Council tax hike should be called on for emergencies, says leader

Cambridgeshire County Council leader Steve Count

Cambridgeshire County Council leader Steve Count - Credit: Archant

A new phrase – ‘smoothing fund’ -entered the Cambridgeshire lexicon as county councillors voted to not immediately spend two thirds of a five per cent hike in council tax.

Lucy Netsingha

Lucy Netsingha - Credit: Archant

The Conservative controlled council agreed to the extra money being raised without anything definite in mind to spend it on.

Council leader Steve Count felt it would be a good idea to put the money into a ‘smoothing fund’ where it can called upon for emergencies and will help protect against future rises.

Cllr Count said: “Cambridgeshire is a great place to call home, which is why so many people want to live here.

“Yet the success of the economy, one of the reasons for driving the growth, is also placing unprecedented demands on our services.

Councillor Anna Bailey

Councillor Anna Bailey - Credit: Archant

“In 2018/19 our changes to demography, pressures and inflation account for an additional £31million burden on our already stretched budgets.”

However opposition parties whilst supporting an increase were angry that it is not being spent on tackling shortfalls in local services immediately.

Most Read

Lib Dem leader Lucy Nethsingha wanted up to a £1million to be spent on pothole and pavement repairs as well as improving health service provision.

She felt it an “insult to the people of Cambridgeshire” not to spend the money once having levied it.

Ely county councillor Anna Bailey, an architect of East Cambs District Council’s policy to freeze council tax locally, found herself in a dilemma, she said, over whether to support an increase at county level.

However she referred to a “structural deficit” at county level and coupled her support with calls for fairer funding for Cambridgeshire.

And she ended her speech with reassurance that the county council was not cutting services nor was it hitting front line care provision. She said she would not put up with resident “frightened” by this thought.

Tuesday’s council meeting heard that despite investing in a range of transformation and efficiency plans the county was still projecting a budget gap for 2018/19 of £4.3million- even after including a proposed two per cent adult social care precept

Members voted 34 to 23 in favour of a budget proposal which added an additional 2.99 per cent council tax increase to its 2018/19 budget.

A council spokesman said: “The debate had seen unity from all parties about the increase in council tax, but divided opinions on how the money raised should be spent.”