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.

Rural county councillors combine to block Busway lights

It is frustrating to report that the County Council’s Economy & Environment Committee refused last week to approve extra funding required for lights on the Guided Busway bridleway, instead voting to defer the decision until the committee’s next meeting (September). Even if the lighting gets the OK then, the delay will mean the lights cannot be installed until December – meaning yet another dark winter for people using the path and cycleway.

The vote was 9 for deferral, 7 against, the votes to defer coming from UKIP, Independent and all but two of the Tory councillors. The chair abstained.

The reasons given betrayed a total lack of understanding on the part of several councillors of how Section 106 transport funding works and in particular, the need to demonstrate that a scheme mitigates the transport impact of a development. See previous post.

But several councillors took a rather ‘dog in the manger’ attitude, arguing that because streetlights are being removed in their villages, cyclists in Cambridge should not have lights.

The most ridiculous comment came from Wisbech councillor Cllr Alan Lay (UKIP), who declared that he had experienced the blackout during the Second World Way, and couldn’t see what cyclists and pedestrians were making ‘such a fuss about’.

The fight continues. If you support the campaign and know people who live in other parts of the county and who have Conservative/ UKIP/ Independent councillors, I would urge you to write to them.

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…)

Liberal Democrats launch petition against Tory bus cuts

Why are we waiting?

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have launched a petition to reverse the Tories’ 100 per cent cuts to rural bus services.

The petition, started by Liberal Democrat county councillor Susan van der Ven, “Stopping the cuts to bus services in Cambridgeshire” reads:

“We the people of Cambridgeshire are opposed to the Conservative County Council’s decision to scrap 100% of funding for subsidised buses, which led to an application for Judicial Review.

“Socially necessary bus services are vital to the whole of Cambridgeshire, especially for young people who need to access to centres of employment, those with mobility issues who wish to access the wider community and its resources, and for tackling the root problem of ‘rural isolation’.

“We also believe that the “Cambridgeshire Future Transport” project, to which half of bus funding has been transferred, is fundamentally flawed and not capable of delivering an adequate replacement for the existing public transport network, never mind the improved system that has been promised.

“We call on the Conservative administration to reinstate 100% of the cuts to bus funding and to conduct a systematic view of Cambridgeshire residents’ transport needs before making any changes to it.”

The petition can be found here: http://epetition.cambridgeshire.public-i.tv/epetition_core/view/Buses

Library campaigners present Tory councillors with 8,000 signature-petition

books

The Save Cambridgeshire  Libraries petition was presented to Tory county councillors at Shire Hall yesterday (28th September). It is the Conservative administration at the County Council that we need to persuade to keep our libraries in their current form. Professor Jane Elliott, the chair of the Friends of Rock Road Library, spoke eloquently of the need for a professional service rooted in the local community.

The 8,000+ names calling for Cambridgeshire County Council to keep libraries open with professional librarians were presented to Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet at Shire Hall and the Cabinet  heard from campaigners from various Cambridge libraries. There was a strong contingent from Rock Road Library to ‘welcome’ the councillors – you may have seen us on the news. If not, you may still catch it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rpwxj.

Thank you to all the people who signed the petition, emailed friends, stood around in school playgrounds, as well as everyone still involved with the campaign.

Here is the wording of the petition, which garnered 2,500 electronic signatures and 5,500 on paper. Stupendous.

We the undersigned call upon Cambridgeshire County Council to reject proposals to close libraries or to replace the existing professional service with a reduced service run by volunteers. We believe that libraries are a vital part of the community.

The Council has now dropped its plan to set up a Trust to manage the library service but is still looking at the use of volunteers. While we know there are many people who value their libraries and are willing to spend some of their own time helping to work in the library and raise funds, there is still a need for the experience and expertise of professional librarians.

Co-location, putting public services together is an interesting idea if it can work without too much compromise. Books and bookcases however, do not move easily, so it may be more practical for other services to come to the library rather than for the library to move elsewhere.