A Labour Council will:
Help Cambridge residents who need us the most with targeted projects to tackle inequality, and provide funding for voluntary organisations helping disadvantaged people.
Cambridge – A Tale of Two Cities
Our city remains one of the most unequal in the country. Data from the think tank Centre for Cities suggests that, in 2018, 6% of earners took 19% of the total income generated by the city, with the bottom fifth of earners making up just 2% of Cambridge’s income last year. There is a ten-year difference in life expectancy between the most prosperous and more deprived neighbourhoods of the city.
Cambridge is the fifth-worst city in the UK for social mobility outcomes, particularly for children from lower income families, despite a fast-growing economy and two-thirds of our residents possessing a degree.
These differences have been hugely worsened by the cruel austerity agenda of the Conservative government, and Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition before it, which has decimated our public services, starving them of funds and, together with swingeing cuts to social security, have made many people’s lives more insecure and challenging.
Creating One City Fair for All
With this in mind, a Labour council will, as our central priority, continue efforts to build one city that is fair for all, as we believe the levels of inequality experienced, as described above, is simply not acceptable. We will continue into the 2020s our vital work over the last five years, through our Anti-Poverty Strategy, to help improve the standard of living and daily lives of Cambridge households on the lowest incomes.
We have invested over £1.6million since 2014 in targeted initiatives like:
- Helping people get online and develop their digital skills;
- Promoting financial inclusion, supporting credit unions, allowing residents to avoid loan sharks and payday lenders;
- Outreach advice for people with mental health issues as a result of low income and debt, and
- Addressing fuel and water poverty through the promotion of smart meters, collective energy switching and other efficiency measures.
This is in addition to over £4.5 million to community groups targeting help and advice to Cambridge people in need, and over £3 million for groups helping the homeless since 2014, budgets we will protect next year too.
Campaigning for All Employers to Pay a Real Living Wage
In its alternate budget in 2012 the then Labour opposition proposed the City Council pay the Real Living Wage rate to its employees, to staff employed by its contractors and subcontractors, and to promote it widely amongst local businesses. This proposition was then enacted, and eventually led to the authority completing the Living Wage Foundation’s formal accreditation process in 2014 after we took control, and funded a member of staff to lead on persuading wider city employers to do the same.
Since 2014 the number of Cambridge businesses becoming accredited by the Living Wage Foundation as paying the Real Living Wage has increased from 16 to 68. The council has directly supported roughly half of these employers through their accreditation process. However, the cost of living in Cambridge continues to increase, particularly the cost of housing (both buying and renting), whilst wages have not kept pace for the majority of employees. In acknowledging this fact, we introduced in 2018 a minimum wage rate of £10 per hour to our directly employed staff.
We will continue encouraging local businesses, and major employers like all the colleges of the University of Cambridge – taking the lead of the University itself to in 2018 – to pay their employees the Real Living Wage rate of £9 per hour. In promoting the Real Living Wage, a Labour council believes this rate ought to be the absolute starting point when setting rates of pay.
Supporting our Essential Voluntary and Community Sector
In the coming year, we will invest £1 million in the voluntary and community sector through our Community Grants programme. In the most recent round of awards, over sixty organisations were awarded funding for their work in tackling inequality and sharing prosperity in our city. We will also organise another successful ‘Volunteer for Cambridge’ fair at the Guildhall. In 2018 more than 80 groups participated in the event, with over 800 members of the public attending, and many recruited as new volunteers.
Helping People Impacted by Welfare Cuts
Universal Credit is now being fully rolled out in Cambridge. Like with the benefit cap and Bedroom Tax before it, it is clear that this latest round of social security “reforms” will make life difficult for existing claimants, especially the most vulnerable. We will proceed with plans to expand the level of support on offer for those affected by these benefit changes, including specific support for council tenants who may be at risk of going into rent arrears.
As well as having on hand a Financial Inclusion Officer, we have seconded council staff to Cambridge Job Centre Plus to help train Department for Work and Pensions officials there on the intricacies of renting in Cambridge. We have also increased our funding of the Cambridge Citizens’ Advice Bureau to assist them in their work helping people navigate the tricky terrain of the system.
Financial Support for People on Low Incomes
We made sure in our recent budget that the Council Tax Reduction Scheme for the lowest income households was fully maintained – we are now one of only 37 councils in the country who have not cut this benefit. We also provide Discretionary Housing Payments which protect many recipients from increased rent arrears and help prevent many households from becoming homeless. Our Housing Benefit Plus scheme also tops-up local housing allowance rates to those assessed to be most in urgent need, to allow them to meet the cost of renting privately.
Ensuring Wider Access to Leisure and Culture
We will continue to provide swimming, sports facilities and leisure services that are accessible to all, with discounted entry to centres for city residents on low incomes, and specific initiatives to encourage active lifestyles like providing 3000 free swims a year for children and families. A Labour council will also continue to place a special focus on addressing health inequalities through specific and targeted initiatives like our recently expanded Exercise Referral programme.
We will continue to use the power of the arts in promoting equality of opportunity, learning new skills, building confidence and enhancing wellbeing, through initiatives like the ‘My Cambridge’ education partnership which gives young people from low incomes access to culture.
A Labour council will remain committed to providing a children’s and young people’s participation service (ChYpPS). This service is targeted mainly to parts of the city experiencing disadvantage, with plans in the pipeline to build an extension to the Brown’s Field Community Centre. ChYpPS will also continue its work in involving young people in the Council’s decision-making processes, engaging them in forums so they have a role in the future of the council and Cambridge as a city.
