Susan van de Ven

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

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Whaddon report

Whaddon Parish Council November 2019 – District and County Councillors’ Report

Bus News

  • The Cam Vale Bus User Group Nov 12 meeting at The Limes Bassingbourn has been rescheduled for the new year – date to be confirmed. 
  • Cross-border bus services: Excellent contact has been established with North Herts District Council’s transport officers on a range of common transport concerns, including bus, train and cycle links.  South Cambs and North Herts colleagues and Susan will be meeting with council bus officer representatives from both sides of the border to ascertain if and how we can pool resources to improve cross-border bus services.  
  • Busway Service A (Royston-Melbourn-Cambridge-St Ives): Susan has asked Stagecoach for an update on this service’s performance.  Stagecoach have responded to say that they are looking to enhance their services, and to introduce some new vehicles to the fleet, and will be holding a public consultation event soon – details to be shared as soon as available. 

Trains: E-tickets

Train journeys from our local stations can be made via e-ticketing.  Please note that paper tickets bought at the Meldreth Station booking office make a difference to keeping our manned office in place – so do please buy from ticket officer manager Bern Parsons whenever possible!  In addition, for promotional deals and complex journey best prices, please use Meldreth Station booking office.

Thetrainline app  https://www.thetrainline.com/ is a good place to buy a train ticket that provides a swipe-able bar code for tapping in and out on journeys originating or terminating at our local stations.  This app is set up to process rail card discounts, unlike the GTR app (next item).

The Govia Thameslink Key Go Smartcard  will be available for journeys from Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton to Cambridge and points north, in the next few weeks.  This is already available for travel south (the glitch being that Cambridge Station is operated by another train operating company, Greater Anglia, and their systems haven’t talked to each other until now).  Pedestals for Key Smartcard activation exist on both platforms at all three of our local stations.  This is a work in progress still with some limitations:  A season ticket can be uploaded onto the card and stored electronically, but the Cambridge Student Connect card for 16-18 year-olds cannot be uploaded electronically – a paper ticket continues to be required.

A debit or credit card is linked to the ‘Key Go’ card for tapping in and tapping out on journeys.  The cheapest fare for that journey will be applied.  However, for now, Railcards (16-25s, Senior Railcard, Network Card, etc) cannot yet be applied to the fare calculator.   

The Key Go card is currently only applicable to Thameslink network journeys, but the expectation is that it will be applicable nationwide on all networks. 

A Key Go card is currently available on-line only; the prospect of selling it at Meldreth Station is being explored.  Please visit here.  https://www.thameslinkrailway.com/tickets/the-key-smartcard

Cambridge North Station services: Unfortunately, as expected, the December 2019 timetable sees an end to this through journey; passengers travelling from Meldreth to Cambridge North will now need to change trains at Cambridge.  This is due to platform capacity issues and an increasingly busy and competitive timetable.  The Rail User Group has lobbied hard to retain the through service for obvious reasons; this is disappointing news but we will keep at it, as the timetable is always a work in progress with two updates every year (May and December).

Semi-fast service to London – The Rail User Group is still lobbying for the return of a semi-fast London service from Meldreth Shepreth and Foxton at peak time.

Passenger Benefit Fund:  Details are beginning to be announced – a full report is due soon.

Station car park fines

The Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group is tackling head-on what it considers to be exorbitant station car park fines at Shepreth, Meldreth and Royston, and intimidating pursuit of fines by the debt collecting agency subcontracted by the car park subcontractor.   The Rail User Group would be grateful to hear from anyone who has been caught out by such an experience: please contact railusergroup@gmail.com.

Cambs County Council

Fostering a Child

The County Council is trying very hard to dispel some myths around fostering, as we always need more foster families who are willing to help with the 600 or so children in care at any one time in Cambridgeshire. Fostering is a hugely rewarding role – have you ever thought about it? 

In particular, one myth is that foster carers do not receive any support with their work. However, all of our foster carers receive a generous allowance as well as 24-hour access to support and training with an allocated fostering social worker who is the main point of contact.

In fact, the only requirements are that prospective carers are over 21 and have a spare bedroom! You can be single, married, in a civil partnership, in rented accommodation or retired.  For more information on fostering (and adoption), see here. https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/children-and-families/fostering-and-adoption/

Charging for care

Cambridgeshire County Council is once again consulting on proposed new charges for people receiving adult social care services—in some cases the same charges it consulted on two years ago, which service users overwhelmingly rejected. The consultation runs until Sunday 15 December 2019: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/chargingforcare-yoursay

‘Plantlife’ Campaign

‘Plantlife’ campaign has launched its new road verge guidelines which aim to fundamentally transform the management of the UK’s verges. The guidelines provide practical advice on how local authorities can fulfil their biodiversity duties whilst reducing management burdens over time, using real life examples of how good management is already being implemented on the ground. Over 700 species and nearly 45 per cent of our total flora are found on our road verges. 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s, so these crucial habitats need to be properly managed. The less and later, two-cut approach suggested in the guidelines would replenish the seed bank, restore floral diversity, save councils money and provide pollinator habitat estimated to equal the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined.  A County Council team of members is asking highways officers for a briefing on what differences these guidelines would mean for Cambridgeshire, and how the council is planning to implement them.

Innovate and Cultivate Grants for Community Groups

The County Council’s next deadline for Innovate & Cultivate Fund applications is 1 February 2020. A pre-application advice session will be held on Tuesday 10 December, 9:30am-12:30pm at the William Collyn Community Centre in Girton. Please book here.

