County Council: the autumn meeting

climate emergencyThere’s news of chaos on the A14 so lots of councillors are going to be late for their pre-meetings if not for the council meeting itself. It should be a short one with just three relatively non-contentious motions but who knows …

We start with a little light Buddhist meditation. Not a bad idea. At least for a while we are all relaxed.

We rattle through approval of minutes, Chairman’s announcements and declarations of interests.

Then there’s a question from the evergreen Anthony Carpen. At this meeting his question concerns the structure and condition of the former Mill Road library and asks why CCC did not discuss it with the City Council in connection with the latter’s plans for the development of the Mill Road Depot. It seems it did so there’s a follow-up asking what the Council’s obligations are with respect to the continued maintenance and preservation of what is a listed building. Mr Carpen is promised a written response.

First item of substance is the need to appoint another council to consider an application to declare the Shire Hall site a village/town green. This is supported unanimously. The other council is Suffolk County Council. Approved unanimously.

Then we have the inevitable Constitution & Ethics item to tidy up the wording in the Constitution relating to petitions and to select and appoint an ‘Independent Person’. Both approved unanimously.

There are now reports to be noted from Audit & Accounts, the Pension and Committee and the Pension Fund Board. They are. Noted that is.

Item 11 relates to the need to appoint a new vice-chair for the Communities & Partnership Committee because of the ill health of the present incumbent. Kind words are said about him then that’s done and we move onto the three motions.

Motion number 1 relates to the use of ‘New York style’ trialling of highways improvement schemes. This is a facility already in place but it’s been under utilised. The motion is cross party and gets unanimous approval.

I propose the second motion which calls for the Council’s budget process to reflect its commitment to be serious about the Climate Emergency. This motion is also cross party and its seconded by the Leader of the Council and Tory group leader. He’s a bit churlish suggesting that the motion is unnecessary because the Council already has a program but perhaps he misses the point. We have to keep reminding everyone of the importance of always considering climate emergency in their work. Nonetheless there’s unanimous approval.

The final motion is about trees and calls on the Council to maximise tree planting on its own land and furthermore to explore the opportunity to develop more peatland. It’s noted that Cambridgeshire has a very low ate of ‘land managed for nature’ (8% vs a national average of 16%).

There’s a Lib Dem amendment to recognise work already being done by third parties. This is accepted and the amended motion is then passed unanimously. The debate on the motion itself veers a little off course getting into trees on the side of the road before ending up with the Highways Agency and its excesses in felling trees along the A14 route. I note how Histon & Impington has been especially badly hit in this regard.

Finally we have questions: oral of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and (its) Overview & Scrutiny Committee and of the Fire Authority, and written. The oral questions relate to Children’s Centres and to the management of Registry offices within the County. With respect to the former it’s confirmed that the building which accommodates Histon children’s centre continues to operate year round through the Histon Early Years Centre and that there are no issues regarding the continuation of this arrangement.

I use the opportunity to ask Steve Count as the Council’s representative on the Combined Authority to push it towards declaring a Climate Emergency.

So that’s it. We’re out by 1200 and all the votes have been unanimous. It must have been the meditation.

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