Articles

Huntingdon Focus July 2021


Godmanchester, Hemingford Abbots and Huntingdon South Focus July 2021


Geoff Seeff - the best by-election candidate on St Neots regeneration

There are many issues of concern to Loves Farm residents but there is currently one single overriding issue of concern to all residents of St Neots, including those of Loves Farm,  which will affect them and generations to come. 

That is the proposed economic development and regeneration of the town centre – a project desperately needed after a period of decline .  

On the strength of a “masterplan”,  £12.8 million of public money has been made available to help the town re-establish itself as a vibrant place in which to live and in which to welcome visitors. But how precisely is it to be spent?

  • What does a “redeveloped” Priory Centre look like and cost if it is to cater sensibly for every art, craft and social activity of interest to every age?  If not all, which will take priority?
  • How are sites like the Old Falcon Inn to be acquired? Compulsory Purchase is a power to be exercised sparingly as it is an exceedingly complex, protracted and costly process; Regardless, what are the proposals for it – hotel, restaurant, shops? – and what is the demand?
  • What provision is there for improving public transport links, ensuring disabled access to the buildings and the surrounding Priory Quarter, protecting and enhancing the fragile riverside environment and eco-system?
  • Assuming a suitable site can be found, how much will it cost and how long will it take to relocate and rebuild the Rowing Club? 
  • What disruption to traffic, pedestrians and Market Square residents is envisaged during the construction phase and how will it be managed?
  • Have sufficient funds been set aside to operate and maintain whatever is being built?   

HDC administrators may have perfectly good answers to these simple  questions but we, the residents have not been told so they need to be asked and explored in depth. Dr Geoff Seeff your Liberal Democrat candidate on 8th July has 30 years’ professional experience as an advisor on regeneration has seen the good, bad and the downright ugly. He wants to represent you by putting those and many other questions to the planners. If HDC gets it wrong, it goes wrong for all of us and the £12.8 million will trickle away before our eyes.

Geoff knows that people are fed up with having regeneration DONE to them rather than FOR them. Geoff wants to make sure regeneration is NOT DONE to you and, as far as is possible, to ensure that a scheme is brought to fruition that reflects what you need and what you want. He can only do that if you vote for him on 8th July.

 


Geoff Seeff for St Neots East on 8th July 2021

About Geoff Seeff

 

In a long planned relocation, Geoff and his wife Deanna moved from Woodford Green, Essex to Loves Farm St Neots in July 2020 to be closer to his daughter and her family who had been resident since its opening. It was something of a wrench as, apart from university and extended stints of work overseas, Geoff had lived in the area for most of his life. Deanna, born in Turkey but well-travelled before settling in the UK, had all her personal and business connections in London.

Geoff qualified as chartered accountant, hated audit and taxation work (asked too many questions) and then undertook a doctorate broadly researching in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. This wasn’t too popular a concept in the professional world of the 1970s and 80s and even today is given more lip service than substance in its implementation. However, with at the time, with a mortgage to pay and mouths to feed, Geoff joined one of the predecessor firms that is now PWC and accepted the more conventional career as a management consultant. Among other things this took him to (pre-revolution) Iran for 2 years  - which was an experience to remember (and possibly forget). He subsequently joined BDO in a similar role but, as he was increasingly gravitating towards the evaluation of infrastructure and development projects, was seconded as team leader for the grants assessment division of the Department of the Environment. This gave him the taste for and experience to focus his advisory services on urban regeneration and since that time he has been involved with dozens of schemes promoted by both government agencies and private sector investors, generally in partnerships, in towns and cities of the UK and numerous locations overseas from North Borneo, Jordan, Turkey, Greece and the Caribbean. Currently Geoff is a full time employee of McBains, a technical services practice (architects, engineers, surveyors and project managers) and is responsible for risk assessment and project monitoring services on some of the UK’s largest regeneration schemes.

