|14-Nov-2011||Parish Council Matters||Nick Wittering|
County officers have been told that they must get a franchise up and running locally by 5th December. I am very unhappy with the way are being developed so far and made my feelings known not only at the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee a fortnight ago but also to the Head of Environment Services at the County. I have a meeting tomorrow morning to help resolve some of the issues.
One of the problems is that in District Council parlance Community Transport is something provided by not-for-profit organizations. The County’s franchise proposals are designed to attract budding entrepreneurs. The County nevertheless wishes to control fares. The idea is that the County will give a 12 seat minibus to an entrepreneur who, from next February, will pick up pupils with Special Educational needs and transport them to and from the Granta School at Linton. This would occupy the minibus from 7.00 to 9.30 in the morning and from 3.30 to 6.30 in the evening. Before and after these times in the early morning and later evening the franchisee might like to take people to and from Whittlesford station. During the middle of the day possible routes would be to supermarkets or, say, Trumpington Park & Ride if that can be arranged. In the very late evening the minibus could be used for bringing people back from Cambridge.
One difficulty is that the proposed franchise cannot replicate the Citi 7 route, let alone the 31. It is illegal to have a subsidised bus route competing with a commercial one. Having a subsidised transport franchise competing with a subsidised bus route would make a lawyer’s Christmas. So whatever is proposed is not something that could take over the Citi 7 route if and when Stagecoach decide to pull out.
I remain very much in favour of widening and improving public transport locally and shall continue to work with anyone on a solution which stands a chance of being beneficial and durable.
Another issue is that this is all supposed to be going on with consultation with parish councils. No parish council had been contacted until the weak message last week. I foud it less than helpful and have therefore arranged a meeting at the Whittlesford Highways depot at 9.30 am on Monday 28th November so that County Officers can explain themselves.
Minor Traffic Improvements and Area Joint Committees
The County has now cleared up the muddle around Traffic management Area Joint Committees and Minor Highways Improvements has now been cleared up – with one exception which I shall mention later. The new rules are:
1. Every year there will be a single annual process by which, in each District, a decision is taken as to which minor highways improvements are to be done/funded.
2. Each scheme will cost no more than £10,000.
3. The bidder (eg a Parish Council) will be expected to pay 10% of the cost.
4a There will be a deadline (in November in 2011) for bids from Parish Councils and anyone else for some such improvement to be done in their patch.
4b In January, for each District, a group of 4-6 county members from that district will meet in public (with officer support) to assess the bids from their district and will choose how to allocate the up-to-£50k earmarked per District.
5 Political groups will appoint members to the panels of 4-6 "on a proportionate representative basis for that district." Local district and parish councillors would be consulted on the bids relevant to them.
6 There needs to be more detail around timetable etc. The report merely says:
"Bids would be invited in November, with Member panels sitting in early January. Parish councils or other bidders could set their precept/budget to reflect their contribution to the successful bid. The opportunity to borrow funds from the council and repay over a period of time could also be highlighted at this time."
The exception is that if bids are to be invited in November, then what has happened this year? I am still looking for a definitive answer and shall report back as soon as I have one.
Cambridgeshire County Council is intending to borrow up to £20 million to help install superfast broadband across the county. This will be helped by government grants and the development plans of broadband providers.
In our part of the county there are many people who work from home. They are the key to the knowledge-based economy. Erratic broadband speeds hamper their work. In one village next door houses may have quite different broadband speeds. And the farther a computer is from the exchange in general the lower the speed.
The County will have to decide where to start with spending its broadband money. It is reasonable to expect that it will go first to those places that BT regard as of a low priority.
In order to gather evidence to show that our need is important, I am collecting details of the real speeds which people are getting. I should be very glad to receive them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most reliable source of information is at http://speedtester.bt.com/. There are four figures of importance: The actual (download) speed when you test, the download and upload speeds and the IP Profile, which is the download limit which BT has set for your computer. It is the actual download speed in which I am most interested.
Excellent news from the District Council on taking over Parish Council lights. At last week’s In Your Patch meeting at Shire Hall it was quite clear that County officers were well out of touch and I vigorously seconded the proposal of the District’s responsible Cabinet member that the item should not be discussed. However if there are any further concerns you may have about Balfour Beatty and maintenance I shall be glad to take them up.
Your Chairman has enquired whether the County has any intention of further reducing the grant to parish councils who cut their own verges. The County has yet to complete its own budget for next year but early indications are that next year’s grant will be the same as this year’s with no uplift for inflation and so on.
The County’s bid to build a household recycling centre south of the Addenbrooke’s road has been derailed by the planning inspector, who has removed it from the site specific part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Minerals and Waste plan. The inspector has no alternative site in mind, so we can now expect haggling between South Cambridgeshire and the City, neither of which is keen to have it on their patch.
Sadly the County has a statutory obligation to provide a site, so we can’t just leave them to it.
The downside for Thriplow is that until a site is up and running a large number of residents of the new developments around Trumpington may well decide to use the Thriplow recycling centre.
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