Saturday, 31 March 2012

E-Cops - Switchover to 101


FROM Sunday (April 1), Cambridgeshire police can only be contacted on 101 for all non-emergency calls.

The old 0345 number will be switched off and a recorded message will tell people to call 101.

The old number has remained in use alongside 101 for the past year to allow people time to get used to the new number.

For the first time, everyone calling the police for non-emergency matters will know exactly how much it will cost them and it will be the same no matter what time of day or the duration of the call.

The number change is part of a national scheme to make 101 the single non-emergency number in England and Wales.

The change has been introduced so residents will have one, easy-to-remember way to contact local police, wherever they are.

The system has been designed to recognise where the caller is dialling from and connect them with the local police service.

If a caller does not want to speak to their local force they will be given the option to be connected to different one.

The number change does not affect the way that calls are handled and non-emergency calls will continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People should continue to call 999 when an immediate response is needed, for example if a crime is happening, someone suspected of a crime is nearby, or someone is in danger.

Your Local Neighbourhood Policing Team

Friday, 30 March 2012

Lib Dems Welcome £1.7M Cash Injection For Bus Services


Local Liberal Democrats have welcomed a £1.724 million government  cash injection to improve bus services in Cambridgeshire.

Transport Spokesperson, Susan van de Ven said the money should improve accessibility and bus journey times.

“Cambridgeshire Lib Dems have repeatedly called for more investment in bus interchanges, real time and smart ticketing locally so it is encouraging that the Lib Dems in government have responded in kind,” she said.

"Cambridgeshire also urgently needs rural bus routes to be developed. The Tory-run Cambridgeshire County Council has made a mistake in deciding to withdraw rather than enhance its support of so many bus routes, and I hope today's announcement from government will serve as a strong reminder that bus service in all its forms needs support."

Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker announced the grant for Cambridgeshire today (Friday March 23) as part of the Better Bus Areas Fund which is being increased nationally from £50 million to £70 million.

Specific allocations of funding are for:

  • better traffic management on four key corridors into the city
  • improved interchanges
  • real time passenger information
  • bus priority measures
  • the upgrade of buses
  • smart ticketing top-up on street

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Lib Dems Welcome Decison To Freeze County Councillors' Pay


Cambridgeshire County Council

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have welcomed the decision to freeze county councillors’ allowances for the coming year.

They claim the move was justified when taking into account Cambridgeshire County Council’s budget and electorate size with similar councils across the country, something the first panel paid to do.

“When you take budget and electorate size into account, we are not badly remunerated at all,” said Councillor Peter Downes who presented this numeric evidence to the second Independent Review Panel set up to discuss members’ allowances.

The evidence showed that if the Conservative-run county council had agreed a 25 per cent pay rise, as suggested by a first IRP and backed by the Tories, councillors would have been the second highest paid among 14 comparable councils but with the 12th lowest workload.

The IRP said in its report: "The use of different 'norm groups' within benchmarking allows very different conclusions to be drawn.  This became apparent, for example, when the panel looked at the level of allowances paid by other county authorities and then factored in budget and electorate size to the raw data."

“This proves that the evidence base of the first review was flawed,” said Cllr Downes. “By using different ‘norm’ groups it had drawn a very different conclusion - a flawed conclusion."

Lib Dem Leader, Kilian Bourke said: “We have consistently called for a freeze in councillor councillors’ allowances and finally common sense has prevailed. We could not justify taking a pay rise when front line services are being cut and people are losing their jobs.

“The evidence Councillor Downes presented to the panel comprehensively undermined the evidence base used by the first panel and proved that a freeze was the right outcome, as we are already paid in line with other similar councils across the country.

“In backing a 25 per cent increase in allowances, the Conservatives made a bad error of judgement.”

E-Cops - Walk in Crime


Yesterday (28th) there was an incident in Grantchester where a middle aged couple, believed to be involved in a scam or distraction crime, were found in a house belonging to an elderly resident.

No one was hurt, and nothing is believed to have been stolen. The details surrounding the incident are unclear, naturally the victim was distressed and there is some confusion over the exact circumstances.

This is an early reminder (owing to the unseasonably good weather) that our elderly neighbours can be vulnerable to walk in crime should they leave windows and doors open for ventilation.

Please help us to protect those elderly and frail members of our community by having a conversation with family members, neighbours and people you may work with and encourage good home security.

If you are worried about someone in your community who may be vulnerable, please feel welcome to call 101 and ask to talk to your local PCSO.

Many thanks for your help.

Sgt Paul Rogerson

BHA: Anti-Abortion Group Spreading Falsehoods In Schools



The Guardian’s front page on Saturday carried an investigation by the BHA and Education For Choice into the activities and behaviour of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). SPUC is an anti-choice group which, through its ‘Safe at School’ campaign, delivers talks to parents and schoolchildren about the supposed harms of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), and the dangers of abortion.

Last year, SPUC courted controversy after holding an event for parents in Tower Hamlets. Following on from this, the BHA saw similar events take place in Milton Keynes, Wakefield and Bournemouth, and decided in each case to contact local humanists and encourage attendance. This resulted in evidence of the kind of misinformation being spread. The BHA then contacted experts Education For Choice to work together on next steps.

We agreed there was a need for more evidence, so in November, the editorial of this e-bulletin appealed for ‘members and supporters to find out if their local schools have received a visit from one of the anti-choice groups, and if so, see if they can get copies of any presentations used.’ Following on from this, we were contacted by members of Feminist Action Cambridge, who were due to do a talk in a school on the same day as SPUC. At our encouragement, they managed to stay for and record SPUC’s talk.

We found that SPUC are presenting a number of untrue claims about abortion, from the invented condition of ‘Post Abortion Trauma’ through to a fictional link between abortion and breast cancer.

Whatever a group’s ideological background, it is important that all the claims they present match up with the evidence. Education For Choice previously exposed SPUC making some of these claims four years ago, and nothing has changed since. When will SPUC stop spreading these untrue stories, and when will the government start properly scrutinising their activities, and the claims they are making in schools?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Unlock Democracy: Dinner With The Camerons


“It’ll be awesome for your business”.


These are the words of Peter Cruddas, the then Conservative Party treasurer, who was caught on camera by a Sunday Times investigation offering unprecedented access to David Cameron and Number 10’s Policy Unit to donors prepared to pay the party a “premiere league” sum of £250,000.

The Conservatives have been quick to dismiss his claims as “bluster” and force him to resign.  But we can’t test the veracity of his claims for the simple reason that in the UK we have no system to record which lobbyists have been meeting which politicians, and for what purpose.

As you may recall, I wrote to you last week about putting pressure on the government to strengthen its plans for a lobbying register.  This latest scandal makes the need for this all the more urgent.  Please join the thousands who have already signed our open letter to the minister in charge Mark Harper by following this link:

http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/lobbying-letter

“I won’t be registering myself as a formal lobbyist because I do a range of activities.”

This is what Sarah Southern, the lobbyist at the heart of the Sunday Times investigation, thinks of the proposed new lobbying rules.  She feels the rules won’t apply to her, even though her stock-in-trade is using her contacts at the heart of government to help paying clients change government policy.  In this case, she was discussing how a company based in Liechtenstein might be able to bypass the law and donate up to £250,000 to the Conservative Party (it is illegal for foreign companies to donate to British political parties).

A robust lobbying register isn’t the only thing that needs to be changed - clearly we need to sort out how parties are funded as well.  Cross-party talks are set to resume once again in light of this latest scandal.  We’ll be pressing all parties over the next few weeks to ensure that these talks make actual progress instead of more bluster.

But the government is consulting on its own plan for a lobbying register and the consultation ends in a couple of weeks.  We need to take action on this now.

The government’s proposals are a sham and would not cover three quarters of the lobbying industry.  Big companies with their own in-house teams of lobbyists such as Tesco would be exempt while small businesses dependent on hiring outside support would not.  No wonder Sarah Southern doesn’t feel the rules would apply to her.

