South Cambridgeshire business plan and budget agreed

South Cambridgeshire District Council has finalised a business plan and its budget. Picture: SCDC

South Cambridgeshire District Council has finalised a business plan and its budget. Picture: SCDC - Credit: Archant

Protecting and enhancing the environment to cut carbon emissions has been put at the heart of South Cambridgeshire District Council’s plan to ‘improve life for local communities’.

Councillor Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambs District Council, says SCDC has set "an ambitious pl

Councillor Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambs District Council, says SCDC has set "an ambitious plan which will really stretch us". Picture: SCDC - Credit: Archant

Councillors backed the Business Plan at a Council meeting on Thursday last week where the council’s budget for next financial year was also agreed.

Council leader Councillor Bridget Smith, described the plan as “ambitious” and said that it will stretch the council to meet the needs and priorities of local people.

The priority areas agreed included growing local businesses and economies – which will see a single point of contact put in place to support businesses through the planning process and make it easier for small local businesses to bid for council contracts.

Another priority area is having housing that is affordable for everyone to live in – which will see the council double the number of council homes built each year.

The council will also make a plan for a carbon-neutral future in the district, exploring opportunities for green energy generation and improving air quality.

Another priority area is to be a a modern and caring council, by being an employer of choice for people with disabilities and ethnic minorities, generating an income from investments to offset cuts to national funding and improving the way people can carry out transactions online.

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At the meeting the Council’s budget was also agreed. This included plans to generate a quarter of the money the Council spends on services from investments within five years.

By the end of March 2024, council investments are forecasted to return an income of just over £5 million a year which will be used to protect the services people want and need.

The council’s administration has said that they want a range of investments in the district to generate a return in a way that also delivers on the priorities of local people and makes a positive contribution to the area.

Investments could include investing to help provide space for small and growing businesses which will fill a recognised gap and make a return for the council. This will also help businesses grow and create new jobs for local people.

The council also wants to invest to deliver improvements in communities that have not been delivered commercially by the private sector. This could help deliver more homes or facilities for communities or improve the green credentials of a development to make sure it is of the highest standard.

Ahead of agreeing the Business Plan, the Council had already demonstrated its green commitments by unanimously pledging to support an ambitious target of cutting local carbon emissions across the district to zero by 2050. Solar panels are being installed this week on the Council’s waste and recycling depot at Waterbeach and further green investments are expected on the Council buildings to improve environmental standards deliver a financial return.

The council also wants to explore new opportunities for green investments in the district.

Councillors also agreed at the meeting a £5 per year increase in Council Tax for the average band D home. This is the equivalent of 10 extra pence per week.

Even with the increase in Council Tax the council must save a further £3 million over the next five years.

The council’s average band D charge for 2019/20 will be £145.31, retaining its place as one of the lowest taxing district councils in the country.

The council’s total budget it has available to spend on services in 2019/20 is nearly £21 million.

Councillor Bridget Smith said: “We have listened to our communities and set an ambitious plan that will really stretch us.

“We are not simply about meeting the targets set nationally on environmental issues, we want to make sure we are green to our core and the environment is considered as a key part of everything we do. Our future generations deserve nothing less and their passion to help us create a cleaner, greener and low carbon future was demonstrated only last week when national protests were held to demand more action on the issue.

“As expected, the affordability of housing and lack of transport alternatives to the car are big issues people have told us need to be addressed and we want to start by doubling the number of homes we build for people on our waiting lists.”