Children and Young Person’s Overview and Scruntiny May

Today was the regular meeting of the scrutiny committee that Cllr Ian Manning attends as part of his council duties (each member attends at least one Scrutiny committee)

Public Speaking slot

The first item was a public speaking slot from Mr David Carrington who spoke about the SEND (Special Education Needs & Disability – ie the strategy to meet the needs of pupils with one or more probelms in those areas) strategy.

His contention was that there are reliable ways of identifying dyslexic children at an early age and these are not being used in all schools. Questions from the committee tried to pin down what Mr Carrington wanted changed, why schools weren’t adopting what he regarded as best practise already.

He identified Hampshire as having adopted the programme already and claimed a programme (“Lucid”) which cost £8 / child could screen children around 6 years old for dyslexia reliably.

The committee agreed that his proposals would be forwarded to cabinet and the committee could then follow up the response.

Item 8: SEND Strategy

On Tuesday the Government released new national proposals for SEND – these will have an impact on the strategy which the officers are still trying to evaluate. On several points officers stated that some imprecise statements in the strategy were due to this.

The action plan identifies 6 Children’s centres as SEND ‘hubs’ – committee questions discovered these are geographically dispersed and a list was requested. There were concerns about the distance parents might have to travel given the small number of these hubs.

Lib Dem Cllr Lucy Nesthinga asked specifically about whether sufficient resource exists to produce the better outcomes desired.

There was also discussion around the best use of Teaching Assistant time: it was pointed out that the best outcomes often come from strategies that are designed to make children more indepdent.

Overall –

SEND covers a massive range, from children with mild problems, to those that require 24*7 support for their whole lives.
Whilst children at the extreme end are easy to identify those with milder problems are much harder to reliably identify.
Concern was expressed about the relationship between Academies and Local Authorities and the influence the latter can have on the former.
As the actions in the trategy would not take place for at least another year, the next reporting would be in 18 months time.


Item 9 – The Business Case for the Fenland (new) County School

This was mostly a positive presentation about this school. Conservative Cllr Hoy who is the chair of the local town council planning committee, mentioned that there was very little objection to the plan locally.

Cllr Manning asked whether LGSS was being considered as a ICT provider, given the success of LGSS recently. The project director confirmed that this was an option being considered now.


Item 11 – Impact of funding cuts to the ESLAC (Educational Support services for Looked After Children)

This was an interesting item talking about the practical impact of cuts on a service. For example, individual teachers were now dealing with 69 children each, up from 31.

Cllr Manning questioned the IT system behind it, which officers reported is a customised bespoke system costing £30,000. As usual the danger was of IT systems that weren’t tied up or reporting that wasn’t done consistently across different schools.

It was agreed a task and finish group would be set up to look at how the IT was being used, to which Cllr Manning would be a member.

Items 11 & 12 – Procurement of new schools

Key questions here:

Who should develop a school? The County or the developer of the development which it will serve? [normally this would be the County, but often developers were now interested in doing this]
How to keep to the developer to it’s agreements?
How to keep within national and EU procurement rules to avoid legal challenge?

The first is a key point and promoted lively debate around the principles here – a classic open free market argument from some of the Conservatives, versus the current framework which has a time limited ‘preferred developers’ approach.

Lib Dem Cllr Sue Gymer took the committee back to more educational and involvement led issues: making sure potential parents and parish councils are involved in the decision making process.

She highlighted that the local authority should be very careful to ensure the location of the school is appropriate for the families who attend those schools – and that these would not necessarily be concerns for developers.

Officers highlighted that potential bidders would present to open meetings in the local area.

Committee agreed to produce a report to be circulated to members.

Item 13 – The MARU (Multi Agency Referral Unit)

As it sounds, a multi agency working framework to deal with difficult individuals, whose problems cut across traditional agency responsibilities.

This was a success story in one respect – that Peterborough had recently joined the partnership.

Cllr Manning again dug into the IT system underpinning and found problems of data sharing again, something he will follow up.

County Council May Full Council

The meeting started with the usual administrative announcements and changing of committee memberships.

Noteworthy on the Conservative side was Cllr Steve Tierney entering the Cabinet for the first time.

Lib Deb Cllr Lucy Nesthinga on allocating funding to cover Government changes to music funding

This motion was to recognise the value, as Cllr Peter Downes put it “the value of musical education to all of a child’s attainment overall”.