More than 3,000 people have signed our joint letter over the weekend and we want thousands more.  With the government under acute pressure on this, it will make all the difference in the world.  Please add your name here:

http://action.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/lobbying-letter

This latest scandal is not an isolated incident.  The sad fact of the matter is that money talks in UK politics at the moment and all too often we don’t like what it has to say.  We have a window of opportunity to turn this around.  Let’s take it.

All the best,

Peter Facey
Director, Unlock Democracy

Monday, 26 March 2012

Bus Subsidies - What You May Like To Know


Around 80 per cent of public transport in Cambridgeshire is run commercially with the remaining 20 per cent being subsidised by the County Council, at a cost of around £2.7 million per year. Work is already underway with operators to see if changes to routes and timetables could make some marginal subsidised journeys commercially viable and therefore reduce this financial commitment.

The Council has also reviewed the way subsidies are currently paid and has started a phased three year change programme. Over the next three years the Council will be transforming how these subsidised services are delivered, resulting in an annual investment of £1.5 million.

Before any subsidy is removed it is planned to carry out consultation to find out people's public transport needs. Everyone will be invited to contribute and work together to find the best and most cost effective way of meeting that need.

The results will vary across the County and one size will not fit all. Solutions may include local operators, smaller vehicles, links to commercial hubs, such as the Busway or Park and Ride as well as direct routes to certain destinations and flexible dial a ride type services. If there is enough demand it could lead to more travel opportunities, not less. If the best solution to deliver an essential service is to retain the current form of subsidy, then that will still be an option.

The new initiatives will be rolled out under the banner of Cambridgeshire Future Transport starting from April 2012. Subsidised services have been grouped into 13 geographical areas which have transport links within them and these areas will be reviewed in three tranches over the next three years. This is so that the services can be looked at as a whole and alternatives explored.

More information will be released and public engagement will be carried out as each phase of reducing the subsidy starts. For more information contact Cambridgeshire County Council Passenger Transport Service.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Better Bus Area Fund Grant: Facts And Speculations


Cambridgeshire County Council’s recent application to the Better Bus Area Fund resulted in Transport Minister Norman Baker’s announcement last week that bid for £1.78 million has been successful.

Most of the application form contains hard core facts and figures about bus priority measures in Cambridge, a new school minibus drop-off/pick-up point at Trumpington Park and Ride, and the bollarded bus-only zone in the St Andrew’s Street area in central Cambridge.  The whole purpose of this particular national fund is to improve bus transport in urban areas, though Norman Baker will shortly be making an announcement about further measures to enhance bus subsidies.

The bid also contains some familiar and strongly made arguments about the success of modal shift in Cambridge city where people ride on buses and bicycles, but the relatively high level of private vehicle commuting in the rural districts around Cambridge where public transport is poor.  Making bus travel more reliable is one of the aspirations of the bus priority measures that the bid is mainly about – if prospective passengers can count on their buses they will be more likely to use them and to rely on them.

Whether or not to introduce new bus services, or to run commercially less profitable services in rural areas, is in the hands of bus operators who have businesses to run, and the county council which as a local authority has a duty to look after the needs of its residents.

One piece of text comes without hard facts and figures and has got people talking and speculating:  Stagecoach makes a commitment ‘to experiment’ with the introduction of new services between the Guided Bus terminals around St Ives, and market towns in Fenland, such as Chatteris, which are starved of public transport and where people are saying again and again that they are quite simply marooned.

It remains to be seen what this experimentation will be about; let’s hope that it takes off.  If the County Council would also make a commitment to put more not less money into subsidizing bus transport, surely that would signal a serious intent to make bus travel work for people who have no other way of getting around.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Julian Huppert, Cambridge MP Supports New HGV/Cycle Design Competition


A new competition supported by Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, unites cyclists and drivers to prevent road deaths; April invites designers to enter the hunt for new hazard symbol warning road users of the dangerous lorry risk zone.

The InTANDEM Road Safety Competition which launches after fatal or serious injury cycle casualties increased beyond the 2,500 mark; 20 percent of cycle accidents in the capital involve Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV).[1] The new initiative encourages road users to work in tandem to maximise road safety, as both drivers and cyclists are encouraged to enter designs.

Huppert, recently named MP of the month for his cycle safety campaign, said “This is an excellent competition which focuses on the real danger to cyclists from heavy lorries while at the same time making drivers and cyclists think about the action they need to take to minimise the risks.”

The hazard symbol will combat a common accident which occurs whilst turning left at a junction; cyclists are in danger of being crushed against the wheels of a large vehicle, if the driver cannot see the cyclist on their nearside. The new sign will advocate that extra care is needed when passing a large vehicle on the nearside

The new symbol has answered Huppert’s call for better signage; “The sign, designed to compliment other lorry safety equipment such as sensors, turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars, could go a long way to saving lives.”

The winning design will be judged by Robert Smalley, Chief Driving Examiner for RosPA, Subash Ludhra, President of IOSH, Creative Director Gary Harringman, Studio Harringman and Managing Director Amanda Jackson, Tigerfish PR.

Supported by How’s My Driving?, the UK’s first driving feedback service, the winning entrant will receive £1000 for the most creative design. More details can be found on the competition’s webpage www.intandemcompetition.com, facebook www.facebook.com/InTANDEMComp or Twitter @InTANDEMComp.

Cambridge MP Huppert Wins Commitment From Government For Safer Cycling


Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has won a commitment from the Prime Minister to make cycling safer and promote it ahead of his Westminster Hall debate tomorrow (Thursday, February 23).

David Cameron claimed that cyclists “take their life in their hands” riding in cities and he praised The Times ‘Cities fit for cycling campaign’ which will be supported by Julian during his debate.

Julian asked Mr Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons: “Will the Prime Minister commit the government to supporting the Times campaign, increase investment in cycling and take much greater steps to promote cycling across the country?”

Mr Cameron replied: “The Times campaign is an excellent campaign and I strongly support what they are trying to do.

“Anyone who had got on a bike, particularly in one of our busier cities knows that they are taking their life in their hands, so much so that we do need to do more to make cycling safer.

“The government is making it easier for councils to install mirrors at junctions, has invested £11 million for training for children and £15 million for better cycle routes and facilities across the country.

“If we want to encourage the growth we have seen in cycling in recent years we have got to get behind a campaign like this.”

Later Julian said: “I am delighted that the Prime Minister has given a commitment to make cycling safer.

“This government has gone a long way by investing in cycling but there is still much more that can be done. And there is no better time than in this year of the Olympics to take radical steps to promote cycling as our most efficient form of transport.”

During his debate tomorrow Julian will tell Parliament that for a long time cyclists have despaired at government policy which focuses on safety without improving it.

“With increasingly congested cities, more competition for resources and our health deteriorating - the need for investment in cycling has become more acute,” he says.

“We cannot miss this golden opportunity to create a safe, sustainable transport network. For too long cycling has been utterly undervalued and forced into decline.”

Julian is calling for:

  • a substantial Increase in national spend on cycling infrastructure and good planning to ensure cycle facilities are integral to new developments;
  • training and education for cyclists and drivers, particularly those driving heavy goods vehicles;
  • rail franchise agreements to pay much closer attention to cyclists with secure cycle-parking, showers and proper ramps;
  • a review of sentencing and prosecution with respect to accidents involving cyclists, and consider new measures such as proportionate liability;
  • devolve powers regarding signage to local authorities as soon as possible.

And Julian will call on companies to play their part by installing showers and lockers which go a long way to promoting cycling which, in turn improves general wellbeing and productivity.

He said the cycle to work scheme works well but it should be extended and tax problems resolved.

“For years cyclists have worked from the bottom up to promote cycling and put it on the national agenda,” he says. “But the government must also do its part and take further action to promote cycling now.”

The full wording of Julian’s question read as follows:

Tomorrow, Members of this House will have the chance to debate the importance of cycling, following the Times 'Cities fit for cycling' campaign.

The Minister for Cycling, the Member for Lewes, has made some welcome announcements and investment, but there is much more still to do.

Will the PM commit the government to supporting the Times campaign, increase investment in cycling and take much greater steps to promote cycling across the country?

