In the wake of huge public support for refugees, Cambridge City Council has teamed up with the Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign (CRRC) to reach out to private landlords for help.
The Home Office has given permission for the council to use vacant private properties for resettling Syrian refugees and the council is now asking private landlords for their help in accommodating refugees.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council, said: “Working with private landlords and citizens through the resettlement campaign, to offer accommodation to refugees, is a welcome and important way to expand the numbers of people that Cambridge can rehome.
“Any accommodation offered, of course, will have to meet Home Office expectations and also the council standard. All landlords will receive a rental income.”
Stefan Haselwimmer, Head of the CRRC, said: “Private landlords are keen to help and we’ve had offers of accommodation from a number of private landlords already.
“By working in partnership with the council, we can reach out to all private landlords across the region and turn the public’s desire to help refugees into practical action. If we all think carefully about what we can offer as individuals, we can make a huge difference to how we respond to this humanitarian crisis.”
The council will inspect any properties offered to ensure they are of an appropriate standard and where rents are requested they would have to be affordable under the Home Office scheme, which will be in line with council rents.
All properties must be self-contained units rather than spare rooms, due to Home Office prohibitions against the use of spare rooms for resettling refugees.
The idea for the partnership was inspired by similar initiatives in Heidelberg, Cambridge’s German twin city.
Cllr Herbert added: “Our twin city is using innovative solutions involving the community to deal with the refugee crisis. The enthusiasm and passion of our community really can transform how we respond to the refugee crisis. Coming together as a city and offering sanctuary to those in need is a proud Cambridge tradition.”
Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “In order to integrate successfully and recover from the trauma they have experienced, refugees will need at least two years security of tenure.
“This would be the minimum period a property would need to be guaranteed for to enable them to settle into the community. The council, through its housing management team, will support the refugees to maintain the properties in good order.”
If you are a landlord or property developer and would like to discuss how you could make a difference, contact Dik Veenman on 07887 651988 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
For other ways to help refugees that are displaced visit the council’s website at: www.cambridge.gov.uk/Syrian-refugees
The Living Wage Foundation today named Cambridge City Council as its Employer Champion for the Eastern region in the national Living Wage Champion Awards.
Duncan Catchpole, manager of local produce distributor Cambridge Organic Food Company was also today named as the winner in the Leadership Champion category for the Eastern region.
The awards successes were revealed by the Leader of the council, Cllr Lewis Herbert, during a celebratory event at The Guildhall, attended by local Living Wage-accredited employers, to mark the start of Living Wage Week.
At the same event Cllr Herbert told those attending that the new 2016-17 Living Wage rate for the UK (excluding London) will be £8.25 per hour, and gave details of three newly-accredited Living Wage employers in Cambridge – KH Cleaning & Hygiene Supplies, Cambridge Baby and Outspoken! Deliveries.
The event kicked off a week of events in the city for Living Wage Week, including a free event ‘Making the Living Wage Work for Cambridge Employers’ on Tuesday 3 November at The Trinity Centre on Cambridge Science Park; a campus meeting with speakers at Anglia Ruskin University, and a ‘No Pay Day’ event organised by Cambridge University Students’ Union to highlight the gender pay gap.
The nationwide Living Wage campaign has been promoted in the city by the council since last year, as part of its anti-poverty strategy. Employers choose to pay the Living Wage on a voluntary basis and can then seek accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation. The campaign’s aim is to encourage employers to pay all staff more than the national minimum wage, to reflect the true cost of living.
Cllr Herbert said: “These awards are tremendous news for the council and for Duncan Catchpole.”
“Since becoming accredited as a Living Wage employer in 2014 the council has worked hard to promote the very real benefits to employers and employees of becoming Living Wage-accredited, and we will continue to champion this.”
Cllr George Owers, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “In the Cambridge area 32 organisations are now accredited employers, which is encouraging, but 15 per cent of jobs in Cambridge were being paid less than the Living Wage rate in 2014 - so there is still plenty of work to do.
“Cambridge is an expensive city to live and work in – by paying the Living Wage employers can retain their staff longer, keep them more motivated and improve their organisation’s image with the public. I’d urge any employer in the city to get in touch with the council to find out more about becoming accredited.”
Since the Living Wage campaign in Cambridge was launched in November 2014, the number of accredited organisations in the city has doubled from 16 to 32. Another 33 organisations have confirmed that they recognise the Living Wage and have adjusted their pay scales to take it into account.
