Saturday, 29 January 2011

Save England's Ancient Forests

A brief message from the Woodland Trust about their latest "Save England's Ancient Forests" campaign that I think will be of interest;




"Yesterday the Government started a consultation over the future of the forests in England owned by the Forestry Commission, including plans to sell many of them. We have responded by launching our biggest ever campaign: Save England's Ancient Forests.
Please can you support the Woodland Trust by:


1. Signing our petition


2. Forwarding this email to all your friends and family

Ancient woods must be treated as a special case

Ancient woods are the UK's equivalent of the rainforest: unique, irreplaceable and our richest wildlife habitat. The proposals do not treat all ancient woods as a special case: only some are included in the proposed category of heritage woods.
Stronger protection is needed for ancient woods
In the last decade we have fought to protect 850 cases of ancient woods threatened by development. This shows that much stronger protection is needed for these precious places before any sales can be considered.

Planted ancient woods must be restored
The Forestry Commission owns over 20,000 hectares of ancient woods that have been damaged by the planting of conifers. Their restoration to broadleaved woodland would be one of the most significant contributions to wildlife conservation in a generation. We have lobbied passionately for their cause in the media. We have also persuaded government to halt their current back door sales until the consultation is complete. Replanting conifers will smother the life out of these fragile habitats so we need government to guarantee their urgent restoration. 

Public access must be maintained
The passionate outcry about the future of public forests underlines how important access to woods and their beautiful surroundings is to millions of people each year. The Government's proposals to include agreements to maintain existing levels of access to bind future owners are crucial to maintaining this public benefit and we must hold them to account on this.


Transfers to charities must be properly funded
The proposals suggest that some woods could be transferred to charities such as the Woodland Trust. We would welcome the chance to work with government to safeguard the future of planted ancient woods in particular, perhaps through management agreements, but would need substantial and sustained funding from government before we could take over its responsibilities. We are concerned that such funding may be limited in the current economic climate. Stronger protection is therefore also essential.
Please speak up for our much loved woods by signing our petition to government now.
Thank you,
Sue Holden
Chief Executive Woodland Trust
P.S. Please forward this information to your friends and family"

Friday, 28 January 2011

e-Cops: Weekly update 23-JAN-2011

Update from Cambridgeshire Constabulary (via e-Cops);

"I have been very busy this week (46 hrs completed) and I have spent my time providing high visibility presence in Bar Hill and other villages in my area. 


Whilst on patrol in Pheasant Rise, Bar Hill, I saw a youth riding a cycle that looked too big for him. I gave the information to my colleague PC Soni and the youth was stopped. We spoke to this youth who claimed that he had been given the cycle the previous day by another youth. He did not know the full name of this youth but he knew where this youth lived. He then pointed out the address to us. Enquiries at this second address resulted in a second youth being spoken to regarding the matter. This second youth confirmed the account of the first youth and went on to say that he had found the two cycles nearby his home address. He thought that they had been discarded so he took them. Further enquiries confirmed the accounts and the cycles were in fact abandoned. The youths were advised about the offence of theft by finding. Incidentally, later that day a resident approached us to complain that her cycle had been stolen from her garage in Appletrees. We did check descriptions to ensure that they did not match with the cycles in the possession of youths checked earlier. 


I was given information by a resident that a car was been used without a current vehicle excise licence that had expired in 2009!!! I checked the vehicle registration number supplied and visited the owner with PC Soni only to discover that the information was accurate. A report has been submitted to DVLA.. 


On 13th January 2011, an opportunist burglar took advantage of insecurity in Foxhollow. Entry was gained into the property and having gained entry into the property a laptop and a bunch of keys including car keys were stolen. Any one with information that may help detect this crime should contact the police.


Kind regards 
PCSO 7009 B. Mani"

If you'd like more information on e-Cops or would like to subscribe yourself please visit;

https://www.cambs.police.uk/myneighbourhood/ecops/index.asp

Sunday, 23 January 2011

CCC Press Release: Zero Council Tax Increase And A Radical New Approach To Services In County Council Budget

There will be no increase in the County Council's element of Council Tax in the next financial year, and probably no increase for a further four years, proposals released today reveal.

The County Council has unveiled its Integrated Plan covering the next five years, which aims to save £50.4 million in 2011/12 and £160.6 million over the life of the plan.

The proposals, published in papers (available online from Thursday morning) to be considered by the Council's Cabinet next week, are the Council's answer to the most difficult financial situation in its history, as the Council deals with the increasing pressures of demand, an increasing and ageing population and inflation coupled with a 14 per cent reduction in the core funding received from Government.

They are defined by a new set of Council priorities, and informed by the results of a consultation process which put residents in the place of County Councillors and replicated the tough decisions in this year's budget.

The new priorities - supporting and protecting vulnerable people when they need it most, helping people to live independent and healthy lives in their communities, and developing the local economy for the benefit of all.

The proposals also contain radical changes to the way the Council works.

Four principles will guide the way the Council work - being a genuinely local council, making sure the right services are provided in the right way, investing in prevention, and working together.

The savings proposals within the Integrated Plan cover all aspects of the Council's business.

In Children's Services a fundamental shift from universal to targeted services is proposed, which over the next four years would save £1 million from youth services, £761,000 from home to school transport and £600,000 from children's centres.

Direct support to some children and young people will end, saving £1 million from disability services, £527,000 from specialist teaching, £315,000 from budgets for educating looked after children and £301,000 from the Cambridgeshire Racial Equality and Diversity Service.

The Council aims to save £950,000 from children's social care, £240,000 from the early year service, and £3 million from mainstream and special educational needs school transport.

In Libraries, Learning and Culture, the Council will save £282,000 through operational efficiencies, income generation and new ways of working, £108,000 from redesigning the mobile library service, and £100,000 from introducing more self service and using volunteers in libraries.

Working in partnership with other councils to provide support services and creating a Trust to run libraries will save a further £294,000.

In social care, promoting prevention and localism will save £2.9 million, adopting reablement approach a further £4.75 million, and decreasing the cost of high cost and complex placements will save £1.3 million.

In Environment Services, a proposed restructuring Trading Standards will save £641,000 over four years, reducing spending on environment and climate change £492,000, a proposed restructuring waste services will save £159,000 and a proposed reduction in senior management will save £100,000.

Further efficiencies from the highways services contract will save £2.4 million, and restructuring Highways and Access £1.1 million.

In public transport, phasing out subsidised bus services will save £2.7 million but there will be an extra £1 million invested in supporting community transport schemes over the next five years as well as a summit on how to make public transport more locally focussed and value for money. There will also be a £1.4 million saving in revenue funded highways maintenance but an extra £3.85 million investment in this area from capital funds.

In Corporate Directorates, over a four-year period, reducing properties and maximizing office space in retained buildings will save over £1 million, reducing the contact centre opening hours and standards and moving more services being accessed and delivered online £426,000, reducing IT functions and delivering services in different ways will save £989,000 and reducing communications and marketing activity will save up to £550,000.

Budget decisions have and are being made in conjunction with Community Impact Assessments, which consider the impact of our services on communities, with particular reference to ensuring equality and cohesion. These will continue as changes are made to services.

The Council consulted on proposals in its budget this year using the Simalto method, which puts residents in the position of councillors in having to take tough decisions.

The consultation was conducted across the County because the Council wanted residents to help shape the budget plans.

The key findings were that if at all possible they would like to see less cuts in road maintenance and library services.

The savings which would cause less concern if reduced were lowering the number of looked after children while offering better support for families and support for people leaving hospital known as 'reablement'


Councillor Jill Tuck, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: "These are unprecedented times. We know that rises in VAT, fuel prices and living costs in general are impacting on family budgets. So the first thing to get right is to make sure we don't add to that, and so we propose not to increase our portion of council tax in the next year.

"To deliver our proposed plan, The Council will have to work in a completely different way.

"We will be a genuinely local council.  We'll hand decisions about spending and service provision to people at the most local level wherever possible.

"We know that a lot of people are already actively involved in their local areas, and we want to free up communities to do even more and support themselves.

"We will focus on prevention - helping people early on, increasing their independence and choice, and helping them to help themselves.

"We will make sure that every penny in every pound counts.  We will protect the frontline and will be as efficient behind-the-scenes as possible.  We will only provide services directly when this makes most sense. And we will work even more closely with other public services, the private sector, voluntary organisations, and communities to make sure we're joined up and providing the best value possible."


Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, said: "The proposals within the Integrated Plan will see the County Council become leaner in terms of what it directly provides and the numbers of employees it needs to deliver services.

"The reduction in our grant reflects the part public services have to play in repaying the nation debt. There is no escaping the fact that there will be cuts to services. Cambridgeshire was already a lean authority and that has made for difficult decisions.

"We will focus more than ever on our priorities, so our proposals will protect the most vulnerable, help people to live independent and healthy lives, and promote economic growth."

Councillor Steve Criswell, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, said: "The
libraries network emerged as a high priority for residents and the desire not to close libraries is reflected in our proposals."

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Yes to AV: Time for a FPTP Debate!

Yes to Fairer Votes
A No vote this 5 May is more than a vote against AV.

It's a vote in favour of our existing electoral system, first past the post.

But we've yet to hear the No campaign clearly explain the merits of the system they're campaigning to uphold this May.

I delivered a letter this weekend to the president of the No campaign, Margaret Beckett, challenging her to an honest debate about FPTP's merits.

Help make that debate happen by signing up to my petition for a debate now:

http://www.yestofairervotes.org/Debate-Challenge

We're inviting Beckett to name the time, the day, and the place for the debate.

All we ask is that the No campaign answer, with clarity and honesty, why they'll be voting Yes to FPTP in a few months' time.

We've yet to hear a logical, consistent, and coherent argument from the No campaign in favour of the broken status quo.

Join me in challenging Margaret Beckett to give the public the standard of debate they deserve:

http://www.yestofairervotes.org/Debate-Challenge

Thank you,

Jonathan Bartley
Yes to Fairer Votes
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Saturday, 15 January 2011

Policy Surgery - Wednesday 19th Jan between 10:00 and 12:00

Just to let you know that our local PCSO, Bujar Mani, will be holding a police surgery next week on Wednesday 19th Jan between 10:00 and 12:00 at Bar Hill Parish Council Offices. 


Anyone is welcome to come along and raise any issues there might be in Bar Hill or any of the surrounding villages.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 


If you'd like to receive email updates from the local police then I can recommend subscribing to the e-Cops service offered by Cambridgeshire Constabulary. 


https://www.cambs.police.uk/myneighbourhood/ecops/index.asp

"Charge and Spend" Transport Policy

As regular followers of the Cambridgeshire County Council Liberal Democrat group will know at the end of November Councillor Nichola Harrison resigned from the group and became an independent

On Monday Nichola will be announcing a new transport policy for Cambridgeshire - "Charge and Spend".

I've had a preview of the general idea but haven't had a chance yet to read the specific proposal - I'll go into more detail on my own views on the proposal (as I'm sure will my South Cambridgeshire Council colleagues) as soon as I've had some time to digest it. For now though Nichola has launched a new website;


The website welcomes comments and I'd encourage everyone who is passionate about Transport (both public and private) to go to the website and leave their views.

It's worth reiterating that this policy is *not* a Liberal Democrat policy and her desire to pursue it *is* the reason Nichola left the Liberal Demcorat group on the County Council (announcing an idependent transport policy not being compatible with her role as a Liberal Democrat Transport Shadow Cabinet Member).

Friday, 14 January 2011

Government Response to the "A14 Improvement" Request

Jill Tuck (the Conservative Leader of the County Council) has received the attached response to her original letter to the Government relating to the cancellation of the A14 upgrade scheme.

This attached PDF is an exact copy of the letter received. I've reproduced the original text below;

"Dear Jill,

Thank you for your letter for 11 November to Philip Hammond about the A14 improvements. I am replying as Minister responsible for strategic roads.

First of all I would like to reiterate that we recognise that congestion is a serious problem along this corridor and that we remain committed to developing a solution. I can reassure you that the Department has no intention of under-taking a CHUMMS style multi-modal study. We will though be looking again at opportunities to move more freight from road to rail.

I note you propose a joint task force, to be overseen by me. At this stage officials are still considering options for the study, and it would be premature to commit to a particular governance arrangement. However, I certainly expect local stakeholders to have a key role in whatever study arrangements are decided.

I hope to be in a position to confirm more details of the way forward in the near future.

