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MPs invited to back an urgent call for SEND policy changes

Council Leader Steve Count has written personally to all Cambridgeshire MPs to ask them to support the findings of a recent Local Government Association (LGA) report into funding for SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) – which shows the system is at a tipping point due to the way the existing policy works, leading to money being diverted from other under pressure areas.

He has invited all MPs to support the council and push for urgent changes.

In Cambridgeshire, Steve has shown the inherent problems with the policy are exacerbated by historic underfunding of the county's schools.

Responses to the LGA survey, from 93 local authorities to its report, showed that the total annual gap between their high needs block allocations and their high needs expenditure rose from £123 million in 2015-16 to a projected £287 million by the end of 2018-19.

In Cambridgeshire, the approximate gap in 2015-16 was £1.3m, increasing to a current forecast of more than £8m in 2018-19.

FairDeal4Cambs - concerns raised about outdated data use

Linked to the historic underfunding of education in Cambridgeshire, the County Council continues to request the intervention of its MPs in the current funding formula review, which Government has indicated will report in the spring.

While we have been very grateful that MPs supported our ultimately successful bid for the removal of the plan which would have put the county into negative RSG, if our area was to receive even the shire county average funding of £19m. Overturning inequality in the funding formula is way overdue.

Our main concern about the review currently is an intransigence regarding using outdated ONS figures – which if uncorrected could penalise our county by up to 10%.

This is a difficult pill to swallow for pro-growth areas, and means we would be financially forced to either turn off growth or challenge our settlement.

The County Council calls for all of our MPs to pick this issue up at the very highest level that they are able to.

Steve Cox appointed to new joint role

Steve Cox has been appointed by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, as Executive Director for Place and Economy - leading one of the only joint services in the UK concentrated on developing both a City unitary and County Council area, and completing a wholly joined up management team under Chief Executive Gillian Beasley.

Steve is currently Corporate Director, Place at Thurrock Council. His previous roles have included a shared service role as Director of Growth for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, a range of executive director roles at the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and roles delivering major new development at Hertfordshire County Council. Steve takes up his new role from 3 June 2019.

Option A is councillors' preferred East West Rail route

Cambridgeshire Members have agreed their preferred option for the new East West Rail link as route A via Bedford South, Sandy and Bassingbourn, agreeing the central section should enter Cambridge from the south. The route which they believe will deliver the shortest journey at the most efficient price

The decision was made in response to the EWR (East West Rail) Company consultation on the central section of the route between Bedford and Cambridge.

Members also confirmed the vital importance of the early delivery of Cambridge South station and four tracking between Cambridge Station and the Shepreth Branch junction.

Cllr Ian Bates, chair of the Council’s Economy and Environment Committee said: “We have looked at the proposals from a transport and highway view, and we’ll work with East West Rail Company and local authority partners, to consider what growth might be appropriate along any of the route options.”

Spring Statement funding supports north east development

(Image: Cambridge City Council)

The Chancellor announced additional funding for our area as part of his Spring Statement last week - including an additional £227m to deliver Cambridge Northern Fringe and move the Anglian Water water treatment works off Cowley Road to make space for a new north east fringe development.

This level of funding was only available for Combined Authorities to bid for and is extra and new money over the original £170m to deliver housing.

The new quarter could provide more than 5,000 homes, create in the region of 7,000 jobs and also offer considerable retail, amenity and community space – along with 20 acres of open space.

The development of the Cambridge Northern Fringe east site is an important priority in the Combined Authorities mission to increase housing delivery and foster growth.

Mayor James Palmer paid tribute to the work of all the partners involved in putting together a compelling scheme which has attracted this additional government investment.

Second chance for residents to have their say on minerals and waste planning

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough residents have a second chance to have their say on a new Joint Minerals and Waste Plan – as a new plan is being produced jointly with Peterborough City Council and will look ahead to 2036.

A first round of consultation took place last year to gather views on what the plan should include and also asked for landowners to come forward with suggested sites. Since then work has been underway on a further draft of the plan, which now includes proposals to allocate a number of sites at locations where mineral supplies can support development as well as improve the local biodiversity.

No waste sites are being proposed, as most waste management needs can be met.

The plan sets out a range of planning policies which will be used to decide planning applications for mineral and waste management development over the plan period. It will also provide guidance for new developments.

The consultation runs between 15 March and 25 April 2019.

