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Cambridge City Council needs to make ‘substantial savings’ over coming years





A council will need to make “substantial savings” over the next five years to plug a financial black hole, its leadership has said.

Cambridge City Council predicts that it will need to save around £6million in the next three years, and £11.1m in new savings by 2029. This is on top of the £13m the authority has saved over the past five years.

Cllr Simon Smith, executive councillor for finance and resources at Cambridge City Council Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Simon Smith, executive councillor for finance and resources at Cambridge City Council Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Simon Smith, executive councillor for finance and resources, told a full council meeting on Thursday (November 30) that the authority would make recurring net savings of £6million per annum over three years. This, he said, would be offset by allocating £1.5million per annum from business rates retention funds to the council’s general fund.

The Labour councillor then took aim at the government for creating uncertainty while requiring councils to provide financial certainty.

Cllr Smith likened it to “being told to push a supermarket trolley in a straight line by someone who has just broken all the wheels”.

He highlighted what he said were the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” – Brexit, austerity, “Tory sleaze” and “Trussiam economics”.

Cllr Smith also raised the recent government announcements around the ‘Cambridge 2040’ project, which could see 250,000 homes built in the city over two decades, to support investment in the sciences and technology sectors.

He said the authority’s key message to the government was that funding public services was “vital” to this growth.

“Our demand is simple: fund our public services so our communities can have a share of the wealth being created in this city,” said Cllr Smith.

Cambridge City Council, The Guildhall, Market Square, Cambridge Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge City Council, The Guildhall, Market Square, Cambridge Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Karen Young (Lib Dem, Queen Edith’s) said there was no information included in the document about how the targeted savings would be made.

She said: “This document is very lacking in any detail of how those savings are going to be found.

“It only details one item which is the Our Cambridge project that is the transformation project for how the council operates, which has been running almost since 2014, this variation of it for the last couple years.”

However, she said the proposed savings made from the transformation project did not meet the £6million the administration said it wanted to find.

She also said the £6million was lower than the identified £11m and said this showed “quite a leisurely approach to saving money”.

Council leader Cllr Mike Davey (Lab, Petersfield) said the details of the savings would be set out during the budget preparation process early next year.

Meanwhile, Cllr Smith confirmed the authority was not currently projecting to save the £11m over the next five years.

He said the council’s financial position would be reviewed each year and said the authority would not make savings in “haste” and would take a “prudent approach”.

However, Cllr Smith said the authority would “not do so little as to create a cliff edge further down the way”.

Cllr Naomi Bennett (Green, Abbey) said the documents showed the authority was not on track to meet some of its climate targets.

She said: “We have aspirations to be net zero by 2030, but we do not have resources from central government to get us on that track, we are falling short.

“It is usual not to be able to do everything we want to do financially, but this failure to act to reduce emissions, to tackle the problem of urban heat islands, to tackle our water shortage, all our climate emergency issues means that we are heading on a one way ticket to nowhere.”

Council leader Cllr Mike Davey Picture: Keith Heppell
Council leader Cllr Mike Davey Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Bennett said she would like to see a document setting out what the authority will not be able to do “because of the central government”.

Cllr Delowar Hossain (Con, King’s Hedges) hit back at the criticisms of the government.

He argued the Conservative government had kept interest rates low over the past 10 years, and said it had provided the funding for the City Deal, which saw the creation of the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

He accused the council of being focused on road closures and congestion charging, and said the “Conservatives are the only party caring for everyone”.

Cllr Smith asked Cllr Hossain “what planet he is on” and said the “Tories have trashed public services”.



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