Good news for local primary schools

The Pupil Premium provides schools with extra money to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nick Clegg has announced that the Pupil Premium will be increased to £1,300 per eligible primary school pupil in 2014/15, up from £900 per child this year. That’s likely to be an extra £866,000 for primary schools in our constituency of North East Cambridgeshire – funding is £1,948,500 this year, and is likely to rise to £2,814,500 next year.  That’s the biggest rise in the Pupil Premium since it was introduced by the coalition government.

Schools will be able to spend this money in ways that they feel help their pupils best. Evidence shows some schools use it to hire extra staff, organise reading and maths classes for children who need an extra hand, or provide appropriate IT facilities.

Crime down 10 per cent in Cambridgeshire

Crime rates in Cambridgeshire have dropped by 10 per cent in the past year, according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics.

Crime has fallen in every region in the UK and is down by 7 per cent nationally since this time last year, hitting the lowest level since 1981.

Crime has been lower every single year under the coalition government than it was in every single year that Labour was in power – falling by over 10 per cent nationally since the present government was formed in 2010.

Time to get on top of road repairs

Many of our roads in Cambridgeshire are in a very poor state of repair. So it’s good to see this proposal going to the County Council on 16 July. The task of repairing and maintaining our roads and pavements is massive, and well beyond the current budget allocated to it – let alone the additional demands of the A14 upgrade, Ely viaduct and Northstowe. A strategy to deal with the problem is vital if it’s not to continue to spiral beyond the capacity of the council to put right.

Feast Week

Everyone’s still talking about the success of Feast Week, and in particular the very moving Lancaster fly-past on Sunday afternoon. Village Day was just as brilliant as Gault Day, and as one of the team serving burgers and hot dogs on Sunday afternoon I can attest that we certainly did a roaring trade. Well done, everyone – looking forward to Feast Week 2014 already!

Ouse Washes

Mark Nokkert Ouse Washes project Gault Day

At the Gault Day today, I was interested to hear from Mark Nokkert – pictured here with his exhibition stand – about the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership Scheme.  Mark, from the Netherlands, is the programme manager for this project, which aims to increase understanding of the local washlands, promote the area as a visitor destination, involve local communities in maintaining the landscape, and provide training in conservation and heritage.

Like many people, I hadn’t really thought much about the Ouse washes as a single piece of landscape with a shared potential, but this scheme includes the whole area from Downham Market down the Old Bedford and New Bedford Rivers through Sutton as far as the RSPB nature reserves at Fen Drayton and Needingworth.  Cambridgeshire ACRE has received an initial grant of just over £90,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to start the project off, and a further sum of nearly £1M has been earmarked to put the scheme into effect.  There are 23 key partners ranging from local councils and voluntary groups to national charities, with 60 more organisations and individuals on the partnership forum.

There are opportunities to get involved, and the project is on Twitter at @ousewasheslp.

Gault Day

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What a brilliant day we all had at the Gault today!  Chickens, bees, plastic ducks*, Pooh sticks, cream teas, music, Peter the eel catcher, bouncy castle, trampoline, display and information stands, sunshine, great company – it had everything.  Well done and thank you to all involved.

*The picture shows the first few ducks emerging from under the bridge at the Anchor. Mine wasn’t one of them.

East Cambs residents to pay £1M for A14

In response to a question from me yesterday afternoon at East Cambridgeshire District Council’s Finance & Governance Committee, the leader of the Council has confirmed that he’s given the nod to donating £1 million of East Cambs cash towards upgrading the A14.  There’s the nicety of putting this decision through the appropriate council committee first, of course.  But that’s a huge amount of money for a council that always claims to be so cash-strapped – and which already includes among its priorities the viaduct at Ely station, the new Ely leisure village, the car park extension at Littleport station, the new railway station at Soham and the Soham Eastern Gateway.

There’s not a lot of money sloshing around the public services at the moment.  The freeze on council tax continues, and there’s a £400,000 black hole in the council’s finances caused by the collapse of the Conservatives’ car park charging plans.  It’s hard to see how the council proposes to find another £1 million.

Good news for local schools?

Wednesday’s government announcement from George Osborne about introducing a new national funding formula for schools may mean good news for Cambridgeshire.

Our schools here in this county are at the bottom of the national funding league table and have been starved of cash by successive governments for 30 years.  A commitment from the government to start addressing that is very welcome – as is the future extension of the pupil premium and more money for apprenticeships.

Rats? Mice? Wasps? You’re on your own …

Rats

Have you got a problem with rats, mice, wasps or other pests?  If so, East Cambridgeshire District Council will no longer be offering you help.  The council used to rely on South Cambridgeshire District Council to run its pest control service, but that council has decided to make its pest control staff redundant and East Cambridgeshire has no alternative provider.  The council will maintain a service for the treatment of wasps’ nests but only until the end of August.

It’s true that councils have no legal duty to provide a pest control service – and an increasing number, like East Cambridgeshire, are cutting or closing their pest control services.  But they do have a legal obligation to take necessary steps to secure as far as practicable that their district (and in particular their own land) is kept free from rats and mice.  They must also make sure other landowners live up to their obligations – including telling the council in writing if there are substantial numbers of rats or mice on their land.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is seriously concerned about the numbers of councils ceasing to provide pest control services – partly because treating individual properties might not be effective, but also because it means more householders using poisons of which they have little experience.  It believes that decisions like that of East Cambridgeshire and South Cambridgeshire are inconsistent with councils’ public health responsibilities.  It’s arguably a fair point.