Julian’s debate will take place tomorrow (Thursday, February 23) between 2.30pm and 5.30pm.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert: Response to Yesterdays Budget



Cambridge Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert has posted his response to yesterdays Coalition budget announcement via the Cambridge City Liberal Democrat Activists mailing list (in response to a request from Cllr Sarah Whitebread);


"Hi all,


I'm still, like you, trying to digest all the details of the budget.


But I thought I'd write to you with some of the key issues, and my thoughts on it. I've seen Sarah W's email, and I know I'll miss out many details - ask me and I'll do my best to answer them.


I think it's fairly clear which bits of the budget were Lib Dem, and which were Tory.


Our key priority was to increase the threshold at which people start to pay income tax. This was our key policy at the General Election, and we agreed in the coalition agreement to prioritise it as well. Our aim was to lift the threshold to £10,000 by 2015.


The announcement was that it has been lifted to £9,205 - very close to the £10,000 objective, after less than 2 years. This will result in 2 million poorly paid people being lifted out of tax compared to 2010, and cuts for 28 million people, amounting to £546/year for most basic-rate payers, and less for higher-rate earners.


We should be very proud of that achievement, and remember to tell people about it!


For someone who works full-time on the National Minimum Wage, we will have halved their tax bill. I hope we can go further in the next years - I think that no-one earning the minimum wage should pay any income tax at all!


The Tory priority - obsession even - was the 50p tax rate, which is to be cut to 45%. This is not where we would have chosen to focus, but we insisted on countervailing measures to tax high earners - stamp duty on houses over 2 million, reducing tax relief amounts for high earners, and a few other points. These are estimated to raise 5 times as much as the lost income from the tax rate change - so high earners will be paying more (1.3k/year on average, according to the best estimates).


It's also worth remembering that the top rate was 40% for all but 35 days of the Labour Government, and this is still higher than that.


There was also good news for pensions - they are going up by 5.2%, and Steve Webb's Citizen's Pension idea is going ahead, with the State Pension moving from a base £97.50/week, plus extra for some, to a minimum of £140/week for all. There is no change to the income tax threshold for pensioners, who will continue to not pay anything on the first £10,500 (£10,600 for those born before 1938).


There are lots of other details as well - some that should be very good for Cambridge, such as tax credits for video games, assistance for university spin-outs and entrepreneurs, extra money for research infrastructure and 50M for super-broadband in smaller Cities, some of which we will get. And much, much more.


It's not the budget we'd have written ourselves. But it is good for low-earners, and it takes more money from the richest.


Best,


Julian
---
Dr Julian Huppert MP
Member of Parliament for Cambridge
Liberal Democrat
http://www.julianhuppert.org.uk"


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Budget Response From Cambridge MP Julian Huppert


“I am delighted that through this Budget we have been able to deliver on our key promise to give ordinary workers in Cambridge another £220 cut in their income tax bills and take hundreds more low-paid workers out of paying income tax altogether.

“This means that basic rate taxpayers have seen a total tax cut of £546 putting more money back into their pockets and moving us faster towards our goal of making the first £10,000 tax free.

“Through this budget we have also made sure that the richest pay their fair share – something Labour never did - by putting a cap on the amount of tax breaks the wealthy can use to cut their income tax bills. People earning over £150,000 a year will pay significantly more as a result of this budget.

“Businesses have also been given a break with the reduction in corporation tax. Specific measures to support research and development and technology investment while further simplifying tax rules for small businesses, are also good news for the city. And by raising the Bank Levy, we are making sure that the banks that contributed to this economic crisis keep paying their fair share.

“I was pleased to hear that there is extra money available for high-speed broadband in cities like Cambridge. I've already contacted the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to ask for some of this.

“The top up of the Growing Places Fund, giving Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England an extra £16.4 million, promises to bring benefits to the region helping it to manage growth and create new jobs.

“And this Budget shows real progress on our commitments to infrastructure – on roads, railways, and renewable energy. Tougher green taxes on company cars will help cut emissions as well as raising money.”

Cambridge MP Urges Prime Minister To Rethink Planning Reforms


MP Julian Huppert has called on Prime Minister, David Cameron to rethink a major shake-up of planning policy to protect the environment.

Julian joined 44 other MPs in a letter to express their fears for the future of the countryside from the planning reform.

“We realise there are some serious problems with the drafting that would make it difficult for the government to realise fully its ambitions for planning reform and to be the ‘greenest ever’,” the letter, which was leaked to the Daily Telegraph, said.

“We all support a simpler system with more local control, but this should not come at the expense of the ability of planning to protect and enhance the environment.”

The letter proposes changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and says the final document should make explicit reference to:

  •  The need to use suitable brownfield land for development before green fields in order to prevent unsustainable urban sprawl;
  • The intrinsic value of the ordinary, undesignated countryside which is loved so much by the local communities we represent;
  • A commitment to genuinely sustainable development that does not prioritise short term economic interests over long term quality of life and wellbeing.

“An effective planning system is central to protecting our rural areas from urban sprawl and inappropriate, sporadic development,” the letter adds.

“We ask you to ensure that the final NPPF enables us to secure the growth and development the nation needs while safeguarding one of our most valuable environmental assets, the English countryside, for future generations.”

Julian said: “It is vitally important that we get this planning document right to make sure that our countryside is given the protection it needs for future generations. Mistakes that we make now will not be easily undone and could impact on our environment for years to come. We need more housing around Cambridge, especially affordable housing. But I believe it is possible to achieve this while also protecting the countryside.”

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

County Council Celebrates Success In Increasing Levels Of Cycling


Milton Road Cycleway (in Snow)

Cycling trips in and around Cambridge have soared by 14 per cent in a year according to surveys undertaken recently as part of the County Council's annual traffic monitoring report.

The figures also revealed an amazing 21 per cent rise in cycling trips from the surrounding villages into the city.

A major contributor to the steep rise in trips is the significant investments in cycling in the Cambridge area in recent years. As one of Cycling England's 'Cycling Towns' £9 million was invested between 2008 and 2011 to provide 14 new and improved cycle routes, events and promotions, and cycle training for adults and children as part of the Cycle Cambridge project delivered in partnership with other local Councils and key partners such as Sustrans.

Counts are taken each year across a standard set of sampling points in the City. In 2010 29,388 cyclists crossed these points on a single day, and the figure for the same locations rose to 33,518 in 2011. The rise in cycling trips is also confirmed by data from an array of automatic counters across the city which return information on a daily basis. Cycling as a percentage of all traffic rose to 22 per cent reinforcing Cambridge's position as the cycling capital of the UK.

The stated aim for Cycle Cambridge was to get more people cycling, more safely, more often. The project targeted new developments around the City, and encouraged more cycling trips into Cambridge from necklace villages in a bid to combat increasing traffic congestion at peak times.

It is these routes that have seen the greatest rise, where 21 per cent more trips were made. Improvements on routes into Cambridge from Histon, Cottenham, Horningsea, Cherry Hinton and Harston have been made, as well as the opening of the cycleway on the maintenance track alongside the Busway which now brings cyclists into the city from both the north and the south.

Within the city itself a rise in trips of 12 per cent was recorded and this can be attributed in part to the improvements made to Gilbert Road, Hills Road Bridge and hundreds more cycle parking spaces provided at schools and workplaces.

The Cycle Cambridge project was a finalist in the Local Transport Awards 2011, and is a finalist in the Eurostar Ashden Awards for Sustainable Transport 2012 with the winners announced in May.

With the ending of the Cycling Town national programme in April 2011 work on cycling in Cambridge has continued as part of a European funded project called 'Bike Friendly Cities'. The County Council is working collaboratively with partners in the Netherlands, Belgium and France to develop innovative, low cost solutions to make cycling even more attractive and safe. This includes addressing problematic issues for cyclists such as roundabouts as well as working on a number of events including The Cambridge News Big Bike Ride which takes place on July 8.

The County Council continues to invest in cycling across the County as part of its Market Towns Transport Strategy work and this includes improved links to schools and workplaces, as well as the establishment of cycle forums as a means to engage with local cyclists. The County Council will be offering countywide free cycle training to year 6 children from September having successfully obtained a Department for Transport grant.

A bid for further funding for cycling in the form of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund has just been submitted and this could see several millions of pounds invested in cycling in the Ely-Cambridge and Huntingdon-Cambridge corridors. This will help support economic growth in those areas.