We will support plans by Cambridge Junction to redevelop and extend its existing site (owned by the Council). These plans will leverage external funding and grants, providing additional space for the arts, education and creative industries, taking advantage of Cambridge’s location and prestige.
Bringing Our Communities Together
A Labour council will continue to implement its Building Stronger Communities strategy, investing in community centres and community development initiatives that are focused on helping communities thrive and develop, bringing people together. The council is involved, with partners, in the running of the recently-opened Clay Farm and Storeys Field centres, based in the growth sites in Trumpington and the Eddington development in north west Cambridge respectively.
As part of our council house building programme, the Akeman Street centre in Arbury will be redeveloped, and there are proposals to create a new community hub at the Meadows centre site, integrating current facilities there and at Buchan Street. We will also provide community facilities at the Mill Road and Cromwell Road developments (subject to planning permission).
Our recent council budget also underwrote funding towards the redevelopment of Cherry Hinton Library, creating additional space to meet community needs following the closure of the Royal British Legion hall there.
In the late 1990s, Labour created several Neighbourhood Community Partnerships (NCPs), with financial support, to help communities to deliver projects and to address local issues and concerns in their neighbourhood. We will continue to support the NCPs in King’s Hedges/Arbury (NCCP) and Abbey (Abbey People) so they can fully realise their potential, now as independent charities, to operate on a sustainable basis in the long term.
A Labour council will continue to ensure there is a focus in delivering our services on the needs of people who are isolated due to significant mental health issues, and we remain committed to implementing the Mental Health Concordat in partnership with other organisations. We will look at ways to encourage the development of befriending schemes and resident associations in areas of high need, plus promote initiatives like ‘community wardrobes’ and ‘community fridges’ which could help to encourage community cohesion, and overcome isolation and loneliness.
A recent survey showed that one in ten in the UK have had found it hard to afford buying basic sanitary products. We will develop a scheme to alleviate period poverty in our city, working with the County Council and community groups.
Cutting Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour
A Labour council will continue to work closely with the police, partners and residents in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in our city. We are deeply concerned about the impact Government funding cuts are having on police resources and their ability to fight crime, especially knife crime, drug dealing and ‘County Lines’ criminal activity. We will continue to challenge the effect these cuts are having on community policing initiatives in our neighbourhoods.
In the face of these challenges, we believe the proposal to deprive Cambridge of a direct police presence in the city centre by the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner is wrong. We will make the argument for the need for a station in a central location whether the proposed closure of Parkside Police Station occurs, or preferably does not, in several years’ time.
We will use our influence on the Police and Crime Panel, and the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership, and other forums, to ensure residents’ views on what should be local priorities for the police are taken on board and implemented and will continue to prioritise work to tackle and prevent domestic violence and sexual exploitation. We are proud that, in recognition of the council’s activity in this area since 2015, the council has had its accreditation status confirmed for the third time in a row by the White Ribbon Campaign this year.
The introduction of the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) on Punt Touting in the City Centre, dog control on council land, and the open drinking of alcohol at Petersfield Green, Mill Road cemetery and the front garden at Ditchburn Place, have actively assisted in improving the quality of these spaces for the law-abiding majority. We will not hesitate to use our powers in proposing PSPOs when there is evidence to suggest it is in the public interest to do so and it can assist with tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.
A Labour council will also continue to invest in infrastructure to assist with the fight against crime. Despite this being a County Council responsibility, we have funded brighter overnight street lighting across our city which otherwise would be dimmed or lost completely. And, last year, we commenced a £600,000 upgrade of our city’s CCTV cameras, replacing cameras no longer operating and providing enhanced pictures. This new equipment is already assisting our anti-social behaviour team, car park staff and the police follow up on crimes in and near the city centre.
Making Cambridge an Inclusive City
We are proud of Cambridge’s status as a welcoming, inclusive city that recognises and celebrates diversity, and stand full square against any attempt to divide our communities through racist, sexist, anti-semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic or transphobic actions. A Labour council will continue to lead on important events that highlight this diversity, including LGBTQ+ History Month, Black History Month, Disability History Month, Holocaust Memorial Day, International Women’s Day and Mental Health Awareness Week.
We have met our commitment to help resettle an additional 100 refugees from Syria and war-torn countries in our city. We will investigate opportunities to extend this scheme and we will continue to support our new Cambridge residents to settle in and live peaceful and fulfilling lives, given that the conflicts that drove them from their homes may not be resolved for several years yet. We will continue to support a wider advice service, in partnership with the Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum and Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign, to assist other refugees and asylum seekers in Cambridge or arriving here.
A Labour council will proceed with a ‘Making Space for People’ supplementary planning document. Working with the Greater Cambridge Partnership and County Council, this document will set out, amongst other things, how to improve access to transport for pedestrians and cyclists, and give particular attention to increasing mobility and access for the disabled and less mobile. We will continue to work with Cambridge taxi licence holders to improve disabled access and ensure customers who possess a wheelchair have a reliable service. We will continue to provide equality and accessibility training to taxi operators.
We have met our pledge to include intelligence from the Street Charter to identify a range of funding opportunities for environmental improvements that support accessibility for people with disabilities and commit to adding another ‘Changing Places’ toilet in the city centre. We will fully fund a free Shopmobility service in the city, following the County Council’s decision to withdraw its share of the budget.