News release from 21/02/2020

Councillors agree to invest £5 million to help tackle climate emergency

Councillors agree to invest £5 million to help tackle climate emergency

£5 million has been pledged in South Cambridgeshire to tackle the “global climate emergency”.

The money will go towards a raft of improvements linked to the District Council’s ‘green to the core’ priorities. This includes improving the Council’s offices to cut carbon emissions and energy bills, providing communities with grants for projects that cut carbon emissions in their areas, making Council houses more energy efficient and helping people cut the amount of food they waste.

The investment was agreed by Councillors yesterday (Thursday 20 February) as the budget and Business Plan for South Cambridgeshire District Council was set.

The new multi-million pound investment follows the Council spending around £1.5 million on improving Council homes last year and provided around £100,000 to 19 initiatives under the Council’s Zero Carbon Communities grants scheme.

In 2018 the Council declared a climate emergency and pledged to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

To help move toward that goal the Council plans to invest in 2020-21:

  • a further £100,000 on Zero Carbon Community grants for community initiatives to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change
  • £1.9 million ‘greening’ its offices to cut energy bills and show others how they could go green
  • a further £1.3 million on improving energy efficiency of Council homes
  • £1.3 million replacing 1,800 District Council owned streetlights with LEDs to reduce energy consumption by 60%
  • Around £400,000 on an electric bin lorry to see whether it is viable to shift from a diesel to an all-electric fleet

Councillors also agreed the Council’s Business Plan today which will see a campaign carried out to help people waste less food and cut the amount of food waste put in the black bin.

An air quality strategy to ensure the Council continues to monitor and improve it in the area will also be completed and an action plan agreed.

At the meeting, Councillors also heard that the Council is ahead of schedule on plans to generate at least a quarter of the money it spends on services from their own investments by March 2024.

In 2020-21 the Council expects to generate over £3.5 million from investments which will be spent on local services and help offset cuts to their funding by central Government.

In January 2019 leading Councillors said that by the end of March 2024 investments would return an income of just over £5 million a year – and announced when they published their budget papers last month that they are aiming to reach this target ahead of schedule.

The Council’s budget also proposes investing an extra £200,000 in expanding the mobile warden scheme in the district. Local Mobile Warden groups support older people to live independently by carrying out practical tasks such as making light meals, shopping, making appointments, filling in forms and collecting prescriptions.

In 2019/20 the Council supported 20 villages through 14 mobile warden schemes, benefiting more than 300 residents and the proposed investment aims to extend the service in villages where it is not currently available.

A further £200,000 is also planned to be invested in increasing support for local businesses so that villages remain vibrant and new jobs are created close to where people live.

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 was confirmed for 2020/21. This will see the average band D home charge for South Cambridgeshire District Council rise to £150.31 per year. This maintains the Council’s position in the lowest 25% of District Councils in the country.

The Council’s income from investments is from Ermine Street Housing – its property company – a return on a loan to deliver the new Ice Rink (pictured - above) on the edge of Cambridge, and business premises recently purchased on Cambridge Science Park and the Colmworth Trade Park in St Neots.

Money for the rest of the Council’s £20 million budget to deliver services comes from grants the Government pays councils to help offset the costs of providing services in a growing area, known as New Homes Bonus, and the retention of some of the business rates it collects that were previously passed on to central Government.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams (pictured - above), said: “The global climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face. That is why we have declared a climate emergency and are already taking bold action. We were named as one of the top performing Councils for tackling climate change in a report late last year and are investing heavily so we can all enjoy a cleaner, greener future. We know more can always be done and we must all play our part.

“There is no doubt that we must take a different approach to our finances to be able to do this. That is why we have pledged to generate 25% of the money we spend on services from our own investments. We are on a sound footing for our budget next year, but the challenge ahead is vast as we expect money to be reallocated from District Councils to authorities such as the County Council who have to deal with budget pressures of adult social care. Without small rises in Council Tax now we will store up a big problem in the future and that is why the £5 per year, or around 10 pence per week increase for the average band D home has been confirmed.”

You can read the Council's budget papers.