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Council’s end of year position shows good financial control despite massive pressure

03 July 2023

Cambridgeshire County Council ended the past financial year, with a overspend of just 0.2% of its annual budget Members will hear at next week’s Strategy and Resources Committee.

Reporting back on the end of year position – Members will hear that despite growing inflation on all the goods and services the council buys, the council kept its overspend to just £728k, a figure it had been predicting with some accuracy for the second half of the year, having put a number of controls in place.

The council set its 2022/3 budget in February 2022 at a time of great uncertainty – and during the year which followed inflation reached record highs, meaning that in-year the council had to managed more than £43m of additional pressures.

The final position shows increases in some areas such as high levels of inflation in home to school transport, lower than expected income in some areas due to a slow recovery from COVID and the impact of a national shortage – and subsequent spiralling costs – of placements for children with very specialist mental health needs had largely been mitigated by underspends elsewhere.

Sounding a note of warning, the report points out that while the some of the pressures are likely to increase the in-year mitigations are likely to be one offs.

Costs which are highlighted as part of the final year’s report to Members include a one off £328k cost for business change related to the council’s separation from Peterborough City Council, to enable increased management focus on the needs of Cambridgeshire, and also a savings target which wasn’t reached in the communities team, due to restructuring of the service which will allow it to continue on a firm financial footing and support the delivery of the council’s promise to take services closer to communities.

“This report which demonstrates good financial controls of our officers – which Members are grateful for – should in no way detract from the central issue, which is that Cambridgeshire County Council is woefully underfunded by central government, leaving residents of this county severely disadvantaged, “ said Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, Leader of the Council and chair of S&R committee.

“We are a growing county, and despite this our funding formula remains fixed to the population figures from more than ten years ago. In effect, while more Cambridgeshire residents are contributing to national taxes, our settlement has not been updated to supporting their direct local needs, such as ten years of underfunding on our roads – leaving us with problems to fix that will need many years of detailed work, not just short-term patching; the growth in adult care needs or for those of vulnerable children.”

“We have repeatedly raised this issue with Government,” said Cllr Elisa Meschini, deputy leader and vice chair of S&R. “But after all four group leaders wrote again to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up earlier this year, putting our case for change and a funding settlement which truly meets our local needs, he hasn’t even sent an acknowledgement.”

Strategy and Resources Committee will meet at the Council’s headquarters at New Shire Hall in Alconbury at 10am on 11 July and can be watched live on the council’s YouTube channel . The full meeting agenda can be read here