School expansions approved: Plans have been approved to increase the size of six primary schools in Cambridgeshire to cater for an expected rise in pupil numbers. Cabinet has agreed the proposed expansions of the six schools, providing an additional 170 places across the county.
* Abbey Meadows Primary School, Cambridge – an extra 30 Reception places from September 2010
* Colville Primary School, Cambridge – an extra 30 Reception places from September 2010
* Spring Meadow Primary School, Ely – an extra 30 reception places from September 2010
* The Weatheralls Primary School, Soham – an extra 30 Reception places from September 2010
* St John’s C of E Primary School, Huntingdon – an extra 30 reception places from September 2010
* Pendragon Primary School, Papworth Everard – an extra 20 reception places from September 2011
There is also a proposal for a new primary school in the south of the city. I am concerned that this additional capacity inside the city will have a negative impact on the schools close to the city. I have spoken with the cabinet member David Harty and made the case for some flexibility on how the number of classes are calculated.
Library review under way: All options being looked at. The way forward is still not clear. I am chairing a scrutiny committee tomorrow that will be looking into the review in some depth. Our report will go to cabinet along side the library review paper for consideration.
Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny Committee: I now chair this committee. It will be looking into a number of issues that span different organisations, for example the police, probation, courts, criminal justice board, drug prevention as well as libraries and adult education. Our first member led review is on Integrated Offender Management. We will be holding organisations to account for joined up working where offenders are concerned.
Cabinet Assistants: Four new posts of cabinet assistants have been created to help cabinet members. I have been asked to assist the cabinet member for corporate services. This does not cost the council anything and has no allowance attached.
Financial situation facing the County: Next month the Coalition Government will be announcing details of its Comprehensive Spending Review for Local authorities. This will set out in more detail how much funding Cambridgeshire will have for providing services in the next three years.
Public services are facing an unprecedented period of retraction as Government funding is cut back as a result of general economic conditions, the need to resolve the deficit and political decisions on the role and scale of the state. Based on Treasury estimates, the County Council is currently planning for a potential reduction in its funding from Government of up to 40 per cent in real terms over the coming five years. Our ability to raise council tax rates and charges will also be severely limited.
This means that, in order to place the council on a sustainable footing for the future, the way services are currently delivered will have to be completely and radically transformed. In the future, the County Council will become both a commissioner as well as provider of services, working increasingly in collaboration with other public services, the community, and the private and voluntary sectors. Some services will end, and others become more targeted to those in the greatest need.
Cambridgeshire’s resilience: We cannot underestimate the potential impacts – 43% of people in employment in Cambridgeshire work in public services. Because the unique qualities of Cambridgeshire’s economy – the knowledge base we have through the universities, our bio-tech, clean tech industries – we are well placed to weather the storm.
It’s not the same picture everywhere in the county – there are particular issues in Fenland with deprivation and social cohesion. Clearly some areas will continue to need more support than others. We are already addressing the big society agenda which is already happening in the county. Starting soon we will be asking people in Cambridgeshire for their ideas and in particular their capacity to volunteer.
Councils committed to being as transparent and accountable: Cambridgeshire is showing its commitment to being open about its finances by publishing details of all spending over £500. From the week beginning Monday, September 20 Cambridgeshire County Council will reveal all its spending of £500 and over for July and August this year. Monthly updates of spending will follow.
Almost immediately after the general election, the Government asked all local authorities to prepare to publish this financial information by January 2011. As part of its commitment to be as open and honest as possible Cambridgeshire County Council is joining around 50 other authorities in publicising the information early.
The County Council is committed to being as transparent and accountable as possible. We were one of the first authorities to publish details about our senior management pay and we are in the first group of councils to put this information about spending over £500 on line. We have a good national record for managing finances and we are eager not only to publish this long before the Government’s deadline of January but to eventually exceed Government expectations by publishing spending below £500 as well.