Wednesday, 29 February 2012

E-Cops - Burglary Operation Launches In South Cambridgeshire

We have launched an operation following more than 200 burglaries in rural Huntingdonshire and South Cambs in the past four months.

Operation Twist will focus on tackling burglaries in rural villages in the districts.

Since November there have been 115 burglaries in Huntingdonshire and 113 in South Cambs. Detectives believe they are part of a linked series with the offenders potentially travelling in from outside the county.

Operation Twist will see increase patrols in rural villages, as well as investigative and forensic work to target those responsible.

Releasing these figures is not about scaring people, as in reality people living in Huntingdonshire and South Cambs are less than one per cent likely to become a victim of burglary. In fact, there has been an average of one burglary a day across Huntingdonshire and South Cambs. While that sounds a lot, it is worth bearing in mind the population in Huntingdonshire is 167,300 and there are more than 69,000 homes across the area. And in South Cambs the population is 143,600 and there are more than 59,000 homes across the area.

However, it is important that we raise awareness of this series as the public play a vital part in helping us to prevent further offences as well as catching those responsible.

Although a large number of offences have taken place while people have been away detectives believe offenders are targeting homes during the day, often breaking in through the rear of the property.

It is likely because of the sporadic nature of the offences that the offenders are travelling across Huntingdonshire, South Cambs and potentially other parts of Cambridgeshire targeting homes.

We are working closely with crime teams across the county as well as other forces to share information about these offences.

It’s important people remain alert to activity in their neighbourhood, reporting anything out of the ordinary or suspicious to police.

By taking simple preventative measure people can further reduce the risk of becoming a victim.

To reduce the risk of being a victim:

  • It’s important to make your home look lived in and ask neighbours to keep an eye on it when you are not in. Consider installing light timers. Burglars will target homes in darkness as there is less of a risk of being spotted. If the bins are due to be collected, ask your neighbours to move them on and off your drive for you.
  • Report unusual activity such as people knocking at your door. If you believe someone knocking at your door could be a burglar then contact police immediately. This type of information can be used to gain a better understanding of how criminals are operating in your area.
  • Keep a note of any unusual vehicles parking in your area and pass information onto the police. 


  • Alarms: Install an alarm - even an empty box on the side of your home can be enough to put off a burglar. 
  • Dogs: A `beware of the dog’ sign can be enough to put off an intruder, regardless of whether a dog is present.
  • Lock up your shed: Offenders do not like carrying break-in tools as they may be searched en-route to a burglary. They often raid sheds to get their hands on tools to burgle. 
  • Strong communities are also a deterrent for burglars: Make friends with your neighbours or join your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme. 

Anyone with information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Areas that have been targeted include:
Alconbury, Brampton, Grafham, Stilton, Great Gidding, Ellington, Buckden, Hilton, Fenstanton, Hail Weston, Easton, Needingworth , Shepreth, Over, Swavesey, Coton, Whittlesford, Balsham and Granchester.

Kind regards

DI Ian Simmons

Residents Left In The Dark As County Council Refuses To Replace Streetlight

Cllr Geoff Healthcock
(LD, Queen Edith's)

Cambridge residents living in Spalding Way are being kept in the dark because Cambridgeshire County Council won’t pay to have their street light restored.

Queen Edith’s County Councillor, Geoff Heathcock has fought a three month campaign to get back the light after it was removed from near the junction with Godwin Way in November without consultation.

Residents were concerned because the decision to remove the light left the route to and from Queen Emma Primary School in darkness.

Contractor Balfour Beatty has quoted £1,300 to restore the lighting but Cambridgeshire County Council’s Tory Cabinet won’t agree to pay.

“The county council has paid for a brand new multi million pound primary school nearby for very young residents but won't find the money to ensure the route to and from this school is properly lit,” said Cllr Heathcock. “This makes absolutely no sense.

The whole system of removing street lighting is hit and miss, and despite site meetings and an approach to Cabinet members my residents will stay in the dark.”

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

City Council Celebrates Success Of Apprenticeship Scheme

Cambridge City Council is celebrating the success of its apprenticeship scheme after eight young people achieved their qualifications.

The young people, aged between 17 and 23, have been awarded their NVQ Level 2 award in Cleansing and Support Services.

They were recruited in two phases under an apprenticeship scheme run by the city council in partnership with cutting edge training company, Nordic Pioneer.

Working with the council’s Street and Open Spaces service delivery team, the apprentice tackled jobs around the city such as removing graffiti, flytipping and flyposting and cleaning up commons and cemeteries.  

Cllr Jean Swanson (LD,
Queen Edith's Ward)
The scheme was partly funded with £10,000 raised from Fixed Penalty Notices issued for environmental crime such as dropping littler, graffiti and fly-tipping.

The scheme ties in with the national drive to expand apprenticeships after the coalition government gave an extra £50,000 over four years to create 250,000 more apprenticeships.

Cambridge City Executive Councillor for Waste and Environmental Services, Jean Swanson said: We are very pleased with the success of the Cleansing Apprenticeship Scheme.

“We worked with Nordic Pioneer to shape the programme to include some basic grounds maintenance activities to bring some extra variety to the programme and introduce other useful skills.

“Two apprentices have continued to work with us, when required through an agency and they are keen to apply for positions should vacancies arise.”

The scheme is being evaluated it is anticipated there will be enough in the council’s budget to recruit another group of apprentices.

Petition Against Duxford Bus Cuts Gets 498 Signatures In Two Days

Cllr Susan van der Ven
(LD, Melbourn)

Villagers in the Duxford area have reacted angrily to Cambridgeshire County Council’s proposals to take away virtually all their subsidised buses in September.

In just two days a petition warning the Tory-run county council that withdrawing the buses risks isolating people gained 498 signatures.

Resident, Clare Delderfield will present the petition to the county council’s Cabinet on March 6 when the issue will be decided.

Clare said: “So many people in Duxford and the surrounding villages rely on buses to enable them to get to work or college, pick up their shopping or visit the local doctor’s surgery. I met a lady yesterday who relies on the buses to be able to visit her husband in hospital every day.

“Without these essential services many people will become isolated. I'm not surprised that everyone I spoke to was happy to sign this petition.”

The county council’s consultation with residents over the bus cuts has been criticised by Lib Dem County Councillor Tim Stone, who represents Duxford.

He said, “Since the council’s first decision was threatened with judicial review, the Conservatives have had over a year to consult meaningfully with bus users, parish councils and people in general; they haven't.

