by Hazel Smith on 7 February, 2018
County Councillor’s Report for Parishes – January 2018 – Anna Bradnam
for Milton, Landbeach, Waterbeach, Chittering, Horningsea and Fen Ditton
Cambridgeshire County Council aims to make savings in 2018-19 of £35 million on top of the £215 million saved since 2011. The ruling group have asked the Officers to deliver services more cheaply, without having an impact on those services. Such changes are delivered under the umbrella of ‘Transformation’ and ‘doing things differently’. It is probable that some improvements can be made but essentially this is bound to mean fewer services. I fear the comfortably off will survive but those least able to cope will suffer the most. Since the leading party at the County Council has repeatedly decided to keep our income from local taxation as low as possible in recent years, Cambridgeshire is now just about the worst funded County Council in the country and consequently provides probably the worst services.
Some mitigation of the worst impacts could be achieved by raising the council tax by the maximum permitted amount. At present the ruling group is proposing to raise council tax for 2018/19 by the permitted 2% for adult social services but not by the extra 2% for other services. The government has now raised the cap for other services to 3%. We wait to see how the ruling group will respond.
Even an extra 2% would not go very far in solving the council’s funding problems but it would at least provide just over £5 million extra to invest in roads, libraries and children’s services, for example, and give a higher tax-base for the future. If the option of the extra 2% had been taken since 2015-16, the County Council’s income would by now by over £15 million higher and this would rise to £21 million by 2018-19, still not enough to prevent service reductions but at least it would help to mitigate the worst effects.
We have already been through a consultation seeking to make savings of £900,000 in Children’s Services. Despite strong opposition in debate and a Lib Dem petition signed by 4,000 residents, the County Council voted through funding cuts to Children’s Centres across Cambridgeshire. This means there will be fewer services in some Centres and other Centres will close or be re-located. These Centres offer crucial services for children’s development and vital support for parents. It is proposed that these services will be replaced by outreach but we fear these savings will simply store up problems for the future.
Street lighting – windfall will not be spent on street lighting Under Balfour Beatty’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract for street lighting, there have been deductions for unsatisfactory performance and there is a forecast underspend of £384,000 in the budget for 2017/18 because fewer lights have been lit than agreed under the contract and because of a lack of repairs and inspection. Opposition councillors asked for this to be spent on replacing some of the lights that have been removed but the leading party refused.
Cambridge Underground? You may have seen articles in the local press about the Cambridge Metro. The Mayor fought his election in 2017 on the basis of light rail for Cambridge and only recently and reluctantly agreed with the Greater Cambridge Partnership to have the principle of a mass transit system independently evaluated. The consultants’ report is due to be published in the New Year but James Palmer revealed a late draft of the report ahead of time, which is why the press picked up the story.
The reason for the Mayor’s breach of protocol, is that the report indicates that light rail might not be the best solution, so I can only assume he was making his excuses early. The preferred option is an electrically-powered vehicle which can run on the road, effectively an electric bus, small enough to go through underground tunnels. These tunnels may link west Cambridge to the east end of Mill Road and the centre to the P&R sites but there is no indication of where a central underground station might be built as yet. There will be many steps along the way before this or any similar concept is agreed. For the time being the main concerns is how it would be funded.
Waterbeach New Town Supplementary Planning Document – Joint Parishes Meeting.
At our meeting on 21 December, we had a useful question and answer session on the main issues, acknowledging that little can be done until the Local Plan has been agreed, the A10 Corridor Study has reported and we know the Mayor’s intentions for funding. Paul Mumford is moving from SCDC to a new job and Katie Parry is taking maternity leave – so we welcomed Michael Huntington who will work with Andrew Winter and Mott Macdonald to bring forward the SPD. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 7 February 2018.
Litter picking on the Cam towpath – I am trying to arrange meetings with the Conservators of the Cam to discuss a proper Agreement with the SCDC/City Shared Waste Service and for collection of the rubbish.
Planning Cambridge North Station – the Joint Development Control Committee (JDCC) objected to Brookgate’s initial proposal for the Office Block to be hard up against the edge of the existing approved cycle path, which crosses Station Square down to Moss Bank. This clever arrangement (not!) would have seen pedestrians exiting the building straight into the path of cyclists. I am pleased to report that Brookgate returned to the JDCC in December with a proposal to shift the whole office block back from the edge of the curtilage and slightly further north, which should provide a 2m corridor between the cycle path and the office doors. This is a significant improvement.
Following public consultation, the JDCC has also seen presentations of the proposed ‘Wing’ development between Newmarket Road and High Ditch Road and another on land north of Cherry Hinton village and Marshalls Airport.
Gritting – residents commuting via Cambridge North Station down through Moss Bank have fallen off their bikes on ice in the recent cold weather. I have been trying to find out which authority might be responsible for gritting the Cycle/footpath. This has proved to be complicated, as it turns out that some pedestrian routes are gritted voluntarily, which I think is currently the case for the Jane Coston Bridge, although we’d like to get this done formally.
