Council leader warns Government funding means Cambridgeshire will be £11 million worse off than they had previously thought

PUBLISHED: 14:34 31 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:41 31 December 2015

Cllr Steve Count.

Cllr Steve Count.

Archant

Government funding has left Cambridgeshire County Council a whopping £11 million worse off, says council leader Steve Count.

County council finance chief explains

Chris Malyon, the county council’s chief finance officer, also emailed councillors to explain that “those of you who are also district councillors may have received a briefing on the grant settlement from our district colleagues regarding the recent provisional grant settlement.

“That briefing may well have provided some commentary regarding the re-direction of grant from district councils to those with care responsibilities (sometimes referred to as upper tier organisations).

“As you know from a briefing that I circulated (a week earlier) this county council has lost a further £5 million over and above the £15 million that had originally been assumed.

“These two statements therefore seem on first appearance at odds with each other. “However both are correct. The issue is the mechanism that the Government has used to achieve this re-direction.

“Without getting into the complicated mechanics of it all shire counties, even though they have care responsibilities, have lost funding to the benefit of metropolitan and London authorities.”

He enclosed a summary which he says show how shire counties “are actually contributing £160m to the Met authorities and London.

“This county council has been more adversely impacted than the average shire county.

“In pure cash terms we have lost 38 per cent Rate Support Grant year on year. When you take in to account changes to responsibilities in the system this reduction increases to over 40 per cent.”

One of the reasons is the Government’s refusal to fund the introduction of the Living Wage to council employees that will cost the authority an extra £6 million a year.

Cllr Count emailed councillors days before Christmas to tell them: “This is a brief note to let you know that the county council is £11m worse off, compared to the figures we based our savings on before the autumn budget and our settlement figures were released.

“The budget did not cover the cost of the New Living wage which we had expected and that has a £6 million implication.”

He added: “Our settlement under the new methodology was also £5 million less than we anticipated.

“As part of the settlement figures there was some commentary that lower tier authorities’ grant would be re-directed over to upper tiers, but I can assure you that Cambridgeshire County Council is not a beneficiary.”

He enclosed “some more helpful analysis by way of explanation which is encapsulated in the following statement ‘all shire counties, even though they have care responsibilities, have lost funding to the benefit of metropolitan and London authorities.

“As the statement and the actual figures for Cambridgeshire at first sight appear contradictory I feel it would be helpful if you would circulate this to your members so they can understand our pressures are not only continuing but have in fact increased, since we drew up our initial draft savings plans.”

The county council is faced with finding savings of £100 million over the next five years.

At their last meeting before Christmas, county councillors debated – but rejected- the idea of sending a letter to Prime Minister Dave Cameron about the cuts.

Lib Dem councillor Lucy Nethsingha said: “The time has come when we should not be looking to austerity. We should be looking to invest in infrastructure, in order to support growth.”

Conservative councillor James Palmer said: “Until we get our house in order, until we run the most efficient, the most sensible council that we can, we cannot stand up and blame Government.”

And Labour councillor Ashley Walsh said: “I remember spending the last year of the Labour Government being told by the Conservatives that they supported every single one of our spending commitments.

“George Osborne came out just before the 2007 election and said we support every single penny that the Labour Government has spent.”

A vote on whether to send the letter was lost – 25 agreeing it should be sent, 31 voting against the idea.

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