The Conservatives removed one paragraph in their amendment which commited the Council to allocating funds to cover any shortfall. Cllr Manning, who experienced music education as a child, noted this this meat the Conservatives were doing something that they normally accused the Liberal Democrats of – “removing the only part of the motion that actually asked the council to do anything.”.

The eventual amended motion, i.e. without a commitment to allocating funding, was passed unanimously.

Lib Dem Cllr Kevin Wilkins motion on the Local Enterprise Zone to try and make sure it will actually bring a net benefit to all of Cambridgeshire

The Liberal Democrats accepted a Conservative amendment, which, unsurprisingly removed a criticism of the previous Major and Thatcher enterprise zones.

The motion set a number of guidelines for accepting businesses into the zone:

  • It will allow a business to generate more jobs
  • The business can broaden what it does my being in the zone
  • The business can work with other businesses in a same sector to mutal benefit

And preference will be given to business which:

  • can show economic benefits other than tax cuts
  • would stop business from relocating outside of the UK or EU

There was general consensus, until Labour Cllr Tarriq made a speech that seemed to be an excuse to attack the coalition Government and
Tory leader Cllr Clarke stood up and ranted against the “other side”.

The Conservatives once again repeated their idea that the Lib Dems don’t support fixing the A14 – rather as Tim Stone pointed out our solution wouldn’t have been rejected by the Government as the Tory plan was.

Further, Lib Dem Cllr Gymer pointing out that at Northstow meetings the lib dem position is “No Northstow” without an A14 upgrade

Overall all sides rounded on Labour for trying to stop business growth for different reasons.

Oral questions

There were a large number of oral questions, almost all of which came from Liberal Democrat members

On Broadband from Cllr Jenkins – pressing for fixing of existing bad broadband as well areas that don’t have it.
From Cllr Brookes-Gordon on Council’s not meeting their statutory powers be being unable to force road adoptions (from Cllr Manning’s written q). Conservative Cllr Orgee replied to say they are investigating what new powers the new localism act might provide.

Cllr Manning asked a question asking whether the proposed £1.5 million from the North Area Corridor transport plan was an appropriate funding mechanism for the proposed Chisholm trail bridge. Cllr Manning also asked whether alternative funding mechanisms had been looked at.

Cllr Bates replied that he thought it was, and did not identify other sources. Cllr Manning commented “I’m surprised other mechanisms haven’t been looked into for the funding of the bridge – it will be interesting to see how this information is received at Thursday’s North Area Committee”.

VIE Estate lighting

Although all properties on the VIE estate were sold over a year ago, still the County Council have failed to complete the adoption of the land. Cllr Manning, who lives on the estate, explains: “I’ve been chasing this for a while now, and whilst we finally have a timescale of end of May, I’m very unclear as to why it has taken so long to get to this point.

In order to escalate this and get some reassurance that there aren’t problems of some kind, I’ve submitted a written question to full Council.”

The question reads:

On adoption of roads by County highways for new developments:

Could the cabinet member give some detail on the speed of adoption of roads marked for such on new developments and what he thinks an acceptable timescale for adoptions to happen are?

Can he further give some statistics on the speed of completion of adoptions over the last 10 years, or a close acceptable reporting period?

In terms of both parts of the question, I would be interested in such detail as:

How often remedial works from the developer(s) are required, and some indication of why developers are allowed to put in sub standard works
Time scales for completing any remedial works and how these timescales are enforced
Should residents have already moved in before road adoption is complete, and how often does this happen in practise?
How are residents kept informed about the state of the roads of their development?
How often lighting columns on adopted land are completed to County standards, and working before residents move in to new developments

Tony Morris: our experienced Candidate for East Chesterton

Cllr Ian Manning with Lib Dem City Council Candidate Tony Morris at the recent planting day at Brownsfield's Youth Centre

It is with great pleasure East Chesterton Liberal Democrats announce their candidate for the City Council elections 2012: Mr Tony Morris.

Tony and his wife have lived in Bourne Road for about 35 years. He worked at Cambridge University Computer Laboratory for almost 20 years and was a mature student there for a time as well. His children both attended Shirley School where he was a Governor. He was Vice Chair and then Chair of Governors until he was elected to the County Council in 1993. He became an LEA Governor at Shirley School and also at the Lady Adrian School in West Chesterton.

Tony and family were regular Cambridge United FC supporters attending two Wembley play offs, an FA Cup success in Bristol and a defeat at Arsenal. “There IS only one Dion Dublin (and John Beck, Liam Daish, Tom Finney, Andy Sinton, Steve Fallon …..) but there are two Twins.”

