The repercussions of an appalling Government grant has forced East Cambridgeshire District Council to make difficult choices as it prepares to set council tax rates to fund vital services which people need in difficult economic times.
After receiving less than a one per cent increase in its Government grant for the next financial year – an increase of just 65p per person – the District Council is proposing to set a budget to deliver the wide range of essential services which the Council offers to residents.
The recession has also meant that the Council’s budget has been hit hard with falling interest rates and reductions in fees and charges taking almost £1 million pounds out of the Council’s coffers.
In order to cope with tiny financial settlement and provide core services such as recycling programmes, leisure services, and homelessness initiatives, the authority has found over £300,000 of efficiency savings to pay for them and statutory services and has agreed a further £350,000 of one-off budget reductions to get through the downturn.
Further measures to balance the budget have been proposed including an increase in council tax of 4.9 per cent. The average tax charge, if finally approved by Full Council in 2009, means in real terms an increase of £6.12 next year for a band D council taxpayer. This works out as less than 12p a week on a band D bill.
Councillor Fred Brown, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Every year it becomes more and more difficult to set a budget for the year which will pay for all the services we have to provide. This was severely handicapped by our Government Grant settlement which was appalling – effectively forcing us to make stringent budget savings as well as passing on some of the costs to residents. With the recession now confirmed and with residents tightening their belts, the pressure is on us even more to provide the high quality services which people have the right to expect with real value for money.
“After finding £650,000 in efficiency savings, the District Council has decided to set a council tax increase of 4.9 per cent to balance our budget. In setting this figure, I promise you we have tightened our belts as much as we can. We know how difficult the next year could be and we have tried to reduce the financial burden on the rate payer.
“It should be remembered that the District Council‘s share of the overall council tax is only 10 per cent of the bill – a small portion compared with the other local public services such as the Police, Fire, and County Council. This leaves us with a relatively small budget but we are determined to give you the best possible services for the money which we get.”