Category Archives: Cambs County Council
I was off this morning delivering leaflets across North Ward / Waterlees to remind residents of our Councillor’s Coffee Morning at the Oasis Center. I was joined by most of the Conservative North Ward team and a bunch of residents with issues they’d like resolved, and ideas they’d like to share. We drank quite a lot of coffee and it was a useful way to meet with residents and get their views and concerns.
Then, on with my “Mayor hat.”
This afternoon I visited the St. Augustines Day Care Centre for their Christmas Carols and Afternoon Tea. We were entertained by some excellent singers from the Walsoken Church and a very nice time was had. I always enjoy spending time with the St Augustine’s gang, lots of laughs and merriment.
I had to leave before the end in order to make the Magdalene House Christmas Service at St. Peters’, where the children were responsible for most of the singing and bible readings. Proud parents watched on and, I am sure, had just as lovely a time as I did.
There is always so much happening in Wisbech, but never more so than Christmas!
A quick drive to March followed, where I switched hats again and attended the last FDC Full Council meeting of the year. A fairly straightforward agenda was cleared in short order and that’s it for FDC for 2017! Since CCC had its last Full Council meeting on Tuesday that means we only have next Monday’s Town Council meeting to go and then it’s holiday time! For a few days anyway.
News from Cambridgeshire County Council
Wisbech rogue trader sentenced
Christopher Ferreria, 42, of Poppy Mews, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire was given a financial penalty today (Wednesday 29 November) at Peterborough Magistrates Court.
Ferreria pleaded guilty to three charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations following an investigation by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards.
He repeatedly failed to attend the work, failed to complete the work, he took payment for work which was not delivered in the timescales agreed and failed to repay his victims for some or any of the deposit paid for the work with reasonable promptness.
Ferreria, as CB Property Maintenance, took £3,350 from three victims for home improvement work he promised. One victim was a single parent and wanted to make a small improvement to the family home by dividing a room with double doors, another cashed in their work pension for some sewer work and the final victim wanted to make improvements to their utility room.
During the hearing the magistrates took into account the compelling victims statements and felt Ferreria became ‘dishonest over a period of time’. He was ordered to pay £1,100 of compensation and £700 costs. The rest of the money has been promised to be paid back to the victims by Ferreria through outstanding civil court actions.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Head of Trading Standards Peter Gell said: “In all of these cases the victims wanted to make home improvements and were lied to by Ferreria.
“The victims have had to find new traders not only to complete the work, but correct some of the work done and this has caused much embarrassment to them. In one case, the victims missed out on seeing their grandchildren in Cornwall as they didn’t have the money to get the work done and go on holiday.
“We will continue to work with our partners to keep the people of Cambridgeshire safe and we won’t tolerate rogue trading in our county.”
Press Release: Cambs County Council
Work begins to identify targeted services aimed at children’s needs in Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire Children’s Centre are to benefit from funding targeted to support more families – following last week’s council decision to refocus the services to areas of highest need.
After Full Council reviewed the results of the council’s consultation –the largest response ever to a Cambridgeshire County Council consultation – an originally planned £1m saving was reduced to £900k.
Of this additional £100k, 7% (£65,995) is going back into the pot for front line delivery.
The additional re investment, of more than £34k, which completes the £100k, will be used for management and business support, building and infrastructure costs of Children’s Centre service.
Work continues with communities to shape where this reinvestment will be made but initial plans allow for
- the creation of 10 extra apprenticeship positions, providing further services on the front line
- more flexible use of existing staff within a new outreach approach.
- more targeted support aimed at vulnerable families particularly in the north of the county.
“Over the coming weeks and months we will be able to firm up the ideas of how this re investment will be used – but currently our emphasis is working with communities to see what they need and where our more flexible approach will pay dividends” said Simon Bywater, Chairman of the Children’s and Young People’s committee.
A short film based on the Broadleas Children Centre in St Ives showing a possible blue print for this new service can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D8MccBNnd0
News from Cambridgeshire County Council
Councillors vote to reshape Children’s Centres services for Cambridgeshire
Plans to focus funding on increased outreach services for children and families in Cambridgeshire, by reducing spend on building maintenance, have been given the go ahead after a full and wide ranging debate by Cambridgeshire County Councillors, with strong views shared on both sides.
Councillors at today’s (17 October) Full Council meeting voted 31 to 22, to support proposals, which look to transform Children’s Centre services from next April, creating a more flexible, targeted and responsive service delivered from 27 buildings supported by increased outreach services.
The decision followed a debate on the response to a ten week consultation from 2280 people – the largest response to a Cambridgeshire County Council consultation and one of the largest for a Children’s Centre consultation across the Country. Having reviewed the consultation responses, the plans now include more outreach services sited in areas across the County, including the southern part of Cambridge City. This change will see £100,000 of a planned £1m saving re-invested in the service.
