My Report to the March 2016 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My Report to the January 2016 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My Report to the November 2015 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My Report to the September 2015 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the June 2015 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the November 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the October parish council meeting I have attended the Staffing and Finance portfolio holder’s meeting and a briefing on the possible council tax to be levied next year.
2. At the Staffing and Finance portfolio holder’s meeting I once again attempted to have South Cambridgeshire adopt the living wage as the minimum wage paid to council employees. This affects just 12 members of staff. But again it was rejected even though it was estimated to add just £2,400 to the council’s wage bill. Even Uttlesford District Council has adopted the living wage (hardly a red leaning council) and so too has Teversham Parish Council for its contractors.
3. As to next year’s council tax you will have received a letter providing you with the proposed precept tax base for next year so that you can let the council know if you think it is wrong. The council is expecting 800 to 1,000 new homes nett each year to increase council tax income, although the cost of the services for these new homes is estimated as being higher than the council tax income! It also assumes that New Homes Bonus will continue although this is uncertain given the likelihood of a new government in May. The council will be relying on income from its private property company to make up for the loss of government grant. Even so some £1.2 million worth of savings will be required with a 2% increase in council tax (the maximum that can be applied without a referendum) and the bulk of that will need to come from street refuse services as most other services have very little more to give in savings.
4. The Examination in Public of South Cambs’ submitted Local Plan started on 4 November and developers fought to have the Green Belt considered first so that it could be challenged and made available before the 5 year housing supply is examined in February; I am please to say that the Inspectorate kept to her guns. But this is going to be a very acrimonious inquiry with landowners and housing developers looking for every loop hole to build on the Green Belt around Cambridge.
5. Mary Drage and I met South Cambridgeshire officers to discuss the way forward for both the Ida Darwin and Teversham Road proposed housing developments (minutes are being tabled at the meeting). It appears the extra care facility has been dropped in favour of more housing and the Teversham Road application is having to be determined in February (and not later) because the applicant is prepared to appeal for non determination if it is not processed within the statutory maximum limit.
My District report to the September 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. As you will know just before the summer break a planning inspector in upholding an appeal for housing development in Waterbeach considered that South Cambs did not have a five year housing supply and could not therefore refuse applications for housing developments except where it could be shown that the adverse impacts of the application outweigh the provision of new homes. As a result, our existing housing policies regarding village frameworks and rural centres currently cannot be used to determine applications. Moreover, the inspector considered that the emerging policies in the proposed Local Plan could not be given weight because of the number of objections lodged against it, which made it likely that it would be altered substantially by the Examination in Public. Therefore we cannot use the proposal to designate Local Green Space and other new policies contained in the new Local Plan to determine applications. However, he did say that Green Belt policy continues to apply. South Cambs considered a challenge to these views, but the inspector could not be faulted on the way in which he had come to these conclusions and so it was decided not to do this and potentially make matters worse ahead of the Examination in Public which will have to take into account the views he expressed.
The problem is that because the South Cambs Local Plan has been produced in tandem with the City Local Plan, our Plan allows for the majority of the housing development in the early years of both Local Plans to take place in the City, with South Cambs delivering the bulk of the housing in the latter years in the form of new settlements. As a result, while the City has a five year supply now, South Cambs does not. The Waterbeach inspector did not accept this as there is no precedent for two local planning authorities to work together in this way. South Cambs and the City are therefore producing a Memorandum of Understanding to put this arrangement on a legal footing to put before the Examination in Public.
The upshot of all of this is that the process of adopting the Local Plan will be delayed well into next year I suspect and meanwhile South Cambs will be open to attempts like that of Castlefield International to build houses on the former water company land to the north of Cow Lane. I hope that as the Examination in Public progresses emerging policy will be given weight as it is dealt with and that the proposed designation of Local Green Space and Fulbourn as a Minor Rural Centre will be able to be used in determining the application.
2. I also attended a Corporate Governance Committee meeting of South Scambs to discuss the implications of the City Deal on future planning policies. The intention is that the City Deal authority will in time be responsible for producing from 2019 a single Local Plan for all three councils, but without the democratic control of a unitary authority – the decisions resting with just three councillors each appointed by their authority. The Liberal Democrat group are extremely concerned about the way the City Deal is being used to create a “quango” type body which will include university and business interests that will have enormous control over the future of the Cambridge region, yet will be far removed from the electorate with limited scrutiny.
3. The outline planning application for the Marshall “Wing” development will be considered next month by a joint planning committee of South Cambs and the City. I understand the Heads of Terms for the S106 agreement has been agreed between the parties, although as an opposition councillor I have been excluded from knowing what this is before the papers are made public. However, I am told that it includes a proposal for an ice skating rink adjacent to the Newmarket Road P&R site which may have traffic implications for us.
My report to the July 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Last week a planning inspector upheld an appeal by two housing developers for permission to build houses between Waterbeach village and the former Waterbeach barracks. This affects us because the inspector in his decision considered that South Cambridgeshire District Council did not have a five year supply of housing land contrary to Government guidance and that the emerging Local Plan had so many objections against it that little weight could be given to it as emerging policy! The council had refused to grant permission on the grounds that the land was to be designated Green Belt to separate Waterbeach village from the proposed new town. The inspector considered that the housing land shortage was substantial based upon the new housing estimates produced for the proposed Local Plan (he estimated that we had in fact only 3.5 to 3.9 years worth of land), whereas the council also acknowledging it was tight had based its figure on the former housing figures contained in the existing Local Development Framework. This means that the current housing policies regarding village frameworks and village infrastructure are nil and void until the new Local Plan is adopted in the New Year. However the inspector did acknowledge that the Green Belt continued to be grounds for refusal – this did not apply to Waterbeach because the land had yet to be designated Green Belt. However, this ruling does have an implication for the former water works land north of Cow Lane because like the Waterbeach land it is currently unprotected and its proposed designation as a Local Green Space is hotly contested by housing developers and the inspector’s ruling suggests it cannot be given weight as emerging policy. However, I’m confident that the ecological assessment will support the designation and provide grounds for refusal. Clearly the Local Communities portfolio holder had no grip on what the officers were doing in preparing the Local Plan and of course the author of the plan has left the council.
2. A second major matter for us is the merging of the South Cambs and City waste services including kerbside collection. The new joint department will be based at the South Cambs depot at Waterbeach and provide considerable financial savings for both us and city residents through productivity improvements in staff and equipment. This is another function being shared with the City and with the formation of a Greater Cambridge joint authority for managing the City Deal funding it can only be a matter of time for Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire councils to be merged into a unitary authority. So come on be straight with people. Personally being both a district and county councillor I can see enormous benefits in there being a unitary authority like Peterborough for the Greater Cambridge region both for delivering strategy and the day to day provision of joined up services.