During the last year the council’s Living Wage Coordinator, Theresa Bateman, has contacted more than 700 local organisations, and has held events at the Open University, St John’s Innovation Centre and Cambridge Science Park to promote the Living Wage.
Cambridge Organic Food Co was the first food distributor locally to become accredited as a Living Wage employer in May this year. The company represent organic farms and producers around Cambridge, deliver boxes of organic fruit and vegetables to customers, and supply produce to independent organic, specialist and health food shops in the area.
City Council Executive Councillor for Housing, Kevin Price says housing is becoming a disaster in Cambridge and moving towards a catastrophe:
Cambridge City Council and our partners in the Greater Cambridge City Deal which was agreed in 2014 and covers the administrative areas of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire, began this year with optimism for the future. A nationally and internationally successful area, albeit it with pockets of real deprivation, the investment of £500,000,000 by government, mainly in badly needed transport infrastructure to accompany our ambitious housing plans and meet the needs of growth, were welcomed by all.
Housing affordability, in both the market sale and private rented sectors, is a significant challenge. Average market sale prices now stand at over 16 x average incomes and nowhere in the City does Local Housing Allowance match private sector rents. The City Council houses over 7,000 households in our own stock and offers homes to over 450 new households every year, ensuring that communities across the city remain balanced and diverse. Under the City Deal the City had committed to delivering up to 2000 new council homes by 2030, and, together with South Cambridgeshire and Cambridgeshire County Councils, to an additional 1000 more affordable homes in the Greater Cambridge area.
However it is impossible to ignore that the government's Emergency Budget in July has changed the landscape dramatically for stock owning councils. Whilst much of the focus nationally has been on our partners in the social sector - housing associations - and the heavy impact on them of measures such as the 1% rent cut for the next four years, further welfare reform and the extension of Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants, the stark picture facing stock owning councils has been less well reported.
We began this year with a comprehensive review of the Housing Revenue Account to drive out inefficiencies and free up capital for our key goals of maintaining and improving our housing stock and services and building more social sector homes. Following the Emergency Budget many of the assumptions underpinning our Business Plan have been radically altered and have required us to rethink the Plan.
The disadvantages facing stock owning councils cannot be understated. We are being penalised through the original Right to Buy sales and the proposed extension to Housing Associations through compulsory sales of our own council stock and we cannot retain enough receipts to replace our lost stock. Under the proposals for Pay to Stay for tenants with household incomes over £30,000, the council must administer the scheme whilst it is required to pass any additional receipts onto the Treasury. Our capacity to borrow against our stock is severely constrained by the Housing Revenue Account debt cap and will shrink yet further in the future from a dwindling asset base and reducing income stream from rent receipts. The impact of the 1% rent cut for social sector tenants, reneging on a 10 year rent settlement agreed only last year, comes at a heavy cost to the Council. £14,883,000 in planned rent receipts has been lost over the next four years and an estimated £156,000,000 over the life of the Business Plan, and we will need to find ongoing savings of £6,003,000 from the base Housing Revenue Account by 2019/20. Whilst we are determined to protect our core services as much as possible there can be no doubt that these cuts will bite deep.
Most importantly we now face not only halting our plans to build new council homes but also the loss of up to 130 ordinary 1 and 2 bed council homes every year under compulsory sales to fund the extension of Right to Buy to Housing Associations. This will deepen the housing affordability crisis in Cambridge.
At a time when our achievements and hopes are under serious threat from national policy, we must look to our partners in the social sector and the City Deal and our tenants and residents for support in challenging those policies. We must stand firm on the value of a strong social housing sector and ensure that our voices are heard at the highest levels in Westminster.
The news that green energy and insulation company Climate Energy Ltd, which has been involved in delivering the Green Deal energy efficiency scheme in Cambridgeshire, has gone into administration has been branded the result of Tory 'vandalism' by Cambridge Labour.
The company had been the main Green Deal Communities delivery partner for the consortia of Cambridgeshire councils called 'Action on Energy'
set up to implement subsidised solid wall insulation and other energy efficiency measures for households. But it announced that it has gone into administration today. This leaves the future of the scheme in doubt, plunging residents into uncertainty about installations that are either already underway, or they have paid a deposit towards.
The news hits Cambridge particularly hard as a disproportionate number of customers of the initiative live in the city. It is widely believed that the raft of cuts to energy subsidies announced earlier in the summer by Tory Chancellor George Osborne has been a major factor behind this collapse. It has been announced at the same time as another major Green Deal provider, the Mark Group, has also gone into administration.
