Whaddon Parish Council, January 2018, County Councillor Report
County Council Finances: The County Council’s finances for the current year continue to worsen. The People & Communities Directorate is now projected to be £5.562M overspent compared to November’s projection of £4.388M. The Economy Transport & Environment Directorate is now expecting to have balanced its spending by the end of the year, but is currently overspent by £1.6M on waste services, though this is likely to be partly offset by underspends in some other areas such as concessionary bus fares and street lighting. The street lighting underspend of £384,000 is useful financially, but is in fact penalties clawed back from the contractor for poor performance.
Budget preparations: County Council committees have been reviewing initial proposals for cutting spending and increasing income. It appears that one set of proposals, for raising more charges on adults receiving social care, is already likely to be shelved. The council needs to cut £37.9M from its budget for next year, in addition to addressing the current level of overspending. Committees have received proposals for achieving these reductions, but even if all these were to be agreed, £2.738M of savings are still to be identified.
Meanwhile, in a comparison with 26 other similar English counties, Cambridgeshire stands out for its two years’ council tax freeze (probably now headed for a third). This has had a cumulative impact on base council tax and makes pressures on funding public services that bit more challenging. Just before Christmas Government signalled that a general council tax rise of 3% would be permitted, without a referendum.
Shire Hall move: A County Council working party is still 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.
Bus consultation extension: As you know the County Council has been running a consultation on the 127/128 bus; this has now been extended to the end of January. The proposed changes, which include amalgamating the two routes, come at the initiative of the operator, and the consultation is being supported by the Cam Vale Bus User Group. Thanks to Lee Ginger for attending these meetings and ensuring that Whaddon is represented.
Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership Project Officer post: Please note this paid post advertised on the South Cambs District Council website. Applications due Jan 21.
Background: The paid post to which Meldreth, Melbourn, Shepreth and Foxton solar funds and parish councils, together with Govia Thameslink Railway, contributed equal amounts (£700 each) is now advertised on the SCDC website. SCDC has topped up the fund for a two-year part time post (two lots of £5K over two years), and is providing temporary administrative support including payroll. A ‘Meldreth, Melbourn, Shepreth and Foxton Community Interest Company’ has now been established to provide legal and financial accountability for the CRP’s new venture, given that it is holding public money. The CIC has three Directors: one is Chair of Foxton Parish Council Finance Committee, one is Chair of Governors at Melbourn Primary School and one is Chair of Melbourn Village College Finance Committee. The original parish contributions were aimed at supporting a six-month paid post on fewer hours so this has turned out to be a much more significant post that we’d hoped for. Whaddon Parish Council will be invited to a meeting of the Community Rail Partnership once it is set up with the new post. Please note this is not the same as the Rail User Group – that is a public meeting with the train operator to deal with day to day service issues, as opposed to community development and strategic planning for developing improved access to rail. The Rail User Group will be part of the Partnership, so one component in the overall effort.
Children’s Centre service changes: I 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 I have no meaningful information to convey to you. I have arranged to meet officers at the end of this month, and would be glad to take any questions you may have.
Recycling – visit to Waterbeach Waste Management Park: As you know, the District Council is responsible for collecting waste and the County Council for disposing of it. Over the Christmas period questions came in from residents concerned about the end of the paper caddy in our blue bins, and we can do about plastic consumption – inspired and distressed by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet TV show. You may also have read that China and Hong Kong have announced (also inspired by David Attenborough) that UK plastic waste will no longer be received for recycling there – posing a massive immediate challenge in Cambridgeshire and elsewhere. Our 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 all do to make a positive difference, I’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. I will provide more details shortly via my email newsletter.
Be a Councillor?: I’ve circulated an invitation to Whaddon and neighbouring parish councils and all district council colleagues, and have had many positive responses. If suitable for the Whaddon website/village email, here’s the text I sent round:
Be a Councillor?
I’m writing to invite you to an event I’m organizing for 3 February.
Four years ago I organized an informal drop-in event at Meldreth Village Hall, in advance of parish and district council elections, called ‘Be a Councillor?’ This was aimed at encouraging anyone in the wider community who might be thinking of becoming a councillor, at whatever level of local government, to come along and talk to people currently carrying out the role to learn more about what it might involve. I invited parish and district councillors from all six parishes within my county division and advertised it in all parish newsletters.
It turned out to be the first time that many parish councillors from neighbouring parishes within the same county division had met one another – indeed an unintended positive consequence was the opportunity to set frameworks to think collectively about common local interests.
To repeat this event ahead of another round of parish and district elections, I have booked the Elin Way Meldreth Community Room on Saturday 3 February from 3-5 PM, for an open-house type event.
This email is being sent to the clerks and chairs of four parish councils in the Melbourn and Bassingbourn County Division, plus district council colleagues, and also Shepreth parish council, given the anomalies in district/county boundary pockets. It is intended as an informal occasion for residents in our general area, to benefit from the experience of past and present councillors – so please feel free to circulate. I hope you will be able to attend.