My District Councillor report to the May 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. From next April the way in which the parish council receives money to offset the impacts of new housing will change. Instead of receiving Section 106 money for every development, parishes will be given part of a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a tariff levied on housing developments of less than 200 dwellings based on the floor area of the buildings. If the parish has a Neighbourhood Plan it will received 25%, but if not (like Fulbourn) it will be 15%. In either case the amount will be much less than under the current S106. The CIL money has to be paid to the parish council within 6 months of being received by the local planning authority (LPA) and it has to be spent within 5 years. But it is paid only when the dwelling is occupied. The CIL can be used more widely than S106 money to “support the development of the area”. The LPA’s CIL money can only be spent on items previously identified under a Regulation 123 list held by it (in our case South Cambs). Being on the list precludes the item from future S106 money. So for example if the planned youth building is on the list, CIL money can be spent on it, but it cannot be included in any S106 agreement. There is also a requirement for parish councils to itemise and explain how the CIL money has been spent (or not) in its annual report. South Cambs is now asking parish councils for their items for the Regulation 123 list and Fulbourn needs to ensure it gets its wish list in. I would refer you to the latest planning brief from South Cambs.
2. I have been helping residents on the Swifts to deal with anti-social behaviour. The Accent Nene estate manager and our PCSOs have been involved which has involved letters and visits to the families concerned. It has been suggested that signs be erected either side of “the wall” artwork.
3. From 1 June Stagecoach will be running the 17 bus to Balsham Road to serve the Fulbourn Centre and White Hart and will be using the lay-by. I have asked county highways to deal with the potholes in the lay-by. I am also discussing the positioning of a bus stop in Home End with the county highways safety team.
4. Further to the Patients Participation Group’s presentation at the last parish council meeting I raised the matter of nursing support at the Health Centre at the full meeting of South Cambs council and I am pursuing it with the Cambridgeshire Health and Wellbeing Board.
5. Hinton Road and footpath have been included in the 2015/16 capital programme for resurfacing at a cost of nearly £200,000. The footpath in Haggis Gap by Swifts Corner is also to be resurfaced soon.
6. Over the summer South Cambs will be consulting on its decision to change collection rounds and reduce the green bin collection to once per month in December, January and February. The collection rounds are years old and need reviewing, but I have grave concerns on the cut to the green bins.
My report to the April 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the March 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the January 2014 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. First of all very best wishes for the New Year.
2. Following the application I prepared on behalf of the parish council to have a speed activated sign in Dogget Lane under the county council’s Minor Highways Initiative scheme, I am pleased to report that it has been short listed and that I shall be presenting our bid later this month to the panel.
3. Today (8 January) South Cambs is due to endorse a development brief for the Ida Darwin to help it determine the outline planning application. I am supporting the parish council’s call to have this deferred until planning officers have met the working group to explain and discuss the contents of the brief and will be speaking at the meeting to this effect. I am concerned that the officer report has misrepresented the views of the parish council and does not mention the working group nor the parish council’s letter to the Secretary of State.
4. The Marshall Group has submitted its application for outline planning permission for its “Wing” housing development on the north side of Newmarket Road. Under pressure from me, the district council member for the Wilbrahams and Teversham PC it has dropped its plan to build industrial units on Green Belt land off Airport Way. It has also accepted that it has to abide by South Cambs housing policy with regard to the allocation of the affordable homes element of the development. This large development will have an impact on Fulbourn in terms of traffic, education and health provision and Fulbourn should respond to the consultation.
5. The bus working group has met since the last meeting to agree how to provide an alternative to the withdrawal of the day time service on the 17 between Fulbourn and Little Wilbraham – please see my county council report.
6. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement made changes to the funding settlement for local government, particularly with regard to the New Homes Bonus. Overall there is a 10% reduction in funding for local councils. Once again it is offering additional money for freezing council tax, but it nowhere compensates for inflation and currently South Cambs is planning up to a 3.5% increase for next financial year the limit set by the Government for councils with low council tax rates. South Cambs meets on 27 February to approve its budget for 2014/15 and set its council tax rate.
My report to the December 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council and the Corporate Governance Committee both held on Thursday 28 November 2012.
2. At the full council meeting I proposed and it was accepted unanimously that the council reaffirms its support for the proposed Science Park Station at Chesterton Sidings. This is needed to unlock the full potential of the Science Park site, providing employment and transport improvements which will benefit all of us in the Cambridge sub region. I have argued that the extension to the Peterhouse Technology Park into Green Belt land is unnecessary because the Science Park offers sufficient development potential instead.
3. South Cambridgeshire District Council has issued the first of a monthly e-bulletin to Parish Councils giving up to date news about its activities which the councils can then include in websites. The council will be producing it in pdf format too from this month. I welcome this useful way of keeping Parish Councils and through them the public with regular updated news items about the District Council.
4. South Cambridgeshire is also asking residents and businesses in the district about what they think about its Corporate Plan and in consequence what it will be concentrating on in the forthcoming financial year and the level of council tax it will levy. The budget being put forward by the ruling political group proposes a council tax increase of 3.5% – the maximum allowed under Government rules without a referendum for councils with very low tax rates such as South Cambs. Go to the council website for details of how to respond.
5. There were over 7,000 responses to the proposed Local Plan submission documents. The council is proposing to present the final document to full council in February/March with the intention to submit it for the Government Inspector to find it sound and fit for purpose by the summer. We can then breathe a sigh of relief and start to review our Parish Plan to ensure it conforms to the new planning policies. (And perhaps to produce a Neighbourhood Plan). Meanwhile the council has published its 5 year land bank to demonstrate that there is sufficient land for housing development over that time to keep the developers at bay whilest the Local Plan is submitted and determined.
My report to the November 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the October parish council meeting I attended two South Cambridgeshire District Council workshops – one on next year’s budget and the possible council tax to be levied and the second about a proposal to set up a wholly owned private housing company to deliver income to the council.
