Spending Review Round-up

“The impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review will not be obvious over night - the savings which are having to be made at a national level will take weeks, months perhaps even years to filter down.”

Cllr Fred Brown, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, has responded to the Government’s Spending Review, announced today (Thursday).

He told the Ely Standard: “The impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review will not be obvious over night - the savings which are having to be made at a national level will take weeks, months perhaps even years to filter down. In East Cambridgeshire we are always working hard to make sure we offer residents real value for money for their Council Tax and they get the services they need. Clearly the way that Councils work will change in the future and we know as a local authority we will need to adapt and innovate in the years ahead.”

Chancellor George Osborne told the House of Commons that the Government will slash welfare benefits by a further �7bn as he sets out the biggest spending cuts since the Second World War.

The pension age will rise sooner than expected, some incapacity benefits will be time limited and other money clawed back through changes to tax credits and housing benefit.

A new bank levy will also be brought in - with full details due on Thursday.

Mr Osborne said the four-year cuts were guided by “fairness, reform and growth”.

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The 19% average cuts to departmental budgets were less severe than the 25% expected - thanks to bigger savings from the welfare budget, the chancellor told MPs.

Unveiling his Spending Review in the Commons, which includes �81bn in spending cuts, he told MPs: “Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink, when we confront the bills from a decade of debt.”

Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce

Reacting to confirmation that the A14 would not be receiving any of the �30billion earmarked for capital transport expenditure, John Bridge said:

“We’ve known since the Conservative Party Conference that transport minister Mike Penning MP was unwilling to invest in the A14 improvement programme. He clearly can’t see the economic benefits to the region of having an efficient and reliable road network linking the M1 with the ports.

“So, given that he has already suggested that the private sector should take responsibility for providing the adequate infrastructure business needs, perhaps now the Government could get on with conducting the public inquiry that is necessary to ensure that the scheme can move forward in one way or another. Then we’ll know how committed the Government really are to supporting growth in our region – without a viable road scheme in place, even the private sector can’t move it forward, and I will certainly be writing to the Minister to that effect.

“And perhaps he could also let the public know what his plans are to deal with the Huntingdon Viaduct. It’s under constant observation and many believe on borrowed time. We need assurances that the government truly understands how desperate the situation is.

“All in all, there was very little announced today to surprise or alarm businesses. But now is definitely the time for the Government to start answering questions on how it is going to support growth in Cambridgeshire - with new housing developments dependant on adequate transport infrastructure, and capital funding for new homes being dramatically slashed, the government can’t rely on the private sector to drive everything forward.”

Cambridgeshire County Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for Resources and Performance

Cllr Reynolds told the Ely Standard: “It has been clear for sometime that public services were going to face major financial challenges after the bail out of the banks. That is why a year ago in the depths of the recession Cambridgeshire County Council started planning to make major savings over the next five years. Although we will be looking through the details of the Comprehensive Spending Review it looks like the County Council will be looking to make savings of around 35 per cent over the next five years, equating to around �135 million. This is made up of a combination of the Government funding costs announced today, the costs of increased demand on services and future council tax expectations.

This means we have to find significantly more savings than we had originally planned for, although in the summer we had prudently revised our plans to about this figure in anticipation of the announcement today. We are already on track to achieve �16 million in savings this year.

“Like other authorities Cambridgeshire will need to look at finding more savings by transforming how we deliver services. The national deficit has left public services across the country facing its toughest ever challenge in generations. The way we deliver services may change, or some stop all together, but our vision remains the same - that is to make sure Cambridgeshire people receive top quality services designed to meet their needs. We will be talking to communities about how they can help us and what services they want to see being delivered.

“The true results of today’s announcements will not be known for weeks or months to come but we will have to make very hard decisions.”