South Cambridgeshire District Council news
Trial of four-day working week confirmed
A three-month trial of a four-day week for desk-based staff at South Cambridgeshire District Council will begin in January – with further trials involving bin crews to follow if it’s successful.
The council is the first in the country to trial a four day working week with staff remaining on full pay.
At a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet today (Monday 12 September 2022) Cabinet Members agreed to proceed with the trial. Similar trials, including around 3,300 staff, are already underway at 70 other UK organisations. Cambridge City Council have a joint planning service with South Cambridgeshire District Council, and their Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee will consider the proposals and implications for that service on 10 October 2022.
A four-day week is when people work one less day per week but still get paid the same salary. It is not the same as compressed hours, which is working the traditional 37-hour week over four long days. A four-day week, which for a full-time employee at the Council would consist of 30 hours, can make an organisation stand out from others and be more attractive to talent.
It is also seen as a tangible incentive to encourage staff to stay and has been shown to increase productivity during trials at Microsoft in Japan and Buffer in the USA.
A three-month planning period at the Council will now take place between October and December before the trial begins in January 2023. There are approximately 470 desk-based Council staff who will be able to take part. This will apply to Council colleagues on all pay grades.
If this is successful, South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils will consider expanding the trial to involve bin crews later next year. Bin crews, another shared service, are not part of the first trial. Additional time would be needed, by both councils, to plan and establish exactly how a four-day week would work for them and residents. Refuse crews currently empty bins for around 127,000 households across Greater Cambridge each week.
To monitor service levels from January to the end of March, the Council will use its standard performance metrics which are regularly updated. These will keep a check on things like how long it takes the Council to process benefits claims, Council house rent collections, how fast planning applications are determined, including for Cambridge residents, staff turnover, call answering times and more. Industry-standard health and wellbeing surveys will also be used to measure success and be compared against the results from a survey carried out last month (August 2022) before the four-day week trial was announced to staff. The next steps, which could include a longer trial period, would be dependent on the performance of Council and shared services during the first three months of 2023, and would need to be developed with Cambridge City Council.
As part of the trial, the Council will also now look to see whether it can extend the hours that it is open to the public via the telephone, a soon-to-be-launched webchat service and Teams / Zoom meetings.
For more than a year, the Council has only been able to fill around eight out of every ten (or fewer) of its vacancies. Between January and March 2022, only around half were filled. There are currently 23 agency staff covering office-based roles, which should ideally be filled by people in permanent positions. Over a whole year, these agency staff could cost the Council more than £2million. If the Council filled all these posts with permanent staff, it would only cost around £1million per year.
Not being able to fill vacant posts – or switching between agency staff to cover them – is also disruptive to services for residents. For example, when case officers change during the process of a planning application, it can cause delays and frustration because a lot of context and institutional memory is lost.
Combined, these factors have led to the Council looking at the viability of a four-day week through the desk-based trial between January and March next year followed by a trial among waste crews.
Posted Sept 13 2022
Rental properties needed for Homes for Ukraine guests
South Cambridgeshire residents have come forward in their hundreds to open their homes to provide a place to stay for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Community support Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, many residents have signed up to be ‘hosts’ for guests from Ukraine for an initial minimum period of six months.
At the time of going to print, around 770 visas had been issued for South Cambridgeshire as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme. This was the highest number for any District Council area, and the seventh highest figure for any area in England. Only bigger Unitary Authority areas, and some London boroughs, have larger numbers.
We are working hard to ensure that, at the end of this initial six-month period, there are local options open to guests from Ukraine who wish to stay in South Cambridgeshire. This is where Shire Homes, our private sector leasing scheme, comes in.
Shire Homes offers homeowners a hassle-free way for owners to rent out their properties for a guaranteed income. For several years, they have managed good quality properties, in a lettable condition in South Cambridgeshire. This need is even more pressing now, given that many guests from Ukraine are likely to want to stay within the district and will be looking for a place of their own.
If you have a property that you let out, please consider renting it out via Shire Homes. Whatever size property you have, from a bedsit to a four-bedroom house, we want to hear from you. Plus, you could be helping a family who have fled Ukraine stay among their new friends and communities in South Cambridgeshire.
The benefits of our private sector leasing scheme include:
• Guaranteed rental payments - even when your property is empty
• No management fees
• Day-to-day maintenance
• Regular property visits
• A full management service.
