Budget and priorities for South Cambridgeshire agreed
Councillors have agreed to continue to invest to generate income and protect services from cuts to government funding as the budget for South Cambridgeshire District Council was approved today (Thursday 23 February).
On presenting the budget to councillors, Cllr Simon Edwards, the Council’s cabinet member for finance, praised councillors for the brave business investments that they had taken over recent years to help protect council services from the brunt of cuts to national funding.
By the end of March 2022 almost £2 million further savings will be needed to balance the Council’s books – but rather than making cuts the authority has said it wants to generate further annual income itself to support services.
Councillors also agreed the Council’s corporate plan today setting out the priorities the Council will focus on for its communities over the next five years. The four themes agreed were Living Well, Homes for our Future, Connected Communities and An Innovative and Dynamic Organisation.
A set of over 20 actions under the four core themes were also approved.
Councillors also praised the vision the Council had shown in recent years by setting up a property company as it is has hit its initial £600,000 annual income target one year ahead of schedule.
The Council is investing further to increase Ermine Street Housing’s property portfolio so further income can be generated.
Plans were also agreed to look to invest in commercial property over the next 12 months. This could generate a fivefold increase in the income the Council is achieving on cash reserves.
A £5 per year increase to council tax for the average band D home was also agreed – around 10p per week. Councillors said at that meeting that any increase in council tax was regrettable but without it cuts to services would be necessary.
Investment is also planned to continue to help business and residents carry out more transactions online and a further £52,000 is budgeted for community groups to bid for as part of the Council’s community chest scheme.
A 1% cut to rent for Council tenants next year was agreed - this follows a 1% cut in 2016/17, with further annual 1% cuts implemented for the next two years. The cuts in rent are in line with the policy implemented nationally by Government.
Although new Council homes are still expected to be built in the next ten years, the reductions in rental income means that a new build programme cannot be sustained over a longer period as previously planned.
Over the last six years the Council has already delivered savings in the region of £6 million to meet reductions to the funding received from Government to provide local services. This core grant is being cut again this year with no further revenue support grant payable to the Council after 2017/18.
The proposed annual Council tax charge for a band D home in 2017/18 will be £135.31 – one of the lowest council taxes charged in the country.
Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “There is no doubt that reductions to the funding we receive from government means we have a huge task to balance the books and keep the standard of services high. However, we have planned for the future by beginning to transform our services a number of years ago as well as finding innovative ways to generate our own funding to support services. Those brave decisions over recent years are now standing us in good stead to address the challenges head on and to deliver for local people.
“It is important to remember that the Council Tax we collect from local people is only a proportion of the money we need to provide the services we currently do. The increase this year only makes up a small proportion of the gap we need to fill in our budget and we have committed to delivering the lions share of this through generating even more income for ourselves.”