Friday, 4 December 2015

Still time left to have your say on Street Lighting ...

One week to go to the closing date (11 December 2015).

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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 research.performance@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

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

http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CambridgeshireStreetlightConsultation/ (or http://goo.gl/6DGHjo)

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.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Cambridgeshire Lib Dems renew call for 5 per cent council tax increase to raise £7.2M

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats are repeating their call for a five per cent rise in council tax to generate an extra £7.2 million a year to protect crucial services.

The move would mean the average council tax payer would face an extra bill of just £1 a week – but would prevent the most disastrous of cuts to social care including the care of vulnerable children.

Threatened services such as libraries, rural transport and street lights could also be better funded.

And vital community funds could be maintained allowing match funding which could bring in thousands of pounds.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24) Cambridgeshire County Council’s General Purposes Committee will meet again to scrutinise the authority’s budget focusing mainly on savings plans.

County Lib Dem Leader, Lucy Nethsingha said: “I will be repeating my call for a five per cent council tax rise rather than the two per cent which is expected. This would mean a small increase for the average council taxpayer but would have a big impact on council services in the coming year.

“If the Conservative Government chooses to set the council tax cap at two per cent or below, they are making a political choice to reduce the level of service available to the public at large and in particular the most vulnerable members of society who depend most on council services.”

A five per cent increase in council tax would:

  • Keep the street lights on between 12 and 6am in all areas of the county where residents are keen to do so – £106k.
  • Maintain vital community funds enabling match funding for a wide variety of other projects, leveraging many thousands of pounds - £15k.
  • Maintain school crossing patrols across the county - £171k.
  • Keep roads gritted in winter – with the hope of extending cover to all school routes - £650k.
  • Keep libraries open - £145k - and cycle paths maintained – 217k. 
  • Fill potholes on roads and pavements - a real hazard, particularly for the elderly - £483k.
  • Continue to support rural transport, services such as dial-a-ride and subsidised buses - £694k.
  • Continue to support 16-18 year olds with tested transport to sixth form centres and colleges (means tested as at present) - £960k.
  • Maintain investment in preventative services for young people with a range of problems through locality teams - £615k – and maintain youth services - £200k. 
  • Prevent cuts to speech and language therapy services for very young children - £120k.

“I have called on the Conservative group on the county council to push for a higher cap for many months,” added Cllr Nethsingha. “I hope they have listened.”

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tim Farron Call for International anti-ISIL coaltion

The Liberal Democrats have welcomed the UN's unanimous Security Council resolution that agreed that ISIL/ISIS constituted an "unprecedented" threat to international peace and security, and called upon Member States with the requisite capacity to take "all necessary measures" to prevent and suppress its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, said:
"I warmly welcome United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249. The fact that fact that Russia did not use its veto is an important first step towards creating the broad coalition that the Liberal Democrats have been calling for as the only effective context for considering proposals for military action. 
"The UK should now use all its diplomatic skills to support the efforts being made in Vienna to assemble an anti-ISIL coalition including Russia, Turkey, Iran and other key states in the region. 
"At the same time, the Prime Minister must address the questions raised in the Foreign Affairs Committee Report when he presents to parliament the long-term strategy for any military action in Syria. That must include the planning for post-ISIL Syria, which has so far been absent amid the calls for UK planes to be engaged in strikes."

Monday, 23 November 2015

Investing in the Future - Tim Farron's Speech on the Economy

Today, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron delivers his first economic speech as leader and sets out the Liberal Democrat priorities ahead of next week's Comprehensive Spending Review.

Full Text of the Speech:

Check against delivery

As ever, as all of you know, it will be the performance of the economy over the next five years that will determine, ultimately, how this Government is judged.

And it will be the credibility of the Liberal Democrats' alternative vision for the economy that will determine our ability to challenge them.

Our message

So today I intend to set out the three principles that will govern Liberal Democrat economic policy for the next five years. They are:

Invest now in infrastructure

Back enterprise

Take the long view

It's a clear prospectus - just ten words - but it sums up very simply where we need to take this country and how my vision for the future differs from those of George Osborne and Jeremy Corbyn.

And it is the basis of the bold claim that I will make today: that only the Liberal Democrats will invest in an economy fit for the future, that encourages opportunity. An enabling state that empowers people to succeed.

Dogmatic Government

Next Wednesday, the Chancellor will deliver the results of his Comprehensive Spending Review.