Following the change £4.3m will continue to be spent on the new Child and Family Centre services, complementing Early Help services of the council, which have an additional budget of £7.2 million.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of the Children’s Committee, said: “We have listened carefully to what people have been saying during the consultation and I want to reassure people we will continue to listen as we begin to implement these proposals. I recognise that feelings have run high during this debate, but I now call on all councillors, partners and communities to come together to help take these plans forward so we can fulfill the ambition of creating a service for more families to get the right help, at the right time and in the right place.
“Today’s decision means we remain heavily committed to early intervention for families, something we believe is essential. The new service is intended to be embedded alongside our district early help teams, health and other community services providing a flexible, targeted and responsive service in order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing and growing County.”
Overall, respondents to the consultation supported the key ambitions of the proposals – that funding should be directed towards those most in need, that services should be co-located with partners such as health wherever possible, and that the services should be widened to support families with children aged 0 -19. The changes to the proposals which followed consultation include:
- Investing an extra £100,000 back into outreach services across the County, including the southern parts of Cambridge after feedback identified potential gaps in provision, not included in the initial proposals.
- Resolving issues at Caldecote Children’s Centre to ensure wrap-around childcare is protected alongside identifying capacity for additional childcare provision
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Samantha Hoy, Vice Chairman of the Children and Young People Committee, added: “Children’s Centre Services across the country are changing to help them meet the needs of our most vulnerable families, who remain our top priority. Our plans are very much in line with those of other counties who, like us, also have reducing budgets for a whole range of services where demand continues to grow. The Council is sending a strong message to Government that the long-term underfunding of large rural counties like ours cannot continue as part of our fairdeal4Cambs campaign.”
This post has been submitted by a guest contributor. This particular Guest Post is written by Cllr Sam Hoy, Leader of Wisbech Town Council.
The Future Of Wisbech Castle
This morning I attended the assets committee at Cambridgeshire County Council with my colleague Steve Tierney to present the business case I had written for Wisbech Town Council. We both gave presentations, aware that the outcome of this committee would be vital to the future of this valuable community asset.
I am so pleased to say that the committee supported our bid in its entirety. Now we can go forward to protect and maintain the Castle as a community asset and as a vital part of the towns heritage for residents for many years to come.
Words (Almost) Fail Me
Alan Lay wishes to complain about the Highways Issues in Leverington. Apparently, the road surfaces there are poor and even dangerous.
It might have been better to write to the person who is elected to represent the people of Leverington at County Council and who is responsible for Highways Issues there.
But that would mean writing to HIMSELF, which would be crazy.
So instead he writes to the local newspaper, where he can read his complaint and hopefully take note of his own displeasure with his performance.
It’d be funny if it wasn’t so ridiculous.
I had to laugh at the ever-more-blatant bias of the Wisbech Standard today. In “Voice Of The Fens”, which I think would be better titled “Voice of John Elworthy on Behalf of the united opposition” we are assured that the reversal of the policy to turn off street lights and the reverse of the policy to cut gritting routes at County Council was all down to UKIP and the Lib Dems and the Conservatives should apparently be “ashamed” to “claim credit for it.”
What a crock.
What is on display is the ridiculous nature of the Committee System. And what we are seeing is exactly what I said would happen when the Committee System was introduced. A Committee System that John Elworthy was all in support of and has often crowed on behalf of.
In the Committee System nobody is in charge, the buck stops nowhere, and there is no possibility of any radical leadership by anybody. Each Committee is just a chance for the various political groups to stand in the limelight and crusade noisily. Any time something difficult is decided, everybody can avoid blame and point at everybody else. Then they can submit a motion to reverse the decision that was taken by the collective (but in reality, by faceless Officers) and pretend to be the “party of the people.”
They all do it. Because there’s really nothing else they CAN do.
Although Officers are making these decisions in the background I do feel sorry for them. In my experience Officers want a political lead. They don’t want to be making “political” decisions, they just want to be given a policy and allowed to deliver it as effectively as possible. With money severely cut there’s no way to make everything work without some radical thinking – and while the politicians are all jousting with one another and avoiding anything approaching a tough call that could later be pinned on them – there is nobody to do that radical thinking.
The Conservatives didn’t make this stupid Street Light Policy or the Gritting Cuts – nor did UKIP or the Lib Dems. And whoever put in whatever lip service motion to revoke it, no party is responsible for the reversal of those policies either. It’s all a huge, ridiculous and damaging mess and nobody is really in charge. It’s become a giant political charade and it will continue to be a giant political charade until this bonkers Committee System is put to bed, an actual party is back in charge again (whoever it is) or the new Devolution Mayor’s office replaces CCC once and for all.
Not A Good Look
Richard Taylor is a Cambridge blogger and amateur journalist who has been watching and documenting local politics for many years.
Now to be frank, he can be a pain in the bum. If he takes a dislike to somebody he can make their life hell, as he did to the previous Police & Crime Commissioner. But then again, some might say the previous Police & Crime Commissioner had it coming. Some might say. Not me. ;)
He does have a tendency to make a claim to neutrality while actually being quite political, and to sometimes be unfair in both his style and characterization.
