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Fairdeal4Cambs - business rate retention pilot

Cambridgeshire County Council submitted its bid for a business rate retention pilot for the area in 2019/20 on 25 September 2018.

We were unsuccessful in our attempts to achieve a pilot for this year, which has cost local authorities in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in the region of £20m – and MPs agreed earlier in September that they would do what they could to lobby for it.

On 25 September 2018, we sent a template letter to all MPs – either to send to MHCLG directly or as a source of information to use as a direct lobbying tool.

Without a successful BRR pilot scheme being granted by Government, it is almost inevitable there will be severe consequences in terms of local service delivery for Cambridgeshire.

Spending review and fair funding formula

Increased demand for services this year has seen Cambridgeshire County Council’s current budget gap leap to £5.2 million – with a predicted additional £20.7m to find in 2019/20.

A benchmarking report by Grant Thornton in January 2018 showed that Cambridgeshire County Council was already using funding we do have efficiently, and work by Cap Gemini has demonstrated that although our spend per head on Adult Social Care is one of the lowest in the country we maintain good outcomes.

However, this is not a sustainable position and we expect to be at the bottom of the national table for money available to spend on Adult Social Care in 19/20 – and so there is no doubt that outcomes for some of our most vulnerable citizens will suffer if the future funding issue is not addressed.

We are asking all Cambridgeshire MPs to continue to support us by lobbying as part of the national consultation on the government’s funding formula highlighting:

  • Government funding (RSG) to Cambridgeshire County Council has fallen by £50m in the past four years, from £53m a year in 2014/15 to just £3m this year
  • This sum is set to go negative next year - meaning Cambridgeshire will have to send £7m of Cambridgeshire taxpayers' money back to government to spend elsewhere in the UK
  • Cambridgeshire was the only Combined Authority area last year not to be given a business rate retention pilot project - costing the council an estimated £8m (see story above)

You can listen to recent coverage on the start of the council’s budget setting process at 1 hr 17 mins on https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p06j4d9v

As part of plans to make the additional in year savings, the county council announced last week that it would be implementing its ability to impose a period of three days' unpaid leave for staff between Christmas and the New Year, for all but the most essential services – an element agreed with trade unions for staff contracts since 2014.   Staff earning less than £25k per year will be exempt from this, but will need to take the three days from their annual leave allowance. The move will save the council £900k, the equivalent to losing up to 40 full time posts.

Cambridgeshire County Council continues to invest to improve services

Cambridgeshire County Council has agreed to invest up to £3m to improve and transform its service to older people, aimed at helping them earlier, closer to home, and with low level intervention that helps improve their independence and support carers.

  • The council has agreed that up to £3m will be invested in the Adult Social Care transformation programme - the Adults Positive Challenge. The £3m will be available on a business case by business case basis over two years which aims to deliver an estimated £3.8m savings in 2019/20 and an additional £2m in 2020/21.
  • The council launched a new online campaign this month to build strength and balance, particularly for older women aged 70+, which aims to reduce falls, fractures and potential admission to hospital by linking to classes across the county. Last year, falls and fractures cost Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS and social care agencies £85m.
  • Please view our online animation for details or read our 'Super Six' leaflets.

Ely Southern Bypass update

Ely Southern Bypass is on track and will be open to traffic, as planned, on Wednesday 31 October 2018. For more information, please read our latest news item.

Become part of the county's biggest team - major fostering campaign launched

Part of our work to manage the increase of children needing our care is to vastly increase the number of in house foster carers available. Our current cohort of around 135 fostering families already represents the biggest ‘team’ in the county and offers stability and a hopeful childhood for those in their care – but we simply don’t have enough of these brilliant people available.

The difference between placing a child with a Cambridgeshire County Council foster carer or with an independent agency carer can be as much as £400 a week! We are looking for all organisations and community leaders to share the messages of the campaign or share messages from the County Council’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

Lighting up Cambridge from the Castle Mound: Paul Ryder, City Manager at Vodafone, Andy Starnes, Head of City Development at CityFibre, Cllr Ian Bates, Chair of Economy and Environment Committee, Cambridgeshire County Council, and Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council.

Cambridge next in line for full fibre transformation

Cambridge has been named as one of the first UK locations to benefit from city-wide full fibre connectivity following the announcement of private investment totalling over £20m from CityFibre.

CityFibre is working closely with both Cambridgeshire County and Cambridge City Councils to plan and co-ordinate the build so it maximises the benefits of full fibre for the wider community.

For more information, please visit the Connecting Cambridgeshire website.

Kings Dyke update

Detailed design work for the level crossing replacement scheme at Kings Dyke on the A605 between Whittlesey and Peterborough is nearing completion.

The scheme, to build a new road and bridge over the Ely to Peterborough railway line, was discussed by members of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Economy and Environment Committee on Thursday 11 October 2018, who approved the award of the stage two construction contract to Kier, along with completion of land purchases, subject to the approval of the additional funding required by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority at its Executive Board on 31 October 2018.

When the project was originally conceived by the county council, it was the transport authority – but with the creation of the Combined Authority in 2017, the responsibility has now passed to that body and so a paper goes to the CA board at the end of the month to request the necessary additional funding.

Whilst the overall budget required has increased from earlier estimates to just under £30m, an independent review of the project and construction costs reveal that the benefit of continuing with the scheme remains extremely high.

Cllr Ian Bates, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Chairman of the Economy and Environment Committee, has said: “This is a much bigger venture than anyone first imagined. Understanding this from the start, we’ve followed a robust process by undertaking a detailed design phase before considering costs of awarding the construction contract. This is to minimise the risk of cost increases during construction and to confirm that the project will still provide excellent value for money, which I am pleased to say it does."

CrossCountry - action needed to implement change

The government‘s decision to ‘pull the plug’ on the CrossCountry franchise competition as a result of its rail review means we will need to work closely with our MPs and other partners to find further ways to ensure that this won’t impact on necessary changes which we have been pushing to services such as earlier and later trains for Fenland, cascaded rolling stock and stops at Cambridge North by CrossCountry trains.

The Council learnt – via a trade publication – that because of fears of the effect of awarding the CrossCountry deal next year could have on the national rail review, the Department for Transport said the competition will not go ahead. Services will continue to be operated by the existing franchisee – owned by Arriva – with options beyond this “to be considered in due course.”

The department will consider the responses to the Cross Country public consultation when developing future options for the franchise.

In-year changes to Children's Services budget to support childhoods of most vulnerable

From November 2018, the way Cambridgeshire County Council organises its services for safeguarding and supporting vulnerable children is set to change, with improvements backed by revised council funding.

Against a national background of increasing pressure on Children’s Services departments, with increasing numbers of children being referred for support or needing council care, Cambridgeshire’s changes aim to help more vulnerable children develop and thrive in their own homes or extended families.  

To recognise that these changes are focused on making radical improvements to service, and not at delivering an immediate financial saving, the Children and Young People’s Committee has asked the council to move £3m from council reserves to the Children’s Services budget to allow the change to start with a clean sheet.

Funds are set to come from general reserves – in order, says Council leader Steve Count, to put the service which has been struggling with an unprecedented increase in demand over the past twelve months on a firm financial footing to give the new operating model the best chance to work. “Children’s childhoods are short, and where problems occur in a vulnerable family we need to work quickly and help them make changes when it can do the most good. The way we plan to work will do this, but it needs to do so, unhampered by the need to make immediate financial savings.”

Cambridgeshire has just over 700 children in its care currently, but by 2020/21, the changes aim to reduce this by around 100, more in line with Cambridgeshire’s statistical neighbours.

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