In it he will set out £52 billion of new cuts to public spending over the course of the Parliament.

George would prefer you to think about public spending in a vague, esoteric way: a civil servant here, a feckless scrounger there, nothing terribly important.

But of course public spending pays for the things which matter to us all and to our daily lives: the schools our children go to, the hospitals and doctors we visit when we are sick, the police and security services who keep us safe - which is something we have been so starkly reminded of in this last week.

And here's the thing: the vast majority of these cuts are nothing to do with the job that the Coalition Government started in 2010 to balance the books.

In total over the next five years George Osborne's plans will mean cutting almost £100 billion from public spending - almost double what is necessary to tackle the structural deficit.

So be in no doubt: much of what George Osborne will announce next week will be driven by dogma and short-term politics, not common sense and long term economics.

Tax Credits

George tells us he wants the state to stop subsidising low paid jobs. A worthy aim, but his ideology is getting in the way of common sense.

You know, the phrase "hard working families" has become a terrible political cliché. But in the case of those that will be most hit by the removal of tax credits, it turns out to be spot on.

Those families that rely most on tax credits are those that have to work really hard - often holding down multiple jobs - to get by.

Tax credits are how we ensure that three million of the lowest paid, hardest working people are better off in work than on benefits.

Now, not only is that morally right, it is also economic common sense. Because, in the longer term, work is what gets people out of poverty and ultimately enables them to contribute to the economy.

So the Chancellor's plans aren't just unfair, they are also self-defeating and that's why the Liberal Democrats will oppose them every step of the way.

And I want to take this opportunity again to invite the Labour Party to join us, because transitional protection is not enough.

So I say to Labour: when we oppose the cuts to tax credits again, this time join us. With your support, and that of the many Conservative MPs who have also expressed concern, we can stop them.

Tory gimmicks

But what leads someone like George Osborne to ignore the long-term impact of such measures?

His fiscal charter gives the game away.

It made creating a surplus the primary goal of economic policy.

More important than investing in the future, backing business, or long termism; more important than new jobs, the NHS or improved infrastructure

In government, the Liberal Democrats proved our commitment to abolishing the structural deficit. Indeed, we paid a heavy electoral price for that. But the fiscal charter is nothing to do with eliminating the deficit - it goes well beyond that.

The fiscal charter is simply a trap for the Labour party. And you really don't have to set Labour traps these days.

They are becoming the most ineffective opposition in modern history.

I don't blame them, or anyone else, for not liking 'austerity'. I am appalled by those in the Conservative Party who seem to take glee in cutting programmes that were created with the best of intentions. These decisions shouldn't be taken lightly. But some of them need to be taken nonetheless.

Leaving the deficit to fester is utterly short termist. It means ultimately a larger public debt, more debt interest payments and less to spend on support for the most vulnerable in the future.

And some within the Labour Party, such as Chukka Umunna, seem to understand this.

But while John McDonnell will undoubtedly oppose George Osborne's spending cuts, he can't even agree with himself what to offer instead.

So George Osborne is playing politics with our economy.

He's prepared to tie the hands of Governments long into the future, all for the opportunity to briefly embarrass Jeremy Corbyn.

Short term political gain, for long term economic pain.

Further education

What are the real impacts of not investing in the future?

Let me give three examples:

It is widely expected that a substantial chunk of the up to £2.6 billion in cuts predicted to be taken from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills budget will fall on Further Education colleges.

We need to get real. Gone are the days when one degree, or one apprenticeship could set you up for life. In the future people will need continually to return to the well of further education, if they are to continue to be productive in the 21st century.

Further education is the springboard of a successful economy and if we kill off the sector now, we will not get it back.

Catapult Centres

And Further Education isn't the only function of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under threat.

Universities are key drivers of growth helping businesses to grow and develop. That is why 'Catapult Centres' - primarily based around our universities to support research, and, crucially, the development of new products - are so important.

They already have a proven track record in supporting high value manufacturing, medical innovation and digital technology and for every £1 we have invested with them, we are now seeing a £7 return.

Yet despite their success, private sector investors are now wary of committing to them, for one simple reason. They do not have confidence in the Conservatives to continue to provide public investment in catapult centres, as they pursue short term spending cuts.

And so their value is being undermined to all our costs.

