Thursday, 28 February 2013

Councillors Back Efficiency Savings Proposals As Budget Agreed

Councillors have backed plans to deliver efficiency savings equivalent to £12 per household as South Cambridgeshire District Council’s budget was agreed.

At the meeting of Full Council councillors voted in favour of proposals that would see the bulk of a 24% cut in central government grant funding absorbed by the Council through efficiency savings while services are still maintained.

The proposed budget – which was recommended by senior councillors at a Cabinet meeting earlier this month – detailed how less national funding will mean savings of around £17 per average band D household must be found over the period of the financial plan but committed to protect frontline services.

The first rise in council tax for three years was also agreed today, equivalent to £5 per year for an average band D home.

When presenting the report to councillors, Cllr Simon Edwards, the Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance said he was proud of the fact the Council has one of the lowest council taxes in the country but said that freezing payments for a third year in a row wasn’t an option as cuts would be needed to frontline services and problems would be stored up for balancing the budget in future years.

Councillors reiterated today that investment in the future of the district was important to maintain the high quality of life residents currently enjoy and said that continuing to deliver good quality and value for money services remains at the heart of plans.

Later this year the first homes under the biggest building programme of new Council-owned homes for two generations will be completed. A newly launched arms-length company, South Cambs Limited, will also help the Council maximise investment in new homes so profits can be pumped back into council services, including more affordable housing.

Generating income from investments is one way the Council aims to ease the reliance on grant funding from government that councillors expect will continue to be reduced in future years.

The government offered local councils who chose to freeze council tax a two year grant equivalent to a 1% rise, but this short-term deal would mean an additional £7 per band D home would need to be saved in two years’ time. Previous freeze grants from government have been more generous which the Council has accepted.

The £17 saving per household over the period of the Council’s financial strategy is made up of reductions to national grant funding, pressures on providing services to thousands of additional homes as the district is one of the fastest growing in the country and the cost of inflation.

Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “We have a proven track record of delivering sound financial management and high quality services for our residents and the budget approved by councillors will see this continue. We work hard to make sure we keep council tax as low as possible and despite being one of the lowest charging councils in the country we have pledged to deliver further savings through efficiencies. The small additional payment we are asking for from residents will mean frontline services they rely on are also protected.

“We are one of the fastest growing districts in the country and the corporate plan also agreed today sets the targets for us on what our residents and businesses want us to deliver so we can meet their future aspirations. In times where funding is tighter than ever before it is even more vital we make sure every penny of taxpayers’ money continues to work as hard as possible and an innovative approach will get the best possible results.”

Proposals presented to Council today:

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s precept for 2013/14 on a band D property is £120.46

Savings required per average band D home are £17.

Savings met through £12 of Council efficiency savings and £5 rise in council tax.

The main areas of Council spend for 2013/14 are:
  • Environment services – including waste and recycling, environmental protection, public health and food safety – £5.7m
  • Planning and economic development – including conservation, building and development control – £2.5m
  • Finance and staffing – including administration of benefits for residents, and collection of business rates and council tax – £2.4m
  • Planning policy and localism – including Northstowe and other growth areas, sports and arts support and planning policy – £1.8m
  • Corporate and customer services – including costs of council meetings, Member allowances and elections – £1.6m
  • Housing – including homelessness, housing strategy and letting and advisory services – £1.3m.