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YOUR chance to shape the budget for Cambridgeshire County Council

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Every household in Cambridgeshire is to be asked how they think the county council is performing and what sort of Council Tax rise they would support for next year.

The council has created an online survey covering key topics and inviting residents to register varying levels of approval or disapproval at the options.

Each topic invites Council Taxpayers to tick on one of these options to each proposal:

1: Strongly support.

2: Support

3: Neither support nor oppose

4: Oppose

5: Strongly oppose

6: Don’t know (need more information).

The council says results of the survey will help them plan the budget and spending priority for next year. They estimate the survey will take around 10 minutes to complete.

“Overall, the county council is predicting the need to find additional income and savings of more than £28m to balance next year’s budget,” said a council spokesperson.

“An independently conducted doorstep survey of 1,100 residents across Cambridgeshire began last week, and the same questions are posted on the council’s website from today to give everyone a chance to take part if they would like to.”

Survey topics include:

Streetlighting

Two thirds of the council’s total electricity bill is spent on streetlighting.

How supportive would you be of taking action to drive down this cost to save energy and reduce carbon emissions e.g., investing in all LEDs, dimming lights, or turning them off entirely in between certain hours of the night

Road maintenance

The council spends £12m on the day-to-day upkeep of our roads, footways, and cycleways each year.

How supportive are you of them making savings by reducing their road maintenance work in non-emergency areas such as some surface repairs, pothole prevention, verge maintenance, grass cutting and gully emptying.

Council buildings

How supportive are you of the council closing or disposing of some of the buildings it works from – saving running costs and potentially delivering some income, but possibly increasing journeys for residents needing services or staff getting to work?

Council vacancies
The council employs approximately 4,300 people across a wide range of services and in all parts of the county.

How supportive would you be of us holding vacancies for those that chose to leave and only recruiting and replacing roles for the most vital frontline services – e.g., social care, or highways emergency teams?

Education
How supportive are you of reducing the amount the council spends on the improvement of local schools and early years through non-statutory support services.

This could include providing less or no transport to and from school where this is not a legal requirement? 

 Adult social care
How supportive are you of the council increasing its offer to older adults and people with disabilities to provide technology enabled care (such as alarms or pressure pads), which can increase independence and reduce, to some extent, longer-term hands-on support?

Renewable energy

First phase of county council’s innovative micro-grid project at the Babraham Road Park and Ride site in Cambridge.


How supportive are you of the council looking at opportunities to generate more renewable energy i.e., wind or solar, to help tackle climate change and build greater energy security for its communities?

The council says it would like to get residents’ views on options for Council Tax. 

The chance for all Cambridgeshire residents to give their views on the future direction of council spending is available by clicking this link live on the council’s website

“The government has recently capped the amount we can put up Council Tax by up to 2% with a further 1% for the Adult Social Care Precept (ASCP),” said the spokesperson.

“ASCP gives us the option to increase the county’s share of council tax and all the income generated from this is ring-fenced, meaning it can only be used for adult social care services.

“The council’s current budget position has been made worse by around £19m because of inflation, and this would increase if we don’t use the government assumption of a 2% increase in Council Tax.”

For each 1% increase in either the Adult Social Care Precept or general Council Tax an average band D property would pay an additional 28p per week (£14.67 a year).

The survey offers six options for the county council’s part of Council Tax (other parts of Council Tax pay for police, fire, parish and district council services).   

64 hours of free enriching experiences were available in the summer holidays for families receiving income-related free school meals

Which option would you support: 

  • Option 1 – no increase to Council Tax
  • Option 2 – total increase of 2% (1% ASCP and 1% General Council Tax)
  • Option 3 – total increase of 3% (1% ASCP and 2% General Council Tax)
  • Option 4 – total increase of 4% (including ASCP and General Council Tax)
  • Option 5 – total increase of 5% (including ASCP and General Council Tax)
  • Option 6 – total increase of more than 5%

The budget includes support for:

An extended Household Support Fund – now available to all 39,000 Cambridgeshire people on universal credit – as well as additional help if people need it for specific bills or replacement of essential things like cookers, washing machines or fridges.