A snapshot of health outcomes across Cambridgeshire

Public Heath England (PHE) has released its quarterly data update for the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF). Cambridgeshire is generally a healthy place to live and has a higher than average life expectancy. The county is assessed as better than the national average for many indicators and this latest update shows Cambridgeshire is now assessed as better than England for emergency hospital admissions due to falls (65-79yrs), newborn hearing screening coverage, HPV vaccination coverage (one dose), and hip fractures in people aged 65 and over.

There are several PHOF indicators for which Cambridgeshire is assessed as a level that is worse than England. Furthermore, some indicators show variation across the districts of the county, often linked to levels of deprivation.

Further information on what the PHOF shows for Cambridgeshire can be found on the health and wellbeing pages on Cambridgeshire Insight. The latest version of the PHE Fingertips PHOF Data Tool is available at www.phoutcomes.info and provides a number of ways of viewing and mapping the data.

  • A dedicated and targeted focus on smoking by Cambridgeshire County Council has led to a significant drop in smokers in Fenland, reducing the number of adult smokers from 26.4% in 2015 down to 16.3% in 2017 - a trend we hope continues.
  • But we can't stop here, as there are still an estimated 74,000 smokers in Cambridgeshire and between 2015 and 2017, more than 2,400 people died in the county from smoking related illnesses.
  • A new targeted anti-smoking campaign 'Missing Moments', inspired by the experiences of the county's Chair of the Public Health Committee Cllr Peter Hudson, was launched by the County Council on national Non-Smoking Day (13 March) and you can see all the details here.

Ofsted update

Recent ambitious changes which aim to transform our support for vulnerable children in Cambridgeshire were highlighted during a recent Ofsted inspection.

Ofsted undertook the unannounced two week inspection of our children’s services in January 2019. The report, which was published in February, found that while overall children’s services in Cambridgeshire require improvement to be good, we had already put in place a package of measures through the Change for Children programme, introduced last November, to swiftly address those areas where we knew improvements were needed.

In one area which was highlighted as a key focus, Ofsted made particular note of the work Cambridgeshire was doing with services for care leavers.

The percentage of Cambridgeshire care leavers in suitable accommodation in January 2019 was 97% – compared to a national average of 85%. National figures for percentage of care leavers in touch with the service was 89% and our rate was 94% for January 2019.

Our rate of care leavers in education, employment or training was 63% for January 2019 compared to national average of 55%. These and other performance indicators have improved since November when Change for Children came in, for example the percentage of care leavers we have had contact with has increased from 56% in November to 72% in January.

In giving judgement the inspectors said: "Since the last inspection (2014), changes of senior leadership, restructuring of services, rising demand and challenges in recruiting enough social workers have had a negative impact on how well and how quickly children and their families receive help and support. Leaders have recognised this and have taken a series of well-considered actions, backed by financial investment, which have begun to improve the quality and impact of work with children, young people and their families."

  • Cambridgeshire County Council launched an ambitious new recruitment campaign 'We love social workers' aimed at experienced social workers at the beginning of the year which aims to address the national issue of social work shortage by highlighting the support available to social workers moving to the county and improving the recruitment process.

Taking action on plastic

Full Council on 19 March 2019 agreed a Plastics Strategy – an action resulting from the motion passed on 15 May 2018 to reduce the Council’s use of single-use plastic.

The motion included eight action areas covering: the Council’s internal plastic usage and recycling provision; public engagement to enable Cambridgeshire residents to take action on plastic waste; and working to improve the ease and consistency of plastic waste collection.

The strategy (item 7, page 26) covers four key themes:

  • Getting our own house in order - actions to address the Council's internal use of single-use plastic.
  • Working with suppliers and contractors - as a Council, we can influence the supply chain provision of goods and services through setting standards on plastics via procurement.
  • Helping raise awareness across Cambridgeshire - the Council is a member of various partnerships, putting us in a unique position to use these relationships to influence and encourage action on plastic waste.
  • Enabling Cambridgeshire to take action - as a waste disposal authority, the Council works closely with waste collection authorities to enable households to manage their waste sustainably.

Council Leader Steve Count spoke to some of the 400 students striking for climate change who gathered at Shire Hall last Friday (15 March) to listen to their concerns and update them on the work the County Council is doing in this area – including the launch of the Plastics Strategy. He plans to continue the dialogue with these young people in the coming months.

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