I spent much of today at a meeting at Shire Hall of a panel considering bids by local groups for the council’s Innovate and Cultivate funds. During the meeting, I noted in the paperwork that several pieces of work by the council itself, notably supporting adults with learning difficulties into employment, were currently the subject of funding bids by the council to the European Social Fund.
Brexit means the loss of the opportunity for the county council to bid into this fund. Existing funded projects would presumably complete their term, but thereafter these funds would dry up, creating funding gaps for the council itself but also for other organisations in Cambridgeshire who also currently enjoy the benefit of European Social Fund access.
I have written to ask the council whether its work on Brexit preparations covers this area of risk, and whether it knows how much money is currently attracted into Cambridgeshire, that will be lost when access by the UK to ESF funding will cease.
The new NHS 10-year plan launched today is likely to be ‘fatally undermined’, says Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Norman Lamb:
“Delivering this ambitious plan is likely to be fatally undermined by insufficient resources, a staffing crisis and a failure to address the disastrous situation with social care.
The Government’s commitment to a new focus on prevention rings hollow when the very services which help prevent elderly people ending up in hospital are at breaking point and vital public health budgets are progressively cut back.
The Liberal Democrats will continue to demand that the Government works with other parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care.
We will keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system which will be there for our loved ones when they need it.”
On Friday 23 March 2018, the county council’s Commercial & Investment Committee resolved to ‘approve the County Council’s proposal to establish a Local Authority Lottery’ (paper here, minutes here).
The Support Cambridgeshire website (here) seeks residents’ views on the proposal, ‘with a launch not anticipated until autumn 2018’. We ran out of autumn 2018 a couple of months ago. I’ve asked what is happening about this, what response there has been to the call for expressions of interest on the website, and what the council’s plan is for the future of this scheme.
The Mayor and Combined Authority opened a consultation on their proposed budget on 3 December, and closed it on 4 January. I’ve responded as follows:
“I am writing in response to the consultation on the budget plans of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority. It is disappointing, to say the least, that the consultation has been so cursory. From the Combined Authority website, it would appear that the consultation was launched on 3 December, over the Christmas period, leaving only 22 working days to respond — and in reality, with Christmas shut-downs, probably less. Under the Combined Authority’s Budget Framework Procedure Rules (contained in the Combined Authority’s constitution at Chapter 7, Section 4.3) this is the very minimum period permitted.
That the Combined Authority should choose to adopt such a minimal consultation period is bad enough, but there was no perceptible effort to publicise it — something that could have easily been achieved by contacting each member body and asking for the information to be cascaded to local councillors, and for them in turn to cascade to their local communities. None of this appears to have happened.
It is also noteworthy that this minimal consultation is taking place in the midst of considerable turbulence at the Combined Authority. Questions have been asked about the escalating revenue costs of running the Combined Authority, now over £5M per annum and rising, compared to the Mayor’s promised figure of £850K. The authority’s fourth Chief Financial Officer in 18 months was unexpectedly sacked shortly before the consultation was opened, for challenging the affordability of some of the Combined Authority’s many promised schemes. The Combined Authority’s finances are very much under the spotlight.
And yet the proposals published for consultation are the same as those presented to the Combined Authority Scrutiny Committee and the Combined Authority Board before the unexpected departure of the Chief Financial Officer. This is very surprising, given that disagreement with the Chief Financial Officer’s judgement of those proposals was a key reason for his dismissal. What confidence can Cambridgeshire and Peterborough residents have that the documents presented for consultation can be relied on, given the lack of confidence expressed by the joint interim Chief Executives and the Mayor in the officer who led on these reports? How confident can we be that the figures in this budget will stand up to the scrutiny of the external auditors who have been called in to examine the Combined Authority’s financial position? Will there be a further consultation once the external auditors have concluded their work?
Residents of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough deserve clarity about the future ongoing running costs of the Combined Authority, which are currently considerably higher than those promised by the Mayor. We also deserve clarity about the funding streams for the many major projects that have been promised by the Mayor, and about the value for money of the Combined Authority’s enormous expenditure on consultants advising on projects for which the availability of sufficient funding is not clear.”
The next meeting of East Cambridgeshire District Council’s Planning Committee takes place on Wednesday 9 January at 2:00PM. The applications to be decided by the committee are:
- 5. Turners (Soham) Ltd, Fordham Road, Newmarket, CB8 7NR (Map): extension of existing cold storage facility, small extension to administration office and vehicle parking (reference 18/00579/ESF) – the committee is recommended to approve this application.
- 6. Land East of 1 School Lane, Aldreth (Map): dwelling and associated development (reference 18/00853/OUT) – the committee is recommended to approve this application.
- 7. Church Farm, The Hamlet, Chettisham (Map): up to three dwellings and garages, creation of new accesses, and associated works (reference 18/01204/OUT) – the committee is recommended to approve this application.
- 8. 3 Main Street, Wentworth, CB6 3QG (Map): up to 3 new self-build plots and associated works (reference 18/01464/OUT) – the committee is recommended to refuse this application.
- 9. Site North of the Old Station, Station Road, Wilburton (Map): [resubmission] one dwelling (reference 18/01489/OUT) – the committee is recommended to refuse this application.
The meeting – at the council offices in Ely – is open to the public, and public speaking is permitted on application in advance (information here).