Open letter to Jill Tuck, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, from David Jenkins, Lib Dem group leader on the same council.
I am writing to you in your role as Chair of Cambridgeshire Together and with the knowledge that you have a meeting early next month at which, I understand, the current economic situation is to be discussed.
Because it brings together Cambridgeshire County Council, the City Council and the District Councils with other government agencies and representatives of business and the voluntary sector Cambridgeshire Together is the right forum to address ways in which we can work together to support the people and small businesses in the county during the current difficult economic conditions.
We will be going through a difficult winter. Whether or not we call it a recession, and I gather that it is now ‘official’, many people will feel the economic pinch and small businesses will be especially vulnerable.
This is the time when local government should show leadership and demonstrate that it really does understand local problems and has a will to address them. I have spoken to Lib Dem council group leaders across Cambridgeshire who have agreed to work with their councils to this end. Lib Dem led Cambridge City Council has already taken several steps along these lines.
The County Council has a powerful role and should not shirk from using its position responsibly. May I suggest:
1. Actions to support local people
- reverse recent cuts in grants from the County Council to the Citizens Advice Bureaux; the CABs are highly effective and have proven their ability to leverage relatively small funding to deliver significant benefit to people who need support with money advice, debt counselling and claiming benefits to which they are entitled; l
- lobby landlords to invest in insulation in their properties; this is a situation where investment does not take place under normal circumstances because the benefits are not immediately enjoyed by those who invest; and
- enforce the minimum wage and associated employment rights; this does not just benefit the employee but also the wider community as spending power is increased.
2. Actions to support local business and trade
- Work with the Greater Cambridge Partnership, the local business partnership, and other business groups and develop a compact whereby larger companies in the region agree a code of prompt payment with their suppliers thereby easing the cash flows of the latter; and
- Designate a number of days through the next 3 months, and especially in the run up to Christmas, as ‘shop locally days’ and offer incentives to people to use local transport, including the park and rides, to participate.
3. Actions to support local communities
- put an immediate freeze on actions which do not support local communities such as the withdrawal of rural bus routes;
- revisit the Post Office closure debate; consider initiatives such as credit unions; and
- develop innovative plans to deliver full broadband availability to rural communities?
Jill: these ideas mainly require councils to show flexibility and to redirect activity in the short term. They do not require a lot of money but they do require us all to work together.
They will bring benefit of the local community in its broadest sense. Now’s the time for all of us to show leadership.
David Jenkins; Lib Dem group leader Cambridgeshire County Council