Category Archives: Cabinet

The Perfect Storm

This post has been submitted by a contributor. The author of this guest post would like to stress that it an expression of personal opinion and does not represent the opinion, official or otherwise, of any official body or authority, of the owner of this blog (Steve Tierney) or of any other person or institution. (Future guest posts by other contributors would certainly be seriously considered. If you are interested – email Steve Tierney with details of what you’d like to write about.)

This particular Guest Post is written by Cllr. Steve Count, who is a Cabinet Member on Cambridgeshire County Council.

The Perfect Storm

It doesn’t get much tougher than this! The County Council went onto this period of Government cut backs with a very lean structure due to our low
funding. Despite having that starting point and the fastest growth in the Country the latest spending round settlement makes us the third worst hit shire County in the country. Additionally in education we have the lowest per pupil funding in the country, 151st out of 151. The current Government funding allocation formula also still fails to recognise the additional cost of rural service provision.

This means we have to achieve savings again this coming year (2014/15) of £37m despite looking for £32m this current year (13/14)on top of massive efficiencies the previous two years, saving £74m. There is no low hanging fruit left and services will have to be curtailed or cut. Unfortunately every cut is one cut too many for someone.

Despite all of the gloom and doom Cambridgeshire continues to be recognised  nationally for the innovative and effective way they have already and continue to deliver savings. We are a founding partner of LGSS – The Largest Public Sector Shared Service. Additional our Making Assets Count project, enabling partners to unlocking the full potential of their estates is unrivalled.

St Neots Cabinet Day

St Neots Cabinet Day

Yesterday the Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet held its Cabinet Meeting outside of Shire Hall for the second time.  Early in the year, readers, you may remember that Cabinet came to Wisbech (a trip which led to the Wisbech2020 project).  This time cabinet headed to another corner of the county and to its largest market town.

The Cabinet day falls into two parts.  In the morning there is the actual cabinet meeting which is a rules-heavy, procedural meeting with the tendency to send even the most engaged members of the public quickly off to sleep unless something controversial is on the agenda.  This is necessary stuff, that must be discussed and decided as part of council business, but it’s not what any non-politico is likely to find exciting.  Before the meeting the leaders of county and district councils, and the town mayor, gave short speeches and there was a public Q&A for them.  After the meeting there were more public questions – handled in an informal and friendly way to promote discussion – with the full cabinet.

The second half of the day the cabinet members each zoom off around the town visiting groups, organisations, projects and sites which relate to their cabinet portfolio.  This lets us see what is already happening in the area and talk directly to the people who are enacting, or affected, by what is going on.  It also let’s people raise issues with us directly so that we can take them back to Shire Hall with a clear understanding of any problems or requirements.

First I went to the Ernulf Academy to meet the dedicated young people who are part of the KickAsh project (anti-smoking).  I sat in on their training session and got to talk to them about the work they are doing and their views and ideas.  These are some very bright youngsters doing some powerful work and clearly proud to be a part of it.

Then I walked about 100 yards to the One Leisure building (sports and activity centre) where the council Active Lifestyles team deliver subsidised healthy activities for older people and for people recovering from illness.  There is a lot of great work going on here and I was impressed by the knowledge and zeal of the staff I spoke to.  I had a very interesting discussion about the way these projects align with the council’s new Health & Wellbeing Strategy, most particularly in the area of Prevention and enabling people to live well and healthy lives.  Some interesting ideas were raised which I will be taking back to the Health & Wellbeing Team at County.

I got a chance to look at the Adult and Family Learning opportunities available to people in St Neots and I was completely blown away by the wide range of interesting and useful choices – offered at very reasonable rates.  These classes, which include everything from languages, to cooking, to exercise, to employment skills, are delivered out of the two schools run by the local academy – an example of excellent multiple use of buildings and connections between different organisations.  I must admit, I was jealous.  We need this in Wisbech.  But I was there in my cabinet role – so I filed that little nugget away for later.   I was teased by the ladies about my interest in something called PowerHoop, which is apparently fitness hula hoops.  I expressed a view that men probably wouldn’t be good at hula hooping, but by men I did of course mean me.  “You only need rhythm,” I was told.  Ah.  Right.  Well that rules me out then!

