County Council Report September 2014

from Councillor Peter Hudson

Connecting Cambridgeshire – Ministerial Visit

peterhudsonThe Government’s Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey visited Cambridgeshire in August to mark the superfast broadband roll-out programme reaching 30,000 homes and businesses with high-speed fibre broadband, joining a million others around the UK. This significant milestone was reached just 34 weeks after the first roadside cabinets went live. To date more than 150 cabinets have been installed in over 50 communities across the county giving thousands of people access to superfast broadband, with many more to come over the next year.

After visiting the rural village of Spaldwick, where over a third of residents have upgraded to superfast fibre, the Minister joined celebrations with Connecting Cambridgeshire programme partners at Willingham Auctions; one of 500 businesses that have already benefited from the Destination Digital project to improve connectivity and use digital technology. The Minister congratulated Connecting Cambridgeshire on their excellent progress to date and was pleased to hear first-hand of the difference superfast broadband is making to people’s lives.

Cambridgeshire Health Promotion Resources

Cambridgeshire Libraries have launch a new countywide Health Promotion Resource. The Public Health commissioned service was until recently delivered to the north and west of the county by Hinchingbrooke Hospital. The county’s network of libraries will act as distribution and collection points for Health Promotion Resource leaflets and loan resources from 1 September.

Walk Local

Walk Local is a project being delivered by the County Council and partners to promote walking in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. Two years of funding has been awarded by the Department of Health for this initiative which aims to increase fitness and mental well-being through physical activity. As can be seen on the website http://www.walklocal.org/ there are five work streams, each targeting different groups.

‘Walk School’ for instance, uses technology to support more walking to primary schools. Students tap key fobs on ‘Beatboxes’ located at varying distances from their school and are rewarded with points that count towards their school total. Schools can win prizes and money for a charity of choice; all of these schemes are either up and running or about to start.

Cambridge Park & Ride Parking Charge

The £1 daily parking was introduced on 22 July at each of the five Cambridge Park and Ride sites. A small number of technical adjustments have been made to the ticketing software that controls advance purchase of tickets. Signage at each of the 5 sites has been reviewed and additional signs at the entrances to the sites and repeater signs within the sites to remind customers to pay the parking charge will be installed shortly.

The initial unfamiliarity with the system has now settled down and the long queues experienced on the opening day are reduced, but some problems persist. At all sites the number of ticket machines was doubled and early monitoring suggests that a small number of additional machines are needed for Newmarket Road, Trumpington Road and Madingley Road sites. These will be installed as soon as possible.

A bill per usage function is available via the online options. At the end of the calendar month this automatically deducts the total cost of the parking that customers have incurred. Publicity advertising this option has been placed at the sites. There are around 600 users set up on this option and over 1200 customers have set up some sort of pre-payment online.

Mobilising Local Energy Investment (MLEI)

A mini-competition to procure a supplier for energy performance contracting was launched on 25 June 2014. The closing date for tenders was the 25 July with the supplier appointed on 1 August 2014. Bouygues Energies & Services were appointed and with immediate effect began work on the site visits and DTA’s (Desk Top Analysis) of 20 key schools and county buildings. They have also engaged in a full month of September site visits that have also been planned. A planning application was submitted on 7 July 2014 for a 10MW Soham Solar Park for determination by early October 2014. Ongoing discussions with UK Power Networks continue to find a solution for a national grid connection in 2015 rather than the current 2017 offer. A letter has been sent to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) regarding its consultation on financial incentives for large solar to extend the grace period for eligible projects for finance under renewable energy obligations (ROCs).

Harnessing Innovation on the Busway

We have commissioned a short study to explore the potential for using the dedicated sections of Guided Busway track as a power source for electric buses. Emerging technologies, such as on-the-move wireless charging, could provide scope to run buses without disruption to operational schedules since battery charging periods would be minimised or eliminated. The findings of the study will help inform options for the future development of a high quality passenger transport network as well as enable the County Council to position itself to respond to future funding opportunities that emerge to support clean and/or innovative transport solutions.

