We start the report for this year with the elections in May. Steve Dixon and Brian Saunders were re-elected and we welcomed the new councillor Nicola Harris who replaced John Saunders a local councillor for many years. At the council AGM in May the responsibilities for us were approved, Cllr Dixon is Executive Member for Transformation and External Bodies, a member of the General Purposes Committee and Biggleswade Joint Committee as a substitute, Cllr Harris is on the Licensing Committee and Licensing Sub-Committee and an Audit Committee substitute, Cllr Saunders is now Chairman of the Council, a member of the Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee, a Member of SACRE (the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education) and Chairman of the Langford and Biggleswade Wind Farm Committee.
As you can see much of the work of a Ward Councillors is to look after what goes on affects the whole of the CBC area. There are 7 Full Council meetings a year most other committees meet bi-monthly.
Two grant schemes have been put into place, the second round of monies available from 1st April.
Each Central Bedfordshire Councillor has access to £2,000 from which they can allocate grants to local projects that demonstrate a community benefit. Councillors can also work together across a ward to combine their grants, if that’s what is most needed. Ward Councillor grant funding is a one off grant available for capital costs only to purchase items such as outdoor or indoor resources such as kit and equipment, all grants have to be match-funded.
The second of these schemes to launch is the Community Asset Grant Scheme, allocating £182,000 to help local voluntary and community organisations, town and parish councils make their projects a reality. Groups can bid for matched-funding grants of up to £25,000 to invest in capital projects, such as a new roof for a village hall or to improve access for people with disabilities.
A significant percentage of council tax is spent in areas that aren’t particularly evident to residents. Some 70% of CBC’s spend is in supporting the vulnerable, elderly and in children’s services. CBC continues to evolve our relationship with the Health Service, recognising the pressures being faced by all those involved in primary and acute health care. Plans are underway to create new Health Hubs across Central Beds in an effort to improve the frontline offer in the primary sector and reduce the pressure signposted to the acute facilities.
At the Budget meeting of the Full Council a motion was passed to put into reserves an amount of £1.68m towards the planting of trees, hedges and the like, part of the Councils work towards making Climate Change. This follows on from a motion passed last year for a Sustainability plan to be written in response to the Climate Emergency declared by the Local Government Association. The draft of this plan will be discussed later this month before its hopeful adoption in Q2 of 2020.
As with our report of previous years, a big concern faced by many the over development of our towns and villages. We have recently heard that the news that the appeal for 55 homes on land west of Langford (Biggleswade Road) has been dismissed by the Inspector!
Most residents we discuss these concerns with are acceptive of the need for development, but in Stotfold we have thankfully not received news of any new major plans for the town.
That said, we have endured behavioural issues with most of the development sites currently being built in the ward and haven’t shed away from tackling these issues head on…if sometimes a little too literally so.
The CBC Local Plan has been submitted for examination and we hope for a decision after the summer.
The consultation on our Schools for the Future programme across the Stotfold & Shefford Cluster is now complete. Initial indications show an overwhelming support for the conversion to a 2 tier structure and the detailed planning thereafter is now in train.
The Pix Brook Academy is rising from the ground in a very rapid manor and has attracted a lot of interest. The Head Teacher will update the meeting this evening in more detail.
It was great to see the opening of the new Stotfold Football Club facility on Arlesey Road, after many years agreeing the deal between CBC, Stotfold Town Council and Settle Housing. This facility together with the existing pitches at Etonbury, rear of the new Greenacres Centre and elsewhere provides an enviable level of facilities for the area.
While it is pleasing to be able to report that the final surfacing of the roads on the Greenacres development are scheduled to be completed this month, it continues to be a priority to push roads over for adoption by CBC which is never a quick task. However, the two developers are looking at handing them over in early summer. This will allow the CBC to tackle some of the more pressing concerns that have been raised, as a consequence of the developments occupation.
CBC have equally delivered an impressive number of new school places over the past few years. Since 2015, some 3,500 new places have been created, totalling over £60 million in spend. With nearly 90% of schools rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted, prospects for our children are improving daily, with our levels of those not in education, employment or training some 8% better than the national average. Indeed a recent peer inspection concluded that CBC was particularly well managed and in first class financial order.
While we have tried to hold surgeries over the last few years, the frenetic lifestyles most people now lead, has led us to conclude that such prescriptive methods of engagement no longer work. We are generally available at the ned of a phone or email 7 days a week and happy toccata that way or at any parish council meeting during the year. Indeed such an informal setting has led to equipment being acquired to support residents request to help with litter picking and footpath marking to remind dog owners to “pick up” where necessary!
And on that emotive note, we look forward to serving the ward for the next 3 years.
Cllr Steven Dixon MCIOB
Cllr Nicola Harris
Cllr Brian Saunders
Members for Stotfold, Langford, Fairfield & Astwick Ward