Councillors for Littleport: David Ambrose Smith, Christine Ambrose Smith, Jo Webber and Paul Cox
Littleport Annual Parish Meeting, Monday 21st May 2018
We set out in 2014 to create a customer driven, efficient Council with a “can do” and “open for business” culture in everything we do. 2014 seems like a very long time ago – that’s testament to the sheer volume of delivery of East Cambs District Council in the last 4 years. The Council is unrecognisable from that of 2007.
We believe we are a nimble, dynamic, pro-active, forward thinking, entrepreneurial authority that delivers at pace for our residents.
Our zero percent rise for the East Cambs element of Council Tax has continued for five years in a row, our nationally recognised record on preventing homelessness, our low management costs and our Community Land Trust programme make us national outliers for all the right reasons. We are the smallest of the five second tier authorities in Cambridgeshire we are punching well above our weight. It’s true, small is beautiful!
2.0 Achievements in 2017/18
Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are the preferred way of delivering affordable homes in East Cambs because developments are led and controlled by the community, for the community. The CLT programme is really taking off with new CLTs forming across the district.
- The first Community Land Trust homes are now occupied in Stretham, where the CLT owns 23 homes, forever, for local working people to live in their own community, at genuinely affordable rents (currently around 69% of open market prices)
- Building is well and truly underway at Soham CLT – 13 homes, 8 of which will belong to the CLT
- Haddenham CLT has been granted permission for 54 homes, 19 of which will belong to the CLT. Loan funding has been granted by the Combined Authority to East Cambs Trading Company which will accelerate building of the site to a two year timeframe; it also keeps the money from the building of the development in the public tax payer purse
- Kennett CLT voted in support of moving ahead with their planning application for 500 homes, 150 of which will be owned by the CLT in perpetuity. The community benefits from Kennett CLT are huge:
- £140m total investment in Kennett
- £23m on site infrastructure – roads, footpaths, cycleways, traffic calming, landscaping, drainage, utilities etc
- £10m in S106 and CIL payments, incl £6.75m in new school buildings
- £2m in village centre buildings, incl GP surgery and pharmacy, and/or dentist, food store, cafe etc
- £2.5m investment in open space, community sport and leisure facilities
- £6m in buildings for employment on the Enterprise Park
- £100m in new homes – all sizes and tenures
- Significant green infrastructure – 28 acres of green space, incl playgrounds, woodland, open space, 3 acre village green, footpaths, cycle tracks, all to be gifted to the CLT in perpetuity
- Enhancement of and access to scheduled ancient monument – Howe Hill
- Improved transport infrastructure – new perimeter road to take traffic away from the village, improvements to Bell Inn crossroads, upgraded train service with more frequent passenger rail services between Kennett, Cambridge and Ipswich, improved car parking at the railway station
- 150 genuinely affordable homes owned by the CLT under their allocations policy
- For villages and communities wanting to set up a CLT, East Cambs District Council offer a grant to help CLTs get started as well as practical and ongoing support
- Building of the King’s Row development, by the District Council’s trading company, on Barton Road in Ely is getting closer to completion. The development will provide around £1.7m to the public purse as well as nine open market homes and two affordable homes which will be let through a CLT structure – East Cambs CLT. It is looking like it’s going to be a really high quality development that we can all be proud of. Just for the record, it has been delivered with only one lost car parking space in Barton Road, but we have increased the number of spaces in other Ely centre car parks to more than make up for that loss and we continue to look for other additional new spaces in central Ely
- The Council has developed a new Local Plan which should be fully adopted later this year
Building of the Ely Bypass continues with the road set to open in October this year, with a contribution of £1m from East Cambs District Council which is coming from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments from housing developers. You may have heard that the cost of delivering the bypass has risen to £49m. The type of contract the County Council entered into was designed to bring forward the date of opening – if the Council had chosen a traditional fixed price contract the build would have started up to 18 months later and the cost would have been the same or more, because of the delayed start time. Local tax payers will not be paying more than was originally agreed – in 2011 the County Council committed to fund the total cost through borrowing, which was then expected to be £28.7m. The County Council did a good job at proving the economic business case and bringing in external funding – £22m from the Growth Fund (via the Local Enterprise Partnership), £5m from Network Rail and £1m from East Cambs District Council. Therefore, the County Council only has to borrow £21m, which is £7.7m less than originally planned.
