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Cambridge City Council agrees 2.99% council tax rise after Labour knocks back Lib Dem proposals





Cambridge City Council has agreed a 2.99 per cent increase to its portion of the council tax bill in a budget that includes a £1million for a redesign of its Guildhall headquarters.

It means the ‘average’ Band D household will pay £225.39 to the Labour-run council for the year from April, up £6.54.

Cllr Simon Smith (Lab, Castle), executive councillor for finance and resources. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Simon Smith (Lab, Castle), executive councillor for finance and resources. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Simon Smith (Lab, Castle), executive councillor for finance and resources, said the budget was being set in the face of “challenging global events”, including the cost of living and climate crises and a “decade of public policy failures in economic management”.

He said the government had created further uncertainty by only providing a one-year funding settlement that was “delivered late in the day”.

He noted that the authority needs to make a £6million yearly saving target.

And he highlighted some of the council’s proposed investments, “dominated” by its planned civic quarter project.

The scheme brings together a refurbishment of the Guildhall - the council’s headquarters - with plans to upgrade the market square and the Corn Exchange.

Some £20million is set aside for it, most of which is proposed to be spent on the Guildhall, including £1million in the coming year to fund design work.

Cllr Smith said the council’s priorities remained to tackle poverty and inequality, to achieve a net zero council by 2030, to build a new generation of sustainable council homes, and to protect local services and businesses.

Cllr Tim Bick (Liberal Democrat), leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said there was “much in the budget” his group could support.

He described the civic quarter project as “rather grandiosely defined”, but said in “financial terms” what they had been shown regarding the refurbishment of the Guildhall - currently the only funded element - would provide a “good return on investment” both through reduced costs and increased revenue.

Cllr Tim Bick, the Liberal Democrat leader on Cambridge City Council
Cllr Tim Bick, the Liberal Democrat leader on Cambridge City Council

However, Cllr Bick said the Lib Dems were pressing for a number of “important things”, set out in an amendment.

These included the proposals to double the number of community action days to fight fly-tipping, a call to prohibit mopeds, motorcycles and private e-scooters from council open spaces, funding for two acoustic monitoring cameras to “deter late-night street racers and a feasibility study for the replacement or upgrading of the Jesus Green public toilets.

Cllr Bick also claimed the council’s digital transformation programme was “taking far too long” and argued “almost no progress has been made”.

Cllr Sam Carling (Lab, West Chesterton) argued the amendment did not make any “material contribution” to the budget, but claimed it was being used to “attack the administration”.

He said the proposals were only “tinkering around the edges” and claimed the amendment had a “running theme” of needing various “magic £30,000”.

CI May 20023 Camb City Councillors, Councillor Mike Davey, Labour, Leader and Executive Councillor for Transformation . Picture: Keith Heppell
CI May 20023 Camb City Councillors, Councillor Mike Davey, Labour, Leader and Executive Councillor for Transformation . Picture: Keith Heppell

Council leader Cllr Mike Davey (Lab, Petersfield) said it was “almost an annual jibe” that Cllr Bick would highlight the authority’s transformation programme, arguing it was progressing and making changes but had to be done “sensitively”.

Cllr Olaf Hauk (Lib Dem, Trumpington) said the amendment tackled issues residents wanted to see addressed, and said working on them would show people the council is “not ignoring their concerns”.

Cllr Delowar Hossain (Con, King’s Hedges) agreed with the suggestion to put more funding into improving the quality of the city council’s public toilets.

Members of the Green Party did not propose amendments, but gave a commentary.

Cllr Matthew Howard (Green Party) asked for more ultra secure cycle parking, describing cycle theft as an “invisible barrier” to more people cycling.

He suggested higher parking charges for heavier cars such as SUVs, to discourage their use in the city, as not all cars cause the same amount of damage to the city roads.

And the Greens asked for clear signage to be installed in city parks asking people to cycle slowly and consider their impact on animals and others.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Lab) said more secure cycle parking was being examined, highlighting work with the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to improve Queen Anne Terrace car park.

The Lib Dem amendment was defeated when put to a vote.

The main budget and proposed council tax increase was approved with 25 votes in favour and 11 abstentions.

Where is the money being spent?

Here are some of the areas where the city council will spend its money:

£35,000 on minor highway improvements – the council plans to continue providing funding to Cambridgeshire County Council towards “medium-sized improvements” to the city’s roads.

£180,000 on fire management compliance at the Grand Arcade multi-storey car park – to address health and safety and fire safety assessment recommendations.

£180,000 on new equipment to support zero herbicides policy – additional street sweeping and cleaning machinery are needed to support deep cleaning and weed removal amid the herbicide-free trials in the city.

£220,000 on refuse collection vehicles – two new bin lorries are needed to cater for thousands of new homes. The £440,000 cost is split with South Cambridgeshire District Council, as the authorities run waste collection as a shared service.

£25,000 on skating and street sport facilities – the council will match a funding contribution to help pay for new skating and street sport facilities.

£1million on development of the civic quarter – £1m of the £20m set aside for the civic quarter project will fund design and consultancy services for the regeneration of the Guildhall.

£250,000 on river bank repairs – this is in addition to £125,000 already allocated to repair the bank of the River Cam between Jesus Green lock and the lido.

£80,000 on cycle parking improvements at Queen Anne Terrace car park – alongside funding from the GCP, this will improve the capacity, accessibility, and security of the cycle parking facilities at the car park, which is one of the top three locations for cycle crime in the city.



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