Cheltenham Borough Council
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Agenda item

Indices of deprivation

Richard Gibson, Strategy and Engagement Manager

Minutes:

The Strategy and Engagement Manager talked members through a PowerPoint presentation (attached at Appendix 1) that included maps which he felt members would find useful and the following key points were made:

 

·         In 2019 Cheltenham had two areas ranked in the top 10% most deprived areas in the country, St. Marks followed by St. Pauls.  It was noted that this had fluctuated over the years, there was a similar pattern, with between one and three wards ranking in the top 10%.

·         In terms of Education, Skills and Training deprivation, in 2019 there were seven areas within Cheltenham that ranked in the top 10% most deprived areas in the country, which represented a significant issue for the community and was at odds with a town that prided itself on its educational offer.

·         There were two sub-domains in terms of educational and skills deprivation: one relating to children and young people, which measured the attainment qualifications and one relating to adult skills, which measured the lack of qualifications in the resident working-age adult population. 

·         The Cheltenham Needs Assessment 2019 which was produced by GCC and contained a great deal of information which supported the deprivation data, including

·         Unemployment rates based on claimant counts are highest in the areas of deprivation as well as the percentage of 16-17 year old NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training).

·         As assessment of ‘Health Assets’ referred to green space and ‘Health Hazards’ fast food outlets and gambling establishments showed that the Town Centre had more hazards than assets.

·         Over 40% of children in St. Pauls were growing-up in what the Government called ‘child poverty’.

·         Residents vulnerable to fuel poverty were again more concentrated in areas of deprivation, but also in parts of College and Leckhampton wards. It was noted that not all poor households are fuel poor, and some households would not normally be considered poor but could be pushed into fuel poverty if they have high energy costs

·         In terms of users of the Citizens Advice Bureaux, these were again more concentrated in, St. Pauls, Lansdown, St. Peters, Hesters Way, Swindon Village and Oakley

·         The chart on Free School Meals demonstrated the contrast between areas of Cheltenham; with 45% of children at Hester’s Way Primary School being eligible and in stark contrast, less than 5% at the Charlton Kings Junior Academy.

·         The council was developing a Social Value Policy, which aimed to use procurement to secure wider social benefits to priority areas.

·         He made a cautionary note: that statistics were on occasion, used to attack the most deprived and that there should instead be no judgement, but rather understanding of the journey that some people have been on.

·         The town was on the cusp of major growth and this should be inclusive, driving improvement and benefiting all. 

·         Ten months into the successful ‘No Child Left Behind’ initiative and it was time to start thinking about the second year and having conversations about the degree of commitment from CBC

 

The Chairman acknowledged that this was a major issue for the town, but urged members to be realistic about what the council was able to solve alone.  

 

The Strategy and Engagement Manager gave the following responses to member questions:

 

·         The Social Value Policy would set out the council’s commitment to delivering wider social benefits as part of its procurement process, meaning that cost would not be the only consideration, meaning it may not select the cheapest bid, if a higher bid could deliver other tangible benefits to the community.  The procurement process already permitted the council to weight cost against quality.  The draft policy would be tabled with Cabinet and the committee were welcome to review it in advance of this if they wished.

·         In light of the Cheltenham Cyber Business Park, Gloucestershire College had announced that they would be launching a huge cyber programme, which represented a great opportunity to provide people in Cheltenham with the skills and qualifications needed to fill the jobs that would be created as a result.  There were however, many schools in Cheltenham, that faced a major challenge to recruit GCSE and A-Level computer science teachers, and this was an issue.

·         An scheme called ‘Men in Sheds – Cheltenham’ worked to reduce social isolation in older men.

·         Assuming the council adopted a ‘Social Value Policy’, the inclusive growth could involve major sums of money and therefore there would need to be robust evaluation and the necessary governance in place.

 

Comments from members included:

 

  • A member questioned whether ‘social value’ would mean the council paying more just to make people happier and urged caution.  The Executive Director of People & Change reassured members that social value could be something as simple and cost effective as a contractor offering refurbished PCs to those in need. 
  • Members gave their support to a second year of commitment to the ‘No Child Left Behind’ project.
  • Social isolation and loneliness effected people of all ages and a member felt that a major issue was that there was more talking than there was action.  Whilst he acknowledged that organisations did arrange events, he stressed that in many cases people that were feeling socially isolated, wouldn’t attend these events without someone to take them. 
  • A member commented that skills and social mobility were interlinked and that a poor educational offer, made both impossible. 

 

The Chairman invited the Cabinet Member Healthy Lifestyles to address the committee.  She assured members that ‘social value’ did not necessarily mean the council would get less or spend more and gave the example of CBH, who under the ‘Empower’ project, had taken almost 300 unemployed people from the town and provided training and/or employment, with no impact on the service provided to the council and at no extra cost.  The cyber-park would involve major development and provided an opportunity to build in opportunities for young people in the west.  The Cabinet Member suggested that the issue of getting young people to where they need to be if there was a shortage of teachers, needed to be taken up at national level.  On the issue of ‘No Child Left Behind’ she reminded members that the Cheltenham Lottery Fund would be used to support this into the second year, but stressed the need to make longer term plans, beyond the initial two years.  On the issue of older people, she advised that discussions were underway with the Dementia Alliance, looking at what could be done across the borough.  

 

Members agreed that the data was sobering and in acknowledging the limited resources of the council, stressed that any interventions needed to be monitored, to ensure that they were effective. 

 

The committee were supportive of the development of a Social Value Policy and asked to be involved at an early stage, rather than immediately before it was taken to Cabinet.

 

The Chairman thanked the Strategy and Engagement Manager for his attendance.

 

Supporting documents: