Saturday, 31 October 2015

Britain Stronger In Europe

More trade, more jobs, more opportunities and security for you and your family.

It’s clear that Britain’s economy is stronger in Europe than out on our own.

A new independent report – from the organisation who UKIP hired to cost their manifesto - shows that being in the EU:

  • Boosts the UK’s economy
  • Helps create British jobs
  • And drives down prices for UK families

Let all your friends know by sharing this graphic on Facebook and Twitter today:

In addition, The Economist have described the Out Campaign’s arguments for leaving as “either questionable or misleading” - stressing that if we left we would “lose the negotiating clout of belonging to the world’s biggest single market” and that our trade with Europe could suffer.

Share these graphics on Facebook and Twitter today to let everyone know that our trade with Europe is vital for creating jobs in the UK.


Britain Stronger In Europe

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Cambridge MP supports Pancreatic Cancer UK ahead of pancreatic cancer awareness month

Daniel Zeichner MP attended a cross-party event at the House of Commons, organised by Pancreatic Cancer UK, to help spread the word about pancreatic cancer ahead of pancreatic cancer awareness month.

There were nearly 8,800 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed across the UK in 2013, 959 of whom live in the East of England. Tragically, only four per cent of patients live for five years or more after diagnosis. In addition to learning about these dreadful survival rates, Daniel heard about the need for earlier diagnosis, more research funding and better access to new treatments for the disease, as well as the work being done by Pancreatic Cancer UK to fund its own research and provide support for patients and their families around the country.

Daniel Zeichner MP was joined by patients and family members of those affected by pancreatic cancer, as well as specialist nurses and representatives from Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth most common cause of all cancer deaths in the UK and currently has the lowest survival rate of all the 21 common cancers. One person dies every hour of the disease, and it is predicted that by 2030 pancreatic cancer will overtake breast cancer as the fourth most common cancer killer.

Daniel said: “It was a pleasure to attend this event organised by Pancreatic Cancer UK, to learn more about the work of the charity and the support and research it funds. Sadly, the survival rate for pancreatic cancer speaks for itself. I know there are many people within my constituency who have been touched by pancreatic cancer and we need to do more to improve awareness of the disease, its signs and symptoms, and do more to radically improve the shockingly low survival rates. That’s why I’m supporting the charity and its Purple Lights for Hope campaign as part of pancreatic cancer awareness month this November.”

Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK said: “We were delighted to welcome Daniel Zeichner MP to this important event and we thank him for his support. We hope he/she will help us spread the word about pancreatic cancer far and wide this November.

 “It’s shocking that the number of people living for five years after diagnosis with pancreatic cancer is still just four per cent, and that figure has barely improved in the last 40 years. Yet across the UK, we know so little about the disease. We all have a role to play in raising awareness of this dreadful cancer, so people know the signs and symptoms to watch out for. I would urge local people to find out more about the disease today.”

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer include tummy pain, weight loss, yellow skin or eyes or itchy skin and oily floating poo.

For more information about pancreatic cancer, visit

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Time to have your say on Street Lighting ...

Cambridgeshire County Council is looking for the views of local residents on proposals to save money on street lighting.

Cambridgeshire residents are being urged to have their say to join more than 60 other councils and further dim or turn off some streetlights at certain times to meet tough saving targets.

Cambridgeshire County Council is faced with finding £41 million in savings next year and more than £100 million over the next five years with less money from Government and more demand on services.

The Council is looking to follow the lead of more than 60 councils across the country, which have already turned off or dimmed street lights, which should save around £272,000 from an annual cost of over £1.4m a year.

The savings made would help reduce the impact of cuts on other frontline services, such as caring for the elderly or children as well as repairing roads.

A consultation has already started with parish, town, district and city councils to explain the proposals for their areas. This has also included looking at any concerns they may have as well as local solutions they may wish to propose, including funding for some lights.

Following that consultation some seven councils, including two market towns, have indicated they would look at paying to keep lights on for their communities.

Now residents can have their say by going to the online consultation here where they can complete a survey or ask for a paper copy by contacting the research team at

The full link, if you want to share it, is; (or

The closing date for responses is 11 December 2015.

The County Council, which has already been dimming lights in the county since 2011, has proposed to implement further changes to those streetlights which are remotely controlled by a central management system:

  • To increase the current period of streetlight dimming (8pm or 10pm until 6am) to all times;
  • turning off lighting not on main traffic routes between midnight and 6am;
  • The Council is not proposing to turn off lighting on main traffic routes, where CCTV cameras are present, where there are any statutory requirements or where they support the night time economy.

A recent report shows that where this approach of dimming or turning off streetlights has been taken elsewhere, there is no evidence to suggest a link with increases in crime or detrimental impact on safety.

PCC: Cambridgeshire Constabulary well prepared to face future financial challenges

At a meeting held this week, the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Cambridgeshire Constabulary discussed the approach that would be taken to achieve the savings required.  They also reviewed a number of programmes that would help deliver the savings and keep Cambridgeshire Constabulary in a strong financial position and continue to minimise the impact on front line policing.

Budget setting for 2016/17 is more difficult than usual as all police forces await the outcome of both the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review and the outcome of the review of the Police Funding Formula, both of which will determine the funding the Constabulary will receive from central government.

Looking back, significant savings have already been made.  Between April 2013 and March 2016 savings of over £13 million have been achieved whilst protecting the number of front line police officers.  However, looking ahead it is estimated that a further £19 million of savings will need to be found by the end of financial year 2019/20.

New technology continues to be rolled out across the Constabulary in order to improve efficiency, allowing officers more time to spend in the communities they serve.  The Constabulary’s estate is under review and only those buildings that are needed are to be retained.  Those buildings that are surplus to requirement will be disposed of. The Commissioner and the Constabulary are clear in agreeing that the budget will be spent on officers and staff rather than underused buildings.  An example of this is Bridge Street police station in Peterborough which is expensive to maintain and underused.  Plans are in train to vacate and sell the site.

Ongoing collaboration with Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary provides a major source of cost savings while also increasing police service resilience. For example, the three forces are exploring the opportunities offered by having a shared, fully integrated, public contact service, enhancing telephone and online contact with the three forces.

Sir Graham Bright, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, said: “Throughout my term of office my main aim has been to maintain front line policing and find savings from other areas of the business.  Through careful planning over the last three years and by taking bold decisions, we are in a strong financial position with plans in place to meet the significant challenges ahead.  Financial reserves mean we can smooth the impact of future funding reductions whilst the savings from collaboration with neighbouring forces are realised.”

A recent report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) endorsed this position.  The “PEEL: Police efficiency 2015” report rated Cambridgeshire as “Good” and stated that the Constabulary was “well prepared to face its future financial challenges” and “has a good track record in reducing its costs while maintaining its police officer numbers”.

The Budget Strategy paper can be found on the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner website at

HMIC’s report is available at

EU: Finally, the Out Campaign admit it ...

Finally, the Out Campaign have admitted it.

For years, they have pretended that trading with Europe isn't important to our economy, that it doesn't help British businesses to grow and create jobs up and down the country.

