Money

January 25, 2009 by  
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The Evening News has attacked the County Council for raising Council Tax by more than the rate of inflation.

The Police have indicated that they are to do the same, and its likely that South Cambridgeshire (SCDC) will do so as well. SCDC only received a 1% increase in Government funding – it would be a considerable acheivement, then, to keep Council Tax rises down.

And even Cambridge City, reeling from the loss of interest, at the very least, from their Icelandic investments, and the loss of ticket revenue from a business that has gone bust, is also likely to raise tax levels.

We are getting close, again, to the point at which the combined rise in Council Tax from County, District, Police and Fire equals the amount of the Parish component. That is not a cause for complacency, for doing other than our very best to offer value for money, but it does put things in context!

Impington has agreed to hold its tax level – Histon are likely to raise theirs slightly. Not only are they adding some further services, they are hit by the departure of Orchard Park from Impington. Some costs (such as the Recreation Ground) are shared between the two Parishes based on the Council Tax “base”. With more properties in Orchard Park last year Impington’s rose, and we therefore paid more of the shared costs. With their departure, Histon will now pay more.

      

-2 +2

January 25, 2009 by  
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Monday’s Council meeting was to co-opt 2 new Councillors and we should have then been at our full complement of 11.

For a while, though, we were down from 9 to just 7. Two Councillors who live on Orchard Park resigned last week. They now sit on a Shadow Council  (since we haven’t yet managed to get the full Council up and running) for the area and therefore decided to resign. The only surprise here was the timing. They (Chris Creasey and Nick Warren) have done a good job representing their residents and we wish them well for the future.

At Council, we were able to co-opt two new members – Ian Cooper and Alison Turnbull. Both were very warmly welcomed, and will make a real difference for our community.

We’re still two short, though! Anyone out there interested in standing?

      

Back to usual

January 18, 2009 by  
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New Year – but old ways – 4 meetings last week, 4 this – and still putting my head above the parapet – and picking up jobs as a result.

Just how do you get this work/life balance thing sorted? Or rather work/parish council work/life …?

Last week – started with the Orchard Park Action Group – District Cllrs, Officers, Parish and Shadow Community Council reps, Gallaghers – meeting regularly to work to improve Orchard Park (previously Arbury Park – and still so labelled).

The “economic crunch” has stopped all building on the site – so the cash flow to make things happen, fix problems, has dried up. Its a challenge – but at least there is now a partnership between all, and recognition of the issues all sides are bringing to the table.

Guided Bus – the latest news came out just after the meeting – which explains why no-one was prepared to talk about dates. There’s little more to be said – but residents of Villa Place and Villa Road who still haven’t got their noise barrier sorted are rightly frustrated. Of course, its a compromise – less noise attenuation, or a 4m high fence.

Money – its the time of year when we set our budget, and make the precept request of South Cambs District Council – they will turn that into the Parish component of the Council Tax that they collect, and pass the results to the Parish Council. The decision is always whether to invest in local facilities – such as the Recreation Ground work, or to try to keep the precept to the bare minimum. This time the committee decided to recommend a precept that would result in no change to the Parish Council Tax. Still to be approved by Council, but a decision which feels right in today’s climate!

On resolutions:

  • Weight is coming down – 1kg last week
  • Haven’t (yet) sorted utilities – but have added a Hog (free from Cambridge Water) to toilet cistern to reduce water usage
  • Walking – yes, press ups – no – but back to archery – muscles seem to have forgotten what its about, but yet to miss the target, so not all bad!
  • Post to this blog – yep!

      

New Year Resolutions

January 1, 2009 by  
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Its a New Year, and resolutions are the norm – so what are yours?

Apparently, according to Sky News, the top 10 include:  Lose weight (top),  Save money/spend less, Get fit/exercise more, and Join/maintain a social networking site.

On the other hand – the vast majority of resolutions don’t last long – but being specific helps, so, I’m going to:

  • Knock at least 2 points off my BMI score
  • Use online comparison sites for everything I can – insurance, utilities etc.
  • Walk more, do some press ups, etc.
  • Post to this blog at least 3 times a month.

What are you going to do?

I’ve also got a project – it will help with the walking – I’m going to do a photographic archive of the village – a picture of every house in every street – starting with Impington (north of the A14), and moving onto Histon thereafter. There are about 1200 homes in Impington – so that will keep me busy – I’ll report on how it goes, obviously will need some decent weather and sun – and that will be a challenge for the first few months.