Our Lead Cabinet Member for Communities, Cllr Bill Handley, said: “Our communities have stepped forwards in a truly wonderful way to provide a place to stay for hundreds of people from Ukraine. I am humbled and truly grateful. We now want to ensure that, when and if the time comes for our guests to move away from their hosts, they have some options. Increasing our stock of homes available to let via Shire Homes does just that. I’d be thrilled if anyone with a property to rent out considers this.”
Posted September 8 2022
Little Shelford groups can now visit the Wimpole Estate, a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire for free thanks to a South Cambs Council initiative.
They are offering local community groups free admission to the estate and its facilities. This is a fantastic opportunity to encourage creativity and connection with nature.
Polly Ingham-Watts, the General Manager of Wimpole Hall, is passionate that everyone can enjoy all that Wimpole has to offer and recognises that National Trust membership or the standard admission charges are not accessible to everyone. Each pass issued under this initiative would provide free access for up to 16 people.
Passes may be used on any day except on bank holidays and the weekends preceding bank holidays. Those intending to use the pass are asked to email email@example.com or call the estate before coming, stating the name of your group, the number of people and approximate time of arrival. Where practical community groups are encouraged to visit during weekdays as Wimpole can get very busy at weekends when there may be less scope to cater for additional needs.
If you think that members of groups would be interested in receiving free admission passes, please return the attached form via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wimpole Estate consists of a historic mansion, beautiful gardens, a show farm and extensive parkland, there is plenty of free parking for cars and minibuses, a visitor reception centre, electric buggies to assist people with limited mobility, as well as cafes and shops. For more information visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wimpole-estate.
Emma Dyer | Development Officer (Community-Led Plans), Communities team SCDC
Posted Aug 26 2022
Ukranian families will be encouraged to integrate into community life thanks to South Cambridgeshire District Council grants
Ukranian families are to be given help to integrate into community life thanks to a new grant scheme launched 7 July by South Cambridgeshire District Council.
A wide range of events will be considered for grants, of up to £300 per project, to help reduce social isolation and encourage families to feel involved in their local community and life in Britain.
Project ideas could include buying books for English language classes, ingredients to fund a cookery day, venue hire to host a gathering, buying materials to run an art class, or travel costs to take Ukrainian guests on a trip into Cambridge to see the sights.
Cllr Bill Handley, Lead Cabinet member for Communities, said: “We are really pleased to be able to offer flexible, small grants, to reach right into the heart of our communities. The aim is for the grants to provide a wide range of local activities to help Ukranian families feel a warm welcome while also supporting their integration into life in this country.
“Maybe a local group would like to help Ukrainian guests develop skills for work or can offer emotional support. It could be an activity to help families socialise with their host community, learn English or something to help them feel less isolated. It could be an activity as simple as helping families enjoy their stay here and have as much fun as they possibly can.”
Latest Government figures show that South Cambridgeshire is the district hosting the most Ukranian visitors in England, with 677 Visas issued so far.
The grant scheme is designed to support Homes for Ukraine hosts and can cover things like venue hire, equipment, transport, instructor time or refreshments to bring people together.
A grant fund total of £20,000 is open for applicants from today until the end of the 2022/23 financial year, made possible from money provided to local councils from the Government.
Parish councils, community groups, informal groups or individual hosts can apply. Applications will be assessed by officers from South Cambridgeshire District Council on a weekly basis to ensure a quick turnaround. Criteria, guidance and an application form can be found here.
The grant does not cover activities that charge a fee or generate profits for private gain and will not cover anything which only benefits individuals. Grants cannot be given for activities promoting political or religious beliefs or an activity that has already happened.
Additionally, funding cannot be used retrospectively to pay for things that have already happened. However, it can be used to fund further provision of activities which have already been started. Grants cannot be used to extend activities already funded through South Cambridgeshire District Council projects.
To find out more, applicants are encouraged to email prior to making their bid submission to email@example.com
Funding bid support is available from Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service. Please call 01223-464696 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted July 11 2022
A budget to tackle climate change in South Cambridgeshire
The latest budget set by South Cambridgeshire District Council allocates £6.83 million to tackling climate change in the district during the upcoming year.
The Council’s budget for 2022/23 was discussed during a Full Council meeting yesterday (Tuesday 22 February). All District Councillors had the chance to vote on the proposed budget following earlier discussions at Scrutiny and Overview Committee in January and Cabinet earlier in February.
The Council’s total spend on providing services for the next 12 months is expected to be around £70 million. The total amount expected to be spent on capital costs, that being purchasing equipment, vehicles, and property, is expected to be around £48 million.