But he does also cast a very useful eye over the goings-on of County Council, and other local Councils in Cambridge. He seems willing to take potshots at anybody and doesn’t have any “favourites” who he protects. And he gives a hell of a lot of his own time and energy to shine a light on some of the behind-the-scenes and lesser known working of local politics.
Here he is, managing to wangle his way into a private meeting. Now look, I don’t subscribe to this idea that every meeting must be “public.” There is value to private brainstorming sessions and private briefings. But we should certainly seek to make as many meetings public as we can.
In this instance, I don’t think the Officer handled the situation well at all. Like Sir Graham Bright, instead of engaging with the points Richard Taylor was making, this gentleman “Richard Preston” takes a rude and somewhat aggressive approach. Given that the issues at hand are issues of public interest, held in a public building and attended by public servants and elected Councillors, it is perfectly reasonable for Richard Taylor to ask why he cannot film it. It’s perfectly reasonable for all of us to ask that.
More surprising is seeing the lack of support he gets from the supposedly progressive “people’s champion” Councillors present, who all look either embarrassed or perhaps a little ashamed. (With the exception of Cllr Ian Manning, who makes a brave attempt to introduce some reason to the situation and is mocked for it.)
I was particularly surprised when Richard is told they may “get heavy” with him, like some bad scene out of a gangster movie. A threat made doubly ridiculous when there is clearly no “security” to actually be summoned. The fact that this Officer is able to act in this manner and Councillors do not question it is yet another example of what has gone wrong since authority was all but handed to Officers when the Committee System was introduced, in my opinion.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think its “okay” for Richard Taylor to creep into a meeting and then refuse to leave. Clearly he makes hay with the opportunity to film this behaviour. But nor do I think the way he is treated once he gets in there is right. I don’t think i’ve ever encountered this Richard Preston before, but he really does not shower himself in glory with this performance. The other attendees of the meeting are then also made complicit by their inaction. Handled better, this could have been an opportunity to look polite, open and publicly engaged. Instead, it ends up looking heavy-handed, rude and secretive. That’s not a good look for County Council at all.
Up and down the County people are suddenly finding their streetlights turned off. Some who knew it was coming but didn’t realise the implications. Some who hadn’t even heard about it. Lots of upset and anger. Lots of worry.
The County Council policy bearing fruit.
But not in Wisbech.
Because in Wisbech, the Town Council asked the people if they wanted them kept on, the people said “yes”, and Wisbech Town Council did as the majority requested.
It was in our power to save the lights from the County Council cuts, but it was going to cost some extra money. We asked for a steer from the public and got a strong one. We did as asked.
This is how local mature and responsive politics is supposed to work.
Return Of Twenty’s Plenty
The old “20 is Plenty” appears to be making a reappearance for 2016. I can only guess the delightful lady of Waterlees and her honourable and respectful husband have run out of ideas. But in a way I do feel for them. They can hardly complain about Constantine House anymore, the place they and their supporters didn’t believe would ever be repaired. Because it’s repaired.
They can’t go after Garry Tibbs and Rob McLaren about The Bell pub site and the Old Football Ground in Kirkgate given that those two have managed to get more movement on those issues in their first year as a team than the previous gentleman Councillor did in seven years.
They can’t change the name of their Ward again. Virginia Bucknor has previously said that changing the name “Waterlees” to “Waterlees Village” would “bring the community together.” You may or may not agree with that, dear reader, but the fact is they’ve already done it so they really can’t do it again. Unless they change the name to Waterlees World or something, but that sounds a little too much like a theme park.
They could add to their “Jobtrack” statistics if they wanted to, though I think that people have long since seen through the truth in those tiny tiny characters on their website.
No, they really want to make Highways their issue. They could volunteer for Speedwatch, but that would mean admitting that our new Speedwatch Committee was quite a good idea and I guess that just wouldn’t do, would it? So the old “20s Plenty” paperwork is taken from some rusty filing cabinet and the ropey statistics and weak arguments given a dust down.
As usual they attempt to claim that the opposition just said “no” for the sake of it. They do seem to enjoy playing the victim. In fact, as they well know, we debated, discussed and wrote extensively about their scheme and the opposition to it was logical and fairly considered. (Please see bottom for previous blog posts about the issue.)
But here’s where they fell down last time and where they will no doubt fall down again. At no time have any of the rest of us opposed their scheme for Waterlees. Although most people I know think it is a bonkers idea which will cost money and achieve next to nothing, it’s their ward. They are the elected Councillors. If they want to squander money on signs that everybody will ignore and the Police broadly will not enforce, that’s up to them.
But, and this can’t be said enough times, highways is a COUNTY COUNCIL function. The Bucknors need to stop trying to get money out of the Town Council for road signs and changes. They continually extol the virtues of Cllr Alan Lay and Cllr Paul Clapp, who are their friends and allies. These guys are County Councillors. All they have to do to implement their plan for Waterlees is to get their County Councillors to get them the cash and they can go right ahead. It’s very hard to see how this could be any more obvious. They and their County Council friends should just get on and do it and stop all the endless talking about it.