Thursday 31 March 2011

More A605 works

Carriageway resurfacing works programmed to start 11th April 2011 and take 5 days to complete.

Works extend from Funthams Lane to the County Boundary with Peterborough City Council.

Contractor - Cambridgeshire Highways.

During the works the road will remain open to traffic travelling from Peterborough to  Whittlesey however traffic signal and or stop / go boards will be used to ensure safety of the workforce.

Traffic travelling towards Peterborough will be diverted via B1040 Church Street and Ramsey Road to Pondersbridge / B1095 Ramsey Road and Milk and Water Drove.

Hours of closure will be 09.15 hrs to 15.45 hrs.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Full Council - Mar 2011

Another meeting that went on too long.  But with some interesting debates.

The Lib Dems refuse to accept what we are trying to do on Community Transport, even though it is the sort of project that is getting the support of the Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker.  Of course with elections on 5th May, the Lib Dems will focus on cuts rather than the visionary efforts of the County Council to do better with less funding.

The biggest part of this was shown during a debate on the City Centre shuttle, a free bus service which we, as a Council, subsidise to the tune of £80k per year, something that just cannot be a priority given the excellent bus service within Cambridge and with the cuts being made elsewhere (but let's not forget the visionary stuff about creating an excellent Community Transport scheme).

Of course, as ever with the Lib Dems, there is an alternative reason.   The motion to retain the subsidy for the City Centre shuttle for a year was their May 5th motion.   The Lib Dems are concerned about a massacre in Cambridge City in the local elections on May 5th and this motion presented them with great material for leaflets. "Lib Dems win reprieve for City Shuttle" or a "nasty Tories" line.  What they, of course, failed to do, was explain where the money was coming from - which would almost certainly have had to be from the funding set aside for the growth of community transport in rural areas.

Anyway - the whole Lib Dem group voted for this motion - including all of those that represent rural wards where we are looking to provide public transport.  Remember this - the Lib Dems priority for these elections is protection of Cambridge City, which is already pretty well served by public transport.  That is quite clearly at the expense of rural areas.

There was some good questions to me from both sides of the chamber about adoption services, EOTAS and March Skills Centre, which I think I answered OK.  But there were no questions about Academies.  Given the criticism I have made of the Lib Dems attitude in this area, this surprised me a bit.  Maybe they have realised that their King Canute approach is, indeed, the wrong one.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Alice in Wonderland at Sir Harry Smith Community College

Sir Harry Smith Community College's latest production is Alice in Wonderland which will be performed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening (30th March - 1st April).  I am always impressed by the quality of the school's productions and I am told this year's is going to be no exception.

Tickets are £3.00 for children and £3.50 for adults. You can contact the school via their website.

Monday 21 March 2011

Free Local Live Band Needed for Charity Gig

Thought a cut and paste job was probably better for this:

"Hi there
At Weatherspoon we support the charity ( clic sergeant ) and we re starting to hold event nights, were we can raise some more money for the charity !!!!!
At the end of may we re looking to hold a night with some music !!!!! So we re looking for a band (hopefully a local band) that would come & play for a few hours, but's the catch .... ( FOR FREE ) !!! Anyone who's willing & able & for more information, contact us ...via facebook or pop in & leave your details, I ll get back to you . It will be a great night !!!
With lots of thanks
Jane corewyn"
Can anyone help?

Sir Harry Smith - Building Schools for the Future Consultation

There is a consultation at Sir Harry Smith on Wednesday night where provisional proposals for Building Schools for the Future development will be on display.   Turn up any time between 3pm and 8pm.

Having been given a heads up at a Governors meeting tonight, I have to say they are quite exciting.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Sir Harry Smith OFSTED report

The OFSTED Report for Sir Harry Smith was published last week as well.   The report classes the school as Good, but recognises that it has outstanding features and, in my view, accurately reflects the progress the school continues to make.  Whittlesey residents have every right to be proud of our Secondary school.

Congratulations to the staff, students and to my fellow Governors.

The report can be found here.

Ofsted Report - Unannounced Inspection of Social Care

Last month the County Council had the pleasure of a two day unannounced inspection of Social Care.   These are genuinely unannounced, with the OFSTED team letting you know about the inspection from the Car Park outside.

I am quite a fan of this system - it makes sure that they see life as it is (not sure how social workers feel about it though!)  Anyway, the resulting report was published last week and can be found here.

I think it is a reasonably accurate reflection of where we are and shows the progress that has been made since the last unannounced inspection.  If they had found any significant problems, they would have been included on the report as "Priority Areas for Action"  - there are none and that says something about where we are.

