As the executive councillor for planning policy and transport I had the opportunity to share our budget proposals for the next financial year at the Council Meeting on Thursday February 24.
You can find full details of the meeting here: https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=116&MId=3965
and we will be meeting again on Thur March 3 at 6pm – there’s a live stream too https://democracy.cambridge.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=116&MId=4204
Here are the notes I spoke from – some of this was cut to make sure I kept withing my allocated five minutes
Notes from Council Meeting
I’d like to begin by reflecting on what we have done this year as officers, elected members, and staff, to keep this local authority running and deliver One Cambridge, Fair For All.
In my area of Planning Policy and Transport we have achieved so much.
The planning committee has embraced hybrid working, with members present in the committee room as required by legislation while officers and members of the public can take part online. I’d like to thank the IT services team for their effort to make this happen.
We have completed a major consultation for the emerging local plan, revised plans for North East Cambridge following last year’s consultation, consulted on and adopted a new Biodiversity SPD, and been awarded two grants to research social media use in planning and design codes.
Last year I said I wanted to extend the training budget for building control so our team can continue to be leaders in their current work, to be at the cutting edge of new energy assessment technology, and to start a new consultancy helping to reduce carbon emissions in buildings, and we have done this.
Some of our building control officers are now PassivHaus qualified and we’re giving residents free pre-application advice on how to improve the energy efficient of their building projects. This training is ongoing. Especially energy efficiency for historic and listed buildings
Building control have won awards in three categories at this years LABC Building Excellence Awards and three of our planning projects won awards at the prestigious Planning awards 2021
And we have started a service review looking at how to use new technology and IT, how to improve the website, and how to tackle enforcement – or as I like to call it ‘compliance’ – with planning regulations.
In transport, we have control over Dial-A-Ride, taxi-cards, a few bus subsidies and the Council’s car parks – all very important, and we have done what we can in these areas
Dial-a-ride continues to provide a vital service within 10 miles of city centre, a great success which is well appreciated by its users
We are starting a project to deliver over 500 EV charge points in our carparks – an initiative started by Cllr Rosy Moore,
and of course we have moved on the Park Street project.
Most of my transport-related efforts involve working with other authorities particularly county, and we are taking advantage of the shared administration to deliver a Labour transport policy.
For example, the Chisholm trail has opened thanks to the GCP and we want to complete it through to the Cambridge Junction and Cambridge Station from Coldhams Lane
We have also secured £500K for the Station Cycle Point and seek that this becomes an exemplar for major cycle storage facilities.
I think we all – on every side of the room – can feel proud of what we have done for the people of Cambridge. And I thank the officers and staff for all they have contributed.
Now, to my proposals for this budget, which has been developed to take account of the fact that our income has reduced because of the closure of Park Street and more generally reduced parking in the centre
This budget contains proposals for a five year programme to balance the planning budget which takes account of reduced revenue and other factors, including an initial investment to clear the backlog of application .
We will invest in the planning service by improving support for planners, and we aim to replicate the successful apprentice scheme run in building control across the planning department
In addition excess capacity within the planning system, as with building control, can be used to generate extra income from eg other local authorities provided it does not compromise the service we deliver to residents. We are good at what we do, and people seem to want to pay us for our expertise.
Because Building Control is doing so well, we need to consider a new delivery model to take advantage of the emerging capabilities of new technologies and the team’s enhanced skills base. This also includes upgrades to the software systems they use to analyse submissions, increasing efficiency and allowing staff to be deployed on more complex tasks.
We seek to further improve advice and consultancy, and aim to promote what they can offer to local authority clients
For transport, we will reduce the bus subsidy put in place when the County reduced funding in about 2011, following the decision by Stagecoach to maintain the changes to services made during the pandemic. Fortunately the combined authority is now doing a bus review and they will be a lot more receptive to Cambridge City Council’s arguments than the previous administration.
I believe that all of these measures deliver a responsible, proportionate and financially prudent response to the need to deliver our promise to address the climate and environmental crises and delivery essential services while tackling the inequality and poverty, in a time of budget cutbacks and a pandemic which is by no means over.