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Cambridgeshire County Council could cut services to plug £23million funding hole

People in Cambridgeshire could face cuts to services as councillors look for ways to plug a £23million funding hole.

Cambridgeshire County Council has said its estimated funding gap for next year has increased by around £7.3million due to rising costs and increased demand for its services.

New Shire Hall, home of Cambridgeshire County Council
New Shire Hall, home of Cambridgeshire County Council

Chief executive Stephen Moir said he believes cuts to services will need to be made in order to fill this gap.

When the county council set its budget in February, the authority estimated it would be facing a £16.3million budget gap in 2024/25.

However, the authority has said the “financial outlook has worsened” over the past eight months and the gap is now estimated to be £23.6million.

The authority is also estimating that by 2028/29 it will be facing a £25.8million budget gap.

A report presented to the strategy, resources and performance committee on Tuesday (October 31) said: “In 2023/24, pressures on our budget have arisen principally due to a number of very high cost children’s social care placements and a delay in receiving income from a newly-constructed solar farm (which requires connection to the electricity grid).

“In addition, we are seeing that demand for bed-based care for older people is also rising, following a period of reduction in demand and then stability stretching back for some time, to the beginning of the pandemic.

“As well as increased in-year budgetary risk for the council and local levels of activity exceeding our plans, the wider national fiscal and macroeconomic outlook is also challenging.”

Mr Moir said the report showed how inflation was impacting the authority’s finances.

He added that there was also “no sign of a fair funding review by government”, something the council has been calling for to try and improve the funding it receives from central government.

Mr Moir said: “I think that means we need to really focus in on what we can do within our existing and known budgetary levels.

“That means from a business planning perspective we will need to look at a combination, in my view, of savings and service cuts, and I need to be clear that is what it does mean; we will need to look at income, fees and charges and that will include council tax consideration, which is a matter for members later in the budget process of course; and third we will need to consider how best we use some of our reducing reserves to help smooth some of those impacts out.”

Cllr Steve Count, leader of the Conservative opposition group, said it was not just inflation that was impacting the council’s budget gap.

He said things the authority had chosen to pay for outside of its core services also needed to be considered and said these things and their cost should have been set out in the report.

Cllr Count added that projects not being completed on time was also causing increased costs.

He also argued the council should not have a “default” position to increase council tax next year.

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