Sunday, 31 July 2011

Libraries Review In Disarray As Trust Conversion Flops

Cambridgeshire Lib Dems have criticised a glaring oversight in the Conservative administration's plans for the county’s libraries, which means the Libraries Review has to be completely rebooted.

The Conservatives initially planned to make savings of up to £1M by converting the libraries to “Trust status”.  This would have made the libraries eligible for dramatically reduced business rates to central government and was the core of the council's plan to make savings.

However, forthcoming changes to taxation, which would see local government keeping the majority of business rates, mean that the Trust idea simply would not work any more.  Savings made by converting to Trust status would result in the council’s income from business rates being reduced by the same amount - a zero sum game, with no savings possible.

The Liberal Democrats are concerned that the same savings will now have to be made in other ways, despite the idea on which the libraries budget was based being dead in the water.  They are worried that this will put further libraries and jobs at risk.

Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Member for Libraries, Sarah Whitebread said:

“It is alarming that the Conservatives did not put two and two together on this sooner. The big worry now is that the Conservatives will insist on making the savings they planned for when they passed their unrealistic budget in February.

“Today I call upon Council Leader Nick Clarke to take personal charge of the situation and prevent the disaster we can see is coming by working with the dedicated hard-working staff that form the core of the library service and make sure the people of Cambridgeshire aren’t short-changed."

County Councillor Kevin Wilkins, whose local library is threatened, said:

“The value local libraries like Milton Road bring to our communities is far, far greater than the small sums it costs to run them. Closing libraries cannot be the answer to the county’s self-inflicted financial crisis.”

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Opinion: Academies Overspend Revealed! (By Cllr Peter Downes)

Figures in a Government consultation paper on the funding of academies have revealed that Michael Gove’s policy of getting schools to convert to academies is expected to cost nearly £600 million more than planned over the two year period 2011 – 2013.
 
This confirms what Lib Dem activists have been saying for some time i.e. that the programme for converting schools to academies is costly and unsustainable, as well as being divisive and unfair.
 
When a school decides to leave its Local Authority (LA)  and become ‘independent’ (i.e. dependent on central government!), in addition to its standard funding it gets an extra grant called LACSEG (Local Authority Central Spend Equivalent Grant) to allow it to buy in the services it no longer gets from the LA.
 
Heads and Governors have done the sums and soon realised that the LACSEG gives them far more than they need and so they get a net bonus. In the case of large secondary schools, this might amount to £400,000 or even more.
 
The word spread quickly, hence the ‘dash for cash’ that has dominated the educational scene for the last year. Gove claims that Heads are attracted by freedom and autonomy (released from the shackles of bureaucratic LAs); in practice, Heads are going for the extra money, especially at a time when school funding is tight.
 
The LACSEG is partially recouped from the money that the LA spends on pupils with acute needs. This in effect transfers funds from those in greatest need to those with fewest problems. The rest of the money is top-sliced from the general grant to councils, whether or not they have any schools converting to academies! This crude method has incensed local councillors by its unfairness.
 
Figures published on July 19th show that the expected LACSEG spend on academies in existence and schools likely to convert within the next year will amount to £997 million (mid-range estimates).  The clawback from Local Authorities already announced and partially implemented is £148m for 11-12 and £265m for 12-13, making £413m in total.
 
This leaves a gap of £584 million. This is tantamount to a bribe to tempt schools to convert to academies in order to justify Gove’s flagship policy.
 
The consultation on what to do started on July 19th and ends on August 16th.
 
The country surely cannot afford a wasteful and unnecessary policy of this kind. Liberal Democrats in Parliament and in the Local Government Association must speak out about this. Liberal Democrats on school governing bodies are urged to dissuade their schools from converting to academy status.
 
In two years time there will be a new national funding formula for all schools which, we are told, will treat all schools fairly. That is something all Liberal Democrats ought to be fighting for.
 
Peter Downes is a former President and Funding Consultant of the Secondary Heads Association (now the Association of School and College Leaders), a Cambridgeshire County Councillor and Vice-President of the Liberal Democrat Education Association. He successfully proposed a motion opposing Academies and Free Schools at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool last September.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Fire Engines Sent To Weekend Fires Could Be Axed In Fire Service Cutbacks

Many of the fire engines that put out the serious fires in Cottenham and Madingley Hall this weekend look set to be axed – according to worried Lib Dem Councillors.