2. South Cambs continues to suffer from decisions taken in the 1990s to reduce council tax levels, which has resulted in the district receiving far less in government grant than comparable councils. In 2010/11 the council received £7.8m, but for 2014/15 it will get £2.3m in government grant and could get nothing by 2019. So next year the council will see its government grant reduced by a further 10% compared to this financial year at a time when inflation is predicted officially to rise by 2.4%, council staff have been awarded a 1% pay rise and pension costs will rise, refuse costs will rise, less money will be received from the government for housing benefit administration, the onus to repay council tax overpayments due to past overvaluation will fall on the council (estimated at £500,000) and 40% of the proportion of the New Homes Bonus to be received by South Cambs (which was to be available to offset the cost of new housing) will be top sliced by the government for the Local Enterprise Panels. Also the retention of non domestic business rates is to be half that promised and what is left will be affected by the City Deal. Against this the council will have a council tax rise cap of 3.5%. All indications are that whoever wins the 2015 general election this squeeze on Cambridgeshire councils will continue. So you can see that going forward the provision of non statutory services in our district will depend more and more on parish councils
3. In view of the above, South Cambs has been considering other ways of getting revenue income. One proposal is for the council to set up a wholly owned limited company to let housing at full market rates. The council will lend the company money at the commercial rate to buy property to let and make a profit on the interest charged, which can go to the general fund and supplement the council tax income. The council could either lend the money from its reserves or borrow at a much lower interest rate from the Public Works Loan Board. One issue I am concerned about is the potential for the council to be competing against first time buyers who are already struggling against buy to let competition. The council is to be asked to approve a two year pilot project.
My report to the October 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the September parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 26 September and the Corporate Governance Committee on 27 September.
2. At the full meeting of SCDC the council gave powers to the Housing Portfolio holder to dispose of council properties. At the Corporate Governance Committee I asked and it was agreed to audit this as soon as practical. The criteria does permit the gifting of property to a social housing provider in certain circumstances and there is concern that this could be used to transfer housing stock which would be against the wishes of tenants, who voted overwhelmingly some years ago against this.
3. At the Corporate Governance Committee meeting we had the opportunity to meet those administering the local government pension scheme for South Cambs and other councils in Cambridgeshire which is currently millions in the red and being supported by council tax payers. We were concerned to learn that the pension fund board has no pension professional on it! We are asking the council to express concern over this.
4. There continue to be worrying side effects with the Marshall’s proposed Wing development on the north side of Newmarket Road opposite the airport. Following my challenge to Marshalls at the Fen Ditton PC AGM to say where it intends to relocate activity going on at its North Works, we now find not only does Marshalls want to build industrial units on Green Built land at the junction of Newmarket Road and Airport Way in order to relocate some of its North Works activity and its military vehicles division from Mildenhall, it now informs South Cambs that it wishes to relocate its car showrooms to the south side of the airfield along Airport Way. Marshalls have been told by South Cambs that it cannot amend its proposed Local Plan for these proposals, but at this time Marshalls have indicated that they will be submitting planning applications nonetheless. This, together with the 500 home development proposed by Marshalls on land to the north of Teversham Old Drift which is supported by the city council, will virtually join Teversham village to the city!
5. Finally, the public consultation on SCDC’s proposed submission for its Local Plan closes on October 14 and I have prepared a response for the parish council as well as objecting myself to the extension of the Peterhouse Technology Park which appears to go against other policies proposed by South Cambs.
My report to the September 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the July 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Counci
My report to the June 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My District report to the May 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. At the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 25 April 2013 Councillor Scarr and I asked that the council write to Network Rail to place on record its concern over the way cutting back the vegetation along the railway between Cherry Hinton and Six Mile Bottom was undertaken and to seek assurance that in future communities would be pre-warned and all steps would be taken to minimise the night time noise nuisance. It came as a surprise to both of us to have this quite non political motion rejected by the controlling Conservative group!
2. Since the last meeting of the parish council there have been two South Cambridgeshire planning workshops on its proposed draft Local Plan. The first one dealt with environmental matters, whilst the latter dealt with the SHLAA site to the west of Station Road and the proposals to build housing along Worts Causeway and extending the Peterhouse Technology Park. It also considered continuing the special planning supplement for the Ida Darwin site. I have been the only Fulbourn district councillor to attend these meetings, but I have nevertheless presented the parish council’s case for having all of the new Green Belt development proposals rejected and for the Ida Darwin scheme to be scaled down. However, I fear that officers will recommend the Peterhouse extension to members and they still want to press on with a three storey extra care facility on the Ida Darwin site. An interesting fact to come out of the questions I put to officers is that under the new National Planning Policy Framework there is now no special status for a developed site in the Green Belt and the new “openness” criteria will apply when replacing the existing Ida Darwin single storey buildings. Will this be a test case?
3. I also attended a Finance and Staffing portfolio holder’s meeting in my role as opposition spokesperson on these matters and discussed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme, the policy for granting discounts for Council Tax and the National Non-Domestic Rates Discretionary Relief Policy.
4. Finally, at a meeting of the Fulbourn Hospital problem solving group set up by the British Transport Police I as informed that Network Rail had installed new CCTV at the level crossings in Yarrow Road, Teversham Road and Station Road, which is activated automatically when a missing person call is made by Fulbourn Hospital to the British Transport Police.
My report to the March 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the February 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the January 2013 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. First of all very best wishes for the New Year.
2. Firstly, you will know that the Government has offered to increase its grant to local authorities for 2012/13 by 1% if the councils agree not to increase their council tax in return. However, this increase is well below the current rate of inflation and as a result of the last two years of freezing council tax, South Cambridgeshire along with many other district councils had budgeted for a 3.5% rise for this coming financial year. Therefore if it accepts the Government’s offer it will have to make even further savings. As you know South Cambridgeshire council tax rate and level of spend is already nearly the lowest in England. To increase above 3.5% would trigger a referendum under the new Localism Act. I shall be attending a finance briefing on the 9th so will be able to update members at the meeting.
3. As a result of additional issues being raised by the Issues and Options consultation undertaken in the summer, SCDC is conducting more consultation on these issues from 7 January to 18 February with an exhibition at the Swifts today (9th January). For Fulbourn the new proposals include designating the former Cambridge Water Company land and the piece of land beside the Fulbourn Centre in Home End as Local Green Space to prevent them being built on, but it also proposes developing farm land either side of Worts Causeway and extending the Peterhouse Technology Park eastwards to Yarrow Road. The results of this consultation and that of the summer consultation will be considered together in March with the intention that a draft Local Plan will be put to consultation over the summer. Goods news that the Gazelle Way proposal has been dropped by both the City council and SCDC.
4. The bus working group has met since the last meeting and Little and Great Wibraham parish council representatives confirmed that they were also prepared to precept for a contribution towards keeping the Newmarket bus going after April. However, Teversham was not present at the meeting and minutes of its December meeting suggests that it has declined to support the service, so it is being asked to clarify its position. The Cambridge Community Foundation has been approached to see if there is a suitable fund the parish councils can approach for support, but the only one suitable is the Wadlow Wind Farm one, but Teversham does not qualify for this fund.
5. I am told by the Co-operative Bank that an ATM will be located in the Fulbourn Co-op store just as soon as the electricity supply and BT connections have been laid on.
My report to the December 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Firstly, I apologise for not being at tonight’s meeting, but I am at Bottisham Village College’s Christmas Concert.
2. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 22 November 2012.
3. At the full council meeting I proposed that the council help residents reduce their energy bills by organising a reverse auction for electricity tariffs which has saved residents in South Lakeland District Council hundreds of pounds a year. The council would invite residents to show an interest and electricity providers to enter an auction at which the one with lowest tariff would be able to offer it to these residents without obligation. The result in South Lakeland shows that it not only produces lower bills for residents, but also gives an opportunity for smaller electricity providers to enter the market, particularly those offering electricity from renewable sources. The council also receives a commission from the supplier for every resident signed up and this more than covers the cost of the scheme. South Lakeland intends to organise another auction in the New Year. Unfortunately, our Conservative colleagues could not get their heads around this scheme and voted it out. But I suspect that once the idea sinks in it and officers have had a word with them it will come back on the table.
4. At the same meeting Conservative councillors voted to spend £45,000 on new furniture for the council chamber on the pretext that it will be used for conferences, whilst having proposed a cut the council’s grants budget by £382,000. This cut will see most grants to the arts and sport activities abolished, particularly to the village colleges and for community activities; also support to the Citizen Advice Bureaux is being drastically reduced, to which the council refers people for financial advice. Capital grants for social and sporting facilities will also be abolished. These cuts will therefore have a serious impact on Fulbourn going forward. This situation arises from the fact that the £300,000 shortfall in this year’s budget (which I did not vote for and was clearly impossible to meet in order to freeze the council tax) has not been met. The Lib Dem group is vigorously opposing these cuts which will be put to the council at its budget making meeting in February.
5. In January South Cambridgeshire District Council will be consulting on the building of houses on Green Belt land either side of Worts Causeway and on extending (again in the Green Belt) the Peterhouse Technology Park in Cambridge Road. The Issues and Options Report responses will be discussed in public at the Planning and Localism Portfolio holder’s meeting due to start at 10am at Cambourne on Thursday 10 December. See the council website for the agenda. Please attend if you can.
6. On a brighter note, following ongoing pestering of the Cooperative Bank you will be pleased to know that a replacement ATM is to be installed inside the shop. It is not able to give me a confirmed date as I write this.
7. I had a very constructive meeting with Metropolitan Housing Trust to discuss its tenant/leaseholder scrutiny panel and regeneration policy and out of that came its interest to get involved with local youth projects, so I have given contact details to Mrs Andrews. I have also passed contact details to South Cambs with regard to Exception Sites.
8. Having made contact with the newly appointed estates director for Addenbrooke’s University Hospitals NHS Trust, a maintenance schedule is being drawn up for the strip of land along Yarrow Road between Tesco and the Cambridge Road roundabout. I am hopeful of persuading the Trust to open it up for community use, as originally intended when the Beechwoods was built.
9. Finally I have been in touch with Cambridge City council over its proposal to include all residential roads in the city in a 20mph zone, to see if the Beechwoods could be included in this (certainly Primrose Close will be included), given that some of the estate is in the city. However, as some or all of the roads in question are outside the city boundary there are legal matters which may involve the Parish Council to enable this to happen.
My report to the November 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the October 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the September 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
I do not apologise for my report being rather political this month.
You may have read in the Cambridge News that during the summer break the ruling Conservative cabinet for SCDC decided to freeze council staff pay for 2013/14 without warning to other councillors and council staff, despite the budget having provision for a 2.5% increase next year, following this year’s pay freeze. The way in which this was done has been challenged by the Liberal Democrat opposition group and it is being investigated by Jean Hunter the Chief Executive.
From next April SCDC will take responsibility for handling Housing Benefit and has been told that the amount of money it will receive for this from the government will be £1 million less than the current cost for the district. The reduction assumes a drop in the cost of benefit claims because of tighter rules and the Benefit Cap limit (see below); but if there is a shortfall it will have to be found by council taxpayers.
I think it useful to set out the complexity of this, so that you’ll understand why council officers and certainly Liberal Democrat councillors are fearful of the possible confusion and financial distress many of our residents could find themselves in and the possibility of errors being made by SCDC staff in the calculation of Housing Benefit, due to the government bringing this forward ahead of the Universal Credit scheme.
In addition to the effects of the Benefit Cap, the change to the way Housing Benefit is provided also affects council tenants and tenants of housing associations and housing trusts of working age in particular, because these claimants could get less Housing Benefit if their home has more bedrooms than the state deems necessary for their family circumstances.
The Benefit Cap will take account of a number of benefits received by people of working age to ensure that claimants are not given more in benefits than the average wage (after tax and national insurance).
The Benefit Cap will only apply to working age people (not people receiving state pension). This means people aged from 16 up to ‘pension age’, which is currently the state retirement age for women. ‘Pension age’ is increasing from 60 to 65 between April 2010 and April 2020 and is currently around age 61.
Moreover, the current single person’s “single room” Housing Benefit (which is just over £74 a week and assumes the person can share accommodation) and which currents stops at 25 years will be extended to include those up to 35 years old in all property types. This has already been introduced for private landlords, but the most vulnerable single people without dependents between the ages of 25 and 35 in social housing and currently receiving Housing Benefit will see a big drop in their benefit payment.
As a result of the Benefit Cap for single people with no dependents the limit on total benefits will be £350 a week, while the limit is £500 a week if you’re a couple, with or without dependent children or a lone parent with dependent children
To achieve these limits the following benefits will have to be taken into account by SCDC staff when assessing Housing Benefit because they all count towards the Benefit Cap whatever the circumstances of the claimant:
Bereavement Allowance; Carer’s Allowance; Child Benefit; Child Tax Credit; Employment and Support Allowance (except where it includes the support component); Guardian’s Allowance; Incapacity Benefit; Income Support; Jobseeker’s Allowance; Maternity Allowance; Severe Disablement Allowance; Widowed Parent’s Allowance; Widowed Mother’s Allowance; Widow’s Pension; Widow’s Pension (age-related).
However, the Benefit Cap won’t apply if the claimant or partner qualify for Working Tax Credit or if they get any of the following benefits, so these will not be taken into account by SCDC:
Attendance Allowance; Disability Living Allowance (this is replaced by Personal Independence Payment from April 2013); Employment and Support Allowance (if it includes the support component); Industrial Injuries Benefits: Personal Independence Payment (from April 2013); War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension.
The Benefit Cap does not apply for 39 weeks from the date someone claims benefit if the claimant or partner have been working continuously for the previous 12 months and have lost their job through no fault of their own.