      

A sense of failure …

September 28, 2008 by  
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You’ve tried everything, but still it goes wrong – you think it’s your fault even though it isn’t? It’s been one of those weeks – a bad week for Impington.

Post Office

Impington Post Office

Impington Post Office

The news about the Post Office wasn’t unexpected – they’ve decided to close it – and it’ll be gone in less than a fortnight.

The fact that it’s much more accessible (both for disabled and business users) than Histon, that  Histon will be challenged to cope with the extra demand, and that it’s heavily used by businesses didn’t seem to matter. Nor did potential growth in business from the opening of the Guided Bus service, and therefore more people passing on foot.

We got some support from the County group, but none from Postwatch – and now its going.

The owner is keeping the shop open – so we’ll keep using it – but Post Office services?

Histon & Impington Crier

Histon& Impington Crier

Histon& Impington Crier

For six years we’ve had a free monthly newspaper, the Crier, delivered to Histon & Impington. It’s been run by Cambridge Newspapers, but earlier this week we got a mail from the editor, Nigel Brookes, that started:
“I write to inform you the Histon and Impington Crier has ceased publication with immediate effect.”

No more information as to why – but the whole page ads taken by local estate agents may well have gone as they focus their advertising budgets – and that will have a major impact. The current economic turmoil we find ourselves in is having effects everywhere.

Just before the Crier started up we were looking at starting a community newspaper – and we’ll try that again – a community newspaper can publish good, as well as the not so good, news – and is important to keeping the community together.

Unwins

Demolition of historic buildings at Unwins - 100 years of history in the skip

Demolition of historic buildings at Unwins – 100 years of history in the skip

Unwins Seeds celebrated 100 years of business in the community – and then were sold. The brand is still going, but testing, administration, packaging all left the village some years ago.

What to do with the site is now the question. It used to provide employment for 70-80 people – and as a “sustainable community” (ie one where there are as many jobs as people in work) jobs are important.

But when Unwins closed, there was no demand for commercial property, but there was housing demand. So, the land was sold – for £4M (Land Registry information) – and we’re now on planning application three. The first, outline application was rejected quickly – application two was bigger – too big in the eyes of Parish Council, local residents and the planners. It had one of the longest list of reasons for refusal that we’d seen.

It did, however, make a case for retaining (and converting) one of the old buildings on the site – a building almost 100 years old. Part of what makes a community is its built environment, a visible expression of its history – so we were pleased to see that.

Application three made no reference to retaining the historic building – though that would have made an excellent opportunity to provide small start up business facilities to the hundreds of businesses in the villages run from bedrooms and garages. The application hasn’t been decided yet, so we had hoped that they might have changed their minds.

But earlier this week they demolished the building – someone called it “corporate vandalism” – its not of course, they own it, there are no laws that prevent the demolition of commercial property (and you’ll see more of it – rates are payable on empty commercial property …) but you have to agree with the sentiment!

What now?

As Fred Astaire sang: “Pick yourself up, Dust yourself off, Start all over again.”!

      

Thank you for sharing your blessings …

July 26, 2008 by  
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Beadwork beltThe words of a Tanzanian delegate at the Lambeth conference – we bought a belt in the colours of their flag from a group of women selling craft goods. Sharing our blessings – many of the Bishops and their spouses are experiencing their first trip outside of their home Country – and for so many what we have here is undreamt of luxury – from disposable income, quantities of food, TV, cars – you name it.

So, sharing blessings – we paid for the belt, and hope that the money will be a blessing for their community when they get home.

Jan is at the Conference (which is at the University of Kent, Canterbury – Lambeth Palace is no longer big enough or flexible enough to meet the needs of a major conference) as a musician. There’s a small team helping to lead the worship at the morning (7:15 am) and evening (5:45 pm) services. Today saw the official photos being taken – of staff, spouses and Bishops. Spouses, of course, included a handful of men – a number of lady bishops attended the conference.

Lady Bishops

Lady Bishops

Whilst the Church of England is only slowly moving to accept women Bishops, a number of Provinces of the Anglican Communion have had them for some time – indeed we met one from New Zealand just prior to the last Conference in 1998.

The staff team is almost 300 strong – admin staff, translators, musicians, “techies” – you name it – the skills needed to help make the conference a success – and here they are …

Jan- waiting for everyone else

Jan – waiting for everyone else

Staff Team

Staff Team

For the Bishops, of course, this is a working conference – yes, they may have had tea with the Queen on Thursday, but its a time to meet, for prayer, bible study and taking the Anglican Communion forward. But at the same time there’s a spouses conference – they also have a call to mission – its not possible to be married to any priest and not be involved. There was also a photo call for them -

Bishops' Spouses

Bishops' Spouses

It took some time – on a warm (for us) day – of course, for many it was only just not being cold. So, what did they do? Well they sang – and in harmony as well …. we all wondered whether the Bishops would do the same! And harmony?

The media has been making much of the possible schism in the Anglican Communion – the decision of the Church of England to plan to take women Bishops, and the issue of homosexual priests, “marriages” and Bishops have been blown up as major problems. The Bishops, though, clearly think there are other major problems – they wouldn’t have all walked through London on Thursday to reinforce the message about world poverty if not!

To see them all talking, meeting in small groups (and not just from the same Province), and good heartedly waiting for their group photo – that’s not an image of a group of people who don’t want to work out a solution.

Bishops

Bishops

What was also a very clear message was the tremendous welcome and applause for Rowan Williams and also his wife Jane when they joined the group photos – a very real message of support for them both.

And yes, they did sing – and whilst they may be in harmony, they didn’t quite manage the male voice choir harmony!

Self fulfilling prophecies

July 20, 2008 by  
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Twice this week I’ve come across self fulfilling prophecies – and I just wonder whether the people involved notice!

Firstly, Post Office Closures – sorry “Post Office® Network Change Programme“. 6 Post Offices, including one in Impington, are under threat of closure. It’s purely a numbers job – the network is losing money, so they need to cut the numbers. IF one PO is saved through consultation responses, its more than likely that another will be selected.

Of course, not all the business from the closing POs will transfer to the remaining ones. People and businesses will change the way they work, the services they use. More will use internet services (did you know that you can even print stamps online?) – some will even switch to competitors.

The current PO network is losing £3M (or £3.5M – Cambridge Evening News yesterday quoting Post Office Minister Pat McFadden). Having closed 2,000 sites, leaving a network of 12,000, they’ll still be losing money – and will still have more than they need to meet the Government criteria (eg 95% of the total rural population across the UK to be within 3 miles of their nearest Post Office).

Of course, if you look at it the other way, as an investment for UK plc, the arguments are quite different. The changes will lose the Post Office (and probably Royal Mail) business/money; will increase carbon footprints for those who have to travel further, and eat into community life – something the government (with another hand) wants to support. And in the grand scheme of government spend, £200M (say) is small beer – and a good investment.

How much would you bet on another round of closures in a few years time?

Use it or lose it!

Secondly, crime reporting and the Police. We’re fortunate, we don’t have many serious crimes – but petty crime and anti-social behaviour can eat into confidence and people’s lives. The Police, however hard they try, can’t always find the perpetrators and deal with them – and even if individuals are caught the punishment may not meet the expectations (or hopes) of the public.

So, are we under-reporting crimes? That was certainly the case earlier this year – and prompted a rapid response from the Police which produced real results when a clearer picture was visible. Is it the case now? Perhaps – or definitely the case according to a local resident I spoke to on Thursday.

He told me that residents didn’t feel anything would be done if they did report incidents – so they didn’t bother.

Well, if they don’t report problems, they certainly won’t be sorted.

Mediaeval Windsor

July 13, 2008 by  
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Today was City of Cambridge Bowmen’s (CCB) 17th Open Windsor. CCB is the archery club I shoot with – and a Windsor is one of several possible archery rounds. It consists of shooting at total of 9 dozen arrows – 3 dozen at 60 yards, then a further 3 dozen at 50 yards and the final 3 dozen at 40 yards.

Shooting starts at noon – and finishes around 5pm.

A splendid day – totally dry (a real surprise after recent weather) and almost totally still – no wind to speak of. Ideal archery weather.

