Category Archives: Fenland District Council

New Leadership Team At FDC

New Leadership Team At FDC

I’ve been away for a week and in my absence the new leader of Fenland District has been announced and his choice of top positions laid out by the Wisbech Standard here.

This is interesting, since it takes a meeting of Full Council to elect a new Leader and that hasn’t happened yet.  But I guess what the Wisbech Standard is saying is that its got wind of what new Leader the Conservative Group has chosen and is presuming a foregone conclusion.  So, not entirely accurate, but still probably a fair assumption.

The “New Leader” (to be confirmed at Full Council) of FDC is the veteran Councillor, Chris Seaton and the newspaper goes into some depth about the people he has chosen as his leadership team.

I feel cautiously optimistic with the news as reported.  I’ll be honest, I’d expected Chris Seaton as Leader would be just the same as John Clark as Leader, with broadly the same faces and broadly the same choices.  I have nothing against John Clark, who I always found to be a genuine man with honest intentions, but I am certainly one of the Conservative group who has hoped for some fresh ideas and a new approach.

It would appear that I have underestimated Cllr. Seaton.  Because, against all expectations (on my part, anyway) he has made some fairly radical changes.  Cllr. Mark Buckton in for the Leisure and Young People portfolio is a good choice, I think.  Cllr Buckton has long been an underused individual whose talents were crying out for a bigger role.  Tourism, in particular, needs a shot in the arm urgently and I think he may well be able to gain some ground in this area.

Even more importantly, Cllr Dee Laws is taking on the Planning portfolio.  In my opinion this is an inspirational choice.  Planning is an area which FDC has really struggled with in the last couple of years and given how important it is for our communities that the correct forward-thinking decisions are taken, getting the right innovative person in place is a key consideration.

Cllr. Ann Hay takes on the Finance portfolio.  I don’t know Cllr Hay very well and I think she probably sits on a different “wing” of Conservatism to me, but her reputation is of somebody whose skills would be well-suited to this role and I am sure she will excel.  I’d like to see a lot more challenge of figures presented by Officers and I hope she will lead on this.

I would have liked to see Chris Boden in a Cabinet role.  Nevertheless, by making him Chairman of Overview & Scrutiny, Cllr Seaton has made a very smart placement.  Cllr. Boden is an analytical thinker of the first order and under his guidance I would expect O&S to take on a sharp, focused and insightful direction.  The purpose of any O&S committee is to challenge, review and act as a critical friend.  Run properly, a strong O&S Committee will catch poor policy early and put it right or stop it outright, amend, suggest, propose and consider in such a way as to make decisions more robust, more accurate and more likely to deliver decent outcomes.  A strong O&S Committee can make life uncomfortable for a weak Leader and it shows a strength of character to put somebody like Cllr Boden in charge of it – it represents a real desire to see the job done well and done right.  Very commendable, in my view.

I was away during the week this all happened and my information is gleaned from reading the Wisbech Standard – which may yet turn out not to be 100% correct.  But if it all pans out as the newspaper claims then I would think that a very positive outcome.  Cllr Seaton appears to have understood what needed changing as a priority and what did not, and has taken decisions that will earn him some grumpiness in some quarters, but in my opinion are pretty good choices as a starting point for a new direction of healthy travel*.

Bravo.

 

*I should stress that you should read no implicit criticism of previous office-holders in my writing.  Each Councillor serves as best they can, in the positions as assigned by the Council Leader.  I have no doubt that the previous office holders worked hard and did the best they could.  Nevertheless, I reserve the right to the opinion that these are positive changes for the Council and for Fenland as a whole.  There remains a lot of work to be done, of course.  And this new team will be tested by challenges and circumstances.  I wish them all the best.

John Clark Resigns

John Clark Resigns

Last week, somewhat out of the blue, Cllr John Clark – the Leader of Fenland District Council and its Conservative group, resigned his post as Leader.

