Lib Dem leader says Cambridgeshire County Council should have eased budget pressures by putting up council tax to four per cent

Lib Dem leader Lucy Nethsingha who argued for hgher council tax rises in Cambridgeshire

Lib Dem leader Lucy Nethsingha who argued for hgher council tax rises in Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

Opposition leader Lucy Nethsinga says failure by Cambridgeshire County Council to raise council tax to four instead of two per cent has partly led to the threat to children’s centres and rural bus services.

Cllr Nethsinga, who heads the 15-strong Lib Dem group at Shire Hall, was responding to the council’s statement that it has a £37.5 million gap in funding as it goes in to budget planning for 2018/19.

“If they had raised council tax by four per cent rather than two per cent for the past two years they would have an additional £10 million in the revenue budget this year.

“And that would have been more than enough to save our children’s centres and improve our bus services.”

“For that small amount of additional cost we could have our roads gritted, our potholes filled, our schools better funded, and our children’s centres kept open. This is the choice Conservative Councillors have made.”

However deputy council leader Roger Hickford believes the future is “is difficult, it is challenging, but we are transforming our business in order to deliver on our responsibilities to the people of Cambridgeshire.”

He said additional pressures facing the council include a sharp increase in the number of older people needing care, increasing numbers of children needing home to school transport and increased numbers of vulnerable children needing protection.

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Cllr Hickford said various committees would now look at proposals to bridge more than £31.5 million of the £37.5 million 2018/19 funding gap.

Transforming the council into a more business focused enterprise is one way in which extra funds can be found.

“We are becoming ever more entrepreneurial as a council – investing in opportunities which will both improve the county and create a gain for us to invest in our services,” said Cllr Hickford.

“One example of this is developing housing projects on land we own – creating more housing in Cambridgeshire and generating £7.2 million in income to protect front line services. One of the first of these initiatives – for 350 homes in Burwell – got the development green light last month.

“Last year this council approved a five year business case to invest almost £2 million from our transformation fund into a suite of technological approaches.

“These are already delivering savings as well as improved outcomes - such as improving the application process and delivery of Blue Badges to people who need to keep independent”

Cllr Nethsinga remains unconvinced that the council is tackling the funding crisis properly.

“Cambridgeshire was the only county council to only increase council tax by two per cent last year; other counties all raised tax by at least three per cent,” she said.