Annual meeting of the electorate

Tonight I attended the Annual Meeting of the Electorate at the Glebe (not to be confused with the Annual Meeting of Sutton Parish Council, which was on Tuesday – see earlier blog post).

Parish Council chairman Bob Browne reported on the parish council’s year, and I gave much the same report I gave to the Parish Council two days before, so apologies to those who had to hear it twice.  There were two questions from the public: whether we yet knew what was going to happen to the planning application for the southern Ely crossing (we don’t – but I do hope it doesn’t end up being decided by Eric Pickles), and what my view was on the government’s Help To Buy scheme and its effect on affordable housing locally (I think the greater problem in this area is the spiralling housing market in Cambridge fuelled by foreign speculators buying up investment properties).

Mark Nokkert then gave a presentation on the Ouse Washes Landscape Project, in which Sutton Parish Council has recently joined as a partner.  It’s only a year since Mark staffed a stand at the Gault Day to show residents what was being proposed: since then, it’s been great to see Sutton with a seat at the table in this venture.

There were several questions to the parish council from members of the public, mostly about traffic through Sutton, as well as praise for the restoration of the Bury Lane footpath.

There was also a suggestion for the parish council to facilitate the hosting of the various Sutton-related websites that are in existence – something that the parish council’s Community Engagement working party will be asked to consider.

Parish Council meeting

Tonight I attended the Annual Meeting of Sutton Parish Council (not to be confused with the Annual Meeting of the Electorate, which is on Thursday at 7:00pm at The Glebe), at which the Chair and Vice Chair were re-elected, and the membership of the parish council’s various committees and representatives to various bodies was confirmed.  A number of financial and planning issues were also discussed.  Monthly parish council updates are published here after each meeting.

The parish council agenda always includes a slot for a report from the local district councillors.  I reported on Cllr Read’s leave of absence from the district council, the reorganisation of the district council’s committees, the district council ruling group’s priorities for the year, the under-provision of affordable housing in the district, and the proposed dates for my Meet Your Councillor surgery events.  (More on these last two in due course).

There was also an interesting presentation about the Ely Food Bank, and whether and how the parish council could help facilitate this in Sutton.

The next meeting of the parish council is on 24 June.

Mobile classrooms for Sutton Primary School

Cambridgeshire County Council has submitted a planning application* to locate a seven-bay mobile classroom at Sutton C of E Primary School until 31 August 2021.

The application is the result of the expected ‘bulge’ in pupil numbers over the coming years. The school can accommodate 330 children. There are currently 317 pupils on the school roll, in eleven classes, but in September this year this will rise to 345 pupils in 13 classes, and according to NHS data the school will not be below its maximum capacity for another seven years.

The planned classroom block is proposed to be sited on the land behind the school that backs on to 30-34 Bellairs, where the play tyres are.

*On the Documents tab, click on View associated documents to see the various pieces of paperwork that form the application.  You can then click on each item individually.  If your computer is set up to block pop-ups, you may find you have to tell your computer to allow pop-ups for this site in order to read the individual documents.

Annual council meeting

East Cambridgeshire District Council held its annual council meeting tonight, to – among other things – elect its Chairman (Cllr Tony Cornell from Soham) and its committees.

There are only three main committees now (apart from Planning and Licensing), and I’ve been appointed to two of them – Corporate Governance and Finance, and Regulatory and Support Services.

Of specific relevance to Sutton:

  1. The Sutton by-election result was reported, and I was welcomed to the council.
  2. In a report on its corporate priorities, the council claimed that installation of superfast broadband in East Cambridgeshire was complete and would be live by next month.  I reminded the council that St Andrew’s Close and Stirling Way were still waiting for a date for Cabinet 9.  (Not, in fact, that superfast broadband is the direct responsibility of the district council anyway – it’s a county council project with a private sector contractor).
  3. Sutton’s other councillor Philip Read was given leave of absence by the council while he undergoes medical treatment.  Normally if a councillor goes six months without attending a meeting he or she is disqualified, but the council can extend this if the absence is due to some good reason and approved by the council.  Cllr Read’s absence has been extended to the end of 2014, with the option to renew this at the council meeting on 27 November.  I’m sure we all wish Cllr Read well for his medical treatment and a swift return to robust health.

