Cambridge News

The Leader of Cambridge City Council, Councillor Lewis Herbert, has added his tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking as the flag at the City Council’s Guildhall is lowered by the Council to half mast, following Stephen’s death today (14 March) at his home in Cambridge.

Councillor Herbert said: “The Council is lowering the Cambridge Guildhall flag today to remember our city’s most famous and respected citizen, Professor Stephen Hawking.  He was a world renowned champion of science and rational thought and a champion of his home city of Cambridge. He was also a fierce defender of the National Health Service that looked after him so diligently, and was implacably opposed to current Government plans to the fragment it.  An essential part of his enduring legacy will be to inspire all those like him who support the NHS, that helped him for so long, to grow stronger and instead of constant undermining be properly funded for the whole of the century we live in.”

The Chair of Cambridge Labour, Maureen Donnelly, has also paid tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking, who was a long time member of the Labour Party in Cambridge.

Ms Donnelly said: “Professor Hawking’s brilliant mind and remarkable life was an inspiration to millions all over the world and we were honoured to have him as a member of Cambridge Labour for the past 21 years. As well as unlocking the wonders of the cosmos for the ordinary person, he was also a passionate defender of the NHS. We send our sympathies to his family and will always remember his courage, humour and determination to get the most from his life.

City Leader and Cambridge Labour Pays Tribute to Cambridge’s Most Famous and Respected Citizen

The Leader of Cambridge City Council, Councillor Lewis Herbert, has added his tribute to Professor Stephen Hawking as the flag at the City Council’s Guildhall is lowered by the Council...

Councillor Kevin Price, the City’s Executive Councillor for Housing, has welcomed news that the Government is to relax part of its freeze on benefits by raising the amount of housing benefit some private sector tenants can claim, known as Local Housing Allowance (LHA),  for 2018/19 but said that the disparity between private rents and the LHA cap in Cambridge is so great that it will be of little use to most renters in the City because the formula used is an average from a wider geographical area.

Councillor Price said: “Those housing affordability crisis in Cambridge not only drives the market sale price of homes but also the rental value so even getting an affordable private sector tenancy is difficult for many, including those who work but are on low incomes. Housing benefit  - called Local Housing Allowance for private sector tenants - is designed to help but the way it is set by averaging out rents across a wide area and then capping it at a low level simply doesn’t recognise that Cambridge has a much bigger affordability problem than our neighbouring districts.”

“It’s been frozen since 2015 so any change is welcome but the reality is that the planned increase of 3% to the cap for LHA rates within the Cambridge Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA), which includes the City, still won’t reflect the reality of rents in Cambridge, even at the lowest end of the market.”

Councillor Price added: “ Cambridge mustn’t become somewhere only the wealthy can afford to buy a home and only the well paid can afford even to rent a home. We do everything we can to help. In 2017/18 we have used over £41,000 to top up housing benefit through our Discretionary Housing Payment funding and we are also now using the Homelessness Reduction funding to help families stay in their homes, but we need changes to how the LHA rates are calculated and for the freeze on LHA itself to be dropped.  Until that happens many will continue to be faced with a risk of homelessness or moving out of the city to cheaper areas.”

City Housing Chief says Planned Benefit Increase is too little to help City’s Struggling Private Renters

Councillor Kevin Price, the City’s Executive Councillor for Housing, has welcomed news that the Government is to relax part of its freeze on benefits by raising the amount of housing...

Dear Stephen

Letter of support from Labour group for UCU defence of University pensions

 
I hope you are well.
 
I am writing to share the position of the Labour Group of Councillors on Cambridge City Council who have unanimously agreed to provide their support for UCU defence of University pensions. They also wish me to point out that the Labour Group look forward to the promised change to the position taken by the University of Cambridge over this issue to date.
 
Our support for the current industrial action reflects our concern that Universities including the University of Cambridge are proposing a move from defined benefits to defined contributions that would cause significant erosion to the benefits members expect when they retire.
 
We are sure you are aware that the active support for the strike by members of the university is not something that has happened lightly, and it has strong support within the wider community as well as in the University and colleges. We are equally sure that many staff that have not taken industrial action also support those colleagues and are just as concerned about cuts to pensions. We hope you recognise that their lack of action is unlikely to be because they are happy with the proposed change to their pension.  The divisions caused, including between staff, will in outcome likely damage staff relations, the culture in the workplace and the success and reputation of the University of Cambridge.
 
As Vice-Chancellor you rightly play a key role in the national scene and also play a strong leadership role locally. We hope and trust that you will recognise the damage these changes are bringing to the pension scheme in Cambridge and will work to ‘reinstate’ the status quo.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Councillor Martin Smart
Labour Group Secretary
Cambridge City Council

Letter of support from Labour group for UCU defence of University pensions

Dear Stephen Letter of support from Labour group for UCU defence of University pensions   I hope you are well.   I am writing to share the position of the...