According to Fire Chiefs, up to 10 engines could be scrapped including fire engines from Burwell, Ely, Soham and Swaffham Bulbeck. Without these vehicles, the Lib Dems fear that two serious fires at the same time could stretch Cambridgeshire’s Fire Service beyond breaking point.

Councillor Nigel Bell, the Lib Dem leader on the Fire Authority, said:

“These two serious incidents on Saturday highlight the importance of protecting frontline services in the county. Under the cuts being proposed to fire engines, stations and crews, many of the appliances that attended would be cut. Saturday's incidents showed how stretched emergency services can be when incidents coincide. I believe the proposed cuts would cost lives in Cambridgeshire."

Councillor Geoff Heathcock – a longstanding Lib Dem member of the Fire Authority said:

"What happened on Saturday afternoon within an hour shows absolutely how thin resources are spread around the city and we should be looking at enhancing resources not cutting the turntable ladder and the second pump at night.”

Councillor Sue Gymer from Cottenham said:

“The fire at the Co-op needed those fire engines. If there are fewer engines around when there’s next a serious fire in the village, we should be very worried.”

Energy Savings (Guest Article from Trading Standards)

Trading Standards – a spotlight on energy

We all want to do our bit to save energy around the home - to be ‘green’ and to save money. However, at Cambridgeshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service we have seen an increase in queries from residents about ‘cold callers’ selling energy saving schemes, particularly loft insulation and solar energy, so below we offer some advice to help you.

Solar Energy
Before you start it’s worth taking a look at the information provided by the Energy Saving Trust on www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or speaking to an advisor on 0800 512012.

For supplier/installer information, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme can provide a list of members online or by calling 0207 0901082. Membership is not compulsory, but you will need to use a member if you plan to use the Feed-in Tariff scheme (a government-backed initiative paying you for the electricity you generate).

Obtain three quotes to ensure the price and projected savings are competitive and realistic. Arrange a technical survey, rather than a sales visit, so the quote is accurate, and ensure all quotes are in writing, detailing what’s included. Once you’ve chosen your installer read the contract carefully and ensure their claims about savings and maintenance costs are included before signing so that you have evidence of what you were told.

Remember! If you sign an agreement at home for solar energy, you should be given 7 days to cancel. If you need advice on this, ring Consumer Direct on 0845 4040506.

Loft and cavity insulation
When it comes to insulation, the Energy Saving Trust can provide information on grants and offers that can help you cover the cost of it. They can also provide a list of installers. It is advisable to use a member of the National Insulation Association, the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency or the British Board of Agreement, ideally who has signed up to a professional code of practice and provides a 25 year guarantee.

Reducing your energy bills
Start by checking with your current gas and electricity supplier that you are on their best rate. Then compare the prices of other suppliers in case you can get it cheaper – switching supplier could save you around £237 a year if you haven’t changed before. You can compare prices on Consumer Focus’s weekly pricing factsheets at www.consumerfocus.org.uk or by contacting Consumer Direct on 0845 4040506 for a paper copy. Also, most suppliers offer cheaper tariffs for ‘vulnerable’ customers, so it is worth enquiring about these ‘social tariffs’ if you are over 60, are on means tested benefits or are on low income. In addition, your District Council could offer you advice on how to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home by offering a home visit, or you can get tips by calling the Energy Saving Trust.



Support if you are struggling to pay your energy bills
If you are struggling to keep on top of energy bills, seek help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau, either in person or on the phone on 08444 111 444.

Finally, if you feel that you have been mis-sold any product or service – energy or otherwise - or have any other kind of consumer issue, contact our partner Consumer Direct for advice.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Worried Councillors Back Call For Education Chief To Resign

Councillors from across the political divide have joined the call for the County’s education chief to resign as the county’s school places crisis continues.

Last Friday, Conservative councillor Clayton Hudson called on Cllr David Harty to “fall on your sword” after the County Council repeatedly botched plans for more primary school places for Cambourne children.

