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Cambridgeshire County Council

Report to Parish Council - November 2009

Report from Councillor John Reynolds

Tough times ahead for public finances - Council warns.

Dire warnings from the main UK political parties on reductions in the money given to councils and public bodies means the way services are delivered is due for a complete re-think. Forecasts suggest Cambridgeshire County Council, which has strong rating for use of resources, could be around £113 million worse off in five year's time than it is now. Under a new scheme - Making Cambridgeshire Count - communities will be put in the driving seat of what services they want and how they are delivered. At the same time Cambridgeshire public bodies and the County's most influential organisations will look at ways of reducing duplication of resources and redesigning services to be more effective and focused. Council chiefs say that it is right that authorities tighten their belts at this time but 'salami-slicing' from services public bodies deliver will neither provide the savings needed nor the services Cambridgeshire wants and deserves. Although over the next five years funding will stay relatively the same, the Council will have to find an extra £47 million to cover inflation and a predicted £55 million is needed for the increased demand for services.

New St Neots recycling centre opened

A new £3 million state-of-the-art indoor recycling centre opened in St Neots on October 16. The new County Council centre, on the Cromwell Road Industrial Estate, replaces the old town centre site, which finally closed its gates on October 15, after more than 25 years service. The new recycling centre is managed by Donarbon Ltd, as part of a larger PFI contract to deal with the County' s waste over the next 26 years. It is split-level so people no longer have to struggle up steps with heavy rubbish, and is indoors which means residents can recycle in all weathers. Residents will be able to recycle the widest possible range of items including electrical appliances, timber, garden waste, batteries and cardboard. The new centre is part of a wider programme by the County Council to provide better recycling facilities across Cambridgeshire and to tackle climate change.

Adequate and good outcomes in Children's Services

An inspection of safeguarding and looked after children services at the council has assessed the services as adequate overall with some good features. A team from OfSTED - the Office for Standards in Education - rated 26 of the inspected areas in the' adequate category and 8 as 'good'. The inspection was one of the first carried out using the new OfSTED inspection methodology. Inspectors said the overall effectiveness of the safeguarding services was adequate, with statutory requirements being met, adding that improvements in services were taking place and that there is an accelerating pace of change. They emphasised that the commitment of partner agencies to the joint safeguarding and child protection agenda was strong. Inspectors praised the 'considerable efforts' made towards establishing a clear vision, structures and detailed operational arrangements for its services. The inspectors remarked on the high morale of the children's social care workforce.

Cambridgeshire bid for record transport investment.

The County Council has backed a half billion pound bid to revolutionise transport in the county. A meeting of Full Council (Oct 13) approved pressing ahead with a Transport Innovation Fund (TiF) bid to help stop congestion from bringing Cambridge to a grinding halt. Cambridgeshire is firstly asking for early confirmation of Government funding for a new railway station in Chesterton, which would begin to be built in 2012, three years earlier than planned. A second stage will follow at the end of 2010 with a full bid for the remainder of the £500 million package. This will include a trigger point for a congestion charge to be introduced that will need to be agreed by the public, businesses, partner authorities and Government. The earliest a congestion charge would be introduced is 2017, and only as a last resort if the record breaking TiF investment into transport does not help and the agreed trigger is reached. The terms of the proposal Cambridgeshire will put forward to Government echo a report in July from the independent Cambridgeshire Transport Commission. The Commission recommended that the bid should include a 'trigger point' for a congestion charge when congestion reached a critical level and nothing else would help reduce it.

Cambridge City Archives - keeping it in the family!

The County Council's Archives Service is about to start work on a mammoth project to catalogue and preserve thousands of records which record the history of Cambridge City. The Cambridgeshire Family History Society (CFHS) has provided a £45,000 grant which will fund an archivist for two years to catalogue the records of the Municipal Borough of Cambridge after 1835 and some earlier records deposited at Cambridgeshire Archives by the City Council. The City of Cambridge archives occupy more than 150 metres of shelving with records covering a period from the 13th to 21st century. They include records of meetings, title deeds, rate books and valuations, engineer's reports, court books, treasurer's accounts, architects' plans and drawings. Whilst a multitude of lists exist, there is no modern archive catalogue, so information about the contents of the archive is anecdotal and access difficult. The archivist will also work with the CFHS volunteer group and other volunteers to produce a detailed transcription and indexes of records of special interest and at the same time conservation staff will systematically clean and package documents to ensure the entire archive can be used without risk of damage and to ensure long-term preservation for future generations.