Until now.

Last week, the Head of Vote Leave, one of the Out Campaigns, admitted that British jobs would be at risk if we left the EU.

This is a big moment in the campaign - and we need your help to make sure everybody knows about this important confession.

So please watch the video below and share it on Facebook and Twitter today:

The Out Campaign know that our economy would be hit and jobs could be lost if we left the EU - but they don't want people to know about it.
Thank you,

Britain Stronger In Europe

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Housing bosses meet minister in bid to build more affordable homes

Campaigning Council bosses have met with the Government’s housing minister to make the case for how thousands of much needed new social houses could be built in South Cambridgeshire if they were given the freedom to do what’s best for local people.

Proposals put forward as part of a new national housing bill could see South Cambridgeshire District Council’s plans to build 1,000 new council houses over the next 30 years scrapped as the Council’s funding stream to invest in new homes would be cut.

Under the Government’s plans, rents for Council tenants would fall by 1% next year, which Council bosses have described as a ‘backward step’ as the income would have been invested straight back into building new homes.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s plans to invest millions of pounds in housing would have seen the biggest building programme of new council houses in the area for two generations.

Under the proposed plan, the Council will collect £12 million less rent over the next four years and a £134 million reduction over the next 30 years making it unfeasible to make the planned investment in new homes.

Cllr Mark Howell, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for housing was joined by South Cambridgeshire MP, Heidi Allen, on the visit to talk face-to-face with Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis.

Cllr Mark Howell, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Although on the face of it a 1% cut to rent for our tenants could be a good thing, it is in fact a backward step as it takes away our ability to invest in high quality new council houses for future generations. I am pleased to say that Mr Lewis listened to what we had to say on the effect the proposals will have in South Cambridgeshire. We have a special case due to the growth, new jobs being created and high cost of housing. The fight doesn’t stop though; We will continue to work with our local MPs and impress on the government the need for the freedom and funding to deliver vital social housing in the area.”

Heidi Allen, said: “I thought we had a really positive meeting with the Minister as he listened to our concerns about the scale of the housing affordability issue for us here in South Cambridgeshire and the City. He has asked us to come back to him with more data to explain our position and ideas as to how we can work together to keep building council houses.”

Children's costume warning from fire service

Parents are being warned about the frightening fire risks of children's costumes this Halloween.

Fire crews across Cambridgeshire have been out in force talking to parents and carers about the flammable fire risks of fancy dress costumes, while also encouraging people to swap lit candles for LED lights in pumpkins.

The issue was highlighted last year when television presenter Claudia Winkleman's daughter was burned when her Halloween fancy dress costume accidentally caught fire.

Area Commander Rick Hylton, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "These fancy dress costumes are not covered by current children's clothing regulations and the safety standard for them can be as little as a 'keep away from fire' label. Like other fire services, we are backing calls for costumes to be covered by current children's clothing regulations but until this happens, we would advise people to check labels and keep children in costumes well away from ignition sources like tea light candles and cigarettes."

Our advice is:
  • Check the labels on any fancy dress outfits you buy and see what fire resistance they offer
  • Keep children away from any ignition sources - sparklers can burn at up to 2,000 degrees Celsius
  • Replace candles in pumpkins with battery powered candles - these are cheap, they do not blow out and they are much safer
  • Teach your child to STOP, DROP and ROLL in the event that their clothing does catch fire
AC Hylton added: "The design of costumes, often made with flowing robes or capes, means they can easily catch fire from a candle or flame and very quickly engulf a child in flames. Therefore we're issuing this advice to warn people so they and their families can enjoy themselves while staying safe."

Monday, 26 October 2015

Tough choices for Cambridgeshire to meet £41 million savings

Cambridgeshire communities are being warned of bleak choices for the County Council as it tries to make a further £41 million in savings, while meeting increased pressures on services.

The County Council Service Committees will look at proposals in November to meet the major financial challenge of £41 million savings this year and more than £100 million over the next five years. This follows cumulative savings of £218 million since 2009.

The scale of savings means that proposals will have an impact on all services, from how the Council looks after roads, manages libraries and cares for the most vulnerable.

Councillors will be looking at initial proposals of how these savings may be achieved and, with officers, will be working to change or mitigate these options to reduce the impact on communities.

Proposals concentrate on supporting statutory services and protecting the most vulnerable as much as possible, while looking to bring in income or transforming the way the authority works.

Service Committees will comment on the proposals which will then go to the General Purpose Committee for consideration before the business plan is discussed by Full Council early next year. As much as possible will be done in that time period to mitigate the impacts or find alternatives to the severest proposals. This means during this time that there could be changes and some proposals may not go forward.

While the financial picture is tough Councillors are committed to meet the savings while doing their best for the diverse Cambridgeshire communities they serve.

They are also asking communities and organisations to come forward and help where they can to make sure the Council can continue to deliver as much as possible.

Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. This means more jobs and homes, but also much more pressure on schools, social care and our roads.

Next year forecasts suggest the Council will have £15 million, or 27 per cent less, from the Government Revenue Support Grant while needing to find an extra £19.7 million to meet the pressures from more people needing services as well as inflation. This is on top of other charges and savings the Council has to find – making up the £41 million total.

With the gap increasing between demand for services and the funding available Cambridgeshire will inevitably be faced with even more cuts in the future.

To help address this, the County is sharing services as well as working in partnership with other public bodies to save money. At the same time it is bringing in major investment for road and rail projects across the County.

It is also working with communities to support volunteers and groups that are supporting their neighbours and neighbourhoods. Something that the Council will look to expand and enhance in the future.

Communities across Cambridgeshire are being asked to have their own say on how to meet the massive budget challenge facing them and the County. The challenge affects all of Cambridgeshire’s communities and the Council has launched a consultation to explain the problem and to show how we can work together to find solutions.

People can have their say and see a film explaining the situation at

The film also shows just some of the ways people can help save nearly £2 million by recycling more, fostering, using online services or just simply helping a relative or neighbour.

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Steve Count, said: “The County Council and Cambridgeshire communities are facing a massive funding challenge and the savings that will have to be made affects all of our residents. We are already making tough decisions and with millions of pounds fewer in the budget this can only get worse, as Government grants dwindle further. We have already reduced staff, shared services and made considerable savings. We know we can do more but we have reached a tipping point where frontline services will be further affected. These are proposals at the moment and councillors will be asked to look at them and work with officers to change or reduce their impact. Therefore, these proposals could change but we want people to see the scale of the issues we are facing. I know that Councillors will be working hard to do the best for Cambridgeshire.

“But we cannot meet this challenge alone. We want to work with residents, businesses and other organisations as a team to meet this challenge together. There are some simple things, like recycling more, that people can do that will save significant amounts of money for Cambridgeshire residents. From becoming a foster carer, recycling more or simply being a good neighbour we can all make Cambridgeshire a better place.”

Proposed savings set out for Children, Families and Adult Services

As Cambridgeshire County Council works to achieve savings of £41m next year, proposals have been published on where cuts are likely to be made in Children, Families and Adult services.

