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District and County Report March 2018

by Bridget Smith on 13 March, 2018

School Update – Gamlingay Village Primary School

Because of the delay in processing of the planning application for the Primary School there is a consequent delay to the planned re-homing of the Primary school on the GVC site. Although Coulsons – the contractors – have already mobilised they are very unlikely to be able to hand over the school to the Trust before half-term in the Autumn. This is partly because what was a £2m project planned to last 34 weeks is now a £3.8m project to be delivered in the same time. The difference is because it was agreed that the entire former GVC building should be renovated along with the building of the proposed extensions to make it suitable for primary aged schoolchildren. Gamlingay is getting an entirely new School building but of course it’s important to understand that the school that will be in the new building on the former GVC site is actually the same school with the same staff (plus a few extras as required) and the same management as is currently on the First School site.

It has been agreed that the pupils who would all have moved into the new school buildings will remain on the First School site until the beginning of the Spring term 2019. There is plenty of room for everyone – and they would then start the New Year 2019 in their new school building. The First School became a full primary school in September 2017 and recently announced that to more accurately reflect its status it will formally change its name to Gamlingay Village Primary School from September 2018.

When that happens the First School site and buildings will be surplus to the needs of the Trust and it is the intention of the Trust to transfer ownership back to the County Council – there is a complex process that allows the Dept of Education to interfere but we hope this will not happen.

As mentioned before we are ambitious to use the First School building as an Early Learning Centre for the relocation of current providers should they wish to. This would concentrate pre-school and wraparound services on one site although each setting would be independent both physically (eg with separate entrances) and corporately. It is envisaged that there would be two or perhaps three settings. The County Council – which has the responsibility for ensuring there is adequate provision for all 0-18 education – has already commissioned a feasibility study to show how the First School buildings can be converted into suitable premises for a number of pre/early learning settings.

The Victorian original building is currently used by the school. However, as an old building it presents a wide range of challenges. It is also listed. It is likely that the day will come that it will no longer be suitable for any kind of educational use. It would appear suitable for residential conversion – there are already two flats in the part that was the old Headmaster’s House. It could be that any developer might wish to re-instate Gamlingay’s Pyramid – the steeple that once stood on the school’s tower! But that is some way off!

There is no change of any kind envisaged at the Fitness Suite; nor to the MUGA. The primary school has a number of commitments to ensure that traffic levels are kept as low as possible in and around the new building and we will be working closely with the Trust to ensure that these are managed and met. A small element of footpath along Church Lane has to be widened as well. At our request the County Council will also re-assess the need for a Lollipop person at the Cross once the new building is open.

The First School playing field is an important feature of the village and as such it has already been registered as an Asset of Community Value (in March 2017) by the Parish Council at Bridget and I’s request. We very much doubt that residents would be supportive of any change to the use of the playing field other than as open green space. This will become more important as the development at Green End starts up. Obviously the new pre-schools will still need open green space too.

The provision of education in Gamlingay has a very bright future. The delivery of an (almost) brand new school building and a pioneering project to deliver an Early Learning Centre within the village is an exciting prospect – which will benefit your children, grandchildren and future generations of Gamlingay people.

Cherry Trees

The Cherry trees at the First School were removed as they had reached the end of their lives largely because of disease. The Education Authority had them inspected and asked for their removal on safeguarding grounds. Obviously, the Governors were obliged to act from an insurance perspective. I don’t suppose they were happy about it either. There were funds put aside for replacement trees but that was put on the back burner when the further changes to education in Gamlingay started up again. My understanding is that the cherry trees were paid for by men returning from WW2 who pooled their discharge payments, and I suggested that perhaps the Parish Council might like to consider replacement trees on behalf of the people of Gamlingay. As the plans develop for the First School site I hope this will be kept in mind.

Potholes

Following last month’s updates on potholes here’s more. Church Street has been inspected again by the Highway Supervisor. None of the surface degradation is deeper than 50mm so he cannot utilise the pothole repair crews and has no budget to do anything else until the new financial year.

Church Street is historically very difficult to maintain due to the constant presence of parked cars either side of the road. This means that any maintenance crews do not have an adequate safety zone to work and the pothole crews are only able to plug holes rather than do a more long lasting square patches. The only way to undertake substantial repairs is to suspend the parking and/or close the road to facilitate works which obviously causes considerable disruption to the village and upsets the business owners so a balance needs to be struck.

Due to the parked cars, the majority of the surface damage has occurred along a 2m strip down the middle of the road and most of the gullies are also blocked because the gully tankers doing routine maintenance cannot gain access. He would therefore propose closing the road at some point in the spring/summer to patch the damaged strip between the crossroads and Stocks Lane and get the gullies jetted out at the same time and probably also refresh the road markings.

Carers

We are often asked to advise people about where to get good quality care for their relatives so it is great that Anne Hutson is in the process of setting up a Carers’ Brokerage Service for Gamlingay which will link people wanting to care with people requiring care. This will hopefully address the problem of there not being enough really good carers to meet the rapidly increasing need. Anne’s aim is to support people to become self-employed carers, paid a good wage for doing a good job and to link them with people needing care. If you are looking for a carer or are interested in talking to Anne about becoming a self-employed carer please contact Bridget and she will pass on your details.

Taxi Licensing

S Cambs has recently completed a consultation on taxi and hackney carriage licensing which might have adversely affected those companies doing private hire. The reason for the review was to ensure safeguarding of both passengers and drivers which has become more of an issue of late. We were very pleased to have been able to pass on the views of some of our local drivers and so get the proposals amended in such a way that they are still able to carry out their business effectively.

Crime

Crime trends move up and down with the current increase being in car crime – damage and thefts. So please be vigilant and ensure your car is locked up and alarmed. if you see anything suspicious report it straight away and always record registration plates of suspicious vehicles.

Careers Support

You may recall that Forward Gamlingay sponsored a couple of Young Enterprise and Careers days at Stratton School as a means of benefitting young people from Gamlingay and Hatley. The aim was to raise awareness of the vast range in jobs available to them these days many of which did not exist only a few years ago and also to help them to experience what work may be like. The project was under taken on behalf of Forward Gamlingay by Cambridge based Form the Future who have now made a u tube video of the work they did at Stratton:

Bins

Some residents, who have assistance with putting their bins out and putting them back are experiencing a rather fractured service at the moment. Please do report any failures to [email protected] or give us a ring and we can do it for you.

Robinson Court

Work on Robinson Court appears to be progressing well with almost complete houses now appearing. We have had quite few calls from people interested in applying for the rental houses. You will need to be registered on South Cambs Homelink site – this can take a bit of time so get in early. We will let you know as soon as the houses and flats are likely to be released. Remember, they are only for people currently living or working in the village or with close relatives living here. If you are a neighbour of the development and are experiencing any issues, do not hesitate to get in touch with the site manager Jonathan or us.

Before and After School Care
We have been corrected about the statement in our last report that there was now no out of hours school care in the village. Pat Jenkins has reminded us that the Montessori has been providing before and after school care for a number of years now. Sorry Pat.

Campaign against Library Computer Charging

At a committee meeting on 13 February, the County Council decided to proceed with proposals to increase income from libraries. This includes the proposal to charge for use of the library computers, which are currently free for all users, after the first half hour. The software needed to manage the new charges itself costs £18,800. There will also be the additional costs of staff training and time.

We have designed so much of the modern world around the internet. You need to go online to apply for many benefits, to get a bus pass, to get on the housing list, to search and apply for a job, or just to buy some everyday goods. Charging for computers goes against the core mission of libraries to provide free and equal access to information. The government’s own strategy commits local authorities to provide free wifi and computers in all libraries. So, the Council must deliver this. There are other ways to raise much-needed funds for libraries. Search online for the petitions against these new charges (ironically).

School Cleaning & Catering

CCS has provided a good service to schools over the years. The introduction of Universal Free School meals for younger children made the market very attractive to commercial competitors. This put pressure on CCS who lost a number of profitable contracts. So instead of investing into the business so that it provides a profitable service the County Council has simply given up and decided to close it by the end of the year. Utterly wet.

Does the Mayor Care about South Cambs?

In another blow to our confidence in his rule, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer (current salary £84500) has removed the Leader of South Cambs from his role in charge of affordable housing. There seems to be some disagreement about housing strategy for the county – and the person who was supposed to be championing the needs of South Cambs is on the losing side.

There are already signs that the mayor is not prioritising the housing crisis in South Cambs. In a report just published, the Combined Authority has revealed that East Cambs (home of Mayor Palmer) is getting £925k to support affordable housing this year whereas South Cambs, which is far larger and with much higher housing costs, is being given £829k.

When the Combined Authority was created a year ago, we were promised that South Cambs would get about 70% of the affordable housing funding provided by central government, simply because it meets the criteria for priority funding. However, the Mayor is clearly politicising this and we cannot just depend on ‘criteria’ and ‘process’ to defend us.

District Council Budget

South Cambs District Council has agreed a budget for the next year and set its financial forecasts for the medium term. The future, while not dire, will depend upon reserves – which have built up to a healthy £11million – being drawn down over the next five years to a level of £2.5million – just to keep services going.

The Council is also taking part in a Fairer Funding Review which looks likely to result in a large proportion of local business rates being collected by the District but diverted to the County Council to plug the social care gap across Cambridgeshire.

SCDC is struggling to build council dwellings at the rate they are sold under Right-To-Buy, made even harder by the fact that the government takes 70% of the receipt of each dwelling sold. Residents may also be interested to learn that SCDC no longer receives any government grant and may in fact become a net contributor to government coffers under new funding rules.

Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro

The Mayor’s Combined Authority has approved spending of £600,000 to develop an outline business case and options appraisal report for a ‘Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro’. The Mayor had promised a light rail system, but an independent report suggested this was not the best solution.

The preferred option as set out by the consultants is an electric powered vehicle which operates independently without tracks or rails and can be run on and off road on busways. It would entail about 31 miles of new busways, and nearly four miles of tunnels under Cambridge – one underground section from Madingley Road to Mill Road, and another from Mill Road to Cambridge North station. The price tag for the project would be around £1.5-£1.7bn.

Park and Rides

The £1 charge for using the Park and Rides will be binned from April 1st – April Fool’s Day which appears sometimes to be all year round. The Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership said: “Parking should be free at these important transport interchanges, to encourage people to get out of their cars and use public transport” – a piece of the blindingly obvious which took them 4 years to struggle to. This change in charging is partly funded by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (City Deal) having to pick up half the bill which means that £530,000 of its money won’t be spent on anything else. There have been a number of additional, but overdue, improvements made at the sites in recent months hopefully to make it easier for people to access the bus services. Almost 100 new cycle lockers have been installed to enable cyclists to securely store their bikes and further lockers will be installed in the coming months. There is also no longer a need to queue at a machine for a travel ticket, as passengers can buy all their tickets from the bus driver – as all buses now accept contactless payments as well as cash.

Little Heath

Despite the -6 degree temperature many Little Heath residents came together at the Hub to discuss the future of the road, or rather the road’s surface. We intend now to survey everyone at Little Heath to ascertain the level of support for doing something to mend the road and/or setting up a Resident’s Association. Residents told us that their primary concerns were around damage to cars, companies not wanting to send their delivery vehicles down the road and response times for emergency services i.e. ambulance and fire service.

We were most grateful to Jason Gore of J and D Plant Ltd for advising us of the options for improving the road service and of the likely costs. The ownership of the road is complex and it is most unlikely that the County Council will agree to accept any responsibility for repairs.

Got a problem? Issue? Something you’d like to discuss?
Your Councillors are here to help you. Please do feel free to contact us with comments, questions, problems or complaints. We hope we can help but if we can’t we are likely to know someone who can! *****************************

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