My report to the July 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. South Cambridgeshire has to have a new Local Plan from 2016 to replace the current Local Development Framework. The council is asking your opinion on the issues and options it feels should be tackled in the Local Plan, including its forecasts for future housing and employment to 2031, the future of the Cambridge Green Belt and the SHLAA housing sites it considers are worthy of further consideration. After consultation closes in September it will produce a draft Local Plan for further consultation next year. So if you have views on this you need to respond. So far as Fulbourn is concerned only the SHLAA site west of Station Road has been put forward for further consideration. A review of rural centre status has also shown that Fulbourn scores below the threshold to be rural centre and the council asks should we be demoted to a minor rural centre, which puts constraints on future development. Should there be changes proposed to the Green Belt, these will be consulted on this autumn, so that any subsequent change can be incorporated into the draft Local Plan.
2. Meanwhile, I have made the following response to Cambridge City Council’s Issues and Options Report which puts forward the idea of removing the farm land to the east of Gazelle Way and to the north of Fulbourn Old Drift from the Green Belt to enable it to be used for a large scale housing development. As you can see, I have objected to this option which not only impacts on The Firs, but also destroys the green corridor between Fulbourn and the city. I have written:
As South Cambridgeshire district councillor and parish councillor representing Fulbourn I write to respond to the last sentence of paragraph 3.59 (“Comments are sought on all the broad locations including those in South Cambridgeshire to assist the Councils to take a co-ordinated approach on this important issue.”) specifically in respect of Option 17: Broad location 8: Land east of Gazelle Way.
In reference to Broad location 8 you refer to the “Cambridge Green Belt Study” published in September 2002 for South Cambridgeshire District Council and with regard to the land east of Gazelle Way the conclusion of that report as summarised is: “Large scale development east of Airport Way around Teversham, Fulbourn and east of Cherry Hinton, would have adverse effects on the setting and special character of Cambridge, and should be resisted.”
In paragraph 3.54 you say: The NPPF states that the Government attaches great importance to Green Belts whose essential characteristics are their openness and permanence. Five purposes for Green Belts are set out, the key one for the Cambridge Green Belt being: “To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns”. The Cambridge Green Belt is one of the few to which this criteria applies. The purposes and functions of the Cambridge Green Belt are intended to help achieve the preservation of the setting of Cambridge and its special character.
I draw your attention to paragraph 7.3.5 of the “Cambridge Green Belt Study” which concludes that “a substantial part of the detailed study area around Teversham, and west of Fulbourn, is classified as supportive landscape. Areas of supportive landscape are key elements of the distinctiveness of Cambridge and its setting, and a fundamental quality of the setting and special character of the historic city.”
In addition to this, on the point of views, while there is a key low level view of Cambridge from Teversham and Fulbourn, from Airport Way and the east side of Cherry Hinton the land east of Gazelle Way affords a view of the historic Fulbourn Windmill and the Fulbourn Hospital Conservation Area, and of Teversham parish church and of the rural setting of Teversham village which is of benefit to the wellbeing of those living in the “urban” environment of Cherry Hinton.
I therefore consider that Broad location 8 is unsuitable for development and should remain in the Green Belt for the reasons above.
3. Having worked with parish councils along the route and Fulbourn Forum, I am delighted that a replacement bus was up and running when Stagecoach withdrew its popular service to Newmarket. The A&P Travel bus (numbered 16) runs on Tuesdays and Fridays. It follows route 17 from Teversham and departs the Six Bells at 10.30 am. It returns from Newmarket bus station at 1.30 pm. However, this is an “interim” arrangement until September and the officer concerned has not confirmed what will then happen. A meeting has been arranged for later this month.
4. Following discussion with Terry Holloway of Marshall Aerospace, the airport will be providing aircraft tracks to the consultative committee.
5. The commercial manager for Stagecoach East has apologized to me for having the wrong timetables and route numbers on the bus stops in Fulbourn village on the first day of the new timetable for routes Citi 1 and Citi 3. And Stagecoach agreed my suggestion, made after talking with those waiting at the stops on the first chaotic day, to have the buses change routes upon entering the village, instead of in the High Street. I have also asked the Traffic Commissioner to investigate the robustness of the new timetables and the way they are being operated.
My report to the June 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
At the annual meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 24 May I was reappointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and to the Joint Traffic Management Committee which includes Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council.
Apologies for not getting this report to you sooner, but as some of you will know I have been busy with presenting our case for funding from the county council’s Minor Highways Improvements Scheme for repositioning the 30 mph limits in Balsham Road, Wilbraham Road and Teversham Road (I got a fair hearing and am hopeful that we will get some funding), representing this council on the working group set up to get an alternative Newmarket bus service (this has been agreed, but as I write this the Traffic Commissioner had yet to give approval) and preparing for the Ida Darwin public meeting.
Other matters that I should report on include the erection the 13 wind turbines at Wadlow Farm which is going on now. I am a member of the community fund panel which has set the criteria for and will oversee the running of the fund by the Cambridge Community Foundation. Also, once again environmental health has contacted Fulbourn Mill about night time noise.
I also attended the Windmill Estate Steering Panel and am delighted that Carter Homes has been selected for the construction of the next phase of the redevelopment.
You will also see from correspondence that I have been in touch with Metropolitan Housing Trust regarding its poor response to flooding in Hinton Road. You will also see that it has also been criticized for not maintaining street lighting in Roberts Way. Interestingly the company responsible for its repairs is Mears – the company that SCDC has contracted out its housing repairs to.
Finally, the latest homes for rent on the redeveloped Windmill Estate have been let and although they nearly all went to families with a Fulbourn connection, a great many other Fulbourn families on the housing waiting list were left disappointed. South Cambs has a housing crisis and the only sure way we can ensure homes for Fulbourn people is through Exception Sites, which give us the right to ring fence them for local families in perpetuity.
My report to the May 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the April 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the March 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the February 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the January 2012 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the December 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended a council workshop on local accountability and governance and the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 24 November 2011.
2. At the full council meeting I asked a question about the reimbursement of service charges for sheltered accommodation on behalf of council leaseholders.
3. At the same meeting I also supported a motion which committed councillors not to increase their allowances for the coming financial year.
4. It was clear from the workshop that under the Localism Act parish councillors will be expected to more transparent, be scrutinised more by their parishioners and be more accountable and responsible for more planning matters.
5. South Cambridgeshire District Council has set the tax base for 2012/13 at 60,793.00 band D properties an increase of 1.3% on last year. This is used to calculate the basic amount of council tax to be raised. The tax base for Fulbourn parish council has been set at 1,961.7 equivalent band D properties.
6. South Cambridgeshire District Council is taking over responsibility for the maintenance and replacement of parish council street lighting which is not covered by the county council PFI contract.
7. Further to previous reports the Samaritan signs have been attached to the fence line along the railway between Fulbourn Old Drift and Yarrow Road. Further signs are to be placed at the level crossing.