Local Bar Hill Parish Councillor Andy Pellew said "Given the already high levels of cycling in Cambridge it's fantastic to see these levels continue to increase but there is still a great deal more to do. The state of cycleways during snow is still a significant issue within the city, but it's good to see the County Council committing to continued improvement for cyclists in Cambridge City"

Cambridge MP Huppert Calls For Fair Budget And Investment In Growth


Julian Huppert, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, has called for tomorrow’s budget to raise taxes on the rich in order to ease the burden on low and middle incomes.

Julian said: “Tomorrow the Chancellor must announce a package of reforms which make our tax system fairer.

“I want to see the Government go further on the Liberal Democrat plan to give low and middle income workers more of their take home pay. He should extend the rise in the personal allowance to £10,000 now. It is already due to rise to £8,105 this year, from £6,475 when we came to office. Going further and faster will give every worker in Britain, except for the richest, an extra £60 a month.

“The rise in the personal allowance was on the front page of our manifesto and the Government has committed to fulfilling this promise by 2015. I want to see it happen faster. People earning as little as £10,000 a year deserve to keep their money, not have it taken as income tax.

“It is absolutely crucial that we fund this tax cut through tax rises on the richest. If the Chancellor insists on abolishing the 50p tax rate, he must replace it with taxes which are targeted on the rich and raise more money from them than the 50p rate did.

“Whether it’s a tycoon tax, a mansion tax or a clampdown on stamp duty, tax avoidance and loop holes – the rich must pay more, while poor and middle income households must earn more.

“As well as making tax fairer, the budget must protect those out of work, while investing in growth. The Government has already agreed that benefits should go up by 5.2% this year. They should stick to that plan.

“There should also be capital investment in growth areas. In particular, I’d like to see additional investment in science, research and innovation. Such funding would be crucial to a balanced recovery; the Chancellor should commit this Government to growth tomorrow.”

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert Named MP Of The Month For Cycling Safety Campaign


Politicians and journalists have voted Julian Huppert MP of the Month for his fight to improve cycling safety.

Julian took the title in the leading national political magazine, Total Politics after he joined the Times “Cities Fit for Cycling” campaign and turned it into a successful parliamentary campaign.

The magazine is read by 23,000 MPs, MEPs, peers, political journalists and members of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies and Councils.

Julian’s efforts in raising the issue of cycling safety were praised by Transport Minister, Norman Baker which helped him to clinch the title.

Total Politics Editor, Ben Duckworth told readers that Julian received numerous nominations after he led his Westminster Hall debate on cycling safety – one of the best attended ever.

“When you get a minister thanking you, you know you’ve done well and can push for further progress,” he said. “The cycling campaign is not over yet, but for his popular support, Julian Huppert is our MP of the Month.”

Now Julian is asking for a meeting with Prime Minister, David Cameron to follow up on the debate after he gave his support in the Commons recently.

Julian said: “I am delighted to win this title for a campaign which is so important to cyclists across the country. This was clearly demonstrated by the attendance at the debate and the number of cyclists who turned up to the rally beforehand.

“But this is only the beginning. There is so much more that needs to be done if we are to protect cyclists and encourage others to see cycling as a viable means of transport.

“Cycling brings so many benefits and I will continue to push our government to invest in cycling infrastructure and safety measures to make it safer.”

Young Entrepreneurs’ Glowing Invention Keeps Cyclists Safe


Young entrepreneurs at a Cambridge school have developed a glowing reputation for business after the success of their invention to keep cyclists safe on the city’s road.

Teenagers Adil Khokhar, Radakrishna Pyneeandee, both 17, and Matthew Clark, 16, whose company is Alpha Enterprise, developed reflective armbands as part of the Young Enterprise programme at Netherhall School.

They have proved so successful that their invention, GloGos are being stocked by two shops in the city and the boys plan to continue their business venture independently when the year-long school programme finishes.

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, a keen cyclist who led a Parliamentary debate on safer cycling recently, learnt more about GloGos and the teenagers’ success when they paid him a visit.

He said: “These innovative young people have hit on a simple idea which has the potential to improve safety for cyclists across the country. It is really encouraging to see young people identifying a market in this way and developing a product which can bring real benefit to people.

“It is real testament to the value and importance of this product locally that two city shops have agreed to stock GloGos. I have no doubt that their business will go from strength to strength and I wish them every success for the future.”

More information about Alpha Enterprise can be found by visiting the website at:

http://www.alphaenterprise.co.uk/

Alpha Enterprise founders (from left) Adil Khokhar, Radakrishna Pyneeandee and Matthew Clark show their product GloGos to MP Julian Huppert

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Parish Council Highways Inspection (The Spinney/ Field View)

You may or may not be aware of this but Bar Hill is divided amongst the Parish Councillors each of whom is expected, at least once a quarter, to walk their area making note any highways issues that need to be addressed so they can be passed on to Highways at Cambridgeshire County Council.

Following me joining the Parish Council at the beginning of the year (and two people resigning) everything was moved around a bit and I've been allocated both The Spinney and Field View. The slight difference at this time was that Street Lighting is (as you know) being replaced so we were asked to note the positions of any signage (i.e. Dog Fouling, Neighbourhood Watch, etc.) that would need to be migrated to the new light post when they go in.


Below is the list of issues I raised on my first inspection last Monday;

  • Street Lighting Signage; available here as a PDF (via Google Documents). It should be noted that this report just covers on-street signage (those beginning CCCxx) and not those on the paths behind streets (those that start with CCC xxxF).
  • There is a missing street sign (house numbers) on the junction of the second left-turn on the left (entering from Crafts Way). The missing number is 11 – 17. Someone has replaced the sign but it should be done officially.
  • Street Light 18 (on The Spinney) was on during the day and has been reported to the County Councils street lighting team (on 0800 783 8247) and will be looked at
  • Multiple street lights are missing their “ident” plaques, but as they are going to be replaced sometime during the next 12 months it’s not really worth getting people to come out and attaching the plastic plaques to the street lights just before they are replaced (for example lighting in the Spinney is due to be done in July to December this year).
  • The state of the road is particularly bad in a number of places, the surface finishing has completely worn away in places as has the next layer down and the original foundations are now beginning to show through. This is happening on both the roads and on the footpaths. This will be reported to Highways so they can prioritise the work. Some examples are below;


And that's it. Remember if you have any issues you can raise them with your local Parish Councillor, with the Parish Clerk, or directly with Cambridgeshire County Council (or indirectly via FixMyStreet)

The whole inspection took around a little under two hours (which was quicker than I expected) and hopefully next time I'll get a chance to walk the pathways leading to the spine. If you are aware of any issues I've missed feel free to let me know!
Bar Hill The Spinney and Field View (Courtesy of OpenStreetMap.org)





E-Cops - Your Weekly News 17-MAR-2012


Unfortunately there have been five crimes reported to us since my last E-cops message. Please see below for brief details of these crimes.

At 17:15 hrs on 02/03/2012, an unknown male driving a silver Renault Clio has filled up with fuel at the Total Service Station, A14, Lolworth then driven off without making any attempt to pay for the fuel. Enquiries are ongoing with the registered keeper of the vehicle.

Between the 03/03/2012 and the 04/03/2012 in Pheasant Rise, Bar Hill unknown offender(s) have caused damage to the wiper blades of two parked vehicles.

On 09/03/2012, an unknown male has entered the Tesco store in Bar Hill and selected a number of X-Box games which have been concealed under a clothing item removed from the rails. Male then places the clothing item back on the rails and leaves the store without making any attempt to pay for the X-Box games which have been concealed on his person away from camera view.

At 17:35 hrs on 14/03/2012, an unknown male has filled up his vehicle with fuel at the Shell filling station, Cambridge Services, A14, Boxworth before driving off without making any attempts to pay for the fuel obtained. Enquiries are ongoing with the registered keeper of the vehicle.

At 15:00 hrs on 16/03/2012, an unknown male driving a white Escort van has filled up the vehicle with fuel at Tesco filling station in Bar Hill. Driver has then got back into the van and driven off without making any attempt to pay for the fuel obtained. Again, enquiries are ongoing with the registered keeper of the vehicle.

