Financial situation facing the County: On October 20th the Coalition Government announced details of its Comprehensive Spending Review. We expect that by mid November information will become available setting out in more detail how much funding Cambridgeshire will have for providing services in the next three years. We have already been informed that if we set a “frozen budget” for 2011/12 then the government will add a 2.5% inflation increase to the grant. This is to encourage setting the same council tax as year 2010/11.
A star chamber process is taking place as we speak. This involves each directorate setting out its spending plans against reduced spending targets. I am a member of the corporate services, customer services and transformation star chamber as a result of being a cabinet assistant.
Schools: I am meeting with the chairs of governors for Teversham, Fen Ditton, Great Wilbraham and Fulbourn primary schools to try and set up a standing forum to share best practice and knowledge. Our first task is to attempt to co-ordinate a collective response to the growth in primary school places proposed in the south of the city. We are meeting on the 8th November.
Promoting Teversham: It seems that we have had some success. It has been agreed, by the director for highways and access, Mark Kemp, that signs can be erected on Airport Way pointing into the village to help promote the fact that there is a restaurant and petrol station in the village. These signs will be paid for by the businesses so there is no cost to the public purse but will help to ensure the village thrives.
Cabinet Assistant: An interesting start. Taking part in the star chamber process has been a great experience and allowed me to bring my business background to help effect change.
I have been put on the LGSS (shared back office services with Northamptonshire) joint committee. This fits well as earlier in the year I chaired the scrutiny review that looked into the viability of the LGSS project. Poacher turned game keeper or perhaps the other way round.
I have also been put on the Audit and Accounts Committee. This unsung committee is responsible for making sure the councils money is spent correctly and accounted for in accordance with the regulations. I had a similar role on the Police Authority, in the past, and remember it involves a serious amount of numbers and thick papers to read. This might be dull but it is important work.
The Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) is an organisation jointly owned by a number of councils including Cambridgeshire. It buys goods and services on our behalf driving down the prices through bulk buying and returning any surpluses to the member councils. Most schools buy from ESPO. I am taking part in a review of ESPO to see if the organisation is still fit for purpose, makes sufficient savings for the council and has the correct level of governance. As this is a multimillion pound organisation even a small improvement can result in huge savings for our council, so this is important work.