East Cambs District Council is also contributing to the A14 upgrade which is well underway and due for completion in 2021.
East Cambs Councillors have campaigned and lobbied the County Council to upgrade the A10. The A10 corridor study, together with a secondary report, looked at current transport challenges and future requirements to support planned growth. Recommendations from the study include:
- Dualling the A10 between Ely and Cambridge
- A new Park & Ride north of Waterbeach
- Relocation and expansion of Waterbeach Railway Station
- New cycle routes, including between Ely and Cambridge
The work to secure funding and get the project delivered now moves to the Combined Authority.
New Car Parks
We have built two new commuter car parks at The Dock in Ely (128 spaces) and at Littleport Railway Station (79 spaces). We have also frozen parking charges at both sites as well as at the Angel Drove car park in Ely. The Ely ticket pricing is roughly half the cost of Ely Railway Station car park – the car parks are a facility for local residents, not a money making project!
Free Car Parking in City and Town Centre ECDC Car Parks
We continue to provide free of charge car parking in Ely and town centre car parks owned by East Cambs District Council and this has been enshrined in the Council’s constitution.
Of particular importance to this area, Cllr Mike Bradley and Cllr Anna Bailey have been working to raise awareness of the Environment Agency’s “Great Ouse Tidal River Baseline Report” which sets out the long term requirement to shore up the flood defences; Mike has been appointed as Member Champion and the Council will seek to influence the various sources of funding to help secure the investment needed to protect the £1.2bn of economic assets in the area, not to mention the people!
Ely Leisure Village
We’ve had the opening of the cinema and Ely Leisure Village in May last year – a hugely popular venue for residents of the district, which included building the A10 underpass at no cost to tax payers.
New Leisure Centre – The Hive
The Hive district leisure centre on Downham Road in Ely opened to the public on 14th May, two weeks early – built with no external borrowing and with no impact on Council Tax.
Mepal Outdoor Centre
Mepal Outdoor Centre has been put out to tender and is set to reopen in mid 2019 with an emphasis on “fun” activities! The District Council will remain the freehold owner of the site. This will provide a modest income to the Council, instead of the current cost burden of c.£2k per month in site security and general costs of ownership.
2.3 Services & Campaigns
Health & Social Care Services
East Cambs Councillors have campaigned for a full Local Urgent Treatment Centre at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely, and we have pushed for new GP Surgery space and accommodation for older people when the hospital site is redeveloped.
At a county level, Cllr Anna Bailey has initiated and championed the Neighbourhood Cares pilots in Soham and St Ives, which are an attempt to radically transform the way that people with social care needs are supported. The idea is to embed social care support from within the community, to plan and deliver support on a community wide basis. Neighbourhood Cares is based on a health model in the Netherlands called Buurtzorg, which has successfully reduced costs by around 40%. Small, local, non-hierarchical teams are empowered, trained and skilled to deliver flexible, responsive support on a 24/7 basis. The pilots are progressing well and will be subject to external, independent audit to measure their success.
Recycling and Waste Collection
The District Council has begun a second new trading company, East Cambs Street Scene, which is now running the Council’s contract to deliver waste and street cleaning services with a new fleet of vehicles. Bringing the waste in house has saved the Council c.£240K in procurement costs alone. You may be interested to know that the new waste contract costs the Council just £1 per week, per household – fantastic value for money. Bringing the waste home has enabled us to offer residents a second blue recycling bin for a one-off fee of £25 with no additional ongoing cost for collection. Anyone wanting a second blue bin can order one by telephoning 01353 665555.
Through East Cambs Street Scene we are also undertaking a mass clean up of the whole district to clear all fly tips on public land. Environmental Crime officers will accompany the waste collection crew to gather evidence to issue fines or take enforcement action. We will be taking a robust enforcement and prosecution stance against people who blight our communities by fly-tipping from now on, and there will be an accompanying publicity campaign.
Eradicating Single-Use Plastic
We have launched a “Purge on Plastics” campaign to eradicate single use plastics within the Council and its trading companies, and also to encourage and impassion others in communities across the district to do the same.
Ely Markets, which are now operated by the Council’s trading company, are going from strength to strength and have been expanded to include special markets and the new mini-markets. Markets now operate 6 days a week in Ely.