On the County Council his main responsibilities were Highways, Policing, Planning and Quality Audit. He successfully campaigned for the preservation of the trees and grass verges on Milton Road and was one of the main architects of the plan to build railway stations at Chesterton Junction, Addenbrookes Hospital and Fulbourn/Cherry Hinton High Street. Another part of the plan was to re-open the railway through St Ives to Huntingdon but the plans had to be abandoned because of the privatisation of British Rail. Subsidised bus services and a ring of Park and Ride sites were provided in order to reduce the levels of traffic in Cambridge City and on the main roads leading into the City.

Cllr Ian Manning welcomes Tony as a candidate: “Tony has the experience and knowledge that East Chesterton needs.

With the new train station looming residents need someone who can make sure we get the best out of it for East Chesterton: Tony Morris is that man”.

East Chesterton Roads to benefit from Lib Dem secured funding

Cllr Manning and the Liberal Democrat Group on Cambridgeshire County Council pressured the administration into spending £90m extra on road maintenance in the current budget, and the schedule of works has just been released.

The move was started when Cllr Killian Bourke, Lib Dem County Group Leader, found evidence that Worcestershire Council had instigated a review of highways maintenance and put this before the Environment Services scrutiny committee[1].

The areas to be worked on in East Chesterton are:

  • Highways maintenance on Elisabeth Way – Carriageway and footpath/cycleway repairs – Quarter 3
  • Surface dressing and micro asphalt programme (“papering over cracks”): Kinross Road, Edinburgh Road, Church Street, Union Lane – Mid May to End July

[1] The minutes of the meeting state:
The review was initiated following a request from Councillor Bourke, who had highlighted the value of a Highways review undertaken by a Scrutiny Task Group at Worcestershire County Council (referred to in section 5). It also reflected the Committee’s recognition of the critical role that local highways play in supporting the Council’s objectives, particularly in terms of supporting economic growth and affecting the quality of life of local people and visitors, by providing access to local services.

Councillor working practices

Yesterday Cllr Manning, along with Lib Dem colleague Cllr Sue Guymer, attended the first meeting of the group to look at member working practices.

This was as a result of the motion they submitted to December’s Full Council meeting ( http://eastchesterton.mycouncillor.org.uk/2011/12/07/county-council-full-council/ ) calling for 1/4 of meetings to be held outside of working hours.

“The initial meeting was to come up with terms of reference for the group and to decide what topics we would discuss.” said Cllr Manning.

“I’m pleased to say I got on the agenda both meeting times, and a recognition that support for potential candidates in approaching their employers.”

Meeting times will be discussed in detail at the next meeting.

Children and Young Person’s Overview and Scruntiny Committee

Every County Councillor has to attend an absolute minimum of two meetings: Full Council and one overview and scrutiny committee.

Cllr Ian Manning sits on the Children and Young Person’s Overview and Scruntiny (O&S) Committee. Today was the most recent meeting.

These meetings usually cover a number of reports that the committee then interrogates the lead officer and cabinet members on.

The reports that came before today’s meeting were:

  • Raising the participation age: a strategy to reduce the number of NEET – Not in Education Employment or Training 16-19 year olds
  • Child Poverty Strategy – The County’s response to the – Child Povery Act 2010 which aims to eradicate Child Poverty by 2020
  • SEN Education Placement Strategy – whether or not children with special education needs are placed in specialist schools or not
  • Early Years Outcomes – How well Children in this age bracket are doing
  • Reshaping of the Children’s Trust – rearrangement of this statutory body
  • Safeguarding arrangements – review of the County’s policies and procedures on safeguarding Children

Briefly:

The data in the Raising the participation strategy was strongly questioned, as well as the amount of involvement from small businesses.

The child poverty strategy was strongly criticised for being very lacking on detail – making multiple statements about This led officers to tell us that there was a document sitting behind it with all the detailed targets!

The definition of poverty was queried strongly – quoted at £13.20/hour in one point in the report. Officers reported it is about £15/16k, depending on the area: it is a statutory definition from central Government.

The committee resolved to ask for a report on how well Council has done in reducing Child Poverty. Cllr Manning asked for some way of knowing how each individual policy has affected or not, the situation with Child Poverty.

