Help choose the programme at your local library

‘The Library Presents’ is inviting members of the public to help choose which performances and workshops they would like to see in the next season (Spring 2020) at local libraries.

A menu of events is available from now until 5 October at participating libraries including Ely, or online at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/arts.

The menu includes dance, theatre, music, magic, comedy, circus, puppetry, storytelling, poetry and workshops in a variety of disciplines, from visual and digital art to music, theatre and dance. The full programme will be announced in January.

Tickets for autumn events can be purchased at participating libraries, by phone or online at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/arts where there is also a video showcasing the autumn events programme.

Thriving, not growing

A sit-up-and-listen talk from economist Kate Raworth, about an economic model that balances essential human needs and environmental boundaries. Can our economies grow forever? What does that demand do to the limited resources of our planet? A timely presentation with very local relevance, as Cambridgeshire’s Combined Authority has signed up with Government to double the growth of our local economy, while at the same time Cambridgeshire’s county council has declared a climate emergency.

Ely bypass overspend: the auditors report

The County Council’s auditors, LGSS, have carried out a full and extensive audit of the overspends on the Ely bypass. The resulting report has been presented to the council’s Audit and Accounts Committee.

The report found that “due to the desire of key stakeholders to get the project completed in the shortest timescales possible, and the consequent design of the Contract, insufficient time was given to the project planning stage which, when combined with the type of Contract used during construction, meant that the true costs of the project were not available to officers nor Members until the project was near completion”.

The report made six recommendations:

  1. Consideration should be given to whether the Constitution should be adapted to incorporate limits to delegating authority away from Committees, particularly when there are significant financial implications. In instances where officers are given delegated authority to make significant decisions outside of their ordinary powers as stated in the Scheme of Delegation, even in consultation with some Members, then reports should be provided to relevant Members or Committee which outline the decision that was taken, particularly in high-risk areas or projects.
  2. Future projects should follow a procurement and design stage which takes full account of advice from key officers, the procurement team, any external consultants and suppliers. This should include a provision for extending certain phases of projects; such as the design stage. The relevant Committee on any project should be made aware of any risks associated with the procurement/design process being recommended to them, including any impact this might have on the final costs of the Project.
  3. In instances such as the Ely Bypass project, with numerous spend increases compared the original budgeted and contracted amounts, regular updates should be taken to the relevant Committee. These updates should include the current price and the most up-to-date target/expected final price, along with a detailed project risk register, which should give an overview of the key areas where further price increases may occur, as well as the likelihood of these price increases.
  4. The Project Board should insist on the most up-to-date figures on cost at all times, even if the final expected figure is not known. Further, rather than being left to individual officers to decide when the Committee is informed on the progress being made on the project or on any price increases, this decision should have been made by the Project Board, who should dictate when any risks on the project, including any overspends, are presented to Committee.
  5. Directors should manage, or if necessary escalate, situations where there is pressure to pursue actions that do not follow normal governance rules. It is recommended that a simple procedure is put in place for instances requiring escalation through a short report to the next available Joint Management Team. Regarding this recommendation, the Internal Audit team will always be available to support officers with emailed advice on procedures should there be a need.
  6. Rather than waiting for the Project Board meetings for Members of the Board to be told about the Contract, the Project Board should be provided with the Dashboards every month, in order to allow any concerns which the dashboards may raise to be discussed as early as possible Future projects should follow a procurement and design stage which is in line with advice from key officers, the procurement team and any external consultants.

Image © Copyright John Sutton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Recent planning applications

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The following planning applications in the Sutton division have been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

19/01123/HEN
Coveney
4 Gravel End Coveney CB6 2DN
Construction of single storey rear extension which extends beyond the rear wall by 7.2m, has a maximum height of 4.0m and an eaves height of 2.4m.

19/01135/FUL
Sutton
21 The America Sutton CB6 2NY
Proposed roof extension and conversion over an existing swimming pool with a stairwell link.

19/01139/FUL
Sutton
17 Mostyn Close Sutton CB6 2QJ
Conversion of outbuilding.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages. If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access web page (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Polling district and polling place review

East Cambridgeshire District Council is conducting a review of the Parliamentary polling districts and polling places that fall within its boundaries.

