Cambridgeshire County Council’s leader has given a mixed welcome to the government’s provisional funding settlement for local government for 2019/20 announced today (December 13th).
Cllr Steve Count paid tribute to the support of the County’s MPs in helping him in his efforts to reverse a plan which would have seen £7m taken back from local tax payers to be spent in other areas of the country, and to win a fairer funding deal for the county. But he expressed his surprise that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough remain the only devolved area of the country not to benefit from a Business Rate Retention pilot.
“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has confirmed that he is abolishing the negative RSG, which would have seen council tax payers in Cambridgeshire in effect handing £7m back to government to spend in other better funded areas in 2019/20 – and also that there will be more news soon about a fairer funding deal across local government as a whole.” said Cllr Count.
“But I am surprised that we are not among the 15 council areas to have been included in a business rate retention pilot – the only devolved area not to benefit from this scheme- it is clear that the voices of everyone supporting this bid simply haven’t been heard.
“As a county which sees enormous business growth in some areas, we need to be able to spread prosperity to parts of our county which struggle economically. It is vital business rates raised in the county should be available to benefit the county.
“The launch today of a further and more detailed consultation on the government’s funding formula is welcome, as the tremendous underfunding of Cambridgeshire highlights the funding inequality between different areas of the country. This is something we have worked hard to highlight to Government, alongside our other Shire County colleagues.
“Hardly a month has gone by over the past year when I haven’t taken an opportunity to lobby central government directly or via our MPs – as highlighted at Tuesday’s Full Council meeting.”
Core Government funding was around 30% of the council’s service spending five years ago and this has now fallen to 13% reduced by more than £100m a year. But during this time the council has worked hard to keep its costs down by transformation, efficiency and commercialisation such as
- Delivering shared services – both LGSS and sharing of key personnel with Peterborough. Nearly the entire management team is now shared across the two organisations
- Establishing a housing development company to deliver income of £4m a year to support front line services
- Developing a commercial portfolio to deliver £5m a year to support frontline services
The Council has also invested significant sums in transformation projects to reduce its overall operating costs.
Despite this demand for services continues to rise, with increasing numbers of children requiring social care and support, demand for Special Educational Needs schools places rising along with the complexity of need, and a 20% increase in the past four years of the number of residents aged 85+.