Communities across the county are being warned of difficult choices as the Council tries to make the savings while simultaneously meeting increased pressures on services.

The Council’s Service Committees meet in November to look at proposals to meet the major financial challenge of £41 million savings this year and more than £100 million over the next five years. This follows savings of £218 million since 2009.

In Children, Families and Adults, this means:

  • Considerable reductions to services for children, families and adults in Cambridgeshire will be necessary over the next five years
  • Across the county, a smaller proportion of vulnerable people will have the cost of their care met by the Council and overall we will reduce the amount we spend on those in receipt of services 
  • We will ask communities and families to do more to support vulnerable people in Cambridgeshire 
  • We will increase the focus on improving long term planning for those in receipt of high cost care to maximise their independence and support from their families and/or communities, and to minimise the need for formal support provision over their lifetime. We will also reduce the cost of the specialist support people receive 
  • This will involve very difficult decisions in terms of where budget reductions will fall. Some people who currently receive our support will not continue to do so. In some cases, we will reduce support for people who use our services regardless of whether or not they can achieve greater independence. 
  • At the same time, we will strengthen the impact of the preventative work we do with people, working with them to prevent need and to prevent an escalation of need for our high cost services. We will use our remaining and reducing resources differently and our preventative activity will have a very different focus to now. 
  • We recognise that problems cannot always be solved quickly and some people will require ongoing support over the course of their lifetime. Where people need our most specialist and intensive services, we will support them. We will strive to make sure that the support provided improves both the quality of their life and is cost effective.

Children, Families and Adults need to make savings of £26.5m next year. Their proposals include:

  • Reducing care support for vulnerable adults and older people (including those with mental health needs) – £9.3m
  • Removing subsidies for educational transport for over-16s and other proposals - £770,000
  • Removing the Council’s funding for speech and language therapy for young children - £120,000
  • Further reducing funding for Children’s Centres over the next two years with a £250,000 reduction next year.
  • Reducing the total of children and young people becoming ‘looked after’ and the cost of their care - £1.43m
  • Increase the income from older people’s contributions to their care budgets - £500,000
  • Re-tendering the housing support services for older people in extra care accommodation - £457,000
  • Reduce services provided by the Council for adults with learning disabilities, and potentially use independent sector provision instead - £500,000
  • Reduce advice and support that is available to early years settings and schools to statutory minimum - £500,000
  • Absorb staff pay increases and increases in pension payments (incurred as a result of national policy changes) within individual service budgets - £2.9m
  • Reduce spend on agency social work staff - £502,000
  • Reduce staffing in informatics, strategy development and project management support, practice development and innovation - £546,000
  • Reductions in early help services for children and young people as previously agreed - £1.02m

The Adults Committee meets on November 3 and the Children and Young People’s Committee meets on November 10. These committees will comment on the proposals, which will then be discussed by the General Purposes Committee on November 24 and by Committees again in December. The final budget will be set by the full Council in February 2016.

This means that during this time there could be changes and some proposals may not go forward.

Executive Director for Children, Families and Adults Adrian Loades said: “The combination of reduced Government funding and increased demand on our services mean we have had to make some extremely difficult and unpalatable decisions, recognising that they will have a direct impact on vulnerable people, families and communities. The sheer scale of the savings required quite simply means that we will not be able to provide services to the level we have been able to in the past.

“However, our foremost priority has always been to protect the most vulnerable in society and we will continue to do that to the best of our ability. Officers and members will be working hard within the coming weeks and months to look further at these proposals and ensure that the necessary savings are achieved with the minimum impact on services, but unfortunately, some will inevitably be reduced or discontinued.”

Budget proposals for Economy, Transport and Environment in Cambridgeshire

With Cambridgeshire County Council facing a financial challenge of unprecedented levels – details of proposed options to meet the savings have been put forward today (Monday 26 October).

The proposals for Economy, Transport and Environment at Cambridgeshire County Council will be heard at the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee on 3 November and the Economy and Environment Committee on 17 November.

At these Committees, Members will look at the initial ideas for how to help find the £41 million in savings needed this year and over £100 million in the next five years.

The headline proposals are outlined here:

  • Remove funding for School Crossing Patrols to save £171,000 and offer schools and local communities the opportunity to take the function on.
  • Generate income by charging utility companies for the time they spend on the network rather than fine them for staying longer than scheduled
  • Reduce winter maintenance on the highways to save £650,000 - this will reduce the road network treated from 45 per cent to 30 per cent
  • Rising bollards in Cambridge to be replaced by CCTV to save £50,000
  • Withdraw funding from some libraries and seek community assistance to run them this is in addition to reducing opening hours of retained libraries to save £375,000 over two years
  • Removal of the mobile library service to save £160,000 over two years
  • Introduce 24 hour bus lane enforcement
  • Remove non-statutory concessionary fares to save £125,000
  • Create a shared planning service with district councils
  • Reduce funding for Fenland Learning Centres by £90,000
  • Reduce support for bus services by £1.4m over two years to focus funds to support community led services not regular scheduled routes.
  • Increase on street car parking fees in Cambridge by at least 20 per cent to raise over £300,000

These proposals plus others outlined aim to save £6.5m from the Economy, Transport & Environment Services’ budget which is £95m.   There will be some significant impacts on our communities if these changes go through and job cuts to over 50 posts can be expected.

Graham Hughes, Executive Director: Economy, Transport & Environment at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “The proposals we are outlining today show just how difficult the decisions facing the County Council are as we attempt to balance our budgets. Reduced Government funding and increasing demands upon us mean we face some very stark choices over the next few months. It has not been an easy process but we have been helped by the feedback we have received from our residents, organisations and partners we work with. It is now for the Councillors to look at these proposals and decide how they wish to move forward.

“After these proposed savings it is worth remembering that the service I lead will still be spending almost £90m on improving roads, tackling rogue traders and dealing with waste as well as delivering cycling projects, providing library services and helping to plan for the county’s future. No one can deny the picture facing Cambridgeshire is one of the most difficult we have ever had to face but we remain determined to do the best we can for our residents and communities.”

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Public Health budget proposals announced

Proposed options on the savings Cambridgeshire County Council need to make to meet unprecedented financial challenges were announced today (26 October).

As part of this, proposals for the Public Health budget were announced and will be discussed at the Council’s Health Committee on 5 November.

The announcement outlines suggested savings of £511,000 for Public Health for the financial year 2016/17.  Although significant savings need to be made, the proposal puts local communities’ health as a priority with key services retaining investment.  Proposed areas of savings include:

  • Sharing a Director For Public Health with Peterborough City Council, which is already being piloted
  • Stop smoking services – an under spend is predicted because of the fall in take up of smoking cessation services thought to be due to the reduced rates of smoking recorded in Cambridgeshire and to the use of e-cigarettes. Stop smoking services remain one of the best value interventions to improve people’s health – so services will continue to be proactive and accessible.
  • Sexual Health Services – Savings are predicted on use of sexual health clinics outside the county by Cambridgeshire residents. Local residents now have access to community sexual health clinics run by Cambridgeshire Community Services (CCS) and located at venues around the county.   

