Cambridge

Initial archaeological study work begins at Park Street car park

Cambridge Council Feed - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 11:38

INITIAL archaeological study work is about to get under way as part of the first stage of the redevelopment of Park Street car and cycle park.

The Cambridge City Council facility is set to be redeveloped by Cambridge Investment Partnership (CIP) as a hotel – potentially an aparthotel – with a new underground car and cycle park beneath it.

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New look Arbury Court reopens following £200,000 refurbishment programme

Cambridge Council Feed - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 14:13

ARBURY Court local centre has officially re-opened following the completion of a £200,000 improvement project.

The Mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Nigel Gawthrope, cut the ribbon to mark the completion of Cambridge City Council’s renovation of the public spaces around the shops at Arbury Court.

The public areas at Arbury Court have been refurbished with new features including:

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Council agrees grant to help fund continuing work of local homeless charity

Cambridge Council Feed - Fri, 06/29/2018 - 14:03

LOCAL charity Wintercomfort is set to receive new funding from Cambridge City Council for a period of two and a half years. 

The new funding will initially cover the period from October of this year until the end of March 2021, subject to formal adoption of the council budget for 2019-20.

Wintercomfort provides a range of services to people who are homeless, formerly homeless or threatened with homelessness. It comprises three elements:

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Mend the gap: solving the UK’s productivity puzzle

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 14:02

The UK is the world’s sixth largest economy. But would it surprise you to learn that outside of London, the South East and a handful of major cities, many areas of the UK are just as poor as swathes of Eastern Europe?

The disparity between different regions of the UK is stark, and not only in terms of living standards and educational attainment – but, crucially, also in the productivity of its workforce.

The productivity gap is one of the most serious and vexing economic problems facing the government of the day, and Brexit is adding uncertainty to the mix.

Close the productivity gap between the most and least successful regions of the UK, and the GDP of UK PLC will invariably rise. Allow it to remain at current, stagnant levels – or, even worse, let the gap widen – and it’s not only our place in the world rankings that suffers, but also the UK’s economy, infrastructure, educational standards and health, as well as other indicators of social cohesion, such as child poverty and rising crime rates.

Put simply, productivity fires the engine of our economy – and we all need to mind the gap.

The UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’ is what concerns Dr Maria Abreu from the Department of Land Economy. She’s working with colleagues from universities around the UK as part of the Productivity Insights Network funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and led by the University of Sheffield. The group of economists, geographers, management experts and other scientists are taking a place-based approach to a problem HM government is desperate to solve.

Last year, the government published a 256-page Industrial Strategy that placed the productivity gap at its centre and is looking to the Network to provide policy recommendations, explains Abreu.

“There’s a narrative that the UK is a very rich country, but many regions of the UK outside the capital are poor,” she says. “We have a few of the richest regions in Europe and some of the poorest. It’s a delusion to say we’re rich.

“All the growth in the economy is centred on London, the South East and a few other cities. But growth is low or negative in the rest of the UK, and overall that means there is nearly no growth whatsoever. We are standing still.”

Compared with other OECD countries, the UK has had low productivity performance since the 1970s.

The gap with other countries closed significantly during the Labour governments of the late 1990s and 2000s: GDP per hour worked grew at an average rate of 2.1% until 2007 when the global financial crisis began.

Since then, however, productivity growth has been negative (-1.1% per year for 2007–9) or very low (0.4% per year from 2009–13), and the gap with other OECD countries has increased again despite employment rates remaining relatively strong, leading to the so-called productivity puzzle.

The three-year ESRC project is divided into distinct themes, and Abreu is leading on researching how the skills of the UK labour force, developed from preschool to life-long adult learning, go hand in hand with the rise (or fall) of productivity – and how place is a crucial, determining factor in all of this.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that labour productivity in 2016 was significantly above the UK average in London (+33%) and the South East (+6%), but below average in all other regions and nations, and particularly low in the North East (-11%), the West Midlands (-13%), Yorkshire (-15%), and Wales and Northern Ireland (-17%).