The most important thing about the report is whether it uncovered anything we weren't aware of, and I am pleased to say it didn't.  It shows that we know our Social Care set up well.  The issues that are identified are all part of the reason we are moving towards a different model of Social Care and the difficult process of moving to that model will be helped by the high staff moral that is recognised in the report as a strength.

In the recent past Social Workers have not had a great press.   I have to say that I am always impressed by the dedication and attitude of our Social Workers in Cambridgeshire.

Monday 14 March 2011

Vulgar Abuse (or not)

I challenge a local Lib Dem on their blog about yet another attempt to claim that the pupil premium was their initiative - it was a feature in both the Conservative and Lib Dem manifesto, so it is no surprise that it featured within the coalition Government's programme. (the pupil premium gives schools additional funding for each of the children eligible for Free School Meals)

Anyway my final sentence on the comment was this:
I would like to say that I don't think you are deliberately twisting the facts - except it is about the third time I have seen the Lib Dims play this trick.

The final part of the response on the blog was:
And as for your last sentence, when a senior elected politician descends to mere vulgar abuse, all it does is diminish you and your credibility.

I'll leave it up to you whether I am guilty of vulgar abuse or whether a Lib Dem is spinning what was a legitimate challenge.

Saturday 12 March 2011

EOTAS Review

I know that we have a number of Whittlesey residents who either used EOTAS provision themselves or have children who are currently using it, or used it in the past.  I suspect the EOTAS review will be of interest to them.

The important thing to highlight here is that THIS IS NOT about cuts.  It is about different ways of working leading to more preventative work in schools and therefore less children needing the provision that exists.  Please feel free to contact me if you want to comment.

Lib Dems in Disguise (2)

Given the huge reaction to my comments on my previous blog (methinks they doth protest too much) I strongly suspect my non-attendance will be misrepresented on Monday's meeting.  So, to make it plain, I am not attending because I will not give credibility to a meeting that has misrepresented its intent - and IMHO it clearly has.

I have been doing some digging.   Hinchinbrooke School, along with the other Hunts partners, have put it's consultation letter on the website.  It is here.

The letter is certainly not biased and does make clear there are two views - it also welcomes people to make their views known.  So the comments against my previous blog seem strange:

the information issued by schools in the process of conversion highlight their posative reasons for conversion with little or no opportunity for other views to be heard. 
the schools that are persuing Academy status are not consulting in any meaningful way 
in this way way it should be very different from the so called 'consultations' organised at local schools considering the move to academy status.

The HSEP plans on academies are widely reported, and websites highlight the consultation letter which shows how to comment - pretty wide consultation really.


Tuesday 8 March 2011

Beware Lib Dems in disguise

I am somewhat upset by a letter that has gone out from Councillor Peter Downes.

Here is the text of that letter and the text of the associated flyer:

“Dear Clerk to the Governors/Governor or member of staff,

As more schools in Cambridgeshire consider the move to academy status I am writing to let you know about a topical community event which is taking place next week.

There will be a public meeting on 14th March, which will consist of a presentation on academies by County Councillor Peter Downes followed by a community discussion.

Would you please pass the information on to your governors and school staff. It would also be appreciated if you would notify pupils and parents at your school to facilitate an open community debate and broad range of views.

This information is being sent to all secondary schools in Cambridgeshire.

Full details are below and also attached as a flier.

Thank you.




“Schools becoming ‘academies’ - a good Idea ... or not?”

Monday  14th March 2011
Gropius Hall,
Impington Village College,
New School Road,
Impington, CB24 9LX
at 7.30 p.m.

An opportunity for teachers, support staff, governors, parents and pupils to have a free and frank discussion of the key issues facing schools and our education system as some schools consider converting to ‘academies’.

What does it mean to be an ‘academy’?
How is it different from a ‘school’?
Who will be the governors and what are the extra risks and responsibilities?
What are the advantages?
What might it mean for teachers and other school staff?
What is the effect on other schools, other pupils and on the education system as a whole?”

Now let me ask you a few questions about that letter.  Firstly, is there anything in it that suggests that this meeting has a party political bent, or does it suggest rather more that it is a Council endorsed affair?  

Does it sound like this is a consultation? Does the use of the phrase “free and frank discussion” suggest that there is no particular angle to the debate?

Well, be in no doubt this is a Lib Dem run event, one that is organised to promote their anti-Academies propaganda.

Peter Downes is the Lib Dem spokesman for education who has become a one trick pony who no longer deals with education as a Lib Dem spokesman, just his anti-Academies mantra.  He proposed the Lib Dem motion at their party conference last year that opposed academies, and has consistently spoken out opposing them.