Executive Cllr for Finance and Resources at Cambridge City Council, George Owers, who leads on climate change, said: 'I recommend that worried customers listen to the official announcements from the administrators and Action on Energy and follow their advice. The future is currently uncertain, and we hope to be able to resolve the situation to the satisfaction of anyone who is having work done or who has paid a deposit.
‘However, it needs to be said that this is a stunning indictment of George Osborne's vicious recent cuts to the whole framework of green subsidies. Over the recent few months, not only was the plug pulled on the future of the Green Deal, but green energy feed-in-tariffs, which made solar energy generation economically viable, were slashed by 86%.
This is in addition to the government ending a range of other pro-green energy measures.
'This shows that the Tories don't care one iota about climate change or our obligations under international agreements and our own Climate Change Act, passed by the last Labour government. Climate change is a huge threat to our entire existence as a species, yet it is dismissed as “green crap” by David Cameron. The collapse of Climate Energy is symbolic of this Tory vandalism and climate change denial. It also belies the Tories' claims to back small business: they've just driven a host of thriving, innovative companies to the wall. It's a disgrace. We in Cambridge will continue to do what we can to tackle Climate Change and provide the leadership locally that is so lacking nationally.'
Councillor Kevin Price, the Labour-run City Council’s Housing Chief, has said that the Tory plans to extend Right to Buy to housing associations may mean the loss of more than two-thirds of council homes in Cambridge.
Councillor Price said: “The Tories plan to pay for this by forcing councils to sell off their own stock but have clearly not looked at the impact in high priced areas like Cambridge. Cambridge’s housing crisis has meant that even the value of council homes has gone up faster than comparative houses in other parts of the region. The Tories are proposing that any home above a set regional value will have to be sold when it is re-let.
“We estimate that this policy would mean up to 70% of our council general stock would have to be sold rather than re-let to families on our waiting lists. These are normal council houses, flats and bungalows in areas like Kings Hedges, Abbey and East Chesterton not large mansions in well off suburbs. That’s around 4500 homes lost for ever to the council, including most of our 2, 3 and 4 bedroom homes at a rate of about 250 homes forced onto the market every year. We also know that if sold on the open market a high number of these will simply end up as buy to let with higher rents and insecure tenancies.
“This is nothing short of a disaster for Cambridge and a disaster for our waiting lists. It will be impossible to replace the number of council homes lost in the city itself which will mean low income families are forced to move away from Cambridge. Combined with the impact that increasing the Right to Buy discount for council tenants in April 2012 has already had on our stock, the City Council will struggle to continue at all as a social landlord. Housing associations have already threatened legal action and if this Tory policy is actually implemented we will have no choice ourselves but to fight it in the courts to protect the interests of the council and our residents.”
Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State responsible for housing and local government, Hilary Benn MP has visited Cambridge to see new council homes being built in the city.
Mr Benn has announced plans to devolve £30 billion of central government funding currently spent on housing, transport, business support, employment and adult skills.
Mr Zeichner says that Cambridge is ideally placed to prosper from Labour’s plans:
“The current City Deal is a watered-down version of the original much bigger offer. Labour will give cities like Cambridge the resources we need to tackle the huge housing, transport and skills challenges that put our future success at risk. Too many young people in Cambridge are priced out of local housing – we will show Mr Benn that the Labour council has made a start, but there is so much more to do.”
Cllr Kevin Price added: "Housing is top of our agenda for the City Council as the affordability crisis is driven by the lack of supply, especially in social housing. That's why we are planning to build hundreds of new council homes over the next few years as part of our Cambridge Social Rent programme."
Cambridge Labour Councillors last night agreed a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) from June 2015 to reclaim for residents Petersfield Green play area, the over-60s recreation area on Ditchburn Place, and Mill Road Cemetery. There were no votes against the Plan in the final vote at the Council's Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee to approve the Order.
Local police said at the meeting the detailed approach in the new Order is right to make a real difference in cutting anti-social behaviour by drunk visitors to these spaces.
The Liberal Democrats moved an amendment to say that the police should only be able to act when there people were engaging in the act of Anti-Social Behaviour at exactly the same time as drinking but Labour Councillors and the police representative at the Committee, Inspector Matt Johnson, said that the power was needed to tackle situations also when people were drunk before and after such acts as well. In the final vote, there was no opposition to Labour's proposal, which was supported by local police, representatives and resident groups responsible for each of the three spaces, and 68% of the public in an extensive recent local Council consultation.
Councillor Kevin Blencowe, who represents Petersfield, said: "I am confident the partnership between the Council and police in Petersfield, assisted by this Order, will result in a major reduction in alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour on these precious spaces, and I will be working with local police constables and police community support officers over the next twelve months to achieve just that."
