Auditors conclude Cambridgeshire has a 'material gap between required savings in the next five years and the plans and reserves available to bridge this gap'.

PUBLISHED: 06:53 06 February 2016 | UPDATED: 00:09 07 February 2016

The chamber at Shire Hall,  Cambridge, where the county council is wrestling with its 2016/17 budget

The chamber at Shire Hall, Cambridge, where the county council is wrestling with its 2016/17 budget

Archant

Less money is spent by the county council on the population of Cambridgeshire than most other local authorities in England, says a new report.

Confirmation has come in the annual audit of the county council by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).

The auditors also conclude that Cambridgeshire has a “material gap between required savings in the next five years and the plans and reserves available to bridge this gap”.

Over the next five years the medium term financial strategy sets out that the council expect their cumulative gross budget to be approximately £3,801 million.

“The £410 million savings required over this period therefore represents approximately 10.7 per cent of the council’s estimated expenditure over the next five years,” says the report.

But it is the comparisons between Cambridgeshire and the rest of the country that troubles PwC.

“When compared to other county councils and other geographically close councils, Cambridgeshire sits in the lowest 10 per cent of authorities in terms of ‘planned net current expenditure per head of population’”says the report.

In other words the available funding per person in Cambridgeshire is lower than 90 per cent of other authorities.

PwC also found that Cambridgeshire sits in the bottom 25 per cent for planned funding from central government per head of population and in the lowest five per cent in terms of its reserves. Effectively Cambridgeshire County Council has fewer reserves than almost all other county councils.

PwC says: “The implications of all this for Cambridgeshire County Council are that effectively the residents in Cambridgeshire have less money spent on them per head than most other county councils in England.

“Despite this, the council has lower reserves than most other county councils. This shows the clear financial challenge faced by the council,” says the report.

PwC also looked at funding decreases in Cambridgeshire and compared them to two other councils in the South East where cuts ranged between two and 10 per cent in total over the next three years.

They concluded that Cambridgeshire projections might be optimistic as these show only a one per cent reduction in funding over five years. The auditors emphasised that Cambridgeshire will need to find additional savings to meet the gap.

“In its planning we further note that the council anticipates that these funding reductions will be offset in part by an anticipated increase in Council Tax income, driven by the population increases in the county,” says the report.

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