County Council Report from Cllr Peter Hudson
Cllr Hudson’s report for January 2015 covers the provision of free pumps at strategic points on the busway/cycleway, progress on providing ‘superfast’ broadband in the the county and how the Council plans to spend – and save – money in coming years.
Pumped up about new free cycling facilities
Free to use public bike pumps and additional cycle racks have been installed at Busway stops in Cambridgeshire to help encourage even more people to hop on their bicycle.
Public bike pumps have been installed at Swavesey and St Ives Guided Busway stops while additional cycle racks have been put at Longstanton and Swavesey stops. The pumps are being trialled by Cambridgeshire County Council to help cyclists at these two key locations on the Busway which see thousands of cycle journeys. A further pump is also due to be installed in Cambridge City Centre in the near future, close to the entrance to the Tourist Information Office on Peas Hill.
Should the pumps prove popular more will be installed at strategic locations in Cambridge and along main commuter routes into the city. The racks were installed following a review of current and future predicted usage levels of cycle storage facilities at locations along the Busway.
Funding for the pumps has been provided by the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). This is a programme aimed at ‘Getting Cambridgeshire to work’ by providing sustainable transport infrastructure and is also part of the on-going work to boost cycling levels around the county. In return, the expected results are improved levels of public health and less traffic congestion on highways in and around Cambridge. Properly inflated tyres also help with cycle safety.
Councillor Noel Kavanagh, the County Council’s cycling champion, said: “Similar projects in Bristol and London have proved to be very popular with cyclists. The two locations have been carefully selected for an initial experimentation period before we consider rolling out the scheme to a much wider area. We are also looking into obtaining sponsorship from local private investors to help provide for the on-going maintenance of the pumps and for installing new pumps. Such an approach may be feasible at prime business locations, such as the Cambridge Science Park.”
Superfast Christmas for thousands more Cambridgeshire households
Christmas will be superfast for thousands more households in Cambridgeshire this year thanks to the rapid progress of the Connecting Cambridgeshire fibre broadband roll-out. The partnership led by Cambridgeshire County Council is celebrating making high-speed fibre available to more than 50,000 homes and businesses across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, since it was launched a year ago.
With tablets and smartphones top of many people’s wish lists this Christmas, it means many more busy households can use faster Internet access for shopping, entertainment and essential services – all at the same time.
The announcement takes the programme more than half-way towards its target of giving more than 90,000 households and businesses the chance to upgrade to fibre broadband by the end of 2015, and plans are being drawn up to reach even more premises with better broadband using extra Government funding to extend the programme. Further details will be announced in the New Year. Engineers from BT’s local network business, Openreach, have already installed 250 new fibre broadband cabinets and laid over 350 kilometres of fibre cable to extend the existing network in this complex engineering project, which has involved crossing major roads such as the A14, overcoming power issues and inclement weather.
Local County Councillor Peter Hudson, said: “It’s been a superfast year for Connecting Cambridgeshire and it’s the perfect Christmas present to know that we are on track to bring high speed fibre broadband to thousands of homes and businesses that would not get the chance otherwise. Decent broadband is fast becoming an essential for many people and we are seeing above average take-up in areas where faster broadband has arrived. We know it is frustrating having to wait, but rest assured, by the end of 2015, Cambridgeshire will be one of the best connected counties in the country.”
Connecting Cambridgeshire is working with BT and the Government body Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) to roll-out the new broadband network in the most cost effective way to ensure maximum coverage for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Annette Thorpe, BT’s regional partnership director for the East of England, said: “BT is keenly aware of the need to provide the fibre broadband network and technology to support the local economy. The work undertaken by Connecting Cambridgeshire and BT to make fibre broadband available to more homes and businesses across the county is vital. It helps people to work where and how they want and also brings entertainment and knowledge to people and families at home. A year into the partnership this milestone is great news for all involved.”
Residents in the rural Cambridgeshire village of Ellington responded superfast to the news that high speed fibre broadband had arrived in their village with many households upgrading in the first week, prompting Openreach to extend the capacity of the new green fibre broadband cabinet.
Ellington Broadband Champion and Parish Council Clerk, Darren Tysoe, used Facebook and emails to spread the word rapidly to fellow residents as soon as Connecting Cambridgeshire let him know it was live. He said: “It really is a Christmas present for the village. We have been looking forward to this for a long time; it’s going to make a big difference to families and people who work from home.”
Darren is one of 130 Broadband Champions across the county, who are keeping their communities informed and helping people to upgrade to fibre broadband when it arrives.
Residents can find out when they can get faster broadband and how to upgrade to fibre on the Connecting Cambridgeshire website at www.connectingcambridgeshire.co.uk.
Gritting, grants and lighting get extra funds but savings still ahead
Council highway chiefs have agreed to support extra funding to go into gritting, community grants and street lighting but warned tough savings are still on the cards for this and future years.
The Economy Transport and Environment Service has been given £500,000 to allocate in its budget plan following a £2.5 million underspend by Cambridgeshire County Council. Members of Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee discussed where this should be spent and agreed on helping to reduce some of the savings that had been proposed that are likely to have the greatest impact on communities. But they warn that the Council is still making savings of around £5m in this area as part of the overall £32 million needed to be saved at the Council if the books are to balance.
The Committee agreed that £300,000 should be put back into winter maintenance (gritting of roads) so there will be no reduction in the amount of roads the Council grit as was originally planned. This still means that £450,000 will need to be found in efficiencies, but these will not affect the overall level of service offered.
The Committee had previously agreed a saving of £240,000 in street lighting that would see most street lights, other than those on the busiest roads, being switched off at 12 midnight. It was agreed that £6,000 be put towards providing extended lighting beyond midnight in central areas of our Market Towns and Cambridge City where there are high levels of late night time leisure activity. These locations will be considered in liaison with the police and local councils. The Committee also agreed that Parish Councils across the county should be offered the opportunity to have lights turned off earlier if they wish or to stay on later if Parish Councils are prepared to pay for the energy costs.
It is currently proposed to make a £45,000 saving from community grants over the next three years. It was agreed the first £15,000 of this would not be saved next year so that groups had more time to look for alternative funding.
Local County Councillor Peter Hudson, said: “While we are pleased to use this extra funding to mitigate some of the effects of the savings we know next year will see similar hard choices. There is more and more demand for our services and less and less money from Government. It is clear that protecting the routes we grit was important and vital for road safety, especially in our rural areas. We also wanted to give more time and flexibility for switching off street lights so we can work with other authorities to find local solutions for their areas. This will help benefit the cities and market towns as well as giving villages more of a say on what is happening with their lights.
“It is also good we could save some of the grant funding for our community groups and give them extra time to look for alternative funding. Local Government is going through a very tough time with budgets being squeezed hard. But the Council is determined to do what is best for Cambridgeshire and the communities we serve.”
To give your points of view on any of these issues, contact me by email at: email@example.com
As Your County Councillor I welcome hearing from you on these and/or any other issues that affect our community.”