A total of £6.83 million has been earmarked for projects, services and equipment that tackle climate change on a local level in South Cambridgeshire. Last week it was announced that South Cambridgeshire District Council is a finalist in the Green Public Service Category in the Public Sector Transformation Awards 2022, for its ‘Green to our core’ programme of work. Through the Council’s Zero Carbon Strategy and Action Plan, it is supporting the district to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and reduce them to zero by 2050. Climate change related projects featuring in the confirmed budget for next year include:
A £4.2 million plan to install a solar farm at the Waterbeach depot of Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, the Council’s shared waste service with Cambridge City Council. This is proposed to be a joint venture between the two Councils, while the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority last month indicated it would help fund the work too, subject to additional checks such as value for money assurances. This solar farm would power the Council’s growing fleet of electric bin lorries and support vehicles / vans.
£1.3 million towards equipment and activities to help tackle climate change at Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, such as the purchase of new electric bin lorries. In 2020, Greater Cambridge Shared Waste began using Cambridgeshire’s first electric bin lorry.
£667,000 towards initiatives to improve and adapt waste services, encourage recycling and minimise waste.
£500,000 towards land drainage and maintenance of the 275km of awarded watercourses which criss-cross the district. The Council is responsible for maintaining these awarded watercourses.
£342,000 towards the Council’s Zero Carbon Communities scheme, which provides financial support to Parish Councils' and community groups to promote greener initiatives and reduce their carbon footprint.
£150,000 for the installation of electric vehicle charging points in the district.
£145,000 to complete the roll-out of energy efficient LEDs to the Council’s streetlights.
Meanwhile, the Council’s £1.9 million retrofit of its Cambourne office is nearing completion. This plan includes measures to dramatically reduce energy bills and carbon emissions from the building. As the electricity grid continues to decarbonise due to new renewable energy generation schemes coming online nationwide, the carbon footprint of the building will reduce to 25% of current levels by 2030 and 10% of current levels by 2050, playing a major role in the reduction of the Council’s own footprint. The work is also expected to help the Council avoid steep price rises in energy costs that are due later this year.
Elsewhere, the Council’s Housing Revenue Account – a ringfenced account used as the Council maintains its stock of around 5,500 Council homes – has its own budget plans. They include the creation of two new staff roles who will be focused on providing money and housing advice. They will be a source of support to residents who continue to face pressure on household budgets – particularly due to the impact of COVID and rising cost of living. These new staff will work closely with the Council’s existing advice officers, such as those working in benefits. Additionally, the proposals suggest investing £17 million next year in continuing to build new energy efficient Council homes, as part of a business plan priority to bring forward housing that is truly affordable to live in.
In 2019, it was agreed in the Council’s Business Plan that the number of new Council homes being built would be doubled by 2024. During 2021/22, 89 new Council homes were built. This compares to 36 being built in 2019/20 and 64 being built in 2020/21. As a result, this Business Plan target has been achieved. During recent years, these new homes have been built in Caldecote, Waterbeach, Balsham, Longstanton, Great Abington, Hardwick, Foxton, West Wickham, Impington, Comberton-Toft (boundary), Sawston, Castle Camps, Melbourn, and Teversham. During the coming years, there are plans for more Council homes in many more villages across South Cambridgeshire.
At Greater Cambridge Shared Planning, another partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils, new funding has been confirmed towards encouraging more apprentices to begin a career in planning.
£854,000 is included in the Council’s budget for economic development initiatives and business support – such as the continued development of the Council’s recently launched dedicated tourism platform Visit South Cambs. Greater Cambridge Commercial Waste, which collects business waste, has been targeted with a £25,000 increase in profit.
Vital frontline services that will continue to be delivered by the Council include collecting recycling and waste from around 66,000 households across South Cambridgeshire, handling thousands of planning applications every year across a huge range of sites and projects, environmental health responsibilities, providing homelessness support and dealing with benefits claims.