If you have any information that may assist us with any of the above crimes, please contact us on 101 or call Crime stoppers, an independent charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.

In line with our current Neighbourhood Panel Priorities, I have been out and about conducting speed checks this week with Sergeant Rogerson in Scotland Road, Dry Drayton. One motorist was seen travelling in excess of the 40mph speed limit and was issued with a fixed penalty ticket of £60 and three penalty points.

I have also carried out door to door police surgeries in Appletrees, Bar Hill, in relation to noise complaints that have been reported to us over the last week.

I have had reports of two motor cross bikes doing circuits around Bar Hill causing a nuisance. Bar Hill Parish Council have made it clear that motor cross bikes are not allowed to be ridden anywhere in Bar Hill Village. I have located both bikes and riders in Bar Hill, and have issued them each with a warning under Section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 not to ride their bikes anywhere in Bar Hill. Should they ignore this warning their bikes will be seized.

There has been one report of suspicious van in Duck End Farm, Park Lane, Dry Drayton. Police attended and carried out the relevant enquiries. The van was genuine and all in order.

If you wish to report any other crime, suspicious behaviour or activity please ring our non-emergency number, 101. If you believe that a crime is in progress please ring 999. We also welcome anyone to contact us by replying to this email if you wish to let us know of any issues you may be experiencing.

Kind regards
PCSO Bujar Mani and PC Claire Reeves
Histon Safer Neighbourhood Team

Community Transport Volunteer Drivers Needed


Cambridgeshire County Council's Social and Education Transport Team is looking for more willing drivers to help make a real difference to the lives of many people in the county - and they could receive up to £4,500 a year tax free.

The County Council provides a transport service to eligible people who need to attend one of the care centres, day service facilities or education establishments. Community Drivers play a vital role transporting a host of people who would otherwise miss out

Drivers are needed in all areas of Cambridgeshire. Volunteers receive 45p a mile for journeys they undertake as part of the scheme and can earn up to £4,500 annually before the payment becomes liable to tax. Being unemployed and signing on is not a barrier.

County Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, Councillor Mac McGuire, said: "It's the ideal opportunity for people with some spare time and who like meeting a variety of people. Our community drivers make a real difference to the people they transport and it's a worthwhile and rewarding contribution to society."

County Councillor and local resident Andy Pellew said: "Unfortunately given the public transport cuts in the last Conservative budget a lot of people will be unable to attend these excellent facilities. Hopefully the expansion of this initiative will plug some of the gaps left by the withdrawal of bus subsidies."

The County Council is looking to boost the team across the whole of Cambridgeshire, so interest from all areas of the county would be welcomed. Community drivers receive a payment of 45p a mile.

Community drivers must be over 21 with two years driving experience; have their own roadworthy car that has fully comprehensive insurance; and will undergo an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check paid for by the County Council.

For more information contact 0345 045 5208 or go to Cambridgeshire.gov.uk/communitydrivers

Friday, 16 March 2012

£100,000 For Councillor Pay Rise Should Be Spent On Free Public Transport For Young People Seeking Employment


Cllr van de Ven
(LD, Melbourn)
Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have put a motion to council on March 23rd - the same meeting where councillors will vote again on their allowances - calling for a freeze in councillor allowances and for the £100,000 set aside by the Conservatives for a possible pay rise to be used to fund free public transport for young people seeking education, employment and training.

The £100,000 would be used to provide free public transport to help young people aged 16-19 make their first steps into education,employment or training, such as attending a job interview or visiting a college to learn more about its courses.

Lib Dem Transport spokesperson Susan Van de Ven said: "Lack of access to transport can provide a real obstacle to young people struggling to find employment or to get back into education or training.  In view of this, we think it would be fairer to to use the £100,000 set aside by the Conservatives for a councillor pay rise to provide free public transport to help young people aged 16-19 make their first steps into education,employment or training.  Something is seriously wrong if their future is not taking priority over a councillor pay rise."

Lib Dem group leader Kilian Bourke said: “It is a shame that the Conservatives made provision in this year’s budget for a £100,000 pay rise for councillors, so we are giving them the opportunity to reject that increase and reallocate it to core services. I cannot think of a more appropriate use for this money than providing free public transport for young people looking for a job or training."

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Cambridge MP Quizzes Lord Chancellor On Laws Stifling Scientific Debate


The Lord Chancellor has admitted that academic and scientific debate is being stifled by defamation laws after he was quizzed on libel reform by MP Julian Huppert.

Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke reassured Julian that the government wanted research to be published freely without fear of court action for defamation.

The move would be a major step forward following a number of high profile libel cases where scientists and doctors were sued for publishing their work.

Julian asked Mr Clarke: “Does he agree that it is in the public interest that scientists and other academics should be able to publish bona fide research results without fear and that, unless their publication is maliciously false, they should be protected from defamation actions?”

Mr Clarke told him that one of the main reasons for publishing the draft Defamation Bill was to look at the law in the area of research for fear that “genuine academic and scientific debate was being stifled by the use of the defamation laws”.

“We propose that peer-reviewed research should be protected,” he said.

Julian had called for libel reform to be a key element of the Queen’s Speech in a motion he raised at the Lib Dem Spring Conference last weekend.

Mr Clarke said that if a Defamation Bill could be included one of its principal objectives would be to deal with the problem Julian had identified.

Julian said later: “I am delighted that the government will be pressing ahead with a defamation bill - our current libel laws give too much to the wealthiest to silence their critics. I am also pleased that the government has recognised that currently scientists and academics face a real dilemma when it comes to revealing their research for fear of being sued.

“We need to give them the freedom to speak out when their work makes discoveries that challenge ideas and concepts even if that research is controversial.

“For far too long researchers have had to weigh up the extortionate costs of challenging a libel action against the importance of publishing their findings; this is not acceptable.”

Julian’s question and the minister’s response read as follows:

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): What recent progress he has made on his plans to reform libel laws; and if he will make a statement.

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): The Government’s response to the report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill was published on 29 February. It set out the Government’s position on all the key issues. A substantive defamation Bill will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Dr Huppert: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer and hope that there will be time for the Bill in the Queen’s Speech. The Joint Committee recommended that qualified privilege should be extended to

“peer-reviewed articles in scientific or academic journals.”

Does he agree that it is in the public interest that scientists and other academics should be able to publish bona fide research results without fear and that, unless their publication is maliciously false, they should be protected from defamation actions?

Mr Clarke: One of the main reasons for publishing the draft Bill and looking at the law in that area was the fear that genuine academic and scientific debate was being stifled by the use of the defamation laws. We propose that peer-reviewed research should be protected and are now considering the draft of the final Bill in the light of the Joint Committee’s report. I will not anticipate the Queen’s Speech, but if we can include a defamation Bill, one of its principal objectives will be to deal with the very serious problem that the hon. Gentleman has identified.

E-Cops: Report Suspicious Activity Online


For the first time you can report suspicious activity online.

The facility is part of Operation Twist, the crackdown on rural burglaries in Huntingdonshire and South Cambs.

People can report suspicious activity in the two districts through the force website or via email.

Offenders will often visit an area in the days leading up to a burglary to scope out potential targets. It's at this point that people are most likely to notice something unusual but may not think it is worth reporting. We want descriptions of these people and any vehicle details that may be linked to them.

We appreciate that not everyone may want to phone through with this type of information and hope the online facility will provide an effective way of doing this.

However if people suspect there is a burglary in process then they should always dial 999.

To report suspicious activity or information about burglary visit the 'Operation Twist' page of the force website - www.cambs.police.uk. Or email - burglarycrackdown@cambs.pnn.police.uk

Patrols continue to be increased in rural villages, as well as investigative and forensic work to target those responsible.

Anyone with information should use the online facility or call police on 101. Or contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Kind regards

DI Ian Simmons

Lib Dems Win National Accolades For Their Work In The City

Cllr Rosenstiel Accepts The Award From Nick Clegg MP
Cambridge Liberal Democrats have been recognised nationally with accolades for their contribution to the local economy and work in the city.

The group won the Local Government Association’s award for Outstanding Contribution to the Local Economy and was declared runner up in the Council Group of the Year award which it won last year.

Cambridge City Council Leader, Sian Reid said: “We are delighted to have won these awards. Our long-term attitude to our economy and growth is really paying off for us. This is not a reaction to the recession but a long standing and profound commitment to getting it right.”

The LGA awards come just weeks after Cambridge was revealed as the UK’s most successful city and well placed to drive the country’s economic recovery.

The Cities Outlook 2012 report by Centre for Cities showed how well Cambridge had fared during the economic downturn compared to other cities.

In making the awards, judges took this evidence into account and considered the city council’s work with the vulnerable.

Cambridge City Council Deputy Leader, Catherine Smart said: “Despite hard times, protecting and enhancing our services for the vulnerable has been our number one priority.

“Indeed in the midst of a large savings programme we are putting money into youth programmes, restorative justice, help for the homeless and street drinkers, investment in community centres and more. We have managed the council so we have the resources to put vulnerable people first.

“We are extremely proud of this and these awards are testament to the hard work that has gone into safeguarding these services and contributing to the city generally.”

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Unlock Democracy: Lords Reform- Where Does Your MP Stand?



No-one who has paid any attention to Parliament over the past couple of months can doubt that the decisions made in the House of Lords affect our daily lives. With working peers under the control of their whips more tightly than ever, putting their work under greater public scrutiny has never been more important.

In a few months time, MPs will be given a vote over whether to introduce democratic elections to the House of Lords.  It is crucial that they stick to their election promises and endorse these proposals.

We've built a new tool to help you see to what extent your MP supports Lords reform and helps you to write them an email based on their position.  You can look up your MP by going here:

Find your MP

Whether you have agreed with the positions the House of Lords has taken in recent months or not, the fact remains that its basic lack of legitimacy means that, all too often, its decisions are simply reversed by the government.  What's more, the government can simply pack the House with more cronies if it feels it is not getting its own way. It is largely accepted that it is now a matter of when, not if, the government will flood the Lords with up to 60 new party appointees.

We simply can't continue with a discredited, broken system like this.  Sadly, the Lords itself could, if it wanted, cause the government real problems if it presses ahead with reform.  Peers who have been willing to back down on fundamental issues, such as health reform, are threatening to derail the government’s whole legislative programme to protect their own status.

If we want the government to call the Lords' bluff, we need to ensure that the House of Commons gives the reform proposals a ringing endorsement when it is debated there in a few months.  That means putting pressure on MPs now to make it clear that this is an issue that matters to their constituents.

We've built a new tool on our website to help you do this.  It shows you to what extent your MP supports Lords reform and helps you to write to them based on their position.

Please take a couple of minutes to write to your MP today.  It could make all the difference.  Visit our new tool here:

Find your MP

Many thanks,

Peter Facey
Director, Unlock Democracy

Pig Welfare Must Not Face Same Fate As Chicken Standards


Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff
(East of England)

LOCAL Lib Dem Euro-MP Andrew Duff has signed up to a campaign in the European Parliament putting pressure on farmers across Europe to meet pig welfare standards.

Cambridgeshire pig farmers have already invested heavily in higher welfare practices and will comply with new rules which come into force at the start of next year.

However, it is believed that more than half of EU member states will fail to meet the January 2013 deadline for banning sow stalls, which have been outlawed in the UK since 1999.

Cambridgeshire Euro-MP Andrew Duff is campaigning to collect the signatures of at least half of the European Parliament's 754 members to adopt a written declaration calling for action to ensure the ban is implemented in time.

Andrew Duff said: "It is absolutely essential for Cambridgeshire farmers to  be able to compete on the same level playing field across Europe otherwise they will be undercut by producers in other EU countries with lower welfare standards.

"It is equally important that consumers can rest assured that when they buy pork products they have been produced to the highest welfare standards."

The campaign to ensure that pig welfare standards are equally implemented in all EU countries follows a similar fight for EU-wide compliance with new chicken welfare rules which came into force at the beginning of this year. The European Commission has launched infringement procedures against 13 countries where farmers still do not comply with the new requirement of enriched cages for hens.

Andrew Duff added: "We must not allow pigs to become the new chickens. Farmers still have almost a whole year to make the necessary investments to improve pig welfare standards. UK farmers have managed to raise standards - the rest of Europe must follow."

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert Opposes The Health Bill

Julian Huppert MP
Julian Huppert, Member of Parliament for Cambridge, has today voted in favour of two bids to drop the Health Bill.

Julian voted in favour of an amendment tabled by some Liberal Democrats saying that the House “declines to support the Bill in its current form; and calls for an urgent summit of the Royal Colleges, professional bodies, patients' organisations and the Government to plan health reforms based on the Coalition Agreement”.

Julian said, "I voted against this Bill when it left the House of Commons last September. While it has been improved significantly, it is not improved enough.

“Crucially, this Bill is now opposed by the medical professionals who would have to implement it. I have therefore voted to drop the Bill.

“I firmly believe that the NHS does need reform and improvement. Citizens of this country deserve a first-class health service which protects everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Labour's failed reforms have put that in jeopardy.

“Labour introduced private sector providers into the NHS, and paid them more than NHS providers for the same service - they even paid one £250 million for operations they didn't do! They spent £12 billion on a computer system that never worked, and left the NHS with a £60 billion bill from PFI contracts. And their manifesto called for even greater involvement of the private sector.

“When this mismanagement came to light, they spent millions on managers and consultants. Between 2008 and 2010 the number of management consultants in the NHS increased by 80 per cent.

“The result of all this is health outcomes which are below the EU15 average and near-bankrupt hospitals. There is a pressing need for reform.

“But I believe that the only way to maintain free, universal health care is through bottom-up reforms which are fully supported by clinicians on the ground. The Government's reforms do not have that backing so I cannot support them.

“I call on the Government to engage with the medical professions, withdraw the Bill and introduce new, bottom-up reforms in line with the Coalition Agreement.

“I am proud of Liberal Democrat amendments to improve this bill. Our changes have substantially changed the bill, ensuring that competition is not the focus, that there is a duty to reduce health inequality, and that there is greater priority for medical research. We would still have a universal health care system free at the point of care.

“And there are some good sections in the bill - never again will Governments be allowed to favour private sector contracts when there are existing NHS providers.

“The Government will also increase spending on the NHS, a huge achievement given the circumstances.

“However, you simply cannot reform the health service without the support of doctors, GPs, nurses, health professionals and industry experts.

“Our NHS is too precious - too vital for the welfare of every single person living in Cambridge - for it to be bankrupted by inefficient structures, or broken up by unpopular reforms.

“I hope that the Government will be able to improve the NHS over the coming years, but I believe that the current Bill will not make the changes needed."

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Lib Dems Welcome Move To Freeze County Councillors’ Basic Pay

Cllr Andy Pellew
Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have welcomed an independent panel’s recommendation that County Councillors’ pay should remain unchanged.

The move backs up the Liberal Democrats’ view that a freeze in Councillor allowances is the right decision at a time when jobs and services are being cut.

The Lib Dems are now calling for the £100,000 Conservatives set aside to give themselves a 25 per cent pay rise to be invested in free public transport for 16-19-year-olds seeking employment or education. They will put this in a motion and ask for council support on March 27.

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat Leader, Kilian Bourke said: “The Liberal Democrats have consistently called for a freeze in Councillor allowances so we welcome the panel's recommendations.

"It was wrong of the Conservatives to give themselves a 25 per cent pay rise at a time of wage freezes, redundancies and cuts to front line services.  These proposals better reflect the times we are living in.”

Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Andy Pellew said: "The work we do as County Councillors is a lot more rewarding than just a pay cheque at the end of the month and it was a mistake by the Conservative administration to try and measure the work we do on a purely financial basis."

"It would also be a mistake just to read this report in terms of Councillors allowances. As someone with a full-time job and a young family it's important to me that the panel also recognised that the timing of meetings, always during the day, is an issue for people like me who work."


Independent Report On Members Allowances Released


Paperwork for Councillors in Shire Hall
Members Lounge

An independent panel tasked with reviewing member's allowances has made its report public.

