14th February may be a day of romance for some, but for the County Council it's the day we attempt to set a budget for the year ahead.
Cllr Ian Manning will be supporting the Liberal Democrat group's proposal: a 2% Adult Social Care increase plus 1.99% increase for other services, to reduce the cuts to children’s services, services for vulnerable adults and improvements in community transport and road maintenance.
Councils can raise standard Council tax by 1.99%, and levy an additional 2% for Adult Social Care over three years or 3% for two years with a 0% in the third year; if they want to raise anymore they must hold a referendum.
The pressure on the County Council budget arises from the fact that the provision of services is affected by inflation (cautiously predicted to be 1%) and by demography, i.e. the overall increase in the size of the population and the disproportionate increase in those requiring expensive services, i.e vulnerable young people and the elderly. These two areas of service account for over 60% of what the council spends.
Traditionally central government has allocated a grant to support the cost of providing basic services. This Revenue Support Grant (RSG) is being phased out. In 16-17 it was £33m and in 17-18 it will be £15m and in a further two years will be zero. This increases the pressure on local councils. Council Tax As you will see from the table at the top left of this page, the bulk of what the council spends on its services comes from what we all pay through council tax. The government allows councils to raise council tax for Adult Social Care (ASC) (either 2% for each of the next three years or by 3% for two years) and by a further 2% for other services, without having to have a referendum.
Proposals for 2017-18
The council officers prepared a ‘business plan’ based on the assumption that the Council would agree a 2% Adult Social Care precept increase but no other increase. Some of these decreases (20% approx) are efficiency savings and the rest are reductions in services.
Each of the political groups on the Council put forward amendments, as follows:
UKIP proposed a total freeze on council tax but so as not to diminish services further, to make up the shortfall by using council reserves (thus taking the reserves below the level recommended by the Council’s ‘Responsible Officer’).
Labour proposed increasing ASC by 3% and the general council tax by 1.99%, with major sums for eliminating Park and Ride charges, restoring the Cambridge City Centre shuttle bus service, reversing cuts to mental health services, physically disabled, looked after children.
The Liberal Democrats proposed a 2% ASC increase plus 1.99% increase for other services, to reduce the cuts to children’s services, services for vulnerable adults and improvements in community transport and road maintenance. The Conservatives agreed the 2% ASC increase but no more. By forward borrowing they proposed increasing expenditure on highways schemes and pothole repairs, gully clearance. pavement sealing and an early literacy scheme for the least literate parts of the county.
A joint Labour/Lib Dem amendment was for a 2% ASC increase plus 1.99% for other services, based on an agreed combination of their separate proposals for a range of service protections and improvements as highlighted above.