The Council welcomes input from any elector resident within the district. Representations may be made about the arrangements and their accessibility for electors. The Council welcomes views regarding accessibility for disabled voters, including from bodies or persons with experience or expertise on these issues. Where appropriate, alternative arrangements should be proposed.

Representations can be made by email to elections@eastcambs.gov.uk or by post to Electoral Services, East Cambridgeshire District Council, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4EE. Details of those representations made will be published on the Council’s website. The review will run until 30 September 2019. Recommendations will be presented to Full Council on 17 October 2019. Any changes will be implemented on the register of electors to be published on 1 December 2019.

Image: Man vyi [Public domain]

Local government spending review delayed

The Government has announced a year’s delay to its long-planned Spending Review of local government, ‘to allow officials to focus on preparing for Brexit’. A one-year spending round will be announced in September instead.

Across the country, vital local services provided by councils face a funding gap of more than £5 billion next year, rising to £8 billion by 2025. Councils urgently need certainty about how local services will be funded in years to come and a guarantee that they will have enough money to meet the growing demand pressures they face next year.

Only with the right funding and powers can councils meet their legal duties to provide dignified care for people who are elderly or disabled, protect children, prevent and reduce homelessness, and protect the wide range of other valued local services which also make such a positive difference to communities and people’s lives.

Lib Dem call for action on rural crime

Rural crime has hit a seven-year high, up 12 per cent on the previous year and costing the UK £50m in 2018, a report from NFU Mutual shows. Farms and isolated rural areas are especially at risk.

Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said: “These figures only confirm what people in rural areas have known for a long time. As government gets ever more centralised our country areas are increasingly left behind. Successive policing ministers may have forgotten the countryside but it is clear that the criminals have not. A visible presence from police that understands the needs of rural communities now has to be a priority.”

The government must fully reverse the cuts to our police and ensure our rural areas are supported in the fight against crime.

Recent planning applications

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The following planning application in the Sutton division has been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

19/01105/FUL
Mepal
Hiams Farm Chatteris Road Mepal
Double car port and store also including change to driveway.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages. If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access web page (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

Recent planning applications

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ECDC-building-small-300x182.jpg

The following planning applications in the Sutton division have been published by East Cambridgeshire District Council.

19/01005/OUT
Mepal
Site north-west of 11 Bridge Road Mepal
Bungalow, garage and new vehicular access.

19/01026/OUT
Pymoor
Land north-east of Springfields Straight Furlong Pymoor
Residential development for 6 dwellings.

19/01032/FUL
Pymoor
Site adjacent to 10 Pymoor Lane Pymoor
Proposed two dwellings – phased development.

19/01035/FUL
Wentworth
Finlaggan Church Road Wentworth
Proposed first floor extension above existing dwelling/garage.

19/00966/OUM
Witchford
Land between 27 and 39 Sutton Road Witchford
Construction of up to 70 dwellings, together with associated public open space, landscaping, highways and drainage infrastructure works.

19/01016/FUL
Witchford
Ivydene Grunty Fen Road Witchford
Construction of a steel portal framed general purpose agricultural storage building, to replace open-fronted corrugated lean-to, which is to be demolished.

Further information can be found on the district council’s planning pages. If you would like to respond formally to the council about any planning application, comments should be addressed to the district council and not to me.  Comments may be made

  • online using the council’s public access web page (the link above);
  • by email to plservices@eastcambs.gov.uk;
  • or by post to the Planning Department, The Grange, Nutholt Lane, Ely, CB7 4EE.

County council meeting

A full county council meeting at Shire Hall today, in stifling temperatures.

Two public questions: one asking for a regular car-free day, which met with a not exactly ‘can do’ response from the Conservative council leader, and the other about the Civil War earthworks at Shire Hall. The response from the council to the second question was rather more positive: as the council was proposing to lease the Shire Hall site rather than sell it, it would remain in public ownership and therefore subject to a requirement of public access.