The announcement comes at a time when Cambridgeshire County Council is facing a major financial challenge to find £41 million in savings this year and over £100 million in the next five years. Although the financial picture is bleak Councillors are committed to meet the savings while doing their best for the diverse Cambridgeshire communities they serve.

Councillors in the Health Committee will now look at initial proposals of how these savings may be achieved and with officers will be working to mitigate any impact on communities. Although the Committees will endorse the proposals to the General Purpose Committee there maybe changes, and further savings proposals may be necessary.

Dr. Liz Robin, Director for Public Health at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “These proposals suggest an initial way forward for us to meet the unprecedented financial challenge while also meeting the public health challenges we face around smoking, obesity, levels of physical activity and mental health.  These are not easy decisions and we will be working closely with Councillors and officers to review these proposals and to assess any further proposals, while budget plans for 2016/17 are finalised.”

Papers for Cambridgeshire County Council’s Health Committee will be published on 28 October with the Committee taking place on 5 November.

Proposed savings set out for Corporate Services

As Cambridgeshire County Council works to achieve savings of £41m next year, proposals have been published on where cuts are likely to be made in Corporate Services.

Communities across the county are being warned of difficult choices as the Council tries to make the savings while simultaneously meeting increased pressures on services.

The Council’s Service Committees meet in November to look at proposals to meet the major financial challenge of £41 million savings next year and more than £100 million over the next five years. This follows savings of £218 million since 2009.

As part of these savings the Council’s Corporate Services have been asked to make £412,000 in savings next year. The savings are concentrated on reducing senior management costs while ensuring core and statutory services, such as emergency planning and the contact centre are funded. Corporate Services is also looking at staffing, income generation and working smarter to make sure the Council can continue to find efficiencies and reduce costs.

The Service is suggesting a range of proposals and re-organisation that will be discussed at the General Purposes Committee on 24 November. Officers and members will be working together to mitigate these proposals as much as possible and they may change.

These include:

  • Sharing a Chief Executive with Peterborough – at least £100,000 in savings
  • Increasing the cost of applying for a Blue Badge for three years from the current £9 to the national £10 rate and for replacing lost or stolen badges from £5 to £10. This is due to increased costs of dealing with Blue Badges. It currently costs the Council £230,000 to deal with Blue Badges but it only receives £97,000 in income. Even with the extra £20,000 income from the proposed increased charges the full cost will not be covered and the Council will have to find a further £112,000.
  • Income of £35,000 from the Council’s Research Team.
  • £147,000 in savings from Corporate Services revenue by reorganisation of the transformation team which plays a vital role in driving efficiencies and reducing costs to the Council as a whole.
  • The £150k grant that is currently provided to Voluntary Sector Infrastructure organisations will be reduced by £30,000 following close work with the sector and the organisations affected. Following a review, we will work with them in a more targeted way to align their work across the whole range of the Council’s functions, supporting the delivery of the Building Resilient Communities Strategy.

Sue Grace, Executive Director for Customer Services and Transformation said: “We are in very difficult times and we are doing all we can to help protect frontline services. Our communities rightly expect us to answer the phone or help them access our services. Equally when there is an emergency, such as the recent flooding, they need the Council to be able to react and protect them. Measures, such as sharing a Chief Executive, saves the Council at least £100,000 a year. In an ideal world we would not increase costs for items such as Blue Badges but even with these proposals the Council’s costs are still higher than the income we receive. We are looking at how we work and are financed to see through re-organisation if extra savings and efficiencies can be achieved. We will be working with members to look at these proposals and reduce the impact where we can on the communities we serve.”

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Lib Dems call for five per cent Council Tax rise to save county services

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats claim a five per cent increase in Council Tax is the only way to protect services across the county as it faces a brutal cut in funding from the Tory government.

They have warned that without the increase in council tax, the county is facing a level of cuts which will be extremely difficult to achieve without having an appalling effect on services for residents.

The cut in government grant comes on top of many years of spending cuts in the county coupled with the pressures of an ageing and increasing population.

Cambridgeshire Lib Dem Leader, Lucy Nethsingha warned: “If we don’t take control of our own budget and put up council tax more than that rate of inflation the savings we will have to make will have a noticeable impact on the daily lives of our residents.

“We are already seeing that impact with the plans to turn off street lights and cuts in the budget for road maintenance, which will mean even more potholes. Reductions in school transport will mean some 17- year-olds will face massive problems in accessing post-16 education.  

“The Conservatives in central government should not be cutting the council's grant at this rate.  They are choosing to focus on deficit reduction at an extreme cost to our public services.

“George Osbourne is talking big about his desire for devolution.  We will see whether his words have any meaning when we see whether he will allow local decision making on Council Tax rates. Increasing the council tax by five per cent rather than two per cent would mean we could keep the street lights on and continue to ensure our young people can access the education they need.”

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Lib Dems table a "fatal motion" on tax credits

The Lib Dems in the House of Lords are planning to spike the Government's tax credit plans by tabling a "fatal motion".

The peers have decided to take this step as the tax credit plans are deeply unfair and would leave three million low income people £1,000 worse off.

Zahida Manzoor, the party's Work and Pensions spokesperson, will table the motion which would decline to approve the regulations and, if passed, the Government will have to come up with a revised version of its proposals.

The motion is additional to a motion by Labour Peer, Baroness Hollis of Heigham, which would decline to approve the Tax Credit cut unless the Government puts in place transitional measures.

The Liberal Democrats will support Patricia Hollis' amendment, but the party does not believe that transitional protection is enough to protect the families affected.

Commenting on the move, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:
"We have been clear that the Government's changes to tax credits are unacceptable. David Cameron explicitly ruled them out during the General Election. Yet now he is dead set on cutting support for people who are doing the right thing and going out to work for provide for their families. 
"These changes have all the hallmarks of a Poll Tax of the 21st Century. David Cameron and George Osborne need to listen to those, including their own backbenchers, telling them to think again. While we agree that the transitional protection proposed by others would be an improvement on the Government's plan, we believe that this would not go far enough. That is why we will we seek to stop these measures for good."

Baroness Manzoor, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson, said:
"Our motion gives the House the opportunity to make clear its view on the Government's plans for Tax Credits, and gives the Government a chance to reconsider its proposals. While we support any measure to improve the on the Government's approach, it is important that the Lords is clear in our view.The House of Lords has the absolute constitutional right to oppose measures that it believes are flawed or damaging. I can think of few better reasons to use this power than to stop moves to cut vital support for millions of working families."

Commitment to environment is “systematically unravelling” under Tories

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and former Energy Secretary Ed Davey have written to Amber Rudd to call for the end of the Tories' "ideological assault" on green energy.

The pair are deeply alarmed with the "systematic unravelling" of the renewable industries since May 8 and believe Conservative policies fatally undermine the UK's climate change commitments.

They warn that severe cuts to solar and wind subsidies, as well as ending the Green Deal and abolishing Zero Carbon Homes make a mockery of Britain's environment targets. Increasing tax breaks for oil giants and further subsidising foreign nuclear firms at the same time as slashing help for clean energy companies will also kill off the industry, they caution.

