AN extraordinary meeting of Godmanchester Town Council was held last Thursday to receive details of an eagerly-awaited flood relief scheme.
The engineers’ reports were good and well received. Costings were then revealed, and the contributions from Cambridgeshire County, Huntingdonshire District and Godmanchester Town Councils were explained by a spokesman for CCC and the chairman of HDC.
The start date of work was close enough to require financial agreement within a week. Godmanchester councillors expressed reservations.
Then it was revealed by a Godmanchester councillor – to the astonishment of most of us present, I think – that the contributions asked for from Godmanchester Town Council exceeded its legal capability.
In effect, a much-required scheme was dead in the water.
In my view, to arrive at this situation at the 11th hour amounts to a case of maladministration that defies belief.
Public accountability surely requires that statutory requirements are subjected to examination before budget considerations and agreements are written. When I was a Huntingdonshire district councillor, we had a legal department – though I have seen many changes in civic administrations.
The formation of district councils was sold to ratepayers as an economy of scale panacea. Since then there have been two HDC headquarters buildings, a new works headquarters at Godmanchester railway station that is now a car park, and a new site at Stukeley and CCC’s two new library buildings in Princes Street over the same timescale.
The reasons given for these requirements were that the previous buildings were no longer fit for purpose. Many of us live in buildings much, much older.
But a new flood relief project that is a needed requirement, with CCC and HDC wanting Godmanchester to bear an excessive burden has me spitting feathers.
Over many years I have witnessed gravel extraction from the parish meadows, clay extraction for the A14 viaduct across the valley floor, and the workings then used by CCC and HDC for filling with domestic and business waste, which was an obvious benefit.
The Cow Lane sewage works, a joint venture of Huntingdon and Godmanchester Borough Councils in 1956, now also takes the Hemingfords’ discharges – all benefits to the district.
But, when Godmanchester faces a real identified threat, it seems we in Godmanchester are on our own.
The benefit from the disposal of waste levy is obviously an environmental scheme source that in Godmanchester’s case cries out for inclusion, but it seems that the desire of larger authorities to abdicate responsibility, as HDC did with public toilets, is growing nearly as fast as councillors’ expenses.