News release from 23/02/2022

A budget to tackle climate change in South Cambridgeshire

A budget to tackle climate change in South Cambridgeshire

The latest budget set by South Cambridgeshire District Council allocates £6.83 million to tackling climate change in the district during the upcoming year.

The Council’s budget for 2022/23 was discussed during a Full Council meeting yesterday (Tuesday 22 February 2022). All District Councillors had the chance to vote on the proposed budget following earlier discussions at Scrutiny and Overview Committee in January and Cabinet earlier in February.

The Council’s total spend on providing services for the next 12 months is expected to be around £70 million. The total amount expected to be spent on capital costs, that being purchasing equipment, vehicles, and property, is expected to be around £48 million.

A total of £6.83 million has been earmarked for projects, services and equipment that tackle climate change on a local level in South Cambridgeshire. Last week it was announced that South Cambridgeshire District Council is a finalist in the Green Public Service Category in the Public Sector Transformation Awards 2022, for its ‘Green to our core’ programme of work. Through the Council’s Zero Carbon Strategy and Action Plan, it is supporting the district to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and reduce them to zero by 2050. Climate change related projects featuring in the confirmed budget for next year include:

  • A £4.2 million plan to install a solar farm at the Waterbeach depot of Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, the Council’s shared waste service with Cambridge City Council. This is proposed to be a joint venture between the two Councils, while the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority last month indicated it would help fund the work too, subject to additional checks such as value for money assurances. This solar farm would power the Council’s growing fleet of electric bin lorries and support vehicles / vans.
  • £1.3 million towards equipment and activities to help tackle climate change at Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, such as the purchase of new electric bin lorries. In 2020, Greater Cambridge Shared Waste began using Cambridgeshire’s first electric bin lorry.
  • £667,000 towards initiatives to improve and adapt waste services, encourage recycling and minimise waste.
  • £500,000 towards land drainage and maintenance of the 275km of awarded watercourses which criss-cross the district. The Council is responsible for maintaining these awarded watercourses.
  • £342,000 towards the Council’s Zero Carbon Communities scheme, which provides financial support to Parish Councils' and community groups to promote greener initiatives and reduce their carbon footprint.
  • £150,000 for the installation of electric vehicle charging points in the district.
  • £145,000 to complete the roll-out of energy efficient LEDs to the Council’s streetlights.

Meanwhile, the Council’s £1.9 million retrofit of its Cambourne office is nearing completion. This plan includes measures to dramatically reduce energy bills and carbon emissions from the building. As the electricity grid continues to decarbonise due to new renewable energy generation schemes coming online nationwide, the carbon footprint of the building will reduce to 25% of current levels by 2030 and 10% of current levels by 2050, playing a major role in the reduction of the Council’s own footprint. The work is also expected to help the Council avoid steep price rises in energy costs that are due later this year.

Elsewhere, the Council’s Housing Revenue Account – a ringfenced account used as the Council maintains its stock of around 5,500 Council homes – has its own budget plans. They include the creation of two new staff roles who will be focused on providing money and housing advice. They will be a source of support to residents who continue to face pressure on household budgets – particularly due to the rising cost of living. These new staff will work closely with the Council’s existing advice officers, such as those working in benefits. Additionally, the proposals suggest investing £17 million next year in continuing to build new energy efficient Council homes, as part of a business plan priority to bring forward housing that is truly affordable to live in.

In 2019, it was agreed in the Council’s Business Plan that the number of new Council homes being built would be doubled by 2024. During 2021/22, 89 new Council homes were built. This compares to 36 being built in 2019/20 and 64 being built in 2020/21. As a result, this Business Plan target has been achieved. During recent years, these new homes have been built in Caldecote, Waterbeach, Balsham, Longstanton, Great Abington, Hardwick, Foxton, West Wickham, Impington, Comberton-Toft (boundary), Sawston, Castle Camps, Melbourn, and Teversham. During the coming years, there are plans for more Council homes in many more villages across South Cambridgeshire.

At Greater Cambridge Shared Planning, another partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils, new funding has been confirmed towards encouraging more apprentices to begin a career in planning.

£854,000 is included in the Council’s budget for economic development initiatives and business support – such as the continued development of the Council’s recently launched dedicated tourism platform Visit South Cambs. Greater Cambridge Commercial Waste, which collects business waste, has been targeted with a £25,000 increase in profit.

Vital frontline services that will continue to be delivered by the Council include collecting recycling and waste from around 66,000 households across South Cambridgeshire, handling thousands of planning applications every year across a huge range of sites and projects, environmental health responsibilities, providing homelessness support and dealing with benefits claims. 

Around 40% of the Council’s annual budget is funded from local Council Tax. The rest of the funding comes from sources outside of the Council’s control, including Business Rates and grants. A £5 per year increase in Council Tax for the average band D home was confirmed at Full Council yesterday for the next financial year, to ensure essential frontline services continue to be delivered effectively. The increase will see the average band D home charge for South Cambridgeshire District Council increase to £160.31 per year. This is an increase of around 10p per week. Despite the rise, the Council maintains its position in the lowest 25% of taxing District Councils in the country. The majority of Council Tax that is collected by South Cambridgeshire District Council is passed to Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire Police, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service and parish or town councils.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams, said: “I am incredibly proud of this budget. Despite the financial pressure Councils up and down the country are under, we have been able to place taking action to tackle climate change on a very local level firmly at the centre of our plans. This is proof we are backing up our declaration of climate and ecological emergencies with real action. At a time when many Councils are struggling, we have a very healthy financial position and are delivering improving services despite having one of the lowest Council Tax bases in the country. This is because we have applied sound financial controls and sought to maximise our income and deliver value for money, over the course of several years. We do appreciate however that residents are faced with paying more in bills across the spectrum, and that’s why we have several measures to help those in need with their Council Tax bill. This includes the Local Council Tax Support Scheme and a Welfare Officer to help anyone who is struggling. Indeed, our latest budget that we have just agreed provides extra money for additional officers focused on giving money advice.”