World's oldest university printer presents collection to Cambridgeshire's newest Library.

The world's oldest University printer and publisher - Cambridge University Press, has boosted the stock of Cambridgeshire's newest Library. A team from Cambridge University Press presented the books, which cover a wide range of subjects from evolution to climate change, to Cambridge Central Library. The books boosted the Central Library collection which includes more than 100,000 items for loan to the public. The Library re-opened to the public on September 29, after an extensive rebuild and refurbishment programme and welcomed more than 17,000 visitors during its first week of operation.

Drumming up excitement for real time at Cambridge bus station.

The County Council has nearly completed work on installing a new Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) display at Cambridge's Drummer Street bus station. The displays will give passengers an exact waiting time, much like the overhead signs at train stations or on the Underground. Currently 12 of the 31 services that use Drummer Street are equipped to deliver real time information for passengers, while a proposal for a further five services to be kitted out is underway. Two summary boards will display the information in the centre of the station, so that passengers can see exactly how long they have to wait for the next bus.

World's first solo percussionist officially opens Huntingdon Library

World renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie officially opened the Huntingdon Library and Archive centre, on November 9. The Library opened to the public on June 11 and Ms Glennie has been invited to perform the official opening and to meet Cambridgeshire County Council and Library Service staff who have helped make the Library a huge success. She will also be given a guided tour of the building to see the extended facilities and view the archives area and displays including items from the Cromwell Collection, which also has dedicated space in the building. The £4.5 million building in Princes Street provides extra space enabling the County Council to expand its range of learning activities and access to its unique collection of nearly one million irreplaceable manuscripts and documents. The building also features the latest technology from the self-service and wi-fi facilities and the most modern, purpose built hi-tech storage facilities, which meet stringent national standards for protecting and conserving historic documents. There is also a spacious children's library, a Learning Centre, a café and community meeting rooms for all kinds of events.

Youth Parliament heads for the Commons.

Young people from Cambridgeshire took over the debating chamber in the House of Commons. Members of Cambridgeshire's Youth Parliament joined other MYPs from across the country for a series of debates on lowering the voting age to 16, youth crime, public transport for young people, jobs and the economy, and university fees. It was the first time in 300 years anyone other than MPs had been allowed to debate in the Commons and sit on the green benches. The three Cambridgeshire MYPS who went to London on October 30 were Lewis Punter (MYP for East Cambs and Fenland and former Thomas Clarkson Community College pupil), Will Heron (North Cambs and Hunts and St Ivo School pupil) and Kayleigh Bamford (acting MYP for South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City and Impington Village College pupil).

Book your place at Willingham Library anniversary party.

Willingham Library celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special party for former and existing staff, Councillors and customers, on October 21. Before being turned into a Library, the building was home to the Cambridge University & Town Gas Light Company - Willingham District Showroom. After conversation it opened as a Library on October 20, 1969. In 1997, the Library was refurbished and computerised with disabled facilities and a toilet also being installed.

Farm visit to feed fertile minds

The County Council's Farms Estate, which is celebrating its centenary, has around 250 tenants working more than 13,700 hectares (30,000 plus acres) of land. Farms on the estate regularly host school visits which are a good way to spread the word about how farmers are helping to protect and enhance the environment while as the same time showing young people life in the countryside.

Pendragon pupils get fired up over road safety

Pupils at Pendragon School in Papworth had a packed and fun filled road safety day as part of their involvement in the Safer Routes to School project. Safer Routes to School (SRTS) is a county council scheme to encourage healthier, safer and more environmentally friendly ways for children to travel. The school had identified the need for road safety training as part of their SRTS project and members of the Road Safety Team and the Police joined forces to organise a day of activities.