Cllr Fiona Whelan, who represents Hardwick, agrees:

“Cllr Harty has taken no notice of the parents or the parish councils of Hardwick and Cambourne. The department he is in charge of is failing our children badly.

“No-one except the Cllr Harty seems to think it’s a good idea for Cambourne children to be sent by bus every day to Hardwick when there are suitable sites for classrooms in Cambourne itself.”

Cllr Whelan has campaigned for the County Council to build a secondary school in Cambourne ever since she was elected in 2008, because of the pressure the number of Cambourne children has placed on Comberton Village College.

While pleased that one is now being proposed for 2013, she is stunned that it will be too small.

“With 6 forms of entry to the Primary Schools, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out that a secondary school with 5 forms of entry will be too small.

“Yet again Cllr Harty is failing to provide adequate places for the county's children.”

This is not the first time that beleaguered Cllr Harty has failed to act during the school places crisis.

Two years ago, the County Council took more than a year to respond to official figures showing that Cambridge would be short of primary school places from autumn 2011. As a result, mobile classrooms had to be put up because the County Council’s unnecessary delay meant that it was too late to build proper classrooms in time.

Cllr Kevin Wilkins, who represents West Chesterton, which includes Milton Road Primary School, said:

“Cllr Harty has ‘Previous’.

“His failure in Cambourne and Hardwick looks no different to his awful failure in Cambridge. It was obvious two years ago that Cllr Harty was not up to the job, but to make the same mistake twice is inexcusable.”

Fight To Give Part-Time Students A Fairer Deal Under Loans Scheme

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Belinda Brooks-Gordon is fighting for a fairer deal for part-time university students under the government’s education loans scheme.

She has teamed up with Baroness Sal Brinton, former Cambridgeshire County Council Liberal Democrat leader to make sure part-time students are not discriminated under the scheme.

For the first time, part-time students are eligible for loans to pay for their education; but they have to start repaying those loans after three and a half years before they have completed their courses.

And the system for accepting repayments will not be in place until 2016 meaning that students who become eligible to pay in 2013 will have to wait three years and fear their loan may start accruing interest.

Cllr Brooks-Gordon and Baroness Brinton, who were both mature students at Cambridge’s Churchill College, are fighting to get changes to the Education Bill to address the issue.

“I am determined that part-time students, many of whom are single parents, mature students or disabled, should not be discriminated against in this way,” said Castle Ward Cllr Brooks-Gordon, a Reader at Birbeck College, London.

“I took my degree as a single parent with two children and would not have had an academic career without my university education. I am determined that students should get the best possible deal in these difficult times.”

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

E-Cops - Your weekly E-cop 26-JUL-2011

Crime levels still remain low and well under control for Bar Hill and the surrounding villages.

This week I have carried out door to door police surgeries in Foxhollow, Bar Hill. I am happy to say that the consultation with the residents was positive with no issues raised. 

On Sunday, 17th July, whilst I was on patrol in a marked police vehicle, a member of the public alerted me to a vehicle that had come off the road in Station Road, Longstanton. I spoke to the driver and realised that he may had been driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. I informed a police officer colleague who attended the scene and breathalised the driver, the driver was found to be above the legally prescribed limit and was arrested for a drink driving offence. The driver had apparently been to a birthday party and felt that was OK for him to drive home whilst he was under influence of alcohol. His decisions put at risk not only his safety, but also that of other road users. Fortunately for him even though he came of the road and ended up in a ditch he got away with relatively minor injuries. Family members were aware of the circumstances, but were unable to persuade him not to drive. As a consequence the driver will face a driving ban and a heavy fine. 

I have been dealing with a neighbourhood dispute at The Brambles, Bar Hill. We have had a few incident reports of rowdy nuisance between two neighbours in the location. I have been dealing with most of these incidents and unfortunately this matter is still not resolved. Due to one of the parties remaining unhappy with the progress PS Rogerson will now investigate the matter further.

We have had one report of burglary in the Industrial Estate at Bar Hill. Three suspects have gained access into one of the units and have stolen several items. Police have fully investigated this, however due to lack of evidence the crime remains undetected.