“All we have seen are cuts to evening and weekend services and the botched minibus project at Whittlesford station. Hardly surprising then, that so many residents are only too happy to sign up to a demand for something better. I thank them and fully support them.”

Cllr Susan van de Ven, Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson added: “The Conservatives have promised that when they take bus subsidies away, they will replace them with something as good or better. Their alternative plan in Duxford, which has been running for nearly three months, is clearly not working. If there is a better alternative, local people have heard nothing about it.”

Monday, 27 February 2012

BHA: The Importance of Being Interested

XKCD: The Difference
Being interested in things is one of the greatest of virtues - one that has had the biggest impact on the shape of human life. Without a desire to understand how things work, what things are made of, how we fit in to the universe, we would not have the huge body of knowledge that we currently enjoy, nor the overwhelming number of unanswered questions that scientists, mathematicians, and others are working to answer. The webcomic, XKCD, perfectly illustrates the level of enquiry, persistence, and dedication needed to study some of these questions in The Difference - showing how the importance of being interested can manifest itself in the scientific field.

But also, without the interest in sounds, shapes, colours, perspective, words, and language we wouldn't have the art, music, and literature that can inspire, motivate, and invigorate us. 

The importance of being interested is a big topic to take on; one that comedian Robin Ince is well positioned to tackle at this year's Voltaire Lecture on 25th April. A true raconteur, Robin is able to articulate the feelings of admiration we feel for the Renaissance man, people like physicist, samba drummer, and lock-pick Richard Feynman, who is sure to get a mention during the evening.

The 2012 Voltaire lecture will be in interesting for anyone interested in hearing someone interesting talk about interesting people, interesting ideas, and how important it is to be interested. A subject very close to the hearts and minds of all of us free-thinkers. 

Councillors Allowances: Your Chance To Stop The Raise!

The public meeting on Councillors Allowances is scheduled for tonight at 18:30 at Anglia Ruskin University in the Centre of Cambridge.

The link with details (and a map to the venue, which is copied below) is;

Councillors Allowances Review

Alternatively if you want to have your say electronically you can always use the on-line form;

Councillors Allowances Survey

I cannot stress enough; this is your only chance to stop Councillors getting a ridiculous pay rise. As the Conservatives have previously demonstrated whatever the "Independent" panel suggests; they will vote for. This is your chance to help steer the panels recommendation in the way most people want.
Anglia Ruskin University, Lord Ashcroft Building, Lab 003 - Venue Map

Saturday, 25 February 2012

E-Cops - Weekly Update 25-FEB-2012

Unfortunately since our last ecops message, we have had seven reported crimes;

At 13:55 hrs on Saturday 18th February, a male driving a silver BMW has filled up his vehicle with fuel at Cambridge Services then driven off without making any attempt to pay. Enquiries will be made with the registered keeper.

Between 22:00 hrs on Saturday 18th February and 00:30 hrs on Sunday 19th February, unknown offender(s) have removed mobile phones from handbags which had been left unattended but concealed at a party in Appletrees, Bar Hill.

Between 00:30 hrs and 00:50 hrs on Sunday 19th February in Appletrees, Bar Hill, unknown offenders have thrown stones at a taxi causing dents to the driver's side panels and smashing the driver's side front window.

Between 10:00 hrs on Sunday 18th February and 07:30 hrs on Monday 20th February in Lolworth, unknown offender(s) have forced a lock for a secure compound and siphoned a large amount of red diesel from a tank kept within.

At 03:40 hrs on Monday 20th February, offender(s) have attempted to gain entry to a property in Stonefield, Bar Hill by attempting to force the front UPVC door with a metal bar. No entry was gained and it is believed the offender(s) were disturbed by the occupant of the property.

Between 17:20 hrs and 17:25 hrs on Monday 20th February, two unknown males in a van have filled up their vehicle with fuel at Cambridge Services then driven off without making any attempt to pay. Enquiries will be made with the registered keeper.

If you can provide any information that may assist us with any of the above crimes, please contact us on 101.

If you wish to report any other crime, suspicious behaviour or activity please rings our non-emergency number, 101. If you believe that a crime is in progress please ring 999. We also welcome anyone to contact us by replying to this email if you wish to let us know of any issues you may be experiencing.

Kind regards
PC Claire Reeves and PCSO Bujar Mani
Histon Safer Neighbourhood Team

Friday, 24 February 2012

Community And Subsidised Transport Set To Be Radically Altered By The County Council

Cllr Andy Pellew

Council transport chiefs are set to discuss the proposed timescale for reducing non-commercial bus subsidies and replacing them with more targeted local services.

Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet is set to discuss on March 6 plans to consult with local communities on replacement services before existing subsidies are taken away.

Some 80 per cent of bus services across Cambridgeshire are commercial services with the rest being subsidised by the County Council.

For example Service 19 which serves the villages around Linton costs the tax payer £107,000 a year, equating to £12.09 per passenger trip.

The Council agreed on February 21 to invest £1.5 million in Cambridgeshire Future Transport schemes and to phase out the £2.7 million of existing subsidies.

Cabinet will be asked to agree that consultation should start six months before an existing subsidy is removed on finding alternative and more targeted transport solutions to meet local needs.

These services could not just be used for traditional bus journeys but provide vehicles during the rest of the week for community groups.

Subsidised services have been grouped into 13 geographical areas which have transport links within them. This is so all services can be looked at as a whole and alternatives explored as well as looking at ways of joining into existing networks. This means community transport could link into commercial services and potentially help make some subsidised services commercial.

The areas with the most expensive services are being looked at first as well as those which have the most potential or practical alternatives that can be quickly developed.

Local Parish Councillor Andy Pellew said "The Conservatives are taking a great risk with transport that many people rely on across Cambridgeshire and given the experience of the Duxford pilot things are not looking good. There will always be a few services that the County should stop subsidising, for example where it is paying paying £107,000 for a bus service or over £12 for just one person to take a trip on a bus. No-one can possibly argue with that, but cancelling all subsidies just because some are extreme is massively disproportionate and penalises those in rural communities who rely on public transport."

"Furthermore it's disappointing that this announcement was made before the 'consultation' had even taken place, I hope this isn't another excuse for the County Council to force District and Parish Councils to pay for something they should be paying for".

Tory Cuts To Rural Bus Funding Set To Go Ahead

Cllr Kilian Bourke
(LD, Romsey)

Conservative-led Cambridgeshire County Council plans to push ahead with its elimination of all bus subsidies despite substantial public opposition.  Newly published cabinet papers reveal that the second tranche of cuts will take place in September 2012.