Renewable energy

Thirdly, we can be incredibly proud that green energy is a British success story. It employs 150,000 people in our country and we have the biggest solar PV market in the EU - bigger than even Germany.

Did you know that there more offshore wind turbines around our coasts than everywhere else in the rest of the world put together?

The companies making those turbines - and the other products and technologies which a decarbonised world are going to buy - are our future.

And they have been thriving due to the investment that Liberal Democrats fought for and secured in Coalition.

That's why - over the last 5 years - and despite the need to sort out the deficit, Liberal Democrats in the Coalition fought to invest heavily in renewable energy: Since 2010 an average of £7 billion a year has been invested - delivering a doubling of the amount of energy produced by renewables to 15%.

If we continue to invest in our renewables sector, it could be worth up to £50 billion to our economy by 2020.

But now, for purely ideological reasons, the Conservatives are taking the knife to our renewable industries, cutting Feed-in Tariffs for solar, hydro and wind power, ending public support for on-shore wind power and halting the zero carbon homes policy that would have had a huge impact on energy emissions, all while selling off our brilliantly successful Green Investment Bank, without any guarantee that it will retain its remit for supporting our green industry.

This is short-sighted economic vandalism of the most self-defeating kind. It has already placed more than 25,000 jobs at risk in the solar industry alone - and the entire industry is bracing itself for further deep cuts in the CSR.

Invest for the future

Still, at least we have Jeremy Corbyn calling for the reopening of coal mines.

But just in case Britain's economic future doesn't lie in exporting expensive carbon-based fuels to China, what might we do instead?

As a direct result of the actions we took in government over the last 5 years, the UK is a more stable, more economically confident place than it would have been had we delayed those decisions.

So as we now approach the point at which the goal of abolishing the structural deficit is met, I want to set out the Liberal Democrats first economic priority going forward: invest now in infrastructure.

The cheap borrowing costs we see today are a direct result of the prudent deficit reduction we undertook in government, so that past austerity makes future austerity less necessary.

Borrowing now to invest for the future can make debt more sustainable, not less.

Fix the roof

Or, to put it another way, fix the roof while the sun is shining.

If you've got zero percent interest rates - then the sun is shining. Why don't we fix the roof?

So spending decisions over the next fiscal period must focus far more on long term infrastructure investment, than the short term need to reduce the deficit.

That does not mean ignoring the deficit, but instead reprioritising our approach to balancing it with measures designed to create a stable economy for the future.

I believe now is the time to balance deficit reduction with an active, ambitious and targeted programme of capital spending:

A high speed broadband service to every corner of Britain to allow those with new ideas and drive to do business from anywhere in the country

Transport links to allow them to get goods and services to their customers

Schools and colleges to provide the highly skilled, highly trained workforce they need to succeed

And homes to ensure that those workers have somewhere affordable to live.

We need to take seriously the case for borrowing to invest, specifically in housing, rail infrastructure and broadband.

The consequences of not doing so are clear.

We are already seeing a housing crisis. If we fail to drive forward the building of affordable homes, to reach a level of 300,000 a year by 2020 then the problem will only be getting worse.

Much of this will have to be private sector led, but you know what? It's about time the Government stepped up to the plate as well.

We need to start direct Government spending on house-building, including finally cutting ground on new Garden Cities to provide new communities with decent jobs and infrastructure, for the next generation.

And if we don't invest in rail the consequences are equally clear:

In too many areas our railways are already over capacity. Failing to invest will only make the problem worse.

Failing to invest now means that the challenge of getting people out of their cars and on to commuter light rail will be put back yet another generation. That means more traffic, higher levels of pollution and further pressure on the capacity of our roads as well.

And failing to invest now also keeps economic power focussed on London. You can't build new regional bases, across the North East and North West of England for example, if it takes almost twice as long to get from Liverpool to York than it does to get from London to Bristol.

And when it comes to investment in new technology infrastructure we are also falling behind our competitors, not just in the West but in emerging economies as well.

How can it be that when our government talks about superfast broadband they mean 24Mbps, while in South Korea, they are already rolling out broadband with a 1Gbps capacity? It's like buying a bicycle to compete against a formula one racing car.

And while it is true that communities like mine in the South Lakes are in desperate need of decent, fast broadband, let's not pretend this is just about the roll-out of rural broadband, as the Conservatives have suggested.