Just to remind you the Bar Hill SKATE competition is on Saturday, 30TH July at 1pm. Please do pass the message on to anyone that may be interested to come along. 


Regards PCSO 7009 B. MANI

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Councillor refuses to discuss fire cuts in secret

A leading Cambridgeshire County Councillor has refused to attend a cross-party meeting to discuss fire spending cuts because it is being held behind closed doors.

Nigel Bell, Liberal Democrat Leader on the Cambridgeshire Fire Authority also expressed concern that there would be no official public minutes or notes from the meeting.

Cllr Bell was invited by the ruling Conservative group to attend the county council’s Policy Steering Group meeting tomorrow Wednesday (July 20) to discuss cuts to fire cover across the county.

But he refused claiming that it would be better if the issue were discussed in public by the Policy and Finance Committee which could exclude the public and press for part of the meeting if necessary.    

Cllr Bell said: “I believe we should be held accountable by the taxpayers of this county and we are not allowing that to happen if we hold discussions on important issues which affect them in private.

“The Lib Dems have already refused to attend county council cross party Policy Development Groups because they are held behind closed doors and not subject to proper public scrutiny or record.

“I will not be part of secret meetings and certainly not when they are called to discuss an issue as crucial as spending cuts to our emergency fire cover. We should be open about this issue and discussing it in public where we can be held up to proper scrutiny is the only way this should be done.”

Monday, 25 July 2011

Cambridge MP welcomes government's PFI savings

Julian Huppert has welcomed tough action announced by the government to save more than £1.5 billion from the Private Finance Initiative.
 
Importantly, much of the money saved will be used to improve services, including those in Cambridge and the East of England.
 
In a Written Ministerial Statement, Treasury Minister Lord Sassoon laid out government plans to save more than £1.5 billion on existing PFI deals. The announcement comes after a series of forensic investigations by Treasury experts into PFI contracts including at the Queens Hospital in Romford.
 
Julian has strongly supported the PFI Rebate campaign of more than 80 MPs, from all three major parties, who have been calling for savings. He spoke in a recent debate about the PFI – the first ever held – to express his concerns.
 
Speaking after the announcement, Julian commented:
 
“I’m pleased to hear that our initial target of £1 billion has been significantly exceeded.  The government has listened and taken our campaign very seriously.  This announcement will mean real savings in Cambridge.
 
“The previous government used far too many PFI contracts. They were incredibly badly negotiated, so much so that one hospital found it had to pay over £300 for a single lightbulb. This is simply not the right way to fund public services, and it’s good to see the government taking action to claw back some of the money that has been wasted.
 
“I will continue to work hard to ensure that we are getting the best deal possible.”

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Vital Improvements On B1050 Due On Sunday

The B1050 near Willingham will be temporarily closed on Sunday for vital improvements and patching to take place.

Material taken from the road will be recycled and used in the repairs which follow discussions with the local Willingham Parish Council.

The B1050 will be closed from Bridge Farm lay-by to its junction with the A1123 roundabout between 7am and 6pm on Sunday, July 24.

A signed diversion will be in place using the B1050/ A14/ B1094/ A1123 and vice versa.

The Council would like to apologise for any inconvenience and ask motorists to allow plenty of time for their journey.




(Map courtesy of OpenStreetMap)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

E-Cops - Have your say; name a priority for police

This week’s ‘have your say’ is from Cambridgeshire Police Authority and asks what police in Cambridgeshire should prioritise in their day to day work?

Cambridgeshire Police Authority engages with the public each year to help inform the setting of priorities for policing. 

This includes identifying a single People’s Policing Priority to ensure the police respond to a problem that is particularly important to the public of Cambridgeshire.

This year anti-social behaviour, with an emphasis on speeding and parking outside schools, was supported by members of the public. We want to know if we’ve got this right.

Go to the forum using the link below to ‘have your say’.

For more information on the role of the police authority visit our refreshed website. Whilst you’re there take a look at the local policing plan for Cambridgeshire, or even the easy to read summary leaflet, both show the policing priorities for 2011-14.