This follows a consultation in which only 3% of bus users said they would approve of the cuts to bus services.  37% said they would have no other means of transport.  The cuts will affect mainly vulnerable people, including the elderly and disabled.

Despite Conservative claims that these buses are empty and "ferry air", two million passenger jouneys take place on subsidized buses every year.

The Conservatives are claiming that it costs the council £12 per passenger journey on one route but this is the most extreme example they can find and grossly unrepresentative. In reality it costs roughly £2.7M to provide 2 million passenger journeys around the County, equating to a subsidy of about £1.35 per journey on routes that are often socially necessary. Meanwhile the Conservatives' much-vaunted Duxford pilot has delivered a grand total of two passenger journeys at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer, one of the most inefficient instances of public transport subsidy since the moon landing.

Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson Susan van de Ven said, “These socially necessary buses allow the most vulnerable in our society to access the outside world. Young people rely on them to access employment centres and elderly people to get to hospital or the neighbouring market town.  Now the administration is cutting every last one of them.  This is a big mistake and will mark the beginning of a new era of rural isolation for thousands of people.”

“The administration has not demonstrated that it has an adequate plan to replace these buses, never mind deliver the improvement it has promised.  After more than one year Cambridgeshire Future Transport has produced nothing better than the disastrous pilot in Duxford, which has carried a total of one passenger.”

“I will be taking to the streets with my petition against the bus cuts, which people can also sign on line."

The petition is available here: or here:

Lib Dem Leader Cllr Kilian Bourke added, “The Tories claim to be growing the economy for all, but without a basic level of public transport it will be an economy for the Haves, not the Have Nots.  It is a Tory dogma that the model of bus subsidies is "withering on the vine"; I fear that it will be those people and communities left without public transport who are left to "wither on the vine".

Liberal Democrat alternative budget proposals included a public transport package which would have provided equitable access to public transport across Cambridgeshire, including the protecting of funding for subsidised buses as well as an extra £1.5M per annum to improve it, extra investment in community transport, transport interchanges for rural areas, free transport for young people seeking education, employment and training, and extra funding for concessionary fares.

These proposals were rejected by the Tory administration.

Fire Appliances Gather Dust As Tory Tries To Block Safety Report

Cllr Nigel Bell

Two Cambridgeshire fire appliances, which cost taxpayers £1.2 million more than two years ago, are still inoperative as a leading Tory fights to delay consideration of a report into their safety and suitability.

The appliances, one based at Cambridge and the other at Standground in Peterborough have never been officially put into service because of a series of mechanical and design faults.

But as an investigation is underway into the safety and viability of the Combined Aerial Rescue Appliances, Cllr Roy Pegram, chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority is trying to delay the examination of a report into the study’s findings.

He has raised a discussion paper for the authority’s meeting on Thursday (February 23) calling on the service to retain the appliances and delaying examination of the investigation report until April 2013.

This would tie the hands of the new Fire Authority which will be elected in May 2013 leaving them no room for manoeuvre on the issue.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Lib Dem Fiona Whelan and a Conservative member are carrying out the investigation into the appliances.

Cllr Whelan said: “There are major concerns about these appliances and we are carrying out a full investigation to see whether they are fit for purpose.

“These CARAs have been backwards and forwards for repair and have never been officially put into service. The engine for Cambridge has only 800 miles on the clock.

“We need to allow the full results of this investigation to be discussed as soon as possible to protect the safety of our fire fighters. Their safety and that of the public has to be our number one priority”

Nigel Bell, Lib Dem leader on the fire authority said: “There is absolutely no reason to delay the report into this investigation for a year. These engines have been paid for out of public money and we need to know whether they can be put into service.

“The safety concerns are of paramount importance and we need to know what we are dealing with. Leaving them gathering dust for another year does not make economic sense.”

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Lib Dems Condemn Emergency Fire Cover Cuts Fearing Safety Risk

Cllr Nigel Bell
(LD, Ely North and East)

Plans which could see cuts to emergency fire cover, if more than the already planned £4.2 million savings are required over the next four years, have been condemned by Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats.

They fear lives could be at risk after Tories on Cambridgeshire Fire Authority endorsed potential plans for sweeping cuts to front line services across the county.

And they claim the Tories have made these cuts inevitable by setting council tax rises at 2.5 per cent, well below current inflation levels.

“We condemn these cuts completely as they would lead to the downgrading or closure of fire stations, a reduction in fire fighters and fire appliances and an increase in emergency response times,” said Nigel Bell, Lib Dem Leader on the Fire Authority. “We have a moral duty to protect the public and these cuts are unacceptable and could cost lives.

“The Tory members have made these cuts inevitable by their insistence on setting council tax rises at well below inflation. We proposed an extra one per cent, or one pence a week, council tax rise which could have been sufficient to make these cuts unnecessary; but the Tories members rejected this at the fire authority meeting last week.”

If the cuts go-ahead they will include:

  • downgrading Huntingdon Fire Station to day crew only; 
  • removing second fire engines from Ramsey and St Ives; 
  • closing Manea fire station and removing the fire engine;
  • removing the second fire engines from Soham and Ely, removing either Burwell or Swaffham’s fire engine and removing the retained service fire engines from Thorney or Gamlingay.

 "People's lives will be put at risk by these cuts and the blame must largely fall on Tory Fire Authority Members for keeping council tax rises well below inflation,” said Cllr Bell. "We can only hope that the Government's grant to Cambridgeshire's Fire Service is fairer for the next two years and that the very worst of these cuts can then be avoided."

Government Backs Lib Dems' Free Transport For Young People

MP Julian Huppert has won government support for Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats’ plan to provide free transport for young people to help them find education, training or work.

Transport Minister, Norman Baker told Parliament that he would urge Cambridgeshire County Council and other councils across the country to look very carefully at the idea.

His support came after Julian raised a question today (Thursday, February 23) in the House of Commons.

Julian said: “Liberal Democrat Councillors on Cambridgeshire County Council have proposed a fully funded scheme that would provide free public transport for 16-19-year-olds seeking education, employment or training. Would the minister support such a scheme and encourage Cambridgeshire and other councils to look very carefully at such an idea?”

Mr Baker said: “I certainly would, and I welcome this initiative. The clear reality is such  that some councils up and down the country are providing support for young people to get to education in a way that is better than some other councils.