Some of the things he said in his resignation speech I didn’t agree with, but there’s nothing wrong with that.  People don’t always agree.

John and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on policy (I once stood against him in order to prevent Paid Parking being introduced in Wisbech.)

But all in all John has been an honest Leader who has worked hard to unite an often-difficult bunch of Councillors (myself included.)  I think he can be proud of his time as Leader and I respect his decision to step aside now as an honourable one.

There was some rumours I might stand.  I’m not going to do any such thing.

But I wish all the best to whoever does take over the position.   It’s an important one that will only become more important as things change across the country in the future.

I’d like to thank John for his work and dedication to the role of Leader and I look forward to working with him on the back benches – or wherever he ends up.

Manic Thursday

Manic Thursday

I was off this morning delivering leaflets across North Ward / Waterlees to remind residents of our Councillor’s Coffee Morning at the Oasis Center.  I was joined by most of the Conservative North Ward team and a bunch of residents with issues they’d like resolved, and ideas they’d like to share.  We drank quite a lot of coffee and it was a useful way to meet with residents and get their views and concerns.

Then, on with my “Mayor hat.”

This afternoon I visited the St. Augustines Day Care Centre for their Christmas Carols and Afternoon Tea. We were entertained by some excellent singers from the Walsoken Church and a very nice time was had. I always enjoy spending time with the St Augustine’s gang, lots of laughs and merriment.

I had to leave before the end in order to make the Magdalene House Christmas Service at St. Peters’, where the children were responsible for most of the singing and bible readings. Proud parents watched on and, I am sure, had just as lovely a time as I did.

There is always so much happening in Wisbech, but never more so than Christmas!

A quick drive to March followed, where I switched hats again and attended the last FDC Full Council meeting of the year.  A fairly straightforward agenda was cleared in short order and that’s it for FDC for 2017!  Since CCC had its last Full Council meeting on Tuesday that means we only have next Monday’s Town Council meeting to go and then it’s holiday time!  For a few days anyway.

Extra funding to support vulnerable residents

FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL

PRESS RELEASE

December 13, 2017

Extra funding to support vulnerable residents

More disabled people living in Fenland will be able to get help they need to continue living in their own homes thanks to almost £84,000 of additional Government funding.

Fenland District Council has received an extra £83,600 of Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) funding to help people make adaptations to their homes and live independently for longer.

The funding tops up the district’s 2017/18 DFG allocation of £944,000 which has been spent making more than 100 households more accessible since April. The extra cash means other people will be able to get the support they need now rather than have to wait until next year when the 2018/19 funding becomes available.

The funding provides grants to disabled people and their families to help them make changes to their homes. Adaptations could include widening doors and installing ramps and handrails to improving access to rooms and facilities with a stair lift or downstairs bathroom. It could also adapt heating or light controls to make them easier to use.

Councillor Will Sutton, Fenland District Council’s Cabinet member responsible for building communities, said he was pleased the needs of Fenland’s more vulnerable residents were considered when the additional DFG funding was allocated.

Neighbouring authority Cambridge City Council was awarded £66,000 of extra funding, with South Cambs District Council receiving £61,000 and East Cambs District Council £51,000.

“This extra funding means we can help more residents get the help they need to live independently and safely in their own homes and also get help more quickly,” said Cllr Sutton. “Enabling people to stay in their own homes for as long as they want and are able to do so is not only better for them, but it also reduces the pressure on our healthcare services.”

Energy saving improvements

Energy saving improvements make a splash at Fenland leisure centres

Fenland’s leisure centres have been given an energy efficiency makeover as part of Fenland District Council’s work to cut energy use, reduce carbon emissions, and tackle climate change.

New energy systems and energy saving measures have been rolled-out across the district’s four leisure centres to save energy and cut energy costs in order to protect leisure services and reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.

The £800,000 upgrade will reduce the leisure centres’ carbon emissions by 281 tonnes a year, a reduction of 21% across the four sites, and cut the Council’s annual leisure energy costs by a third – around £100,000 a year – on top of significant operational maintenance savings.

