Cambridgeshire County Council is a well-managed council – but along with all other councils in the UK is facing the challenges of diminishing government grant, and increased and unpredictable demand.
In year pressures means the council has to find an additional £14.6m in savings during 2018/19, on top of savings already planned when councillors set this year’s budget in February.
Sound financial management and innovation means £8m of these savings have already been found, and unlike other councils this has been done without resorting to cutting services or putting jobs at risk - but time is running out to find the additional £5.2m.
By law the County Council has to set and maintain a balanced budget.
Some years ago the council negotiated with trade unions a clause in all Cambridgeshire County Council employees’ contracts to impose a period of up to three days unpaid leave if the financial situation made it necessary – and this year for the first time it has.
Therefore – except for some essential services* - Cambridgeshire County Council will close on 27, 28 and 31 December, and all but the lowest paid staff (those earning under £25k per year) will take these days as unpaid leave.
This will contribute £900k to closing the budget gap, and is the saving the council could otherwise achieve by cutting around 40 full time posts.
The council has only introduced this measure as a last resort - and to support its hard working staff the unpaid leave costs will be deducted in twelve equal amounts from staff salaries starting from November – a total amount roughly equating to 1.2% of their annual pay.
Work continues to set next year’s council budget and to bridge the estimated £20m gap for 2019/20 with proposals being finalised to be discussed at committees during October and November and, all savings proposals endeavour to protect services and jobs.
* Essential CCC services unaffected by the closure or run by a reduced team will include residential services, social care adult and children’s safeguarding, hospital discharge teams, drug and alcohol support, coroner’s services and registrars (for pre booked events). A full list will be published later in the month.