Kind regards,
Ruth Rogers
Chairman of Cambridgeshire Police Authority

http://www.cambs.police.uk/newpolicingapproach/haveyoursay/ - Have your say forum
http://www.cambs-pa.gov.uk/index.cfm - NEW(!) Police Authority website
http://www.cambs-pa.gov.uk/newsDetail.cfm?articleId=4958 - Local Policing Plan 2011/14

Councillors Briefing Note: Cambridgeshire Future Transport

Purpose

The intention of this note is to give you an overview of the proposals for the Cambridgeshire Future Transport project to help inform local members and communities of the emerging plans and how they can be involved.

Background

Improving local passenger transport is one of the top priorities for the people of Cambridgeshire.  However, faced with a need to cut costs in all areas of passenger transport, including public, home-to-school and social services transport, and recognising that other public bodies, including health and district councils also provide transport funding and services, Cambridgeshire County Council called a Transport Summit in March Town Hall in February 2011.  There was agreement amongst those at the Summit, including organisations with an interest in the financing and delivery of transport, to work collaboratively to see what could be achieved working across organisational boundaries.

Following the Summit, the partners have been working together to find better ways to provide transport solutions to meet the needs of communities.  One of the main opportunities identified is to bring together the funding currently spent (£34m) by different departments in the County Council and other public bodies on providing transport, potentially avoiding duplication and making savings.  The improved arrangements are intended to deliver benefits for communities through a more efficient, effective and co-ordinated approach to transport by:

  • strengthening the link between community needs and the provision of transport 
  • improving transport provision by bringing together transport budgets and priorities across Cambridgeshire and linking the organisations involved in providing transport – this could help to make savings and provide opportunities for these to be reinvested locally
  • focussing more on local needs – by encouraging decisions to be made locally and to target available funds to meet community needs
  • stimulating commercial market innovation and allowing new solutions for local needs to emerge while maintaining quality and standards
  • opening up opportunities to create new commercial and community transport ventures – through schemes such as small franchises or linking new routes to existing commercial ones.
  • exploring the potential to improve accessibility to services, whether by taking people to services or services to people

The aim of Cambridgeshire Future Transport is to take a whole-county approach to changing the way transport is provided; and indeed looking beyond the County boundaries in recognition that people often wish to travel to or from other locations.  Such a fundamental change could not be implemented in one go, so pathfinder projects are being developed to test different approaches in different places.  The lessons learnt from the pathfinders will be used to inform more substantive arrangements across Cambridgeshire.

Over the next few months, discussions will take place among the partners to explore the potential for a coordinating transport body, ‘Transport for Cambridgeshire’, which would potentially:

  • bring together resources and budgets from the various funding bodies, including all County Council, district and city council and health transport budgets. 
  • develop a single point of contact and information for customers and clients.
  • provide procurement and business support for local providers, help develop local consortia to deliver transport services and, where appropriate, commissioning transport services
  • ensure that passenger transport across Cambridgeshire meets policy and statutory requirements 

Local communities will be encouraged to determine local transport priorities and the best way of providing transport to meet them.  This may be through forming Local Transport Consortia which will be financially incentivised to encourage better efficiency and innovation, while ensuring provision of transport tailored to local community needs.  We are open-minded as to how such consortia may be formed and how they will operate.  To help understand the potential solutions, three pathfinder schemes are being developed:

  • Testing the potential for private enterprise franchises for services to provide additional capacity in locations of greatest need and to complement existing provision.  This could see new companies coming forward to run local transport services, with the support of Transport for Cambridgeshire.
  • A locally led review of all transport services in parts of the north of Cambridgeshire, including linkages to neighbouring counties.  This pathfinder builds on work already undertaken by the Fenland Transport and Access Group linked into the Shaping Fenland project.  Work has been undertaken to map travel patterns and understand the needs of communities.  One example being investigated is the provision of a scheduled minibus service to connect with commercial bus service routes to improve access to Doddington Community Hospital and potentially save money by combining current transport provision. 
  • An external review of transport in the west the county to determine potential benefits that could be delivered by a social enterprise model for transport delivery.  This pathfinder has been brought forward because Huntingdonshire District Council had already done a lot of preparatory work and wanted to make early advances, but felt it has only limited resources to progress the work at this time.  It is anticipated that better transport provision may be possible by taking a more commercial view towards transport network planning to better utilise existing transport, whilst ensuring financial gains are used to improve local services.

