Budget agreed that sees tax rise for South Cambs

Cllr Simon Edwards, SCDC deputy leader and cabinet member for finance
Cllr Simon Edwards, SCDC deputy leader and cabinet member for finance

South Cambridgeshire residents have been handed a slight council tax rise as part of the district council’s (SCDC) latest budget.

SCDC approved the budget, which has to cope with 25 per cant cuts in central Government grant funding, at a meeting of full council last Thursday (February 27) after it had been recommended by cabinet.

Over the last four years around £5 million of efficiency savings have already been delivered by SCDC and the latest cuts mean further savings are needed equivalent to over £20 for every band D home in the district.

Councillors approved absorbing almost 90 per cent 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 per cent increase in council tax was also agreed – equivalent to £2.40 a year for band D properties.

SCDC is set to invest an initial £7 million pounds in a housing company which will generating an income to spend on services.

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plan presented to councillors at the meeting showed that government grant funding is expected to be almost totally withdrawn before 2020 meaning a more commercial approach to generate income from investments will be vital to keeping services going.

Some of the blue bin collection rounds will be redesigned, 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.

Changes to trade waste services provided by SCDC 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, SCDC has already modernised IT systems for staff, which saved thousands of pounds, reduced senior management posts and brought the SCDC contact service back in-house saving £250,000 per year.

Cllr Simon Edwards, SCDC 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.”

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (March 6) Echo.