The SEN placement strategy was questioned in terms of the strategy met the budget by increasing the budget (!). There were a number of questions about this strategy, which is essentially
preventative – and therefore relies on predictions being correct.

However the point was made that budgets were increased after the current strategy was put in place and this was not a sustainable practice. This strategy is looking at the very high needs children – approximately 100 out of 3000.

i.e. This is a needs-led area which has been under invested in the past.

The Early Years Outcomes report painted a very positive report of progress, whilst noting that some ethnic groups have particular issues (Gypsy/Traveller/East European/Bengali etc). Cllr Manning brought this up in terms of community integration and whether specific links could be made with community initiatives

Cllr Downes said that the measurements of ethic groups and/or sex were less important than the time of year when children were born. There is plenty of emerging academic evidence that summer born children are at a massive disadvantage compared to those born at other times of the year, over and above any other factor.

Shirley School traffic issues progress

Today Cllr Manning again met with the Head of the Shirley School and officers from the County Council and Police to follow up progress on the survey sent out via the School to parents.

“I’m pleased to say the school got over 30 responses from its survey to parents, with the majority sharing the concerns of residents about inconsiderate parking.”

Council officers are now working up a scheme of parking restrictions in the streets around the school. Cllr Manning is going to see if he can obtain funding for a lollypop person as attempts to get volunteers have failed.

“I’ve also asked CYPS if a volunteer could be found from projects within CYPS – and officers are taking this up.

Finally my suggestions around bollards for the lay-by have been taken up and I’ve asked if these could perhaps be delivered earlier rather than waiting to be part of the larger traffic management scheme which could take until October to get agreement about.”

Stourbridge & Riverside conservation area extended into Chesterton

On the 13th March 2012, the Central Conservation Area was extended in two areas. The proposed boundary change and appraisal for both the Riverside & Stourbridge Common and New Town & Glisson Road areas were approved.

This came after Cllr Roman Znajek intervened to make sure the process went through a proper consultation after he spotted it called “Riverside conservation area consultation” and was concerned that, as residents of East Chesterton hadn’t been fully consulted, this could mean the legal protections offered could be challenged.

A map of the new area, which now encompasses the area around the Penny Ferry and the front area of the VIE Development, can be found here: http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/public/pictures/central-conservation-area-map-001-3545.jpg.

Cllr Znajek commented “This is good news, and we hope that it may have some bearing on whether the Penny Ferry gets knocked down after the recent planning inspectorate decision to.”

County Council Full Council March 2012

Today was the last meeting of the County Council before the local elections in May.

Public question from South Cambs District Cllr Tumi Hawkins about bus cuts

Cllr Hawkins asked what data had been used before cutting buses in her area. This included routes affected that weren’t in the consultation.

Cllr Ian Bates responded say say that changes to services as a result of cuts to other services were beyond the Council’s control. This seems a piece of hand-wringing and abdication of responsibility.

Cllr Hawkins followed up by stating that Cllr Clarke said fells sorry for those in the areas affected, and therefore will Cllr Bates both work with and fund alternatives.

Cllr Bates confirmed that he would do this.

Question from Martin Lucas-Smith about making sure new developments having cycling provision

Mr Lucas-Smith asked the Council to model a no-driving day. He spoke in favour of both motions today about cycling.

“Do you agree that the growth of Cambridge and the health of its economy are dependent on cycling infrastructure?”

Cllr Bates confirmed that he did believe this.

Petitions

A Cherry Hinton resident, from Lil Close petitioned to install new street lighting to replace lights which, because of lights being removed, are placed more than 45m apart.

An Abbey resident petitioned to ask the Council to press for a bus route from Abbey ward to Addenbrook’s hospital.

Independent Renumeration Panel (IRP) on Member’s Allowances

The new report on member’s allowances was presented, which overall recommends a pay freeze.

Cllr Peter Downes highlighted that the new panel highlighted that the statistics in the previous reported are highlighted as being invalid in the new report. This is something that Cllr Downes su bmitted to the IRP.

He also highlighted the comments from members of the public – some of which were positive, but many of which were negative. “We cannot ignore people who say ‘I never see my Councillor’.”.

Cllr Manning highlighted something members of the public mentioned at the public meeting: “The make up of the panel wasn’t very representative of Cambridgeshire residents and this is something that I hope we can look at next year.”.

Some Conservative members mentioned that they didn’t like the recommendation about expenses being claimable for parish Council meetings.

The IRP recommendations were accepted with only one abstention from a Conservative member.

