Continuing uncertainty around the national financial situation, impacts of international conflict, and a very local growth in demand is likely to cause a £29m gap in Cambridgeshire County Council’s budget, Members of Cambridgeshire’s Strategy and Resources committee will hear next week (Oct 20th)
When the council set its budget in February this year, a gap of just £17m was being predicted.
But next year’s gap has almost doubled due to rises in inflation levels not seen for more than 40 years, growing uncertainty about energy prices and supply, and the government recently confirming that there will be no spending review – meaning the council’s increased costs for energy and inflation need to be met within its existing funding envelope.
In addition, the council faces growing uncertainties about meeting the major costs of the national Adult Social Care reforms which are due to come into force next Autumn.
“We are determined to make good on our pledge to create a greener, fairer and more caring Cambridgeshire,” said council leader Cllr Lucy Nethsingha. “And we will continue to do everything we can to help our residents manage these increases and protect the services for the most vulnerable. But I can’t deny that we are going to have to make tough choices.”
“The huge increase in costs the council faces come from a situation which is not in our control,” confirmed deputy leader Cllr Elisa Meschini. “We are continuing to do all we can – working with others like the County Councils Network – to force the government to acknowledge the vital nature of the services we provide and provide the funding that will allow us to continue to deliver them.”
Just as households across the county are feeling the squeeze of increased bills and the cost of living, extra costs faced by the council alongside expected national public sector pay increases expected this year meant that the council was already reporting a small projected in-year gap of £2m, which is around 0.5% of the council’s overall budget.
In the report to committee, members will hear that the Council expects to be able to meet the costs of inflation on its revenue budgets this financial year – but has significant concerns for next year, and for the next four years of its medium-term financial plan.
Members will hear that as well as needing to further increase plans to deliver savings to bridge the gap the council is also pro-actively managing large contracts, ensuring value for money, and maximising grant funding where possible from government.
The Council also continues to allocate investment from the Just Transition Fund, funding work designed to deliver improvements in terms of social mobility, flooding and climate change. In June, a further £4.4m was allocated taking the total funding earmarked to nearly £10m.
The meeting which starts at 10am on October 20th and will be held in the Red Kite Room, in the Council’s headquarters at New Shire Hall in Alconbury, can also be followed online.