Housing & Homelessness Prevention
Our Housing Team is nationally recognised for its prevention work in helping to support people before they are threatened with losing their home. This year has seen the opening of the Ely and Littleport Community Hubs – a safe space for people to get advice and support on a whole range of issues. It is an integral part of the unique way that our Housing team prevents homelessness and we will be opening new hubs throughout the coming year.
We’ve seen healthy growth in new businesses and job creation in the district which has resulted in a rise in the Business Rates Collection Fund. Lancaster Way Business Park has gained Enterprise Zone status which incentivises businesses to locate in the district. We have also supported apprenticeships, both directly at the District Council as well as through encouraging businesses.
We are also placing new emphasis and importance on creating high quality jobs close to housing areas through a new policy called “work to live, not live to work.” We want to break the cycle of people having to travel ever further from where they live to get to work – this new policy, combined with Community Land Trusts which provide genuinely affordable homes for people in their own community, is our vision for helping people to have a better quality of life that doesn’t have to be dictated by the length of their commute.
3.0 Combined Authority
2017 has also seen the setting up of the Combined Authority, of which East Cambs District Council is a constituent member. It is attracting significant new funding to the county and it presents huge opportunities which we are working hard to make sure East Cambs benefits from.
4.0 Budgeting for the Future
The Council has a budget of just over £10m in net operating expenditure. The main Revenue Support Grant from central Government continues to reduce – £660k in 2017/18 down to £11.5k in 2019/20. The Council has been planning to cope with the reduction in grant for a number of years now, and has been reducing costs and increasing income to ensure it has a balanced budget into future years.
The business rates retention scheme that was intended to replace Revenue Support Grant has not yet been implemented by central Government. The Council was part of a pilot business rates retention scheme that came to an end last year.
The Council is in the fortunate, but well planned, position of having a balanced budget for this year and for 2019/20, and with a promise to freeze its share of Council Tax for a sixth year in April 2019, it is the only Cambridgeshire local authority to be in this position.
The Council has healthy reserves of £1.012m (10% of the net operating budget); the Council also holds reserves in a fund called “Change Management Reserve” which is to help cope with the fluctuations and uncertainties of income in future years and is used to help deliver a balanced budget.
In 2020/21 the Council has a budget gap of £2.2m – this is not unusual three years ahead; the Council will continue to focus on savings and new income streams to close this gap, including new sources of income through its trading company activities.
The budget for this year and our medium term financial strategy (MTFS), are, we believe prudent.
- The MTFS assumes no dividend payments from the Trading Companies
- It includes a healthy fund for continued Local Plan development
- The trading company loan is on track to be repaid by March 2021
- We are investing in IT, the waste fleet, and the Depot at Littleport
- Our reserves at 10% of expenditure are at a healthy level
- The Council currently has no borrowing, but with big plans this will need to change; borrowing will only be undertaken as and when it is absolutely necessary and to facilitate delivery of our plans (e.g. £6.5m loan from the Combined Authority has just been agreed to deliver Haddenham CLT and will be repaid within a two year timeframe)
The budget gap of £2.2m, the lack of clarity about the business rates retention scheme, uncertainty about the effect of the national Fair Funding Review and the Rural Services Delivery Grant, means we cannot let up.
In May 2019 the Council has all out elections and will be reducing from 39 Members down to 28; it will be critical for the new Council to carry on the good work of the last four years.
If we are in a position to still be involved, we won’t look to rely on Government or anyone else to get to a continued balanced and healthy position. We will bridge the gap, through our collective efforts.
We must keep looking for efficiencies, and look to reduce our draw from the Surplus Savings Reserve over the next two years; we must keep attracting new businesses to the district, to increase business rates income in the area; we must forge ahead and be ambitious with our commercial activities that benefit residents of our district. There are huge and exciting opportunities for the Council in our trading activities and they are integral to our success and ability to keep fees and charges and Council Tax as low as possible whilst also providing fantastic services to our residents.
A message from your Littleport District Councillors
The four District Councillors are also elected Parish Councillors, and David, in addition, is our County Councillor. This has proved to be immensely valuable and we have been able to fight hard for our community, because we have knowledge of every issue both at Parish and District level. We work as a team and are recognized as such by our colleagues. We are involved with many community groups & projects in Littleport and use our networking contacts to good effect.
If you would like to contact one or all of us, we will be pleased to hear from you and will do all that we can to help.