Wednesday 29 June 2011

Vote Early - Vote Often - Let's Get Young Lives Afloat

I blogged recently about Young Lives' ambitious Get Creative - Get Afloat Project which they are bidding for support from in the Jubilee People's Millions competition.  This is an extremely important and exciting project for Cambridgeshire - but it will only win support if people vote for it.  Today is the day, so please call 0871 626 88 08 to support the project.  Did you get that?: 0871 626 88 08.

The Waterways are important to this area - especially the Fens - it would be great to have a young people's project in the area that used such an important part of our history.   If you agree call:  0871 626 88 08

Also tune into ITV Anglia at 6PM to see how it gets on.  But while you are waiting call: 0871 626 88 08

The voting phone line opens at 9am and will be open until midnight

A maximum of 10 calls will be accepted from any one phone number. Calls cost no more than 11p from a landline but will be higher from a mobile

Calls can be made from anywhere in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Request for Speedwatch Volunteers

This is another message I got via E-Cops, requesting for volunteers for Speedwatch:

"Whittlesey and District residents have raised the concern of Speeding in the area making it one of your local neighbourhood policings priorities. Police officers are already going to these locations but more can be done with your help using Speedwatch.

Speedwatch is a community based initiative designed to harness public support of Neighbourhood Policing by volunteers monitoring speeds of vehicle in concern areas with PCSOs from your local Policing team. It provides the opportunity for the public to safely influence and contribute to the education of drivers and assist the police in any enforcement activity thereafter.

The equipment used is a free-standing Speed Detector Unit marketed by Radarlux. We do not use hand held radar devices (a "speed gun") for Speedwatch

Speedwatch is not an enforcement activity. The aim of Speedwatch is to provide advice to speeding motorists to improve driver behaviour and to prevent collisions by encouraging drivers in Speedwatch areas to slow down. The results of Speedwatch operations will be monitored by the neighbourhood policing teams to inform enforcement action by officers.
If anyone is interested in getting involved with Speedwatch then please get in touch with me. A meeting will take place with the group at Whittlesey Police Station at the beginning of July."

The contact point for this is PCSO Melanie Bull who is available via: or 
0345 456 456 4 extension 6517

E-Cops Message about non-Rape in Whittlesey

You may have seen on this blog an article about an alleged rape in Whittlesey.  I did update that message to reflect a change in position which suggested this may not have happened.  Today I got this message via E-Cops:

Dear resident,
You may have seen or heard recent media coverage of a police investigation into a rape in a park off Station Road in Whittlesey, on Thursday night (June 16).
As with all reports of serious crime, we set up a crime scene and have been carrying out investigations in the area, including door-to-door enquiries.
As a result of our detailed investigations, I can reassure you that no rape, or any other crime, took place that night in the circumstances reported.
Two men who were arrested will have no action taken against them.

Whilst I am disappointed that I put out information about something that never happened - I was responding to a genuine request for information at that time.  Moreover, the fact that it turns out that such a hideous crime was not committed is good news because I know the concern that this would have created, particularly among women in Whittlesey.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

How much do we pay for this stuff?

This was published on the BBC website today:

"Too much alcohol, drugs, and sex, coupled with poor hygiene, can be a health risk at festivals, an expert is warning."

I never could have worked that out for myself!!

Change of heart over sentencing

I am very, very happy about this change of heart from the Conservatives.

I wonder if Ken Clarke can now remain in post?  If he does he needs to be more Conservative in his outlook.

Saturday 18 June 2011

ConHome's Analysis of Michael Gove's comments

Conservative Home have done an analysis of our exam systems and Michael Gove's recent comments.  I broadly agree with it.

There can be little doubt that the credibility of GCSEs and A Levels has diminished.  That is in no way a slight on students.  We have some remarkable students who will deal with whatever exam system is put in front of them, but the best of them are not stretched sufficiently.  I can use a personal example here.  My daughter achieved remarkable GCSE (11 A*, 2 A and 1B) and A level results (2 A* 1A).  Obviously I was and am delighted with those - and she is an amazing academic.  But with hindsight you have to reflect on whether she could have been stretched and tested a little more.  Not because of the school she went to (Sir Harry Smith Community College did a grand job) but because they were working to an exam system that doesn't stretch sufficiently.

I remember taking my daughter around Cambridge when she was applying and hearing someone talk about the weight they give to the International Baccalaureate  - because its standards have been maintained over the years.  Again, that is not the fault of Cambridge University - but it does perhaps highlight one of the reasons why state schools students do not get places in top Universities. (my daughter is now very, very happy at Edinburgh University - so I have no gripes here!!).

It is not because of our students that our system has to change, it is FOR our students.  They deserve to be tested in a system that has international and academic credibility and the best of our students deserve to be stretched and tested more than they are at present.

Police request for information following rape in Whittlesey

News of a rape in Station Road rec was emerging yesterday and the story has now appeared on the Cambs Times website.

Rape is a devastating crime, it is dreadful to think that something like this has happened in Whittlesey.

Please, please, please if you think you may know something about this horrific incident, know someone else that might or if you know someone that may have been around Station Road rec at 10pm on Thursday evening please call Cambs Police on 0345 456 456 4 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

UPDATE:  It seems that this may never have happened.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Go to Shape Your Place and Comment on Whittlesey Transport

See this thread on Shape your Place.