The “Record Status” part of the shoot takes place on normal targets:

Targets & Arrows

Targets & Arrows

but the Mediaeval round takes place on a different, simpler target:

Mediaeval targets & arrows

Mediaeval targets & arrows

Longbow archers aren’t all in the Robin Hood league – and therefore some arrows fall short, and others go long.

Medals won

Medals won

CCB isn’t a strong longbow club, though a number do practice the art. Others are far stronger – so we were fortunate to get a 4th (myself) in the individual (men’s) competition, and a 3rd for the team, myself, Vic Todman (also an Impington archer) and Alan Norton.

CCB’s recurve team did well – coming first, though archers from Ely Archers & Cambridge University Bowmen took the individual top places.

Numbers were down on last year – a pity – its a great way to spend a day in the fresh air, enjoying a sport and having fun. According to Graham Harris from Clickers, who is a regular with his mobile shop, this drop off is happening at all tournaments.

As with the Olympics in 2004, perhaps further successes from our archers will prompt a renewal of interest!

Giving birth …

July 10, 2008 by  
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Gestation started in late 2001, and lots of people have been working on it, making it happen, enjoying it (or not), and with just one last push we’ll have given birth to ….

A new Parish, and new Council, for the residents of Arbury Park.

The amount of effort is incredible – we started with the planning application in December 2001, and there were monthly meetings to look at all sorts of topics. Then there were the meetings full of lawyers (including one for the Parish Council, but funded by the developer) to discuss the Section 106 agreement. That’s the legal agreement that covered what the developer was committed to do, pay for etc. Nine Councils and businesses were signatories, so getting agreement wasn’t easy – even signing it, in multiple places, and with a master for each, took a few hours.

Planning permission, with lots of conditions, was finally granted in June 2005 – since when the roads, drains etc have been installed, and lots more planning applications (more than 60) giving the details of housing, schools, business, community facilities have all come through.

And then the “community governance review” – ie the look at whether it would be a separate Parish or something else. That started last year, met a pause last October whilst South Cambridgeshire District Council started to worry about the Cambridge City boundary, and finally got to Electoral Arrangements Committee on Tuesday with a recommendation to create the Parish.

Full Council needs to confirm that (and they did on July 17th) – and then its just the details, when (as soon as possible was agreed), who (9 Councillors to find), name – Orchard Park Community Council – elections, find a Parish Clerk, hold the first meeting and elect the Chairman. Papers & money to transfer – and they can have my 4000+ emails if they want ….

The right decision, a new community that ought to have its own Council and Councillors representing it.

Well done everyone ….

Plain English

July 9, 2008 by  
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A quote from the Plain English website: “If we all wrote in plain English how much easier – and efficient – life would be.

Well, I try – I don’t always succeed, but I do try.

Recently, the Local Government Association published a list of 100 words that should be regarded as “non-words” – here they are:

Ambassador; Agencies; Beacon; Best practice; Bottom-up; CAAs; Can do culture; Capacity; Capacity building; Cascading; Cautiously welcome; Champion; Citizen empowerment; Community engagement; Conditionality; Consensual; Contestability; Core Message; Core value; Coterminosity; Coterminous; Cross-cutting; Customer; Democratic mandate/legitimacy; Distorts spending priorities; Early Win; Empowerment; Engagement; Engaging users; Enhance; Evidence base; External challenge; Facilitate; Fast-track; Flexibilities and freedoms; Framework; Fulcrum; Good practice; Governance; Guidelines; Holistic; Holistic governance; Improvement levers; Incentivising; Income/funding streams; Initiative; Joined up; Joint working; LAAs; Service users; Level Playing Field; Localities; Meaningful consultation/dialogue; MAAs; Menu of options; Multi-agency; Multidisciplinary; Outcomes; Output; Participatory; Partnerships; Pathfinder; Peer challenge; Performance Network; Place shaping; Predictors of beaconicity; Preventative services; Priority; Process driven; Quick hit; Quick win; Resource allocation; Revenue streams; Risk based; Scaled-back; Scoping; Seedbed; Shared priority; Signpost; Single point of contact; Slippage; Social contracts; Stakeholder; Step change; Strategic/overarching; Streamlined; Subsidiarity; Sustainable; Sustainable communities; Symposium; Synergies; Tested for soundness; Third sector; Top-Down; Transparency; Transformational; Value-added; Vision; Visionary; Welcome; Wellbeing

Please – if you catch me using them – do say!

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