Each class participated in different road activities and to try hands on games with the older children taking part in a road safety quiz. Children were also given information about the importance of wearing seat belts, cycle maintenance, and the importance of wearing cycle helmets. There was also the chance to visit a Mobile Police Van and talk to officers and see a police car and design a road safety poster or try other fun activities. Parents were also invited to see the range of activities and the work produced by youngsters during the day.

New Wisbech Learning Centre thanks to cash injection.

Work has started to transform Cambridgeshire's third busiest Library at Wisbech and for the first time the new facilities will include a dedicated community and learning centre thanks to a £100,000 cash injection from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA). The £2.5 million project is being funded by the County Council, the National Lottery, EEDA and the Greater Cambridge Partnership. The Library at The Crescent will be extended and remodelled at ground and first floor level, with a new Learning Centre, a community meeting room equipped with ceiling mounted projector and hearing loop, and better facilities throughout including more room for children, new toilets and a lift.

The Learning Centre will provide an IT suite for the delivery of information, advice and guidance sessions and flexible learning leading to recognised qualifications in IT, reading, writing and numeracy, all delivered by qualified tutors in a way that meets the needs of the individual learners. The new Library will open in January 2010. Until then a temporary service is available at the Queen Mary Centre and a mobile Library is also available on the Market Square every Thursday, from 9.30-4.30 pm. The £2 million of Big Lottery funding was made through its Community Libraries programme, which is providing the money to enable five libraries in the East of England - including Wisbech - to become hubs for community learning.

Alcohol Awareness Week: Time to rethink your drink?

Agencies across Cambridgeshire joined forces to raise awareness of the risks of excess drinking and to promote the help and support available. The Cambridge Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT), police, health providers, hospitals and treatment agencies urged people to 'rethink their drink' during Alcohol Awareness Week (October 19-23). 'Temporary Bars' were set up serving up information and advice about alcoholic strength, volumes and recommended units by getting customers to measure out their favourite drinks, estimate their consumption and complete a drinks diary. There was also extensive local broadcast and print media coverage of the work in Cambridgeshire. Over a quarter of the population in England (10 million adults) drink above the guidelines for lower risk drinking. Of these, 2.6 million adults (8% of men and 6% of women) regularly drink at higher risk levels. Higher level drinking can increase the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, liver disease, stroke and other diseases. The 'temporary bars' were set up in Cambridge, Huntingdon, Ely and Wisbech.

Cambridgeshire scoops national award.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been named Transport Authority of the Year at the prestigious UK Bus Awards held in London. The award was given to the authority which judges described as having 'succeeded in tempting people out of their cars' and 'developing pro-bus policies over the last decade.' Over the last 8 years, bus passenger numbers in Cambridgeshire have risen from 15.1 million to 24.2 million while the Park and Ride service in Cambridge has seen more than four million users during the past year. Other innovations from Real Time Passenger Information systems as well as the community minibus brokerage scheme have seen the authority lead the way in giving its residents the best services possible.The award presented in front of over 650 industry professionals at a ceremony at London's Hilton Hotel also praised the vision and courage shown in developing many projects including the Guided Busway.

Winning the award of Transport Authority of the Year is recognition of a lot of hard work from so many people, including the bus operators. They have faced many challenges in recent years with cut from Central Government affecting our budget while our population has grown but have worked hard to overcome them. They have succeeded because they have worked in partnership with our local bus operators, introduced new technology but most importantly we have listened to passengers.

Cambridgeshire Together Board update.

The Cambridgeshire Together Board, the strategic partnership of the county's key decision makers, met for their bi-monthly meeting on 22 September. The Board discussed a packed agenda, including:

* Initial feedback from the follow up weather the storm summits. Among the proposals considered was the need to support the voluntary sector in dealing with requests for volunteer work and the need to harmonize and simplify the application process for the community and voluntary sector when applying for grant funding. The board discussed and noted the emerging feedback and agreed to forward the outcomes from the summits to the Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and Thematic Strategic Partnerships (TSPs) for further consideration.

* The Board received a progress update in respect of Making Cambridgeshire Count. The Board confirmed its support for the project.