Even in our capital city we lack the broadband speed and capacity to compete internationally. London is currently ranked 26th out of 33 European Capital cities for download speeds.

This is a national problem and one that will damage our economy.

Key parts of our economy, such as our creative industries, rely on getting decent digital services.

But for many in this industry the problem of slow broadband is compounded by the sustained attack on the BBC, which is jeopardising those high skilled, new tech businesses in the creative industries that have grown up around hubs like Cardiff, Bristol and MediaCity in Salford due to the presence of our national broadcaster.

That is so short-sighted. And again driven by ideology over pragmatism.

Unlike the Conservatives we will not define what we spend on infrastructure by what we can squeeze within an arbitrary spending target.

Instead we should determine what to support by looking at what we need for the future. To do this I believe we need to set up an Office of Capital Expenditure- an OBR for Infrastructure to assess projects value for money and make sure we get returns on investment.

Back enterprise

And so to our second priority: back enterprise.

The liberal spirit is the entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurs are natural liberals.

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

It means believing that no-one owes us a living, but nor should government get in the way of us making a living for ourselves - like liberals.

It means, given the opportunity, believing we can make a difference through our own individual talents and vision - like liberals.

And it means believing everyone deserves that same chance to succeed regardless of where they come from or what they look like.

Just like liberals.

So, whether they know it or not enterprising people - entrepreneurs - are liberals…

…creative and innovative, wanting to be their own bosses, wanting to create opportunities for others.

Liberal. Entrepreneur. They are almost interchangeable words.

The Tory pro-business myth

You know, for many years the Tories have laid claim to being the party of business, the party of entrepreneurship. This is a complete and utter myth.

And here is why:

The fact is that the Tories aren't really pro-free market capitalism at all. They are pro-corporate capitalism.

They are there to fight not for entrepreneurs, not for innovators who oil the wheels of the market, but for the status quo.

Don't believe me? Look, not at what they say, but what they do.

An opportunity to cut taxes on business? Go for corporation tax to benefit the very largest of companies, not help small start-ups to grow.

An opportunity to diversify the energy sector? Withdraw the subsidies for renewables that would give small start-ups the opportunity to challenge the big six energy companies.

An opportunity to change banking as the major shareholder in RBS?

Rather than use the chance to create a real, diverse, regional banking sector, sell the stake at a loss and keep the bank intact as yet another too-big-to-fail institution, ill-equipped to finance small businesses.

Maybe George or Dave don't mean to lie when they say they want to support entrepreneurs. But it's simply not the Tory 'gut instinct' because the Tory gut instinct is to support the establishment, the status quo.

Well the liberal gut instinct is absolutely on the side of the entrepreneur, the challenger.

We embrace diversity in the marketplace.

We embrace those who don't want to conform

We embrace those who want to try something different and disrupt the way things have always been done.

We are in politics for precisely the opposite reasons to the Tories: to challenge orthodoxy and challenge those with power, while they support orthodoxy and established power - in business, just as in politics.

Because here is the truth - it doesn't matter if it is big government or big business, the fact remains, too much power in the hands of too few people means a bad deal for everyone else.

That's why Lib Dems have always championed a diverse, flexible economy with an enabling state and an innovative private sector.

So I say "let the Tories be the Party of huge complacent corporations"

The Liberal Democrats will be the Party of Small Business, the party of wealth creators, the insurgents, the entrepreneurs.

And to do this means first understanding the differing ambitions of the 5.2 million small business owners in this country.

'Small for Good'

First, come those business owners who are happy staying small, the businesses that are 'Small for Good'.

'Small for Good' - means exactly what it says. Like the small independent retailers in communities like mine in Kendal, plumbers constantly on the lookout for business or even the one person web and graphic design companies, operating out of Britain's attics and garden sheds.

These businesses are the absolute backbone of our communities.

All too often they are run by people struggling to make ends meet, who are loyal to their customers and - where they have them- fiercely loyal to their staff, willing to pay themselves below the minimum wage so that they can keep those staff on when times are tough.

These businesses aren't worried about growing. They are worried about the people in their patch being able to buy their products, the businesses they supply treating them fairly and not being put under by business rates that demand stratospheric upfront costs.

So Liberal Democrats would do three things to help them:

One, we would give real teeth to the Small Business Commissioner, such as the power to fine large companies who regularly fail to pay their bills on time.

