Council highway chiefs agreed today to support extra funding to go into gritting, community grants and street lighting but warned tough savings are still on the cards for this and future years.
The Economy Transport and Environment Service has been given Â£500,000 to allocate in its budget plan following a Â£2.5 million underspend by Cambridgeshire County Council.
Members of Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee discussed where this should be spent and agreed on helping to reduce some of the savings that had been proposed that are likely to have the greatest impact on our communities.
But they warn that the Council is still making savings of around Â£5m in this area as part of the overall Â£32 million needed to be saved at the Council if the books are to balance.
The Committee agreed that Â£300,000 should be put back into winter maintenance (gritting of roads) so there will be no reduction in the amount of roads the Council grit as was originally planned. This still means that Â£450,000 will need to be found in efficiencies, but these will not affect the overall level of service offered.
The Committee had previously agreed a saving of Â£240,000 in street lighting that would see most street lights, other than those on the busiest roads, being switched off at 12 midnight. It was agreed that Â£6,000 be put towards providing extended lighting beyond midnight in central areas of our Market Towns and Cambridge City where there are high levels of late night time leisure activity. These locations will be considered in liaison with the police and local councils. The Committee also agreed that Parish Councils across the county should be offered the opportunity to have lights turned off earlier if they wish or to stay on later if Parish Councils are prepared to pay for the energy costs.
It is currently proposed to make a Â£45,000 saving from community grants over the next three years. It was agreed the first Â£15,000 of this would not be saved next year so that groups had more time to look for alternative funding.
Committee approved the proposed allocation of the additional funding which will be looked at by the General Purposes Committee on 27 January 2015.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Roger Hickford, Chairman of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee, said: "While we are pleased to use this extra funding to mitigate some of the effects of the savings we know next year will see similar hard choices. There is more and more demand for our services and less and less money from Government. The Committee were clear that protecting the routes we grit was important and vital for road safety, especially in our rural areas. They also wanted to give more time and flexibility for switching off street lights so we can work with other authorities to find local solutions for their areas. This will help benefit the cities and market towns as well as giving villages more of a say on what is happening with their lights. It is also good we could save some of the grant funding for our community groups and give them extra time to look for alternative funding.
"Local Government is going through a very tough time with budgets being squeezed hard. But the Committee is determined to do what is best for Cambridgeshire and the communities we serve."