East Cambridgeshire District Council to once again freeze its portion of council tax

East Cambridgeshire District Council says it will continue to freeze its portion of council tax.

East Cambridgeshire District Council says it will continue to freeze its portion of council tax. - Credit: Archant

East Cambridgeshire Council is again to freeze its portion of council tax and pledged to increase income and commercialisation via its trading companies to stave off any future rises.

Finance manager Ian Smith has outlined the Conservative controlled council’s policy in a report to the resources and finance committee on January 29.

He notes that options to resolve budget shortfalls in future years could also come from reduction in service costs and increased council tax but focusing on income and revenue from trading companies were the preferred options.

He also refers to a “quickening of the pace of commercialisation and the review of all income generating opportunities”.

But he warned that “if insufficient progress is made, discussions around service levels and increased council tax will be necessary”.

Mr Smith says “proactive actions” have led to a balanced budget for 2018/19 and 2019/20 and the budget for the year ahead “has minimal risks attached to it”.

But uncertainty over new funding arrangements as yet unspecified “do contain significant uncertainty. While there is little this council can do to remove this uncertainty at this point, it does need to look for opportunities within its control now which will bridge some part of the funding gap currently forecast”.

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East Cambs needs an operating budget of £10,120,051 and this will be financed by revenue support grant, retained business rates, council tax and the surplus savings reserve.

“Management has continued to reduce the council’s cost base during the current financial year,” says Mr Smith. “This work has led to further one-off and on-going savings being made.”

He says the council is forecasting an under spend in the current financial year of £589,000.

The council’s budget statements lists a number of “key assumptions” that include an agreed two per cent pay rise for staff, inflation not going above expectations, allocation of £330,000 to work on the Local Plan, and a £170,000 cash injection into IT to help with the “planned rollout of mobile working”.

On fees and charges the report says that as external funding from Government grants is projected to reduce over the coming year, the council’s approach to this income “will become more prevalent”.

One innovation for the coming year is a £130 charge for those food outlets that want re-rating if they have missed out on the top rating of 5 during a previous inspection.

Mr Smith says the debt costs associated with the leisure centre project are being met from a combination of New Homes Bonus (currently held in reserve) and the management fee being paid by the operator in future years.