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County agrees budget: Highways and anti-poverty services prioritised

13 February 2024

Today (Tuesday, 13 February), a meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Full Council agreed a balanced budget for 2024/25. Members also prioritised funding to improve the condition of roads and footpaths, as well as anti-poverty services. 

They acknowledged that this was a difficult budget process as many residents have told them that they continue to feel the squeeze from the cost-of-living pressures, but the council also faces significant cost increases.

The county council had to close a gap of £37.4m – with 75% of the Council’s net spend now being funded from Council Tax.

The council has also prioritised a number of key areas, based on resident feedback through its Quality of Life survey, and are aligned to their vision to make Cambridgeshire greener, fairer and more caring:

  • Sustaining critical adults & children’s social care (£57m). This is not the case compared to many of our neighbouring councils in the East of England.
  • Record levels of highways funding (£23m) to strengthen and improve the standard of our roads and pavements, including tackling potholes, weeds and gulleys. Directly acting on residents’ concerns – with 76% of respondents dissatisfied with the condition of Cambridgeshire’s roads and footpaths.
  • The council is prioritising support for vulnerable communities, with £3m to continue providing holiday supermarket vouchers for those children most in need; £2.2m to deliver anti-poverty initiatives; £1.3m into more accessible libraries.

County council agreed to a Council Tax rise of 4.99% (2% for Adult Social Services) – raising £17.5m of local income to help maintain and protect critical services for the most vulnerable communities. For the majority of our residents in Band A-D properties that will mean between an extra 99 pence to £1.48 a week.

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “We’re prioritising our limited funding in a number of key areas to make our county greener, fairer and more caring. Whether that is the £57 million to sustain children’s and adult social care services; or £23m into improving the standard of our highways – where we have really listened to, and acted on, residents’ concerns.

“This also delivers a balanced council budget for 2024/25, no mean feat after more than ten years of national underfunding. This has been a difficult budget setting process, driven by significant cost increases, such as inflation. This budget means we are balancing our costs and protecting the needs of our most vulnerable communities.

“We’ve also invested £4.8m of additional one-off social care funding into support for children’s social care, children with special educational needs and disabilities, home to school transport and adults mental health. It is frustrating that the additional money came in so late, well after most councils have set their budget. But this one-year funding doesn’t address the longer term need for a Fair Funding Settlement in Cambridgeshire.”

Cllr Elisa Meschini, Deputy Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, added: “These budget proposals put vulnerable communities at the very heart of what we are delivering. We know from listening to our residents, that those with the most needs continue to feel the squeeze from the cost-of-living pressures.

“We are committed to paying the real living wage to ensure vital services in adult social care are able to run with excellent staff right across the county. We are also anticipating the ending of the government’s Household Support Fund from the end of March. This is why we are proposing £3m to continue providing holiday supermarket vouchers for those most in need which, without our commitment, would have been stopped by this Government."

Cllr Tom Sanderson, Leader of the Independent Group on the council, said: “We’re also trying to deliver services closer to communities. That’s why we’re proposing to invest £1.3m into extending what we offer through our libraries, including how they can support vulnerable communities. The council is also looking to prioritise £2.2m funding, to deliver anti-poverty initiatives.”