FUNDING has been approved for an ambitious transformation programme, which aims to change the way Cambridge City Council provides its services in the coming years, using lessons learned during the pandemic.
The council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy set out how the Our Cambridge programme will see the council working closely with residents and partner organisations to develop better ways of providing services, including through more use of digital technology.
In keeping with the council’s Vision of ‘One Cambridge – Fair For All’ there will be a clear focus on helping people in the greatest need, tackling climate change and ensuring financial stability of the council, despite its reduced income. This work will fall into three central areas:
Customer first – Delivering innovative and efficient services that best meet the needs of customers.
Community focus – Developing stronger partnerships with members of the community and supporting them to thrive.
Empowered people – Enabling council staff to be innovative and entrepreneurial, making the most of opportunities to work differently, and where appropriate to generate income to reinvest into other council services.
Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, the council has adapted rapidly to meet the needs of local people, including by helping establish community hubs to provide assistance for vulnerable people and finding safe accommodation for rough sleepers.
The pandemic also highlighted areas of inequality in Cambridge and placed additional pressure on the council’s income and expenditure, not all of which has been matched by Government grants. The Our Cambridge programme will also have the ambition of doing things differently to address these particular challenges which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
So far, the cost of the pandemic to the council is estimated to be £18.5million, due largely to increased spending on housing and providing accommodation for former rough sleepers, alongside reduced income from car parking, Council Tax and Cambridge Live events.
These additional costs have only partially been mitigated by government grants, so far totalling £11.3m – or just 61.3% of the additional net expenditure - leading to a shortfall of £7.2m.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Council, said: “The Our Cambridge programme is about working hand in hand with our residents and partners to change how we, as a council, do things.
“We are facing real financial challenges. The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of tackling inequalities in our city. And, looking to the future, we need to play our part in tackling the climate crisis.
“The experience of the pandemic has also shown that we can work together differently to find new ways of supporting communities and responding to challenges. The Our Cambridge programme will help us create a prosperous and sustainable future for Cambridge. The programme’s mission is to ensure that people are able to get the help and support they need, when they need it; that our teams feel valued and part of a council investing in the future; and that our future financial position will help us achieve our ambitions.
“We can’t deliver Our Cambridge on our own. We need residents to get involved in helping guide the work we do and the goals we are working towards, and to work in partnership with us to create a better future for everyone in Cambridge. With your support, we can make sure that the Our Cambridge programme delivers what matters to you and your communities.”
A period of extensive public engagement will help shape the changes that are to take place. The planned ‘Cambridge Conversation’ will provide residents, communities, partners and staff with the chance to share their views and ideas about how the council can work best in the future.
Anyone can sign up at www.cambridge.gov.uk/our-cambridge to receive email updates from the council and get involved in the Our Cambridge programme.
The proposals in the Medium Term Financial Strategy, which is a key part of the council’s annual budget process, were approved at the full Council meeting on 21 October.