Cambridgeshire County Council, like all authorities, has a duty to have allowances for councillors reviewed regularly.

Members of the panel looked at the current allowances as well as various evidence from a range of sources, including members and a public consultation.

The panel, chaired by David Sales, has made a number of recommendations which which will keep allowances spend the same as this year.

The report recommends that:

  • The basic members' allowance should remain at the current level of £7610
  • The current two tier structure of allowances for cabinet Portfolio Holders be replaced by a single tier of £11,697 (the average of the current two tiers), with no impact on overall costs.
  • The allowances payable to the major opposition spokesmen be consolidated into five spokesmen and that each should receive an allowance of £6,380, with no impact on overall costs.
  • A 'one special responsibility allowance' rule be introduced.
  • The allowance paid for carers is amended so that it covers the actual costs associated with care
  • Travel expenses can be claimed for attendance at parish council meetings
  • All allowances be indexed to the annual percentage 'cost of living' award for local government staff at spinal column 49. The award for 2012-13 is 0%.

The report also indicated some areas the panel wish to address in next year's review relating to the workload of portfolio holders, the effects of localism, the work of the fostering/adoption panels and to further simplify the scheme.

Copies of the panel's report are available for inspection at Shire Hall, Castle Hill, Cambridge, CB3 0AP Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm or can be supplied on request to Jim Milne (01223 715364) email: jim.milne@cambridgeshire.gov.uk Copies can also be downloaded from the Council's web site at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk

It is expected the report will be debated at Full Council on March 27.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor for King's Hedges Andy Pellew said "Given that Parish Councillors get no allowances, and District Councillors get very little it's gratifying to see that Cambridgeshire County Council has reached the only conclusion possible and decided not to increase the allowances. This stands in stark contrast to the previous finding of a 25% rise for Councillors, something our Local County Councillor John Reynolds, voted in favour of."

"I totally support the linking of the annual reward to those for County Council staff, it's important that we are 'all in this together' and that County Councillors are no longer treated as a special case".

Monday, 12 March 2012

Cambridge MP Huppert Calls On Government To Reform Libel Law


MP Julian Huppert will call on the government to introduce a new Libel Reform Bill in the next Queen’s Speech to protect freedoms and reputations.

Julian will raise the issue during Justice Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday (March 14) after gaining resounding support for the move at the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference yesterday (Sunday, March 11).

He told the Gateshead conference that every citizen should have the chance defend his or her reputation in the courts through a libel action not just those who can afford the exorbitant costs.

And he demanded the right to claim ‘public interest’ as a defence against criminal and civil charges to protect and foster investigative journalism.

“Our libel laws are outdated and unbalanced,” said Julian. “Under English law at the moment, the cost of defamation proceedings limits freedom of expression; and it is only the rich and powerful who can afford to defend their reputations by suing for libel.

“We must give every individual the ability to protect themselves in law if they become a victim of false or damaging material, not just those who can afford to pay. But we must not allow free speech to be silenced by the rich and powerful.

“That is why I want to see a new Libel Reform Bill to provide better protection for every citizen.”

Julian’s Civil Liberties motion also called for an end to heavy handed policing, kettling – where protesters are cordoned off in an area during a demonstration – and stronger controls on tasers and stop and search measures.

Cambridge MP Huppert Calls On Local MP Lansley To Publish Risk Register


MP Julian Huppert has written to Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, calling on him to publish the health service transition risk register promptly after the government lost its fight to keep it under wraps.

Julian’s call comes just days before the Lords get their last chance to debate and vote on controversial health reforms. The Bill has already passed the Commons, where Julian voted against it.

He said the risk register needed to be published to inform the debate on the Health and Social Care Bill.

Julian said: “The Information Tribunal has ruled that the risk register should be published and the government should do so now.

“I have argued for this to happen both publicly and privately to ministers and now this view has been supported by the tribunal. There must be no further delay in publishing this register if we are to have a fully informed debate on this Bill.”

BHA: 'Faith' Schools And Discrimination



Last week The Guardian published groundbreaking research which was informed by the BHA revealing the huge extent to which English ‘faith’ schools exclude pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM). It has long been known that ‘faith’ schools take fewer pupils eligible for FSM than average, but always been retorted that this is because ‘faith’ schools are typically in more rural areas where there are fewer poor families. We worked with the Guardian to interrogate data to see if this is true.

The research looks at all ‘faith’ schools and compares them to others in their same local authority and their same post code. Amongst the findings were that 73% of Catholic primary schools and 72% of secondaries take fewer pupils eligible for FSM than the average in their local authority whereas on the flipside for schools without a religious character, 51% of primaries and 45% of secondaries take fewer pupils eligible for FSM than the average in their local authority.

The BHA’s position has always been that that allowing religious discrimination within our state system exacerbates socio-economic inequality as well as being religiously and ethnically divisive. Academic studies have shown that, in state schools that select on religious grounds, there end up being fewer pupils from poorer backgrounds and that any selection favours more affluent parents who know how to play the system.

The BHA will continue its work in education to urge the government to end faith-based selection in all state-funded schools.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cambridge Half-Marathon – Sunday 11th March (Today!)


Just a quick reminder that today is the Cambridge half-marathon and so a number of roads in the area will be closed or have restricted access until the afternoon.

You can also get more details from the organisers’ web site, the map below shows details of the route.
Cambridge Half-Marathon Map

Friday, 9 March 2012

Lib Dems Renew Call For Freeze In Councillor Allowances

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have renewed their call for a freeze in Councillor allowances as a vote on the issue is imminent.

They maintain that as Cambridgeshire County Council makes cutbacks Councillors should not be voting to increase their pay.   

Lib Dem group leader Kilian Bourke said: “We believe that at a time of redundancies, wage freezes and cuts to frontline services it would be wrong for Councillors to use the proceeds of an increase in council tax to give themselves a pay rise.

“A freeze would be the right outcome, and would go some way toward repairing the loss of public trust that took place last year when the Conservatives gave themselves a 25 per cent pay rise.

“It is a shame that they have made provision in this year’s budget for a £100,000 increase, but they still have the opportunity to reject that increase and reallocate it to core services.  We would support this and urge them to do so.”

As well as calling for a freeze in allowances, the Liberal Democrats have made three specific proposals regarding allowances in their alternative budget:
  • To delete the £100,000 set aside in the Conservative budget for an increase in Councillor allowances, and use this to reduce council tax by a small amount;
  • To encourage people from a wider range of backgrounds to stand for election as Councillors by holding meetings later in the day and evening.  Lib Dems believe this would have a greater effect in terms of attracting a wider range of people than even a substantial increase in Councillor pay.
  • To reduce the size of the Cabinet, investing some of the money saved in council services, redistributing the rest between the remainder of the Cabinet.  This better than cost neutral proposal addresses concerns that the Cabinet role is more full time, making holding down a professional job difficult.
County Councillors are expected to vote on Councillor allowances on March 27 if the Independent Review Panel has lodged its report.

Northstowe Planning Application

Cllr John Reynolds
(CON, Bar Hill)
The following briefing note has been provide to the Parish Council by County Councillor John Reynolds in relation to the Northstow Development.

Northstow Briefing Document

Cllr Reynolds sits on the Northstow Joint Development Control Committee.

I've reproduced the briefing note below;


"Northstowe Planning Application 

An outline planning application for Phase 1 of Northstowe has now been submitted and copies of the application delivered to the County Council. 

The application is for: 

  • Up to 1,500 dwellings, a primary school, a mixed-use local centre (including a community building and shops), leisure, community, residential institutions, cultural, health and employment provision, a household recycling centre, formal and informal recreational space, and associated infrastructure works. 

In addition, a Development Framework has also been submitted. This covers the entire Northstowe site and will provide a policy framework within which the Phase 1 application will be determined. Although it has been given a reference number (S/0390/12) the Development Framework will not be determined as a planning application. 

The planning application and Development Framework should be able to be viewed on South Cambridgeshire District Councils website. Go to the following page and enter S/0388/12* to view the application or S/0390/12* to view the Development Framework;


http://plan.scambs.gov.uk/swiftlg/apas/run/wphappcriteria.display


However, South Cambs officers have warned that this may not be on the website till later in the week. 