8. I have got agreement from South Cambs for a litter bin and trial recycling bin for Teasel Way.
9. I attended a Cambridgeshire County Council workshop on HCV management held at Swavesey Village College on 29 November 2011 on behalf of the parish council. Following a number of trials involving parish councils across the county the proposed strategy has been slightly altered to make it more difficult to justify formal action against lorry movements. It is clear that the county council will only take legal action as the very last resort and then reluctantly.
My report to the November 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the October 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the September 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the July 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the June 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
At the annual meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 26 May 2011 I asked the following question:
Given the position the council is at with its proposed gypsy and traveller policies and taking account of current adopted development control policies, why has the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Trust been told by planning officers that it must at this time include a traveller site in its masterplan for developing the Ida Darwin Hospital site for housing?
The reply from the portfolio holder for new communities was rather disturbing because it implied that all remaining gypsy and traveller site options were now considered available, despite the absence of any draft gypsy and traveller policy document let alone an adopted policy.
I therefore asked the following supplementary:
How will the officers’ action not prejudge the eventual development policy to be adopted by this council given that the government’s current consultation Planning for Travellers Sites says protecting the Green Belt from development is paramount and proposes to remove the word “normally” from current guidance and thus clearly state that gypsy and traveller sites are inappropriate development in the Green Belt? Of course the Ida Darwin site is a major developed site in the Green Belt, with no plans to remove it from the Green Belt.
Moreover, in our gypsy and traveller site options and policies consultation document published in July 2009 we suggest that in relation to major developments sites in the Green Belt gypsy and traveller sites would be inappropriate unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated at the master planning and planning application stage. Surely, by instructing the developer to include a gypsy and traveller site in its master plan, is the council not contradicting its position as the determining local planning authority?
As to the supplementary question, in my first point I’m referring to the government’s draft consultation which proposes to remove the loop hole regarding development in the Green Belt. This is relevant to the Ida Darwin site because in SCDC’s site specific policies document adopted in January 2010, policy SP/9 which concerns Ida Darwin states: Fulbourn and Ida Darwin hospitals have been designated as a major developed site in the Green Belt, and development must reflect the principle established by DCP DPD policy GB/4. This is supported by the Gypsy and Traveller Development Plan Document Issues and Options published in July 2009 which in referring to the Ida Darwin site says: The site is located in the Green Belt. It is proposed that even when it is redeveloped it remains designated as a major developed site in the Green Belt. (option OPT1).
As to the second point of the supplementary, what I was referring to was the fact that the GTDPD Issues and Options document Option OPT6 says that ….Sites in the Green Belt would not be appropriate, unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated at the master planning and planning application stage.
At the New Communities Portfolio Holder’s meeting held on 14 December 2010 the following two recommendations were approved:
Recommendation 1 – Sites suggested through the consultation by, or with the support of, landowners, are subject to public consultation at the next stage of the plan making process, identifying whether or not they should be proposed as site options or rejected; and
Recommendation 10 – Review the approach to the GTDPD in 2011 when the new Needs Assessment has been completed and further information regarding government policy in particular the localism bill and the new guideline regarding planning for gypsy and traveller accommodation is available.
The Ida Darwin site was neither suggested by the Mental Health Trust nor has its support and we are still awaiting the Needs Assessment and the outcome of the government consultation on its proposed planning for traveller sites. I therefore suggest that the council is contradicting itself by asking at this time for the Ida Darwin master plan to include a gypsy and traveller site, bearing in mind that it is also the determining local planning authority.
Also at the annual meeting I was reappointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and to the Joint Transport Forum which includes Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County Council.
My report to the 2011 Annual Public Meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
This past year has been very eventful both for South Cambridgeshire District Council and for me locally. The district council has had to face a significant reduction in the grant it receives from central government to pay towards its services, a change in the way it pays the government towards the cost of its council housing which will place it in debt for the first time in its history and the county council cutting services with an expectation that the district council will pick up some of them. Locally, the stalemate that was threatening the Windmill Estate redevelopment had to be tackled, as did the nuisance being caused to local residents by Fulbourn Mill and the appalling number of deaths on the railway near the Yarrow Road level crossing (averaging two a year).
With nearly a 30% reduction in grant in real terms, South Cambridgeshire District Council agreed to freeze its council tax for this year by raiding its reserves in order to receive a 2.5% increase in its grant from government. However, council taxes will have to rise by 3.5% next year and for the following three years. The council reserves fall from £6.8 million to £2.9 million over the 4 year period. At the budget meeting I proposed that the council seek assurances that the next round of consultation by central government would be more inclusive which was approved unanimously.
The previous Government consulted councils on a proposal to allow them to keep all housing rents and Right to Buy receipts in return for them making a one off capital payment to the Government to off-set the national housing capital debt. The new coalition government decided to continue with this, with the result that the district has to find £205 million which it will do by borrowing the money over 30 years. In return the council will be keeping the £12 million it was giving to the government every year from its council rent income.
Following my election to the district council I was shocked to find the Windmill Estate redevelopment was on the brink of collapse because of members’ opposition to CPO powers. At the first opportunity I asked a question of the Leader of the Council if he agreed that the council needed to review its previous decision not to use compulsory purchase order powers for the redevelopment of the Windmill Estate. The Leader responded that should the parish council, Windmill Estate residents and local councillors wish this then it would be looked at again. After securing the backing of the Liberal Democrat group a motion was put to the full meeting of the council asking councillors to agree that in an exceptional circumstance compulsory purchase powers can be used, in order to support current and future residents in ensuring the successful completion of this major housing provision. This motion was carried. Officers now have CPO powers in their toolkit. I hope it will not be necessary to use them and if it does officers will need to seek the approval of the full council to implement the procedure.
Despite trying to reach an informal agreement with Fulbourn Mill over its operations, events earlier this year have led to formal action being taken by Environmental Health and this is ongoing.
Following a further death on the railway near Fulbourn Hospital last year I raised concerns with the county coroner and as a result I am now on a working group led by the British Transport Police and including Network Rail and the Cambridge and Peterborough Health Trust looking at security along that stretch of the railway.
I am pleased that following my objection, Tesco revised its plan to build a bulk store extension to its Fulbourn store to ensure parent and toddler and disabled parking spaces lost by the plan were relocated.
Finally, in addition to numerous individual case work, mainly to do with planning and housing matters, I have also been involved with the parish council in getting a post office back and representing the parish on the Wadlow Wind Farm community liaison group and the setting up of its community fund.