* A report on the developing County Council Community Engagement Strategy and Action Plan, and proposals to develop an overarching framework for community engagement and a joint strategy for community cohesion in Cambridgeshire. The Board agreed to the proposal to develop one joint strategy for community cohesion; asked for the proposed structure for the Safer and Stronger TSP to be reviewed and streamlined further; and approved the proposal to develop a flexible joint strategic framework for community engagement which could be applied across the partnership.

East of England wins £30 million

£30 million pounds of European funding has been allocated to develop three vital transport infrastructure projects across the East of England. The three approved are the only projects in the UK to receive support.

*The rail line between Felixstowe and Nuneaton. Improvements to this significant European transport route will allow more freight to be shifted from the port by rail, reducing congestion on the A14. £8.3 million.

*The Thames Estuary dredge and reclamation works to support the integrated multi-modal London Gateway port and logistics development. £12.7 million.

*A traffic management scheme to reduce congestion and accidents on the A14. £10 million.

This is great news for the East of England. As transport plays such a central role in the economy, improving the infrastructure can act as a catalyst for increased economic activity. These projects will boost economic competitiveness and growth by delivering a reliable and efficient rail route; they will reduce carbon emissions and improve safety, security and health by making the roads and transport networks safer. The Assembly has worked with partners across the region and our MEPs to realise the improvements to the Felixstowe-Nuneaton project. EERA have driven the process throughout with significant lobbying of Network Rail, the Department of Transport, the European Commission and through the organisation of a number of technical meetings and high level political summits which ensured the timely submission of the bids.

A £42 million recycling plant, which will put Cambridgeshire at the forefront of waste management in the UK, opened.

The Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) Plant is the first of its kind in the country and will sort and recycle much of the waste that normally ends up in landfill from people's " black bag" rubbish. Rubbish collected from households across the County will be sorted at the plant which is off the A10 near Waterbeach, and run by local family firm Donarbon Waste Management Limited in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council.The massive, hi-tech treatment plant, built by BAM Nuttall which is the length of three football pitches, houses giant shredding machines called Terminators, and the latest mechanical sorting equipment, provided by Kelagh and Komptech, which removes material for recycling before turning the rest of the waste into compost like material for use on non-food crops or a fuel.

An education centre will also be developed at the site so people can learn more about the facility and why it is so important to recycle. Waste which is normally not recycled will be sorted at the facility. At the moment just over half of the County's domestic waste is recycled or composted. But this new facility, combined with improved recycling centres, will mean Cambridgeshire will massively reduce the tonnes of rubbish that ends up in landfill. Landfilling rubbish is not only bad for the environment but Government taxes every tonne of waste that ends up in the ground. This tax is currently £40 a tonne and will increase by £8 a tonne year on year.

Cambridgeshire is not only at the forefront of recycling and composting, but, thanks to this new plant, we now lead the way in treating waste that would otherwise be landfilled. The County Council is investing millions of pounds in providing better facilities to reduce, re-use and recycle our rubbish as part of our commitment to reducing our impact on climate change and getting value for money for our taxpayers. This new plant, together with the new recycling centres we are building, will reduce the amount of money spent on throwing rubbish into landfill and reduce the impact of waste on the environment. Cambridgeshire leads the country in using this technology and with the County's population expected to grow by 100,000 by 2021, we need to stay ahead in dealing with our waste. We are confident that the investment in new waste treatment facilities, which includes over £10 million in two new waste transfer stations at Alconbury and March and a new in-vessel composting plant at Waterbeach on top of this fantastic new MBT plant, will ensure that all councils in Cambridgeshire meet, and exceed their targets. We are also proud to say we will be employing local labour to operate the new sites.

Multi-Million Pound Hospital Access Road Work Continues

Works are well underway to finalise the building of a new access road from Hauxton Road to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. The new road will allow the expansion of the Addenbrooke's site and give access to the new Southern Fringe developments. It is predicted that approximately 21,500 vehicles will use the road between Hauxton Road and Shelford Road by 2023 when all the developments in the area are completed. Some 10,200 vehicles are forecast to use it between Clay Farm and Addenbrooke's. Work has now started on the new four way junction on Hauxton Road, which will eventually link to the new access road and Shelford Road.