Having supported Dick (now Lord) Tavern’s Campaign for Social Democracy in the mid-1970s, Geoff was called on the convene and them become chair in Redbridge of the newly launched SDP. He has been an active member of the Liberal Democrats after the SDP merged with the Liberals in 1987, has contributed to national policy as a member of several working parties, has stood as a candidate in all local elections, a constituency candidate in the first Greater London Assembly elections of 2000 and a parliamentary candidate on 6 occasions, 3 of which, 1997, 2010 and 2019 were in Chingford and Woodford Green. He was until Covid and his move to St Neots closely involved in the Woodford community and in particular was chair of and an enthusiastic participant in the annual Woodford Festival, a festival of more than 100 visual and performing arts events over 10 days taking place in a variety of formal and informal venues ranging from drama centres, to churches, coffee bars and back gardens.  

 

On being a “Bloody Nuisance”

This by-election is unusual, not for the reason it is being called or because elections for all seats on HDC are scheduled to take place next May. It is unusual because during the coming 10 months  critical decisions will have to be made on the substance of the as yet undefined St Neots town centre regeneration scheme and how the allocated regeneration funds are going to be spent. Those decisions are going to the change the character of St Neots and, ultimately, will affect the lives of all its residents for the foreseeable future.

When proposals are eventually presented this ward, indeed this town, needs a representative to assess the risks, ask key questions on priorities, designs and costs, evaluate and constructively challenge the responses and ensure this unique opportunity is not wasted. This is what I have been doing professionally for the past 30 or more years and I believe I have the experience and expertise to do so effectively on your behalf. I have a proud reputation of being a “bloody nuisance” until such time as I am satisfied by answers.

As a Liberal Democrat, I am supported by our national and local party infrastructure, our County Councillors, who have recently taken control of  CCC, and our cohesive group of 7 councillors on HDC. So, we are in a good position to hold the current HDC administration to account and to help implement good projects that offer best value outcomes. 

You can find out more about me on https://whocanivotefor.co.uk


Cambridgeshire County Council budget decision for 2021-2022

The annual budget setting meeting on February 9th decided the budget changes and the council tax increase for the coming fiscal year 2021-2022.    The preparatory work had been going on in various committees for several weeks.

The majority group inevitably wins the final vote and the opposition groups propose their alternatives with little hope of getting them accepted. It is, however, an occasion for airing different views and for ‘grand-standing’ as the Committee chairs have the opportunity to report on what a great job they have been doing! There were many speeches of congratulation and thanks to CCC staff for their resilience in the Covid crisis.

The scope for radical new ideas is very limited: most of the CCC budget is already committed to essential statutory services such as adult social care, looked after children as well as highway maintenance.

This year’s budgetary process has been overshadowed, inevitably, by the Covid pandemic which has required much flexibility from council employees, with extra costs, partially offset by extra grants from central government.

In terms of the council tax increase, this will be 1.99% for general expenditure and 1% for Adult Social care so the County Council component of your tax bill for next year will be:

Housing Band Ratio         Amount £

A                   6/9            933.18

B                   7/9            1,088.71

C                   8/9            1,244.24

D                   9/9            1,399.77

E                  11/9            1,710.83

F                   13/9            2,021.89

G                  15/9            2,332.95

H                  18/9            2,799.54

For people living in the Band D benchmark house, the increase amounts to £40.59 per year, or £3.38 per month. County council tax accounts for 70% of our overall council tax bill, the rest being levied by Fire, Police, District Council and Parish Council.

The new investments for the coming year are an extra £4m. on Footpaths and Pavements, £170k on saving the B1050 (which is in danger of collapsing) and £1.090k on flood attenuation and biodiversity. Funding will need to be transferred from reserves to balance the budget.

The Liberal Democrat alternative for 21-22 (1.99% plus 1.5% for Adult Social Care) would have added a further monthly charge of £0.57p for a Band D household, above the Conservative proposal. The Lib Dem improvement schemes included £600k for Community Support Hubs, £200k for Green apprenticeships and small businesses, £40k for Junior Travel Ambassadors and capital investment in energy-saving measures, road improvement and in enhancing and increasing biodiversity, with a revenue implication of £51k. In addition, they proposed to save £105k by streamlining council committees and reducing the Special Responsibility Allowances for councillors.

The Labour alternative was for a 2% rise for Adult Social Care and 1% for general expenditure with a withdrawal of £13M from the Transformation Fund, and spending of £700k for the Innovate and Cultivate Fund, £4,393k for a Covid Recovery Fund, £100k for the Bikeability Scheme, £1m contingency fund for help with return to school and £300k extra investment in adult social care. Plus £7k to ensure that all CCC employees receive as a minimum the  ‘Real Living Wage’.  

