CAMBRIDGE City Council’s budget for 2020-21 sets out its priorities of reducing poverty and inequality in Cambridge, taking action on climate change and biodiversity, investing in housing, cutting homelessness and addressing community safety.
The General Fund Budget Setting Report (BSR), which has just been published, highlights how the council will continue to fund good quality services to Cambridge despite annual government grant dropping from £5m in 2013 to zero in 2019, and government New Homes Bonus funding now also projected to be cut from £5m per year to zero by 2023.
The new budget is centred around the council’s over-arching vision of creating ‘One Cambridge – Fair for All’, with the budget report setting out in detail how it will allocate resources and fund its priorities.
The council’s 2020-21 budget makes a range of new and continued spending plans targeting four core priorities for residents:
Anti-poverty and equality measures:
- Maintaining a full Council Tax Reduction Scheme for residents on lowest incomes and people leaving care, and funding staff and partners to help residents maximise income from benefits and advise people worst affected by Universal Credit;
- Grants of £1 million in 2020 for Cambridge organisations best targeting those in most need of help, and tackling poverty – especially child poverty – isolation and loneliness;
- A new “Changing Places” disabled toilet to be added at Quayside, along with replacement improved toilet facilities to be built at Silver Street;
- Helping support inclusivity by investing in community centres and support for low income families including free and subsidised swimming sessions and use of sports facilities;
- Services for young children and families, including free play activities and holiday meals in response to need;
- Funding and running a new Community Food Hub to deliver significant quantities of unused and donated food to voluntary groups across Cambridge.
Action on climate change, biodiversity and the environment:
- Following its declaration of a Climate Emergency, the council will take a lead in reducing carbon emissions and increasing biodiversity, including extra funding to engage Cambridge organisations and households on ways they can work towards net-zero emissions, including to sign up to a new Cambridge Climate Charter, plus extra research funding linked to the planned 2020 Cambridgeshire-wide Climate Commission;
- Investing in new energy efficiency and generation projects, and researching the possibilities of further large scale investment in solar panel and renewable energy projects;
- Managing streets and open spaces to increase city biodiversity, including investing £15,000 in additional wildflower meadows over the next five years;
- Planting at least 2,000 new trees in the next three years to add to the 33,000 the council currently maintain in public places (including £200,000 extra funding for tree pits in pavements and public spaces), and installing a new fish pass at Jesus Green following the success of the recently installed one at Coe Fen;
- Installing new electric vehicle charging points in city car parks, working with the county council to develop on-street charging and replacing council vehicles with electric versions where possible.
Investing in housing and reducing homelessness:
- Investing in significantly improving standards in the private rented sector, targeting landlords not delivering an adequate service;
- Working directly and with voluntary sector partners to reduce and prevent homelessness and rough sleeping, developing expanded provision of permanent, self-contained ‘Housing First’ homes and support for people in them.
The majority of the council’s proposed spending on managing and maintaining council housing is contained within the separate Housing Revenue Account budget setting report, now published here.
Addressing community safety
- Developing antisocial behaviour work with Cambridge police and the county council to target crime problems, including a new engagement project with young people with the aims of reducing risks to young people and cutting youth crime;
- Joint working with the police including upgrading CCTV and funding brighter streetlights through the night.
The council also plans to build on its existing successful major investment programme to support its priority objectives and to drive additional income to support council service delivery, including:
- Earmarking £30 million to develop existing commercial properties to provide new and upgraded business premises plus 65 additional new homes;
- Redeveloping Park Street Car Park into a new underground car and cycle park with aparthotel above;
- Continuing the Housing Investment Programme building more than 900 homes in the city including more than 500 council homes;
- Exploring mechanisms for increasing the supply of properties at less than market rents;
- A further £150,000 to improve the thermal efficiency of council buildings and potentially install more solar panels, led by a new council Corporate Energy Manager, in addition to £1.4 million spent in recent years on council energy efficiency, achieving a 25% reduction in its emissions since 2015.
The annual budget report also describes how the council will work to identify savings, enhance income and work more efficiently, establishing an expanded transformation team to review services, develop new technological solutions and improve ways of working, given the challenge to deliver future services despite further expected cuts in national funding.
Cllr Richard Robertson, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “The government’s continued cuts to funding mean it is vital that we continue to target four resident priorities including to support those most in need, run the council as efficiently as possible and develop ways to increase our income and make us less reliant on government funding while protecting our services.
“Since 2014 we have invested an additional £50m of council reserves which had previously been earning near nil in low interest bank accounts, in commercial property and elsewhere, enabling us to build new housing and protect and enhance services. We now plan to create more resources for further reinvestment to help the local economy, address inequality and to make vital progress on cutting emissions and tackling climate change.”
The full detail of the General Fund Budget Setting Report will be considered by Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on Monday 3 February and by full Council on Thursday 13 February.
The General Fund Budget Setting Report can be viewed on the council website here.