Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Cambridgeshire Budget Challenge Consultation Launch

Have your say on Cambridgeshire's budget challenge that affects us all.

Communities across Cambridgeshire are being asked to have their say on how to meet the massive budget challenge facing them and the County – including finding more than £100 million in savings over the next five years.

Latest predictions show Cambridgeshire County Council will have to find £41 million in savings next year alone. This follows massive growing demands on Council services and indications that Government’s main funding for the authority will dwindle to nothing in the future.

With funding already reduced the Council is already making hard choices, such as looking at turning off street lights. The Council has already saved around £100 million in the last three years while trying to maintain vital frontline services, including caring for some of our most vulnerable.

Next year forecasts suggest we will have £15 million or 27 per cent less from the Government Revenue Support Grant while needing to find an extra £19.7 million to meet the pressures from more people needing our services as well as inflation. This is on top of other charges and savings we have to find – making up the £41 million total.

With the gap increasing between demand for services and funding the picture is bleak and Cambridgeshire will be faced with even more cuts.

The challenge affects all of Cambridgeshire communities and the Council has launched a consultation to explain the problem and to show how we can work together to find solutions.

A film outlining what the Council does and how it is funded as well as areas where communities can help has been released as part of the consultation.

The film also shows just some ways people can help save nearly £2 million by recycling more, fostering, using online services or just simply helping a relative or neighbour.

For example:

  • By recruiting 30 more foster carers the Council could not only help provide a much needed loving home for a child but save £480k a year.
  • If every household put 1kg less waste in their black bins each week, Cambridgeshire could save £1m in landfill tax. That could mean just recycling a few extra jars or cans a week instead of throwing them away.
  • If there was just a 10 per cent rise in people using online council services where they are available rather than calling or visiting, it could save up to £201,000
  • By simply being a good neighbour and keeping an eye on an elderly relative or friend residents can help keep someone fit and healthy, living independently.

People can find out more by going to www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/challenge and have their say.

Each year Cambridgeshire County Council delivers a range of services to residents in 264,000 households. Services include looking after 2,800 miles of roads, helping run and build schools, disposing of the County’s waste and providing support for older people, residents with disabilities and children who are in care.

  • Around £192.4 million is spent on looking after and caring for the most vulnerable – out of a wider Children’s Families and Adult Services budget of around  £316.5 million
  • Spending £33 million on transport including over £13 million of which goes on repairing and maintaining highways and paths, around £11m on passenger transport and £9m on street lighting 
  • Waste Disposal and recycling - £34.5 million
  • Helping people lead a healthy and active lifestyle - Public Health - £26.2 million
  • Providing and running library and heritage services - £5.5 million
  • Cost of borrowing to build new schools and roads - £35.5 million
  • A further £58.7 million is split between a range of areas – this includes things such as Registration, services like planning, Trading Standards and those supporting the local economy as well as central support to help frontline services.

Even without taking into account education funding this amounts to £510.4 million

These services are funded in three ways:

  • From the council tax as well as fees and charges - £328.2 million 
  • From business rates paid by local businesses (of which the Council only keeps a part) - £112.4 million 
  • From grants from central Government - £69.6m

Already, since 2009 the Council has had to cut £218 million from its budget and reduced the number of staff.

At the same time Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing counties in the country. This means more jobs and homes, but also much more pressure on schools, social care and our roads.

To help address this, the County is also sharing services as well as working in partnership with other public bodies to save money. At the same time it is bringing in major investment for road and rail projects across the County.

It is also working with communities to support volunteers and groups that are supporting their neighbours and neighbourhoods.

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Steve Count, said: “The County Council and Cambridgeshire communities are facing a massive funding challenge and we want people to understand the issues and make sure they have a chance to help answer it. The savings having to be made by the County Council affect all of our residents. We are already making tough decisions and with millions of pounds less in the budget this can only get worse, as Government grants dwindle further. We have already reduced staff, shared services and made massive savings. We know we can do more but we have reached a tipping point where frontline services will be further affected.

“Cambridgeshire is a county where people help and look after each other and the Council is part of the communities we serve. We want to work with residents, businesses and other organisations as a team to meet this challenge together. There are some simple things, like recycling more, that people can do that will save massive amounts for Cambridgeshire residents. From becoming a foster carer or simply being a good neighbour we can all make Cambridgeshire a better place.”