Labour Cllr Saddiq amendment on paying Council staff a living wage of £7.20 an hour

Cllr Saddiq proposed this amendment to the report on Data transparency and officer pay to work towards all staff being paid £7.20/hour.

Liberal Democrats were happy to support this. As Cllr Whitebread pointed out “The reasons given for opposing the motion by both Conservative Cabinet members and UKIP councillors is incorrect: the amendment asks for an investigation and to do this as soon as possible, not right away and damn the consequences.”

As Cllr Downes said “We should be working towards narrowing the gap between rich and poor.”

The amendment was voted down 38-21

The full motion on transparency and officer pay was voted through 48-0.

Motions to Council

Motion a) Conservative Clr Shona Johnstone to sign up to the Times Campaign, following the City Council’s lead, for increased Cycling safety. To consider appointing a cycling champion.

The first of two cycling motions today.
.
There was broad cross party agreement for this motion. Cllr Burke, Lib Dem Leader also highlighted that although there were potential amendments, for example on the lack of rural cycling, the Lib Dem group fully supported the motion.

The motion was voted through unanimously.

The meeting broke for lunch at this point

Liberal Democrat Cllr Susan Van de Ven motion on stopping £1 million of the cuts to bus subsidies, and carry out a proper gathering of evidence on needs before making alternative arrangements

The Conservatives used their normal tactic of claiming we were trying to hold things up and/or claiming that we thought existing buses were fine. The suggestion that anyone would agree with empty buses is just ridiculous.

Cllr Peter Reeve (UKIP) claimed rural isolation was a “myth”. Lib Dem Cllr Van De Ven challenged him to give up his car – which he declined to do.

The Conservatives refused to change their mind and voted to cut socially necessary buses.

The motion was voted down 38 – 19.

Motion from Cllr Paul Sales on water shortages, asking for Council to take the lead in encourage conservation of water

This was a motion with much agreement around the house.

The motion was voted through unanimously.

Motion from Lib Dem Cllr Peter Downes on using the £100,000 allocated for Cllr pay rises on projects designed to help children in NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training)

This was particularly relevant given the IRP was voted through.

Cllr Downes made an impassioned speech asking cabinet to highlight the problems of a group of people, who, through no fault of their own, are caught in a new poverty trap.

Motion from Lib Dem Cllr Kilian Bourke asking for Council to support the the Chisholm Trail

One had hoped that this would be a motion that would get cross party support, like the first cycling motion.

Yet the Conservatives quickly indicated that they would vote against, citing the council already doing it and it being a Cambridge Centric policy.

Further, they seemed more concerned about negative publicity that might result if they voted for it, rather than the policy in the motion itself. Not a way to run a Council.

Cllr Manning, seconding the motion had taken three sealed envelopes into the meeting with his predictions for how they would vote against: “Knowing how much Cllr Maguire is a magician, I thought I’d try reading their mind and seeing into the future. I opened up the envelopes one by one which accurately predicted the reasons Conservative members gave for opposing the motion.

Maybe I can read minds and see into the future: or maybe, just maybe, the Conservatives’ reasons are just totally spurious.

As the Conservatives are so upset about Lib Dems claiming credit for the new station on Chesterton Sidings, I asked them who should claim credit for the Chisholm Trail.

I know who should: the Cambridge Cycle Campaign. So I don’t expect to see a single leaflet from the Tories claiming credit. Instead, I expect they will put the credit where it is due: with the Cycle Campaign.”

Summing up, Cllr Bourke said “The point of this motion was that there has never been a formal policy statement from the Council in favour of the Chisholm trail.

There now is, is that correct?” asked Cllr Bourke, looking at the Conservative front bench. They didn’t answer..

“I believe I have achieved our aim.” finished Cllr Bourke.

The Conservatives voted down the motion 33-20.

Oral Questions

Police and Fire authorities

In light of the new Police and Crime Commissioners.

Questions established that:

  • PCSOs would be unaffected
  • the potential high pay of the new commissioners was set nationally by the Government.
  • Cuts would affect staff dis-proportionally

General Oral Questions

These are published on the Council website soon and I will include a seperate post about these.

In particular your local member, Cllr Manning, raised his concern about the potential for a ‘spaghetti junction’ of shared services between LGSS and its various partners, Library service mergers and Fire Authority mergers.

“I was pleased to see some long term thinking seems to have gone into this, with an upper limit of 4 senior partners set.”