With popular facilities including three large swimming pools, and early to late opening seven days a week, the leisure centres represent the Council’s largest energy consumer by some margin. And with some plant equipment reaching the end of its life, a different approach to managing maintenance costs, as well as their energy consumption, was needed.

Research identified the RE:FIT framework, an award-winning initiative championed by Cambridgeshire County Council and other partners which supports public sector organisations with energy conservation.

Working closely with appointed delivery partner Bouygues E&S FM UK Ltd, a retrofit scheme was developed to reduce carbon emissions, cut energy costs and upgrade the leisure centres’ facilities through a combination of low-cost energy saving measures, renewable energy measures and new energy efficient systems.

The new systems, including combined heat and power, plant equipment and energy management systems, will improve service reliability for users who may also notice the addition of solar panels on the roofs of the buildings and new LED lighting within the centres.

The works have taken place over the last nine months and been completed on time and in budget.

Councillor Michelle Tanfield, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure, said: “The RE:FIT programme is the largest energy conservation project ever to be undertaken by the Council, demonstrating our commitment to the environment and signalling a new approach to reducing both our energy use and energy bills.

“The retrofit will help protect us against rising energy costs, reduce maintenance costs and improve our energy efficiency rating while also ensuring our residents can enjoy efficient, reliable leisure services on their doorstep.”

“The project is a great example of what is possible when several bodies from the public sector work together with a key supplier from the private sector.”

Miles Messenger, Energy Engineering Manager at Bouygues, said: “We are really pleased to work with Fenland District Council in delivering their strategic goals to reduce carbon, save money and improve their leisure centre assets. This ambitious project combined low-carbon and renewable energy generation with energy efficiency technology to deliver a significant improvement in energy performance.”

New street drinking rules start to take action

New street drinking rules start to take action

Alcohol has been seized 14 times in the first five weeks of new powers being launched to tackle street drinking issues in Wisbech.

The amount of alcohol-related litter in the town’s St Peter’s Church Gardens has also been halved ever since Fenland District Council introduced the new Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) on October 20.

The figures come as an initial period of education to make people aware of the new rules comes to an end, and enforcement begins. Anyone caught breaching the PSPO from Monday, December 4, could be issued with a £75 Fixed Penalty Notice.

The order restricts alcohol consumption in three street drinking hotspots – Tillery Fields, St Peter’s Church Gardens and the memorial garden in The Crescent – and enables authorised police and council officers to address alcohol-related antisocial behaviour across a wider area covering Wisbech town centre.

Officers have been carrying out extra patrols and engaging with individuals to warn them about the new powers, and also signpost dependent drinkers and vulnerable residents to support and help available to them through the Wisbech Alcohol Partnership.

In the first five weeks of the order coming into force, officers confiscated and disposed of alcohol from the three locations on 14 occasions.

Early observations from the Council’s environmental services staff also indicated a significant reduction in the amount of alcohol-related litter collected from St Peter’s Church gardens, estimated to be around 50%.

Councillor David Oliver, Fenland District Council’s Cabinet member for community safety, said: “We had an initial period of education to let people know that the PSPO had been implemented, and how it would impact on their behaviour, and we are really pleased with the effect of the new powers so far.

“From Monday, December 4, we will begin enforcing the order; with officers having the option of issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice to anyone caught breaching the new rules.

“We will continue to offer help and support via a number of agencies to those who need it, however, we will take action against the small minority who continue to behave in an anti-social manner. We will also monitor the order to ensure the problem is not dispersed elsewhere. It’s a great start though and shows what we can do when we all work together.”

Look out for the elderly and vulnerable this winter

FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL
PRESS RELEASE

November 14, 2017

Look out for the elderly and vulnerable this winter

Fenland residents are being encouraged to look out for elderly and vulnerable relatives and neighbours this winter – and help make sure they don’t suffer in silence.
Older people and those with long-term health conditions are particularly susceptible to illness and isolation at this time of year, yet it can sometimes be difficult for those at risk to admit they need help.