I did point out that Sutton currently has two district councillors, so will not be left without representation while Cllr Read is absent.  However, the council has asked the local government boundary commission to consider cutting the number of councillors on East Cambs council, and moving to single-councillor wards for rural areas like Sutton.  If a similar leave of absence were to be granted in that situation, Sutton could be left completely unrepresented for almost a year.  It’s just one of several reasons why I disagree with the council administration’s view on this.

Nellie’s gives more money to good causes

Cup of coffee

There were queues at the door at Nellie’s this morning, as once again the superb community café team presented cheques to two local charities the café has been sponsoring for the last six months.  £200 went to the Sutton games group to buy new games; and a staggering £1,025 to Brainwave which is doing amazing work for local children with additional needs.

The next two charities which the café will be supporting in the months ahead are Ehlers-Danlos Support UK, a group supporting people living with this condition; and Magpas the emergency medical charity.

Great to see Nellie’s going from strength to strength and so many good causes benefiting.

Group meeting

Yesterday I attended my first meeting of my political group as a councillor.  As it was the group’s AGM, we elected our leader and deputy leader, treasurer and secretary.  I’ve been made group press officer for the year.  We also agreed our nominations to fill up our group’s places on the council’s committees: I’m going to be nominated for two of the council’s three committees, so will certainly have my work cut out.

Sister Act

Congratulations to Sutton Feast Committee for another wonderful evening’s entertainment – a showing of Sister Act in St Andrew’s Church, with hot dogs, popcorn, wine, ice cream, and our very own live dancing nun!

Don’t forget the Feast Committee is always looking out for residents’ ideas for more community events in the village. And you can follow Sutton Feast on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/suttonfeast

Sutton Deli@65

Deli opening small

Congratulations to the Petrous on the first day of Sutton’s brand new delicatessen and café, Sutton Deli@65! The store was buzzing at lunchtime today, with plenty of local residents stopping to drink coffee or tea, chat with friends and neighbours, and browse the shelves and the choice of cold meats, cheeses and baked goods. It’s amazing what they already have in stock – including a wide range of gluten-free foods – with more to follow.  My partner bought me an ‘unbirthday present’ of a caterer’s blowtorch – is this wise?

Forthcoming street works

If you haven’t come across it before, it’s worth checking in at http://cambridgeshire.roadworks.org/ every now and then to see what street works are about to be undertaken locally by the various agencies. You can choose a variety of different views, including the option of Today, Next two weeks, or Next 12 months, and you can zoom in to see the Sutton map in some detail.

For example, it’s good to see that the broken section of pavement on the corner at the top of The Orchards is to be mended, and the county council will be resetting a length of kerb on the footpath near the school. Meanwhile, the National Grid will be connecting gas supplies to various properties in Mepal Road, Sutton Court and Lawn Lane.

Voting by post

It seems only a matter of days since the last time voters in Sutton went to the polls – doesn’t time fly? – but on Thursday 22 May we’ll be doing it again, this time for the elections to the European Parliament.

It’s not always possible to get to the polling station on the day, for any number of reasons, which is where a permanent postal vote really comes in handy.  I’ve had one for years, because as you can imagine I’m usually busy on polling day.  In olden times you used to have to have a doctor’s note or similar before you could vote by post, but these days everyone is entitled to a postal vote – you don’t need to give a reason.

If you want a postal vote for the elections on 22 May, you’ll need to move fast – the deadline for East Cambs District Council to receive applications is 5pm this Wednesday, 7 May.  You can download a form from the council’s website.

And, as an aside, it’s just occurred to me that until ten days ago, the European elections were the only ones in my life in which I ever voted for a winning candidate and my vote actually counted for anything.  That’s our cock-eyed voting system for you …