“My group is looking at education and teaching standards, and what might be causing the regional disparities,” says Abreu. “We are also looking at graduate migration because we have some excellent northern universities, but those regions lose a lot of people after graduation.

“London and its surrounding areas are very successful in attracting graduates and highly skilled workers from around the UK, as well as migrant workers from abroad.

“The capital’s productivity is enormous, but this means it is decoupling from the rest of the economy. We can link this directly to globalisation in the 1980s and the offshoring of certain industries. Most of the new jobs have been in hi-tech industries concentrated in only a few places.”

Abreu suggests the dismantling of the Regional Development Agencies and the move to LEPs (Learning Enterprise Zones) from 2010 has come at a huge cost to large areas of the UK that are no longer covered by a consistent development strategy.

She passionately believes that increasing education standards across the country is vital if the UK is ever to close its productivity gap. She also argues for proper development strategies for all regions of the UK – as well as investment in education.

The extent to which parents are engaged with their children’s schooling also displays strong regional variations. Areas that are better off attract better teachers. The benefits and drawbacks of this regionalism become self-perpetuating and that affects everyone.

“These disparities in productivity, education and living standards affect us all,” says Abreu. “It matters if you have one region that far outpaces everywhere else. Regions get left behind, become very socially and politically unstable, and low productivity translates into low wages and deprivation. Families do badly at school and this entrenches poverty and poor social mobility, which impacts the rest of the country.”

 

Migrant workers and domestic labour

A study by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2015 found that migrant workers brought benefits to UK employers that led to productivity boosts. What happens after Brexit?

Professor Catherine Barnard from the Faculty of Law believes that too much of the Brexit debate has been taken up with the discussion of trade – manufacturing amounts to only 15% of the economy – rather than the impact of the migrant workforce.

 “We know there are sectors that are highly dependent on EU labour such as agriculture, which is often low-paid, seasonal work where the incentive to UK workers is not that great,” says Barnard. “We also know that 10% of
the NHS, especially in London, is made up of migrant workers. At Cambridge University, it’s 27% at postdoctoral level.”

 Barnard, working with Dr Amy Ludlow and Sarah Fraser-Butlin, has been looking at the issue of immigration and the labour force, funded by the ESRC. They have focused on the East of England, visiting schools in Spalding as well as attending town hall meetings in Holt and Sheringham. Barnard says: “You get a very different view of the world. When I have given evidence to parliament, I can talk about these towns and their experiences of Eastern European migration – which are very different to the experiences of a town like Cambridge.

 “The reason people can’t get a hospital appointment or a school place is partly to do with migration, but it’s also because of the underfunding of public services. Local councils have lost 40% of their funding from central government since 2010.”

 

Read more about our research on the topic of work in the University's research magazine; download a pdf; view on Issuu.

When it comes to the output, education and wellbeing of the Great British workforce, our towns, cities and regions exist on a dramatically unequal footing. A new, wide-ranging research network hopes to find answers to a decades-old problem – the UK’s productivity gap.

There’s a narrative that the UK is a very rich country, but many regions of the UK outside the capital are poor.Maria Abreu


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Ely’s new cathedral (of books) opens for business

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 14:45

The first book placed into the store was Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: the nearly definitive edition, introduced by Richard Dawkins and Nick Harkaway (London, Heinemann, 2014). Adams was a former student at St John’s College, Cambridge. Click here for the full story.

Visitors to Ely may spot a new landmark on the city’s horizon aside from its famous 1,000-year-old cathedral – a vast, new state-of-the-art storage facility for millions of books belonging to Cambridge University Library and other university collections. 


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Rapid chargers for electric taxis up and running in Cambridge

Cambridge Council Feed - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 10:23

TWO new rapid electric vehicle chargers have been installed in a central Cambridge car park to encourage more of the city’s taxi fleet to make the move to less polluting electric vehicles.

