The future is green
The Lib Dems pledged to make South Cambs carbon neutral by 2050, and we are pleased to say that one of our initiatives towards this goal, the Zero Carbon Communities scheme, is now up and running, and accepting applications until 31stOctober. Community groups can bid for grants of up to £15,000 each on projects that reduce carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, or spread awareness and promote behaviour change towards low-carbon lifestyles.
Non-profit organisations based in the district and parish councils can apply. Schools, colleges and community-interest companies can also apply as part of a partnership led by a parish council or not-for-profit group.
Funding is available for things such as:
- Energy-saving improvements to community buildings - insulation, secondary glazing, energy-efficient lighting, battery storage for solar panels or other low-carbon energy-generation measures
- Solar panels, wind turbines or battery storage for community use
- Electric-vehicle charging points for community use
- An electric vehicle for community use
- Tree planting, to absorb carbon and increase biodiversity
- Schemes to scale up local circular economy initiatives (food, fashion, waste, travel)
- Cycle paths or cycle racks, for example at bus stops
- Projects that tackle fuel poverty
- Drinking fountains to encourage the use of reusable water bottles
A networking and information event for potential applicants will be held at the council’s offices in Cambourne on Wednesday 4 September from 6pm to 8pm.
The chair of SCDC’s Climate and Environment Advisory Committee, councillor Pippa Heylings, said: “We put the environment at the front and centre of everything that we do as a council and this grant scheme is a fantastic way of giving a helping hand to communities who want to be greener. I’ve said many times that we are facing a climate emergency and grass-roots projects like the ones that this scheme will fund give local people the chance to make a real difference. It all contributes to our goal to be green to our core and make South Cambridgeshire a zero-carbon district by 2050.”
South Cambs and Cambridge City have jointly published proposals to make new housing developments as green as possible, through sustainable design and construction that minimise carbon emissions (as well as running costs), flood risks, pollution and pressure on water sources. Find out more and have your say on the proposals before 23rd September.
South Cambs District Council has overhauled its street-cleaning system to deliver more efficient and effective operations. Its cleaning teams are now assigned across five zones in the district, with their tasks of bin rounds, litter picking, fly-tip removal and dead-animal disposal consolidated, meaning more accountability in each zone.
The council has also integrated its mechanical road sweepers into the new system, with the aim of improving the monitoring, scheduling and targeting of sweeper use across the district. A maximum of five sweepers will now operate in each zone for two weeks, up to five times a year.
All street-cleaning enquiries or reporting should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with as much detail of the location and supplementary information as possible.
Meanwhile SCDC staged a mock fly-tip to highlight its campaign to tackle this growing problem. A mattress, a fridge and a pallet among other things were dumped from a truck at Milton Park & Ride during morning rush hour, but surprisingly nobody called the police to report the crime. Watch the video
More than 900 fly-tips a year are recorded in South Cambs, costing hundreds of thousands to clear up. Most of them originate in well-intentioned households. What you can do to help end fly-tipping
More affordable homes completed
South Cambs District Council continues to make good on our promise to build more affordable homes. Following the 44 affordable-rent and shared-ownership properties completed in the past year, 91 council houses are currently being built across six sites, with a further 178 in the pipeline.
The council’s Lib Dem Lead Cabinet Member for Housing, Hazel Smith, said: "Our ambitious Business Plan pledges to double the number of energy-efficient council homes that are being built in South Cambridgeshire and it’s great to see that progress is already being made." Read more
Financial mismanagement revealed
South Cambs District Council received a damning report from auditors about the previous administration’s management of the council’s finances.
The Audit and Corporate Governance Committee heard that the extent of the Conservative regime's chaotic accounting came to light with the appointment of an interim finance director last year, and that errors go back over several years. Full report
The Lib Dem leader of the current council, Bridget Smith, is pleased to give assurance that "The council’s finances are now in excellent health as we are now following accountancy rules and balancing the books."
Councillor John Williams, the council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, said: "When we took over from the Tories the council’s accounts were a shambles and shockingly not in a fit state to be audited. This extraordinary and unacceptable situation was made worse by their continued failure to ensure that corrections requested by previous external auditors were done effectively and comprehensively."
Councillor Smith added: "I am relieved to report that we now have the finances under good control but because of the extent of the Tory mismanagement, as explained in the officer’s report, the auditing of last year’s accounts and those of the year before cannot be closed before this autumn. We have put measures in place to ensure this situation does not affect the setting of the budget for next year."
Lib Dem PPC Ian Solom addresses the underfunding of schools
Ian Sollom, Lib Dem councillor for Harston and Comberton and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South Cambs, highlighted the severe lack of government funding for South Cambridgeshire schools, and the deep concern felt among parents and teachers that this is jeopardising the education and future opportunities of children in the district.
He proposed the motion to make representations to the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor, calling on them to:
- Reverse, in full, the real-terms cuts to per-pupil school budgets since 2015, meaning schools in South Cambridgeshire would receive £3,837,946 additional funding in 2020.
- Guarantee that all basic equipment and resources, including support staff, are provided so that teachers can focus on delivering a high-quality education and the number of talented teachers leaving the profession due to excessive workload may be reduced.
- Provide additional funding to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.
- Fix the historic underfunding of Cambridgeshire schools by putting in place genuinely fairer funding through the National Funding Formula.
This motion was seconded by Lib Dem councillor for Milton and Waterbeach, Judith Rippeth, a former teacher, who pointed out how parents are increasingly having to fundraise for essentials such as furniture, books and play equipment. The motion was carried. Full motion
Lib Dem councillor Pippa Heylings calls for doubling nature in South Cambs
Another motion carried was one proposed by Lib Dem councillor for Histon and Impington and chair of SCDC’s Climate and Environment Advisory Committee, Pippa Heylings. Her motion called for doubling the area of rich wildlife habitats, tree cover and accessible green space in South Cambridgeshire in response to the ecological emergency we now face. She proposed that this can be done, among other things, through planning policies and development control. (Public consultation for the council's current proposals for green development is now open.) Full motion
Her motion recognised that:
- We are facing an ecological emergency as well as a climate emergency.
- The challenge to balance economic growth with measures to protect and enhance nature has never been more urgent, given the unprecedented investment in infrastructure in the district alongside the increasing decline in biodiversity.
- Opportunities are available through the planning system for improving nature by embedding the 'environmental net gain' principle into development, including housing and infrastructure, in order to deliver environmental improvements.
- The conservation and enhancement of the natural environment play a pivotal role in our economy and wellbeing, providing wide-ranging benefits such as clean water and air, food, timber, carbon capture, flood protection and recreation.
She therefore called for the council to double the area of rich wildlife habitats, tree cover and accessible green space by:
- Ensuring the delivery of biodiversity and environmental enhancements through its planning policy and development-control functions by providing high-level guidance to support existing biodiversity policies as part of the Greater Cambridge Sustainable Design and Construction SPD and more detailed guidance for developers through the forthcoming Greater Cambridge Biodiversity SPD.
- Enabling the development of a mandatory 'biodiversity net gain' policy for South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge through the new Joint Greater Cambridge Local Plan, ensuring that this is a core principle for all future development across the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service.
- Identifying areas for tree planting for carbon sequestration, flood management, air quality improvement and other environmental services.
- Adopting the Developing Nature Toolkit and directing developers to use it to assist them in demonstrating a net gain in biodiversity, to be used from the very outset of planning new developments, and ideally at the time of selecting sites to acquire for development.
- Collaborating with local communities, parish councils and schools to encourage the planting of trees and the management of wildflower verges alongside roads.
- Continuing to support Natural Cambridgeshire, the Local Nature Partnership (LNP), to deliver the Doubling Nature Vision for "Cambridgeshire to be an exemplar for the landscape-scale restoration of the natural environment".
A505 ignored by Mayor
The Mayor has put forward improvements to the A10 north (Cambridge - Ely) for government funding and refused South Cambs District Council's plea to also put forward the A505, which already exceeds its limited capacity.
The Lib Dem leader of the council, Bridget Smith, had previously persuaded the Combined Authority and the Mayor to consider a project confined to upgrading the junctions on the A10 at a cost of about £40m, rather than full dualling, which will cost £500m and which the Mayor favours. Junction improvements were shown in a County Council study to be the most cost-effective option, offering significant benefits to road-users within a much shorter timeframe. The Mayor has now submitted both projects.