Shona @ Shire Hall: Balancing our juggling act
Hi. I m delighted to be writing my first column since becoming leader of Cambridgeshire County Council nearly two months ago. My predecessor Keith Walters stepped down after a decade in charge and I m looking forward to building on his achievements in the
Hi. I'm delighted to be writing my first column since becoming leader of Cambridgeshire County Council nearly two months ago. My predecessor Keith Walters stepped down after a decade in charge and I'm looking forward to building on his achievements in the years to come. Keith will be a tough act to follow.
I want to use this column to explain many of the challenges we face as we try to make the county a better place to live, work and travel in. I really do want to hear your views and my e-mail contact is at the bottom of this column.
I've lived in Cambridgeshire for 19 years and been a county councillor since 1993. During this time I think I have gained a good understanding of the needs of the area and, with three children attending local schools, I have first-hand experience of some of our most important services.
A key issue I'm sure you've heard many local councillors talk about is the balancing act we must perform in terms of keeping costs down and continuing to improve our local services. All local residents want to see good value for money from the services the council provides but as councillors we do face a big challenge in terms of delivering better services within the tight financial controls set by central government.
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Given the increasing demand for different services from our growing population we must continue to plan for how we can meet local people's expectations. Many of our services are already among the best in the country, especially our schools, recycling services and waste disposal. My challenge is to bring all of our services up to the highest standard.
As you read this, I will be at the Local Government Association's annual conference where I hope to learn more about the best performing councils across the country. I will, of course, be sharing Cambridgeshire's best practice and learning from other councils.
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So, an interesting time ahead. Above all, I look forward to ensuring that whatever happens, we get on with the job of improving the services we provide.
READ IT OR WEEP!
LIKE many parents in Cambridgeshire, we face the daily task of juggling our work responsibilities with the demands of our family and trying to keep some kind of work-life balance.
So as we rapidly approach the school summer holidays, I always view them with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. Many of our schools will be running events including summer schools and sports coaching courses, and our libraries will be playing a blinder with a reading challenge.
So if, like me, when you return from your all too brief summer holiday and are looking for some way to amuse the brood, then a quick trip to the library could provide an answer.
This year's Big Wild Read is all about the great outdoors and the environment and should surely help us encourage our children away from the computer and television. Full details will be available soon in libraries and on our website.
DOING THE RIGHT THING
"I WANT to give the council the chance to do the right thing" - that is what the brave and articulate mother of Warren Hay said in her campaign to see improvements at the road junction where her son lost his life.
I heard her on the radio explain her concerns and sum up exactly what we councillors should always strive to do - the right thing.
I cannot begin to imagine the pain and sorrow her family has been through following the tragic accident on the A141. But I can understand concerns she and others have about letting children cross this and other busy roads in the county.
We do strive to do the right thing across Cambridgeshire and I know that officers are looking at what can be done on the A141 and other roads to make them safer.
It's a motto we should all perhaps adopt.
I could talk about how we and our partners have achieved record lows in reducing the number of road accidents across the county and the millions of pounds we invest in road safety. But these are just statistics, and each accident is still a personal tragedy. We, and I hope you, will continue to do our best to reduce these tragedies even further.
A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP?
IT may come as a surprise to you, but Gordon Brown and I do have a few things in common. As I take on the mantle of leader of the county council, he's getting used to his new position as leader of the country. He has perhaps had a little more time to prepare than I, but both of us are starting out on a huge and daunting journey.
So - what can we expect? Will Gordon immediately open his chequebook and give Cambridgeshire the money it needs to provide essential services?
Who knows - our new Prime Minister could be Cambridgeshire's saviour, finally recognising what his predecessor never did, that a county with a rapidly increasing population and unprecedented housing and business growth needs adequate funds.
But then again, I can see pigs flying - can't you?
You can get in touch with me by emailing Shona.firstname.lastname@example.org
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