“This is largely a matter for local authorities. Good practice is out there and should be replicated wherever possible.”

Cambridgeshire Lib Dems outlined their free transport plans in their alternative budget for the Tory-run Cambridgeshire County Council.

Julian said later: “The government’s recognition of the value of this scheme not only to young people in Cambridgeshire but across the country generally is testament to the hard work and thought that has gone into it from the county’s Lib Dems.

“We recognise that we must do everything we can to help our young people access education, training and work. That means removing hurdles such as expensive transport costs so that they can get to training placements and job interviews.

“This scheme has so much to recommend it and I hope Cambridgeshire Conservatives will look at it closely and realise how it could make all the difference to giving our young people a brighter future.”

Cambridgeshire Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson, Susan van de Ven, said: “I am delighted that the government has recognised the value of this scheme to our young people and the benefits it could bring nationally.

“Our young people are the future of this country but if they cannot find education, training or work our future is looking extremely bleak.

“We want to try to remove some of the problems that are holding them back and providing free transport will go some way to doing that. “

Street Lighting PFI: Coming To A Street Near You

Cambridgeshire County Council has signed a private finance initiative (PFI) with Balfour Beatty to replace and upgrade all the street lights across Cambridgeshire.

As you can imagine that's quite a large undertaking and the process of updating all the lights isn't going to be done quickly, and it isn't going to be done everywhere all at once.

Councillors received a presentation on the project which I've attached, as with all PFI schemes the cost over the long term to the County is quite significant, but the savings brought about by replacing the existing lights, cutting 10% of the number of street lights, and by dimming the lights early in the morning.

The most interesting slide is the one showing the difference in the type and spread of light coming from the new lights;
Old and New Street Lighting Changes
A scan of the booklet that Balfour Beatty have been circulating to residents is available here if you'd like more information from the suppliers (including their customer service helpline number 0800 7838247). They have also created a website with more information;

The original presentation to County Councillors is available here. If you have any questions/ concerns please let me know.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Have Your Say On County Councillors Allowances

With the City Council both freezing its Council Tax and freezing the allowances paid to City Councillors it is troubling that the County Council is still running a "public consultation" exercise on the current levels of remuneration for County Councillors.

As you know the previous "Independent Remuneration Panel" (IRP) advised the Council that Councillors were being drastically underpaid and deserved an absolutely obscene 25% pay rise - a pay rise the vast majority of the Conservative group then voted to accept.

The Panel was ruled to have been illegal constituted and the pay rise was consequently thrown out.

This is the Conservatives second attempt to get more money - oh and in case you were wondering if it really was about more money yesterday the Conservative Group voted through a budget which includes an extra 100k pre-allocated for the rise (clearly they are expecting the panel to just rubber-stamp the previous conclusion!).

If you would like to have your say on-line then the link is below;

There is also going to be a public meeting in the Centre of Cambridge at the Anglia Ruskin University Campus Lord Ashcroft Building from 6.30pm on the 27 February.

If you would like to come to the public meeting the above link also includes directions.

This is *your* chance to have your say, the IRP will be producing recommendations and they will be voted on at Full Council AND, with a clear Conservative Majority, whatever the Conservative group decides to do with the recommendation will be what happens.

Cambridge MP Huppert’s Victory In Fight To Save Mobility Allowance For Disabled

MP Julian Huppert is celebrating victory after Cambridge people living in residential care have been told they will still be able to keep the benefits that allow them to get out and about.

Julian has fought to save the Mobility Allowance, a component of the Disabled Living Allowance, which allows disabled people to pay for taxis and other transport.

He called on Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith and Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller to rethink moves by the government to take away the benefits in 2014/15.

Julian had been contacted by a number of constituents who were concerned that the changes would seriously affect family members living in residential care who needed transport to attend social events and other activities.

He said: “I am delighted that the government has changed its mind on this issue. Taking away this benefit could have had a serious impact on some of Cambridge’s most vulnerable residents.

“The Mobility Allowance is a lifeline for disabled people and without it many could be confined to home with no opportunity to socialise or enjoy any independence. “

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Learning Disability Day Services In Cambridgeshire Set To Change

Cllr Martin Curtis
(CON, Whittlesey North)

Plans to transform the future of Learning Disability Day Services in Cambridgeshire have been announced.

Following consultation with the people that use the existing service, plans have been developed that will provide an opportunity to transform the service whilst restructuring management and making back office savings.

Over the coming months, the users of the learning disability day service will see a number of improvements of a range of services and support to enable choice and flexibility according to individuals needs.  For example, providing access to work opportunities - something which users said was a priority for them.

Other improvements include modernising buildings and making special adaptations to meet the needs of the people who use them.

Cllr Martin Curtis, Cabinet Member for Adult Services said "Feedback identified a need for changes to make the current service more suitable to individual need. This means improvements to make sure we can respond to current and future needs of our service users -putting them at the heart of the service.

"The changes proposed will see better use of buildings, also allowing centres to be used as community resources. The transformation of day services will maximise individuals potential, whilst improving their access and integration with their local community.

"Our priority for our service is to keep people safe, supporting and protecting them when they need it most and ensuring that those with particularly high support needs are not put at risk but are given better opportunities and greater control, helping them to live independent and healthy lives in their communities."

Cambridge MP Huppert Fights For Better Education For Disadvantaged Youngsters

MP Julian Huppert has struck out in Parliament for better education for youngsters from poorer families.

He wants more help for pupils in receipt of free school meals and those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds to reach their full potential.

Julian spoke out during Questions in the House of Commons yesterday (Monday, February 20) saying that the new director of the Office of Fair Access, Professor Les Ebdon had a great deal of work to do to balance improved access and high standards.

And he paid tribute to Cambridge’s three “excellent universities” saying it was a privilege to represent them.

Julian asked Business Secretary, Vince Cable: “Will my right honorable friend assure me that Professor Ebdon will get full governmental support in his role, particularly from the Department of Education, because far too many pupils, particularly those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and those who receive free school meals, are still not given the chance to reach their full potential while they are at school?”

Dr Cable acknowledged that the problem is frequently found in schools and he said that the Lib Dem’s Pupil Premium, which provides schools with money to help youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds, will raise standards.

Later Julian said: “It is vital that we have a level playing field so that no child is disadvantaged because of his or her background.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that standards are high in our schools for every child and that every young person has a chance to access the top universities.

“Unfortunately, at the moment schools are not doing enough to encourage youngsters from black and ethnic minority backgrounds to apply for the top universities and that needs to change.”