Around 40% of the Council’s annual budget is funded from local Council Tax. The rest of the funding comes from sources outside of the Council’s control, including Business Rates and grants. A £5 per year increase in Council Tax for the average band D home was confirmed at Full Council yesterday for the next financial year, to ensure essential frontline services continue to be delivered effectively. The increase will see the average band D home charge for South Cambridgeshire District Council increase to £160.31 per year. This is an increase of around 10p per week. Despite the rise, the Council maintains its position in the lowest 25% of taxing District Councils in the country. The majority of Council Tax that is collected by South Cambridgeshire District Council is passed to Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire Police, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and parish or town councils.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams, said: “I am incredibly proud of this budget. Despite the financial pressure Councils up and down the country are under, we have been able to place taking action to tackle climate change on a very local level firmly at the centre of our plans. This is proof we are backing up our declaration of climate and ecological emergencies with real action. At a time when many Councils are struggling, we have a very healthy financial position and are delivering improving services despite having one of the lowest Council Tax bases in the country. This is because we have applied sound financial controls and sought to maximise our income and deliver value for money, over the course of several years. We do appreciate however that residents are faced with paying more in bills across the spectrum, and that’s why we have several measures to help those in need with their Council Tax bill. This includes the Local Council Tax Support Scheme and a Welfare Officer to help anyone who is struggling. Indeed, our latest budget that we have just agreed provides extra money for additional officers focused on giving money advice.”
Council increases support for Afghanistan refugees
Five more homes for families from Afghanistan are being put forward by South Cambridgeshire District Council – meaning up to around 40 refugees can now be housed.
Last month (August) the Council said it would provide homes to three families as part of its response to the international crisis.
Since then, five further suitable properties have been put forward, including some which have been identified following conversations with housing associations working in the area. All the properties are being made available to support families relocating to the UK through the Afghan Locally Employed Support (LES) scheme, following a plea for Government for Councils to provide more housing help to Afghan nationals who worked for the British Government.
The intention is for Cambridge City Council’s experienced staff team to provide support to families as they arrive, helping them to establish new lives. This was already the arrangement for the first three properties identified for the LES scheme by South Cambridgeshire District Council.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr John Batchelor, said: “Just because news headlines are currently focused elsewhere doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about how important it is that we do what we can to help those fleeing events in Afghanistan. They need, and deserve, our help. I’m pleased that we are working closely with partners, Cambridge City Council, and housing associations, to provide essential housing and support to some people who are most in need. Linking Afghan families up with a home and support to build a new life is a very practical way that we can do our bit to assist. I wish the families who will be arriving soon all the very best in their new lives.”
Meanwhile, residents who wish to do something of their own to help families fleeing Afghanistan are being reminded that they can talk to the following organisations about what they might need, both now and into the future:
Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign (volunteering and financial donations): www.cambridgerefugees.org
Cambridge Convoy Refugee Action Group: www.camcrag.org.uk (volunteering and financial donations)
Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum: www.cecf.co.uk
Distribute Aid: www.distributeaid.org
British Red Cross: www.redcross.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer
If Forces families are affected by the recent events re-awakening stress and trauma associated with previous conflict, help is also available.
Combat Stress now operates a 24-hour free, confidential helpline which is available by calling 0800 138 1619. Alternatively, text 07537 173683 or email email@example.com
For urgent and immediate support, you can reach the Samaritans on 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Veterans’ Gateway helpline phone number is 0808 802 1212, or their website is www.veteransgateway.org.uk
Dedicated veterans’ mental health and wellbeing service Op COURAGE also supports Armed Forces veterans. Visit www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/armed-forces-community/mental-health/veterans-reservists/ or call 0300 323 0137 or email email@example.com
The support from South Cambridgeshire District Council follows commitments in recent years to provide homes to refugees from Syria, Iran and Sudan. Four families were housed under the previous scheme by the Council and in December 2020 a further commitment to support up to an additional four families per year was made.
The Council worked with an existing resettlement team and support workers at Cambridge City Council to integrate families who arrived during 2019/2020 into their new homes and communities, to ensure practical support was in place. New families arriving through the LES scheme will similarly need to be provided support and the Council is working on the detail of how that support will be provided through its partnership with Cambridge City Council.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s five-year Business Plan commits to working with national, regional, and local partners to support the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.
Councils warn residents of possible disruption to green bin collections due to staff isolating
Residents in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire are being given advance warning that fortnightly green bin collections could be disrupted in the weeks ahead due to the pandemic causing staff shortages – though collections remain as scheduled for now.
The Greater Cambridgeshire Shared Waste Service is currently unable to secure enough agency workers to cover all absences. This is because agency workers are in higher demand in roles such as supermarket workers due to the number of people currently needing to self-isolate.
The service regularly uses agency workers to cover absences and annual leave from a very physical role, which sees them walk on average 13 miles per day.
A small number of the bin collection crew are also currently needing to self-isolate after either being contacted by NHS Test and Trace or alerted via the NHS COVID-19 app. The Shared Waste Service is considering how Thursday evening’s Government announcement that fully vaccinated critical workers would be able to leave self-isolation for work in exceptional circumstances and if it could help support our operations.