Have your say on Transport in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon & Godmanchester and Wisbech

The public consultation has now closed. The plans being consulted on included: the Draft Long Term Transport Strategy for Cambridgeshire, a refresh of the Local Transport Plan, a Draft Huntingdon and Godmanchester Market Town Transport Strategy and a draft Wisbech Market Town Transport Strategy. 784 people completed the online questionnaire in addition to others making their representations via email and post; consultation reports mare presently being prepared ahead of September’s Economy and Environment Committee

August Floods

A Flood Guidance Statement was issued by the Flood Forecasting Centre on the 8 August reporting a low likelihood of localised significant disruption from surface water flooding on as a result of heavy, slow moving showers from the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha. Unfortunately the Flood Forecasting Centre’s statement underestimated the severity of the weather conditions to follow, and over the next 72 hours areas in Cambridgeshire experienced unprecedented high rainfall. For example 102mm fell in the Bourne/Bar Hill area; 140mm fell in Oakington/Swavesey area; 60mm fell in Chatteris; 53mm fell in March, and 20mm fell over the rest of the county. In the region of 250 – 260 properties in Cambridgeshire were flooded internally. The areas worst affected included Bar Hill, Oakington, Swavesey, Caldecote, Longstanton and March.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Emergency Management Response
The Emergency Management Team, working with the Fire and Rescue Service and other key stakeholders passed on details of the numerous reports of flooding and requests for assistance for residential properties, nursing homes (one of which was evacuated), and impacts upon the road network including disruption on the A14 and A428. Highways teams were mobilised to those areas most affected to distribute sandbags to prevent flooding from the highway and undertake emergency works, and some of the District Councils also distributed sandbags. Emergency services also responded to properties that were flooding internally. The impact in areas of the county over the weekend was substantial, but fortunately further significant rainfall in the county did not materialise enabling some of the flooding to abate and water to disperse.

Post flood event response
The main reason for the flooding was the unprecedented localised high rainfall that fell over the weekend concerned; however partners will investigate the causes of the flooding to ensure that any improvements that can be made are considered in the affected areas. Following the flooding the Emergency Management Team coordinated internal and external debriefs and the findings from these discussions are now being developed in order to improve how the response to any future incident is managed.

The Flood and Water Team has been working closely through the Cambridgeshire Flood Risk Management Partnership (CFRMP) to review the impact of the flooding. Members of the CFRMP, including District Councils, Internal Drainage Boards, Anglian Water Services, the Environment Agency and Highways, met to review the flooding, and make recommendations to try to reduce the flood risk where possible.  This work is being overseen by the Flood and Water Team. During the flood event, and after, the County Council’s Highways Team has been undertaking work to improve, as much as possible, the capacity of the drainage networks in the areas affected. Work has included jetting, gully and culvert cleansing, culvert root infestation removal, and drainage network investigations.

The Environment Agency recently coordinated a post flood drop-in event for residents in Oakington. The event was also attended by key stakeholder’s including the County Council. The Environment Agency is currently collating the information received from the event, and will be working with key stakeholders including the County Council on the next steps. The County Council is intending to run a similar event in Bar Hill for the residents affected there. The Flood and Water Team is also working with partners to look at what improvements could be made to the watercourses running through Bar Hill to try to reduce the risk of flooding in the future. Separate formal investigations are being undertaken for all the areas that experienced internal property flooding. This work is being coordinated by the Flood and Water Team and as part this work officers are working closely with those communities affected.

Ongoing flood risk management work
Since 2010 the Flood and Water Team, in partnership with colleagues in Highways and others, has been undertaking flood prevention work in the County. This work has included Surface Water Management Plans, investigation and enforcement work to reduce flood risk, evaluating and consenting works on watercourses, and working with the Environment Agency, District Councils and Parish Councils on flood risk management schemes in the County. The Flood and Water Team also proactively encourages sustainable drainage schemes in new developments to reduce flood risk. The Team has been working closely with highways officers to undertake highway drainage schemes in vulnerable areas.  All of the work we do involves extensive engagement with Parish Councils and members of the public. The Team provides an annual update on key work streams to the Council’s Committee prior to it being submitted to DEFRA.

A review of the response to the recent flooding has been undertaken by the Floods and Water Team, the County Emergency Planning Team and the Highways Team and a note of that review and actions will shortly go out to all Members.

Flood Insurance
The Association of British Insurers and the Government agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June 2013 on how to develop a not-for-profit scheme called ‘Flood Re’ that would ensure flood insurance remains widely affordable and available to properties that have flooded or are at risk of flooding. The MoU is a first step towards establishing Flood Re which should ensure affordable and widely available flood insurance in the UK.

Currently the flood damage at Bar Hill School is estimated at approximately £250k. This is just below the limit of the Council’s self-insured retention and although insurers may have to make a payment to the Council, the amount they may ultimately have to pay is likely to be relatively small.  As a result of the flood at Bar Hill School, colleagues in LGSS have instructed consultants to investigate and provide advice on reducing the future risk of flooding at the site and in the locality generally. This advice will feed into multi agency discussions with a view to formulating a plan of mitigation and remediation.

Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM)

From September 2014 all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools in England will be eligible for free school meals (FSMs). This will include academies, free schools, pupil referral units and alternative provision as well as maintained schools.

The government has allocated £150 million of capital funding in the 2014 to 2015 financial year to support the rollout of UIFSM. Schools are paid funding at a flat rate of £2.30 for each meal taken by newly eligible pupils. Additional one-off funding is being provided in the 2014 to 2015 financial year to small schools (those with up to 150 pupils in total) to help with transitional costs.

In Cambridgeshire, all Primary and Infant school affected by the initiative provided hot meals from day one of the start of term. The biggest challenges have been for Infant Schools, who traditionally have had a fairly low uptake, (between 30% to 40%), small kitchens, or in some cases no kitchens and are serviced by the Junior school.

These schools will potentially now serve over 80% of the pupils. Schools have been supported by the Cambridgeshire Catering and Cleaning Service, the Schools Funding team and Education Capital Strategy.

A number of schools have had to change their timetables to accommodate two meal sittings. The impact of this on children, staff and the curriculum will be reviewed by schools as the initiative beds down

Child Poverty Strategy

In Cambridgeshire, work to combat child poverty is overseen by the Children’s Trust, There are almost 16,000 children growing up in poverty in Cambridgeshire, and the gap in outcomes between these children and their peers is far too wide. The County Council has a statutory responsibility to produce a Child Poverty Needs Assessment and to work with our partners to develop a Child Poverty Strategy. The Child Poverty Champions Group ran a stakeholder workshop in July to identify new priorities to combat child poverty and mitigate its effects. These priorities are focused on building communities; building futures; supporting the most vulnerable; and ensuring organisations understand the issues people in poverty face. Our second Child Poverty Strategy will be presented to the Children’s Trust in November.

Support for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

The Children’s and Families Act 2014 brings considerable changes to the Council and its partners’ response to supporting children with special education needs and disabilities

(SEND), and many changes will be in place from 1 September 2014. One outcome from the reforms is that Statements of Special Educational Needs and Learning Disability Assessments (LDAs) will be replaced by a new statutory Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan). The Local Authority has consulted parents, carers, schools, professionals and partners on a proposed timetable for the transfer to EHC Plans and from this September the Statutory Assessment and Resources Team will have a helpline to provide advice and guidance on the process and about the new plans.

Looked After Children

Looked After Children took part in a range of activities over the summer to help develop their life-skills. These included the U-Project which supported 12 children about to move into year 10 to develop self-confidence and skills through team building exercises and a three day residential stay at Grafham Water Centre. 15 young people aged 13 years and upwards were involved in an Arts based project, supported by the Council, University of Cambridge and the University of Cambridge Museums, spending time building a portfolio of artwork inspired by the exhibitions at the Fitzwilliam Museum and Kettles Yard Gallery.

Care Leavers
Two of our care leavers have graduated from University. One young person not only successfully obtained a first-class law degree but also achieved the best results in the university law school and has been awarded a scholarship to study a postgraduate degree at the University of Warwick. This young person continues to attend the Foster Panel and has offered to write an article for the foster carers’ magazine about how young people in care can achieve academic success.

Another young person has also successfully completed a HND in Human Resource Management and will be completing a further year to achieve her degree.

Report on Child Exploitation in Rotherham

Following the recent publication of the report into child exploitation in Rotherham which sets out an appalling picture of the abuse suffered by the victims of these crimes, Adrian Loades, Executive Director has written to all staff in Children, Families and Adult’s Services and Councillors.

Whilst Cambridgeshire has a different context to that described historically in Rotherham, we obviously cannot be complacent and it is crucially important that all staff feel able to raise issues and concerns with the confidence that they will be listened to. It is equally important that we listen to the story of the child or vulnerable adult and place this at the centre of our intervention and support.

These matters obviously also extend to the role of elected members. If you do pick up safeguarding concerns in the work that you do with local communities then please do escalate them at the earliest opportunity. Concerns can be reported to the Council’s Contact Centre on 0345 045 5202 for vulnerable adults or 0345 045 5203 for children.

National Careers Service Contract

Adult Learning & Skills have successfully secured a new National Careers Service contract to lead on the delivery of careers advice and employment support to adults across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This new contract is worth £400,000 a year, will begin on 1 October 2014 and is expected to end in March 2017.