Two, we will press the Government to renew the review of Business Rates that Danny Alexander initiated when he was in the Treasury and which George Osborne has quietly dropped.

And, three, we will be passionate champions of local banking.

The big 4 banks lost any appetite for lending to small businesses after 2008, and what lending they do provide is far too London centric.

We are committed to the creation of a real, sustainable local banking sector to support small business across our country.

'Small for Now'

However, in supporting these 'Small for Good' businesses, we must also back the ambitions of those who wish to grow.

'Small for Now', they will be the backbone of future economic growth.

Businesses that are 'Small for Now' were last year responsible for creating one in three of the new jobs in the UK - 4,500 new jobs every single week. That's three times the number of new jobs created by our FTSE 100 companies. And over two thirds of those jobs were outside London.

Behind these businesses are people who are not just economically liberal - they are also so often socially liberal too.

They care about climate change, they support immigration not just because it makes good business sense, but because they recognise they live in a truly globalized world.

These are people who aim to use their success to start a charity as much as to finance a Ferrari.

They are people who want to do and think differently.

So Liberal Democrats will do everything we can to support these small businesses with big ideas and big ambitions.

And the first thing we would do is rapidly boost access to equity finance for these companies.

British businesses are still far too reliant on debt financing rather than equity. And these debts are a drag on growth.

That's why I want the Liberal Democrats to become the champions of long term, high value Venture Capital in the UK.

What does that mean? Well for starters we could look at doing four things:

First, British investors in British companies need to be able to move their money around more easily. That may mean, for example, allowing investors to keep more of the money they would receive upon exiting an investment, providing they move on to the next investment rather than taking their profits.

Second, we need to encourage large companies to act as venture capital investors.

We could start by allowing companies that invest in Venture Capitalist Trusts to claim a significant rebate on the cost of investment in small businesses, or include such investment within the remit of Research and Development Tax Credits.

Third, we should look towards the success surrounding Stanford University in encouraging Venture Capitalists to set up shop around our Universities, on the lookout for the next great idea.

Cambridge is already having some success in this area but we need to go further, for example, giving local authorities powers to tempt those who may be able to fund new business ventures, or support the scaling up of existing projects via tax incentives.

And fourth, we need to do everything we can to encourage diversity within the financial industry, to further support peer-to-peer lenders, and other alternative finance providers.

That is why Liberal Democrats will push, in the Bank of England Bill, for a new requirement on both the Competition and Markets Authority and the Prudential Regulatory Authority to encourage diversity as part of their core remits.

And let me give one further commitment to 'Small for Now' businesses: Throughout the CSR process, Liberal Democrats will seek guarantees of funding for university-based Catapult Centres for at least the next five years.

So, that's my second priority - to establish the Liberal Democrats as the party of enterprise, the party of small business, the party of economic diversity.

Take the Long Term View

But still this is not enough. I want to take a longer view too.

Look back just a single generation and the world has changed beyond all recognition:

The opening up of new markets and shifting of power and resources, mass migration, globalisation and the Internet are creating a world that is ever more interconnected, ever more integrated.

Either we face up to these changes or we condemn ourselves to the economic and political side-lines for the foreseeable future.

Migration

It means understanding migration as a blessing not a curse.

The fact is that since the turn of the century, immigration has added £20 billion to our economy. And it is why this small island is home to almost a quarter of the world's best universities.

But this is at risk because of the Conservative's refusal to exclude students from their immigration target.

The Government must also stop sending mixed messages to the world's entrepreneurs.

On the one hand trade missions on the other more and more 'tough rhetoric' from Theresa May and more gimmicks to reduce immigration.

We need to accept the facts: if we close off routes for people to come to the UK they will take their skills and their ambitions elsewhere and others will benefit instead of us.

Europe

That's what I mean by taking the long view. And the same applies to our attitude to Europe.

Many Conservatives, who we've established are not the party of business, make the case that Britain's economy could survive outside the EU and they may be right.

But I don't want Britain just to 'survive'. I want it to thrive.

At a time when every single trend in the world is towards more integration, more interconnectivity, more globalisation, how can it possibly be the right economic strategy to reduce our marketplace, cut our links to the biggest trading block in the world and head for isolation?

So Liberal Democrats will fight proudly for our place in the European Union, because we know that being in the EU doesn't just mean jobs, it means ideas, it means opportunities and it means a say in the rules governing those with whom we wish to trade.

