The latest budget plans that focus on providing the best possible support to South Cambridgeshire’s residents and businesses have been approved by Councillors.
Councillors agree latest budget
Full Council met this week and discussed the budget papers. This followed earlier discussions at the Council’s Cabinet and Scrutiny and Overview Committee. These discussions resulted in an addition to the budget in the form of a new job of Welfare and Visiting Advisor within the Council’s Benefits Team, to improve support for those most in need of help. The latest budget also provides extra funding for the Council’s homelessness team as they advise residents facing economic hardship, and land drainage department to help deal with recent heavy rainfall.
Councillors voted to approve the budget plans and heard how the Council, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, has an ambitious 4-year plan to transform service quality, ensure financial resources are fully aligned to business plan priorities and improve customer service.
The report they considered highlights how effective budget monitoring arrangements have created a sound foundation for the management of Council finances.
The latest budget highlights commitments to:
Continuing to lead South Cambridgeshire’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, helping communities to recover
Continuing to do everything possible to support South Cambridgeshire’s businesses via a fully operational new Business Support and Development Team, which was formed last year
A transformation programme across the Council, with a key aim being to improve customer service for all residents – especially via an improved digital experience
Like all businesses, the Council has faced challenges in drawing-up its budget due to the uncertainty over the economy and continuing impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on residents and businesses.
South Cambridgeshire District Council estimates that the cost of dealing with the pandemic so far has been approximately £2.35 million. This is mainly due to increased spending on PPE, additional staff members to help in several areas such as community response, processing business grants and Council Tax support and new software for administering grants. Also, some savings that the Council had envisaged making during the past 12-months have not been possible due to Coronavirus, and income from fees, such as planning and licensing charges, has dropped.
The Council has received £1.9 million in Government grants to help it deal with increased spending due to Coronavirus.
Due to the continuing financial pressure on the Council, the proposals include around £5.1million worth of savings during the next four years, with £2.2million in savings and income already identified.
Around half of the Council’s annual budget of just under £20 million comes from local Council Tax, and a £5 per year increase for the average band D home was agreed for the next financial year. The increase will see the average band D home charge for South Cambridgeshire District Council increase to £155.31 per year. This is a rise of around 10p per week. Despite the rise, the Council retains its position in the lowest 25% of taxing District Councils in the country.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr John Williams, said: “Due to our measured and prudent approach, we are on a sound financial footing so South Cambridgeshire’s residents and businesses can be confident that we will be doing everything in our power to help them continue to deal with the impacts of Coronavirus. We know the challenges we will face in the months and years ahead will be large but we have an incredibly committed set of Councillors and officers who have shown time and again during the last year that they are fully focused on supporting our communities. I fully appreciate that these are uncertain and difficult financial times for us all, but if we did not confirm a £5 per year rise in Council Tax now then we would be storing up bigger problems further down the line. This extra 10 pence per week will help us to continue delivering vital frontline services that residents rely on. I also want to emphasise that we continue to have a Local Council Tax Support Scheme to provide financial support residents most in need. With all of this in mind, this budget will allow us to continue focusing on delivering our Business Plan priorities, such as housing that is truly affordable to live in and growing local businesses and economies, while facing the challenges that Coronavirus continues to bring.”
South Cambridgeshire is the second largest district in Cambridgeshire.