Council backs budget and ‘Your Place, Our Plan’
A budget that will see £1.7 million of income from a Council housing company invested to help protect frontline services in South Cambridgeshire has been approved – along with a plan setting out how the district will continue to thrive.
Full Council met today (Thursday 22 February) and voted to confirm the District Council’s budget for the next financial year. This will see Ermine Street Housing, set up by the authority to reinvest in services ahead of large cuts to local government funding, generate nearly 10% of the Council’s overall budget for the next 12 months.
The same meeting also saw approval for ‘South Cambridgeshire: Your Place, Our Plan’, a document that sets out how the area will continue to grow and thrive, and how the Council has already made significant strides to ensure this is the case. The plan has been shaped by key areas that communities have told the Council it should focus on, and therefore highlights aims and ambitions around living well, homes for the future, connected communities and ensuring the Council remains innovative and dynamic. These include:
- Finishing building and renting out affordable homes and start working on more
- Carry out design work on the construction of a community centre and sports pavilion at Northstowe
- Putting more resource into helping prevent people losing their homes
- Enhanced support for community litter picks and street-sweeping
- Working with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to develop rural travel hubs and see how bus services can be improved
- Working with Government, partners and the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to drive forward a new Cambridge South railway station
- Invest to make it easier and more convenient for residents to access services
- Provide new apprenticeships to help people begin their careers
‘South Cambridgeshire: Your Place, Our Plan’ also clearly outlines what has been achieved by the authority during the past two years, including:
- The building and letting of new council homes
- Helping 200 people to avoid becoming homeless
- The launch of a renewable energy grant fund to support green initiatives
- Securing £1 million of developer funding for play equipment and green spaces
- The distribution of business rate relief to more than 300 firms
- Helping create almost 2,000 new jobs by granting permission for expansions at the Babraham Institute and Sawston Trade Park
- Providing a loan as the final piece of funding for an ice rink on the edge of Cambridge
- Maintained frontline services while receiving less and less Government funding, including by generating £1.7 million via Ermine Street Housing
As part of the budget, a £5 increase in Council Tax for the average band D home, the equivalent of an extra 10 pence a week, was confirmed. This rise had been set out in previous financial strategies.
As a result, the Council’s charge for the average band D property for 2018/19 will be set at £140.31, retaining its place as one of the lowest taxing district councils in the country.
During the next five years, a total of £4.4 million will need to be saved to balance the Council’s budget and a lower increase in council tax would have meant that the savings needed will increase further.
The savings target for 2018/19 is £500,000, rising to £1.3 million in later years of the five-year financial strategy.
Cllr Peter Topping, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Leader, said: “‘Your Place, Our Plan’ is a clear, easy to understand marker of what we’ve worked so hard to achieve in South Cambridgeshire already, and what we’ll be doing our best to make happen going forward. Importantly, our aims have been shaped by the conversations we have had with residents through our recent ‘Let’s Talk’ listening exercise. It gives a snapshot of lots of things that we love about living, working and studying here, and shows where we have opportunities to raise the quality of life even further. For example, by delivering high quality new homes in well-connected communities, helping to develop rural travel hubs and making our home even cleaner and greener.”
Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “I’m very pleased that Councillors have backed this budget, and it is brilliant to see that around 10% of it is being funded by ourselves. Going forwards I’ll be looking for ways to make this percentage even higher, as we need to deliver another £4.4 million of savings during the next five years. I’m always keen to investigate potential commercial activities to help bridge this gap.”
The Council will also continue its plan of running down money it holds in reserves over the next five years. This means savings and income can be delivered over a longer period.