They have now called on Ms Rudd to set out immediately how the Government plans to meet the UK's legally binding climate change and renewables targets.

In the letter Tim Farron and Ed Davey write:
We are writing to you regarding our concerns for the future of Britain's renewable industries and our global leadership on climate change. 
We are utterly appalled at the systematic unravelling of the renewables industries that is taking place under your leadership. We stand with business executives, trade associations and environmental NGOs and call for an end to this ideological assault on green energy which is economically nonsensical and is undermining Britain's ability to push for a more ambitious global Climate Change Treaty at the UN in Paris this December. 
Despite your statement in May this year that you planned to unleash a 'solar revolution', your department has enacted a series of devastating policies which make a mockery of this and will ultimately dismantle much of the work on green policy that the Liberal Democrats achieved in Government, costing thousands of jobs and jeopardising our economic future. Severe cuts to solar and wind subsidies, as well as ending the Green Deal and abolishing Zero Carbon Homes, together mean that progress towards tackling climate change is fundamentally undermined. 
You have used two arguments to justify your actions. First, that the Levy Control Framework is overspent, and second, that you are trying to help consumers with their energy bills. You must know both arguments are bogus. 
On the LCF budget, what has happened to the headroom contingency arrangements agreed in the Coalition of 20% above the agreed Levy Control Framework totals, in the event of lower wholesale gas prices which we now see? It is economic madness to cut long term investment in solar and wind, because of short term changes to international gas prices. 
Second, the assumptions behind the LCF figures published to date are not transparent, and beg many questions such as the assumption made on project attrition. Because you are using these figures to try to justify the devastation being reaped on the UK renewables industry, we call on you to publish all the assumptions behind those figures. We are also calling for the DECC Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee to hold an inquiry into the LCF figures you are using to justify this damage. 
You also say you are concerned about consumers. Why then are you deliberately targeting cuts to onshore wind and solar energy, which are widely acknowledged to be the cheapest renewable electricity sources currently, and are both predicted to see large price falls in the future. If you remain, as you claim, committed to the Climate Change Act, meeting our legal obligations will cost consumers more, if you stop these two renewable technologies. In other words, your justification for cutting renewable energy investment is bogus. 
Partly because of such concerns above, Liberal Democrat peers are tabling an amendment today on the Energy Bill which requires the Secretary of State to produce a report on how the Government will meet its climate change targets, including its obligations under the legally binding European Renewables Directive, which requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from EU countries by 20% by 2020. This amendment seeks to enhance existing reporting requirements on issues such as the Levy Control Framework and the impact of onshore wind investment on consumer bills, given the weakness of your arguments used to justify your policies to date. 
Green policy under this Conservative Government is heading in entirely the wrong direction and has already damaged the UK's credibility and leadership role on climate change ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris this December. 
Furthermore, why are we willing to increase tax breaks for oil and gas and maintain subsidies for nuclear power run by the French and Chinese whilst at the same time slashing subsidies for clean energy technologies like solar and wind where British firms are increasingly winning orders? This is not the level playing field for low carbon technologies the UK advocates abroad but politically-driven picking winners. 
So we call upon you and your Government colleagues for immediate public assurances that the UK still intends to meet our legally binding climate change and renewable energy targets, and to set out in detail how you will in practice do that.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Action On Energy and Green Deal Communities

The Cambridgeshire Green Deal Communities (GDC) scheme provides grants to Cambridgeshire households to install solid wall insulation in their homes.  To date the scheme has delivered solid wall insulation to over 200 properties.

The scheme is a partnership between all the Cambridgeshire Local Authorities and is funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Climate Energy Ltd has been the main contractor undertaking this work and has also been working for other authorities in the UK.  We have now been notified that Climate Energy Ltd has entered into administration.

All the local authorities involved in this scheme want to reassure people that the main priority is to ensure completion of any outstanding work.  They will work to support customers who have paid deposits to either have the work completed, or their deposits refunded.  All affected customers will be contacted by letter in the coming days to outline the position and details of who to contact will be provided.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Community projects helped with £82,000 of funding

Bids for a community grant scheme have closed for the year after a whopping £82,000 of funding was allocated to over 60 projects in South Cambridgeshire.

Councillors have praised communities for the range and quantity of bids that were received by South Cambridgeshire District Council with 15 projects sharing over £14,000 in the latest round of funding alone.

Community Chest Grant Scheme funding awarded at the Council Leader’s recent portfolio meeting included:

  • £1,000 to Comberton Crusaders Football Club for new goals
  • £1,000 to Linton parish Council to rebuild a flint wall in a Grade I listed churchyard
  • £1,000 to Six Mile Bottom Sports and Social Club to help refurbish the village hall to meet fire and safety regulations
  • £1,000 to Toft People’s Hall to purchase theatre lights and mounting bars for events

A full list of the grants recently awarded is available here.

A small number of funding bids not submitted in time for the recent meeting will be considered later in October but no new bids are now being received as the money available has been allocated.

The Community Chest funding is available to voluntary and community sector groups, charities and parish councils wishing to improve the quality of life for residents in South Cambridgeshire. The maximum available per bid was £1,500.

Funding could be bid for improvements to community facilities, repairs to historic buildings, monuments and memorials, tree and hedge planting schemes, equipment and materials and project start-up costs.

Cllr Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Communities across the area should be congratulated for the fantastic range and quantity of bids we have received. This grant funding pot has been incredibly popular over recent years and I’m delighted we have been able to allocate all the funding available to such worthy and exciting projects that are having a positive impact in our villages.

“Although we have awarded all the funding, please make sure your community is thinking about projects you want to carry out next year as we will have fresh batch of funding from April 2016."

More information and eligibility criteria visit

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Affordable homes shortfall among new city centre flats

Eight-four new city centre apartments could soon be built, but will fall well short of Cambridge City Council's policy for 40 per cent to be 'affordable homes'.

Unex, submitting plans for a new development mainly on old warehousing land between Newmarket Road and East Road close to the Grafton car park, is offering only 24 affordable homes instead of the expected 34.

The developers are claiming that if more of the apartments were to be designated as 'affordable' the whole scheme would be unviable. They have submitted a financial assessment to support the claim, which is not being made publicly available.

"It is outrageous that this developer is cocking a snook at the council’s longstanding 40 per cent affordable housing policy; this is a city crying out for affordable homes,” said ward councillor and Lib Dem Oppostion Leader, Cllr Tim Bick.

“With the government having clamped down on the building of new council homes and forcing the sale of housing association homes, we are desperately reliant on the public obligations of property developers. If the developers get away with this, an alarming trend will be reinforced. That would be a disaster and our Planning Committee should challenge it all the way.

”The 40 per cent policy has been in place since 2006 so developers should build it into their business plan from the outset. If Unex has paid too much for the land or let other costs get out of control, that’s its problem – the public shouldn’t have to bail it out. Frankly, it’s extraordinary if it can’t make its business stack up, given Cambridge’s rapidly rising house prices. The recent nearby development at Parkside Place managed to meet the same affordable housing target of 40 per cent for their scheme on the nail.