The planning application will be determined at a future Northstowe Joint Development
Control Committee (date to be confirmed). 


Yours


County Councillor John Reynolds 
(Cllr Reynolds is a member of the Northstowe Joint Development Control Committee (NJDCC))


Background
2.1 In July 2007 South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) adopted an Area Action Plan (NAAP) for up to 10,000 homes at the site of a new town to be called Northstowe, adjacent to the
villages of Longstanton, and Oakington. The Local Development Framework, particularly the Core Strategy, Development Control Policies & Northstowe Area Action Plan (NAAP) remain pertinent.
2.2 In December 2007 an outline application for the new town was submitted by the Joint Promoters Gallagher Longstanton and English Partnerships together with three detailed applications for strategic drainage infrastructure and road links to the new town from the Bar Hill and Dry Drayton Road junctions of the A14.  On 8th May 2008 the Council wrote to the Joint Promoters, detailing areas where changes to the applications would be required or further information was necessary. In December 2008, following a series of meetings with the Joint Promoters, the Council issued two further letters reiterating the Council’s position. These applications remain undetermined.
2.3 In December 2008 the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) was created from a merger of English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation, and from 2009 to 2010, the HCA and Gallagher were negotiating arrangements for the development of Northstowe. Since then, the HCA and Gallagher agreed to continue to work together as Joint Promoters of the Northstowe development and formalised their commitment to work together to bring forward Northstowe by signing a partnering agreement in February 2011.  


1. In October 2010, the Government removed funding for major A14 improvements.  In response Gallagher produced a delivery paper for Northstowe (December 2010), proposing a phased approach to the delivery of Northstowe. This included a first phase development, to the north of the core area, which it believes could proceed without major improvements to the A14
2. Since 2011 officers from SCDC and Cambridgeshire County Council have been working closely with the Joint Promoters and The Northstowe Parish Forum to bring forward Northstowe. The work has included a review and refresh of the site wide masterplan, involving a design workshop for Members and Parish Council representatives in May 2011, joint site visits to similar developments ( Loves Farm and Upton) and a public service workshop in December 2011. As part of their pre-application work the Joint Promoters carried out public consultation on their proposals in October 2011 and also attend the Northstowe Parish Forum, which now meets on a monthly basis.
3. A draft planning performance agreement (PPA) setting out principles and a common approach to project management was considered by Northstowe & New Communities Portfolio-Holder in November 2011; this is close to being finalised.  A letter, dated 30th November 201, was issued by the Council outlining matters to be addressed in the forthcoming submissions.


3.1 On 27th February 2012 two submissions were received
1. Development Framework, effectively a site-wide masterplan, which will include the strategic reserve land. Although not a planning application the Development Framework complies with the policy requirement for a site wide master plan and sets the context for the Phase 1 development. 
2. An outline application for the first phase comprising:
up to 1,500 dwellings (approximately 35% of which are proposed to be affordable); 
mixed use local centre; with primary school; and sports facilities
approximately 3.5ha of employment land; and a household waste recycling centre;
associated infrastructure. 
3.2 Key changes to the proposals from those in 2008 include the addition of the strategic reserve land on the north side of B1050, a northward shift of the town centre, a redesign of the spine road, and a reduction in the number of local centres. 


4.0 Forthcoming Consultation and timelines.
4.1 The consultation period for both the Development Framework and the outline application is likely to start on Monday 5th March and run for 6 weeks until Monday 16th April. 
4.2 A consultation programme was agreed with the Northstowe Parish Forum in January (attached).  In addition to the standard notification process there will be four exhibitions with ‘drop in’ sessions at Oakington and Longstanton between 13th–19th March at which officers and representatives from the Joint promoters will be available to outline and explain the proposals, as well as the processes involved in considering and determining the proposals.
4.3 A formal response on both submissions is scheduled for early May. Subject to timely responses and resolution of outstanding issues it is anticipated that the Development Framework will be considered by the NJDCC in late summer, i.e. prior to any consideration of the Phase 1 application, which is likely to be in the autumn. 
4.4 Preliminary pre application discussions on Phase 2 are also expected to start in late summer. 


5.0 On-going work streams:
5.1 Work continues in a number of areas, outputs from which will inform the consideration of the forthcoming proposals:
Public services –particularly focusing two community hubs: shared services within the primary school adjacent the local centre, and early delivery of a secondary school, on land adjacent Phase 1 which will accommodate children from Northstowe and Longstanton. 
Energy – a joint study is to review what might be possible for phase 1 within the context of options for site wide provision. Report expected by April.
Housing and community investment - a feasibility study underway on options for affordable housing and community investment revenue generation. Report expected March.
Exploring early delivery of retail and employment with local businesses.
A14 – work continues by DFT with a final report expected in June.
Viability and S106 obligations – at an early stage with consultants now appointed to focus initially on the methodology.


Northstowe Phase 1 application and Development Framework Document consultation process for parish councils and members of the public
(the following dates are based on a submission date of 27th February 2012)


Week 1 (registration and notification of application)
Once the outline application for Phase 1 and the Development Framework Document have been validated they will be uploaded to the Council’s website (www.scambs.gov.uk).
Hard copies of the Planning Statement and Design and Access Statement for the Phase 1 application and the Development Plan Document will be sent to the following parish councils (along with CDs and hard copies of other documents as requested); Bar Hill, Cottenham, Dry Drayton, Girton, Histon/Impington, Lolworth, Longstanton, Oakington and Westwick, Over, Rampton, Swavesey and Willingham.
Hard copies of all the Northstowe documents will also be sent to Bar Hill, Cottenham, Willingham and Swavesey libraries, as well as the Central Library in Lion Yard. 
An electronic pro-forma, with a link to the Northstowe documents on the Council’s website, will be sent to the above parish councils giving them 42 days to comment from 5th March.
Neighbour notification letters will go out to all properties in the villages of Cottenham, Longstanton, Oakington and Westwick, Over, Rampton, Swavesey and Willingham, as well as anyone living outside these villages who commented on the previous applications.
A press notice will be put in the Cambridge News and site notices will be put up around the site and in the neighbouring villages. The press notice, site notices and neighbour notification letters will all give members of the public 42 days to comment from 5th March (though comments can be submitted before then).


Week 2 (consultation period formally commences, for 6 weeks – Monday 5th March)
Representations will be accepted either via the post or electronically (e-mail or through the Council’s website). The Council will be using the APAS system, which is the system routinely used for receiving comments on all planning applications. 
The Phase 1 application and the Development Framework Document will both be given separate reference numbers on APAS. Documents for both the submissions will be on the same webpage. 
Where possible it will be helpful if comments were made under the relevant reference numbers, though it is acknowledged that there will be some issues that relate to both submissions. 


Week 3 (public exhibitions)
There will be four ‘drop in’ sessions held during the week commencing Monday 12th March (on Tuesday 13th(2pm till 8pm), Thursday 15th (2pm till 7pm), Saturday 17th (10am till 4pm) and Monday 19th (2pm till 8pm)). These ‘drop in’ sessions will be held at Longstanton (13th and 17th) and Oakington (17th and 19th) and manned by District and County officers, with representatives of the Joint Promoters also attending. Details of the dates, times and venues will be provided on the notification letters and the Council’s website.  


Week 8 (consultation period finishes – Monday 16th April)
Officers will assess the Development Framework Document and Phase 1 outline application against all relevant National and Local Planning Policies and all material planning considerations, including those raised in the representations from consultees and members of the public. 


Week 9 
A response letter will be sent to the applicants outlining any amendments or additional information that may be required. If either submission is amended or additional information is submitted further consultation will be carried out.  


The Development Framework Document will be considered by the Northstowe Joint Development Control Committee (NJDCC). This will need to happen prior to the consideration of the Phase 1 application, given that it provides the context for the Phase 1 development, and all future applications.  Weight will be given to the Development Framework Document through endorsement by the NJDCC.


In addition to this the Northstowe Parish Forum will continue to meet monthly and regular briefings will be arranged for the members of the NJDCC. More information about the regular community engagement activities throughout 2012 will be found on the Northstowe Community Engagement Paper, which is being drafted."