County council leader delivers ‘bold’ business plan for Cambridgeshire and claims rural transport is safe in his hands too

Leader of Cambs County Council, Nick Clarke

Leader of Cambs County Council, Nick Clarke - Credit: Archant

COUNTY council leader Nick Clarke used his budget speech today to deliver a stinging attack on his political opponents over bus services, rural transport and infrastructure.

Leader of Cambs County Council, Nick Clarke

Leader of Cambs County Council, Nick Clarke - Credit: Archant

“While opposition members will claim that we are simply cutting bus services, what we are actually doing is taking that money and getting more bang for our buck,” said Cllr Clarke.

Launch of the Wisbech 2020 Vision. Cllr Nick Clarke.

Launch of the Wisbech 2020 Vision. Cllr Nick Clarke. - Credit: Archant

“We are continuing to invest in the Cambridgeshire Future Transport initiative.

“We are using our resources in a smarter way to help people get about. Rather than investing blindly in bus subsidies that we hoped were OK, we are now actively working with communities to put in the transport solutions that they say are right for them.”

Cllr Clarke accused his opponents of being “city-centric” whilst his Conservative party worked across the county.

“Rather than a token reference to Wisbech train station, we have worked hard with the community in that fantastic town to produce a comprehensive Wisbech 2020 Vision,” he said.

“The vision outlines ambitious, well-thought through, and realistic targets for the future of that town. And let’s not forget that we have already commissioned an expert study into the viability of the Wisbech rail line.

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“And we are also working to progress improvements to the A47 and find a solution to the King’s Dyke crossing at Whittlesey.”

His 4,000 word speech unveiled what he termed a “bold” business plan will provide more schools, more jobs, more homes and vital care for older people.

He has proposed a budget with £37million worth of extra savings for 2013-14, and a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent.

He said: “I don’t think any of us can recall a tougher time to be setting the council’s budget, but we have stepped up to the challenge.

“My cabinet has been unflinching in their efforts to drive out savings, protect frontline services, and find innovative new ways to achieve the best for the people of Cambridgeshire.”

Management and corporate costs continue to be slashed, said Cllr Clarke, with the cost of senior managers cut by £625,000 in the last year, and local government shared services have delivered £3.8million of savings.

He said reducing employee costs was a way of protecting frontline services and saving jobs, “so it is something we must do.”

The leader promised to fight for fairer funding for adult social care.

“Unless government announces proper funding, we will continue to have to put up council tax to make sure we do our bit to support those who are most vulnerable.”

Cllr Clarke said the You Choose survey had shown that four out of five people were prepared to pay at least two per cent more council tax to help retain services they value, such as adult social care, children’s services, and transport.

The business plan provides “a blue print for the Cambridgeshire economy to grow,” he said, and for residents to get the services they need.

Key priorities include developing the local economy, helping people live healthy and independent lives, and supporting and protecting vulnerable people.

Cllr Clarke added: “We are proposing a budget designed to protect the vulnerable while boosting jobs and prosperity, despite massive pressures from a fast-growing population and much reduced funding.

“The five year plan includes £1billion of current and future funding to be spent on boosting education, transport links, broadband, business and care, to make sure Cambridgeshire remains prosperous and a great place to live and work.”

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