“It seems that this use of viability assessments is effectively fuelling a rampant land market at the expense of ordinary people. If developers are not more loved by the public, here’s a reason why.”

Unex’s application is likely to come to Cambridge City Council's Planning Committee in November or December.

Details of the planning application can be found here – planning reference 14/1905/FUL:

City archive set to move to state-of-the-art facility

Cambridge City archive, which includes records of Cambridge City Council and its predecessors dating back to the 13th century, is set to move to Ely alongside the county archive.

A report published ahead of the city council’s Strategy and Resources Committee on 12 October, recommends agreeing to the county council’s plan to move the city archive with the county archive from Shire Hall in 2016.

If this is confirmed by the county council’s General Purposes Committee when it meets on 20 October, the archives collections held in Shire Hall would move to the new Ely centre, while the Cambridgeshire Collection (library materials of local interest) would remain in Cambridge Central Library.

If city councillors agree to the recommendation in the report, the two sets of archives would remain together, as they have been since 1975, in an accessible, climate-controlled storage facility near to Ely train station.

It would be the first time that the city archive has left Cambridge. The council’s original decision in 1975 to deposit the city archive with the county archive included a proviso that the city records should not leave Cambridge.

County councillors discussed the move to Ely last December leaving the city council with a choice: to keep the archives together or find a new home in Cambridge for the city archive, potentially at significant cost to the taxpayer.

The county council reviewed the detail of the project at its own Health and Community Infrastructure Committee today.

The city officers’ report highlights the benefits of keeping the archives together which include making research easier for family historians and other researchers and a commitment by the county council to continue carrying out digital cataloguing and management tasks.

With records occupying some 300 metres of shelving, finding an alternative home for the city archive is not a straightforward option, not least because the county council has spent a considerable amount of time trying to find somewhere suitable over a number of years without success.

Any facility would need to be properly managed, accessible to the public, climate-controlled and it would need to meet other standards too. Estimates suggest that it could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to set up and potentially another £50,000 per year in running costs.

In 2014, 104 visitors went to the city archive in person and of these just 42 were from Cambridge.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council, said: “We don’t want to ride roughshod over decisions made by our predecessors about the location of the city archive, nor do we want to see the city archive leave Cambridge.

“However, we have to be realistic and think about the costs involved in setting up a separate city facility. Most researchers also want to visit our records at the same time as the county records which are set to move to Ely, so they will benefit from co-location.

“There are no obvious alternatives in the city and the option being put forward by the county council makes sense financially because it’s accessible and the store there will be specially adapted to conserving documents.

“Increasingly the records will be available online, so that residents and others will be able to access them or browse the catalogue and request physical copies from wherever they live.

“For the city council to replicate all of that for the city archive, in order to keep it in Cambridge, would be very costly.

“I feel sure that the great majority of residents would expect us to take a pragmatic approach to this, particularly at a time when we are facing major financial challenges.”

Cllr Herbert will make a decision on the recommendations in the report at Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on 12 October.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Half term camps for young sports enthusiasts

Young residents can beat back the winter blues and hone their sporting skills this half term with a programme of activities lined up by South Cambridgeshire District Council.

A junior netball camp for 7 to 15 year olds will offer participants the opportunity to benefit from training with England Netball qualified coaches before putting their skills into practice in game play.  The session will take place on Wednesday 28 October, from 10am to 3.30pm, at Impington Village College.

A junior athletics camp, also for 7 to 15 year olds, will offer participants of all abilities the chance to receive training in sprinting, jumping, throwing and endurance running by England Athletics qualified coaches followed by a fun competition. The session will run on Thursday 29 October, from 10am to 3.30pm, at Wilberforce Road Athletics Track in Cambridge.

Each session is open to boys and girls and will cost just £18 per child for the day or £30 for two siblings. To participate in both days will cost £30 per child.

Participants are asked to wear suitable footwear and clothing, and bring a packed lunch and drink.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for new communities, Cllr Mick Martin, said: “Our holiday camps have proved to be increasingly popular year on year. They aim to enthuse and engage our younger residents, encouraging participation in sport and driving home the importance of keeping fit and living a healthy lifestyle.”

For more information and to register your interest, email or call Helen Stepney on 07732 222905.

Cambridgeshire Budget Challenge Consultation Launch

Have your say on Cambridgeshire's budget challenge that affects us all.

Communities across Cambridgeshire are being asked to have their say on how to meet the massive budget challenge facing them and the County – including finding more than £100 million in savings over the next five years.

Latest predictions show Cambridgeshire County Council will have to find £41 million in savings next year alone. This follows massive growing demands on Council services and indications that Government’s main funding for the authority will dwindle to nothing in the future.

With funding already reduced the Council is already making hard choices, such as looking at turning off street lights. The Council has already saved around £100 million in the last three years while trying to maintain vital frontline services, including caring for some of our most vulnerable.

Next year forecasts suggest we will have £15 million or 27 per cent less from the Government Revenue Support Grant while needing to find an extra £19.7 million to meet the pressures from more people needing our services as well as inflation. This is on top of other charges and savings we have to find – making up the £41 million total.

With the gap increasing between demand for services and funding the picture is bleak and Cambridgeshire will be faced with even more cuts.

The challenge affects all of Cambridgeshire communities and the Council has launched a consultation to explain the problem and to show how we can work together to find solutions.

A film outlining what the Council does and how it is funded as well as areas where communities can help has been released as part of the consultation.

The film also shows just some ways people can help save nearly £2 million by recycling more, fostering, using online services or just simply helping a relative or neighbour.

For example:

  • By recruiting 30 more foster carers the Council could not only help provide a much needed loving home for a child but save £480k a year.
  • If every household put 1kg less waste in their black bins each week, Cambridgeshire could save £1m in landfill tax. That could mean just recycling a few extra jars or cans a week instead of throwing them away.
  • If there was just a 10 per cent rise in people using online council services where they are available rather than calling or visiting, it could save up to £201,000
  • By simply being a good neighbour and keeping an eye on an elderly relative or friend residents can help keep someone fit and healthy, living independently.

People can find out more by going to and have their say.

Each year Cambridgeshire County Council delivers a range of services to residents in 264,000 households. Services include looking after 2,800 miles of roads, helping run and build schools, disposing of the County’s waste and providing support for older people, residents with disabilities and children who are in care.

  • Around £192.4 million is spent on looking after and caring for the most vulnerable – out of a wider Children’s Families and Adult Services budget of around  £316.5 million
  • Spending £33 million on transport including over £13 million of which goes on repairing and maintaining highways and paths, around £11m on passenger transport and £9m on street lighting 
  • Waste Disposal and recycling - £34.5 million
  • Helping people lead a healthy and active lifestyle - Public Health - £26.2 million
  • Providing and running library and heritage services - £5.5 million
  • Cost of borrowing to build new schools and roads - £35.5 million
  • A further £58.7 million is split between a range of areas – this includes things such as Registration, services like planning, Trading Standards and those supporting the local economy as well as central support to help frontline services.

