Tax rise likely for South Cambs residents

SCDC deputy leader Cllr Simon Edwards
SCDC deputy leader Cllr Simon Edwards

South Cambridgeshire residents are likely to face a tax rise as the district council (SCDC) looks to cope with a third successive year of Government cuts.

SCDC will hear the proposed budget today (Thursday, February 27), which has been recommended by cabinet.

It says SCDC faces a ‘massive task’ as it tries to protect services in the face of a third year of 25 per cent cuts, and thus a 1.99 per cent raise in the council’s precept – £2.40 per year for a Band D home – has been proposed.

Government cuts mean further savings of £300,000 are needed in the next financial year, with another £790,000 the following year – equal to £20 per Band D home.

Generating income and delivering efficiencies are planned to absorb 90 per cent of the cuts – £18 per Band D home – with the 4p a week tax rise to cover the remainder.

On February 13 the SCDC cabinet recommended the proposed budget to today’s (Thursday, February 27) council meeting and pledged that innovation, finding smart savings and income generation would all help protect local people from the full force of cuts to national grant funding.

Leading councillors explained that the task of delivering even more savings is harder than ever as efficiency savings of around £5 million have already been made over the last four years.

Plans to redesign some of the blue bin collection rounds, along with moving to monthly green waste collections during the winter months, were also supported to deliver the bulk of the savings needed.

These will have minimal impact on residents as during the winter most people are not cutting their grass and the amount of garden waste being collected halves.

Some councils do not collect garden waste during the winter months but analysis of what is collected in South Cambs has shown a monthly collection is a better fit.

SCDC’s proposed budget will also see £7 million invested in a housing company, which will deliver an annual income to maintain and support council services people most need.

To generate more income, changes to trade waste services provided by SCDC 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.

Generating income from investments will also ease the reliance on grant funding from government that councillors expect may be totally withdrawn in the future.

Councillors also confirmed at the meeting that working closely with other councils will continue to be explored as shared services can be more resilient and at lower cost.

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

Cllr Simon Edwards, SCDC deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “There is no doubt that major national funding cuts over the last three years have left us with a massive task and we have difficult decisions to make to prioritise our limited resources where it is most needed.

“All the low hanging fruit has been picked to deliver previous savings so we now have to work harder than ever before to see how we can deliver further efficiencies which have as little impact as possible on residents.

“I’m very proud of the way we have managed the reductions in our funding over the last few years and we are determined to do 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.

“What I can promise to residents is that we will be challenging convention, being smart with every penny and delivering innovative investments to generate an income to protect people from the worst of the cuts.”

For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, February 27) Echo.