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A wishlist from Cambridge for the new government

The needs of businesses were largely ignored during the General Election campaign, according to a Cambridgeshire chief executive - while a headteacher demanded the incoming government address the county's school funding shortfall.

Asked what was needed from the new government in its first 100 days, Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Bridge said it must “get both the signals and the substance right” and put economic growth “front and centre”.

He told the Cambridge Independent: “The needs of business have been glossed over by all parties in the General Election campaign, and the latest chamber forecast shows the danger of allowing this to continue.

“As soon as the smoke clears from the election battlefield, economic growth must be put front and centre again in Westminster. No incoming government can deliver its promises to the electorate without healthy and thriving business communities – or without a clear and detailed plan for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

John Bridge from Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Keith Heppell. (23951865)
John Bridge from Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Keith Heppell. (23951865)

“As long as businesses are held back by Brexit uncertainty, high up-front costs, skills gaps and poor infrastructure, we can expect growth to be mediocre, at best. At this critical moment, details matter. An incoming government needs to get both the signals and the substance right – and give companies the confidence to invest.”

There is also a desperate need to address the problem of historic underfunding in Cambridgeshire’s schools despite funding for the county’s schools being increased by £16.75million from April 2020.

This increase could be swallowed up by the huge deficit the county has in its high educational needs budget - a problem reflected across the country - and new costs passed onto schools due to government grant cuts to the local authority, Cambridgeshire County Council.

Cambridge’s Netherhall School headteacher Chris Tooley said: “Cambridgeshire schools are amongst the lowest funded in the country; remarkably outcomes are relatively good due to the huge commitment of students, staff and parents.

Chris Tooley, The Netherhall School. Picture: Keith Heppell. (23951808)
Chris Tooley, The Netherhall School. Picture: Keith Heppell. (23951808)

“However, despite propaganda to the contrary, the financial position going forward remains critical. Deficits in the funding of High Needs is a national crisis and there is a need for immediate and sustained investment to ensure our most vulnerable students receive the support they deserve.”

And while the General Election can have little bearing on local policing policy, says

Edward Leigh, chair of Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, there is a need for more investment nationally.

He said: “Policing in Britain needs the new government to deliver substantial and sustained increases in funding for all agencies involved in criminal justice: the police, to enable them to prevent and investigate criminal and antisocial activity to the extent the public expects; the courts, prison and probation services, to protect the public and promote long-term rehabilitation; and social and mental health services, to support and protect vulnerable people.

And what do small charities want from a new government in the first 100 days?

Mark Freeman, CEO of Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service, added: “Most charities work to put themselves out of business. So those charities working to support people suffering from poverty or disadvantage would want an end to poverty and inequality. Charities working in health would want a cure for those they support. Charities working with people who feel left out and disengaged by society would want an end to loneliness and isolation.

“If this is not possible small local charities would want an equal voice to engage in decision making in their communities. They would look for recognition of the importance of their work and the funding and resources to ensure they can still deliver services. They would want government to promote and encourage volunteering, so it is valued and respected.

“Or maybe they would simply ask that the government finds a way to help them get more money, more volunteers and more trustees.”

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