With a significant funding gap required to balance a budget for next year, Cambridgeshire County Council has written to Government to offer options on financial flexibilities, to meet future budget demands, in addition to a direct request for further funding.
Cambridgeshire County Council has worked closely with local MPs campaigning for a fairer funding deal over the past four years – resulting in good levels of one off support in advance of the government’s promise of a full review of government spending.
But as Members move into this year’s budget setting round, they may be facing a stark choice between taking potentially ‘drastic’ measures to bridge a COVID-19 related gap or unacceptable rises in local taxation, council leader Steve Count is calling on Government to take decisive government action to support local services.
Back in February, Cambridgeshire County Council agreed its Business Plan and budget for 2020-2021 reflecting a positive and healthy short and medium term financial position.
It was not just able to set a balanced budget for 2020-2021 but had a clear and achievable position for the following year, 2021/22, with savings of just £4.2m needed from a total budget of £650m.
But within less than six weeks the whole of the UK was in lockdown, and as the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Council immediately took a central role in coordinating the response of public services across the county to try and manage the complex public health and economic consequences.
“Throughout the ongoing pandemic the attitude of our workforce has been one of dedication with a fantastic ability to rise to a challenge. When the Government and our residents needed us, we stood up and delivered. But in a plain message that must, and I believe will be heard, we now need Government to acknowledge what it needs to do to allow us to continue to deliver good quality services to our residents”. Said Cllr Count.
While Cambridgeshire County Council is not alone in facing unprecedented economic challenges the significant increase in new (and changing) demands for services together with actual and projected lost income has meant that the Council’s healthy financial position moving into the new budget year, is now much less certain.
So as the council’s service committees meet throughout October to begin the 2021/22 budget setting process they face a considerably more challenging task.
Members will spend the next month considering the needs of their services against a number of projected scenarios, which could see the council needing to find savings in the region of £40m to balance its budget next year, before bringing forward firm proposals in December.
“We are already thinking of ways we can mitigate this challenge that we can do ourselves. And Chris Malyon, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Financial officer is also highlighting to Government a number of options on how it could help us through this period, including many proposals that do not directly impact on the national public purse,” Cllr Count continued.
“Of course I welcome the substantial support the government has already provided to manage the immediate impact of COVID-19, which has covered short term financial implications of the pandemic and the new funding announced this week – for which we are still awaiting further information on allocations. But it is very clear to me that the on-going challenges the Council face are significant.
“Unless there is some significant support forthcoming to help a really well run and financially prudent council such as ours, it will have a huge impact on our ability to deliver services to our citizens. I eagerly await timely confirmation of a substantial injection of funding and positive reactions to our proposals,” he concluded.
For further information:
Please contact Cambridgeshire County Council communications team on: 01223 699281 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cllr Steve Count – Leader of the Conservative Group – 07989 032456
For further/alternative political comment contact:
Cllr Lucy Nethsingha – Leader of the Lib Dems – 07930 337596
Cllr Elisa Meschini – Leader of the Labour group – 01223 438195
Cllr Tom Sanderson – Leader of the Independent Group – 01480 436822
Initially circulated by:
Councillor for Fenstanton, Hemingford Abbots, Houghton & Wyton, Hemingford Grey, Hilton
Highways and Transport C’tee
Cambridgeshire County Council
Home tel: 01480 830250
Mob: 07799 133467