Even without taking into account education funding this amounts to £510.4 million

These services are funded in three ways:

  • From the council tax as well as fees and charges - £328.2 million 
  • From business rates paid by local businesses (of which the Council only keeps a part) - £112.4 million 
  • From grants from central Government - £69.6m

Already, since 2009 the Council has had to cut £218 million from its budget and reduced the number of staff.

At the same time Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. This means more jobs and homes, but also much more pressure on schools, social care and our roads.

To help address this, the County is also sharing services as well as working in partnership with other public bodies to save money. At the same time it is bringing in major investment for road and rail projects across the County.

It is also working with communities to support volunteers and groups that are supporting their neighbours and neighbourhoods.

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Steve Count, said: “The County Council and Cambridgeshire communities are facing a massive funding challenge and we want people to understand the issues and make sure they have a chance to help answer it. The savings having to be made by the County Council affect all of our residents. We are already making tough decisions and with millions of pounds less in the budget this can only get worse, as Government grants dwindle further. We have already reduced staff, shared services and made massive savings. We know we can do more but we have reached a tipping point where frontline services will be further affected.

“Cambridgeshire is a county where people help and look after each other and the Council is part of the communities we serve. We want to work with residents, businesses and other organisations as a team to meet this challenge together. There are some simple things, like recycling more, that people can do that will save massive amounts for Cambridgeshire residents. From becoming a foster carer or simply being a good neighbour we can all make Cambridgeshire a better place.”

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Guest Post: Electric Motoring- Venturing Further Afield by Cllr Nick Hollinghurst

Hybrid vehicles, despite their complexity, are a good half-way house towards the goal of greener motoring - but all-electric vehicles are the full Monty.

However one thing must be taken into account, there is no fossil fuel back up and van-based generators, such is claimed to be as provided by the AA under its EVRescue scheme are very few and far between. So electric motoring does mean more thoughtful motoring and a certain amount of forward planning is needed for a return journey to somewhere more than 45 miles away or to a destination more than 90 miles away.

But more thought about motoring is not a bad thing. Whatever the fuel - whether electric, gas, hybrid, petrol or diesel - if we could all use our vehicles just 10% less then the benefits in terms of pollution, public health, carbon dioxide emission, road maintenance, traffic congestion, time and cost would be enormous.

However, Liberal Democrat Councillor Nick Hollinghurst, has found that longer journeys are not a problem. Recently he and his wife Rosemarie went to Bournemouth and back. On the way down they charged up at Reading and on the way back at Winchester, with a cup of coffee each time and charge times of 25 minutes each time.

With rapid chargers at nearly every motorway service area, at IKEA stores, friendly Nissan dealerships and with more spreading down the A roads at places like Roadchef, charging on the road is becoming easier all the time. There are now 9,320 UK charging points, of which 1,490 are the rapid charge type, spread over 3,550 locations and increasing at the rate of 4 a day. Fast chargers, and the slow 13-amp type, are also to be found at hotels, council car parks and at some public buildings e.g. Watford Town Hall. Now Tesla has got in on the act with 22 Superfast Chargers (for their super expensive cars!) on some motorways.

The picture shows Nick charging up in Cambridge at the Nissan dealership near the airport - a 30 minute charge and time to catch up on telephone calls and e-mails.

So don't be left behind - sign up for electric motoring while the grants that Ed Davey, the former Liberal Democrat Environment Minister, brought in are still available. Don't delay! David Cameron has already announced his intention to cut out all the "green crap" as he calls it - and George Osborne has already given notice of the reduction or termination of wind and solar power subsidies and green motoring grants and concessions.

You can receive a flat rate £5,000 towards an electric car regardless of size or cost. Each household can qualify for two grants (for two cars). And, until next September, you can get a grant of £700 towards a fast home charger.

Oh, and the charges are mostly free at the moment, but even when you have to pay it's only about £2.50 for a full charge - enough for 100 miles in a Nissan Leaf and 120 miles in a 2-door Renault Zoe. At the moment fuel costs work out at just over 2p per mile and on his first 850 miles Nick has saved about £150 compared to diesel in just 3 weeks.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Lib Dem Councillor raises safety fears as cycle lanes project slips

Cambridge Liberal Democrat Councillor Amanda Taylor has raised safety fears over a major county council-run project in the city will is running months behind schedule.

The 37-week scheme to build new cycle lanes in Cambridge’s Hills Road, due to be completed in October is not even half finished.

But Cllr Taylor claims that ironically a project launched to improve safety has had the opposite effect putting cyclists at risk – as well as causing danger to other road users.

She is demanding answers from Cambridgeshire County Council which launched the project to improve safety on the road for cyclists and pedestrians.

And she will be questioning the county council’s Cycling Team which is attending Cambridge’s next South Area Committee on October 5.

Cllr Taylor, who represents Queen Edith’s said: “The work has inconvenienced everyone and caused real safety hazards.

“This road is used by commuters and students cycling to college and they have had to duck in and out of cycle lanes to manoeuvre round construction vehicles and plant.

“Residents have been unable to get in and out of their drives and pedestrians have had to share the pavements with cyclists. At the same time bus stops have been removed inconveniencing bus passengers.

“It’s ironic that a project designed to improve safety has done completely the opposite. It has not been carried out to the safety standards I would expect of the county council and it is nowhere near completion.”

“There is a lot of local anger about this especially as many residents are sceptical of the benefits of the new cycle lanes.”

Work is starting, however, on the side of Hills Road heading out of the city and another stretch of road was red-tarmacked last weekend.

To reduce the danger to cyclists, the council has agreed the opposite cycleway will remain shared use until both sides of the road are completed.

Cllr Taylor added: “We are urging people to attend the next South Area Committee meeting to put their questions to the council’s Cycling Team officer and raise their safety concerns.

“We hope that by hearing these officers we will have a clearer picture of how long this project is going to take to finish.”

The committee will meet at St. John’s Church Hall in Hills Road at 7pm on Monday (October 5).

The officer attending the meeting will be presenting the report contained in the agenda here:

Friday, 2 October 2015

5,600 could lose free school meals under Tory plans - Guest Post from James Wright

Thousands of children across Norwich could lose their right to a free school meal under Conservative plans to review the scheme.

Universal free school meals offer every infant child a healthy meal at lunchtime, which saves families more than £400 per child per year.

Evidence shows where children have been given a free school dinner, their results improved compared to youngsters who didn't get one.

These academic improvements were most marked among children from the poorest backgrounds.
There are currently 5,631 children who receive free school meals across Norwich, who would lose them if the Conservatives follow through with plans reported in the media recently.

James Wright said: "If this goes ahead, the Tories will show they are willing to take an axe to the education budget at the expense of children's learning.

"By scrapping this policy they would take food off the plates of thousands children across Norwich who now benefit from a free healthy meal at lunchtime.

"The Liberal Democrats fought tooth and nail to get this through in Coalition because we want every child to have the best possible start in life and be able to concentrate in class, and all the evidence shows that a healthy meal helps with that.