Parents, councillors and campaigners were shocked to learn that the Fields Children’s Centre in Abbey ward is set to make significant changes to how it operates from April 2018 due to the continuous funding cuts to children’s services and the loss of funding for the Children’s Centre.

In a letter to parents, dated 2 March, the governors explained that the Centre would close 2 hours earlier each day at 4 pm from April with a further move to term time only opening from September 2018. The letter additionally noted that it would move to a single Ofsted registration for the Nursery and DayCare services which could mean the closure of the baby room, which takes children from 3 months to 2 years old.

Cllr Richard Johnson, one of Abbey’s city councillors and the Executive Councillor for Communities at the City Council, who wrote to the County Council back in September of last year warning of the negative impact the children centre changes would have on families, said “I know that the governors will not have made these changes lightly but I am very concerned about the impact on families who use these highly valued services and also the very short timescale and notice given to parents. The current daycare provision  from 8 am - 6 pm is invaluable for working parents, many of whom will struggle to find alternative wrap around daycare to suit their work pattern if the opening hours are shortened and especially if the move to term time only care is confirmed.

The potential loss of the baby room is of particular concern as it would leave parents with no alternative under 2’s provision in the local area.   All these changes will hurt working parents. Abbey is a ward with significant levels of deprivation and the loss of services like those offered by The Fields could mean that parents will have to either make a sacrifice they can ill afford to adjust their working hours, or find alternative arrangements further away.”

Mrs Nicky Massey, who recently raised the almost £900,000 budget cut  to Cambridgeshire’s Children’s Centres at the February County Council Full Council meeting, and is one of the leading parent campaigners nationally against children’s centres closures, said: “ Cuts to services provided and closures of children’s centres and nurseries have been happening all over the country but it’s still a shock when it happens on the doorstep and brings home how much parents need support to fight them. “

“The County Council said that “every child would thrive” under their proposals, and that services would be “flexible” to suit parents’ needs. It is now evident that this won’t be the case with the Fields Children’s Centre and that the combination of years of underfunding combined with the proposed loss of County funding for the Children’s Centre this year has left them in an unsustainable financial position. I hope that the County Council can meet with the Fields and work with them to maintain the current services which are so important to the families who use them.”

Mrs Massey is also urging parents across the county to sign a national petition against children’s centre closures with an aim of getting 100,000 signatures and forcing a Parliamentary debate on the issue. You can sign the petition here.

Daniel Zeichner has said: "The decision by the Fields Children Centre to reduce their operating hours is a direct consequence of the County Council shameful under-funding of early year's education and cutting children centre budgets." 

"Just over a year ago I presented a petition to Parliament signed by many parents and supporters of schools, such as the Fields Children Centre, calling on the Government not to make changes to how early year's education is funded. That petition stated that the outcome of the changes would be the loss of early years provision in the city, as well as job losses for nursery staff. A year on, we are seeing this happening." 

The changes at the Fields will no doubt be a major blow for parents in the area that rely on the centre to provide childcare so that they can continue to get to work. I will work with local councillors to support their efforts to try and minimise the damage for the local community and staff. Of course, one way that we could prevent any damage at all would be for the County Council to reverse its decision to implement the £900,000 children centre cuts." 

Shock as Budget Cuts force Reduction of Vital Childcare Services

Parents, councillors and campaigners were shocked to learn that the Fields Children’s Centre in Abbey ward is set to make significant changes to how it operates from April 2018 due...

Councilor Kevin Price, the City’s Deputy Leader and its Executive Councillor for Housing, has said that the housing speech today  from the Prime Minister, Theresa May, offered no new solutions to the housing crisis and ignored the vital role of local authorities in providing new social homes.

Speaking after the speech, Councillor Price said: “ The speech today did nothing except recycle last year’s Housing White Paper and offers nothing new to actually fix the broken housing market."

"The government continues to focus almost solely on home ownership whilst failing to understand or even acknowledge that leaves the housing market in the hands of profit driven developers. It’s not a solution to ask developers to play nicely and grow a social conscience when their responsibility is first and foremost to their investors, shareholders and company directors. It’s not just that developers won’t step up, it’s that the government are ignoring those who would, and want to, step up. I agree with the Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association, Gary Porter, who has spoken for all councils in saying that the solution lies in giving councils the borrowing and investment freedoms they need to lead a renaissance in building social housing and stop social housing being rationed to the poorest in our communities."

"It’s frustrating to listen to the same tired policies being trotted out again and again. The use of viability assessments since 2013 has spawned an industry devoted to ensuring developer profit at the expense of ‘affordable homes’ on major developments. The revival of Right to Buy since 2012 has further decimated existing social housing stock and what there is left is threatened by the frankly absurd plans to force councils to sell off even more stock to pay for housing association tenants to buy their social homes at a discount.  Nothing will change unless these things are changed and councils start being regarded as key partners for government in the housing crisis.”