The new contract provides challenges as payment is based solely on providing evidence of customer satisfaction and progression; however gives increased flexibility to deliver a responsive and creative offer to customers.

The service is able to provide free initial advice to all adults aged 19 and above (aged 18 for Jobcentre Plus customers) however the priority is to help the low skilled, unemployed and adults with barriers to accessing learning and work. We will be working closely with Jobcentre Plus and local partners to deliver the new service.

Free Early Years and Childcare Places for Two Year Olds

We have reached a crucial point in the Government’s rollout of funded childcare for two-year-olds. Nationally, a total of 260,000 children have been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria for 15 hours of free early years and children, 38 weeks a year. The criteria with effect from September 2014 include families on low incomes and children with special needs and disabilities, as well as looked after children and families in receipt of certain benefits.

In Cambridgeshire nearly 2,000 families, around a quarter of all of our two-year-olds, have been identified as eligible to take up a funded place with one of our early years and childcare settings, the vast majority of whom are private, voluntary or independent providers. Cambridgeshire providers are well rated (71% good or better), just above the national average (70%) and the percentage is increasing. Outcomes at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage are also improving. This puts the early years’ sector in an excellent position to provide the quality of learning and care for two-year-olds that will really make a difference.

As at the end of the summer term 2014, 1113 places were available and there were 784 two year olds were registered for free places. Our target is for 80% (around 1600 children) to be in funded places by spring 2015. To achieve this we are focusing our activity on encouraging as many families as possible to take up their free entitlement and to ensure that we have the capacity available to meet identified demand across the County.

Smoke free environments policy

From 1 October 2014, CCC will be implementing a completely smoke free environments policy, meaning that all buildings and grounds, indoors and outdoors will become completely smoke free (including car parks). This policy was agreed by Full Council in March 2014. Introduction of the policy will coincide with this year’s Stoptober campaign, through which smokers who want to quit will be encouraged to contact the local CAMQUIT service

Public health ring-fenced grant allocation for 2015/16 announced

Public Health England have announced that public health ring-fenced grant allocations for 2015/16 will be unchanged from 2014/15, except for specific corrections which were advised earlier in the year. For Cambridgeshire £144,000 has been transferred to NHS England for funding of HIV services, leaving a total grant to the County Council of £22,155,000, compared with £22,299,000 in 2014/15. In addition a Health Premium Incentive scheme has been announced for consultation, which would reward local authorities for achieving improvements against specific public health outcomes, one of which is successful treatment for drug misuse (opiate and non-opiate).

Budget Consultation

The County Council is facing some very challenging times financially and there will be some tough decisions to make in order to meet the £30.7 million savings next year and beyond. As part of the Business Planning process a public survey has been launched asking residents to
have their say on the County Council priorities and areas of savings, as well as levels of Council Tax to help inform future business and budget planning.

The consultation will close on 29 September 2014 and can be found at this link:
www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/budgetconsultation

Public County Council meetings in October (please note, dates are provisional)

Members of the public are welcome at the following meetings:

2nd Oct – 10.00 am – Health and Wellbeing Board at Pathfinder House, Huntingdon
7th Oct – 10.00 am – General Purposes Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge, CB3 0AP
7th Oct – 2.00 pm – Adults Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge
9th Oct – 10.00 am – Planning Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge
9th Oct – 2.00 pm – Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority at Fire Service HQ, Brampton Road, Huntingdon PE29 2NA
14th Oct – 10.30 am – COUNCIL at Shire Hall, Cambridge
15th Oct – 10.30 am – Joint Development Control Committee: Cambridge Fringes at The Guildhall, Cambridge CB2 3QJ
16th Oct – 2.00 pm – Health Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge
21st Oct – 10.00 am – Economy and Environment Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge
21st Oct – 2.00 pm – Children and Young People Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge
23rd Oct – 9.30 am – Pension Fund Board at Shire Hall, Cambridge
23rd Oct – 10.00 am – Local Government Shared Service Joint Committee
24th Oct – 10.00 am – Cambridgeshire Schools Forum at Shire Hall, Cambridge
28th Oct – 10.00 am – Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge
28th Oct – 4.00 pm – Cambridge Joint Area Committee at Shire Hall, Cambridge
29th Oct – 2.00 pm – Northstowe Joint Development Control Committee (provisional) at South Cambridgeshire Hall, Cambourne CB23 6EA

To give your points of view on any of these issues, contact me by email at: p-hudson@hotmail.co.uk

As Your County Councillor I welcome hearing from you on these and/or any other issues that affect our community.

A pdf version of this report is available by clicking here

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