With winter fast approaching, Fenland District Council and its partners are urging people to look out for those who may struggle as the temperatures drop as part of the national NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign.

People can help make a difference to elderly and vulnerable people they may know by following these top tips:

  • Drop in to see them and check if they are well at least once a week – and more often if the weather turns very cold.
  • Encourage those who haven’t had a flu vaccination to get one – it’s free for people aged over 65 and with long-term health conditions.
  • Check if they are feeling well. If they are feeling ill, encourage them to visit their local pharmacist or GP without delay – and give them a lift if you can.
  • Offer to collect any prescriptions they need or take them to their GP for any appointments.
  • Tell them to call 111 if they feel unwell when GP surgeries and pharmacies are closed – a trained NHS health care adviser will be able to help them.
  • Make sure their home is heated to at least 18°C throughout the winter.
  • Ensure they are eating well and have a good supply of food – and offer to help them with shopping if they struggle with mobility.
  • If it snows, clear their path, front steps or doorway areas for them.

Information packs with advice on how to stay warm and well during the winter have been distributed to GP surgeries across Cambridgeshire as part of the campaign, including Trinity Surgery in Wisbech and New Queen Street Surgery in Whittlesey.

The packs, which include a room thermometer, are also available at Fenland District Council’s four @ Your Service shops and community hubs, and at the Golden Age Fair, the Council’s popular event for the over 60s, being held at March Braza Club on December 4.

Councillor Mike Cornwell, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Communities, said: “Winter can be a very isolating time, preventing people from seeing friends and family and going about their daily lives as normal. This can impact on people’s health and wellbeing in so many ways, making them more likely to become unwell or injure themselves.

“Older people, those with long-term health conditions and people who live in poor quality housing, are particularly vulnerable during the winter, and many of those sometimes find it
difficult to ask for help. If we all look out for our vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours, we can make a huge difference to how people in Fenland get through the winter.”

The Stay Well This Winter campaign in Cambridgeshire is being supported by Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council, district councils, the voluntary sector, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

For more information on staying warm and well this winter, including grants available to help people if they are struggling financially, call 0345 6500 280, or visit the Golden Age Fair.

Skate Park, As Promised

Skate Park, As Promised

Wisbech Town Council Policy & Resources Committee met last night and one of the items on the agenda was the use of s106 funds for play equipment around town.

Several areas will benefit from updated and new playground equipment. I was very pleased that there was unanimous agreement on changes that different Town Councillors have been lobbying hard for.

Of particular interest was the agreement to provide a new and quality Skate Park for North Ward / Waterlees, likely to be before next Summer. This has been pushed hard by the four Town Councillors; Laura Cobb, Billy Rackley, Andrew Lynn and Andy Maul as it was a key pledge they made during their election campaign.

Laura, Chairman of the Skate Park Committee, has worked with the others to get some fantastic plans drawn up and they have – broadly – been agreed.

A decent skate park has long been something the ward and the town aspired to, but previous attempts have stuttered and faded, amounting to little.

But not this team!

The Town Councillors should be commended for the excellent work they have done. In very short order they have taken things from the drawing board to a real plan, and done exactly what they said they would do. A breath of fresh air, I think most would agree.

So some good news for young people around the town. The new Skate Park is now almost certainly coming. Get ready!

Relaunch promotes Community House services

FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL

PRESS RELEASE

November 3, 2017

Relaunch promotes Community House services

A project which helps residents to overcome barriers to skills, training and employment has been relaunched in a bid to reach more people in need.

Wisbech Community House relaunched its employability services on Monday (October 30) to raise greater awareness of the support available – and revealed exciting plans for the year ahead.

Local groups, partner organisations, charities and councillors were invited to the event to hear first-hand from staff, volunteers and clients how the project is making a huge difference to people’s lives; helping them to gain confidence and skills and move on to find work and training placements.

