City council budget plans biggest programme of asset investment for over a decade, and expands support for people in most need

News release from 4 January 2018, 3:17pm

MAJOR capital investment including 500 new council homes, significant council land redevelopment, and investment in digital technology and CCTV are the centrepiece of the Cambridge City Council annual Budget Report published today, the biggest council investment in its major sites and community assets for well over a decade.

£200,000 for extra measures to tackle poverty and inequality, plus climate change and pollution-cutting changes all feature, along with protecting and improving council services for all residents, despite a halving of core Government grant this year, and no core grant at all from 2019.

The council’s General Fund Budget Setting Report, available on the council website, will be discussed initially by councillors on 22 January, and describes in detail how the council plans to allocate its resources in the year ahead.

The Budget Report proposes:

  1. Investing an extra £5.76m in the redevelopment of the council’s Mill Road depot to provide much needed new housing and increasing the percentage of new council housing there to 50% from the usual social housing target of 40% affordable homes;
  2. Committing £1.7m to a major transformation of the council’s digital technology and IT capacity, including a new online portal so residents can access services more easily;
  3. £799k funding towards a development partnership and detailed proposals for essential housing of up to 7,600 homes on theNorth East Cambridge Fringe site including on eight hectares of council land, subject to a funding bid with Anglian Water to Government for £193m to relocate the Milton Wastewater Treatment Facility;
  4. Expanding work to tackle climate change with £250k for new projects to reduce the council’s energy bill, its emissions and carbon footprint while encouraging residents and businesses to reduce their carbon emissions too;
  5. Working with partners to reduce congestion and air pollution, including central car park charges from April that incentivise shoppers and commuters not to travel to and from the centre during am and pm rush hours – assisted by Park and Ride sites ending their parking charges at the same time;
  6. Continuing work to tacklehomelessness and poor quality accommodation in some local private sector housing including by employing additional homelessness officers, and assessing promised new private sector licensing powers;
  7. Continuing anti-poverty work including promoting to all Cambridge employers the vital importance of the Real Living Wage of £8.75 per hour, and paying all council staff a wage of at least £10 per hour from April; reducing fuel and water poverty and increasing digital access for those on low incomes;
  8. Funding the establishment of a joint Greater Cambridge Planning Service with South Cambridgeshire District Council and investing £600k over four years as the city’s contribution in a new Joint Plan;
  9. Investing more than £600k in replacing 103 council CCTV cameras and fast wireless links to keep the city centre and car parks safe;
  10. A review of Streets and Open Spaces to make efficiency savings, while continuing to deliver high quality cleansing and grounds maintenance, and local response services like those currently delivered by the council’s ranger service and rapid response teams;
  11. £566k for a new set of public toilets at Silver Street, designed to fit well with its historic and environmentally sensitive setting near the river;
  12. Exploring the potential for improvements to Market Square, linked to wider work on city centre “Movement and Spaces” to set new planning and transport policies, working with the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

The report also sets out how the council will continue to focus on becoming more efficient and making further asset investments that bolster its solid financial position. In 2018-19, new savings and additional income will contribute £1.7M towards the council’s annual net budget of approximately £20M.

Initiatives set out in the report include:

  • Continuing to transform the way in which the council delivers services by focusing on what is important to service users, sharing delivery with neighbouring councils and reducing costs ahead of the ending of core government grant in 2019;
  • Reducing the amount of office space and reusing assets;
  • Exploring opportunities to become more commercially focused to generate income that can be put into services;
  • Investing in technology to boost productivity and cut costs as well as further increasing responsiveness to Cambridge residents, businesses and customers;
  • Investing money wisely to generate a good return that can be put back into services;
  • Building on the successes of the independent peer challenge review in December and addressing key recommendations made by the external team.

Cllr Richard Robertson, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said:  “Our proposed 2018-19 budget for Cambridge has twin objectives. First, protecting and improving services for all residents, particularly people who are vulnerable and in greatest need; and second, undertaking the most significant council investment programme for Cambridge for well over a decade.
 
“On capital projects, the council is building 500 new council homes, part of a long term transformation programme to make far better use of many major council-owned sites including Mill Road Depot, Park Street Car Park, land in North East Cambridge that includes the former Cowley Road Park and Ride site, and in future years car parks like Queen Anne Terrace and other council land.

“These budget proposals lay the foundations for 2019 onwards when there will no longer be any core Government grant for Cambridge; will reduce homelessness; and maximise the benefits to residents from the best possible use of council land and financial reserves.

“The proposals include a substantial council investment in digital technology to radically improve the efficiency of frontline services including street cleaning, open space management, recycling and waste, housing and planning services, building on already high standards of service for residents and customers.

“Our proposals demonstrate our determination to lead a united city that is ‘One Cambridge – Fair For All’ despite the continuing damage of seven successive years of additional Government cuts every year to local services for residents.”

The full detail of the General Fund Budget Setting Report will be considered by Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on 22 January.