Cambridgeshire schools funding petition presented

Laws and Huppert school funding petition small

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert yesterday presented schools minister David Laws with a petition of around 2,000 signatures urging the Government to implement proposals to give Cambridgeshire an extra £20 million for schools.

As I reported over a year ago, for too long Cambridgeshire schools have been starved of cash, receiving £600 less per pupil than the national average and putting us at the bottom of the national funding league table.

Today Julian joined forces with other MPs to secure a debate in parliament about this funding unfairness and the Government’s proposals to address it.  He said

“Finally we have the chance to put that right; but I also want to make sure that this is only the beginning of sustained funding year-on-year to repair our school buildings and upgrade our classrooms to provide the learning environment our children deserve.”

The consultation on the proposals is due to close at the end of this week.  You can still sign the petition here.


Election result

The result of the district council by-election on Thursday 24 April was as follows:

  • Lorna Dupré (Lib Dem) 523
  • Neil Hitchin (Con) 280
  • Daniel Divine (UKIP) 162
  • Jane Frances (Lab) 63

I’ve therefore been elected as district councillor for Sutton until May 2015.  I’m very grateful for, and honoured by, the support I’ve received in this election, and will do my utmost to serve Sutton and its residents to the best of my ability.

I’ve signed my declaration of acceptance of office, and received an induction folder the size of a breeze block to serve as some light reading for the weekend.  I’ll be publicising details of councillor surgeries and other information as soon as possible.

Polling station disabled access

Glebe disabled access small

Just the day before today’s polling day we heard that the decision had been made not to allow voters to drive up the access path to The Glebe for today’s elections.  Instead, local residents would have to park in the High Street and make their way to The Glebe on foot.

We were told that people with disabilities or limited mobility who could not walk that distance would need to ring a mobile number on arrival at the entrance to the access path, and that the poll clerks would bring a ballot paper and ballot box out on to the street for them.

This clearly wasn’t satisfactory, so in discussion with the council, the local Lib Dem team liaised with mobility aids provider Bartrams, who have made a wheelchair available to electors who need it to get from the entrance on the High Street to the polling station.

We will be in communication with the council after today’s election to ask them to reinstate the use of The Pavilion as a polling station, and to review their arrangements for access for voters with disabilities and limited mobility both on this occasion and more generally.

Sutton silver update

Another excellent meeting in the Pavilion last night, hosted by Sutton Conservation Society – this time about the plans for Ely Museum to host the Silver disc brooch of Aedwen in summer next year. The brooch, discovered in Sutton during ploughing in 1694, is held in the British Museum in London.

Local resident Liz Hawkins introduced the meeting, and the curator and staff of Ely Museum were on hand to talk about the current plans for the visit of the brooch. Unfortunately the brooch won’t be able to come to Sutton – it will have to stay in the museum in Ely for security reasons – but the staff are keen for village residents of all ages to be involved and to come up with ideas for projects, events and activities to take place alongside the visit.

The brooch will be in Ely for several months starting in July 2015.

Sutton station meeting

Like many other residents of Sutton, I’m relieved to have my broadband back up and running.  That was some serious piece of network outage, wasn’t it?

But the restoration of normal service means I’m able to report on the excellent meeting last night for those interested in the project being spearheaded by local resident Brian Watson to ‘tidy up’ the remnants of Sutton’s railway station at the end of Station Road next to Bow Cottages.

There was a good turnout of people of a range of ages and length of time in the village, all keen to support this project with their time, ideas and different skills. This isn’t going to be a matter of running trains again – but of carrying out some kind of clearance of the overgrowth covering the platforms, and perhaps putting some seating in and an information plaque.

Several people also came up with some excellent ideas about a web-based archive, and also a physical archive somewhere which people could visit and see.  This sounds like just the kind of community-based project that shows why Sutton is such a great place to live.

Fen floods and local history

A thoroughly enjoyable evening at the Pavilion in Sutton tonight, listening to local historian Mike Petty telling the story of the 1947 floods in the Isle of Ely.  Mike’s enthralling talk was accompanied by some captivating photographs of the event and its aftermath, and really brought this period in our area’s history to life.

The talk was very well attended, and was followed by brief advertisements for next Tuesday’s meeting about Brian Watson’s Sutton Station project, for next Thursday’s Conservation Society meeting on the Sutton Silver brooch project (see my earlier posting here), and an update from Mark Nokkert on the Ouse Washes project (again, see my earlier posting here).

