Monday, 26 October 2015

Tough choices for Cambridgeshire to meet £41 million savings

Cambridgeshire communities are being warned of bleak choices for the County Council as it tries to make a further £41 million in savings, while meeting increased pressures on services.

The County Council Service Committees will look at proposals in November to meet the major financial challenge of £41 million savings this year and more than £100 million over the next five years. This follows cumulative savings of £218 million since 2009.

The scale of savings means that proposals will have an impact on all services, from how the Council looks after roads, manages libraries and cares for the most vulnerable.

Councillors will be looking at initial proposals of how these savings may be achieved and, with officers, will be working to change or mitigate these options to reduce the impact on communities.

Proposals concentrate on supporting statutory services and protecting the most vulnerable as much as possible, while looking to bring in income or transforming the way the authority works.

Service Committees will comment on the proposals which will then go to the General Purpose Committee for consideration before the business plan is discussed by Full Council early next year. As much as possible will be done in that time period to mitigate the impacts or find alternatives to the severest proposals. This means during this time that there could be changes and some proposals may not go forward.

While the financial picture is tough Councillors are committed to meet the savings while doing their best for the diverse Cambridgeshire communities they serve.

They are also asking communities and organisations to come forward and help where they can to make sure the Council can continue to deliver as much as possible.

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.

Next year forecasts suggest the Council 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 services as well as inflation. This is on top of other charges and savings the Council has to find – making up the £41 million total.

With the gap increasing between demand for services and the funding available Cambridgeshire will inevitably be faced with even more cuts in the future.

To help address this, the County is 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. Something that the Council will look to expand and enhance in the future.

Communities across Cambridgeshire are being asked to have their own say on how to meet the massive budget challenge facing them and the County. The challenge affects all of Cambridgeshire’s communities and the Council has launched a consultation to explain the problem and to show how we can work together to find solutions.

People can have their say and see a film explaining the situation at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/challenge

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

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader, Steve Count, said: “The County Council and Cambridgeshire communities are facing a massive funding challenge and the savings that will have to be made affects all of our residents. We are already making tough decisions and with millions of pounds fewer in the budget this can only get worse, as Government grants dwindle further. We have already reduced staff, shared services and made considerable savings. We know we can do more but we have reached a tipping point where frontline services will be further affected. These are proposals at the moment and councillors will be asked to look at them and work with officers to change or reduce their impact. Therefore, these proposals could change but we want people to see the scale of the issues we are facing. I know that Councillors will be working hard to do the best for Cambridgeshire.

“But we cannot meet this challenge alone. 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 significant amounts of money for Cambridgeshire residents. From becoming a foster carer, recycling more or simply being a good neighbour we can all make Cambridgeshire a better place.”