Residents are being advised that fortnightly green bin collections are continuing for now, but there is the chance they will be altered or suspended in the weeks ahead.
This would allow remaining crews to concentrate on emptying blue and black bins during the coming weeks.
If any changes to the schedule are needed the Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service will let residents, parish councils and residents associations know, and keep people up to date via the two councils’ websites and social media channels.
As always, residents are being encouraged to waste as little food as possible, so they minimise the amount they need to throw away. For this period only, the advice to residents who do have food waste will be to put it into the black bin to prevent food waste building-up if there is a need for green bins frequency to be reduced.
Residents who enjoy spending time in the garden and growing their own food are also being asked to consider home composting as much of their garden waste as possible.
Nationally, other Councils have already suspended green bin collections due to staff shortages and councillors are reiterating that teams will continue to do everything they can to try and reduce any disruptions.
Council thanks residents and businesses for supporting public services through pandemic
South Cambridgeshire's residents and businesses doing all they can to support public services, as new figures show the District Council is top of the league for Council Tax collection across England.
Government collection rates for Council Tax and Business Rates in England show that South Cambridgeshire District Council collected 99.1% of the total amount of Council Tax it was due to receive during the 2020/21 financial year. This makes it the joint top performing Council in the country out of more than 300 tax-collecting authorities.
South Cambridgeshire District Council collects Council Tax from residents before passing on most of it to several frontline local services. These are Cambridgeshire Police, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Cambridgeshire County Council and Parish / Town Councils. Only around 9% of your Council Tax bill goes towards the District Council’s services.
The league tables show that the overwhelming majority of South Cambridgeshire residents played their part in supporting these vital frontline services financially during the past 12 months.
By 31 March 2021, the District Council had collected £136,960,000 out of an estimated £138,215,000 that it was due to receive.
The District Council also collects Business Rates from local businesses and has scored highly in this field too – showing local businesses have also very much played their part in supporting local services.
The Government league tables show that £52,841,000 in Non Domestic Rates was collected, out of a possible £53,493,000. This is 98.8% of the amount expected to be collected and puts the Council in 23rd place nationally out of approximately 330 Councils.
Income from Non-Domestic rates is shared between Central Government, County Councils, District Councils and Fire Authorities, with the District Councils retaining 40%.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams, said: “A huge thank you to all our local residents and businesses who have showed that financially they have done all they can to support vital frontline services despite the challenges of COVID-19. Because we were able to collect such a high proportion of the Council Tax and Business Rates that was due – it means all local services across the district benefit. We have of course worked sensitively with those who did need help with paying their bills – such as by arranging payment plans to spread those payments. We are always here to help residents who are concerned about their ability to pay in any way we can, and I would encourage those residents or businesses with understandable continuing worries to contact us as soon as possible. Finally, I also want to personally thank each and every one of our dedicated officers who have worked so hard to achieve this accolade.”
New fund launched for growing businesses in South Cambridgeshire.
A new grant scheme has launched for South Cambridgeshire based micro and small to medium sized businesses looking to scale and grow.
The Growth Fund scheme, using funding provided by Government, is designed to support businesses’ growth and expansion plans in the district. Eligible applicants for the scheme must be South Cambridgeshire based start-ups who are looking to scale and grow quickly, or they can be established South Cambridgeshire based companies who can clearly demonstrate ambitious growth plans in the District. Businesses in any sectors can apply, including, sole traders and partnerships. One- off grants of between £1,000 and £50,000 may be awarded to successful applicants.
Cllr Peter McDonald, Lead Cabinet Member for Business said: “As Government Coronavirus restrictions ease, the Council is keen to support businesses from all sectors that may have put their growth ambitions on hold during the pandemic and help businesses recover and thrive in the District.
“The Growth Fund scheme is aimed at supporting local micro and SME businesses, with plans to expand. The scheme is open to businesses from all sectors affected by local and national restrictions. In particular, we will be prioritising those who were ineligible for the rate paying schemes such as the Local Restrictions Support Grant and Restart Grant. We also really want to encourage businesses with strong green credentials to apply, to kickstart a green pandemic recovery in South Cambridgeshire.”
All grants require an online application form to be completed. Full details and eligibility criteria on the Growth Fund Scheme, along with information about how to apply, can be found on our website: https://www.scambs.gov.uk/business/business-support-and-advice/growth-fund-grant-scheme/. A handy ‘How to Apply’ guide is also available on the website.