I headed back into town to the St Neots Health Center and saw what I believe is a big step forwards in the way health services are provided.  The drop-in center, which anybody who feels unwell can visit regardless of whether they are a registered patient, or have an appointment, or even live in the area, was bright and clean and sparkling with newness.  There I met a whole team of health professionals dealing with everything from the work of a GP, through to mental health work, dietary advice, anti-smoking, sexual health and everything in between.  I had a fascinating conversation with the ladies and gentlemen who serve the people of St. Neots medical needs and cannot express how impressed I was – both with them and the brilliant centre they operate out of.  There was no griping or complaining or entranched-views – just a will to make people well and keep them well.  There was even some excitement about the way the controversial NHS changes have played out – though you’d never believe such a thing could be true if you listened to some commentators.

Our wash up and debrief at St Neots Football Club made it clear that everybody was as taken with St. Neots as I was.  This is such an awesome town!  Yes, it has problems.  No, those problems are not insoluble.  Some political will at all levels, some collegiate working and a little elbow grease and I have every confidence that the wheels will begin turning.  In some ways I had the easy bit – because in regards to health and wellbeing St Neots has a jewel in its crown already.  But this bustling, exciting, busy town has a very great deal going for it.  The Cabinet visit, I very much hope, will be a lever to push its gears into motion.  The sky is the limit.

*A thank you is owed to Val Thomas, an officer who had was tasked with being my guide, which meant she spent the afternoon chasing around after me as I dashed from place to place like an overexcited puppy.  I don’t envy her the task she had, but she performed it admirably and was a good sport and great company.

The Week Ahead

The Week Ahead

Most weeks tend to be busy, which is great because I like busy.  Some weeks that business takes on a more imposing aspect than others, perhaps because of the nature of what is being discussed or organised.  This week is one of those, I think.

I’m in Shire Hall on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Monday is Full Cabinet, which is always an important item but has a particularly full agenda this week in which some items are quite controversial.  In particular the agenda item relating to the Ely Road Crossing will be an important one.  It’s one of those where the public appear to hold two completely opposing positions, but in which both sides believe that their own position is actually the “only one.”  It reminds me, tangentially, of the Wisbech Market pedestrianisation debate.  In both cases somebody will tell you that there is “obviously” only one answer and the person standing next to them will nod vociferously.  They will assure you that: “any intelligent person must hold with (the view they hold)”.  Then, when the two reveal their positions, they look in astonishment as they realise they are completely different.  To my mind, such items only reveal how difficult some solutions are and that you cannot possibly please all of the people all of the time.

Monday afternoon also features a couple of 1-2-1 meetings with senior officers in relation to my cabinet portfolio – and then I’ll be heading back to Wisbech for a Full Council meeting of the town council in the evening.

On Wednesday I have a business planning meeting between cabinet members and the senior management team, but I shall have to leave promptly as I will be heading to Fenland Hall in March to assist and represent a number of local people in their opposition to a planning application which I agree is inappropriate.  That same evening I’ll be at the Conservative Future EGM (I’m not a member, I’m too old, I’m just a patron) where a new chairman will be selected since the old chairman is going off to University.

On Friday I’ll be at an all-day event with the Shadow Health & Wellbeing Committee team – part of the ongoing shaping and positioning of the committee which is going to be intrinsic and important to the health and wellbeing of the county in future years.

I don’t get the weekend off.  On Saturday I’ll be appearing (on-and-off, in shifts) to help man the Wisbech2020 Public Consultation Booth in Wisbech’s market square.  The public will be invited to look at and discuss the work that has already taken place and help consider plans for the future.

All in all, an important week.  I suppose I should get an early night in preparation for it to start.  Yes, that would be sensible.  I really should….*

*Obviously, I wont.

Moving Up

Moving Up

As of yesterday, I’ve been promoted.

I am now the cabinet member for health & wellbeing at Cambridgeshire County Council.

My old post as scrutinee chairman has been (subject to full council ratification) given to my vice-chair Richard West, who will be fantastic in the job.  His vice-chairman’s position has been given to my friend and colleague Cllr. Samantha Hoy, who takes no prisoners (as scrutiny should not) and will vice-chair expertly.

I very much hope to be a positive and energetic addition to the cabinet team.  I will give it my all.

Thank you so much to the many people who have emailed, texted and called to congratulate me.  I will strive to meet your high expectations and those of the electorate whom I serve.