 

Dismay over Government Failure on Housing Crisis

Councilor Kevin Price, the City’s Deputy Leader and its Executive Councillor for Housing, has said that the housing speech today  from the Prime Minister, Theresa May, offered no new solutions...

A workshop for parents who want to find out more about multi academy trusts has been arranged by Labour's Councillor Sandra Crawford, who represents Cherry Hinton on Cambridgeshire County Council after she was approached by parents and others concerned about the potential academisation of several primary schools in and near Cambridge. Councillor Crawford will be joined by Cambridge's MP, Daniel Zeichner, as well as Arbury's County Councillor Jocelynne Scutt, Castle's Councillor Claire Richards and union representatives at the public workshop at Cherry Hinton Library from 2:00pm - 4:30pm on Saturday 24 February. 

Academy.jpg

Councillor Crawford said: "Primary schools are coming under increasing pressure to become academies or join a multi academy trust but too often parents are given little information on what that actually means or even properly consulted. In Cambridge alone the Spinney and Berwick Bridge primary schools in Cherry Hinton and Mayfield Primary in Arbury are considering academisation. I have had many concerns raised to me from parents who don't understand the process or who want to be able to look at other options, including where schools like St Philips Primary in Cambridge last year, reject academisation, so this public workshop is a chance for them to be able to put any questions they like and listen to a range of views. 

Cambridge's MP, Daniel Zeichner, who raised the forced academisation of primary schools in a special debate in Parliament in January 2018, said: "It's vital that the voice of parents is heard in any decision over the future of their children's schools. What I am hearing from parents is that too often they feel consultation with them comes after decisions have been made. Academisation for its own sake mustn't be the goal and the decision making process must be transparent and accountable. I urge parents to attend the workshop and find out more about their rights to be involved in, and influence, the schools which are so important to their families."

Concerns over Pressure to Academise Primary Schools

A workshop for parents who want to find out more about multi academy trusts has been arranged by Labour's Councillor Sandra Crawford, who represents Cherry Hinton on Cambridgeshire County Council...

Councillor Jocelynne Scutt, Labour's County Councillor for Arbury, has said that plans to commercialise libraries run the risk of creating a 'two tier' service for residents and marginalising low income and vulnerable residents. 

Speaking ahead of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee today (13 February) where plans for the Library service will be debated, Councillor Scutt said: "Our library services are, and must remain, trusted spaces open to all where anyone can explore and share reading, information, knowledge and culture. The plans being put forward where some users will pay for 'premier membership' and charging for internet access or for author led book readings will create a 'two tier' structure which is fundamentally against the purpose and vision of libraries of community spaces enriching the lives of all those who use them. 

The Conservative-led County Council has just agreed an increase in council tax, a cost also borne by many low-income residents, so adding extra charges for using libraries is a double charge on the least-well off. It should be using the additional revenue generated to protect this service as free and open to all."

Councillor Scutt was backed by Nicky Massey, a Cambridge resident who has written to all councillors on the committee highlighting her personal experiences and concerns. Mrs Massey said: "I am appalled at the proposal to charge for internet access in libraries. Those that use the library computers often do so because they don't have the facility at home, or because it is their safe place. These proposals will marginalise further those on low incomes or pay as you go contracts who need to access the internet not just for filling in government forms but to search for jobs or answer emails.

As a child I was bulled, especially in first year senior school, and I would use the school library and later on the public library as a safe haven from the bullies, escaping from threats of violence. Vulnerable children use the computers to find help and support on matters that they feel they can not bring home perhaps. I hope that the committee will recognise these concerns and reject this proposal."

Fears over ' Two Tier' Library Service

Councillor Jocelynne Scutt, Labour's County Councillor for Arbury, has said that plans to commercialise libraries run the risk of creating a 'two tier' service for residents and marginalising low income...

Mr Baijumon Thittala,  a Cambridge resident, has welcomed the news that the future of Shire Hall is now set to be decided by all members of Cambridgeshire County Council  rather than by the small  Commercial and Investment Committee. Mr Thittala asked Councillor Josh Shuman, the Tory lead on commercial property at the County, about the County Council’s proposed move from Shire Hall at the Full Council meeting today, 6 February. The Conservative administration are considering relocating all services from Cambridge in a bid to save money and leasing out or selling off the building  but Mr Thittala highlighted the importance of the site to Cambridge’s heritage as well as asking how key services for residents, such as the Register office, will be maintained.

Mr Thittala said: “Shire Hall is not just the administrative centre for Cambridgeshire County Council but also an important heritage asset for Cambridge. It sits at the highest point of our beautiful city and sits besides Castle Mound, an Ancient Scheduled Monument with statutory protection. It is vital that it is protected from inappropriate development or use and that decisions about its future are made in a public and transparent way and one in the best interests of the city’s residents as well.”

