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Benchmarking Cambridgeshire's financial health

Cambridgeshire County Council has been taking a forensic look at the recent Best Value report into Northamptonshire County Council to consider the conclusions drawn and as we begin to benchmark our council’s financial health.

We’ve considered our current strengths, which include:

  • Adequate but not over generous levels of reserves (3% of our overall budget) which we don't use to plug holes in our budget without replacing them
  • Our record on savings delivery which are running at around 85%
  • The existence  of a 'plan b' when savings we look for aren't delivered - through our pipeline approach
  • Our refusal to countenance a 'fire sale' of our assets

While we continue to press government for a fairer funding formula, highlighting that Cambridgeshire County Council – the fastest growing county in the country which also receives the third lowest level of revenue support grant of any shire county - we don’t seek to make this an excuse for not taking forward our own initiatives to improve our situation. 

These innovative approaches include looking for investment opportunities, such as the creation of This Land – our arm-length housing company, investing in solar energy projects like the Soham Solar Farm and initiatives at our park and ride sites. We are also looking outside the county and the UK to pilot approaches to supporting older and more vulnerable residents at a very local level through our Neighbourhood Cares programme, which is based on the Dutch Buurtzorg approach.

Currently the senior management team are working through the CIPFA top ten tips for building financial resilience to rate Cambridgeshire County Council’s performance against each of them.


Bus subsidies

We are working closely with the Combined Authority, who now have overall responsibility for buses and public transport, to consider the issue of bus subsidies and what action can be taken when commercial bus routes are under threat for economic reasons and where they provide a life line to rural communities. We recognise how important these services are for local communities and as examples of our commitment, have recently agreed to fund the service 46 from Wisbech and services 30 and 35 from Chatteris. Buses are now the responsibility of the Combined Authority and the Mayor, so the County Council must therefore consider how best to use its finite resources which are vitally needed for services delivered to vulnerable people.

Getting people home from hospital

Helping people leave hospital when they are ready to go home is a high priority for all health and social care partners across Cambridgeshire. There are many different reasons why people are delayed leaving hospital, often categorised as being for either ‘health’ or ‘social care’ reasons.

Although April to August 2017 saw a challenging rise in delays in transfers of care (DTOC), more recently there has a been significant reduction in the number of delays caused by social care issues across Cambridgeshire. Since August 2017, five of the following six months have seen a month on month reduction in lost bed days in hospitals.

However, DTOC still represents a considerable challenge, with the local system still under significant pressure, this is due to a range of issues, but is particularly linked to an increase in admissions to hospital, of people aged 80+. Between April to August 2017 admissions for this age group increased by 8% compared to the previous year.

To meet the challenges around DTOC, both the NHS and the County Council have embarked on a programme of improvement. This has included coordinated action to improve operational and commissioning approaches and targeted investment through the Sustainability and Transformation Plan and the Better Care Fund (including the IBCF). Through the NHS led Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) there is a commitment to increase the number of Intermediate Care Workers employed by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust. The County Council, too, has committed to investing £1 million to expand its current reablement workforce who help people leaving hospital become independent in their own homes again, which also helps meet the shortfall in home care. Additionally, other initiatives are in place to support home care development. These include:

  • The Neighbourhood Cares Pilot currently being piloted in Soham and St Ives
  • The introduction of a dynamic purchasing system for home care, resulting in a 50% increase in the number of home care providers operating in Cambridgeshire
  • The expansion of the County Council's Brokerage to become a single purchasing unit - for home care and care homes - for the County Council and all NHS organisations in Cambridgeshire

Activity to recruit new reablement support workers has seen 19 new workers join the CCC team since the beginning of March. A major multimedia recruitment campaign began in May.

Adult Social Care - CCN update and invite

While we eagerly await this summer's social care green paper from the Department of Health and Social Care, we know as a large shire county that we face an increasing pressure in providing adult care which keep our residents living safe, independent and dignified lives.

It is estimated by the County Council’s Network that counties will face a gap of £950m in adult social care in 2020-21, and research from LaingBuisson has found that there is a £670m funding gap in the county adult social care provider market. At the same time shire counties will see a 43% increase in residents aged over 85 over the next ten years, compared to a 33% rise for London.

