Sam Davies

Uncovering system level problems (Your Councillor, week 9)

A very short message this week, as I’m sure many of you will have your attention elsewhere this evening!

I often post about how things could be improved at a system level – for example, how scrutiny committee could work better, or how the impact of central government financing on local council decision making. But of course that’s only one part of a councillor’s role. The other is what’s known as ‘casework’ – when a resident, or group of residents, approaches a councillor to help with a particular problem they’re experiencing.

Confidentiality concerns obviously mean that I won’t be talking about specific cases here, but cumulatively a cluster of cases with shared characteristics may highlight a wider system level problem.

A repeated theme at the moment is how the multi-tier ownership and management of some of our newer residential estates is providing scope for endless denial of responsibility. Head landlord, leaseholder (often overseas), sub-let tenant, managing agents, letting agents and online accommodation marketplaces like AirBnB, all pass the buck, with other residents left to pick up the pieces.

Distressingly, on occasions the police need to become involved too.

This is complicated stuff, yet the increasingly financialised nature of the housing market in Cambridge means that these problems are intensifying. I’m sure I’m not the only councillor picking up the consequences of this, and I’m still exploring what levers might exist for addressing it, as well as trying to provide immediate help to the individuals caught in the middle.

But in the meantime, have a very enjoyable night – and whether it ends in celebration or commiseration, spare a thought for your neighbours!

Sam Davies

1 comment

  • I am aware that the very well equipped play area on the Hill Estate is prone to flood. This is not surprising as Hill realised at the first stage of planning this estate that there was a water flood problem so designed and constructed various soak-away areas. This was one of them. When I first saw children’s play equipment being placed there some while after the estate had opened, I stormed into Hill’s on-site office and asked if they had a desire to drown children! The answer that they gave me was that the council had demanded that this site was to be a play area…. this was certainly NOT shown as such on the well detailed model to show the site when I attended some of the early meetings of local residents with the Hill team. The mini play items were then later added to the intricate model map. I could not understand why a SECOND play area was being added when there was another a stone’s throw away and on a higher level with no regular flooding. It was extremely foolish for this soak away area to ever have been considered for play, it was never designed as such. Now I see that the residents are demanding better conditions there from Hill. Joined up planning? I think not.