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Cambridgeshire County Council

Report to Parish Council - October 2009

Report from Councillor John Reynolds

Tough time ahead for public finances - Council warns

Dire warnings from the main UK political parties on reductions in the money given to councils and public bodies means the way services are delivered is due for a complete re-think. Forecasts suggest the County Council, which has a four star rating for use of resources, could be around £113 million worse off in five years time than it is now. Council chiefs say that it is right that authorities tighten their belts at this time but 'salami-slicing' from services public bodies deliver will neither provide the saving needed or the services Cambridgeshire wants and deserves.

Cambridgeshire Direct named among the best call centres in the country

For the second year running the County Council's Cambridgeshire Direct telephone contact centre has been named as one of the UK's top 50 call centres for customer service. The prestigious accolade was awarded after the biggest ever call centre quality assessment exercise commissioned by Call Centre Magazine. Call centres across the county working in retail and distribution; financial services and insurance; telecoms and utilities; the public sector and leisure and travel were surveyed.

Central Library opens

Cambridgeshire's new state of the art Central Library has opened to high acclaim and now provides some of the most modern facilities in the east of England. The building has been transformed to create light, bright library accommodation over three floors, with more than 100,000 items for loan and provides a home for the renowned Cambridgeshire Collection. As well as all the traditional library services, the building uses state of the art technology to help customers control their own library accounts, find their way around the building and gain access to information. These include self-service book loan terminals; an automated conveyor belt system to deal with returned items; Wi-Fi; and the latest access technology for customers with disabilities. It includes the first British Film Institute Mediatheque facility in a public library. Visitors can relax in special booths and view from a wide range of its stock of 1500 films. It is also the base for the Connexions advice service.

Council urges public to say no again to Hanley Grange

County Council is urging residents to say no - again - to proposals to building a new town at Hanley Grange. A joint campaign saw Tesco withdraw plans to build Hanley Grange as part of the Government's eco-town scheme. However Hanley Grange has returned as an option flagged up by developers. Examine all the EERA options and to say what you think at: www.eera.co.uk.

Making Cambridgeshire Count

Making Cambridgeshire Count is an innovative countywide partnership project that involves all the public service leaders in the County. The ultimate purpose of the project is to ensure that maximum value is received from every pound of public resource in order to deliver excellent services for the people of Cambridgeshire.

In September, partners from across Cambridgeshire will launch a debate about what really matters to communities. Through a series of events, we will host conversations about the questions that really matter, with the aim of discovering new insights, evoking new ideas and looking creatively at the way we do things. The partnership will go through a cultural development to look at ways of working better together. We will count the total resources we have available across the public sector now and in the future to better understand how we will finance the delivery of our vision.

Cost of living pay freeze for council managers

Cambridgeshire County Council has frozen the cost of living payments for managers as part of the authority's drive to reduce costs. Major political parties have indicated cuts in public spending are on the way and forecasts show that Cambridgeshire County Council will be £113 million worse off in five years time than it is now.

As a part of tightening its belt councillors have agreed that managers, from the Chief Executive down, will not receive an increase in the so called annual cost of living award. Frontline staff, who are usually the most lowest paid and work with some of the most vulnerable people, will receive the nationally agreed 1 per cent rise - equating to around an extra £2 for many workers a week. Some staff may also receive a rise to reward exceptional performance. Staff were notified in September of the new pay arrangements. Cambridgeshire County Council is one of the top authorities for its use of resources, being awarded four stars (the highest award) by the Audit Commission.

Local County Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance, said: "Government bailed out the banks using tax payers' money and now they are having to repay that by cutting public finances. It is only right that we cut our cloth accordingly. But it will be through finding better ways of working with our partners, such as the Making Cambridgeshire Count project, that we will make the big savings we need while delivering the services our communities want. Our managers and staff do a very good job and they understand this decision not to offer a cost of living increase is about helping to maintain vital services they deliver.