Peter Downes, February11th 2021


Sapley dog poo bins

Huntingdon District councillor Mike Humphrey says: "I have been aware for sometime that there are ongoing problems with dog poo on the football pitches on Sapley Park with teams forced to walk the pitches to collect mess before matches.

"A cursory walk around the area (approx 4 acres) shows much of the problem is due to a single old green dog bin which is clearly insufficient.

"I have suggested to HDC that a few strategically sited bins would make a great deal of difference ie


1 Walk through from Sapley Park Rd
2 walk through from Ruston Close
3 by changing rooms on Sapley Rd
4by Sapley Rd lay by

"I realise there are many pressing matters but these matters impinge on public health, exercise and community wellbeing. So could we at lest push for these bins to be considered under 2021 budgets?"


Huntingdon Surgery cancelled

Lib Dem Market Square Surgery – cancelled for February2021

The Huntingdonshire Lib Dems normally hold a Saturday morning 'surgery' on the last Saturday of each month from 11.30 to 12.30 in the Market Place, Huntingdon. Typically, there are Town, District and County Councillors to help people with their enquiries.

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, we won’t be able to hold our surgery this month.  But if you have any enquiries we can help you with, please contact us via our Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/HuntsLibDems/

From left to right - Juliet Cole, Huntingdon Town Cllr; Nic Wells, St Ives Town Cllr; Mike Shellens Cambridgeshire County Cllr; and Mike Humphrey, Huntingdonshire District Cllr


Combating Inequality

The Liberal Democrats have announced two major policy initiatives designed to help with wealth inequality. One is to make available £10,000 over a person’s working life for training. The other is to pay for 35 hours of free child care per week for children once they reach nine months of age. Both are highly-targeted. Both are likely to make big differences.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have been making big promises, as if they have suddenly found the proverbial “magic money tree”. That would be rash at the best of times, and is doubly so when we are facing real strains over climate change, and self-inflicted ones if Brexit happens.

But there are real problems of wealth inequality in our society. These policies --- like pushing the Tories to agree to an increase in the basic tax allowance to £10,000 when we were in coalition --- are highly-targeted ones to reach real bite points.

For people with access to money, childcare is practical, and training can happen when needed. But for many others, having a child means a parent drops out of work, because they are not earning more than the cost of child care, and then struggle to re-enter work. This is a particularly serious concern because there’s a lot of evidence that people who spend their first five years in poverty are much more likely to face poverty for the rest of their life. Early intervention can make a huge difference.

In a world that is rapidly changing, people without the money to pay for further training easily find themselves trapped in dead-end jobs or out of work. This is a crippling inequality. A little money to help with the cost of training is a way out of this.

Both of these policies hold the promise of making a big difference. They are also likely to pay for themselves because they are likely to lead to people earning more (and being able to pay more tax). They are examples of policies targeted to make a big difference to people’s life chances, without imposing an unrealistic burden on public finance.


A Snapshot of support for the Liberal Democrats

Recently I was out in St Ives, making a video for use on Facebook. A total stranger interrupted to say how glad he was to see me out campaigning. He explained that he’s always voted Conservative, but is appalled at the way things have been going around Brexit, the lack of support from Mr Djanogly our local MP and the behaviour of the Conservative party recently. He said he would be voting Liberal Democrat, for the first time in his life.

Canvassing recently in St Neots, a grand total of two people told me they were planning to vote Conservative.

These are both signs of a huge change going on, as both the Conservatives and Labour leap to extremes. They’re a sign of growing support for Liberal Democrats as a credible alternative --- and the prospect of Huntingdon Constituency returning a Liberal Democrat MP in December.


Climate emergency: the BIG problem

Climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity.

Margaret Thatcher was one of the first major political leaders to recognise the seriousness of climate change. She’d had a scientific education, saw the science and tried to act on it. That was a long time ago.

Since then CO2 levels have gone up, we’ve had a succession of “hottest summers on record”, “unprecedented flooding” and major forest fires.

Urgent action is needed.

Read more

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