Councillor Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council who is also responsible for policing issues, said: "This is an intentionally clearly worded order for these three community spaces, which have suffered a decade of being taken over by groups of drunks, and a decade of inaction by the former Lib Dem-run City Council. Parents with children, elderly people and cemetery visitors including dog walkers and residents are entitled to action to protect them from being intimidated and stop excessive damage caused to these three number spaces, which are all that nearby residents have for recreation at this end of Mill Road.
"Any further use of these powers needed in other locations will be considered, case by case, if needed and different approaches may be used to tackle anti-social drinking or issues like inadequate dog control in other local areas. This new measure takes effect from 1st June."
Your 2015 Annual City Council Report
… from your Labour Councillors
- protect the services we know our residents value the most and make improvements where we can
- target spare resources to help those who need us the most
- build more affordable homes and tackle empty homes and problems faced by people in the private rented sector
- implement plans to improve transport and cycling, and tackle congestion
- make efficiency savings to minimise the impact of the Coalition cuts and reorganise the council’s finances to earn a better return for residents.
To update all residents we have produced a detailed eight page annual report on 50 improvements to make Cambridge fairer, greener, safer and cleaner, and better run here
Compare our delivery against the commitments we made in 2014 www.cambridgelabour.org.uk/2014manifesto
and you will see we have been very busy, delivering over 90% of our ‘promises’ last year, which was only possible because of the great team of people who work for you at the City Council.
Our priorities for the coming year will be detailed in a further ‘2015 Manifesto’
If you want to raise an issue with us or ask a question, please email us at email@example.com or ring us on 01223 500515.
Councillor Kevin Price, the Labour-led City Council’s Executive Councillor for Housing and a member of the City Deal Assembly, has said he is determined to use the City Deal to deliver more housing even though the government didn’t grant the housing ‘asks’ of the City Deal partners. At the March meeting of the Assembly, members will be briefed on the housing side of the City Deal and proposals put forward for the partners to unlock the potential for hundreds of additional new homes in Cambridge or South Cambridgeshire over the next few years together with an innovative City Deal led Housing Delivery Vehicle (HDV) to unlock finance and oversee site development plans and construction.
Councillor Kevin Price said: “We had asked the coalition government to include measures in the City Deal which would unlock additional home building for tenants in the private and social sectors but these were not granted so we have gone back to square one to look at how we can work together. We must use the City Deal to help unlock the potential for more homes alongside major infrastructure investment. The proposal for a Housing Development Vehicle is important in facilitating this and making sure that as a council we have the right skills to compete in an aggressive development market. We want to deliver up to 500 more new homes in or by Cambridge. That’s an ambitious target for the council but we have to be ambitious for Cambridge.
“Financing these new homes is a key issue which is why in the City we have already set aside up to £8 million in our budget to invest in homes for private sector tenants in Cambridge. Alongside building new council homes we are determined to provide high quality affordable rental homes for those on average incomes priced out of owning and with little choice in the over-heated private sector.”
Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner, added that the plan to build 500 new homes fit with Labour's national objectives: “Labour has pledged to lift the number of new homes being built – the numbers were rising before the financial crash of 2008, but we have still not returned to those levels, and need to do more to ensure affordability. Cambridge will be a key growth area for Labour, and I've invited the shadow minister, Hilary Benn to visit Cambridge in the next few weeks so we can explain exactly what we will need from the next Government.”
Councillor Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing at the Labour-run Cambridge City Council, has hit out at the government after the announcement that funding to support social tenants affected by welfare reforms has been cut by almost 20% for the coming year.
The Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) grant has been reduced from £182,516 to £149,334 for 2015/16. It can be topped up by councils from their own budgets but only within a fixed cap.
DHP is supposed to be used to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax and other welfare reforms as well as to top up Local Housing Allowance for private tenants in high rent areas.
Councillor Price said: "The fact is that this year 84% of our DHP was used to support social tenants hit by the bedroom tax, many of them disabled. We also spent more than the grant we were given so used our own to top up funding. There has been no significant change in the housing market to allow more of those affected to downsize so cutting this fund just means our ability to help is put under strain."
Councillor Price added: "There is an almost constant flow of bad news or worse news coming from this government about housing. This week we heard the frankly bonkers idea from Iain Duncan Smith to give away social housing whilst his department also reduced the safety net for those it is trying to force out of their homes. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this government is simply ideologically opposed to social housing."