The full text of Julian’s question reads: “I have the privilege of representing three excellent universities. Clearly, the head of OFFA has a lot of work to do to balance improved access and high standards. Will my right honorable friend assure me that Professor Ebdon will get full governmental support in his role, particularly from the Department of Education, because far too many pupils, particularly those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and those who receive free school meals, are still not given the chance to reach their full potential while they are at school?

Cambridge MP Huppert Backs New Laws For Road Safety

Julian Huppert, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, has sponsored an attempt to change the law to improve road safety.

The ten minute rule motion moved by John Leech, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Manchester Withington, would introduce a whole range of measures to improve road safety, as well as encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport by children to and from school.

The news comes just two days before Julian Huppert’s Parliamentary debate on cycling, which has gained huge support from cross-party politicians and the media.

The proposed Bill would include: eye tests for driving license renewal; tougher rules for drink drivers; punishment for turning back mileometers; the promotion of cycling and walking; and support for children using public transport to get to school.

Julian Huppert said “for far too long Governments have failed to deal with the difficult issues around road safety. Innocent bystanders are still killed by drink drivers, it’s still legal to turn back an odometer and there’s far too little support for cycling and walking.

The Government’s recent decision to maintain frequent MOTs was welcome; as was the extra £15 million for cycling and walking announced by Lib Dem Minister Norman Baker MP. But much more should be done. There are still close to 600 injuries on our roads every day and 1,850 deaths a year.

Each of these measures will go a long way to bringing these numbers down. It’s very important that we look at the promotion of cycling and walking, as well as tougher measures to prevent accidents. I hope that the government will consider this package of reforms as soon as possible.”

City Councillors Vote On Spending Plans And Tax Freeze

Cllr Catherine Smart
(LD, Romsey)

Cambridge City Councillors will vote this week on their spending plans for the coming year and a move to freeze council tax for residents.

The ruling Liberal Democrat group has put together a budget which safeguards the city’s basic services and protects services for the vulnerable while at the same time pushing ahead with its vision for the city’s future.

But it has been a careful balancing act against a backdrop of a 23 per cent reduction in the council’s government grant over the next two years.

Despite funding restraints, the Lib Dems have identified £1.2 million worth of savings for 2012/13 rising to £1.4 million in later years.

And the council is planning to give grants to help people insulate their homes and to increase plastic recycling.

There are also plans to fund a restorative justice scheme for low-level offending where victims and offenders agree. This scheme will be similar to those in other parts of the country which have been successful in cutting re-offending.

The Lib Dems will ask their Cambridge City Council colleagues to vote for their budget on Thursday (February 23).

Catherine Smart, Cambridge City Council Deputy Leader said: “This budget has not been easy but it has been made easier by the hard work and the robust programme of savings put in place last year.

“This means we have been able to protect those of our services used by vulnerable people, invest in our basic services so the city is kept safe and clean, and to make sure that we get right those things where we only have one chance to get it right.

“And fortunately because we have been prudent, we can take the council tax freeze the government is offering which will bring some relief to people whose finances are stretched.”

Young People Would Get Free Transport Under £80,000 Scheme

Young people looking for education, training or employment would be entitled to free transport under an £80,000 scheme proposed by Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats.

The scheme would be run by Cambridgeshire County Council Locality Teams and would cover all forms of public transport.

Cllr van de Ven
Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport, Susan van de Ven said, “Young people face unprecedented pressures, and the prohibitive cost of transport can be a blockade to opportunity.

“It is unfortunate that the county council not only fails to provide supported transport for young people in this situation, but is actually planning to cut 100 per cent of subsidised bus services.

“Our modest proposal would ensure that every young person seeking education, training and employment would be given a helping hand with making that first step.

"We believe that the principle of wider access to public transport for young people should be developed much further.”

The proposal has been inspired by the train operating company First Capital Connect, which is currently working with the Department for Work and Pensions on a scheme to allow people on Job Seeker’s Allowance free travel to job interviews and forthe first month of employment, when arranged through Job Centre Plus.

Councillor van de Ven added: “In rural areas, some parish councils and community transport providers are already supporting very localised transport schemes for young people. The county council should be playing a leading role in facilitating access and mobility for young people who need it most.”

Tonight: Swavesey Neighbourhood Panel 7:30pm

Just a quick reminder that today at 7:30pm the Swavesey Neighbourhood Panel will be taking place at Willingham Primary School.

If you have a policing issue to raise please feel free to attend.

Monday, 20 February 2012

E-Cops - We need you... tell us what you think about eCops. How can we make it better?

eCops is undergoing a well deserved review with the aim of improving the service we provide and we need to know what you think.

Your views are important to us and we’ll be using the results of this survey to enhance and develop how we communicate with you. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated, so please take the time to complete this short survey and help us improve our eCops service.

Kind regards,
The eCops Development Team

NB. Survey closes Sunday, February 26 - eCops survey - eCops survey; Mobile version (iPhone, PDA, Android smartphone and Blackberry v6.0)

Liberal Democrat City Councillors Call For Pay Freeze For Councillors

Cllr McGovern

A pay freeze for Cambridge City Councillors is on the cards after Lib Dems stepped in to halt an increase in their allowances.

The move would save taxpayers £26,000 this year.

Cambridge City Executive Councillor for Customer Services and Resources, Neil McGovern said: “It was agreed last year our allowance scheme should be carried over for a further year while allowing for an inflationary increase.

“But clearly a great deal has changed in the last year and this is the wrong time for councillors to take even an inflation linked pay rise. People are losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet and we are looking for any savings that we can make to ease the burden on our taxpayers.”

The recommendation to allow the allowance scheme to carry over for 2012/13 was made by the council’s Civic Affairs Committee in March last year.

But Cllr McGovern will tell full council on February 23 that the inflationary increase should not be taken.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Government Plans New Law To Tackle Scrap Metal Theft Cambridge MP Told

Liberal Democrat Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has received a commitment from the government that it plans new legislation to tackle metal theft across Cambridgeshire and nationally.

A new criminal offence will be created to stop dealers buying scrap metal with cash and fines for all scrap metal offences will be significantly increased.

Julian was also told that the government planned to fund a new dedicated metal theft taskforce to address the issue.

Home Office Minister, James Brokenshire told yesterday (February 2) that the government considers legislation as “the only sustainable, long-term solution”.

His comments came after Julian raised a written question with Home Secretary, Theresa May asking when she plans to introduce a comprehensive set of measures to tackle metal theft and whether she has any plans to bring forward legislation.

