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Council approves budget to support people in greatest need and maintain quality frontline services

News release from 22/02/2019

COUNCILLORS have approved Cambridge City Council’s budget for 2019-20, which prioritises supporting people in greatest need, delivering quality services, planning for new communities, protecting the environment and innovating for the future.

The budget, which was approved by council last night (Thurs 21 February), highlights how the council will continue to provide good quality services for a growing city despite its core government grant having declined from £5.6 million five years ago to zero in 2019-20.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council, has produced a short video outlining some of the key points from this year’s budget. The video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/rz4Q9pfqakE

The council’s budget outlines how resources will be allocated in the year ahead under five main themes:

  • Helping Cambridge people in greatest need including by encouraging businesses to pay staff the Real Living Wage, helping residents reduce energy bills and expanding support for homeless people;
  • Delivering quality services within financial constraints including by upgrading and developing community facilities despite the complete loss of government grant;
  • Planning for growth and ensuring our new communities are successful including by building nearly 800 homes, of which 500 will be new council homes;
  • Protecting our environment and tackling climate change including by transforming energy efficiency at council buildings and tackling air pollution;
  • Developing effective partnerships and an innovative and dynamic council including by furthering plans to regenerate North East Cambridge and working with the Greater Cambridge Partnership to improve transport and reduce congestion.

A three per cent increase in Council Tax has been agreed as part of the budget. Council Tax raises 8.7% of the council’s annual income of £98.3 million. People on low incomes and vulnerable people will continue to be helped to pay Council Tax bills through the council’s Council Tax reduction scheme for 2019-20.

For 2019-20, the city council’s share of council tax collected in the county will be 10.95%, with the majority going to Cambridgeshire County Council (72.77%), the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner receiving 12.35% and a further 3.92% going to the Cambridgeshire Fire Authority.

The council’s Housing Revenue Account Budget was also approved by council last night. This sets out how the council will: 

  • Build at least 500 much-needed new council homes using £70m devolution grant and Right to Buy receipts;
  • Invest in the council’s existing housing stock to ensure homes are modern, comfortable, safe and secure;
  • Invest £1 million per year over five years to improve council housing estates;
  • Continue support for people affected by welfare reform including the introduction of Universal Credit.

Cllr Richard Robertson, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “Our balanced budget for 2019-20 will protect and improve services, especially for those experiencing hardship in the city, to ensure Cambridge is a fair city for everyone.

“Despite now receiving no core government grant, this budget will ensure the council continues to provide the first-class services our residents expect, including building new council homes to address the city’s housing crisis, tackling homelessness, improving air quality and increasing our work on climate change.

“The Government have cut their grants to local authorities and expect us to increase the council tax, but this has to be paid regardless of income.

“In recognition of that and as part of doing what we can to help people in greatest need, we provide a Council Tax Reduction Scheme. We are one of only 37 councils in the country who maintain such a scheme.

“We have applied sound and prudent financial management, minimising the need for cuts and developing new income streams. This budget shows that the council is in a sound financial position to meet the challenges and opportunities of the next 12 months and of the years ahead.”