Guests were also encouraged to make the most of the services on offer by referring people for help, with many pledging to spread the message throughout the community.

Fenland District Council, which runs the house in Southwell Road, launched the employability project two years ago when funding from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) secured the future of the facility until April 2017.

When the DWP funding ceased, the Clarion Housing Group stepped into help – pledging grant funding for 12 months until April 2018.

The Clarion funding has a broad criteria, meaning Community House can offer the support to any individuals who are unemployed, economically inactive and seeking work, from any housing association and also property owners on any kind of benefit.

Relaunching the services, Councillor Mike Cornwell, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Communities, said: “The funding enables Community House to continue and build on the employability project, ensuring it can carry on providing vital support to many people who are in most need. The work at Community House changes people’s lives, and it’s great to see that recognised by Clarion.”

Wisbech town councillor Andrew Lynn was among those pledging support at the event, saying he would contact local businesses and encourage them to offer work experience placements to Community House clients.

“If we get businesses on board, we can get more people into work and help turn more lives around,” he said.

Community House client Gilly Barnes, said: “It was a really positive day and lovely to see so many people from the community giving their support.”

Gilly, who also helps out at the house as a volunteer, added: “Helping out at the house has really helped build my confidence and enabled me to work with a positive attitude.”

Tougher street drinking rules come into force

FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL

PRESS RELEASE

October 16, 2017

Tougher street drinking rules come into force

New powers to reinforce ongoing work to tackle alcohol-fuelled incidents and antisocial behaviour in Wisbech will come into force this month.

Fenland District Council is introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in the town on Friday, October 20.

The order intends to restrict alcohol consumption in three street drinking hotspots – Tillery Fields, St Peter’s Church Gardens and the memorial garden in The Crescent – and enable authorised officers to tackle alcohol-related antisocial behaviour across a wider area covering Wisbech town centre.

The robust approach will form part of a wider alcohol action plan being delivered by the council through the Wisbech Alcohol Partnership to address the issues and also provide support to dependent drinkers and local residents.

Other initiatives in the 14-point plan include recovery walks from the Inclusion Adult Substance Misuse Treatment Service and recruiting a dedicated outreach worker to engage with street drinkers through funding secured from central government.

After a successful bid to government, Wisbech has also become a Local Alcohol Action Area, one of only 33 locations in the country, which is working towards reducing the sale of alcohol to people who are drunk and help improve the health outcomes of the local community affected by alcohol misuse.

A Cumulative Impact Zone has also been implemented in the town making it harder to get a licence to sell alcohol, with a number of licences having already been refused through the use of the order.

Associated issues such as homelessness and poor management and condition of private rented homes are also being tackled through a partnership approach.

Under the new PSPO, which was approved by the council last month, it will be an offence to possess any open containers of alcohol in the three hotspot areas. It will also be an offence to drink alcohol in the town centre if someone continues to drink when asked to stop and refuses to surrender their alcohol.

It can be enforced by police officers, Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and authorised persons representing Fenland District Council.

Anyone caught breaching the order could be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice of £75.

Councillor David Oliver, the council’s Cabinet member for community safety, said: “We are introducing the PSPOs to respond to areas of need in Wisbech that have been impacted by alcohol misuse and harm.

“It will form part of our wider partnership work as it is essential we continue to address this complex issue through both enforcement and ongoing support to alleviate it long-term and ensure people are able to feel safe and enjoy the town.”

Councillor Steve Tierney, the Member in whose District Ward all the PSPO areas fall, said: “This is what I have been proposing is tried for the last two years and it’s great to see it being rolled out.  The main thing is going to be enforcement.  Without solid enforcement and support from the Police it just won’t work – so it’s important to keep reminding the Police and District Council not to forget that words alone won’t be enough, action must be taken.”

For more information on the PSPOs visit: www.fenland.gov.uk/pspo