“Innovation will help protect services” say leading councillors
Senior councillors have backed a draft Council budget that will see £1.7 million of income generated from a housing company that was set up to make money to help protect frontline services.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet supported the proposed budget today (Wednesday 7 February) and praised council officers for the success in getting the housing company – Ermine Street Housing – to generate 10% of the Council’s overall budget next financial year.
At the meeting, Cllr Simon Edwards, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, explained that taking a more commercial approach was vital to making sure reductions to national grant funding did not lead to cuts to local services.
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.
Councillors also supported increasing Council tax by £5 for an average band D home as had been set out in previous financial strategies. The increase is equivalent of 10 pence per week.
Councillors said at the meeting that over 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 will mean that the savings needed will increase further.
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 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.
All councillors will discuss, and vote, on the budget Cabinet have recommended to them at a Full Council meeting on Thursday 22 February.
Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “Protecting services local people rely on whilst also managing large cuts to the funding we receive from Government is no easy task. We have already saved millions of pounds over recent years so efficiencies become harder to find and innovation and shrewd investments are vital in meeting this challenge.
“I’m very pleased that Cabinet members have supported the draft budget as all the teams at the Council have done a brilliant job to get us to this stage and generate nearly 10% of our overall budget for ourselves next year.
“We still need to deliver another £4.4 million of savings over the next five years and I can promise everyone locally that we want to do that so we do not simply stop delivering important services to you. Our journey for a range of innovative and diverse commercial activities must continue so we are on the firmest footing for can 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.