The rapid chargers, which can provide 80% charge to an electric taxi in just 30 minutes, have been installed on behalf of Cambridge City Council in Adam and Eve Car Park off East Road, using funds granted following a successful bid to the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

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Residents asked for their ideas to improve city centre streets and open spaces

Cambridge Council Feed - Wed, 06/27/2018 - 09:34

RESIDENTS, workers and visitors are being invited to help shape a new guidance document that will contribute to making Cambridge city centre easier to get around and a more attractive place to spend time.

‘Making Space for People’ is being developed by Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council, and is funded by the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

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Future Champions programme set to provide boost for talented young sportspeople

Cambridge Council Feed - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 11:40

BUDDING sports stars in Cambridge can apply for financial help from this year’s Sir Arthur Marshall Future Champions Programme, which is now open.

The programme, which is administered by Cambridge City Council and sponsored by Marshall of Cambridge, awards grants each year to accomplished sportspeople between the ages of 11 and 25, to help them achieve their sporting goals.

Successful applicants receive grants of between £100 and £500 which can help towards the costs of coaching, equipment, transport or competition fees.

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The stresses and strains of work and unemployment

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 08:45

When I ask Dr Adam Coutts what we know about the impact of unemployment on health, his response is blunt and to the point: “It’s very bad.”

There’s a pause before he goes on to say that we’ve known for more than half a century that unemployment is bad for mental health and wellbeing, and that this has a knock-on effect on our physical health. Where there is debate, though, is over why it is so bad. Studies suggest that work provides what he describes as “psychological vitamins or functions”, such as structure, routine, a sense of identity and the opportunity to meet people and socialise. “It’s not all about a wage,” he says.

Coutts has been on research placement from the Department of Sociology to the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Work and Health Unit since June 2016. There, he has been looking to better understand the link between unemployment and mental health, particularly in the context of today’s Britain, and how policy can intervene to help.

He is studying an intervention that aims to get people back to work and to support their mental health needs. The programme is adapted from one developed by the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan and now being trialled by the DWP. Participants take part in a voluntary five-day course, during which they receive help with CV writing, social support, interview techniques and how to search for a job, including how to see the process from the viewpoint of an employer.

Coutts has been conducting an ethnographic study across five areas of England since the trial started in January 2017 to complement a large-scale randomised control trial evaluation. He has what he describes as “a ringside seat” of the policy process and has seen how the intervention has been designed, implemented and evaluated: a privileged point of access for any academic researcher. He observes course participants and facilitators, and staff at job centres – “everyone from the unemployed to senior civil servants” – to see how these policies actually work on the ground.

“We know these types of interventions have an effect on job search behaviours and a person’s health, but we don’t really know why and who is most responsive. I’m trying to tell a story of what it’s like to go through these programmes, be unemployed and cope with mental health issues in Britain today.”

If the evidence from previous trials in the USA is anything to go by, then the benefits from such an intervention would reach beyond the individual: as well as helping people get back to work, improving their mental health and wellbeing could save money for the NHS, as a result of less reliance on GP or mental health services.

But mental health issues are not just associated with unemployment. There is a growing recognition of the link between employment and our health and wellbeing, too. A recent report for government, entitled ‘Thriving at Work’, included some startling statistics for the UK: 15% of workers have a mental health condition and 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs each year. Mental health costs employers over £33 billion per year, the state over £24 billion and the whole economy over £73 billion.

“Employers need to understand that stress and anxiety, and mental ill health, is a large problem in terms of people not being at work, or being at work and not performing well,” says Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College, and author of several influential reports for government about work and health.

Black believes that training at line management level to identify and support workers with mental health issues is essential to tackling this problem; without this, measures to create healthier workplaces will amount to little more than papering over the cracks, Black says.

However, she has seen enough examples of good practice in companies such as BT, Unilever and Anglian Water to be optimistic that we can tackle this problem. “What you see are pockets of good practice, but I think we need a campaign to really get it out there and say we know this is what we all should be doing – it isn’t that difficult to do.”

