South Cambs District Councillor (SCDC) Bill Handley’s Report to Over Village News – November 2023

Dear residents,

Here is my summary of SCDC matters, at the time of writing in early November 2023. It is an abridged version of my report to Over Parish Council.

Community Hubs

Last winter, 25 Warm Hubs were in operation across South Cambridgeshire in collaboration with Cambridgeshire ACRE. The benefits of these Hubs quickly became clear; not only did they allow a warm space for individuals to go to keep warm but also to socialise with a hot drink and a snack. In the spring of this year, it was decided to continue the Hubs but with some changes to the format in the light of experience. These new facilities have been renamed Community Hubs and 13 are either already operating or will become operational very soon. Grant funding from the ICS has again made this possible. There is sufficient funding for up to 20 Hubs.

Flooding Advice

The recent storm, Babet, was a reminder (if we needed one) of how vulnerable we are to flooding in the Fen-edge villages, with parts of both Over and Willingham being affected, albeit (on this occasion) for a relatively short time. It is worth reminding those who live in high-risk areas of the importance of getting and remaining prepared for flooding in advance of the event.

SCDC has useful advice on the flooding page of its website. There is a useful list of things residents can do in advance under the ‘Be prepared for flooding’ section. This includes signing-up for flood warnings, using the Government’s Flood Information Service to check for flooding risk and preparing a flood plan.
There are a number of authorities and companies involved in flood management and it can be confusing to work out who deals with what. On the same SCDC website, there is a list which residents can refer to for help. Here is a summary:

  • Flooding from a sewer: Anglian Water. 0345 791 9155
  • Blocked drain on the road or pavement: Cambridgeshire County Council. https://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/business/planning-and-development/flood-and-water/report-a-flood
  • Flooding damage at a SCDC property: Housing Services 0800 085 1313
  • While local authorities do not ordinarily provide sandbags (as it is the responsibility of residents to protect their own properties from flooding), SCDC will help vulnerable residents, such as the elderly who do not have friends, family or neighbours who can help them quickly in an emergency.

Climate Action Conference

SCDC is hosting a Climate Action Conference in Cottenham this month celebrating net zero action locally. It is being held at Cottenham Village Hall which benefited from a Zero Carbon Communities grant of £15,000 for the installation of solar panels. The event is free and open to everyone and is on Tuesday 28 November 9:30am to 1pm. More details can be found here: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/cottenham-conference-celebrates-local-climate-action/

Avoiding “zombie” battery fires

SCDC is supporting a national campaign aiming to tackle the serious problem of recycling and waste fires caused by carelessly discarded “zombie” batteries. When thrown away with general rubbish or recycling material, hidden “zombie” batteries can easily return from the dead and cause serious fires. Lithium-ion batteries, which power a wide range of household devices such as phones, laptops, power tools, children’s toys, e-bikes and scooters are a particular problem. Even disposable vapes can cause problems. In waste and recycling, “dead” batteries are likely to be crushed or punctured and can ignite or even explode and can set fire to other materials present.

The campaign urges people to recycle batteries responsibly by using specialist battery and electrical device recycling services. In our case, residents can put used batteries into a small bag, tie it up, and leave it on top of any of their three bins (black, green or blue) when they put it out for collection.

Four-day week

The government recently served a Best Value Notice related to SCDC’s four-day week trial. The government’s letter can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/2p9bj2nv . The notice explains that if the Council wants to continue the trial they will be required to provide unspecified weekly updates and data to DLUHC rather than waiting for the trial to conclude and the data to be properly analysed. These requirements are likely to be punitive and costly in officer time and the implications are to be considered by SCDC in the coming days.

The minister who is driving this campaign, Lee Rowley, however, has refused to engage with SCDC; he will not hear the council’s case which is quite compelling. His letter says that a four-day week “removes one fifth of the council’s capacity”; he has neglected to note that staff do 100% of their contracted work over fewer days for 100% of the pay. The council believes that the minister has forgotten that the project is a trial and that, at the end of it, SCDC’s full council will have a detailed report presented to it and will vote on whether or not the scheme is continued.

Peer Review of SCDC

Recently, the Local Government Association conducted a “Peer Review” of SCDC. This is where several officers and councillors from a number of other authorities conduct an in-depth inspection of the workings of the council. Their independent report is long and I have not yet had chance to look at it in detail but I noticed one headline that I will copy here:

[SCDC is] “in a strong financial position with healthy reserves and limited exposure to investment risk. There are no ‘burning platforms’.”

The chair of the review panel was the CEO of a district council in Lincolnshire. She said that SCDC’s financial position is enviable and uncommonly good.

Bill Handley November 2023.
Contact 01954 200287 (please leave a message) or email cllr.handley@scambs.gov.uk

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