Councillor Claire Richards said: “The County Council are the guardians of an important and sensitive site not just for Castle division but for the whole of Cambridge. Its future needs to be debated in public and not hidden behind ‘confidential business cases’ in committees in the council. I was very pleased that Mr Thittala was able to secure a guarantee that decisions on its future use would be made by all members of the council.  We will also be pressing the case for as many services as possible to be kept locally for Cambridge residents.”

Success as County Council agrees to Bring Decision on Shire Hall to Full Council

Mr Baijumon Thittala,  a Cambridge resident, has welcomed the news that the future of Shire Hall is now set to be decided by all members of Cambridgeshire County Council  rather...

Miss Carla McQueen, an East Chesterton resident, asked the Conservative County Councillor Highways lead, Matthew Shuter about the 'dangerous' state of Milton Road at Cambridgeshire County Council's Full Council meeting today, 6 February. 

Miss McQueen raised concerns about the very high number of potholes down the length of the road and the cost of what appears to be botched repairs to some done only a few weeks ago. 

She said: "I was really astounded when Councillor Shuter admitted that the work cost £20,000 and said that he thought that was good value for money. Some stretches of the road, especially from Union Lane down to Mitchams Corner are dangerous for both cars and cyclists, who come off their bikes cycling over such a poor surface. The roads clearly need to be properly redone where the patching has failed so quickly. In some of the roads just off Milton Road, potholes are also so deep that they are more 'manholes' than 'potholes.' It seemed to me that there was far too much complacency and acceptance of the high cost for poor quality work."

Councillors Jocelynne Scutt, who represents Arbury on the County Council and sits on the Highways Committee, said "Councillor Shuter clearly accepted much of the road is in a poor state and blamed the thirty year old surface for the repairs not holding. Perhaps it might have been in a better state and more able to cope with the winter weather if we hadn't had decades of under-investment by the Tory controlled council in maintaining our highway network. The current cuts will bite even harder and our roads and pavements will just get worse." 

Councillor Scutt added, "The simple fact is that our roads and pavements are now in a dire state of repair and every resident I speak to can point to a trip hazard or a pothole. Milton Road is just one of the most obvious examples because it is a main gateway into Cambridge but we are being let down everywhere."

£20,000 of 'botched' Milton Road Repairs slammed as Poor Value

Miss Carla McQueen, an East Chesterton resident, asked the Conservative County Councillor Highways lead, Matthew Shuter about the 'dangerous' state of Milton Road at Cambridgeshire County Council's Full Council meeting...

Nicky Massey, a Cambridge resident and national campaigner against cuts to children's centres, is asking the Conservative-led County Council how it will assess and report on the impact of the planned £900,000 cuts to services in Cambridge which will see the closure of a number of children's centres. Mrs Massey will be putting her questions to the County Council at their Full Council meeting on Tuesday 6 February. 

Mrs Massey said: "Parents, teaching unions and communities across the country are continuing to fight the cuts and closures of what is an invaluable early years service and only on Sunday 4 February there was a rally in Cambridge City centre against the planned loss of children's centres like Cherry Hinton and Romsey Mill in the city and across the county. There is still little clarity about how the new model will ensure core services are maintained in important areas such as Abbey ward in Cambridge which has high levels of deprivation. 

The County Council needs to be held accountable for its actions, especially decisions such as refusing to fund the essential Children Centres despite voting to increase council tax to raise extra revenue. Parents deserve to know how the County Council intends to monitor and report on the impact of these cuts, how they can continue to raise concerns about what's happening to them, and, where gaps in provision are identified for vulnerable families, which actions the county will take to address any shortfalls."

Mrs Massey, who is part of a team of parents and campaigners who are fighting against the cuts to children centres nationwide, also highlighted the campaigns petition in order to take this to Central Government, and added: "We need everyone to sign the petition, we aim to get 100,000 signatures in order to bring this debate to Parliament."

Councillor Claire Richards, who led the Labour County Group's campaign against the closures through last summer along with Arbury's County Councillor Jocelynne Scutt, said: "The rally in Cambridge on Sunday, and the support from parents affected by the changes, shows that the campaign against these harsh cuts to children's centres goes on. Our services are shrinking whilst Cambridge and Cambridgeshire are growing and the gap between wealthier and poorer families is widening. That cannot be right. We are firmly against the loss of any children's centres, but if the Tories in Shire Hall do close them, we have to continue to hold the County Council to account for the impact on the most vulnerable families in Cambridgeshire. 

Children's Centre Campaigner carried on the Fight to save Vital Services for Families

Nicky Massey, a Cambridge resident and national campaigner against cuts to children's centres, is asking the Conservative-led County Council how it will assess and report on the impact of the...

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