Authority promises no new cuts in latest budget

THERE will be no new cuts to services or grants in East Cambridgeshire next year, the council has promised as part of its new budget.

There will, however, be a 2.95 per cent increase in Council Tax as the authority has opted not to take up the Government’s offer of an equivalent grant.

Council leader Peter Moakes said balancing the budget had been “very tough” but added that the authority remained on course to make all necessary savings without any further redundancies or cuts.

“The last three years have been incredibly difficult with the financial situation forcing the authority to make significant cuts to services, grants and staff,” he said.

“This involved making a number of tough choices which were very hard at the time and have left a very lean district council with a small budget to provide the services we need.

“This means we will not have to look to reduce any service or grant which we give to outside organisations further than already planned.”

The 2.95 per cent increase represents a rise of �3.99 per year for the average Band D property.

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The extra funds will be used pay for a marked increase in the demand on the council’s homeless services, expected to increase by more than �100,000 next year as well as increase in housing benefit payments as the economic downturn continues.

The authority is in the middle of a four-year financial savings strategy, which was approved last year to help cut �2million by 2015.

The cuts followed an announcement by the Government last year that the council’s grant would be slashed by 29 per cent for 2011/12 and 2012/13.

In 2011, Community Secretary Eric Pickles offered councils a one-off payment in return for freezing council tax and, although ECDC took up the offer last year, it opted against doing so again this year, plumping instead for a Council Tax rise.

Cllr Moakes said: “While in an ideal world we would have preferred to freeze our Council Tax and take the offer from Government, we are concerned in doing so would mean having to make significant rises in future years to cover the holes in our budget.”

According to the council’s 2011/12 accounts, savings of �665,000 will be committed to the reserve funds. The fund, set aside for emergencies, now totals almost �1.8million.