Council innovation and £1.7 million income set to offset cuts to funding
A local council is set to fund nearly 10% of its overall budget next financial year from income it will generate itself.
In budget papers published today (Monday 29 January), South Cambridgeshire District Council has said that they expect to generate £1.7 million of income from their housing company – Ermine Street Housing – in the 2018/19 financial year.
Money the Council will generate will be used to offset cuts to the grant funding it was once provided by Government to provide services to local people.
The Council set up Ermine Street Housing in 2011 so the company could get up and running and generating money to reinvest in services in advance of larger cuts to local government funding that have since taken place.
A report setting out the proposed budget for the next five years has also recommended to councillors that the Council continues its plan of increasing Council Tax by £5 per year for an average band D home. The equivalent of 10 pence per week.
The Council’s average band D charge for 2018/19 is proposed to be £140.31, retaining its place as one of the lowest taxing district councils in the country.
The proposed budget also confirms that over the next five years a total of £4.4 million will need to be saved to balance the books, a figure that would increase if the previously published plan to increase Council Tax was not implemented.
The savings target for 2018/19 is £500,000, rising to £1.3 million in later years of the five-year financial strategy.
The Council has also invested £1.85 million in the new ice arena currently being built on the edge of Cambridge. The loan will also generate additional income to reinvest in services.
From April, national legislation changes will mean the Council has a duty to prevent homelessness as well as help vulnerable groups if they find themselves homeless. Housing bosses have said that their mantra has always been “prevention, prevention, prevention” as they want to keep people in their own homes. However, the national changes will see even more resource put into prevention which is an extra pressure on the Council’s budget.
The Council’s total budget it has available to spend on services in 2018/19 is nearly £19 million.
To improve services and reduce costs the Council also plans to set up a shared planning service with Cambridge City Council. The two councils already have a shared waste service and share ICT, legal and building control with Huntingdonshire District Council as well.
The proposed budget will be discussed by the Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 7 February before all councillors will discuss, and vote, on the proposals at a Full Council meeting on Thursday 22 February.
Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Innovation and making shrewd investments, such as our highly successful housing company, has been key to protecting services for our communities. We’re very proud that we are already generating nearly 10% of our overall budget ourselves, as we become less reliant on the grants we were once provided from Government."
“There is no doubt whatsoever that we still have big challenge in front of us as a further £4.4 million must be saved over the next five years. However, we won’t be looking to simply stop delivering our services. We will, of course, continue to find ways in which we can work more efficiently, but we also want to find other innovative ways of generating income, so we not only maintain current services, but we build on them so we can do much more for residents."
"We are on a journey. Ermine Street Housing is the first step, and now we want to press on and deliver other innovative, and diverse commercial activities which will really put us on a strong footing for the future."
The Council will also continue its plan of running down money it holds in reserves over the next five years. This plan means savings and income can be delivered over a longer period of time.