In the last year Cambridge City Council has built 208 new council homes for rent; supported 11 cost of living pop-up events; worked with partners to distribute free hot water bottles, blankets and air fryers; sought to hear from domestic abuse survivors on how to improve council services; and increased grant applications from community groups supporting people from different ethnic minority backgrounds.
As part of the council’s ongoing work to make Cambridge fair for all, these achievements are just a few of the actions highlighted in the council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy and Single Equality Scheme annual reports, discussed by councillors this week.
During 2022-2023 the council responded at short notice to the cost of living crisis, working with partners to support residents through the autumn and winter months. Examples of this work include:
- Organising 11 cost of living pop-up events for residents to talk to partners about maximising income and reducing living costs
- Running warm and welcoming spaces at five council community centres to support residents during the crisis
- Awarding £1,000 grants to 43 voluntary and community partners to run warm spaces and provide community meals
- With partners, giving 500 hot water bottles, 130 blankets and 89 air fryers to households in need, free of charge
- Providing £20,000 to the Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme (CLAS) to meet increased demand for emergency energy vouchers
- Providing £10,000 for Cambridge Sustainable Food and Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance’s “Cost of Food and Living Crisis Campaign”.
These actions build on the more strategic work to help address issues associated with poverty, including low pay, debt, food poverty, fuel poverty, digital inclusion, skills, employment, housing affordability, homelessness, and poor health outcomes, as set out in the council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy.
Some of the Anti-Poverty Strategy actions completed in 2022-2023 include:
- Allocating £1 million worth of Community Grants to 65 organisations delivering projects aiming to reduce social and economic deprivation
- Working with My Cambridge and the Social Mobility Business Partnership to deliver a Work Skills and Insight Week in July 2022 to introduce 30 young people from low-income backgrounds to local creative industries
- Building 208 new council homes for rent, as well as starting work on site for 144 further new homes to meet huge demand
- Approving the Greater Cambridge Affordable Rents policy, which sets an expectation that affordable rents will be set at or below 60% of the medium market rent, or the current Local Housing Allowance rate, whichever is lower
- Improving energy efficiency in 96 existing council homes to reduce energy bills and improve people’s living environments
- Paying council staff at least the Real Living Wage, paying agency workers at least the Real Living Wage after four weeks, and campaigning to encourage more employers in the city to pay at least the Real Living Wage.
Single Equality Scheme
In line with the Cambridgeshire-wide Equality Pledge, the council believes in the dignity of all people and their right to respect and equality of opportunity, and values the strength that comes with difference and the positive contribution that diversity brings to the community. The aspiration is for Cambridge and the wider region to be safe, welcoming and inclusive. The council’s Single Equality Scheme sets out the actions the council takes to support this aspiration. Highlights from the last year include:
- Introducing a simple small grant application process for Community Grant Funding, leading to an increase in applications from groups that support people from different ethnic minority backgrounds. Of the 24 applications received last year, 10 were from such groups, several of which had not previously applied
- Ensuring that 5% of new council homes built by 2024 will be wheelchair accessible, and that of 137 new affordable homes approved this year, 135 will be adaptable
- Holding a ‘Survivors Conference’ in partnership with Cambridge Women’s Aid to gather feedback on how the council can better support people experiencing domestic abuse, for instance through housing support
- Increasing representation of ethnic minority staff members as a proportion of the workforce to 9.09% from 8.32% between 2022-2023.
The Single Equality Scheme also sets out actions to be taken in the coming year, including:
- Developing a children and youth strategy; and an action plan around race equality and anti-racism
- Employing a Community Development Officer to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people
- Working in partnership to identify better support for homeless people who have multiple disadvantages
- Creating an Asylum Seeking and Refugee Team to respond fluidly to emerging needs of refugees and asylum-seeking people.
Cllr Mairéad Healy, Executive Councillor for Communities, said: “Tackling poverty and inequality are key areas of focus for the council, as shown by the breadth of work that both strategies cover. The two strategies link together as we know that some people with characteristics protected by the Equality Act will be more likely to experience poverty, and experience poverty differently, as a result of inequality.
“This means that the actions in the Anti-Poverty Strategy strengthen the council’s work to promote equality and inclusion, and vice versa. Ultimately we want to help ensure everyone has the best quality of life in Cambridge and to see our communities and residents thrive – and publishing these reports is a really important part of ensuring transparency in our work to address inequality.
“In all of this work we focus on addressing immediate concerns – supporting people who are struggling right now with the cost of living, or who are facing discrimination. But we also focus on preventative work and proactively promoting inclusion. We’re committed to building the capacity and resilience of residents and communities, and continue to work more closely with residents and local partners where this will have the greatest impact.”
The council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy annual report and Single Equality Scheme annual report were both presented to a meeting of the Environment and Community Scrutiny Committee on Thursday 29 June.