Budget announced - business investments key to meeting tough savings targets

1 February 2017

Budget announced – business investments key to meeting tough savings targets

Brave business investments to generate income are protecting council services from the brunt of cuts to national funding – that’s the view of Council bosses as their budget is announced for 2017/18.

South Cambridgeshire District Council has published its budget today (Wednesday 1 February) – which includes the need make further savings, or generate more income, in the region of £2 million to balance the books by the end of 2021/22.

The Council has announced in its budget that an expected annual income of around £600,000 generated from their property company – Ermine Street Housing – has been achieved one year ahead of its business plan, and Council bosses say that they plan to continue to grow the business to protect front line services.

Alongside the Council’s housing company, it has already moved to make services more commercial. This included a new fee structure for planning so larger developments are paying for the services they are consuming and using Council staff to collect business rate debts so fees are also retained.

The budget includes a proposed £5 increase to Council tax for the average band D home next year – around 10p per week. Even if the increase is agreed by councillors, the Council will maintain its position as one of the lowest taxing authorities in the country.

The Council has also said that it will look to invest in commercial property to generate a fivefold increase in the income they are currently generating on cash reserves.

A further £300,000 cash injection in the Council’s planning service is also proposed for 2017/18 to help continue to improve the service. Over the last five months the Council has seen a huge improvement in performance – determining 91% of major and 79% on non-major applications within the timescales set by government.

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. 

South Cambridgeshire District Council will also continue its plan of running reserves down over the next five years. This will mean savings and income can be delivered over a longer period of time.

The budget also sets out a 1% cut to rent for Council tenants next year - 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

Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “Huge cuts to the funding we receive has meant we have needed to transform the way we think and operate in order to continue to provide the services people want and need. We have taken brave decisions over recent years to invest in commercial opportunities – such as our housing company – and without that foresight we would not be able to provide the quality and range of services we do now for our communities.

“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 and we still have a huge task in front of us as we need to deliver another £2 million of savings. We want to try and do this by generating income, rather than cutting services wherever possible and believe we can do this. Our proposed budget also includes an increase in council tax in the region of 10 pence per week for the average band D home. We would dearly love not to increase this but it would store up a bigger problems for the future when we would have to either look at a sharper rise or stop doing things people have told us are priorities.”

The budget proposals will be presented to a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet on Thursday 9 February. They will be asked to make a recommendation to Full Council who will vote on the budget on Thursday 23 February.

For more information on the budget visit http://scambs.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=293&MId=6798&Ver=4