News release from 12/01/2021
Council’s proposed budget aims to support residents and businesses through pandemic despite financial pressures
Budget proposals published by the District Council have put supporting South Cambridgeshire’s residents and businesses through the Coronavirus pandemic at their heart.
South Cambridgeshire District Council estimates that the cost of dealing with the pandemic so far has been approximately £2.35 million. This is mainly due to increased spending on PPE, additional staff members to help in several areas such as community response, processing business grants and Council Tax support and new software for administering grants. Also, some savings that the Council had envisaged making during the past 12-months have not been possible due to Coronavirus, and income from fees, such as planning and licensing charges, has dropped.
The Council has received £1.9 million in Government grants to help it deal with increased spending due to Coronavirus.
The proposed budget papers for 2021/22 have been published ahead of being discussed at the Council’s Scrutiny and Overview Committee on Tuesday 19 January, followed by further discussions at Cabinet in early February before all Councillors vote on the proposals on Tuesday 23 February.
The proposed budget highlights a commitment to:
- Continuing to lead South Cambridgeshire’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, helping communities to recover
- Continuing to do everything possible to support South Cambridgeshire’s businesses via a fully operational new Business Support and Development Team, which was formed last year
- A transformation programme across the Council, with a key aim being to improve customer service for all residents – especially via an improved digital experience
Like all businesses, the Council has faced challenges in drawing-up the proposals due to the uncertainty over the economy and continuing impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on residents and businesses. This includes the amount of Council Tax and Business Rates being collected that contribute toward the services provided. There is also likely to be reduced income from sources such as planning application fees.
Councils across the country have needed to make savings for the last decade as Government funding has reduced, but demand for services has increased. The situation is no different in South Cambridgeshire. Additionally, the Government is reviewing how much of the Business Rates that Councils collect they can keep. It is anticipated that Councils will be able to keep less than now in the years ahead. Other grants the Council currently receives, such as the New Homes Bonus and Rural Services Grant, are expected to be phased out.
Due to the continuing financial pressure on the Council, the proposals include around £5.1million worth of savings during the next four years, with £2.2million in savings and income already identified.
Another part of the budget proposal is to increase the charge for additional green bin collections by £5 per year for the next three years, until the charge is £50 per year which is similar to what most other Councils charge. The first green bin remains free and this charge would only be for those residents who have a second green bin and would help pay for the costs of running this service residents opt to receive.
Around half of the Council’s annual budget of just under £20 million comes from local Council Tax, and a £5 per year increase for the average band D home is being proposed for the next financial year. The proposed increase would see the average band D home charge for South Cambridgeshire District Council increase to £155.31 per year. This rise would equate to approximately an additional 10p per week. Any rise would continue to maintain the Council’s position in the lowest 25% of taxing District Councils in the country.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams, said: “Despite the unprecedented challenges as a result of Coronavirus, our budget proposals set out ambitious plans to do everything possible to support South Cambridgeshire’s communities and businesses through the pandemic. We are incredibly proud of how the district has come together to look out for each other since March last year, and these budget plans show how we aim to continue playing our part. We’re determined to ensure that as a Council we are in the best possible shape to lead South Cambridgeshire’s recovery from Coronavirus despite the significant financial challenges we face. Raising Council Tax by a little, while ensuring we remain one of the lowest taxing Councils in the country, would help us to continue delivering frontline services that residents rely on now more than ever. I look forwards to the discussions that members will have during the weeks ahead as we set our budget.”