County Councillors Report October 2022

CONTENTS: Sorry it’s very Making Connections heavy but so has my life been over the last few weeks, LHI scheme, The household support fund

Ongoing and forthcoming Consultations and Schemes: Greater Cambridge Partnership (GPP) Making Connections consultation on the future of travel in the Greater Cambridge (Cambridge City and South Cambs District Council) area. The consultation runs until midday December 23 2022
https://consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/making-connections-2022

I urge everyone who has a view on this proposal to read the documents which are surprisingly accessible, look at the interactive bus map, think carefully about what would make transport work for your life and respond to the consultation with this information. The most controversial aspect of this consultation is the city charge of £5 per day to travel within and into or out of the travel zone (city) 7am-7pm weekdays but this is not a done deal and would not begin to be charged for at least 4 years. 

Politicians have to make the final decision and choosing to implement a charge like this is the riskiest thing a politician can do so it is not impossible that things may change.  That said the most important aspect of this consultation is the data. Currently much of the data lies with Stagecoach, even if the city charge proposals are not implemented the data captured in this survey will be used by the mayor’s office when making decisions about bus services in the county. So data in this survey could improve bus services.

I have seen comments across social media suggesting people just respond no to the questions about the charge and don’t answer anything else I urge you not to do that.  It will not make any difference to whether the charge is implemented that is a bigger question which will be looked at in the round.  If you don’t engage with the detail of the consultation you won’t have a voice on this.  
Making Connections, Greater Cambridge Partnership consultation on Sustainable Travel Zone proposal. Political and business context.   

Earlier this year the Conservative government invited applications from local authorities for their £1.2 billion Bus back better scheme post lockdowns.  Responsibility for buses lies with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) who applied to this scheme and were unsuccessful.  The CPCA’s overview and scrutiny panel reported that the reasons for this were that;  

‘1) in DfT’s view we had insufficient commitment to road charging, active travel and bus priority schemes in our area; and
2) the DfT subsequently applied a deprivation index score to each BSIP submitted and given our high overall growth, this meant that the money tended to be allocated in the north of England rather than to us.’
Page 38 Overview and scrutiny Committee papers October 2022  

The CPCA are preparing another bid for bus funding later in the year.    60% of applicants to the government’s scheme were unsuccessful so it is clear both that the government are not prioritising funding buses in all areas and that there is significant pressure coming from central government to progress road pricing schemes.  

This took me to the government’s policy on road pricing. The summary headlines of which are; ‘Road pricing: Act now to avoid £35 billion fiscal black hole, urge MPs’ and just a cursory reading of any of these documents (google Department of Transport Road Pricing) suggest road pricing is inevitable.  Fuel duty is almost a perfect tax as it accurately mirrors usage but as we switch to Electric vehicles with sales of petrol and diesel cars being phased out by 2030 the duty will dry up.  The report is concerned that if drivers become accustomed to cheap motoring it will be almost impossible to fill the financial black hole.  Reading those documents road pricing feels inevitable.     

Since 1985 when Mrs Thatcher deregulated buses unless you operate a franchised service bus services operate within a free market and can give just 56 days notice to quite operating any route.   In September Stagecoach gave notice to quit their ‘red route’ of least profitable services there is an amber route.  So bus services could deteriorate further in Cambridgeshire including in Histon and Impington although conversations with Stagecoach convince me busway services are not on the amber list. This collapse in service is not connected to the timing of the GCP consultation although I have heard suggestions it is all part of a coordinated process.    Successive governments have had nearly 30 years to reform the bus service model to safeguard bus travel and haven’t.   

People in Cambridgeshire regularly ask for better buses, cheaper more frequent services and many people rely entirely on buses to get around; young people, those with disabilities or specific health issues and those who can’t afford or choose not to have a car. If we want to have decent bus services we need a franchised model or something approaching that which takes away the unreliability of the current free market model but franchising costs significant money hence the city access charge proposal.     

The consultation itself lays out additional context and the rationale and history of how the proposals have been developed.    
GCP Making Connections consultation local event – I am trying to organise a local consultation event but the GCP seem to blow hot and cold on this.  I would be very grateful to hear anyone’s views on the proposed bus service for the village.  I will write about it on my blog.
A personal perspective on the Sustainable Travel Zone and Addenbrookes.   Whether or not Addenbrookes should be in the zone is one of the most controversial questions. 

I will speak as someone who has a family member who relies on Addenbrookes to stay alive and has constant visits to the site.    Addenbrookes is literally a life saver for our family, I feel incredibly lucky to live near to Addenbrookes.  Addenbrookes keeps a family member alive and it is only because we live so close to a research hospital with such a passion for keeping people alive and so many brilliant connections to treatments that my family member is alive.   Whilst those with blue badges need onsite parking and there are other valid specific reasons to have to park onsite I would far rather Addenbrookes focussed their time and energy on health care, looking after people and saving peoples lives than on car parks for the vast majority of people visiting the site.  Organising the parking for thousands of people is a lot of stress, it takes up a lot of energy and physical space. 

I believe Addenbrookes and their campus which is always expanding could use that space and effort better by outsourcing their parking and transport issues to local government. 

I don’t mind whether I have to get a park and ride bus to the site I just want Addenbrookes to carry on saving peoples lives.  Of course the staff must be considered carefully but that can be dealt with within the proposals.
LHI Scheme The new Local Highways Improvement Scheme (LHI) was agreed at the Highways and Transport Committee.  The application period opens on 31 October and closes on Friday 6th January 2023 at 1700hrs. Please read scheme details for changes to the approach.   I have spoken to members of Orchard park Community Council and Histon and Impington parish council in regards to their applications and hope to support bids from both communities.
A Fairer Cambridgeshire
Household Support Fund –The third iteration of the Household Support Fund (HSF3) will run from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023. The fund is designed to support those most in need, providing help with inflationary challenges and the rising cost of living.

There are three ways to apply for the Fund. ·

The majority of applications will be received through a straightforward, intuitive application form on the Council’s website. To find it search “CCC HSF” ·

We also have trusted partners who can use the Household Support Fund to make an award to those who they are working with and are in need. The trusted partners that can be approached directly by the public are listed on our website (search CCC HSF).

We are always open to adding more partners to our network. If you represent a local community group and would like to be considered to issue Household Support Fund support, please mail CommunityCV@cambridgeshire.gov.uk ·

Those of pensionable age can apply through our partners Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Apply by phone on 01223 221929 or by email at hsf@ageukcap.org.uk

While the HSF can offer short-term direct financial support (typical support payment of £110), the fund is a conduit to personalised support that has a longer-term impact than a single cash award. To that end, beneficiaries of the fund are offered a conversation to discuss their individual circumstances and identify support that might contribute to a positive longer-term change. This will include income maximisation and assessment for eligibility for benefits including free school meals and free childcare. Those we support are made aware of social utility tariffs, including lesser known offers such as social broadband tariffs.

More recently, work has started with the Cambridgeshire Energy Retrofit Partnership to encourage fund applicants to apply for grants to improve energy efficiency and save money on their heating bills. Or ‘core offer’ is always considered by our staff providing support.

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