Business leaders are beginning to pay attention. In an article earlier this year following the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Clifton Leaf, Editor-in-Chief at the influential business magazine Fortune, chose as number one of ‘7 Takeaways From Davos’: ‘The mental health disorder time bomb is upon us’.

One of the problems, however, is the lack of concrete evidence about what works. “People often ask ‘where’s the Cochrane-type evidence?’” says Black, referring to the ‘gold standard’ of evidence reviews in research. “It’s not easy to collect data in the workplace, but we would only have better evidence if more organisations collected data and were willing to share it.”

Dr Tine Van Bortel from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health is helping to build this evidence base. In fact, she was namechecked in Leaf’s article after he attended a mental health event at Davos that she co-presented with the international care consortium Kaiser Permanente.

As part of her mandate with the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Mental Health, Van Bortel has been leading a study looking at policies used by major corporations aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of their workforce. “A lot of these corporations say that a combination of integrated and targeted approaches are really important,” she says.

An integrated approach might consist of providing access to a gym. Targeted interventions might include a willingness to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as moving an employee to less strenuous work or allowing
them to work part time.

While Van Bortel believes employers should take responsibility for ensuring the health and wellbeing of their employees, she is a passionate believer that government can – and should – think about our mental health.

“I firmly believe that government should ensure our workplaces are healthy and that we’re not being confronted with some of the stressful, unjust and – quite frankly – inhumane situations that we’re currently seeing.

“Think about zero-hours contracts, or people having to work three jobs to make ends meet, or wage discrepancies and other structural inequalities. This puts a lot of stress on persons, families and ultimately society, and can reflect on work and productivity. More can and should be done. After all, healthy and all-inclusive workforces make excellent business sense.” 

A stressful workplace can damage your health. But so too can being out of work. Cambridge researchers are trying to understand why both situations can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing – and help employers and government provide solutions.

Employers need to understand that stress and anxiety, and mental ill health, is a large problem in terms of people not being at work, or being at work and not performing wellCarol BlackPixabayMeeting


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Why life on Earth first got big

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 15:52

The research, led by the University of Cambridge, found that the most successful organisms living in the oceans more than half a billion years ago were the ones that were able to ‘throw’ their offspring the farthest, thereby colonising their surroundings. The results are reported in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Prior to the Ediacaran period, between 635 and 541 million years ago, life forms were microscopic in size, but during the Ediacaran, large, complex organisms first appeared, some of which – such as a type of organism known as rangeomorphs – grew as tall as two metres. These organisms were some of the first complex organisms on Earth, and although they look like ferns, they may have been some of the first animals to exist – although it’s difficult for scientists to be entirely sure. Ediacaran organisms do not appear to have mouths, organs or means of moving, so they are thought to have absorbed nutrients from the water around them.

As Ediacaran organisms got taller, their body shapes diversified, and some developed stem-like structures to support their height.

In modern environments, such as forests, there is intense competition between organisms for resources such as light, so taller trees and plants have an obvious advantage over their shorter neighbours. “We wanted to know whether there were similar drivers for organisms during the Ediacaran period,” said Dr Emily Mitchell of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, the paper’s lead author. “Did life on Earth get big as a result of competition?”

Mitchell and her co-author Dr Charlotte Kenchington from Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada examined fossils from Mistaken Point in south-eastern Newfoundland, one of the richest sites of Ediacaran fossils in the world.

Earlier research hypothesised that increased size was driven by the competition for nutrients at different water depths. However, the current work shows that the Ediacaran oceans were more like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“The oceans at the time were very rich in nutrients, so there wasn’t much competition for resources, and predators did not yet exist,” said Mitchell, who is a Henslow Research Fellow at Murray Edwards College. “So there must have been another reason why life forms got so big during this period.”