'Bring Cambridgeshire up to Speed'. From Andrew Lansley CBE MP

I have become concerned that South Cambridgeshire does not benefit from fast, fibre optic broadband and that current connection speeds do not reflect the area's needs. It is in rural areas such as South Cambridgeshire, where many businesses and students work and study from home, that access to fast efficient broadband is of crucial importance.

I have, following contact with a number of my constituents, been informed that many homes and businesses have connection speeds which are significantly below the Governments recommended minimum speed of 2MB per second. I would like to encourage you to write to me at 153 St Neots Road, Hardwick, CB23 7QJ or email me via lansleya@parliament.uk to let me know if, and if so how, slow broadband speeds are affecting you.

Excellent performing young readers

Cambridgeshire has produced excellent results in this summer's Library reading challenge. Thousands of youngsters around Cambridgeshire took part in the 'Quest Seekers' challenge run by the County Council's Libraries, Archives and Information Service.

Guided busway service registered for November opening

Bus operators have registered new Busway services ready for the route from St Ives to Cambridge to open by the end of November. This will mean passengers will be able to travel between St Ives and the Science Park in Cambridge in just 20 minutes avoiding the frequent long queues on the congested A14. Busway contractor BAM Nuttall say they are confident that they will be able to hand over the completed northern section of The Busway by the end of October, and all the necessary construction certificates will be in place by opening. The Council plans to open the route on Sunday 29 November.

Council backs business with high speed payment advice system

Cambridgeshire County Council is supporting local businesses by helping them control their cash flow thanks to a new electronic payment advice system. The BACS remittance advice system uses e-mail to advise companies that their bills have been paid at the same time as the electronic payment is made. The high-speed service enables suppliers to track their income from goods and services supplied to the county council. Previously the payment advice was sent by post-sometimes taking days to arrive at the company.

Cambridgeshire Bids for Record Transport Investment

Cambridgeshire has backed a half a billion pound bid to revolutionise transport in the county - under terms that are best for local people. In an open vote at Cambridgeshire County Council's Full Council meeting, councillors voted in favour of pressing ahead with a Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) bid to help stop congestion from bringing Cambridge to a grinding halt.

Cambridgeshire is firstly asking for early confirmation of Government funding for a new railway station in Chesterton, which would begin to be built in 2012, three years earlier than planned. The Chesterton Business Case assumes that every train that currently travels on the line between Cambridge and Ely would stop at Chesterton. In addition the Kings Cross - Cambridge non-stop services would be extended to Chesterton, as would some peak hour Liverpool Street - Cambridge services. Bus services from the St Ives and Longstanton Park and Ride sites will serve Chesterton via the Guided Busway which will be extended to Chesterton Station. The plans include a 400 space surface car park. This is a unique opportunity for Cambridgeshire to unlock record breaking funding that will help transform transport. Getting Chesterton Railway Station delivered as quickly as possible is a top priority for us as this will immediately help reduce congestion in the city as around 80% of people who use the central station currently travel across the city from the north. We expect to hear back from Government on this first part of our proposal by the end of the year.

A second stage will follow at the end of 2010 with a full bid for the remainder of the £500 million package. This will include a trigger point for a congestion charge to be introduced that will need to be agreed by the public, businesses, partner authorities and Government. The earliest a congestion charge could be introduced is 2017 but only after all the investment in walking, cycling, public transport and roads funded by government has been completed and the agreed trigger is not reached. The terms of the proposal Cambridgeshire will put forward to Government echo a report in July from the independent Cambridgeshire Transport Commission.

We cannot simply sit on our hands, do nothing, and expect congestion to go away, but neither should we bring in a congestion charge without first revolutionising transport choice. The bid we are putting forward to Government addresses the serious congestion problem we have here, and aims to bring about real benefits to the public. If people are not persuaded out of their cars in significant numbers by the transport improvements and we allow the city to come to a grinding halt nobody would thank us as this will damage the prosperity of the county, and in fact the entire country. Support from Andrew Lansley CBE MP

Does the County Council's bid for £500 million from the Government for transport improvements mean that there will be a congestion charge in Cambridge? No; for several reasons. First, because as the Transport Commission said, we have to put the transport improvements in place and assess their effect. If they work, a charge will not be needed. Secondly, after 2017, if those improvements do not deliver the intended benefits, the Transport Commission said that there should be trigger points for a consultation on a congestion charge. It is not, repeat not, automatic.

The recent consultation showed "the Commission did not find evidence of any agreed or acceptable solution to the problem of congestion within Cambridgeshire or Cambridge". It is the County Council's job to try and get transport investment out of the present Government. They cannot commit Cambridge to a congestion Charge without further, future, evidence of public support, which has so far not been evident. It is my job to ensure that the people of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire are the ones who have the last word.

Andrew Lansley CBE MP

North West Cambridge Development - Public Exhibition

The University are intending to submit later this year proposals for 3,000 new homes, 100.000 sq meters of research space, accommodation for 2,000 undergraduates, shops, schools and other facilities. The public exhibition will be on the 18th and 21st November, full details to be confirmed. Information will also be available on a web site www.nwcambridge.co.uk

A14 Highways Agency publish draft Orders

The A14 scheme is the largest single scheme in the national Trunk Road Programme. The orders when / if ultimately approved by the Secretary of State will give the legal powers to acquire the land, construct the scheme including new lengths of County road, and de-trunk lengths of superseded A14. Other minor orders involving drainage and traffic regulation will need to follow separately. There is a thirteen week period for objections to be lodged which closes on January 6, 2010.

The Highways Agency has deposited for public inspection copies of the draft Orders in most branch libraries along the route. Additional copies have been lodged with Huntingdonshire DC, South Cambridgeshire DC, Cambridge City and at Shire Hall reception. A free DVD of the draft orders is available by emailing a14ellingtonfenditton@highways.gsi.gov.uk The County Council's Cabinet will receive a report at its 15th December meeting to consider the Council's position on all aspects of the scheme, and this will form the basis of the Council's stance at the almost inevitable Public Inquiry.

Have your say on housing and development in Cambridgeshire

A consultation about the future of Cambridgeshire is giving residents the chance to say what levels of new development they want to see in the county over the next two decades. The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) is consulting on four scenarios for growth and development, residents and businesses are asked to give their views on which option is best for Cambridgeshire.

Cambridgeshire County Council is clear that a growth scenario similar to EERA Option 1 would be the right one for the county. This option proposes the lowest number of dwellings of any of the four options (3600 per year to 2031). It would continue with the rates of growth seen in Cambridgeshire through the buoyant property prices prior to the recession. Local authority leaders believe Cambridgeshire can't sustain building levels above this and certainly not large new settlements such as Alconbury, Mereham and Hanley Grange. Now residents are urged to examine all four options and tell EERA what they think at www.eera.co.uk

The consultation closes in November. EERA will be looking at the comments they receive before preparing a draft plan for submission to the Government next March and proposals would be subject to a Public Examination later in 2010. The County Council have also offered to collect the views of residents and send them to EERA through a short, user-friendly consultation questionnaire www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/environment/ planning/have your say.

Royal visitor for Grafham Water Centre

The Princess Royal was in Cambridgeshire on September 24 to recognise two achievements at the Grafham Water Centre. Princess Anne visited the Centre - which is run by the County Council - to celebrate 15 years of Sailability and to officially open the Centre's refurbished and extended buildings. The refurbishment work cost £2.5 million. Sailability, which is based at the Centre, offers sailing for the disabled. Princess Anne is Patron of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Sailability.

An extensive £2.5m refurbishment of the Grafham Water Centre has been completed ahead of schedule. The Centre included new residential accommodation for children on short activity trips, extensive remodelling of the existing buildings to provide conference and seminar facilities, new dining room and new reception area. A new boat store has also been provided to house boats and equipment, and the Centre has greatly improved its access for disabled visitors.

Yours,

John Reynolds.