County Councillor’s Report February 2022

CONTENTS: The 2022/23 budget, COVID, Farmgate-bullying and more, Graffiti Wall in Orchard Park and dangerous access to the A14, Orchard Park Planters and road safety, Domestic Violence and Libraries as safe spaces, The Highways and Transport budget and plan for 2022/23, Cambridgeshire Carbon Footprint report, Mere Way, Investment of £105,000 to boost biodiversity in Cambridgeshire, Solar Together Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire’s Climate Strategy, Human library climate change event

-County Council Carbon emissions – the significant reduction is largely due to the pandemic.   The new light green Land use emissions are not a new source of emissions but this is the first year they have been included in the report, read more in the Climate Emergency section.

Council business
The 2022/23 budget was set in February. It responds to a £22.2m deficit in next year’s budget with efficiencies, savings and a one-year government finance settlement – and is the first step in a process to make up a deficit of £80m over the next five years.

The County Council share of general council tax will rise by 4.99% – a 1.99% rise alongside a 3% rise in the Adult Social Care precept. The tax increase is necessary to protect essential services in particular adult social care.  
It means an extra charge of
-90p per week for a Band A household,
-£1.04 per week for a Band B, and
-£1.19 for a Band C household
-£1.34 per week for a band D  
which even after the increase will be below the average for Shire Counties. There is a safety net for the most vulnerable:
The Household Support Fund –https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/coronavirus/household-support-fund
Continued funding for Free School Meals throughout the school holidays.
A 100% council tax rebate for Care Leavers until they are 21
and a targeted fund to support them,
if needed until they are 25.A £1m ‘catch up’ fund to help children catch up on activities which help them learn skills, build self-confidence and make friends.
COVID With restrictions coming to an end in England, residents in Cambridgeshire are being encouraged to make the most of the spring and summer while continuing good hygiene practices to protect themselves and others.  There is more advice about living with Covid on the County Council website.
The situation has in terms of case load has already altered since the first draft of this report.  
Note from March 13 – Vaccination is still absolutely vital, Hong Kong which has had a low vaccination rate is seeing deaths at a similar level to London at it’s worst with the Omicron variant it is vaccination which has made the difference in the UK.

https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/news/living-safely-with-covid More on the Government announcement can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-living-with-covid-19 Anyone yet to get both doses of a Covid vaccine, or their booster, can find out where they can jabbed at: https://www.thevaccinators.co.uk/
Farmgate; bullying, disrepute, improper use of position – a report into former Cambridgeshire County Council deputy leader Conservative Roger Hickford finally reached the public realm. The report concluded that Hickford breached the Council’s Code of Conduct in six different areas.
Respect– he failed to treat Officers and others acting on behalf of the Council with respect;
Bullying – he used a bullying manner in order for the Council to pay for works that would otherwise be the responsibility of the tenant. He also used a bullying manner in order to set the terms of the lease for Manor Farm;
Impartiality – he compromised Officers and others’ impartiality in his dealings with regard to Manor Farm;
Disrepute – his conduct towards Officers and others and his conflict of interest would have reduced the public’s confidence in him being able to fulfil his role or the Council being able to discharge its functions;
Improper use of position – he used his position as Deputy Leader to receive concessions that the Council would not otherwise have agreed to;
Interests – he failed to register a disclosable pecuniary interest (the tenancy of Manor Farm) within 28 days and he failed to declare a non-statutory disclosable interest in meetings with regard to County Farms matters.
The independent report was by Wilkin Chapman Investigating solicitors (read it here) and you can watch the lead investigators comments on You Tube which are extremely critical. The scandal involved a county council farm, Manor Farm in Girton which a serving councillor Mr Hickford decided to become tenant of during his tenure as Councillor (something which in itself raises eyebrows) and then petitioned for further changes and improvements to that farm.
A Fairer Cambridgeshire
Graffiti Wall in Orchard Park and dangerous access to the A14– after indications that National Highways were receptive to the idea of a graffiti wall under their bridge a site meeting with National Highways, myself and Orchard Park Clerk was less constructive.  National Highways were considering looking in to commissioning some kind of mural under the bridge which was not what was asked for.  Whilst this might be attractive achieving this end would be extremely complicated.  National Highways suggested that it may be possible to find funding for a graffiti wall within Orchard Park. 
We also discussed the issue of people illegally trespassing on the A14 from the busway.  National Highways solution was to install either palisade fencing (metal fencing with spikes) or possibly wooden fencing.  They thought there was a possibility that wooden fencing could be used as a graffiti wall, this in turn raised a new issue which was that the location of the wooden fencing would directly impact residents so discussion with them was necessary. This will be discussed at the community council. 
Orchard Park Planters and road safety –  a meeting with a local highways officer to discuss a street planter near Marmalade Lane was postponed as a different officer agreed to work through a strategy for planters and road safety in Orchard park.  A community meeting is probably a good place to start this timings of which to be discussed at Orchard Park Community Council.
Domestic Violence and Libraries as safe spaces
– £1.1million of government funding for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will be spent on:  refuge accommodation, domestic abuse victims staying safe in their homes, mobile advocacy and dispersed safe accommodation.
Libraries across the county have signed up to be safe spaces for people who are suffering domestic abuse. Each library will allow access to a private room and a phone line for people who need to make a phone call to access support. 
For further information.  People who need help and support can find out more by visiting www.cambsdasv.org.uk. They can also contact: National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247, Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327  
Around Cambridgeshire
The Highways and Transport budget and plan for 2022/23: Includes amongst other things commitments to maintain spending levels on highways maintenance such as proactive treatment and maintenance of roads, bridges and footpaths and pot holes. In addition to this the focus will be on; adopting the latest innovative technology for our condition surveys and data collection to anticipate and address highway maintenance issues, a new active travel strategy for the county, reviewing the 20mph policy and the qualifying criteria, implement a new highways drainage strategy, a street lighting review and investigating how we deal with waste and materials from our maintenance activities so we recycle and reuse as much as we can.
Climate Emergency
Cambridgeshire Carbon Footprint report – this was signed off in January.  I missed this from the previous report as it was not featured as a council ‘news article’ where I tend to pick up key announcements.  I was astonished that this did not warrant a press release, after discussion there was still no press release. I find this extremely frustrating the carbon footprint must be viewed as of equal importance as the financial reporting which both makes the headlines and has a stand alone full council meeting devoted to it.  