Plastics strategy: this was recommended from the General Purposes Committee where we’d had a reasonable discussion and suggested some changes. There was a similar outbreak of unanimity again. I made four points:

  1. We need to do this properly: no more unresearched virtue signalling, like buying ‘compostable’ cups which can’t be composted within the seven-week cycle at the waste plant and end up going to landfill (the council has now decided to dispense with providing cups altogether and we’ll just have to bring our own, which is sensible).
  2. We need to resource it sufficiently: if we need to put in drinking water refill points throughout our public buildings, that needs a budget.
  3. We need to encourage communities who are keen to do this stuff: there are Eco groups springing up all over the place, enthused predominantly by TV coverage of single-use plastics, and we need to support them.
  4. We need to face up to the difficult stuff as well as the easy stuff: ten years ago we could feel good about putting the right item in the right wheelie-bin and think that was enough. Things have got significantly more serious since then, and we need to start thinking about more challenging actions like reducing car use to cut the amount of tyre dust washing into our watercourses and into the oceans – the second largest source of marine plastic.

A Treasury Management report went through on the nod, then we were onto a series of reports from the Constitution & Ethics Committee. Most were uncontentious, but there was disquiet on both sides of the council chamber about the committee’s new Social Media Code for councillors – in my view, impractical to implement but also indefensible under human rights and freedom of speech legislation, and a block on opposition councillors doing their opposition duty. It was decided not to cross-reference the new code into the council’s constitution as the committee recommended, so we now have a breathing space in which we can consider what to do.

Next up, four motions. The first, from Labour, calling for the retention of a police station in the centre of Cambridge with 24/7 staffing, was a bit of a dog’s dinner. My group did our best to amend it into something more sensible by more accurately describing the role of the proposed new southern divisional police hub at Milton, addressing the potential benefits of co-locating the police with council community safety officers and enforcement staff, expressing more succinctly the particular policing challenges of Cambridge, and emphasising the importance of keeping police stations open in the rest of Cambridgeshire not just Cambridge. In the event, the Conservative majority group voted against it all anyway.

The second motion, also from Labour, was on the Real Living Wage. It underwent a last-minute rewrite when Labour councillors realised that all staff at the county council already receive at least the Real Living Wage. It also sought to get the council to sign up to only use contractors who also pay the Real Living Wage. My group again tried to amend it, pointing out that while the aims were laudable, the council was currently in a financial crisis and our first priority was to keep services running, and commitments to spending lots of money on raising the sums paid to social care companies and highways contractors would have to wait. Again, the majority Conservative group voted it all down.

After a half-hour lunch break, the third motion, from Liberal Democrat councillor David Jenkins, sought to find out what Mayor Palmer’s Combined Authority was doing about the review of local government which the county council had handed over to the Combined Authority to do about a year ago. The motion also sought confirmation that all the current combining of jobs, computer systems and everything else between Cambridgeshire and Peterborough wouldn’t prevent the Combined Authority suggesting local government boundaries on different lines. The Conservatives removed the request for that confirmation, and also removed the request for a timetable for the Combined Authority to complete its recommendations on a way forward. Very odd that having handed over this piece of work to the Mayor’s Combined Authority, Conservatives on the county council seem so totally uninterested in when it will be done. Meanwhile local residents are increasingly confused by the multiple layers of local government, and frustrated by the cost and duplication of it all.

The fourth motion, from Liberal Democrat councillor Graham Wilson, was withdrawn. It had raised some serious issues about the huge shortfall in funding for adult social care (£3.6 billion across England and Wales by 2025), and called for a comprehensive lobbying campaign to persuade the Government to address the matter. Instead, Conservative councillors chose to make a complete circus of the motion, amending it to cut out references to staff being constrained by lack of funds, with the Conservative leader of the council adding congratulations to himself (for achieving what, precisely?) and even suggesting it was all the fault of other parties for ‘thwarting attempts to deliver Brexit’! (Remind me which party is in Government with a majority of MPs at the moment?). We decided it was better to withdraw the motion altogether than have it turned into such a farrago of nonsense.

There were no questions for our representatives on the Combined Authority, at which point the meeting closed. It probably achieved something, but not very much.