SCDC ‘ahead of schedule’ on generating 25 per cent of budget through investments

South Cambridgeshire District Council's 2020/21 budget papers have been published. Picture: Archant

South Cambridgeshire District Council's 2020/21 budget papers have been published. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Councillors have announced they are “ahead of schedule” on plans to generate at least a quarter of the money spent on services by South Cambridgeshire District Council from their own investments by March 2024.

In the council's 2020/21 budget papers published on Monday, the authority forecasts generating over £3.5 million from investments in 2020/21 to invest in local services and offset cuts to their funding by central government.

In January 2019, councillors said that by the end of March 2024 investments would return an income of just over £5 million a year - and have now announced they are aiming to reach this target ahead of schedule.

In the published budget papers £250,000 is expected to be saved in 2020/21 following a senior management restructure that is being carried out, but councillors are warning that future budget pressures will continue as the forthcoming 'Fair Funding Review' by government is expected to reallocate money to councils who look after social care.

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 is being proposed for 2020/21.

The proposed increase would see the average band D home charge for South Cambridgeshire District Council increase to £150.31 per year. Any rise would maintain the council's position in the lowest 25 per cent of taxing district councils in the country.

The council's budget also proposes investing an extra £200,000 in expanding the mobile warden scheme in the district. Local mobile warden groups support older people to live independently by carrying out practical tasks such as making light meals, shopping, making appointments, filling in forms and collecting prescriptions.

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In the 2019/20 the council supported 20 villages through 14 mobile warden schemes, benefitting more than 300 residents and the proposed investment aims to extend the service in villages where it is not currently available.

A further £200,000 is also planned to be invested in increasing support for local businesses so that villages remain vibrant and new jobs are created close to where people live.

A new Zero Carbon Grants scheme launched last summer will also continue in 2020/21 with a boosted £100,000 pot being committed toward community projects to address local carbon emissions and climate change.

The council also plans to invest just under £1.9 million transforming its own buildings to cut carbon emissions. The proposed investment would be paid back through savings on energy bills over future years.

The council's income from investments is from Ermine Street Housing - its property company - a return on a loan to deliver the new ice rink on the edge of Cambridge, and business premises recently purchased on Cambridge Science Park and the Colmworth Trade Park in St Neots.

Money for the rest of the council's £20 million budget to deliver services comes from grants the government pays councils to help offset the costs of providing services in a growing area, known as New Homes Bonus and the retention of some of the business rates it collects that were previously passed on to central government.

South Cambridgeshire District Council's lead cabinet member for finance, Councillor John Williams, said: "Local government is completely different to 10 years ago and it is now a necessity that we look beyond money from central government and council tax to deliver high quality services to local people.

"The council is incredibly ambitious, and I could not be happier with how we have risen to the challenge and are ahead of schedule on our pledge to generate 25 per cent of the money we will spend on services from our own investments. If we had not done this we would be seeing cuts to services now.

"The approach we have taken has seen us fill the gap and protect the services people value while also funding new areas of work such as the proposed improvements to mobile wardens in our villages that would help people live happily and safely in their homes for longer.

"That said, the challenge ahead is vast as we expect money to be reallocated from district councils to authorities such as the county council which has to deal with budget pressures of adult social care.

"Without small rises in council tax now we will store up a big problem in the future and that is why the £5 per year, or around 10 pence per week increase for the average band D home has been proposed."

The plans will now be looked over by the district council's scrutiny and overview committee at Cambourne's South Cambridgeshire Hall in a meeting from 4pm on Tuesday, January 21.