The scheme will end when all funds have been allocated.
Free toolkit to keep caring for your community
The South Cambs Community Safety Partnership – a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridgeshire County councils; the Police, Fire and Rescue Services; the Probation Service; and the NHS – has created a toolkit to help local people keep caring for their community as the pressures of the pandemic ease. As we approach the final stage of restrictions easing, many volunteers are thinking about putting in place longer-term structures to build community cohesion, and to tackle some of the other concerns that residents have.
The six packs within the toolkit cover: Combating loneliness and isolation; Reaching your community; Making the local environment safer and greener; Crime prevention in your community; Preventing antisocial behaviour; Tackling road-related concerns. The toolkit also provides advice on how to encourage fellow residents to join in, as well as how to find out what the community thinks about the issues in question, and offers case studies from community groups which have successfully taken similar action before.
The toolkit is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), which awarded the funding to the South Cambs Community Safety Partnership – of which South Cambridgeshire District Council is a partner.
The toolkits and more information can be found here: www.scambs.gov.uk/free-toolkit-to-keep-caring-for-your-community
Government Restart Grants: local businesses can apply today
South Cambridgeshire District Council has around £1.4m of central Government money waiting to be claimed by local businesses, by Wednesday 30 June.
Restart Grants support rate-paying businesses in the non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and accommodation sectors with a one-off grant. Businesses have less than a month to apply for the one-off grant to help with costs of reopening safely.
Eligible businesses may be entitled to a one-off cash grant of up to £6,000 or £18,000 (sector dependant). The eligibility criteria and application form for businesses is on South Cambridgeshire’s website: Restart Grants - South Cambs District Council (scambs.gov.uk)
The council also have a dedicated email set-up and managed by their business support team: BusinessGrants@scambs.gov.uk
Council responds to East West Rail consultation
Leading Councillors have said they support the principle of the Bedford to Cambridge section of East West Rail, but are calling for more detail to understand the local impacts of the scheme.
The plans for this national infrastructure project are being drawn up by the East West Rail Company, which was set up by the Department for Transport in 2018. East West Rail’s preferred option would see the railway, if it goes ahead, pass through parts of South Cambridgeshire such as Cambourne, Highfields Caldecote, the Eversdens, Harlton, Haslingfield, Hauxton and the Shelfords before eventually entering Cambridge from the south of the city.
The officer report highlights the need for further details on a range of technical issues such as noise and landscape impacts and the local impacts need to be explored and addressed.
The response from South Cambridgeshire District Council to East West Rail’s consultation was agreed at a Cabinet meeting yesterday (Monday 24 May). It will now be finalised by the officer and Lead Member, considering members’ comments during the Cabinet meeting, before it is submitted to East West Rail.
Cllr Neil Gough, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Strategic Planning & Transport and Transformation & Projects said: “Back in 2018 we said that we supported the principle of the Bedford to Cambridge section of East West Rail, but at this stage significant further work is still needed to allow us to fully assess and provide further comment on the local impacts of the scheme. This is vital for the Council and our communities who have expressed significant concerns at the moment.
“To enable us, together with our communities, to make the most of the opportunity that the railway brings, and to effectively address the impacts it will have, we are encouraging East West Rail to engage further with the Council and with local communities to understand residents’ concerns.
“What is clear is that the new railway has the potential to bring significant change and opportunity to South Cambridgeshire communities. It is vital that the East-West Railway Company continue to work closely with local councillors, officers and residents so that everyone’s views are heard as part of the process.”
East West Rail’s consultation runs from 31 March, until 9 June and covers a range of topics including the overall customer experience of the future railway, and a range of infrastructure proposals - such as the route, new stations and level crossings. South Cambridgeshire District Council is a statutory consultee and will submit a response as part of the consultation and through the planning process. Members of the public can view the consultation and submit their own comments here: www.eastwestrail.co.uk/consultation
Applications open for cash to spend on South Cambridgeshire projects to tackle climate change
South Cambridgeshire’s community groups can now bid for a share of £100,000 from the District Council’s Zero Carbon Communities Grant scheme, which has already funded more than 35 grassroots projects to tackle climate change.
The fund aims to support the district shift to a cleaner and greener future with the support of the community. Local groups can bid for cash to spend on ambitious projects that reduce carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, spread awareness and promote behaviour change towards low carbon lifestyles.
Grants between £1,000 and £15,000 are available. The money comes from business rates from renewable energy sites, like solar farms, in South Cambridgeshire that the Council retains and earmarks for use in green initiatives like this.
