South Cambridgshire councillors back efficiency savings
Councillors have backed plans to deliver efficiency savings equivalent to £12 per household as South Cambridgeshire District Council’s (SCDC) budget was agreed.
At the meeting of full council, councillors voted in favour of proposals that would see the bulk of a 24 per cent 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 last 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, equivalent to £5 per year for an average band D home.
When presenting the report to councillors, Cllr Simon Edwards, SCDC deputy leader and cabinet member for finance said he was proud of the fact SCDC 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 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 SCDC-owned homes for two generations will be completed.
A newly launched arms-length company, South Cambs Limited, will also help SCDC 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 SCDC 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 one per cent 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 SCDC has accepted.
The £17 saving per household over the period of SCDC’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, SCDC 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.”
For all the latest news see tomorrow’s (Thursday, March 14) Echo.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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