Cambridgeshire councillors report on some of the outside groups and bodies they sit on - their assessments might surprise you
PUBLISHED: 20:27 06 May 2019
Organisations described as "a non event", liaison groups that have been disbanded for some time, and scrutiny committees not allowed to do their job - all part of a report compiled by Cambridgeshire councillors.
For the first time Cambridgeshire County Council – in the wake of the scandal over funding for community transport group FACT – has asked all its members serving on various boards and groups to produce an annual report.
The council has issued new guidelines and legal guidance to the councillors who represent the authority on a diverse range of committees and groups – and their first reports will be delivered to the annual council meeting next week.
But it has not been all sweetness and light for many councillors – as evidenced by their annual accounts of meetings or in some cases lack of meetings.
Cllr McGuire is the council representative on the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, an independent body with impartial adjudicators who consider appeals by motorists and vehicles owners.
“Parking Tribunal is a non event,” concludes Cllr McGuire.
Cllr Mark Howell is also less than enamoured of his time on the LGSS joint overview and scrutiny working group – the body that scrutinises the work of the shared service with other councils.
He complains the committee, that he says is meant to be a “critical friend” to LGSS, hasn't met since last August, and only at his insistence has a meeting been called for this month.
Meanwhile Cllr Ian Bates is not sure why he remains a member of the Ouse Washes Strategic Group since as I am aware, this group is no longer in existence”.
Deputy leader Roger Hickford is a non executive director of This Land Ltd, the property company set up by the county council as an arms length operation to enter the commercial world.
“This Land has acquired 26 sites in Cambridgeshire since April 2018; 24 of these sites were from the land holdings of the county council for £67m,” he says.
“CCC achieved best consideration on the sites sold as demonstrated by the independent valuations.
“The acquisitions were financed through loans from CCC, from which the council has earned over £2.5m in interest to date, and will generate in excess of £4.5m interest income annually in future years.
“These developments are predicted to add 1,700 homes in Cambridgeshire over the next 7-8 years subject to the planning process.”
His leader Steve Count has been less successful with the Fenland Strategic Partnership which he says “has not met since 2016 and is therefore not an operative partnership”.
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Cllr Count also sits on the Whitemoor distribution forum at March to liaise with residents on rail freight developments. But this, too, has not met for over two years he says “and is no longer necessary. Any future issues could be picked up as part of normal business.”
Cllr Anna Bailey says “I don't believe I have ever been invited or attended” the growth delivery joint East Cambridgeshire District Council Cambridgeshire County Council member liaison group.
However Cllr Ian Bates, another member, says although it has not met recently it helped with CIL contributions to Littleport Secondary School although Cllr Lis Every reports she has never been invited to any meetings “so cannot comment”. Cllr Bates felt the group was “a good example of partnership working”
Still in existence is the Ely Southern bypass project board, scheduled for two meetings annually though whether it will continue is not stated.
One body definitely struggling is the European Metal Recycling (EMR) liaison group at Snailwell.
Cllr Tierney is the council's representative but reports that “I have not received any information or been invited to a meeting”.
He also sits on the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel to scrutinise the work of Jason Ablewhite.
“.I found the scrutiny of the proposed Council Tax rise interesting and believe that the committee did a good job of making sure it had been properly costed and thought through.,” says Cllr Tierney.
Cllr Mike Shellens, another appointee, is less pleased with the panel's role describing as “deeply frustrating” the lack of ability to properly scrutinise.
He says: “The contrast with membership of the fire authority is most stark.
“The commissioner's grab for the control of the fire service is therefore most unfortunate and ill-timed as the police currently have a more challenging operational environment which should be taking most of the time of the commissioner.”
He adds: “The perception of difficulties on the streets at a time of swingeing increases in police Council Tax (12 per cent) is doubly unfortunate.”
Elsewhere Cllr Sam Hoy is a member of the Thomas Squire Charity covering Elm, Emneth, Friday Bridge and Coldham to give grants to young people in education or training.
“I have not participated in any meetings or received any correspondence from Thomas Squire Charity” she says.
County councillors will decide next week on whether it is worthwhile retaining members on some of the external organisations.