Rail – Fen Road Chesterton Level Crossing – I remain concerned about the length of time for which the barriers are down since Cambridge North Station opened. I am working with Officers to discuss with Network Rail the Risk Assessments which require generous time allowances for down-time at the crossing and if these can be adjusted at all. I am also seeking last minute re-consideration of the land in different ownership south of the crossing, to seek any possibilities for achieving a pedestrian exit from Fen Road down to the Rive towpath, when the barriers are down. This is terribly complicated because there are multiple landowners but I feel something must be done to avoid trapping some 500 residents and 50 employees on the wrong side of the crossing for long periods of time.
Waterbeach – Now that the developers have started to build the footpath along the north side of Bannold Road, it is obvious that they haven’t had any discussions with Balfour Beatty about moving the street lamps first. So now there are lamp posts in the middle of the footpath. I have raised this with Officers but it is not clear to me how or if they intend to enforce the approved drawings which show the street lamps at the back edge of the footpath.
Mobile Vehicle Activated Sign – before Christmas, Josh Rutherford (County Highways) and I visited and agreed potential locations for the sign in Landbeach, Waterbeach and Milton.
Milton – Ely Road Bus Stop – I am seeking a meeting with Jon Finney to agree the location.
Fen Ditton – I have met with the parish council and with residents to discuss the proposed parking restriction order on High Ditch Road. This proposal is associated with the changes required for the new cycle path and is attempting to make High Ditch Road safer.
I was asked to raise the replacement of the ‘gate’ and ‘Fen Ditton Please drive slowly’ sign on High Ditch Road with County Highways Officer. I note that the Clerk has raised this and seems to have progressed the matter.
County Councillor’s Report for Parishes – February 2018 – Anna Bradnam
for Milton, Landbeach, Waterbeach, Chittering, Horningsea and Fen Ditton
For several years the County Council has refused to increase its proportion of council tax, despite objections from opposition parties, which has meant there has been little money for road repairs and has necessitated major revisions in library services and a programme of closure and reduction in children’s centres.
In January the leading group on the County Council announced they plan to increase their proportion of council tax by 2.99% on top of the planned 2% increase for adult social care. This has been driven by the need to plug a budget gap of £4.3 million in their spending plans. Over this time the opposition has pointed out that increasing council tax is the only way to protect services for local residents. Meantime the government has massively reduced its funding to councils. The cumulative effect means that the funding crisis is greater than it might have been.
So now the question is what will be done with the 2.99% (7.969 million) extra raised.
Most of it, of course, will be used to shore up that £4.3 million funding gap but different parties are suggesting different ways of using the remainder. The leading party propose putting all of the remainder into a ‘smoothing reserve’ to help sort out financial problems in three years’ time. Liberal Democrats propose the remainder should be spent reversing the cuts to children’s centres, a bus pass for 16-18 year olds, highways and footpath improvements, street lighting and air quality monitoring. We’d also reverse the increase in allowances the leading party voted for this summer and reduce the number of committees.
Labour proposes to spend most of it on street lighting, libraries, children in care, local highways projects and cycling, with the rest being put into a strategic reserve for children’s centres and beds to enable people to be discharged from hospital
The final decision will be made at full council on 6 February when the budget will be set.
Amey’s Waste Recovery Facility (incinerator) application
There has been considerable disquiet in Waterbeach in the last month, since Amey submitted this application. Despite bringing their proposals to the Community Liaison Group and to public exhibitions during the summer, residents feel ill-informed and the statutory timeframe allows limited time to consider the numerous documents. Cllr Ingrid Tregoing arranged a public meeting on 29th January and obtained an extension of time from County Planning to give more time for consultation. Residents are urged to look at the application online and submit their comments, so that their views can be taken into account when drawing up the report for planning committee. The application can be found here http://planning.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/swift/apas/run/wphappcriteria.display
quoting the planning reference S/3372/17/CW and there is a link which enables you to leave a comment on that page by 5pm on Tuesday 6 February.
Abbey-Chesterton Bridge and the Chisholm Trail
I attended the Local Liaison Forum at which the most recent details of the plans were presented by County Officers and the primary contractor, Carillion. It was uncomfortable to be receiving presentations on the build schedule whilst reading online that Carillion was collapsing, not least for the Carillion employee giving the presentation. The project has been approved so it is to be hoped that a new contractor will be found in due course. They proposed building the bridge on the Fen Road side of the river, then lifting it into place. This will require closure of the railway for a time because the two bridge are so close and considerable negotiation with Network Rail. In addition a new boardwalk will be built under the bridges for which the path will be closed for 3 months.
Hazel and I continue to work with County Cllr Ian Manning (Chesterton) and County Officers to seek ways to reduce the ‘down-time’ at the Fen Road level crossing in Chesterton and to seek an alternative pedestrian route.