My report to the April 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the March 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
My report to the February 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the January parish councl meeting I have attended the Corporate Governance Committee of SCDC on 12 January, the full council meeting on 27 January and a local government finance workshop on 3 February. In addition I spoke at the planning committee meeting on 12 January in support of the parish council’s recommendation that a planning application be approved.
2. At the full council meeting it was decided to give back to officers the opportunity to seek to use Compulsory Purchase powers in order to complete the Windmill Estate redevelopment as planned. Officers will have to obtain the approval of the full council should they wish to apply a Compulsory Purchase Order against a particular owner occupier. This decision was not taken likely, but after a lengthy debate the vote was decisive with well over two out of three members voting to give back the CPO powers.
3. At the Corporate Governance Committee meeting we were given a presentation on the work of the internal audit team and received the last external audit report on SCDC from the Audit Commission.
4. At the planning committee meeting I was able to persuade members to go against the officer recommendation that the planning application for a property in Coxs Drove be rejected and instead agree with the parish council that it would not adversely affect the conservation area and be approved.
5. After Christmas Fulbourn Mill received a complaint about night time noise levels and after investigation it found that equipment used for processing peas needed further noise reduction measures. Work is now in hand to deal with this.
6. I am concerned about the funding of the 16 and 17 bus routes and I have been contacted by a number of users. Should the county council decide to withdraw its subsidy Stagecoach say they will withdraw the service in April as most users are bus pass holders. These routes are well used and it raises the issue of how the government money for the concessionary bus pass scheme is allocated between routes.
My report to the January 2011 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. South Cambridgeshire District Council has been wrong footed by the government taking into account the money raised by parish councils when settling the amount of money it will give the district council for the next two financial years. As a result it is proposed the district council will receive a formula grant £1.7 million less than it had expected to, with the result that further serious cuts in services will have to be found. The inclusion of parish council tax comes about because its argued that urban authorities such as Cambridge City do not have parish councils and therefore the taxes the parish councils raise for services should be taken into account in the rural councils’ settlements to produce a level playing field. As a result, the reduction in the proposed government grant to South Cambridgeshire is around 30% in real terms over the period from April this year to March 2013. Given that the district is already a low spending authority there just isn’t the wriggle room to avoid cuts in front line services.
2. Following discussions with officers and councillors, I shall be putting forward a motion to the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council asking councillors to agree that in an exceptional circumstance compulsory purchase powers can be used for the Windmill Estate redevelopment, in order to support current and future residents in ensuring the successful completion of this major housing provision. Previously, the council had ruled out the use of compulsory purchase orders believing the estate could be redeveloped without resort to such powers. But this has proved impossible to accomplish. Failure to obtain the freehold of all existing properties will lead to the redevelopment being unfinished and over 70 families not having new homes and the new estate being blighted by derelict houses, because they are unrepairable and unmortgagable. We have many families not just in Fulbourn but across the district wanting decent affordable homes. The use of compulsory purchase orders as a last resort must be faced now and those residents whose support has made the redevelopment a success should be backed by the council.
3. The Chief Financial Officer of SCDC has calculated the tax base for the Fulbourn parish precept for 2011/12 at 1,978.4 band D equivalent properties.
My report to the December 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the November parish council meeting I have attended a council workshop on corporate governance and the full council meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on Thursday 25 November 2010. Before the parish council meets on Wednesday 8 December 2010 I am due to attend a finance workshop and the inaugural meeting of the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund steering group on Monday 6 December 2010.
2. At the full council meeting I was pleased to be able to amend a motion to ask the government to consider requiring a new retail outlet to seek planning permission where it will duplicate an existing retail outlet even if the building it intends to occupy has planning approval for such activity. This will enable the local community and the parish council to make their views known to the local planning authority, which can then take these views into account when determining the application in regard to its planning policies. To my mind this is in line with the coalition government’s aim of giving local communities the responsibility and the trust to make the right decisions for themselves.
3. At the same meeting I also asked a question of the Leader of the Council if he agreed that the council needed to review its previous decision not to use compulsory purchase order powers for the redevelopment of the Windmill Estate. The Leader responded that should the parish council, Windmill Estate residents and local councillors wish this then it would be looked at again. This will be discussed at the Windmill Estate Steering Group meeting planned for Wednesday 15 December 2010.4. The Liberal Democrat council group also attempted to overturn the council’s proposal to change the contracts of existing council employees to reduce redundancy payments, but we were out voted. We consider this is morally wrong. I expect that this decision will lead to industrial action.
My report to the November 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the October parish council meeting I have attended two workshops of the Joint Transport Forum. The Forum is made up of members and officers representing Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council. Currently the Forum is considering ways to further pedestrianise streets in the historic city centre and reduce the environmental impact of traffic in the central area. This has to be balanced with maintaining good public transport access and the needs of businesses (including shops) and the university. In due course the Forum will be looking at the wider traffic problems in the city and the effect that further restrictions within the inner ring road may have on traffic flows in the surrounding villages such as Fulbourn; this will also include reviewing public transport links.
2. Otherwise I have been much involved with parish council related issues including finding a replacement home for the Post Office, the relocation of the Day Centre (and I wish John Rickett and the other carers the very best for the future in the setting up of a charity to run a day centre facility at Chaplins Close), the Wadlow Wind Farm Community Fund and representing the parish council at the South Cambridgeshire District Council Liaison Meeting.
3. Following the tragic death of a man at the Yarrow Road level crossing last month I have asked the coroner to consider whether this death (and the three others in two years at this crossing) may have been avoided if the Samaritans telephone previously provided at the former Fulbourn Old Drift crossing had been relocated to the Yarrow Road crossing.
My report to the October 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the September parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 23 September 2010 and the Corporate Governance Committee on 24 September 2010.
2. In accordance with rules set for it by the Tenants Services Authority, SCDC has published its first annual report to its tenants setting out its performance as a landlord, against tests set by the TSA, and the commitments it proposes to make to tenants in the coming year. The TSA sets out tests for the following areas: tenant involvement and customer care; maintaining your home; letting homes; looking after your neighbourhood and communal areas; and value for money. The TSA requires councils to tailor services around what tenants actually want – known as “Local Offers”. The SCDC report has been produced in consultation with the Tenants Participation Group and a tenants’ forum and in the coming months the council will be working with its tenants to agree the “Local Offers”.
3. A task force set up by the council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee to review how effectively the council works with partners to meet the needs of children and young people has published its findings. The report makes 10 recommendations covering the areas of transport, consultation with young people, health, active participation and general working with partnerships. These recommendations should now be taken into account in future SCDC policy and strategy.
4. SCDC has embarked on its Climate Change Action Plan consultation. The plan will be used for helping communities achieve climate change aspirations up to 2013. As a result the document looks at climate change from the prospective of how we can all improve our lifestyles and communities by following more sustainable activities. The Sustainable Parish Energy Partnership is an example of this through engagement with parish councils.