And well done to Team Jacum for the refreshments too, which were not only delicious but also encouraged people to stay on and chat, which is how all the best ideas start …

It’s been wonderful to see Brian’s station project, and the launch of the Sutton Memory Lane group on Facebook (which now has over 200 members!), turning into a real enthusiasm for exploring Sutton’s history and heritage. Several people took the opportunity at the meeting to sign up to express their interest in developing a local history group and offer their time and skills.

Smaller council for East Cambridgeshire?

Councillors on East Cambridgeshire District Council are being asked whether they want to reduce the number of councillors from 39 down to 27.  A meeting of the Council this coming Tuesday will consider a report to this effect.

The Council doesn’t have the power to change its own numbers: that rests with the Local Government Boundary Commission. Having previously (in 2011) rejected proposals by the Council to reduce the number of councillors by six, the Commission has now agreed to consider this fresh request from the Council.  (The Commission could, of course, turn down the request again).

Alongside reducing the number of councillors, the Council leadership wants the Commission to review East Cambridgeshire’s ward boundaries.  In principle, it appears that the Council wants to move to single-councillor wards for rural areas. In Sutton’s case this could mean losing a district councillor – we currently have two – or possibly sharing two councillors across a much wider area.  If agreed, the review would take place in 2015 or 2016, after next year’s elections.

In these times, when so many people are – rightly or wrongly – so cynical about all who seek or hold elected office, a reduction in councillor numbers by nearly one-third might well be applauded, even if only as a promising start. But, done properly, the role of a local councillor is a busy one, including not only council  meetings, but representing the council at various bodies and functions, liaising with the parish council, attending local events, communicating with local organisations, holding surgeries for local residents, issuing regular newsletters telling people what’s going on. It’s a lot to do, especially if you’re of working age and have a day job to do as well.

Should we welcome a reduction in the number of our councillors?  Or should we be worried at the prospect of fewer councillors to hold council officials to account and fulfil a demanding role effectively?

Further legal action over guided bus?


Fresh legal action by Cambridgeshire County Council against contractor BAM Nuttall could engulf its guided bus project once again, following the discovery of serious faults in the guided bus track which could cost £20 million to repair.

The news comes less than eight months after the county council settled its earlier dispute with BAM Nuttall over the guided bus, at a cost of £33 million to Cambridgeshire taxpayers.

This scheme has eaten up massive amounts of taxpayers’ money and demonstrated the inability of the county council to manage large projects like this.  The county council must now ensure that the guided busway is safe, but certainly shouldn’t throw any more public money at this scheme in the process.

Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire residents have every right to be alarmed about any future complex large scale infrastructure projects on the county council’s to-do list, until we can be confident this sort of disaster won’t happen again.

Photo by Bob Castle (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



Quiz night

Congratulations to Team Jacum on organising an excellent Quiz Night in the Pavilion in Sutton.  My views are in no way coloured by the fact that our team achieved joint third place and won tickets to the greyhound racing at Peterborough, or the fact that one of my tickets was successful in the draw and I am now the proud owner of a piece of Cambridge contemporary art.  A great evening all round, well attended and one of the typical community events that make Sutton the wonderful village it is.

How local is local, exactly?

Today, it seems, politicians of all colours and flavours woke up to the forthcoming by-election here in Sutton.  A small Labour team was spotted heading up and down the High Street mid-morning, delivering leaflets through selected doors (though, sadly, not mine).  A UKIP leaflet was in evidence.  And the Conservative agent was seen outside the Conservative Club with a car boot-full of literature.

“I live locally,” says the UKIP candidate in his election address.  Well, maybe he’s local to someone – but only if, like him, you happen to live at 1 Oak Farm Drive, Little Downham, the address he helpfully adds in small print at the bottom of his leaflet.  Putting the word ‘local’ in your leaflet eight times doesn’t really change the fact that you live nine and a half miles away from Sutton, though.

“Local resident Jane Frances is the local choice for the Sutton by election,” the Labour candidate helpfully tells us in her leaflet.  That would be ‘local’ as in 15 Second Drove, Little Downham, then?  Almost 11 miles away, according to the AA route planner: which, far from being ‘the local choice’, in fact makes her the candidate living the furthest away from our village.  To underline the point, Jane’s leaflet shows a photograph of her standing locally.  Well, locally, that is, to her campaign last autumn to be elected in Ely East – is that the top of the Forehill in Ely carefully cropped behind her?

I haven’t yet seen a copy of the Conservative leaflet.  Does Mr Hitchin of 7 Chelmer Way, Ely claim to be ‘local’ too?  Does anyone have a copy?  How local is ‘local’?  And how acceptable is claiming to be local in order to be elected when, in fact, you’re not?