Thursday, 27 February 2014

Budget Agreed To Meet Tough Savings Target

Councillors have agreed a budget to meet tough savings targets following a third successive year of 25% cuts to grant funding from government.

South Cambridgeshire District Council approved the budget at a meeting of Full Council today (Thursday 27 February) with leading councillors presenting the report warning that there are no easy answers to meet the savings needed as all the low hanging fruit had already been picked.

Over the last four years around £5 million of efficiency savings have already been delivered by the Council and the latest reduction to funding from government now means further savings will be needed equivalent to over £20 for every band D home in the district.

Councillors approved absorbing almost 90% of the reduction in funding by finding savings of £300,000 in 2014/15 and another £790,000 in 2015/16 – equivalent to over £18 per average band D home. A proposed 1.99% increase in council tax was also agreed – equivalent to £2.40 a year for band D properties.

To minimise the impact of cuts to grant funding the Council is set to invest an initial £7 million pounds in a housing company which will generating an income to spend on Council services residents want and need.

The Council’s five year business plan presented to councillors at the meeting showed that government grant funding is expected to be almost totally withdrawn before 2020 meaning a more commercial approach to generate income from investments will be vital to keeping services going.

To deliver the necessary savings in 2014/15 the Council has already agreed to redesign some of the blue bin collection rounds, along with moving to monthly green waste collections during the winter months. The changes will have minimal impact on residents as during the winter most people are not cutting their grass and data shows the amount of garden waste being collected halves.

To generate more income, changes to trade waste services provided by the Council are also proposed. This will help them be more competitive with private sector firms operating in the district as well as increase the amount of waste companies are recycling.

To deliver the savings needed over the last four years, the Council has already modernised IT systems for staff, which saved thousands of pounds, reduced senior management posts and brought the Council’s contact service back in-house saving £250,000 per year.

Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “As we have already delivered around £5 million of efficiencies there are no easy answers for us to balance the budget. The continued major cuts to our government grant means we are having to make really difficult decisions now, but more importantly we are looking at least five years into the future as plans need to be in place for when our government grant is totally withdrawn. By making smart investments now, which will deliver year on year returns, we will make sure we are in as good a position as possible to minimise the impact of the cuts.

“There is no doubt this is a challenging period for all local authorities but we are absolutely committed to doing all we can to continue to provide the services people most need as well as maintaining the quality of life we all enjoy in South Cambridgeshire.”