He also wanted to know whether she had discussed a timetable for introducing the measures.

Mr Brokenshire said: “Metal theft is a serious and growing national problem with wide ranging social and financial impacts.

“The government considers that legislation is the only sustainable, long-term solution and will lay in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill an amendment to create a new criminal offence to prohibit cash payments to purchase scrap metal; and significantly increase the fines for all offences under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 that regulates the scrap metal recycling industry.

“These amendments are part of our wider attempts to tackle all stages in the illegal trading of stolen scrap metal, and we shall bring forward further measures in due course,” he said.

Across Cambridgeshire, church and school roofs have been stripped and metal stolen totaling millions of pounds in the last few years.

Cambridgeshire Police launched Operation Gandalf to tackle the problem and have visited scrap metal sites across the county.

Later Julian said: “Scrap metal theft is a growing problem and I am pleased that the government is taking this action.

“These thefts are hitting schools, churches and businesses heavily and it is only by making it difficult for scrap metal to be sold on that we will be able to effectively tackle this problem.

“I am hoping that by combining this with a significant increase in the fines for all offences related to this crime, we can make it increasingly difficult for thieves to operate and we will be able to stamp out scrap metal theft.”

Friday, 17 February 2012

E-Cops Weekly Update 17-FEB-2012

On Monday 15th February 2012, at approximately 16:05 hrs, a male shoplifter was detained at Tesco in Bar Hill until police arrived. The male offender has entered the store, selected two bottles of Jack Whisky, wrapped aluminium foil around the security tags, placed the bottles in a store basket and then concealed in his bag. The offender was interviewed by police, and was given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £80.

Between 12:30hrs and 13:13hrs on Wednesday 15th February, there was a report of a dwelling burglary in Park Lane, Dry Drayton. Between stated times unknown offender(s) have entered a four bedroom detached house by forcing a ground floor kitchen window open at the rear of the property. A claw hammer was found below the window and appears to have been the tool used. An untidy search of most rooms was carried out. An Ipad, some cash and a credit card was taken. This crime is currently under investigation, if anyone saw this happen or saw any suspicious vehicle(s) or persons in the village, please either reply to this email or ring 101 and let us know.

On Sunday 22nd January there was an attempted theft from Bar Hill Tesco. Three Lithuanian men entered the store, walked up to the computer equipment, and attempted to steal a laptop valued at £549. These men were challenged by Tesco security officers, they left the laptop behind in the store, and were asked to leave. PCSO Mani seized the laptop for forensics, and carried out the necessary enquiries. The male that removed the laptop was known to the police. He was arrested at later date, and went to court on Wednesday 15th February. As a result the male was sent to prison for a three month sentence.

PCSO Mani has continued with high visibility patrols, and has responded to any public complaints that have been received. He has also attended Bar Hill Parish Council meeting on Thursday 16 February and after consulting with a number of residents at the meeting, pleased to report that there were no issues raised.

If you wish to report any other crime, suspicious behaviour or activity please rings our non-emergency number, 101. If you believe that a crime is in progress please ring 999. We also welcome anyone to contact us by replying to this email if you wish to let us know of any issues you may be experiencing.

Kind regards

PC PCSO Bujar Mani & PC Claire Reeves
Histon Safer Neighbourhood Team

Reporting Highways Issues to Cambridgeshire County Council

Following on from the recent cold weather and the County Council's decision to increase maintenance funding for work on the highways it seems to be a good time for a reminder of the best way to report highways issues.

The first point to make is that "highways" is not just roads. Highways covers roads, paths (both those bordering the road and, potentially, those off-road paths like the Spine) it also covers the state of roundabouts, signage, and (amongst other things) public rights of way.

To report an issue you can call the County Councils Highways Agency on 0345 045 5212, or write to them at;
Cambridgeshire Highways
Castle Court
Shire Hall
Castle Hill

Alternatively, and this is the Councils preferred option, you can report an issue online via the County Councils website via the URL;

The website presents you with a fairly simple form which you can either choose "Report with a map" or report by just entering the details.

If you choose to "Report with a map" you will be presented with the following page;
Reporting a Highways Problem on CCC Website
The first step is to pick the type of problem you are reporting;
  • Bridges
  • Material on the highway (debris, a shredded tire from a HGV, spilt load from a lorry, etc)
  • Public rights of way
  • Roads and pavement surfaces
  • Sign, bollard and furniture (street furniture, barriers, lighting, etc)
  • Traffic lights
  • Traffic management
  • Tree issues
I've included a brief explanation for the items where I don't feel their explanation is immediately clear. Once you've picked the type of problem you need to report you need to pick where the issue is, just type in your street name and you will be presented with all the occurrences of your street across Cambridgeshire, pick the correct one and it will be shown on the map.

The map (at the top right) will then show you the area you have selected including any existing open issues the County is aware of.

It's worth noting that if it's not shown on the screen then the County Council is not aware of it (or were aware of it and it's already been fixed) - this is a direct view to their internal systems.

When you've selected a location, enter a bit more detail (like "in the middle of the road" for a pothole) click "Continue".

You will now be presented with a "Describe the problem" page;
Describing A Highways Problem
On this page you need to pick one of the following options describing your problem (these are dependant on the type of problem you picked earlier). For example for a highways issue the available "problem details" are;
  • Flooding/ standing water
  • Footway pothole/ trip
  • Grass needs cutting
  • Kerb damage
  • Manholes and gratings
  • Overgrown weeds
  • Overhanging vegetation
  • Road pothole
  • Roots damaging surface
It's important to give as much detail as possible in the report. It's very frustrating (both for officers and the person reporting an issue) if they turn up to a site but can't find the source of the problem as there isn't enough information here. 

When you've entered as much detail as possible and then click "Continue".

The final page simply asks for your information so they can keep you to date with the progress of your issue. This isn't required but if you don't fill it in it makes it a lot harder for them to work (they have no contact "on the ground" who they can talk to about the issue).

Click "Submit" when you're done. You'll be sent an email with details of the issue you've raised including a unique reference number which will allow you (or anyone else with the reference) to track updates.

Children With Special Needs Miss Out As Academies Cash In

Schools converting to academies in Cambridgeshire have been cashing in at the expense of pupils who need extra help because of their special needs.

The Children and Young People's Scrutiny panel has been told that services will be reduced for disabled children, for young people in care and for those with special needs.