Non-profit groups or organisations that are based in the district and parish councils can apply. Other groups, such as social enterprises and community interest companies can apply as part of a partnership led by a parish council or not-for-profit group. Groups can bid for the grant scheme by visiting: www.scambs.gov.uk/zerocarbongrant
The Chair of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Climate and Environment Advisory Committee, Cllr Pippa Heylings, said: “Being green to our core is front and centre of everything we do. We have an ambitious goal to reduce our own carbon emissions by 45% on 2018-19 baseline by 2025 and are doing all we can to help South Cambridgeshire at least halve emissions within the decade. We can’t do it alone. Schemes like this help residents take their own action, on a very local level, to help combat the climate and ecological emergencies that we face. Each community knows best about what will work in their area, so I’m looking forward to seeing the applications come in.”
Those interested in applying are being encouraged to sign up for an upcoming webinar run by the Council, titled, ‘How to make a successful grant application’ will be held on Monday 7 June at 7:00pm. It is free to sign up and take part. All the details are at: www.scambs.gov.uk/nature-and-climate-change/zero-carbon-communities.
Chair of the Council’s Grants Advisory Committee Cllr Jose Hales, said: “Our Committee is really looking forward to receiving lots of applications to fund a wide range of zero-carbon projects. As part of the application process we really want to see how groups expect to use the funding to support and engage with local communities on carbon and green initiatives, making sure the money leaves a lasting local legacy. We know from previous rounds of our popular Zero Carbon Communities grant scheme that our residents are very ambitious when it comes to tackling climate change on a very local level. They want to do their bit and I’m thrilled that this scheme helps.”
Previous recipients of the grant include:
Cambridge Sustainable Food, and its 12 month ‘Food Our Future’ campaign to raise awareness of the links between carbon emissions and food consumption
Papworth Trust’s pop up bike shops and safe cycling and repair workshops, using OWL Bikes to enable disabled adults to develop skills, while teaching local people how to repair bicycles.
The Cambridge Cohousing community undertake environmental initiatives for the benefit of both the cohousing community and residents of Orchard Park. They received £5,000 and purchased and launched an electric cargo bike which is now in use by Orchard Park residents and local non-profit groups. The trike, which will soon be decorated in eye catching artwork to highlight climate change, has also been used in a community litter pick.
Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership received £6,500 for a double story cycle rack (30 bikes) including CCTV cameras and a cycle repair café at Meldreth Station.
Residents in Great Shelford are being urged to get twice-weekly rapid Covid tests.
The move is an important step forward to meet the aims of the national roadmap, allowing everyone to move safely out of lockdown.
Twice-weekly rapid testing is a vital tool in identifying cases of Covid-19 that would otherwise be missed. With 1 in 3 people with coronavirus showing no symptoms and potentially spreading it without knowing, rapid testing helps to identify positive cases quickly, preventing the spread of infection.
There are several ways you can access rapid testing. You can take a test at one of the rapid testing sites locally. Your employer may be offering testing in the workplace.
You can also collect tests to complete at home or order tests to be delivered to your home. Secondary school pupils are also being asked to take a twice-weekly test.
You can find out more about all of these options at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/rapidtesting or www.peterborough.gov.uk/rapidtesting
Dr Liz Robin, director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: “Getting into the habit of twice-weekly testing as part of our everyday lives will help us all to keep each other safe. Alongside the ongoing vaccine rollout, it will help us to move forward with the roadmap out of lockdown.”
Extra support for local businesses adapting to COVID-secure measures
South Cambridgeshire’s COVID and Environmental Health teams will be working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) next week to give businesses extra support with their COVID-secure measures.
Starting from Monday 26 April, HSE officers will call or visit businesses within South Cambridgeshire, to check the COVID-secure measures they have in place and provide advice and guidance wherever needed. They will be helping local businesses to have suitable COVID-secure control measures in place and supporting the country’s efforts to keep Coronavirus transmission rates as low as possible.
Chris Coker, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s COVID-19 Principal Officer said: “We know that being COVID-secure remains a top priority for all businesses and the vast majority of businesses are doing everything they can to operate in a COVID-secure way. It’s not been easy for them, and we will continue to provide all the advice and support that we can. This is especially important given that so many of our local companies have gone the extra mile to continue supplying goods and services despite the challenges of the past year. Having robust COVID-19 measures in place is not only the right thing to do, but it also helps increase confidence with workers, customers and the local community.”
