From our Reporter at the Parish Council Meeting
After the very rapid despatch of the preliminaries David Brown made his CCC report. There will be no increase of CCC tax this year and he presented a whole series of figures detailing the savings. It was impressive. With a half million here, and a one million there, £365,000 here, and £68,000 there, everything rolled out to a 13.2% saving to match the 14% reduction of the government grant. You couldn't ask for better than that.
Amongst the savings he mentioned were those from the Highways budget. This does not appear to be a bad thing. Here are some basic figures against which you can gauge the other comments in this paragraph. After many years of pressure from our PC, the Highways completed some minimal works on Mill Hill at, I believe, a cost of £30,000 including administration fees. We are all aware of the Quy 'improvements'. In comparison what was the cost? Do we multiply by ten? What would making Quy a 30mph area have cost?
Having succeeded so disastrously well in Quy, Highways then turned its attention to the Lode crossroads and took weeks erecting traffic lights. Recently they have also installed a sustainable (only works when the sun is out) flashing sign warning about the lights just 40 yards away when you can already see them from a good 300 yards distance. How much did all this lot cost? And how many people use the crossing? Has anyone seen them at red? I have seen Lode residents happily waiting on the other side of the cross road waiting for a gap in the traffic rather than cross over and use the lights. Would a sign suffice saying something like "Please allow pedestrians to cross" , with white lines on the road as at the Clock Tower in Newmarket.
I think Highways must have one of those iniquitous 'use it or lose it'budgets. Geoffrey said that the large sums quoted by David made it hard to visualise how this would affect villages and quoted the Spectator/Daily Telegraph article on 10th February by Ross Clark, the freelance journalist in Reach and currently their PC Chairman. Ross Clark questioned the wisdom of some of the cuts such as that of his disabled daughter's transport to school. He went on to range over the sins of other councils including the profligacy of Newham in London, and then had an onslaught on the "inflated salaries" of Town Hall chiefs. David was asked "What about that then?" David explained that he had already discussed the "disabled transport" with Ross and it seems there had been a mistake in the CCC paperwork -but it had been too late to stop the article. As for Chief Execs'pay, all pay increases had been frozen but it would cost a fortune to change any employment contracts already in force.
Allen said that ECDC tax was being increased because of the cuts, but that at present he does not have the detailed figures. He did mention that ECDC had made a profit from the concessionary bus fare scheme. Is this because ECDC only pay when the oldies travel to Cambridge with Cambridge City paying for our return? I have always believed this to be true and have enjoyed the return journey even more . Allen next reported on his findings regarding any possible breach of the original planning permission for the Chemical Factory in Greenhead Road. (It is reported that in the darker reaches of Suffolk it is known as the "Stink Shop" .) One such possible breach concerned the number of parking places. Mr Alan Dover, an important Control Officer, told Allen that the parking space stipulations should never have part of the original agreement and ought to be thrown out. Most of the PC was visibly upset by this and said there had been good reason why it was part of the original agreement. Allen had a dilemma. Dover had been adamant and, though reluctant, Allen said he would raise the matter again if the PC insisted. At this point, Steve, with his well-honed umpiring skills, asked to see the paperwork for a review. He read out that it stipulated there should be provided and maintained parking spaces for three cars. Steve said that because this had been provided and maintained there had not been any breach. "Has anyone complained about the parking?" "No" . "Why are we discussing this then?" The matter of the smell and the disposal of chemicals is in the hands of the authorities.
Always about this time of the meeting loud clapping and cheering rings out from the main hall. Some people may think it is a Poetry Reading session, but that it is not. It is Sharon Heaps and her Slimming World group who are clapping people like Beryl who has lost 2 pounds in the last week and three and a half stones in all. Good for Beryl everyone says. And then there is Fred, and Mary etc as Sharon guides her flock towards health and wellbeing. People have received an OBE for less.
At long last the repair of the Pound Wall is scheduled to begin. After an enormous amount of work everything has been approved and every 't'crossed, until a member of the public asked "What about the fallen down tiles at the back ?" "What fallen down tiles?" "Those at the back of the wall which have been stacked up by the person living behind the Pound." "Ah, we'll have to take a look at that." The Village Notice Board is still on the Agenda and is likely to be so for some time. Various leaflets were produced offering metal, plastic, man-made-wood, and real wood notice boards with the prices appearing to range from £600 to £1300. This brought out a variety of opinions. "We do need a notice board" ; "In a way it does represent the village" ; "What will villagers think if we pay that kind of money" ; "The pride of the village is at stake" ; "I don't agree with spending so much" ; "If we are going to have one let's do it properly" ; "Why don't we refurbish the old one?" These were just a few of the opinions. It seems to me this would be an ideal item for the agenda of the Village Annual Assembly and the views of the five to fifteen people who attend might make the decision. Those who walk round the village will notice that the church now has a new notice board. The previous one was tatty, one might say shabby, which almost suggested that the church was decaying. The new one is bright, cheerful, welcoming and confident. Is this not how we would like our village to appear?
Barclays made a pre-tax profit of £11.6 billion in 2009 but have just paid out £113 million in corporation tax because it was able to reduce the bill because of the huge losses made on its holdings of US sub-prime debt securities. John Covill wondered if the bank had got its priorities right because he has been trying to obtain for the PC a new cheque book since 11th January. Even a 35 minute phone call failed to produce anything. The Parish Council just has to wait, and wait, apparently just as it also had to wait last summer. This is very depressing and certainly worth a letter to Jim Paice. Just to cheer everyone up it was announced that Prospect Trust is having a Ball in the Guildhall on 3rd March.