Continued funding for free school meals of £15 per week for each eligible child throughout the school holidays.

A 100% council tax rebate for care leavers until they are 21 – and a targeted fund to support them, if they need it, until they are 25.

A £1m ‘catch up’ fund to help children catch up on activities which help them learn skills, build self-confidence, and make friends.

In addition, the council’s business plan pledges to deliver a ‘just transition’ towards a more equal and sustainable Cambridgeshire.

The council’s business plans also include:

A £2.9 million countywide programme to support older people living in their own communities and homes for longer – part of a proposed investment in a new vision to create a fairer and more caring Cambridgeshire.

Major boost for motorists as the new bridge over King’s Dyke Level Crossing, Whittlesey, opened in July

Increased investment in projects which support biodiversity and Cambridgeshire people’s access to open spaces.

More investment to improve safety on roads, and the accessibility of footways and bridle paths.

A continued roll out of the real living wage, not just for lowest paid council staff – but working with contractor and supplier organisations to make this aspiration a reality as soon as possible.

The council spokesperson said that since they set its budget in February 2022, the national and international economic situation has significantly changed.

“This has had a negative impact on council finances in the same way it has affected most resident,” said the spokesperson.

The council says they issues that they are having to deal with include:

Rises in inflation to levels not seen for forty years, increasing the costs of our workforce and the supplies and services we buy.

A crisis in the supply of energy and goods.

The impact of COVID-19 on people’s lives or incomes, causing major increases in the numbers needing extra help for the first time.

“We have to deal with all of these challenges within a set level of funding,” said the spokesperson.

“Most of our income, including our share of council tax or business rates, is fixed by the government.

“By law, we are not allowed to spend more money than we have and must set a balanced budget in February 2023.

“The current financial gap between what we assumed we will need to do next year, and what it will cost us has almost doubled since the start of this financial year, from £17m to more than £28m.

“Despite inflation and other pressures affecting us we are unlikely to receive any additional government funding.”

The spokesperson said: “Delivering a balanced budget in the current economic context will not be easy.

“It is a challenge which isn’t only facing your household budget, but also councils up and down the country.

“Like you, the council needs to use a range of approaches to balance the books, which could include reductions in some services.

A landmark retrofit scheme pioneered by the county council will see Swaffham Prior in Cambridgeshire become the first village in the UK to switch off oil and move onto zero-carbon heating

“We need to produce a budget which is sustainable so that we can deliver on our ambition to create a greener, fairer and more caring Cambridgeshire.”

A chance for all Cambridgeshire residents to give their views on the future direction of council spending, goes live on the council’s website from today (Nov 7th)

Council leader Lucy Nethsingha said: “We need to produce a budget which is sustainable so that we can deliver on our ambition to create a greener, fairer, and more caring Cambridgeshire.

“We also want to continue to make changes to the way we work – improving the environment, bringing services closer to people, and helping residents and communities to recover from the effects of COVID-19. But we can only consider investments if we can first balance our budget.

“Like you, the council needs to use a range of approaches to balance the books, which includes changing, transforming or – as a last approach – reducing some of the things we do.” she

Deputy council leader Elisa Meschini said: “Delivering a balanced budget in the current economic context will not be easy.

“It is a challenge which is not just facing household budgets, but also councils up and down the country. We are already calling on the chancellor to recognise this when he sets his Autumn budget next week, otherwise it will only further impact the most vulnerable people in Cambridgeshire.”

This online survey will close on Sunday, December 11th after which its results will be available for members to consider in their January meetings, alongside the statistically representative doorstep survey.

A reminder of the chance for all Cambridgeshire residents to give their views on the future direction of council spending is via this link live on the council’s website

 

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