The report showed a significant reduction in emissions compared to the previous 12 months but this was comparing pandemic with non pandemic so emissions are likely to rise again.   The largest source of council emissions were from waste.  I am trying really hard to get the County Council to become more proactive in supporting waste reduction initiatives.  I sit on the county’s Waste board in order to raise the profile of waste and it’s carbon footprint.   

The picture from Cambridgeshire as a whole demonstrated the scale of the challenge of getting our county to net zero.  This was the first year that the report included LULUCF emissions, (emissions from land usage,  the peat problem our county faces) and a map of the UK shows Cambridgeshire as having the greatest LULUCF emissions nationally.  View the report here https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/climate-change-energy-and-environment/carbon-footprinting-how-big-is-the-problem    



Cambridgeshire County Council carbon footprints summary -County Council Carbon emissions – the significant reduction is largely due to the pandemic.   The new light green Land use emissions are not a new source of emissions but this is the first year they have been included in the report.  
Mere Way – HI Parish Council, OP Community Council and HI Hub journalist Liz Hill, have all been working on this.  Currently the plans are relatively developed although not finalised. Urban and Civic the town planners for Waterbeach new town are responsible for delivering this scheme and the County Council will be adopting the route when complete. The route is not planned to be lit apparently on the County Council’s request, the Road Safety team are in careful negotiation in regards to the Butt Lane crossing and until I raised the question no consideration at all seems to have been given to the junction where Mere Way joins the busway.   I need to establish what is going on and will report back.  
Investment of £105,000 to boost biodiversity in Cambridgeshire.  I can’t lay claim to much but I played a role in this.  Meeting with the Green Spaces officer was one of the first things I did after being elected.   There wasn’t enough money for the duties they already had so my ideas stood no chance of being considered. I raised the urgent need for greater investments in green spaces with the council leader early last summer and increased funding for the nature reserves was agreed in time for work to start during the crucial winter period. I also raised the issue of funding for the biodiversity strategy and £105,000 will be spent on getting the expertise needed to produce the biodiversity strategy which is the first step towards doubling biodiversity by 2040. It certainly wasn’t just me but I got things moving early.  
Solar Together Cambridgeshire  The popular group buying solar panel, batteries and iboost scheme  that started last year has re-opened, this offers solar panels and batteries at a reduced (group buy) cost.   Organised by the council Solar Together Cambridgeshire (www.solartogether.co.uk/cambridgeshire) helps Cambridgeshire’s homeowners feel confident that they are paying the right price for a high-quality installation from pre-approved installers.
Cambridgeshire’s Climate Strategy the action plan setting out how and by when the council and the whole of Cambridgeshire will reach net zero has been approved.
There is a new ambition for Cambridgeshire to reach net zero emissions by 2045. (5 years earlier than the previous strategy)
An organisational target for the county council to reach Net Zero by 2030.
The need for the council and others to engage, support and collaborate with communities, partners and businesses to make positive changes themselves.

The strategy commits the council to focusing its efforts in three key areas reducing carbon emissions adapting the county to the impacts of climate change (flood, drought, severe weather strategies etc), and increasing nature and biodiversity. Equally as important a theme which runs through the strategy is that the county will only reach net zero by working together and the county council wants to hear your thoughts on the climate emergency.  What are your ideas?  What have you done?  What projects could do with some help?  The County Council really wants to hear your ideas. Please email climate@cambridgeshire.gov.uk
Human library climate change event – the libraries service is teaming up with Cambridge Carbon Footprint to offer an event with a difference where you borrow a person, rather than a book.
The Human Library event on Saturday 26 March at Cambridge Central Library is free to all you will have the opportunity to have a 1:1 with a huge range of sustainability experts and have a conversation focused on their particular interests.
Key areas of expertise by the human ‘books’ include green parenting, woodland and community development, air source heat pumps, sustainable baking and how to use your local public library as a focal point for sustainability, as well as a whole range of other environmental issues.
Organised by local resident Nicole Barton and Dan Mace will be one of the human books. Find out more about Cambridge Carbon Footprint and the Human Library, and book your place at https://cambridgecarbonfootprint.org/the-human-library-at-central-library/  
  Meetings attended Local Highways Improvement Panel for South Cambs, day 2 Full Council Busway site visit at Orchard Park Mere Way consultation Waterbeach – Cambridge workshop event  

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