Find out what Suffolk County Council CEO had to say to Haverhill businesses
Representatives from local businesses and community organisations packed the Days Inn Haverhill last week for the bestof Haverhill monthly meeting. Deborah Cadman OBE, Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council proved a popular speaker, attracting a record number of guests to the event.
In her opening address Deborah remarked that coming to Haverhill was like coming home and that she could see some fantastic changes happening in the town.
Explaining the role of the County Council Deborah said they were responsible for the individual. Providing social care, working with the vulnerable, public health and keeping communities healthy, the fire service and providing leadership on transport which included broadband, were all part of her remit.
Outlining the priorities for Suffolk Deborah mentioned the need for more strategic vision, which was the driver behind the Growth Strategy for Suffolk. Raising education attainment was high on the list and was something that she was very passionate about and committed to. In a previous position with the East of England Development Agency Deborah had been heavily involved in economic forecasting and could see the predicted growth in the biotech and renewable energy sectors. Her concern was that if young people are not achieving their full potential that growth could not happen.
Protecting the vulnerable featured in the priorities with the County Council having a statutory and moral responsibility in this area. Their aim was to stop the vulnerable going into residential care and they were investing in helping elderly people stay at home for longer. Investment was also being made in helping young people in care, giving them access to mentors and coaches and assistance to ensure they got the best possible care.
Working with councillors on the issue of localism and promoting all the positive factors about Suffolk, such as it being an area of outstanding natural beauty, the cultural and archaeological history and the fact that it is the “greenest county”, featured highly on the Council’s agenda.
The Castle Manor Partnership and Samuel Ward Academy Trust were praised by Deborah and she commented that they were delivering top notch educational services in Haverhill. However she was astounded by the lack of aspiration from young people and concerned by the disproportionally high number of young people, one in five, not in employment, education or training (NEETS) in the town. Work clubs were being developed and evidence suggested that this was effective with 85% of young people who attended a work club going on to get a job.
Transport links, specifically the A1307, continued to be an issue. Deborah agreed the best solution would be a rail link between Cambridge and Haverhill but said this would be difficult to deliver, at least in the next ten years, because of cost. Whilst it was important to continue to lobby for the rail link the focus had to be on thinking of an alternative, for example working with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to fund bus routes or perhaps a guide bus route.
The Council had a budget of £1 billion; over half of this was allocated to schools. Deborah believes that they have gone to ‘the bone’ as far as cost cutting was concerned and although it was expected that a further £150 million would be saved the big challenge was to protect front line services. The Council was not in a position to fund £25 million on making improvements to the A1307 but it was prepared to lobby and work with other partners.
On the subject of pedestrianisation Deborah stated that there was currently an ‘impasse’ and the Council would do what the majority want. What St Edmundsbury Borough Council do on planning and the issue of the Gurteen factory would have an impact on any decision.
A question was raised about the bus service to Bury St Edmunds and West Suffolk Hospital to which Deborah responded that Suffolk County Council do not run the buses and can only represent local views to the bus companies. The solution might be a pilot scheme but if this was not utilised by local people then it would be lost.
The Growth Strategy for Suffolk was launched at the Apex on 27th February. It will ensure that there is a strategic plan for the county with each local area having its own pillar to support the Growth Strategy. It was important for Haverhill to take advantage of the activity in Cambridge and to position the town as a worthy alternative location for hi-tech and innovation companies.
Elaine Carr, owner of the bestof Haverhill comments, “Deborah is a very engaging speaker who doesn’t pull any punches, people respect that no nonsense approach. It’s reassuring to know that Haverhill features strongly in the County Council’s plans. The people who live and work in Haverhill have a responsibility to continue to raise the profile of our town. With a population of 27,000 we are the fastest growing town in Suffolk and we need to start believing in ourselves. Yes there are things that can be improved but show me a town where there isn’t? Let’s work with the LEPs, the County, Borough and Town councils and figure out how we can get what we want for Haverhill.”