The focus of the project will initially be on retail, hospitality, leisure, close contact services and science park-based businesses. Full guidance for working safely during the pandemic is available on the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19.
Chris added: “Any business in South Cambridgeshire could be chosen for spot checks which means companies of any size, in any sector can receive a visit to ensure they are COVID-secure. By making sure that businesses have measures in place to manage the risks, both our health and the economy benefit.”
Businesses who do not engage with the HSE, or where there are COVID-secure concerns, will be passed to the District Council’s COVID and Environmental Health teams for follow up. This can include further engagement via advice and support to ensure the correct measures are in place or, where needed, enforcement action being taken.
Businesses urged to apply for Government Restart Grants
South Cambridgeshire businesses affected by the post-Christmas national lockdown can now apply online for the Government’s Restart Grants.
The Restart Grants funding scheme was announced by Government on Wednesday 3 March 2021 and is designed to support businesses (including non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses) that are predominantly reliant on delivering in-person services for the general public.
The funding scheme has two strands. Under strand one, grants of up to £6,000 will be paid to non-essential retail business premises to help them to reopen safely. Under strand two of the scheme, grants of up to £18,000 will be allocated to hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym business premises, which may open but will be more impacted by restrictions when they do reopen. The level of grant that will be paid under both strand one and two will depend on the rateable value of the premises on Thursday 1 April 2021.
All grants require an online application form to be completed. Details on the Restart Grants and how to apply can be found on our website: Restart Grants - South Cambs District Council (www.scambs.gov.uk/coronavirus-information-for-businesses/financial-support-for-business/restart-grants). The application process allows pre-payment checks to confirm scheme eligibility and to allow the appropriate level of grant to be identified. The application closure date for the Restart Grant funding scheme is Wednesday 30 June 2021 and final payments will be made by Saturday 31 July 2021.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Business Support Team Leader, Adele Gritten said: “The latest funding of Government grants will help our local business community recover from the national lockdown that has being easing over the past few weeks. Since the start of the pandemic we have allocated £34,000,000 of Government grants to 4,638 local businesses. Our staff are working incredibly hard to get this Government money to as many eligible applicants as quickly as possible. We recognise the challenges local businesses are facing and our priority is to support the recovery of our local economy as restrictions ease.”
Council launches £30,000 Covid Recovery Grant for local communities
A £30,000 Covid recovery grant fund to help local community groups and parish councils resume activities has been launched by South Cambridgeshire District Council.
As the Government’s cautious road-map out of lockdown continues, the Council has earmarked the financial package as part of its Community Chest funding so that community groups and parish councils can progress projects and services that will support local people.
The Council’s Grants Advisory Committee has temporarily amended the rules around eligibility criteria for its Community Chest Grant scheme for the next two months to allow applications for grants of up to £2,000 for Covid recovery related projects and initiatives.
Previously, few parish councils could apply to the scheme as the criteria stipulated they had to have fewer than 160 registered electors. But for the next eight weeks, it will be open to all parish councils and community groups – including new ones that are now setting up. Applications are now being accepted until 10 May 2021, with submissions being reviewed at the May 28 Grants Advisory Committee meeting.
Meanwhile, the normal Community Chest Grant scheme continues to run for community groups for a maximum grant of £1,000.
Applying for a Covid Recovery Community Chest Grant is the same as applying for a standard Community Chest Grant. The applicant simply selects which type of grant they are applying for at the start of the process with all other criteria being the same. See https://www.scambs.gov.uk/community-development/grants/community-chest-grants/
Chair of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Grants Advisory Committee, Cllr Jose Hales said: “It’s been a hugely difficult period for many local voluntary organisations which have struggled to keep going or to continue with much-needed projects. As we come out of the pandemic and try to rebuild, community cohesion will be more important than ever and extending the scope of our Community Chest funding for a short period will give a boost to getting some of those valuable projects and services back on track.”
Cllr Bill Handley, the Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Community Resilience, Health and Wellbeing, said: “Our Community Chest funding is all about the improvement of quality of life in South Cambridgeshire. Volunteers have played a crucial role in helping our communities get through the pandemic and we are immensely grateful to them. However, some of the activities of voluntary organisations and parish councils have had to be on hold for a whole year, and their role will be crucial in the coming months as we all progress through to recovery and renewal. By increasing the amount available to them and extending the criteria for acceptance for a limited period, the grants will hopefully help to give renewed impetus to their work, whether it is helping in practical ways by providing services and an improved environment, or supporting residents who are suffering with depression, stress or anxiety.”
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