I am not suggesting that you don't go along to this meeting, feel free - but go on the clear understanding that this is not about free and frank discussion, you will be going along to a meeting that is absolutely intended to give you one side of the story about Academies.  Strangely one that supports some sort of socialist asset redistribution dogma.

Now that you know what the meeting is really about, if you feel that you have been deliberately misled by the way it is phrased, please write to your local paper, let them know how you feel and please, please remember how Lib Dems behave when you vote on May 5th.

Of course, at the heart of this is the innovative Academies bid from the Hunts Secondary schools, which includes St Neots - the Lib Dems recent history on St Neots schools is of opposing anything that moves them towards greater success.

In my capacity as a Cabinet Member I have made it plain that parents and Governors should look at academies with a view to whether it is right for their school, it is for the County Council to deal with any impact.  We have set aside additional funding in our tough budget round to make sure we do that.  Importantly think about what greater independence and freedom will mean for your school (or in the Hunts case - for your group of schools).

UPDATE:  16/4/2011.   I have received an email from the signatory of the letter expressing the view that she is not a Liberal Democrat and suggesting that the inclusion of her name is a data protection issue.  Whilst I disagree with her claim, because the letter was circulated in the public domain, I understand the author's wish not to be associated with the Liberal Democrats and, out of politeness, I have chosen to remove the name.  Apparently this letter is also on, over which I have no editorial control (and I can't find the article).  I still do not hold back from my claim about the Lib Dem's failing to be upfront about the intent of the meeting.

Punting With the Beeb

Life is interesting sometimes. I had a very packed day today, but in the middle of it was an interview to be broadcast on The Politics Show on Sunday (on the Eastern Region bit) about the Olympics, specifically talking about Cambridgeshire's proposals for the Torch relay and about Olympic legacy in general.

Because part of our bid includes taking the torch out of Cambridge on the river, we filmed on a punt.

Of course today's glorious weather helped, but I really enjoyed it. Almost all of the television interviews I have done so far have been shot standing outside of Shire Hall, or somewhere inside - so doing something so different was very welcome.

Now it's about waiting until Sunday to see how it comes out.

Joint Strategic Needs Assessment

The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment is, in my view, one of the most important documents in the Public Sector, it sets out key data about Cambridgeshire, increasingly it is broken down into local information, but most importantly it covers data related to all aspects of the public sector - but with a prime focus on health.

A website for the JSNA has just been launched.  The site includes this short video clip of me explaining my views about what it means to Children's Services:

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Whittlesey Community Car Scheme

I was sent this email about the Whittlesey Community Car Scheme and was asked to promote it, which of course, I am delighted to do:

"In view of the ongoing Transport Strategy review for Cambridgeshire and the recent Transport Survey for Whittlesey, I wonder if you’re aware of the Whittlesey Community Car Scheme, set up by Care Network in December 2009 and supported by the County Council (Passenger Transport), Care Network Cambridgeshire and Whittlesey Charities? 

This is a flourishing volunteer scheme which helps local people from Whittlesey and the surrounding villages who don’t drive or who are unable to easily access public transport, to get to hospital/GP appointments or to make social journeys.  The majority of our passengers are elderly or disabled, and our drivers are all retired people who give freely of their time and use of their vehicles.  We currently have a bank of 5 volunteer drivers, most of whom are available every weekday.  The passengers pay 25 pence per mile to cover fuel and some wear and tear on the vehicle directly to the drivers, who can then claim an additional 15 pence per mile from the County Council.  The County also provides additional insurance cover.  

Since its inception, the scheme has had almost 800 requests for transport which places a huge demand on our drivers, so we’re always hoping for more volunteers to come forward.  As the locally based co-ordinator, I’ve placed articles about our service in the press and free publications as well as posters around the town hoping for more volunteers, but with limited response, I’m sorry to say.  Which is where I hope you’d be able to help!  Perhaps you could mention the scheme and our need for volunteer drivers in your newsletter/blog or at local council meetings?

If anyone would like to volunteer and give a few hours a week to a very worthwhile cause, or knows of anyone who is looking to give a little back to the community, they can contact me in the first instance on XXXXX or 07810 427483.

Very many thanks.


Anne Hogan
Whittlesey Community Car Scheme"

Apologies for deleting one of the phone numbers.  I was given permission to use both, but one is a personal number so I decided not to publish it.

Waterlees Play Area - This is more like it

Waterlees play area has been plagued with stories about Anti Social Behaviour, despite still (to the best of my knowledge) not having the police called out to it since October is in desperate need of people to tell the positive side of the story - to get the message out about the good it will do for its community.

So I was delighted to read this today.