The aim of the fund is to support initiatives that strengthen our communities and reduce pressure on County Council services in adult social care and children and families.  The fund is open to voluntary, community and social enterprise sector organisations based in and outside of Cambridgeshire, and public sector organisations in Cambridgeshire.

 There are two funding streams: a ‘Cultivate’ fund for smaller projects that build community support networks and an ‘Innovate’ fund for bigger, bolder and more innovative initiatives.

The council is also launching Cultivate Seed Fund Projects that can help people to remain independent and active within their community, encourage volunteering and complement more costly Council services.  Projects include Timebanks, Good Neighbour Schemes, Dementia-Friendly Communities and Men’s Sheds.  See our webpages for details.

Upcoming application deadlines: 1st February 2020 – Cultivate grants (£2,000 – £19,000) and Innovate grants (£19,001 – £50,000) and 1st May 2020 – Cultivate grants only (£2,000 – £19,000)

Applications and further information about fund priorities and criteria may be found on the website. Cambridgeshire Community Foundation can answer questions about applying for the fund, at info@cambscf.org.uk

South Cambs District Council

Modern Day Slavery

In her role on the Local Government Association Safer Communities Board, South Cambs District Council Leader Bridget Smith has been hearing from the Commission reporting on Modern Day Slavery. This is happening on all our doorsteps and is often difficult to recognise.  Even more concerning is to hear that some people in prison are actually victims of slavery rather than perpetrators of crime. An example would be young people arrested for County Lines drug running, but who are actually being controlled through fear and coercion by organised crime gangs. The Commission will be demanding better support for victims, more robust punishment of the criminals and improved means of identifying modern day slavery. In South Cambs we know to keep a close eye on agricultural work gangs, tarmacking enterprises and car washes. Bridget was told that if you are paying under £6.50 for your car to be washed it is unlikely that people are receiving the minimum wage. If you have any concerns it is vital that you report it. Here is the way to do it:

Telephone call 101 – www.cambs.police.uk/report – Textphone 18001 101 or anonymous reporting Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111

New housing approach on Genome Campus  

Proposals to significantly expand a world-renowned genome campus have been backed by South Cambridgeshire District Council and will provide extra employment space and homes for staff.  The District Council meeting on 24 October supported an outline planning application to provide a further 150,000sqm of space for employment, conferencing and supporting facilities at the Wellcome Trust’s Genome Campus in Hinxton. There will be up to 1,500 homes for campus-based staff, 30% of which will be affordable.

The Wellcome Trust want to build on the scientific foundations of the campus to become the international centre for scientific, business, cultural and educational activities arising from genomes and biodata. It is estimated that around 4,300 new jobs will be created by the expansion of the campus.  The proposal also includes land for a new school, a nursery and community facilities and provides public open spaces and allotments. There will also be shops and food and drink outlets, new cycling and walking paths, road crossing points and alterations to local roads including a new roundabout on the A1301. A fitness centre and health centre are also included in the plans.

Cutting-edge genome and biodata research is carried out by around 2,500 people who currently work at the campus, which the Wellcome Trust says is now getting full. The site currently has around 75,000sqm of employment space and conferencing facilities.  The campus is proposed to be opened up to provide public access, which would enable surrounding communities to use a range of open space and facilities. 

Parking on Pavements – update

Contrary to communication from the Police at a July Parish Council Liaison meeting, when it was suggested that reporting pavement parking three times would result in Police action, the following Police communication has now been received.  This is in the process of being challenged by SCDC.  The Police are now saying:

“There is no longer an ethical case to focus police resource on parking when there is, immediate and growing violent crime and safeguarding to issues tackle.

–        Whilst our increase in officers will be focused on these serious matters it will mean some extra time can be given to matters such as parking. Remember however time ‘on the beat’ is precious and over 101 parishes remains a challenge

–        PCSOs are often perceived as having very simple front-line roles, this is not the case, a good deal of their time is spent helping officers tackling priority issues such as risks to young people, the elderly and vulnerable.

–        22

[traffic]

interventions is positive, but proves the rather useless nature of enforcement, as over time we have proven without doubt that enforcement makes no long term difference.  Whilst seeing tickets on windscreens is satisfying for a moment in time a new way must be found to tackle this issue, we have tried to be innovative and offer some alternative ideas.

–        We have worked with SCDC who have similar challenges with balancing resource, budgets and officer’s time against what is a persistent but low risk issues.”

Finally, the Police ask that reporting for non-emergency matters be made on line.  https://www.cambs.police.uk/

Mayor and Combined Authority – more powers?

It is rather extraordinary to note that Government has written to the Mayor confirming the Prime Minister’s “commitment to levelling up the powers of city region mayors and their combined authorities across the country.”  What does this mean for us? 

It means that the Mayor is being asked to take on a number of extra powers. These include (but are by no means limited to): Local authority duties and functions relating to young persons or young adults being in education, employment or training, Duty for provision of shops and recreation grounds, Strategic planning, Functions of Homes England including powers of land acquisition and disposal, Promotion of road safety, Functions to improve public health – the list goes on.

Some important issues here:

Firstly, devolution and the creation of the Mayoralty was supposed to bring power to the lowest common denominator – meaning us, the people. Here the Mayor is being offered a wide range of duties currently run by the County Council. As more and more powers are invested into the hands of one person our local democracy can only wither and disappear.  Secondly the County Council is investing huge quantities of public money into a new HQ at Alconbury Weald. Why? It should be clear by now that there is no certain future for the County Council.   Thirdly, how is one person – even if they were brilliant and efficient – able to have at their fingertips full control of all of these disparate and complex issues in order to make decisions that up to now have required a full democratic process?