An officer report said that “services will be spread more thinly” and “lower levels of need will not  receive support”. There will also be a reduction in specialist teachers who support primary age children with special needs and a cut in family support packages.

These cuts are necessary because the government is making a general reduction in funding to local authorities but also because the county's budget has been top-sliced by £3.1 million pounds to give extra funding to the new academies.

“This is desperately unfair,” said Lib Dem Education spokesman, Peter Downes. “Surely it is wrong to be moving funding away from those who need it most in order to give extra funding to those who need it least. The way the extra money has been allocated to academies has given them far more than they need to replace the services they are no longer getting from the council.”

At the Scrutiny Panel, Cllr Downes challenged Cllr Harty, Cabinet Member for Education, to approach the academies to give back some of their extra cash to reduce the service cuts.

“'If we are 'all in this together', now is the time for some altruism from the academies,” said Cllr Downes.

Notes for editor:

There are currently 32 academies in Cambridgeshire. Since they became academies, they will have received by March 2013, on top of their normal funding, an extra £13.8 million pounds to enable them to buy in the services they no longer get from Cambridgeshire County Council. Most estimates are that this about three times more than they need.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Call For Greater Police Powers To Enforce 20mph Zones

Leading Cambridge City Councillor, Tim Bick is calling for a national review to give the police greater powers to enforce 20mph speed limits.

He is urging Cambridge City Council to support the call to the government and the Association of Chief Police Officers as the council considers extending 20mph zones in the city.  

Cllr Bick, Executive Councillor for Community Safety wants consideration given to empower Police Community Support Officers to carry out speed controls to free up police officers for other duties.

He also wants to see option speed awareness courses available for those breaking a 20mph limit for the first time and speed cameras developed for 20mph zones.

Cllr Bick said: “The objective of slowing traffic down on residential roads is shared by many people. It brings greater safety and a better environment. We already have a number of 20mph limits within the city and the city council is currently considering whether to broaden these further.

"They shouldn't rest solely on enforcement, but enforcement does need to be an available tool. It is clear that as the public mood moves on this, the enforcement tools need to keep up in order for the police to continue to make the kind of contribution people would expect from them.

"Where 20mph limits get designated, it should be possible to enforce them drawing on the same approaches used for breaches of all other speed limits. And given the community-based element of 20mph limits, it would also seem appropriate to consider empowering PCSOs to carry out controls in order to make for more flexibility in the deployment of police numbers across the range of incidents they need to deal with."

Cllr Bick’s call comes in a motion to Cambridge City Council on February 23 which welcomes Cambridgeshire Police’s readiness to enforce speed limits and its extension of the fixed penalty notice system for 20mph zones.

His motion urges MPs and the Local Government Association to support and follow-up his call.

The full wording of Cllr Bick’s motion reads as follows:

Welcoming the Department of Transport's encouragement of local authorities which want to introduce 20mph limits, Council accepts that enforcement is only one of the tools which influence the success of such schemes. But it welcomes Cambridgeshire Constabulary's readiness to carry out enforcement and its extension of the fixed penalty notice system to the 20mph limits to do so. To further enhance the situation, it calls on the Government and ACPO to carry out a national review to optimise the tools and powers available for enforcement, to include:

Development of optional speed awareness courses for those breaching a 20mph limit for the first time, treating it like breaches of higher speed limits

The potential to deploy PCSOs to carry out speed controls

The specification of speed cameras suitable for areas of 20mph limits

Council calls on local MPs and representatives in the LGA to support and follow-up this call.

Lib Dems Pledge To Maintain School Buildings And Improve Energy Efficiency

In their alternative Cambridgeshire County Council budget, the Lib Dems have set aside £10 million over the next five years to maintain and improve the buildings of the 200 schools for which the council is still responsible.

“The council has a school maintenance backlog of over £20 million”, said Lib Dem Education Spokesman, Peter Downes. “We would increase the investment in making schools fit for purpose and we would give priority to maintenance work that would improve energy efficiency.

“This is a win-win situation. The school would reduce its expenditure on energy, thus releasing more funds for teaching, and the county would have to pay less in carbon tax.'

Central government has cut back drastically on the funding it makes available directly to school for capital improvements in order to fund its other schemes, such as the creation of 'free schools'.

“The government has got its priorities wrong and we must do what we can at a local level to redress the balance,” said Kilian Bourke, Lib Dem Group Leader.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Lib Dems Bid To Solve Poor Exam Record For Disadvantaged Pupils

Cambridgeshire has one of the lowest records in the country for helping pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their full potential.

The county comes 12th from the bottom in league tables for achieving five A* to C grades in GCSEs including English and Maths; only 25 per cent of the pupils on free school meals achieve these targets.

In a bid to close the national performance gap, Liberal Democrat Children's Minister has allocated an extra £600 per Free School Meals child, the Pupil Premium.

With this money schools will be able to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing extra one-to-one tuition, more teaching assistants or after-school activities.

This year, the amount available nationally for the Pupil Premium will be doubled to £1.25bn and this will increase to £2.5bn by 2014-15.

Peter Downes, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson and former secondary school headteacher, said: “The gap between those who do really well and those who don’t is too great. Unfortunately, how wealthy your parents are has been a deciding factor in a child’s chances for too long.”

Cllr Downes, who represents Brampton and Kimbolton on Cambridgeshire County Council added: “As a Liberal Democrat, I believe we cannot let this continue and that is why we must help children reach their full potential. In the Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats’ budget amendment we propose to enhance the Pupil Premium by £250 per pupil in the eight most deprived schools in the county.”

Liberal Democrat Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather said: “These figures reveal that children from deprived backgrounds have been let down by previous governments. All too often, children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not get the same opportunities as their more well-off peers, leaving their talents wasted.

“As a Liberal Democrat, I believe we have a duty to ensure we turn this shocking legacy of the last Labour Government around. That is why the Coalition Government is doing the right thing by giving schools extra money to focus on supporting these pupils.”

Lib Dems Propose 3.5 Per Cent Council Tax Rise To Protect Fire Cover

Cllr Nigel Bell
(LD, Ely North and East)

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats are pushing for a council tax rise of 3.5 per cent by the fire service in their fight to protect emergency fire cover.

They are tabling an amendment tomorrow (Thursday, February 16) to Tory proposals which would see council tax increase by 2.5 per cent but inevitably lead to cuts to front-line emergency services.

These cuts could result in the loss of  nine fire appliances and lead to five station closures, compulsory fire-fighter redundancies, increased emergency response times and some fire stations, currently manned all the time being open only during the day.

