FairDeal4Cambs update - a positive meeting with the Under Secretary of State

Following our meeting with Cambridgeshire MPs on 21 March 2018, Cllr Steve Count, Gillian Beasley, and Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer Chris Malyon met with Rt Hon Rishi Sunak, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to discuss the background to our Fair Funding campaign – and our recent submission to the government’s Funding Formula consultation.

The Minister brought with him three of his officials who are specifically working on the funding formula, which showed how seriously he took the meeting – and he had clearly read and absorbed all of our submission and was keen to discuss it with us.

He was particularly interested in the dichotomy of Cambridgeshire missing out on rural sparsity funding, because of the impact of Cambridge City on the county, which particularly disadvantages large parts of our county. As an MP representing a rural shire constituency himself (Richmond in North Yorkshire), he was acutely aware of the specific needs of the rural agenda.

We impressed upon him how determined we are in Cambridgeshire to contribute to the growth agenda, but how our current funding formula is holding us back.

Developments to Cambridgeshire's Child and Family Centres

Our new approach to supporting Cambridgeshire families launches from April 2018. The redesigned Child and Family Centres will better meet the needs of our growing and rural county, with activities and events taking place in a range of new locations across the county, and an extended focus on families with children of all ages.

Activities will be run from new communities at Northstowe and Clay Farm for the first time, as well as outreach in other new locations across the county. Adaptions have been approved to transform a youth centre at Scaldgate in Whittlesey into a new ‘Child and Family Zone’, and a new space for families with children of all ages is planned for Sawtry. Centres will create better links with and provide a base for other services including adult learning, health visiting, midwifery and social care.

Buildings that will no longer be operating as Children’s Centres will be used to boost childcare provision with up to 325 new places provided for under 5s. Changes will also allow much-needed school expansions to take place in Sawtry and Whittlesey.

Frontline staff and managers are now working in new district-based teams and any remaining vacancies have been advertised.

Work on Ely Southern Bypass steams ahead with first phases of construction complete

Ely Southern Bypass - timelapse of project so far

The project to build the Southern Bypass around Ely has now passed several major milestones.  

Ely Southern Bypass will provide a huge boost for the area and will ease congestion in and around Ely by providing a new link between Stuntney Causeway and Angel Drove, reducing journey times by 56%.

The new route will remove the need for heavy goods vehicles to use the railway level crossing – currently closed for 35 mins in every hour, a time set to increase as more trains use the line - and reduce collisions at the low railway bridge.

Construction is progressing well, with the eastern, central and western embankments built. The abutments, which is where the bridge starts and ends, and the central pier over the railway are also complete.

The steel beams, weighing up to 350 tonnes each, which form the bridge deck have been lifted into place. The V-piers that support the viaduct over the River Great Ouse are complete. We expect the project to be completed in October.

Appreciating how important the scheme is to alleviate the misery felt by many residents in the area, working with partners the County Council found the initial funding to develop the much-needed scheme as early as possible to get the work underway. The council had feared if we hadn’t committed to deliver the project when we did, the funding could have been lost and at best, the bypass would have been delayed a further 12-18 months.

Working under tricky conditions such as building on a floodplain and near a national heritage site has meant costs have increased by £13 million to an estimated £49m, which we’re working with our contractor Volker Fitzpatrick to minimise.

This project has been funded by Cambridgeshire County Council, East Cambs District Council, Network Rail and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership grant - £22m Growth Deal including £16m from Department for Transport.

Funding for road repairs welcome - but more is needed

We were delighted with the announcement of an additional £1.6m from Department for Transport, to tackle road repairs in Cambridgeshire which will be added to the £3m we’ve already committed to spend on pothole repairs and resurfacing roads. However, as Cambridgeshire MPs already understand, this will not be enough. Pot hole funding is just surface dressing of a deep rooted structural funding issue. We need funding that mirrors actual road conditions, rather than a pro rata slice. Roads will get worse, even though we are top rated in Eastern region for public satisfaction with our highways.

  • Number of claims for vehicles damaged on Cambridgeshire roads has fallen by 50% since 2014/15. The average payout is £100.

Focused Ofsted inspection

On Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 March 2018, two Ofsted inspectors, Mandy Nightingale and Margaret Burke were on-site alongside a ‘shadow’, Jo Kavanagh, who is an Assistant Director from Lincolnshire County Council. The inspectors met with a number of our People and Communities staff and carried out a focused inspection of services supporting children in need, those subject to a child protection plan, while also looking at how we protect disabled children.

We will receive a pre-publication letter on Thursday 5 April 2018, under embargo, with the letter then published on the Ofsted website on Monday 9 April 2018.

CCC tells Minister we 'think libraries first'

Michael Ellis MP, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, meets Cllr Steve Count at Cambridge Central Library.

Michael Ellis MP, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, came to Cambridge in March 2018 and took the opportunity during his visit to discover Cambridge Central Library and meet councillors and officers. After touring the library with Ana Silva and meeting staff and library customers, the Minister attended a round-table discussion with Cllr Steve Count, Cllr Mathew Shuter and Cllr Paul Raynes along with Adrian Chapman (Service Director for Community and Safety), Christine May (Service Director for Infrastructure Management and Operations) and Sue Wills (Library Service Manager).

The discussion was very positive and focused on the Council’s transformation vision and investment plans for Cambridgeshire Libraries. Key topics included the Soham pilot, income generation and commissioning initiatives, partnerships (particularly working with the British Library), culture – our Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation status, the British Film Institute Mediatheque, the Cambridge Culture card initiative and our plans for future growth.

The Minister was particularly impressed by how the Council has embraced the ‘Think Libraries First’ mantra and adopted libraries to be the front door of the Council, recognising the value of the service as an asset to the whole system and saving money for other services through early help and prevention activity.

Unlike neighbouring areas, Cambridgeshire doesn’t have plans to shut any of its 33 libraries and in fact is planning to open another three in the coming years.

£9.5 million improvement into mobile and digital connectivity planned

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority agreed last week to invest up to £5.5m to ensure the county has outstanding digital connectivity - including tackling poor mobile phone coverage.

This will be added to £4m in recently announced government funding, as we aim to make Cambridgeshire the best connected county in the UK by 2022.

The plans are part of a bold vision shared by all Combined Authority Members to ensure that as a leading digital county, Cambridgeshire, including the city of Peterborough, has the fixed and mobile connectivity needed to underpin the region’s growth and prosperity – now and in the future.

Internet access is now seen as the ‘fourth utility’ which underpins almost all aspects of modern life. Superfast broadband is now available to over 96% of homes and businesses in the county with more to come, but poor mobile coverage is below the England average in all areas except the main cities.

The funding will be used to extend the successful Connecting Cambridgeshire digital programme, which has been led by Cambridgeshire County Council and with Peterborough City Council, supported through a combination of public funding and private sector investment.

Connecting Cambridgeshire has recently been allocated up to £4million additional Government funding to help to bring full fibre broadband connectivity - capable of gigabit speeds of over 1000Mbps – to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough over the next four years.

Date for your diary

Following on from the successful meeting with Cambridgeshire MPs on 21 March 2018 after Prime Minister's Questions, Cllr Steve Count and Chief Executive Gillian Beasley will be hosting the next update meeting on:

  • Wednesday 20 June 2018 (House of Commons venue to be confirmed)

Reminders will be sent nearer the time. For further information, please contact our Executive Officer George Hakes by email at [email protected]

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