5. Finally, from 1 October 2010 SCDC is required by the Buildings (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 2010 to bring in a new scheme of charges for planning matters. The new fees are structured to be clearer and more reflect the cost of the level of work required to process the different types of planning work. They cover full plan applications, building notices and regularisation applications. Also supplementary charges are now made for additional administration work such as writing to solicitors or searches. Some building regulation applications solely for providing accommodation for disabled people in dwellings or in public buildings may not attract a charge.
My report to the September 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. Since the July parish council meeting I attended the full meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on 22 July 2010 and the following matters of interest to Fulbourn arose, two of which came from questions to the administration.
2. The New Communities Portfolio Holder confirmed that with the revocation of the Regional Spatial Strategy by the Government there were no longer any regional targets for gypsy and traveller sites and that in future it would be up to SCDC to make its own decisions regarding this. SCDC was therefore now waiting to new guidance and regulations rom the Government to ensure that whatever it did next would be sound in law.
3. The new Government is to abolish the East of England Development Agency and replace it with Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Government wants LEPs to set the right conditions for growth and business and to tackle such issues as housing, planning, transport and employment on a more local basis. SCDC aims to work with the city council, the county council and the business and academic communities to submit a proposal for an LEP by the deadline of 6 September 2010.
4. The response to the Government’s consultation on a proposal to give councils back the right to keep all money from council house rents and right-to buy purchases in return for a one off payment to offset its £29 billion housing debt has turned into a complete fiasco. As I have mentioned before, SCDC has to give the government over £10 million a year from its council house rents, mainly to subsidise public housing elsewhere. Being able to keep that money for repairs and new build would have a significant impact on the council housing stock. However, in return the government wants a one of payment from SCDC of about £190 million. The council doesn’t have that sort of money and would have to borrow it.I think everyone agrees that the formula for deciding upon the one off payment is unjust on SCDC and there needs to be some hard bargaining done. Also the interest will need to be fixed for the duration of the loan. But I consider having control over our own housing finances outweighs the cost of a loan. Generally speaking, based on a 7% rate of interest keeping the rent money will off-set the loan repayments in the first ten years of a 30 year loan, after which the council will be better off as the income from rents and right-to-buy will exceed the loan repayments – giving the council much needed money for repairs and new homes for rent.The Housing Portfolio Holder decided to make a personal response to the consultation on the pretext that the council could not meet until after the consultation date which was set for 6 June 2010. The letter said it supported in principle the proposal, but opposed the level of debt asked of SCDC. But when he put his response to the full council meeting on 22 July he said was opposed to what he had written and following a vote the response to the consultation was rejected. The council is now having to tell the government that it doesn’t support the letter sent to it by its Housing Portfolio Holder.
5. And finally SCDC has a new Chief Executive – Jean Hunter – formerly the CX of South Ribble Borough Council, Lancashire. Jean has worked in the private sector including running her own companies as well as in local government.
There was no parish council meeting in August.
My report to the July 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council
1. I attended the Corporate Governance Committee on 29 June 2010. The council’s draft statement of accounts for 2009/10 was approved with minor amendments to go before the full council. We should be concerned that for next year the council has budgeted for an 18% reduction in its Revenue Support Grant from central government, whereas this is likely now to be in the region of 25-30%. Also, the staff pension fund is now taking a significant proportion of council tax money – half of last year’s council tax rise.
2. As I mentioned in my last report the previous Government consulted councils on a proposal to allow them to keep all housing rents and Right to Buy receipts in return for them making a one off capital payment to the Government to off-set the national housing capital debt; and that in light of the new coalition government’s programme for Government and the Queen’s Speech, both of which referred to a forthcoming review of the housing revenue account, it was unanimously agreed at the full council meeting to defer a decision on the response to the consultation pending clarification of the situation from the new Secretary of State.However, the SoS has asked that councils do respond to the consultation and given the deadline for this is before the next full council meeting on 22 July, the housing portfolio holder has now submitted his own personal comments, which broadly agree to the government proposal subject to changes to the proposed formula for determining the council’s capital payment. Although I am broadly in favour of the proposal because of the freedom it gives in future years for SCDC to develop its social housing stock, given the serious financial implications of the scheme it is a pity that all councillors will not have the opportunity to debate this before a submission is made.
3. SCDC will not now be publishing planning applications on line until August due to the need to make changes to the new IT system. Registrations and completions targets will not be affected I am assured.
4. Environment Health Officers are working with Network Rail to over-come a serious rodent infestation along the railway embankment in Cherry Hinton which is affecting certain parts of the Beechwoods estate.5. And finally I hope that parish councillors residents will wish to join me in thanking Greg Harlock for his many years of service as Financial Director and Chief Executive Officer of South Cambridgeshire District Council. The recruitment process for his successor is underway and it is hoped an appointment will be agreed by Council on 22 July 2010. My report to the June 2010 meeting of Fulbourn Parish Council1. I attended the Annual General Meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council on May 27 and was appointed to the council’s Corporate Governance Committee and the Joint Transport Forum. Three items on the agenda had particular implications for Fulbourn, namely the Council’s model petition scheme, the Government review of council housing finance and the council’s policy for charging fees for street naming.2. The council’s proposed model petition scheme would have meant that 100 names would have been required for the council to consider the representation as a petition and 500 names (to take account of the possibility of e-petitions) would have been required for the petition to have been debated by the council. Lib Dem and independent councillors challenged this and the numbers required were reduced to 50 and 100 respectively.3. The previous Government consulted councils on a proposal to allow them to keep all housing rents and Right to Buy receipts in return for them making a one off capital payment to the Government to off set the national housing capital debt (estimated at around £29 bn). The payment for SCDC was estimated by officers to be around £160 to £200 million to be written off over 30 years with a loan. This would have meant the council being in debt for the first time. However, officers were recommending that the council agree to this proposal, subject to continued negotiations to reduce the council’s payment, because even with a worst case interest rate level, after one year the council would be repaying less than the amount it would have paid the Government from housing rents and after 10 years the council would be in a position to have capital for new council houses. Responding to the consultation did not commit the council, but it could influence the formula that would be used to calculate the repayments. However, in light of the new coalition government’s programme for Government and the Queen’s Speech, both of which referred to a forthcoming review of the housing revenue account it was unanimously agreed to defer a decision on the response to the consultation pending clarification of the situation from the new Secretary of State.4. As to charging fees for street naming, the council decided to give notice of intent to adopt the provisions of section 64 of the Town Improvement Clauses Act 1847 to enable it to charge developers for the costs incurred in street naming and numbering , in line with most other local planning authorities.