During the work, the road will remain open in both directions, however off peak single lane closures will be necessary at times to carry out the duct and drainage work for the crossings. Where possible the lane closures and temporary traffic lights will be in place during off peak hours to minimise disruption to traffic.

It is vital that the new access road is in place in readiness for the expansion of Addenbrooke's and the new developments proposed for the area. By providing better vehicle access and good facilities for pedestrians and cyclists this access road will help to relieve congestion on the surrounding roads and keep Cambridge moving in the future. This last County Council stage before the new road opens includes improvements to the A10/M11 junction, as required by the planning permission for Addenbrooke's Access Road. This scheme is being developed with the Highways Agency to increase the capacity within the interchange and is expected to start in the next two months. Work on the access road and the junctions at Shelford Road, Hauxton Road and M11 are on schedule to be completed by summer 2010. The road will fully open after work on The Boulevard is finished. The Boulevard is being constructed by Addenbrooke's Hospital and is the final short link between the main access road and the hospital (Robinson Way). Work is expecteto be completed soon after the work on Hauxton Road and M11 junction is complete.

Gritting changes proposed to help cyclists

A range of trial improvements to the gritting service are to be piloted in Cambridgeshire over the coming months following the very hard winter last year.The initial proposals, which include trialling the gritting of major cycle bridges in Cambridge and treating of so called secondary routes earlier will inform the major in-depth review, the results of which will be implemented next year. Cambridgeshire already treats more than 40 per cent of its roads using a fleet of high-tech gritters. Government does not give extra money for gritting roads, paths or cycleways. Last year saw the fleet of 38 gritters go out around 85 times, using some 15,000 tonnes of rocksalt, costing about £1.8 million.

This initial review followed requests for better gritting of cycling facilities and last year's record cold that this winter, 11 bridges will be gritted at the same time as the main roads are gritted. A special, less corrosive rocksalt, will be used to grit the bridges to reduce harm to the bridge structures. Traditionally Secondary routes, which included some cycleways, will be gritted when this period of severe weather is forecast. Talks will also begin with District and City Council partners to see if they have any staff, such as road sweepers, who cannot carry out their normal work when snow and ice forms who could be used to put rocksalt from the County Council stocks on paths.

Cambridgeshire County Council already uses more affective and environmentally friendly forms of gritting, as used in Scandinavian countries. Gritting is a vital part of road safety strategy but we do not get extra funds from Government to do it. Government must do its bit, especially in the light of the national salt shortage, to make sure highway authorities have the resources and funding they need.

Stop means Stop - School crossing patrol campaign launched.

Road safety experts have launched a campaign to target drivers who fail to stop or are abusive to School Crossing Patrols. Cambridgeshire County Council's road safety team has received 12 reports in the last 7 months of motorists failing to stop. One driver has been prosecuted for assaulting a School Crossing Patrol. Other complaints included road users who:

* Failed to stop

* Drove around the patrol while they were on the road

* Used abusive language

* Threatened the patrol with physical violence

* Loudly revved the engine while the patrol and children were in the road

Local authorities in the eastern region are running the annual Stop Means Stop campaign to remind drivers that they are legally bound by the 1984 Road Traffic Act to stop for school crossing patrols. Failure to do so can lead to a £1,000 fine and three penalty points. In cases where the driver has been in their vehicle and behaved in an antisocial manner the police can issue a section 59 notice which can lead to the vehicle being seized. The campaign will be promoted with 10,000 car stickers, leaflets and posters sent to all reception year schoolchildren and libraries. Five patrol sites have also been chosen to trial new Stop Means Stop roadside posters.

School crossing patrol officers play a vital role in ensuring school children are provided with a safe route to and from school. They should be able to do this without fear of intimidation and threatening behaviour from inconsiderate motorists. Last year in the UK there were 5,000 reported incidents which is totally unacceptable. Drivers must allow a bit of extra time, slow down and be prepared and willing to stop when requested to do so by a School Crossing Patrol Officer.

Stop Means Stop car stickers can be obtained from the road safety team by telephoning 01480 375105.

Yours,

John Reynolds