One or more of the pathfinder schemes are likely to go live by the end of the year and, subject to evaluation of the pathfinders, the broader roll out will take place over the next few years.  There will be no further reductions in bus subsidies until work has been undertaken on the pathfinders and wherever possible a withdrawal of subsidies and the introduction of alternatives need to go hand in hand.  Public consultation will be undertaken before any significant changes are made to local transport provision.

We would welcome discussions with local members, districts and parishes on the pathfinders and any other initiatives proposed by businesses and communities.  Should you wish to discuss opportunities in your area or need more information of this programme please do not hesitate to contact Dan Clarke at Daniel.Clarke@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

£34 million local transport project run in secret

County Tories have been accused of secrecy and the exclusion of local elected representatives over the radical redeployment of £34 million of public transport money.

Councillors have been excluded from meetings to discuss how the money will be spent and the Tories have failed to seek local input.

Furious councillors, Susan van de Ven, Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson and Tim Stone, who represents Duxford, voiced their disbelief during today’s Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet meeting as members met to halt an earlier decision to withdraw bus subsidies.

Cllr van de Ven said, ‘It is ironic that one of the biggest Localism projects to date has been so highly secretive and tightly controlled. Local representatives have been rigorously excluded from day one and five months’ worth of work is either undocumented or held under terms of confidentiality.

“This is a £34 million project with no democratic accountability. Its conception is fundamentally anti-local. Considering that the project’s success depends on generating local solutions to local transport needs, it is perplexing that the council has chosen to work in a vacuum of local knowledge.”

Cllr Stone said that Duxford benefited from nearly £400,000 of bus subsidy each year – around 15 per cent of the total – which, if removed would leave six villages without buses.

He listed the meetings and discussions he had arranged with villagers and transport representatives and accused the Tories of a total lack of communication.

“You have had nobody from the affected villages on any of your Core Solutions Group, Cambridgeshire Transport Delivery Group, Cambridgeshire Future Transport or the Transport for Cambridgeshire Partnership,” he said.

“You have failed to listen to Liberal Democrats who proposed a root and branch survey of transport provision before slashing and burning. The result is a potential judicial review.” 

And later he added: “"Residents have been kept in the dark about the county's intentions. They want to know what is local transport going to look like when their bus service goes. How and when are parish councils going to be involved?  What help and advice are they to get? 

“It sounds fine to talk of communities going to determine how transport services are delivered but what does that mean in practice? There are many worried people in our villages."

Saturday, 16 July 2011

E-Cops - Your weekly update 16-JUL-2011

I have had a very busy week, dealing with incidents, crime enquiries, and any of my free time has been spent on high visibility patrols.

Summer holidays are approaching, we do get some reports of children going missing during the holidays, so I have taken the initiative to speak to the children at Bar Hill County Primary School on how they can keep themselves safe during the holiday period. The visit was well received.

I would like to encourage parents/carers by reminding them to ensure that children in their care take appropriate steps to secure their mobile phones, i pods and other similar property, if you would like further advice on this issue please contact me.

Some of you may be going on holiday very soon. Please ensure that you have reminded your friends and neighbours to keep an eye on your property while you are away. You also need to think carefully about the property that you are taking on holiday to ensure that it is secure. For more information please contact me, and for those of you going on holiday do have a nice one. I will be doing my best to keep an eye out in the village with the support of my colleagues.

On Thursday, 14th July, there was a report of suspicious activity in The Spinney, Bar Hill. Two men were seen in the location attempting to unlock vehicle doors. Index numbers for the vehicles involved would have ensured crime reports could have been made. This way, our crime scene investigation department would have been notified and consideration given to searching for any fingerprints. If your vehicle was affected, please contact our Police Service Centre on 0345 456 4564 to report it.

On Sunday, 10th July, there was a report of a burglary in Dry Drayton Industrial Estate. The burglary was confirmed when police arrived where it was found that the front door to the office had been kicked in and a search was carried out by unknown offenders. It is not currently known if any property has been stolen and the crime remains undetected.

Kind Regards,

PSCO B. MANI
Histon neighbourhood Policing Team

Friday, 15 July 2011

County council fails to act on calls for parking review

Residents living around Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital are facing the growing problem of patients parking near their homes to avoid paying parking charges.

Cars lining the streets caused problems for a fire engine trying to reach an incident recently.

Worried councillors have been lobbying the Tory-run Cambridgeshire County Council calling for action; but despite the problems, it has failed to agree a parking review.

Geoff Heathcock, County Councillor for Queen Edith’s has been told that the council has no resources to go-ahead with a review. He was told the council has other priorities because of staffing levels.

“The county council is abdicating its responsibilities to residents,” he said. “Further delays, which may well be for an indefinite period, condemn residents to more aggravation.

“Inconsiderate parking certainly impeded a fire appliance trying to reach an incident recently. This is intolerable. We need a parking review because residential streets are filling up with cars six days a week and the problem is growing.”

Thursday, 14 July 2011

County fails in bid for £5 transport funding

Cambridgeshire County Council has failed in its bid for £5 million of government money for community transport and cycling.

The decision undermines the Tory-run council’s feasibility of its already struggling Cambridgeshire Future Transport project.

And the Tories have left a question mark hanging over the future of bus services across the district after putting a hold on their decision to cut 100 per cent of bus subsidies but not completely rejecting the idea out of hand.

Susan van de Ven, Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport said: “This is a blow to prospects for community transport across the county.

“The blame must lay squarely with the fact that the Conservative's Future Transport initiative has operated on such a remote basis. It has banned local councillors from attending and deprived itself of vital information about building blocks for community transport that already exist in many parts of the county. This lack of knowledge has cost local people dearly."

Kilian Bourke, Liberal Democrat Leader said: “This news is very disappointing. The Conservative administration made the worst bus cuts in the country and reinvested the smallest amount, only 7 per cent, in community transport, so this funding was desperately needed.

“The failure to secure funding exposes the Conservative folly of cutting buses first and only thinking about how to replace them second. Slash and burn and then cobble back together is not a responsible transport strategy."

The county council has been invited to reapply for funding in February.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Lib Dems call for scaled down A14 project to save lives

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats are calling for a new smaller A14 upgrade which could be started in the next four years and funded from the government’s highways budget.

They want the project sufficiently scaled down so that it could be given the go-ahead when the government’s next Spending Review begins in 2014 and paid for with money from the Highways Agency budget.

“This is the only way that we are going to stop people dying and being injured on this road,” said Susan van de Ven, Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson. “For the last 10 years, the Conservatives have pursued a project that is nothing more than a fool’s errand.

“By holding out for a gold-plated scheme for all these years the Conservatives have failed to deliver even the most basic safety improvements for local people. Now we learn that if they continue to push for a massive upgrade we will have to wait another 10 years before anything happens.

“Ten more years of accidents and deaths is not a policy we can support.  Now we have to face facts and come up with a realistic scheme which can be commissioned and built quickly." 

Liberal Democrats are asking Cambridgeshire County Council to back their call at its next meeting today.

In a motion to council, they pointed out “the repeated failure of the massive £1.2 billion, 10-lane superhighway upgrade to the A14 to get government funding”.

And they reminded members of the road’s poor safety record, especially in relation to accidents involving heavy goods vehicles. There were 924 recorded accidents on the stretch of the road between Hinchingbrooke interchange and Girton alone between 1999 and 2010.

Kevin Wilkins, Lib Dem Planning, Enterprise and Environment Spokesperson said: “We have always maintained that trying to build a way out of trouble with more concrete and more traffic lanes was totally unrealistic. Not only would it just invite more traffic, but the impact on the environment would have been immense.

“A smaller scheme which could bring junctions on the A14 up to motorway standard and improve the roads ability to cope with minor accidents by allowing vehicles to be removed quickly could go a long way to making it safer.

“In the last 10 years, the county has pushed for a project which was going nowhere, not least because there simply no money to pay for it; at the same time people were dying on this road almost every week. That is a situation which is totally unacceptable and enough is enough.”