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Committee hears of progress – but still a way to go to bridge budget gap

08 December 2022

Significant progress made with plans to reduce a projected budget gap of £29m to around £13m, will be discussed by Cambridgeshire County Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee on December 16th – which will also consider the need to do more to close the remaining gap for 2023/24.

With November’s Autumn Statement from the Chancellor confirming higher than projected inflation and signalling other changes with additional funding unlikely - the council is anticipating further pressures will affect council’s budget next year.

In the report which goes to next week’s meeting (Find the agenda here) it highlights that the council has identified further potential for additional income raising through its energy generation schemes and savings opportunities such as converting streetlights to more energy efficient LEDs and recycling highways material.

The Committee will hear other proposals which include permanently reducing the budget for staff mileage, reflecting a move to new ways of working which have followed the pandemic, and striking an improved deal for insurance cover.

The Chancellor did announce several further grants to support social care authorities but balancing this were changes to business rates policy and the higher-than-expected increase in the minimum wage which affects how much the council pays for social care.

“Significant progress has been made in identifying ways to close the budget gap,” said Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, Leader of the Council. “But, as we made clear on the day of the Autumn Statement, we have heard nothing from Government to address the real needs of Councils, like Cambridgeshire, and the needs of many people who rely on our services and support.

“It is our firm ambition to use all the means within our power to make Cambridgeshire a greener, fairer and more caring county, and we have increased the resources being made available particularly through areas such as fully funding free school meals and our anti-poverty hub – but further investments in these areas will have to be held until we know that we can balance our budget.”

“Despite all the progress we have made, a gap remains both for next year and in future years – so additional savings will be needed, “said Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Elisa Meschini.

“We must now wait for the detailed Local Government Finance Settlement, which is not due from Government until December 21st, which gives us little time before we have to set our budget in February. With very little room to manoeuvre we must look at any other areas for more savings, and any opportunities that present themselves for us to raise income.”

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee meets from 10am on December 16th, and can be viewed on the Council’s online live stream.