Why prospective elected mayors should pause after the Cambridge roadblocks fiasco

It appears that Labour/ Conservative proposals to fine drivers using key roads in and out of Cambridge in peak hours may be for the scrap heap, or at least the City Deal chair, Labour councillor Lewis Herbert, has declared them ‘unviable’.

It’s excellent that the huge volume of objections appears to have forced the Cambridge area’s City Deal Board into a rethink. But such a plan shouldn’t have seen the light of day in the first place, especially without proper exploration of other ways to achieve the very necessary aim of reducing traffic congestion in Cambridge.

The decision two years ago to introduce parking charges at the Cambridge Park & Ride sites resulted in half-empty car parks and a drop of 15% in bus passenger numbers. That clearly needs to be reversed. And we need an open and wide-ranging conversation including all who live or work in Cambridge, or visit the city for whatever purpose, about how to make travelling into the city more sustainable.

But the whole fiasco is also an object lesson in what happens under remote boards like City Deal, consisting of representatives selected by councils to make decisions at an extra remove from the public. And it’s an alarm bell about how decisions on all sorts of matters will be taken by the new ‘powerful Mayor’ of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough and his ‘combined authority’, which will be foisted on us by the Government and by Conservative and Labour councillors from May next year.

Streetlighting switch-off: councillors to discuss on Monday

switchoff mapConservative county councillors and County Council Highways officers are proposing to switch off streetlights between midnight and 6am in an attempt to make the books balance, in the face of swingeing cuts to councils from the government.

We believe this will have an unacceptable impact on road safety and on individual safety in Cambridge, given the high numbers of residents and visitors who are about after midnight or early in the morning.

A report on the lighting switch-off will be discussed at the South Area meeting on Monday evening.

Here is a link to the full agenda. There’s also an open forum session, an update on the late-running Hills Road cycle lanes and a report on environmental services in the south of the city (rubbish, graffiti and vandalism).

The meeting is open to the public and anyone can speak. If you cannot attend but would like to make a point, please contact me or one of the other councillors.

7pm, Monday, St John’s Church, Hills Road.

LOCAL BLOGGER CHRIS RAND HAS WRITTEN A DETAILED REPORT OF THE DISCUSSION AT THE MEETING. Read it here.

Lib Dems lead challenge to Tory library plans

Nine Liberal Democrat county councillors have hit back against Conservative plans to allow a private company to take over the third floor of Cambridge Central Library – plans that were voted through by an unholy alliance of UKIP and Conservative councillors plus Cambridge’s one independent councillor, John Hipkin. The Lib Dems have called for the decision to be reconsidered so that councillors can be fully informed about this company and so that consultation with the public can be carried out.

Our request for a review of the decision has been successful and it will be looked at again by a committee of senior councillors on 14th April (10am at Shire Hall). Councillors do not know enough about KORA, the company set to take over the third floor and before we take a decision like this, we need much more information is needed both about them and about how they would be operating: for example, would people have to pay to sit and read in that part of the library under their management in future? We are also also angry that despite the talks having started over 18 months ago, library users were not given a say before such a huge change was agreed. It is after all a PUBLIC library.

There are strong objections to the loss of library space for the public as well as concerns about the Cambridgeshire Collection and the library café.

The General Purposes Committee is being asked to:

“…consider the decision and either:
i) Dismiss the decision review request with the effect that the original decision shall stand, or
ii) Refer the decision back to the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee for re-consideration including a recommendation from General Purposes Committee.”

For the full report click here.GPC library call-in_150414-3a

The committee will also receive a 3,000-signature public petition against the proposals.

Busway lighting coming at last

IMG_2694SMWalkers and cyclists on the track alongside the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway should be able to see where they are going this winter, thanks to new LED lights to be installed over the next few months. The lights are being funded by local developers.

This is the result of a long-running campaign to make the route safe in the early mornings and evenings.

Funding was agreed in principle in 2012 following a petition run by Amanda Taylor and fellow Liberal Democrats in response to people concerned about accidents, but the project was held up last year by UKIP and Tory county councillors who wanted to divert the money to their own areas.

Cambridgeshire County Council has created a timetable and fact sheet which you can view on line at

The new lights will be Light Emitting Diode (LED) and there will be 68 between the railway station and Trumpington Park & Ride, and 23 north of Milton Road. They will direct the light downwards to illuminate the track.

Next phase of streetlight replacements in Queen Edith’s

Cambridgeshire County Council’s streetlighting contractor Balfour Beatty will soon be returning to Queen Edith’s for the next phase of streetlight replacements. This is part of a countywide PFI programme to change all the streetlights in Cambridgeshire to a new, more energy-efficient type of light that will deliver energy savings of nearly 50%. The new lights are taller and we are told they illuminate a wider area.

The Conservatives, who ran the Council at the time the contract was set up, gave us a rigid contract, with very little flexibility on issues such as removals and light types, but with loose provisions other areas, such as standards of service. The councillor who drew up the contract, has said in public, ‘If I had the chance to rewrite that contract, I would.’

Worse still, the Council agreed to a reduction of the total number of lights by 10%, and many smaller streets are losing more than that. Although this is leaving dark patches in many streets (such as Hinton Avenue picturd above), Liberal Democrat proposals to have lights reinstated in badly hit streets have been voted down by the other parties on the Council.

The next area to be visited by Balfour Beatty is Hills Road/ Babraham Road and streets off Hills Road such as the Red Cross Lane area and Luard Road. You can see what is planned at http://www.lightingcambridgeshire.com/news.htm, or download a plan:Hills Road main carriageway (ie not the slip road)

1425 Cambridge PRELIM–Access Hills Rd -V11

1425 Cambridge PRELIM–Babraham Road V1

1425 Cambridge PRELIM–Luard Road V5

1425 Cambridge PRELIM–Greenlands V4

1425 Cambridge PRELIM–Red Cross Ln – V2

1425 Cambridge PRELIM–Stansgate Av V3

Please let me know if you would prefer to look at a printed plan.

The county Council’s lighting contractor Balfour Beatty is working with the cycle lanes contractor to synchronize their activities on Hills Road.

Help us overturn Tory Park and Ride fees

Yesterday, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Conservative Cabinet voted to introduce a £1 parking charge at the five Park & Ride sites in Cambridge. This would be on top of the existing bus fares for those who take the bus, and people parking cars and then walking or cycling from the Park & Ride sites would be paying for the first time.

This is extremely controversial, especially because there has been no consultation with users, employers, residents or anyone else. Nor has there been any assessment of the risks, such as parking displacement or modal shift. I spoke at Cabinet myself and focussed on the danger of extra parking in our already congested streets.

The Liberal Democrats have called this decision in, which means it will be voted on again by a committee comprising councillors from all the parties represented on the Council. (more…)

Cambridgeshire still blue … but a paler shade of blue

rosettesToday was a day of change at Cambridgeshire County Council. The old Conservative Leader Nick Clarke was formally voted out of office, finishing off the job done in the elections on 2nd May. A new Tory Leader, Martin Curtis, was elected – but only on the second round of voting, and only as Leader of a minority administration with 34 Tory councillors.

The other important thing that happened today was a change in the way the Council makes decisions. (more…)

Cambridgeshire County Council Election: THANK YOU

A huge thank you to everyone who supported me and the Liberal Democrats in yesterday’s election to Cambridgeshire County Council. The result was as follows:

Queen Edith’s results [electorate: 6,590, turnout: 2662 (40.24)]
Candidate
Party
Votes
% share
John Frederick Beresford Labour and Co-op 931 35.1
William Birkin Green 172 6.5
Tom Bygott Conservative 361 13.6
Amanda Joan Taylor Liberal Democrat 1188 44.8

We campaigned on a range of key issues in the Queen Edith’s ward, including roads & pavements maintenance, parking management, road safety and policing, as well as community amenities, such as playgrounds and the local library.

Lib Dems in Queen Edith’s have a tradition of working all the year round, but the election campaign proper began in March, with lots of lovely snow! Thank you to those of you who bravely opened their doors to us. Between then and the belated appearance of spring, we called on as many people as we could, and had a wealth of conversations about the local area, garnering many good ideas as well as things that need to be sorted out.

My thanks as a candidate also go to my fellow Liberal Democrat councillors Jean and George, as well as to the army of helpers who delivered leaflets and got the message out. And to retiring county councillor Geoff Heathcock, who has set a high standard of hard work and commitment for the Queen Edith’s area.

The work starts immediately: tomorrow morning I shall be making my first visit to Shire Hall for my induction as a county councillor – an opportunity to raise a number of local issues with officers, building on my work over the past year and during the campaign.

After a year of talking, the County Council unveils its Parking Plan

QUEEN EDITH CHAPEL THIS WEDNESDAY

Most residents of Queen Edith’s will know that parking is a big problem in this area. Lib Dem councillors have for many years been calling for action from Conservative-run Cambridgeshire County Council, the council responsible for parking management and highways.

Last summer the County agreed to set up a parking review group, to look at all of the south of the city, including Queen Edith’s, Trumpington, Romsey and some streets in Coleridge. Cllr Jean Swanson and I attended the first meetingabout a year ago, and since then Cllr Geoff Heathcock has represented Queen Edith’s on that group.

The County officers have visited twice, once to our South Area meeting at my request and again to meet residents in Queen Edith’s. It was made very clear that people were impatient with the long delays and looking for solutions soon.

(more…)

Parking Plan comes to Queen Edith’s, 30th August

Are you plagued with too much parking in your street?

Well, there’s a fine rhetorical question. I would be able to get a ‘yes’ answer to that question in almost any street in Queen Edith’s.

We have some very big traffic generators: Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Hills Road and Long Road VI Form Colleges. So – lots of commuter parking, blighting the local environment and causing practical difficulties, such as not being able to park your own car, being blocked in by strangers’ vehicles, not being able to see the way ahead clearly because of obstructions…

I and other members of the Queen Edith’s Liberal Democrat Focus Team have many times called for solutions from the Conservative-run County Council, the authority responsible for traffic management and parking controls. We have had some successes, with yellow lines in particular streets – but we feel the County Council has not given commuter parking the attention it deserves. After all, it is our local environment!

And the challenge is bigger than just one street. Removing parking in one area can mean the cars just move to another street and annoy somebody else. That’s why we have pushed for creative thinking, looking at the area as a whole. Pressure from the team, notably our county councillor Geoff Heathcock, has got the County to set up an Area Parking Plan looking at the whole of the south of the city. The County Council will soon be writing to residents in the worst affected streets to tell everyone about the Plan.

This Parking Plan has not been moving as fast as we would like, so in April, Cllr Geoff Heathcock and I asked Cambridgeshire County Council officers to visit the South Area committee and report on progress, which they did. See here for a report of that meeting. And at Geoff’s request, the officers will be visiting Queen Edith’s on 30th August to answer questions about their proposals, as a prelude to exhibitions in the autumn.

Please come along if you can. 

SOUTH CAMBRIDGE PARKING PLAN MEETING

7.30pm, Thursday 30th August

St James’s Church, Wulfstan Way

Meeting arranged at the request of the Queen Edith’s Liberal Democrats Focus Team and ward councillors

QE PARKING POSTER[1]

If you would like to keep up to date with the parking review and other local issues, please drop one of us an email, and we’ll add you to our email newsletter circulation list.