“Our proposed rise is still below the rate of inflation but will protect the service for the future,” said Nigel Bell, Lib Dem Leader on Cambridgeshire Fire Authority.

“We are concerned that raising council tax by far less than inflation will lead to unacceptable future cuts in frontline emergency services. We have a moral duty to protect the lives of people in the county."

"We are facing a stark choice tomorrow of maintaining front-line services or keeping council tax well below inflation. We believe that the extra rise of 58p a year, or 1p a week extra for band D properties is something people will accept to protect the front-line."

The Lib Dems will table their amendment at a meeting of Cambridgeshire Fire

Guided Bus Row Set To Drag On Costing £9.5M In Interest

Cambridgeshire County Council’s long running dispute over the guided bus project looks set to drag on for another three years costing £9.5 million in interest.*

A resolution of the case with contractor BAM Nuttall was expected to take place in 2013-14 but has now been pushed back to 2014-15.

The Conservative administration expects by this time to have won 100 per cent of the court case and received a full settlement - including the cost of these interest payments plus an additional charge on top - from BAM Nuttall.

But the delay means that the total cost of interest payments on borrowing money to meet the overspend on the project will rise from £7.9 million to £9.5 million – an increase of over £1.5 million. To date the interest stands at £3.7 million.

Liberal Democrat leader Kilian Bourke said: "These new figures confirm that the final decision on whether the council will get its money back has been pushed back even further. Unfortunately the council is paying a high price in the meantime: just paying off the interest on the borrowing is expected to cost the same amount of money over the next three years as a one per cent increase in council tax would provide.

"These figures must raise wider concerns about the £250 million of prudential borrowing the Tories are planning to spend on major projects. The abandonment of their wrong-headed austerity drive is good news, but do they have the basic competence to keep these investments on time and on budget?  The financial penalties for failing to do so could be severe.

"I hope that the Conservatives are right and they win 100 per cent of the court case otherwise local people will be picking up the tab for years to come."

*Note: If the council lost the court case outright, the cost of paying off the interest on the prudential borrowing would come to £21m.  This "100% loss" figure remains unchanged.

Lib Dems Fight On To Stop Tories Axeing Vital Bus Services

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats made another bid to save £2.7 million of county bus subsidies today (Tuesday, January 31) as the Tories met to rubber stamp their plans and press ahead with their flawed replacement transport plan.

They fought to reverse the decision after winning the first round of their battle which led to the Tories backing down and putting £1.5 million back into subsidised transport.

And they spoke out vehemently against the plans again today during a Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet meeting accusing the Tories of scrapping 100 per cent of bus subsidies without a viable alternative plan.

Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport, Susan van de Ven, has launched a petition to stop the cuts to bus services in Cambridgeshire:

She said: “The Tory administration is not listening to the people they are elected to serve. Their plans threaten to isolate vulnerable people, including the disabled and elderly, and people who have no other way of travelling to work. Yet they are still pressing ahead.

“Their new Cambridgeshire Future Transport project, which is meant to fill in the gaps left by the withdrawal of subsidies, is not working.  A pilot in the Duxford area has attracted one customer in two months because there is no research on transport needs underpinning it. The Tory administration is now prepared to sink £1.5 million into this project as the answer to withdrawing bus subsidies.

"The administration has come to a very late acknowledgement that some public subsidy for lifeline transport is necessary - and then is willing to spend carelessly. Vulnerable residents will pay the ultimate price."

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Residents views on County Councillors Allowances Sought

As you will be aware that Cambridgeshire County Councillor last year voted (largely through a Conservative majority) to give it's County Councillors the *option* of claiming a 25% rise in allowances (from 7,600 to 10,000). After Full Council had approved the raise it was placed in the awkward position of having it's decision nullified by the fact that the independent remuneration panel was appointed without any reference to the Standards Body.

The Conservatives seem to have learnt from this mistake and have now appointed a panel following the "correct" process.

In my view the aim of this new panel is twofold; proposing a pay rise around the same 25% mark that Council voted through previously (thus validating the previous process and the previous result), and validating the Conservatives pay structure (i.e. Cabinets role - and therefore payment - is increased while opposition shadow cabinet payments - and therefore role - is correspondingly decreased).

It is incredibly frustrating for those of us who form the opposition on the County Council that the ruling Conservative group are once again trying to force-through a process which will give them a rise. If you look at the Conservative budget it clearly shows a line budgeting to raise Councillors allowances - before a single vote has even been cast, or before a single member of the "independent" review panel had been appointed.

Needless to say I will be voting against any such raise and I sincerely hope a clear majority of other Councillors (from all parties) will do the same.

Now here's the bit where you can help. The Independent Panel are looking to hear the views of Cambridgeshire residents, they have created an on-line survey for residents to complete;

On a side note; it's a little frustrating to see the Council wasting it's time (and the time of people who complete this survey) by asking questions totally irrelevant to the matter at hand "Did you vote in the last election?", "Do you know who your County Councillor for your area is?", etc. If these unnecessary questions had been stripped from the survey how much quicker would it have been to fill out?

So I know it's frustrating, but if you passionately believe (as I do) that there should be no rise for County Councillors at a time when we're cutting headcount, and pay for County Council staff please take the time and trouble to register your opinion on the site.

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert Welcomes Energy Market Reforms

Energy market reforms which will make it easier for consumers to get the best deal have been backed by Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert.

He was given the chance to have his say on the plans at an event organised by energy regulator, Ofgem at the House of Commons.

Under the proposals, each energy supplier will have to offer a no frills tariff with a simple unit price and a fixed standing charge.

It is expected that around 75 per cent of consumers on standard tariffs will benefit from the changes.

Energy companies would also be required to make their bills, annual statements and other communications to their customers clearer and easier to understand and they would be bound by new, enforceable standards of conduct.

Julian said: “Any simplification of the energy market which makes it easier for consumers to understand the different tariffs available and exactly what they are being charged for is extremely welcome.

“We need the system to be completely transparent so that consumers can get the best value for money while at the same time saving energy where they can.

“These are very difficult times and we have seen energy prices going up and up. Consumers need to be confident that their energy supplier is the best one for their needs and if not, they need to be able to swap with ease.”

Ofgem is currently consulting on its proposals which were drawn up after identified competition was being stifled by a combination of complex tariffs, poor supplier behaviour and a lack of transparency.

Liberal Democrat Cambridge MP Julian Huppert signs a poster in support of the reforms