For Cambridgeshire, this equates to:

  • A gap in the Council's adult social care funding of £49m by 2020/21
  • Expected requests by care providers for fee uplifts of at least £15m over the same period
  • A 47% increase in residents over 85 in the next ten years

In light of these pressures, and the incoming green paper, the County All Party Parliamentary Group is hosting a briefing for county MPs on 4 June from 17.00 – 18.00 in Committee Room 19.

This meeting will provide a chance to hear about the pressures faced by county councils and ask questions about what they are looking for from the Social Care Green Paper.

If you would like to attend, or send a member of your team, the County Council’s Network request you email [email protected]

View latest news from the CCN

Council leader welcomes move to bring global investors to Cambridgeshire

International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox is looking to find investors willing to pump up to £2.5 billion into bringing 10,000-12,000 homes to the area.

The investment would also use the private sector to improve infrastructure including the Wisbech-Cambridge rail link and A47 upgrades.

Mayor James Palmer provided £6.5 million last year to test viability and feasibility.

Now Dr Fox will promote the garden town as one of three projects from across the East of England that he feels will attract global investors.

“This is excellent news for Cambridgeshire – and builds on the work we and Mayor James Palmer have done locally, particularly on the Wisbech 2020 Vision” said Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. “We are delighted that great potential in our area has been recognised at a national level with two schemes promoted in this way. We will be doing all we can to make sure we are ready to benefit from a potential £3billion of overseas investment in Wisbech and Ely.”

The idea of a ‘Wisbech Garden Town’ was proposed in 2016, four years on from the launch of the Wisbech 2020 Vision.

Record road repairs pave the way for a smoother summer

The county’s roads have been suffering since the Beast from the East paid a visit and, with a record number of potholes being reported, the Council’s Highways team have pulled out all the stops to fix them in equally record times.

Fixing the roads is a number one priority for Cambridgeshire County Council and more local people than ever are using our online reporting tool - which not only gives them vital information, but allows people to keep an eye on progress.

The public have reported 8,477 potholes using the online system since 1 January 2018, a massive 50% more than were reported in the whole of last year. In addition to this, Cambridgeshire Highways Inspectors are out on the roads everyday, identifying more potholes as part of a regular maintenance programme. This means that during the same period the Council have already fixed a remarkable 15,040 potholes across the county.

With eleven dedicated crews on the ground, plus the dragon patcher, more than 1,300 potholes are currently being filled every week, more than the Council has ever done before.

With improving weather, and two more dragon patchers due to join the team, the pothole crews hope to soon be ahead of the game. This year, along with additional government funding, the Council has £6.3m to repair potholes and keep traffic moving safely around the county.

Date for your diary

Following on from the 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]

News in brief

  • Full Council agreed the business case for the proposed location of the Council's new 'Civic Hub' building to be at Alconbury when it met on 15 May 2018. This marks the start of a move to a 'hub and spoke' model as the Council  seeks to move its services ever closer to the communities it serves and work in a more joined up way with our partners. Plans are in progress for the new slimmed down headquarters to only house approximately 350 of our 5,300 employees. Work now begins to market the Shire Hall complex, although there are no plans to leave until 2020.
  • Work has started assessing the feasibility for smart energy grids on Trumpington and Babraham Park and Ride sites on the edge of Cambridge. The projects will include solar panels installed on carports which generate green electricity. 
  • The Cambridgeshire Retrofit Programme continues to do well with 40 schools across the county and seven corporate sites having undertaken a whole site energy efficient retrofit project. This equates to a total investment of £8.7m and an average of 16% energy savings.
  • Kings Dyke crossing - Kier, the appointed contractor,  is currently working on the detailed design. Progress has been slower than expected owing to delays in agreeing access to land for surveys and ground investigation which has limited the design that can be undertaken.. However, access has now been agreed and surveys and investigation are underway.
  • Most child health indicators for Cambridgeshire are similar to or better than the national average, according to the annual updates of information from Public Health England. But there are some notable exceptions. More young people aged 10-24 are admitted to hospital as a result of self-harm than the national average, but this has improved from 763 admissions in 2015/16 to 606 admissions in 2016/17.
  • Conservative council at risk of bankruptcy calls for funding system fix - Somerset County Council is to close two thirds of Sure Start Children's Centres and half of libraries - read the news article
  • Grenfell Tower fire - MPs attack Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council for failure to spend £270m reserves on housing - read the news article

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