Since Ediacaran organisms were not mobile and were preserved where they lived, it’s possible to analyse whole populations from the fossil record. Using spatial analysis techniques, Mitchell and Kenchington found that there was no correlation between height and competition for food. Different types of organisms did not occupy different parts of the water column to avoid competing for resources – a process known as tiering.

“If they were competing for food, then we would expect to find that the organisms with stems were highly tiered,” said Kenchington. “But we found the opposite: the organisms without stems were actually more tiered than those with stems, so the stems probably served another function.”

According to the researchers, one likely function of stems would be to enable the greater dispersion of offspring, which rangeomorphs produced by expelling small propagules. The tallest organisms were surrounded by the largest clusters of offspring, suggesting that the benefit of height was not more food, but a greater chance of colonising an area.

“While taller organisms would have been in faster-flowing water, the lack of tiering within these communities shows that their height didn’t give them any distinct advantages in terms of nutrient uptake,” said Mitchell. “Instead, reproduction appears to have been the main reason that life on Earth got big when it did.”

Despite their success, rangeomorphs and other Ediacaran organisms disappeared at the beginning of the Cambrian period about 540 million years ago, a period of rapid evolutionary development when most major animal groups first appear in the fossil record.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Murray Edwards College and Newnham College, Cambridge.

Reference
Emily G. Mitchell and Charlotte G. Kenchington. ‘The utility of height for the Ediacaran organisms of Mistaken Point.’ Nature Ecology and Evolution (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0591-6

Inset image: 
A close-up view of the Mistaken Point ‘E’ surface community. Credit: Emily Mitchell. 

Some of the earliest complex organisms on Earth – possibly some of the earliest animals to exist – got big not to compete for food, but to spread their offspring as far as possible. 

Reproduction appears to have been the main reason that life on Earth got big when it did.Emily MitchellCG KenchingtonArtist’s reconstruction of the community at Lower Mistaken Point


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Council works to ensure second dockless bike-share operator meets public need

Cambridge Council Feed - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 15:28

A SECOND dockless bike-share operator, Mobike, is to trial its hire bikes in Cambridge, following the arrival of its competitor Ofo’s yellow bikes last year.

Mobike advised Cambridge City Council that it would started a trial this week with 25 bikes on the city’s streets, building up to 100 over the course of a month as they establish their presence.

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University of Cambridge raises £600 million in pioneering bonds issue

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 06/25/2018 - 14:33

The proceeds will be used to invest in the University’s revenue-generating projects and other facilities, allowing Cambridge to further its mission to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence.  

The bonds are issued in two tranches:

1.    A £300 million bond with a fixed interest rate of 2.35%, repayable in 60 years’ time; and

2.    A £300 million bond with an interest rate of 0.25%, repayable in equal annual instalments between 10 and 50 years (‘amortising’), with those payments of principal and interest being linked to any rise in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), within a ‘floor’ and ‘cap’ of 0% to 3% per annum.

The amortising CPI-linked issue is particularly innovative, and is believed to be amongst the first of its kind in the UK bond markets.  Both bonds are expected to be rated Aaa by Moody’s, the highest credit rating that it awards.

Commenting on the bonds, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope, said: “We are delighted by the success of today’s bonds, which shows the confidence that investors have in the University, its mission, and its growth strategy in the years ahead.”

Barclays, HSBC and Morgan Stanley acted as Joint Bookrunners.  Rothschild provided independent debt advice to the University.  Clifford Chance and Mills & Reeve provided joint legal advice to the University and Linklaters provided legal advice to the Joint Bookrunners.

Cambridge Chief Financial Officer Anthony Odgers said: “We knew we were doing something unique with the CPI-linked bonds and that has really paid off with the enthusiastic reception in the market, the tight pricing and the collar.”

The University of Cambridge today announces that it has priced £600m of bonds. 

We are delighted by the success of today’s bonds, which shows the confidence that investors have in the University, its mission, and its growth strategy in the years ahead.Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope


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