Services cut to balance books
COUNCIL taxpayers across the district are facing increases of just under five per cent after county councillors cut back on vital services to balance their books. The rise leaves the average taxpayer living in a Band D property in East Cambridgeshire payi
COUNCIL taxpayers across the district are facing increases of just under five per cent after county councillors cut back on vital services to balance their books.
The rise leaves the average taxpayer living in a Band D property in East Cambridgeshire paying just under an extra £59 a year.
But the cuts will hit the most vulnerable people across the county as money is slashed from a range of crucial services.
The Tory-controlled council agreed cuts of more than £12 million and, with further efficiency savings, was able to slash a total of £18 million from its budget.
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More than £2 million was wiped off the county's learning disabilities costs and £2.5 million has been slashed by reducing the level and range of services offered to vulnerable people waiting for assessment or care packages.
Fresh meals will be replaced with frozen ones saving £750,000 in home care costs; those with physical or sensory impairment have suffered the loss of almost £800,000 from the budget and mental health costs have been slashed by £374,000.
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There are further savings of £870,000 from the county's road and footpaths maintenance budget and two mobile libraries have been lost as £200,000 is cut from libraries spending.
Opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, accused the Tories of a "missed opportunity".
They put forward an alternative budget which they claim would have reversed many of the cuts to social care and road improvements, saving almost £1.5 million by cutting back office staff, selling off housing and redirecting some Council Tax.
They also planned millions of pounds worth of investment over the next two years to set up a climate change fund to reduce carbon emissions.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Julian Huppert said: "This is very disappointing. The Conservatives have missed a great opportunity; as a result people in Cambridgeshire will face big cuts in their services.
"The budget will do nothing to reverse the chronic shortage in social workers which is letting down the young people in our care. It will do nothing to reduce the county's contribution to climate change.
"Adult social care in Cambridgeshire is already rated as one of the worst in the country.
"These cuts can only mean reduced services for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities."
But council leader Cllr Keith Walters defended the cuts, claiming they were being made to prevent financial problems in four years' time.
"We must do something to get the base budget down, otherwise in four years' time our reserves will be minus £9 million," he said.
"Do we spend now and just look to this year's headlines or do we look at the longer term once the difficult decisions have been made to save money in the future?
"I am looking to the long term future and not just to the next press release," he added.