"Instead of further investing in our children, the Tories are turning up at the school gate and stealing their lunch money. Rather than scaling back this policy, they should be extending it to all Primary children."

All evidence on the benefits of universal free school meals comes from the independent evaluation of the 2009 pilots:
The School Food Plan, written by independent school food reviewers Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, recommended introducing free school meals for all primary school children:

How the plastic bag charges could improve our recycling

With charges being introduced for plastic bags, residents are being encouraged to investigate other ways to carry their shopping.

With major retailers getting ready to introduce a 5p charge for each carrier bag they issue – residents are being reminded of how they can best carry their shopping.

From Monday 5 October, retailers with more than 250 employees must start charging the 5p levy to help reduce the amount of plastic bags which end of in landfill or litter the countryside.

RECAP has promoted reusable bags for many years and is encouraging people to start to reuse bags or use more durable ‘bags for life’ when they are shopping.

Local Councils are also hoping the charge will help to stop people using plastic bags (including the bio degradable bags) to wrap their food waste which is then being put into the food and garden waste bin.

Plastic or biodegradable bags cannot break down in the process the council uses to treat the food and garden waste and this means some of the material that could have been made into useful compost ends up in landfill, costing the council over £200K a year.

Cllr Roger Hickford, Chairman of RECAP, said: “Last year, British supermarkets gave out more than 7.6billion plastic bags to shoppers – which equates to 140 bags per person or 61,000 tonnes in total. This is a truly staggering number and despite the best efforts of some people to recycle and reuse these bags, councils across the county find them littering streets, parks or put into the wrong recycling bin.

“With the introduction by the Government of the 5p plastic bag levy, we hope people will think very carefully about what they do. For example, we have found plastics bags in the food and garden collection bins which contaminate the compost we create. Over 23,000 thousand tonnes a year of compost can be made which is then used on farmer's fields for crops or by Cambridgeshire residents on their gardens. But things like plastic bags cannot break down in our process which means some of the material must be rejected. . The best thing that people can do is buy the durable ‘bags for life’ which can be used again and again. If you do choose to use plastic bags then make sure you recycle them in the right bin.”

For more information go to

Thursday, 1 October 2015

New homes and a new car park set for Park Street

PROPOSALS for a new 250 space underground car park, with housing and cycle parking, are set to be discussed by councillors.

Cambridge City Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee will discuss a report that has been published today, recommending the demolition of the existing multi-storey car park to make way for homes and parking.

The report proposes a mixed housing development of market and social housing, including options for commercial rent on the ground floor, to sit above the new car park. It also puts forward proposals to mitigate disruption during the building works.

The condition of Park Street car park has deteriorated because it is close to the end of its useful life and costly repairs would offer taxpayers poor value for money over the longer term.

Last year, the council carried out a consultation on a number of options for Park Street car park.

A majority of respondents said they preferred the option to replace the existing car park with a new underground car park with mixed residential and/ or other commercial development above ground.

Further work on the costs of this and other options followed the consultation and the report sets out the pros and cons of the options considered.

If councillors give it the green light, the new car park would offer customers modern facilities, new cycle parking and meet all the latest standards.

It would last for around 60 years, cost approximately £9.25m and take around 20 months to build with around two months needed to demolish the current car park.

This means that there will be fewer parking spaces in the city centre for the duration of the project which will bring some inconvenience for regular customers and also lose the council revenue in the short term.

To mitigate the impact on the public during the building works, the report proposes initiatives to promote alternative car and cycle parking in the city centre, in addition to bus services and the park and ride.

The council’s analysis of car parking capacity across the city centre shows there are sufficient spaces available in other car parks at most times of the week to make up for the temporary loss at Park Street.

A joint campaign with Cambridge BID is also suggested to support the message that Park Street businesses and others in the vicinity are open for business as usual.

The business case for the scheme also sets out how the council will recover the lost income over time.

The report recommends further work to analyse the best way of delivering the housing element of the overall scheme.

This will take account of government proposals to cut housing rents by 1% annually for the next four years, to sell the highest value council homes when the tenants move out, and for any household living in a council home, with an income of over £30k, to pay up to the market rent.

Together, these changes would mean that building new homes becomes financially challenging for the council and increases the risk that debts would be harder to pay back.

Against this backdrop, further analysis would look at a range of options involving different combinations of the council building some homes and working with a social housing developer to build them.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We know there will be disruption while work is under way so we will be working hard with our partners, including Cambridge BID, to put in place a series of measures to mitigate the impact.

“This will include promoting the other car and cycle parks in the city centre where spaces are available, bus services and also the park and ride. We will also work with the BID to get the message across loud and clear that businesses in the Park Street area are open as normal.

“We know there is a desperate need for new homes and we are committed to investigating and maximising affordable housing at Park Street. We will need to do further detailed work on our options because our original plans for more homes are not now possible given the announcements in the government’s July budget statement.”

Council to seek residents' views on climate change

CAMBRIDGE City Council is set to consult residents on a new draft Climate Change Strategy, which will focus on reducing carbon emissions from the city and supporting residents and businesses to respond to the effects of climate change.

Councillors will consider a report at the council’s Strategy and Resources Committee on 12 October, which recommends that residents, local environmental groups and climate change academics should be asked for their views.

The draft strategy focuses on reducing emissions in four key areas that contribute most to the city’s carbon footprint and where the council has the greatest influence.

These are: emissions from council buildings and activities; energy used by homes and businesses; sustainable transport; and reducing waste and increasing recycling.

It also sets out measures to help residents and businesses adapt to the impacts of climate change, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

The strategy recommends that the council continues to support existing programmes and services which help reduce emissions, and identifies new areas where the council can have even greater impact.

It sets out 48 actions, including:

  • Using local planning policies to set sustainability standards for new homes and commercial developments;
  • Improving the energy efficiency of existing homes, through investment in council homes and the Action on Energy partnership;
  • Helping vulnerable residents to reduce their fuel and water usage and costs;
  • Investing in sustainable transport infrastructure, including bus and cycle schemes, through the Greater Cambridge City Deal;
  • Working with partners to promote low emissions buses and taxis;
  • Promoting recycling and increasing opportunities for residents and businesses to recycle more;
  • Working with partners in the Cambridge Sustainable Food network to promote sustainable food sources and reduce food waste; and
  • Supporting residents to respond to the likely effects of climate change, including taking steps to reduce the risk of flooding and providing advice on heatwaves and other extreme weather events.

Cllr George Owers, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “It is vital that the city council continues to work to support international efforts to tackle climate change.

“This strategy builds on the council’s work to date and clearly sets out the steps we will take to help reduce carbon emissions over the next five years.

“We are already feeling the effects of climate change, so the focus on supporting residents and businesses to respond to impacts such as flooding, heatwaves and water shortages is particularly important.

“Research clearly shows that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are least equipped to respond to these challenges, so it is essential that the council takes action to reduce the risks and helps them to prepare.”

If councillors approve the draft Climate Change Strategy on 12 October, public consultation will take place from 13 October to 12 January. Residents, businesses and other interested parties will be able to submit comments via the council’s website at: