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City 2019 budget supports people in greatest need and maintains quality frontline services

News release from 07/01/2019

HELPING people in greatest need, delivering quality services, planning for new communities, protecting the environment and innovating for the future are the five priorities set out in Cambridge City Council’s budget plans for 2019-20.

The General Fund Budget Setting Report (BSR), published today, highlights how the council’s core government grant has declined from £5.6 million five years ago to zero in 2019-20 and how, in spite of this, the council will continue to provide good quality services to a growing city.

Set in the context of its vision for ‘One Cambridge – Fair for All’, the budget proposals, which are available on the council’s website, set out how the council will work to tackle inequality and support the city to be prosperous.

The report describes in detail how the council plans to allocate its resources in the year ahead and will be discussed in detail by councillors on Monday 11 February.

The report makes a number of proposals under five core themes as follows:

A. Helping Cambridge people in greatest need

1. Investing £33,000 over two years to encourage businesses in the city to pay the Real Living Wage of at least £9/hour, as the council believes that tackling low wages is the single biggest route to tackling Cambridge inequality;

2. Funding of £86,000 over two years to continue delivering the council’s Fuel and Poverty Campaign helping low income families get the best possible energy deals;

3. Providing subsidised or free swimming and an exercise referral service for those relying on benefits from a two year budget of £40,000;

4. Expanding help for local people who are faced with the switch in benefits to Universal Credit with more funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau, in addition to extra funding to assist council tenants with benefits and Universal Credit issues;

5. Funding for partner organisations working to prevent people becoming homeless and supporting those who sleep rough and expanding the provision of ‘Housing First’ flats.  These flats provide supported housing for homeless people with complex needs to move into more quickly.

B. Delivering quality services within financial constraints

6. An extra £25,000 next year for at least 12 new Community Clear-Up days in areas of the city most in need of help disposing of bulky items and avoiding fly tipping;

7. A major upgrade of the of the resident-run community centre in Cherry Hinton by topping up grant funding, plus community facilities in new housing and council homes developments at Mill Road and the Meadows, and an early years centre as part of the new council-led development on Cromwell Road in Romsey;

8. Continuing to provide free services of pest control and year round collections of green waste.

C. Planning for growth and ensuring our new communities are successful

9. Delivering nearly 800 homes working with the Cambridge Investment Partnership, the council’s partnership with Hill Residential, of which at least 500 will be new council homes at affordable rents;

10. Providing the council’s planning services and community development team with the resources to ensure new buildings and facilities and the open environment in new neighbourhoods are built to high standards and people moving in feel well supported in these areas.

D. Protecting our environment and tackling climate change

11. An additional £100,000 will be made available as part of the council’s Climate Change Fund to help transform the energy efficiency of council buildings. There will be investment in heating, lighting and ventilation improvements with the aim of reducing the council’s carbon footprint while encouraging residents and businesses to reduce their carbon emissions too;

12. Funding of £49,000 over two years for an Air Quality Officer to tackle air pollution;

13. Funding of £40,000 over two years to support the team of volunteers who work with council staff to clean up parks and local areas, and increase recycling.

E. Developing effective partnerships and an innovative and dynamic council

14. Developing new routes and paths for bikes using the council’s Cycleways Fund, alongside £40,000 allocated for extra secure cycle parking in local centres;

15. Working as part of the Greater Cambridge Partnership to develop public transport, improve cycling and pedestrian provision on our streets and tackle congestion with central car park charges from April that incentivise shoppers and commuters not to travel by car to and from the centre during morning and afternoon rush hours;

16. Working to develop the planning framework and business plan needed to deliver a new innovation quarter including over 5,000 much needed homes on the North East Cambridge Fringe core site which the council part owns. Development of this site is subject to planning and to winning a bid with partner Anglian Water for up to £227 million of the government’s Housing Infrastructure Programme funding to relocate Anglian Water’s Chesterton Wastewater Recycling Centre. The successful relocation of the recycling centre could also enable the development of a potential further 3,000 homes within the wider Cambridge Northern Fringe area;

17. Sustaining the city’s high quality programme of entertainment and cultural events with the transition of these back to the council from Cambridge Live with one-off support of an extra £250,000 on top of funding agreed last year;

18. Investing £150,000 over three years in digital technology as part of a scheme called ‘Council Anywhere’ to provide more staff with access to ICT systems in order to  deal with customers more flexibly and at council premises more efficiently;

19. Funding of £470,000 over three years in transforming the way council services are delivered and continuing to improve the efficiency of online services.

The annual budget report also describes how the council will work to further improve its efficiency and make the most of the assets and investments that underpin its financial strength. In 2019-20, new savings and additional income will contribute approximately £1.8m towards the council’s annual net budget of approximately £20 million.

Changing the way services are delivered, such as sharing delivery with neighbouring councils and reducing costs by cutting the amount of office space the council occupies will aid savings. The council will also continue to look at exploiting commercial opportunities to generate income and investing in technology to improve efficiency.

Cllr Richard Robertson, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “Although from 2019 we will not receive any core government grant at all, our proposals will protect and improve services for all residents, particularly for the most vulnerable.

“Those people who are experiencing hardship continue to be foremost in our minds because they are at the heart of our vision for creating a city that is fair for all.

“Building more council homes with affordable rents, supporting people in financial difficulty, promoting fair pay, helping homeless people, investing in community facilities in new developments, improving air quality and tackling climate change are at the core of our budget.

“As we look to the future we will continue our work to invest wisely and make the best possible use of council land, our financial reserves and other assets. We will also fund more new technology to make improvements to frontline services and the services we deliver to all of our residents.”

The full detail of the General Fund Budget Setting Report will be considered by Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on Monday 11 February.