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Chinese visitors in July help CCC cement growth opportunities

Cllr Steve Count visits China

Cllr Steve Count visits China

A delegation of Chinese officials visit Cambridge this month (July) to follow up a successful trade visit made by Cllr Steve Count in May 2019.

Cllr Count used the trip to secure the opening of a suite of offices for use of Cambridgeshire businesses and entrepreneurs in Yangzhou City in Jiangsu province - a city soon to be connected by high speed rail link with the neighbouring global trade powerhouse Shanghai.

And next Wednesday (10 July), Cllr Count will use the opportunity of addressing a Clean Tech conference in Cambridge to make sure those working in this sector are aware of, and take full advantage of, this new opportunity.

For the last three years, Cllr Count and Chief Executive Gillian Beasley have been developing relationships with foreign investors interested in Cambridgeshire, including working closely with Martin Garrett of Cambridge Cleantech and Dr Chenguang Sun from UK Cambridge Education Centre to develop a strategic agreement which encourages local companies and investors to collaborate with Chinese companies and investors and vice versa – boosting economic opportunities for Cambridgeshire.

“Cambridgeshire has a global reputation as a hub for innovation and development, and many areas of the world are very keen to build stronger links with us. We already have good relationships with China through the very many business people who have completed their education here,” said Cllr Count. “This exciting opportunity I believe will result in even more lasting benefits for the people of Cambridgeshire – with the potential to open up new avenues for jobs and prosperity - and for partners in China, who are eager to invest in and benefit from our expertise” he said on his return.

Taking a commercial approach to our future

Cambridgeshire County Council’s second major commercial acquisition this year aims to protect jobs and enhance employment in the Wisbech area – while delivering an annual financial return of more than 10%.

And in a report, due to be discussed at the council’s General Purposes Committee on 16 July, Members will hear that the return on investment into the council’s wholly owned company This Land and other commercial acquisitions will top £10m by the end of this financial year.

The council has invested £6.984m in the 250 year lease of the Cromwell Leisure Park in Wisbech – which includes a cinema and three associated commercial units. The annual rental income from all four units will provide a healthy return to support essential services - enough in fact to employ 15 social workers or pay for 24 care home placements for older people a year.

Maximising our investment portfolio is all part of our strategy to support the council’s objectives - to raise a return for taxpayers and help to safeguard the future of essential services for people across the county.  The investment in the Leisure Park comes a few months after the council acquired Brunswick House in Cambridge – which provides purpose built student accommodation for Anglia Ruskin University.

While the council appreciates investing in commercial acquisitions does contain risks, we believe we are taking a balanced approach by ensuring we create a diverse stock of investments and have a rigorous evaluation process. We would urge all Cambridgeshire MPs to consider the way the council is using its investment potential to provide an income stream to support frontline services, when involved in discussions around proposed limitations on council investments. 

MPs urged to push for continued funding

Support from Cambridgeshire MPs helped the County Council to draw down around £13m in additional grants last autumn focused on providing services specifically for vulnerable adults or for essential highway maintenance.

Your continued pressure to help maximise any additional funding sources is even more critical this year, after delays have been confirmed in announcing the results of the Government’s Fair Funding Review, the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Adult Social Care green paper – all of which have the potential to impact on the council’s ability to provide essential services .  

The Local Government Association, meeting at its annual conference in Bournemouth this week, warned that councils are “completely in the dark” over how much money they will get from central government next year, and has called for "urgent guarantees" they will get enough to provide key services like child protection and social care.

Outgoing LGA Chair Lord Porter said at the very least, ministers must confirm the continuation of key funding programmes such as the Better Care Fund, and called on councils to be able to raise council taxes without the need for local referenda.

As the fastest growing county in the UK, but the sixth worst funded county council,  Cambridgeshire County Council made highly effective use of a range of one off or time limited funding including;

  • Better Care Fund
  • Special care support
  • DfT additional road maintenance funding (potholes)
  • DfT Challenge fund monies for drought damaged roads
  • ‘Hancock’ funding for adult social care
  • Continued flexibilities around council tax including the adult social care precept that is due to finish in 2020.

Cambridgeshire County Council needs the continued support of its MPs in pushing for these funding sources to continue while it awaits the outcome of the funding review which, it is hoped, will put Cambridgeshire on a fairer funding footing. If Cambridgeshire was funded even at the same rate as the average shire county, it would be receiving £19m additional funding each year.

Cambridgeshire County Council committed to the future of libraries

We are set to progress our Future Libraries project in partnership with global social enterprise Civic, which offers a unique opportunity for the County Council to help boldly re-imagine and re-design the UK’s 3,000 libraries, piloted right from the heart of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

As part of this work, five pilot libraries have been selected because, despite their geographical proximity, they are home to diverse communities and libraries, and reflect the five emerging models.