I am assuming you will copy this reply to your colleagues.

Kind regards,
Mike Penning"
Needless to say it's disappointing that we will have to wait longer to see any firm proposals as to how the congestion on the A14 will be tackled but it is at least encouraging that the government appears to have ruled out another long (and costly!) multi-modal study.

Your local team will keep you updated as the situation develops.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Supper Club: A Lib Dem Perspective on Government Education Policies

The South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats South Rural campaign group would like to publish information on the following events:

COALITION POLITICS AND ISSUES OF THE DAY: DISCUSSION EVENINGS

January 19th, 7:30 The British Queen Pub, 94 High Street, Meldreth, SG8 6LB.
February 1st, 7:30, Great Shelford Village Hall Committee Room, 48-50 Wollards Lane, Great Shelford, CB22 5LZ.

All welcome - just come along.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON SCHOOLS: A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PERSPECTIVE

Supper Club February 11th: County Councillor Peter Downes, who is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Education and a leading figure in the national challenge to some of the Government’s new education policies, will be our guest speaker.  Tickets are £12.50 (£5 for under 15s) and include homemade supper and dessert.  Foxton Village Hall, just off Foxton High Street near the shop, 7PM.

Foxton is just off the A10, between Cambridge and Royston, and has a regular rail service on the Cambridge-King's Cross line.

 

Yes to AV: Where does Andrew Lansley MP Stand?

In May voters across the UK will get the chance to back a new and fairer voting system: the alternative vote.

The Yes to Fairer Votes campaign wants to know which MPs will be saying Yes in May. I have emailed Andrew Lansley MP myself to ask him to let me know where he stands on the issue but the more people he hears from who support AV the more it will weigh in favour of AV when he casts his vote.

Email Andrew Lansley MP now by following this link;

http://www.yestofairervotes.org/page/speakout/ask-your-MP

You can use the link above to email *any* MP but it will only by in the interest of *your* MP to respond to you.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

New On-line Planning Complaints Form

Cambridgeshire County Council, as the local minerals and waste planning authority, has recently introduced an on-line form for reporting breaches of planning control.  You can use this from to report breaches of planning control which relate minerals or waste activities, and County Council developments within Cambridgeshire.

To access the complaint form please follow the steps below.

  
Alternatively you can access the form by following the following steps;

Log onto the County Council’s web site at http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/

You should now see the website’s home page.  Under the heading Browse Categories, which is on the left hand side of the page, select the subheading Environment.   This will open the Environment home page.  In the bottom right hand corner of this page you will see the heading Planning and beneath it is the subheading Report a breach of planning control.  Click on the subheading to open the form and follow the instructions provided.

You can still report breaches of planning control which relate minerals or waste activities and County Council developments by telephone or in writing using our contact details below.

0345 045 5200 - Monday to Saturday 8am to 8pm excluding Bank Holidays.
01223 715529 - Monday - Friday 9am to 4.30 pm

Strategic Planning
Box CC 1213
Shire Hall
Cambridge
CB3 0AP

Please also note that the County Council is only responsible for enforcing breaches of planning control which relate to county councils developments and minerals and waste planning matters.   All other breaches of planning control should be directed to your local District or City council.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year (from Nick Clegg)

Well what a year! A white-knuckle election; a new coalition government; Liberals in power for the first time in 70 years.

I've recorded a short message reflecting on the events of 2010 and looking forward to what Liberal Democrats will deliver in Government in 2011. Click on the image below to watch it.



Some people will continue to predict the worst for our Party - the same people who have been underestimating the Liberal Democrats for as long as we have existed.

But we prove them wrong at every single turn. The next twelve months will be no different, because we will continue to build the liberal, fairer, greener Britain that we all believe in.

Happy New Year!


Nick Clegg
Liberal Democrat leader 

Political View of 2010 General Election on iPlayer

This lecture was given by John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, looking back at the 2010 General Election and is available (until January 7th) on the BBC's iPlayer catch-up service. The lecture is followed by a question and answer session.

There's isn't that long left of the Christmas holidays and this program is worth a look, especially given the (continuing) questions about that last election as well as the Alternative-Vote (AV) referendum coming in May.

Happy New Year!

Wishing all our readers a Happy New Year and looking forward to 2011!