Public transport is an area that needs challenge and the more people that make their views know the better - so please head over there and comment

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Cambridgeshire's Preparedness for a Zombie Invasion

Over the weekend I saw this rather strange article on the BBC News website.

Part of my Cabinet Portfolio at the County Council is Emergency Planning so, in jest, I sent an email to our officers asking about our preparedness for a Zombie attack.  The response made me laugh:
"Cambridgeshire County Council has no specific response plan covering a zombie invasion. The Community Risk Management Group has assessed the risk and has opted to deal with all supernatural phenomena under a single heading. As such, any invasion of the living dead would be dealt with under our generic response plan that covers all emanations from the Legions of Hell. 
Essentially, in the event of a zombie invasion we suggest that staff work from home. Any member of staff who is bitten and therefore becomes a zombie themselves should contact their line manager as soon as possible to arrange suitable leave arrangements.
Sadly I see no reference to actions that elected members should take…."
Serious business this Council work.

Cabinet and Gamlingay Village College

Full Cabinet today was enthralling.  The decision we had to make over the future of Gamlingay Village College meant that it was one of those meetings where there was a clear feeling that there was extremely important.  It wasn't helped by the fact that I had dreadful toothache today.

The history of this is extremely important to the decision. After 18 months of the Local Authority trying to get the school to change its ways and failing because of a lack of co-operation from the leadership in the school, the County Council issued the school with a warning notice which was copied to OFSTED and resulted in a devastating inspection.  Often described as one of the worst inspection reports that our very experienced officers could remember.

One of the options in front of us was to close Gamlingay Village College and move the students to nearby Bassingbourn,whilst also expanding the lower school into a traditional (for Cambridgeshire) 4-11 Primary school.  The other serious option was to keep the school open as a Middle School and to federate it with nearby Bedfordshire School, Stratton Upper (which is the school most Gamlingay students move on to).

There was an extremely vociferous campaign from parents to keep the Village College open.  An interesting one that seemed (to me) to include a strong element of denial about the circumstances of the school and which seemed to pay insufficient detail about the need for a rapid turnaround in standards.  It made the decision all the more difficult; it is OK to listen to a voice of protest - but that voice has to accept where things are, and in my view there was not sufficient acceptance of that. Indeed if I had made a decision solely on the quality of the campaigning (as opposed to numbers) I would have voted for closure. In the end however, I did agree with the option of keeping GVC open - not because of the protests but because I was convinced by a number of speakers that the Federation with Stratton could turn the school around quickly.  Given that I felt this was possible I agreed that it was the best long term education and community solution.  This was supported by all but one of the Cabinet, but - the arguments were extremely close and, if things don't turn out as I hope and believe they will, then I will be amongst the first to ask for a rethink.

I would urge all of the parents who have supported the campaign to keep the school open to switch their focus onto making sure the solution they have supported creates the first class education that their children deserve.  If their enthusiasm can be harnessed towards improving education it could make a huge difference.  But I have to say I found myself supporting their wishes despite of their campaign, not because if it.

We spent two and a half hours on this issue this morning - the longest discussion we have ever had on a single issue.  It deserved that sort of airing and our Leader Nick Clarke deserves credit for the way he has handled this, as do our Officers and the Cabinet Member David Harty.

Monday 13 June 2011

Appropriate or Not?

I have a number of Conservative Councillors in Peterborough whom I would count amongst my friends.  I don't always agree with what Peterborough City Council do (but most of the time I do) - I also recognise the opposition's right to oppose.   But sometimes that can go too far.

Take Lib Dem Peterborough City Councillor Darren Fower for example.  At about 8.14 this evening he tweeted:
"Replace the word NAZIs - with "Peterborough Tories" + this would be an enjoyable trailer! Click: "
I have taken out the link, because it is not appropriate for some.   Basically it is for a trailer for a rather gruesome Quentin Tarantino film called Inglorious B******s" in which Brad Pitt leads a team of extremely nasty insurgents behind enemy lines in France to torture and murder Nazis.

I am not easily offended - as an example I have watched and enjoyed the above mentioned film - but taking the context and applying it to politicians and friends in Peterborough is not appropriate.  That tweet is, at best, a very poor and very sick joke.

Of course he is a Lib Dem.  My views about Lib Dems are clearly laid out in previous posts on this blog - but I'm sure most people will find my comments here absolutely spot on - if you disagree - feel free to comment.  I would like to know whether the Leader of Peterborough Liberal Democrats supports Cllr Fower's comments?

I'll email him later to find out.

Friday 10 June 2011

Guided Busway - why is it important to the North of the County

This week we received the good news that the Guided Busway is to open on 7th August - and about time too.

Many to the North of the County have said the Guided Bus is irrelevant to them, I am not convinced that is the case.  We do have a fair number from the North of the County who work in Cambridge, it will be great for them - I intend to use it when I can to get into Shire Hall by parking at St Ives.

But the news that the buses will run to Huntingdon makes it even more important.  As a real lover of live rock music, one of my few issues with Peterborough is that it does not have the sort of music venue that befits a city of its size. Many, like me, like to go to a Gig and have a few beers and the only option to do this is a trip to London.  Access to Huntingdon from Cambridge after midnight could change this (and this is included in the timetable).  The guided bus to Huntingdon and the late train to Peterborough opens up Cambridge City to me and many others, meaning I can make better use of the Corn Exchange and the Junction as an alternative to London.