I am not naïve about the challenges of European reform or indeed the battering that Europe's economy has taken over the past ten years. But this is about the direction of travel for the UK economy, and the role we expect to play in the world over the next 100 years.

And be in no doubt, the Chinese and Indian leaders didn't come to Britain because of what we once were, but because of what in the future we might be - a gateway to Europe - and what is still and will continue to be one of the most important marketplaces in the world.

That, too, is taking the long view.

Intergenerational fairness

And there is one more area related to taking the long view that I want to address before I close. And that is intergenerational fairness.

I have already talked about the economic potential of the green energy sector. There is no question that that is a business sector both for now and for the future.

But investing in green energy is also about protecting future generations from the most extreme impacts of climate change created by previous generations: water shortages, flooding, mass migration, natural disasters - the decimation or deluge of the land that feeds us.

These would bring with them not just political and societal costs but also huge economic costs.

So green policies are not a luxury that we cannot afford, but a necessity we must afford for future generations.

But there is also the need for more intergenerational fairness in the welfare system and public services.

Over the last twenty-five years since I was at university, we have seen a steady shift of the economic burden of paying for stuff on to the younger generation, the 18-35s.

Massive increases in housing costs whether for sale or rent, tuition fees and student loans, and now the ending of tax credits.

This is not a coincidence but a trend.

This is the very group on whom we will need to depend for our future economic prosperity. We need them to succeed - which means investing in them - so that, when they do, they will pay the taxes to enable us to invest in the next generation and those that follow.

And yet, instead, the Tories are skimping on investing in their education - cutting back their opportunities - while ring fencing the incomes of older people.

Can it really be fair and economically sensible to place all the burden of paying for the welfare state on a single generation?

That's one consequence of the fiscal surplus compounded by universal benefits paid to wealthy pensioners. It's as if the Tories are running the economy as one gigantic closing down sale, as if it will be only this generation of older people and no others will follow.

Well, the current intergenerational balance is unsustainable and what the Tories seem to have forgotten is that this generation of older people are parents and grandparents too. They want opportunities for their children and grandchildren and they don't want their own financial comfort to be at their children and grandchildren's expense.

So even they are asking "can't we share that burden more fairly?"

And that is a question that I want my party to ask itself under my leadership.

Because I am determined that, over the years ahead, we must support the young, the wealth-makers, the innovators, every bit as much as we have supported older generations until now.

That's intergenerational fairness.

Conclusion

So to summarise: under my leadership the Liberal Democrats offer a balanced economic approach, based on living within our means for revenue spend, and investment now for capital spend.

We offer a commitment to enterprise and small business and we take a long view to challenges such as migration, European integration, climate change and intergenerational fairness.

I believe that the Liberal Democrats are the only party who are able to take the challenges we face seriously, because we are the only party whose philosophy is based on optimism for the future rather than the ideological struggles of the past.

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn continues to fight the battles of the 1970s, becoming ever more squeamish about free trade, and locked in an internal war of ideology.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives worry about the fights against the trade unions of the 1980s, and play to prejudices about the EU and immigration. They are closing the door on new investment to boost growth.

Liberal Democrats will be different.

To those who want to invest in the future, I say join us.

To those that are truly pro-business, I say join us.

To those, that are for innovation not the status quo, I say join us.

To those, who are for giving youth a chance, I say join us.

To those who see themselves as the challengers in business, I say join the challengers in politics.

And to all those that want to build a society that can tackle the challenges we and future generations will face in the future, I say join us, join us today.

If it's all about the economy stupid, then surely we need a party that is not stupid about the economy. The future can be better than our Chancellor's short termism will allow it to be. But it is a future we will have to fight for.

Together we can create an economy fit for the 21st century.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Public consultation on Cambridgeshire Street Lighting

One month to go to the closing date (11 December 2015).

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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 research.performance@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

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

http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CambridgeshireStreetlightConsultation/ (or http://goo.gl/6DGHjo)

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.

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.

Thanks,

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 www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk

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 research.performance@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

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

http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CambridgeshireStreetlightConsultation/ (or http://goo.gl/6DGHjo)

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  http://www.cambridgeshire-pcc.gov.uk/work/.

HMIC’s report is available at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/cambridgeshire-police-efficiency-2015.pdf

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 www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/challenge

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 www.scambs.gov.uk/communitychest