Conservatives to lead with new projects, without going into the “red”

I was pleased to sit on the Committee recently that had the privilege of agreeing and supporting several exciting new projects as well as recommending the budget to Full Council.  

The BBC has compiled data about the level of debt in 381 Councils, finding that UK Councils owe a combined £97.8b, equivalent to around £1,400 per person.  At one Council in Woking the level of debt is nearly £19,000 per person.  I am pleased to report that East Cambs District Council is one of the 38 Councils across the country that has no external borrowing; of the 6 (non Parish) Councils in Cambridgeshire we are the only Council in this position.

We will therefore be going into our Council meeting this month with a plan to freeze our part of Council Tax bills for the 11th year; we will have a balanced budget for the next two years, we will be retaining free parking in our town and city centre car parks and once again there are no plans for cuts.

At the CPCA Board meeting I voted against the Mayor’s 200% increase of the Mayoral precept.  The public consultation results revealed that 66% of respondents from East Cambs stated that they were not willing to pay the precept to pay for buses; the figure was 77% in Fenland.  With much handwringing and talk of the “price of a cup of coffee” Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Members of the Board all voted it through.  The increase will see this new form of local taxation increase from £12 per year to £36 for a Band D property.  

The CPCA only finds itself in this position because of the chaos and dysfunctionality of the first two years of the Mayoral term under Nik Johnson.  All other Combined Authorities and dozens of other Transport Authorities got tens of millions (some got hundreds of millions) to improve bus services whilst the CPCA got nothing in that first round.  I sincerely hope the money raised by Nik Johnson’s precept will actually be spent on new bus services, and doesn’t get swallowed up bailing out new failures of commercially run services across our county.

The District Council has awarded Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust £1.21 million towards its Link project.  This will see the creation of a wellbeing community hub, GP rooms, a café and work units on CLT owned land.  Liberal Democrat Members on the Committee voted against this funding (with one abstention) which is a huge shame – there is a massive need for increased GP provision in the north of our district.  

We also agreed to allocate £423,107 towards Witchford Parish Council’s plans for an improved cycleway, as well as £15,000 towards Wilburton Parish Council’s plan for a new Multi Activity Games Area (MUGA) and tennis court.

The Committee also supported the business case for a new Bereavement Centre to be built in Mepal, including an eco-crematorium, natural burial area, and a pet cemetery.  Set within flower meadows and woodland walks with stunning views overlooking the lake, it will give the residents of East Cambridgeshire a beautiful and peaceful setting in which to say goodbye to and remember their loved ones.

The site has been designed to protect and enhance the significant biodiversity and ecology that exists alongside the lake whilst still allowing low impact leisure use, such as walking fishing and bird watching.  The use of solar panels will mean it’s one of the first electric cremators in the country to be powered by renewable energy.  The final decision will be taken by Full Council in February.

Anna Bailey, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council