They are:

  • Anchor to the High Street: Peterborough Central Library and Wisbech Library
  • Centre for Rural Life: Thorney Library in Peterborough and Soham Library
  • (Re)Animating Communities: Northstowe (new build)
  • Hub for the Region: Cambridge Central Library
  • Pop-Up for Reviving Community Assets: Brampton Library Access Point

Read more about this bold and exciting development

More on Cambridgeshire’s recent work to develop libraries:

  • Plans in place for a remodelled Soham Library have been unveiled
  • New look Milton Road Library re-opens for the public. The new look facility is very different to the traditional model of a standalone library and not only demonstrates the council’s continued support of library services, but the work also included the provision of a number of new flats. This enables the council to provide some needed housing in the area, at the same time as delivering an income stream to support essential services. 

Funding for SEND – raising our issues with the Department for Education

Cambridgeshire County Council has been working closely with our schools and settings around the challenges we face with a growing deficit of high needs funding. In any solution it is important to us all that whatever action we consider, we must reduce impact upon children and their life chances.

Our position is driven by an increased number of pupils requiring additional support, the flip side of Cambridgeshire being one of the most rapidly growing areas in the country.

In Cambridgeshire, we were a relatively low statementing authority, yet since the 2015 reforms we have seen a 35% increase (from 3,099 to 4,198 plans in January 2019). We have seen growth in the number and complexity across all age ranges, but the most significantly in post-19 pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans. Although the Government’s intention was that EHCPs would be maintained for young people who were post-19 in only exceptional circumstances, this has not been our experience. The number of EHCPs maintained for the 20 to 25 year old age bracket has increased by 45% in the past year.

Our schools are amongst the lowest funded in the country (currently ranked 142nd out of 149 local authorities). Our ability to manage the total repayment of the High Needs deficit is impossible in light of the increasing numbers of children becoming eligible for SEND services across the county.

Our plan to reduce this deficit, shared this week with the DfE, is built upon a realistic and achievable delivery option. We are confident that our strategies will have an impact but it is not clear to what extent as we address continued expected growth. Without significant additional funding or revision to the legislation brought in with the reforms, the prospect of achieving financial balance is bleak.

A letter is being drafted for each MP looking at the impact of financial pressures on schools in constituency areas highlighting direct examples - after which we would be glad to set up a meeting for further discussion on the subject.

Cambridgeshire Schools funding highlighted

Councillor Simon Bywater and Cambridgeshire head teachers discussed the school funding crisis as top story on BBC Sunday Politics East at the end of June.

Cambridgeshire is one of the lowest funded counties despite being the fastest growing. The impact of reduced funding is definitely being felt.

Watch back the full episode online.

  • Planning permission has been granted for a new primary school for St Neots set to open in September 2020.

Funding aims to prevent knife crime

Cambridgeshire County Council has worked with the Police and Crime Commissioner to secure £400k of Home Office funding to focus on preventing knife crime.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Youth Offending Service worked in partnership with Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite to put in a bid after the Home Office announced a £22m funding stream available from its Early Intervention Youth Fund over 12 months for Police and Crime Commissioners across the country.

The money will be used in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to fund a team of specialist workers to support young people with complex needs who are at significant risk of criminal exploitation and youth violence.

"Unfortunately the number of young people being targeted and exploited by organised crime groups across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is growing" said Simon Bywater, Chair of the Council’s Children’s and Young People Committee. "This funding offers us an opportunity to intervene with high risk young people using an intensive trauma violence reduction approach."

Future Parks

Cambridgeshire County Council has been chosen as one of eight organisations out of 80 nominations to receive funding to help protect the future of Cambridgeshire’s and Peterborough’s parks.

We received £700,000 from the Future Parks scheme as the lead partner in collaboration with all our district and city council colleagues, charities and wildlife organisations, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Trust. The aim is to use the money to provide a sustainable and bright future for the county’s parks and green spaces.

Campaign to attract children's social workers

We have launched a campaign to encourage more children's social workers to consider working for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

It forms part of the wider We Love Social Workers recruitment drive launched earlier this year which has been successful in recruiting more than 30 social workers.

The hard-hitting campaign is based on in-depth discussions with our social workers who shared their experiences of working for Cambridgeshire County Council and what attracted them to work as a children's social worker.

For more information about social work in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, please visit www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/welovesocialworkers

Image for children's social worker campaign. To most people 'challenge' means 'problem'. In children's social care, it really does mean 'opportunity'.
Image for children's social worker campaign. Try to tell yourself that turning her life around isn't the most important thing you could do with yours.

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