed modifications to the Plan has been launched. Comments are only permitted to be made on the modifications, not any new business. The key issues are:
The consultation is set to end at 5pm on Friday 16th February. For more information, please follow this link: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/news/have-your-say-on-local-plan-modifications.
It looks highly unlikely the Inspector will report before purdah for local elections starts on 23rd March (during which the Council may not make key decisions) so even assuming there are no more modifications after the consultation, we will not have a Local Plan in place until the middle of the year.
Lib Dem councilors are asking the ruling Conservatives how much the Local Plan has cost to date.
SHIRE HALL MOVE
A County Council working party is working on proposals to move the council’s HQ out of Shire Hall in Cambridge which is expensive to maintain. Options it is developing for alternative new premises are Alconbury and Northstowe. With the new Mayor having proposed to review local government arrangements in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, however, it is not clear that there will continue to be a County Council. The District Council office remains at Cambourne.
SWIMMING FOR HOME-START
Philippa visited Royston and South Cambridgeshire Home-Start’s Meldreth HQ to learn more about the way Home-Start finds the money to run its operation. Funding cuts from Cambridge County Council in 2010 meant a loss of around £50,000 for the organisation. Combined with further cuts from Herts in 2015, fundraising become increasingly high on Home-Start’s agenda. The reason for Philippa’s sponsored swim is to highlight the great work done by Home-Start whose team of trained volunteers’ contribution is even more vital now that Cambs County Council has also slashed £900,000 from Cambridgeshire’s Children’s Centres budget. The team is already seeing signs of government programmes being withdrawn or cut short and families instead being referred to Home-Start.
It costs Home-Start around £1500 to support one family for a year. They have calculated that they need to raise £141,000 this year to run their fantastic programmes. If you would like to support Philippa – who has swum 9 miles of her 21-mile target – please go to https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/philippahart1 where it is very easy to donate direct to the charity online.
DROP-IN ADVICE SURGERY
We hold monthly advice surgeries:
Jose, Philippa and Susan are at the Melbourn Hub every first Monday of the month, 3-4PM.
Susan is at the Limes Community Room Bassingbourn every third Monday of the month, 3-4PM.
Or please contact us any time with any questions or concerns and we’ll do our best to help.
ANY ITEMS WE CAN HELP TO RAISE?
We would be delighted to address any concerns you may have, or help raise awareness of issues affecting our community via this newsletter.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. Learn more about or join the Liberal Democrats at http://www.libdems.org.uk
Philippa, Jose and Susan
Philippa Hart, District Councillor for Meldreth and Shepreth
firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel 07811323571
Jose Hales, District Councillor for Melbourn, Heydon and the Chishills
email@example.com, Tel 01763 221058
Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon