Whaddon Parish Council, County Councillor Report October 2017
Deposits on third party-funded Highways projects: As you know, this new policy accounts for any works not covered by the LHI scheme (& reflects persisting budget cuts). 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). 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. There is some common-sense leverage in the role that county councillors can provide by sounding officers out informally at the outset of a project idea.
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. The 127/128 operator, Royston and District Community Transport and the County Council attended. The situation for people dependent on bus services is very sobering. Significant fare rises (over £6 to Royston and back) has apparently caused a reduction in ridership. Take-up of sixth formers of the lift service to Meldreth Station has been very poor – four people out of the 21 who’d expressed interest have paid and are using the service, which cannot continue unless patronage increases.
Community Rail Partnership: Thanks to Nigel Strudwick for attending the Rail User Group meeting at Meldreth last week. I thought it might be useful to include this synopsis of what the overarching Community Rail Partnership is about, as the aspiration is to ask parish councils if they’d like to join.
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, parishes benefit from what the CRP has been able to nurture and keep in place: 50% student rail discount for sixth formers (a unique arrangement nationally), greatly reduced parking charges at Meldreth and free at Shepreth, continuation of the Meldreth booking office, and according to British Transport Police a significantly lower rate of crime and anti-social behaviour than we would expect at stations with similar footfall. The CRP has good lines of communication with the rail industry and arrangements with local business that reduce the number of cars needing to access the stations, for example the shuttle minibus operating from Melbourn Science Park and the discounted entry at Shepreth Wildlife Park for customers arriving by train.
Given that the train service itself will greatly increase from next year, with new problems and opportunities, the CRP seems important to maintain. Therefore, last year funds were raised toward the establishment of a part-time paid post to help manage a growing workload. 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.