CAMBRIDGE City Council’s proposed budget for 2022-23 sets out how it will continue to support residents feeling the effects of the ongoing pandemic, while tackling inequality, creating more homes in Cambridge, and leading the city’s response to the climate emergency.
The General Fund Budget Setting Report (BSR), published this week, also highlights how the council plans to transform and enhance the way it provides many services for residents in years to come. The report will be considered by Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on 7 February and by full Council on 24 February.
It acknowledges the difficult financial situation facing the council – as is the case for councils across the UK – caused by factors including a £7.2m shortfall in government funding to cover the costs of the pandemic.
The new proposed budget places at its heart the council’s overall vision of creating ‘One Cambridge – Fair for All’, setting out spending plans in its four priority areas.
Tackling poverty and inequality, and helping people in the greatest need, including:
- Maintaining a full Council Tax Reduction Scheme for residents on the lowest incomes, funding staff and voluntary agencies to help residents maximise income from benefits, and offering discretionary payments to some;
- Distributing over £1.7m in grants to local community organisations working on local projects to help those in most need;
- Continuing to plan for popular free community events like the Big Weekend and Bonfire Night to take place if it is safe, to help the Corn Exchange thrive as a venue and to welcome back the much-missed Cambridge Folk Festival;
- Maintaining the council’s work with children, young people and families to provide activities, many of them free, throughout the year plus meals during school holidays;
- Building on the outstanding work of the community hubs, established near the start of the pandemic, to continue to tackle poverty and inequality, promote food justice and ensure no residents are left behind.
Leading Cambridge’s response to the climate and biodiversity emergencies and creating a net zero council by 2030, including:
- Following the publication of the Climate Change Strategy 2021-26, which set out the steps that need to be taken to meet the council’s vision of a net zero Cambridge, the council will continue working to reduce its own carbon emissions from buildings, vehicles and business travel to net zero by 2030. It will also work with other city leaders to reduce carbon emissions and manage climate impacts across the city;
- Investing further in energy efficiency and regeneration projects as set out in the council’s Carbon Management Plan;
- Developing more innovative schemes for highly efficient ‘Passivhaus’ council homes and ensuring that all homes which the council builds are energy efficient and sustainable;
- Updating the council’s vehicle fleet, replacing petrol vehicles with electric ones, working with the county council to develop on-street charging points, and investing in more electric charging points in council car parks;
- Introducing a new Biodiversity Strategy that will ensure environmental protection and nature enhancement is at the heart of every council decision. Developing a range of exciting new projects for the coming year that will include rewilding across the city and increasing the number of wildflower meadows, extending the city’s tree canopy cover and working with local communities towards a herbicide free city.
Building a new generation of council and affordable homes and reducing homelessness, including:
- Continuing the Cambridge Investment Partnership’s programme to complete 500 new council homes already built or started, and a further 1000 new council homes after 2022. 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, published here, to be considered by Housing Scrutiny Committee on 20 January.
- Further reducing and preventing homelessness and rough sleeping including by providing more supported independent housing by working with partner organisations.
Modernising the council to lead a greener city that is fair for all:
- Due to reduced government funding and the impact of the pandemic the council faces unprecedented challenges in the coming years. The council has embarked on an ambitious programme called ‘Our Cambridge’ and is working with residents and partners to transform the way it operates, including through investment in ICT and digital technology to modernise services and deliver savings.
Cllr Mike Davey, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “Last year we introduced our Budget Setting Report by saying that 2020 had been a year like no other – sadly 2021 has proved to be equally difficult for many people, and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, and other significant factors, makes financial planning difficult.
“Despite this context, our ambitious but prudent budget proposals will ensure that the council continues to provide high quality services to residents, to support people in our community who are most in need, to lead the city’s response to climate change and to keep supporting local businesses in difficult times.”