“Painful” decisions ahead as Cambridgeshire County Council continues to face massive savings challenge

Sandra Rylance, Chair of Adult social care committee, Cambs County Council and Adrian Loades, Execut

Sandra Rylance, Chair of Adult social care committee, Cambs County Council and Adrian Loades, Executive Director, Families and Adults. - Credit: Archant

The man tasked with overseeing the bulk of the £121.7million in Cambridgeshire County Council savings over the next five years to balance the budget has spoken about the enormity of the challenge ahead.

With £100million of savings having been made in the past three years, all the “efficiency” savings have been carried out.

Executive Director for Children, Families and Adults, Adrian Loades, whose remit includes services for people with additional needs and residential care, says you can’t make anymore savings without services being affected.

But, he says, the council will provide a “safety net” to ensure those most in need continue to get the support they require.

He said: “There are no magic answers to this. This is the biggest challenge I’ve known in the public sector.

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“All the efficiency savings have been done. We are going to have to do some painful things and reduce packages of care, which you can’t do without having an impact on people.

“We can’t continue to provide the level of care we do at the moment.”

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The Cambridge Local Assistance Scheme, which provides last resort money for food, fuel and bedding for people in crisis, is one of the schemes under threat.

Councillor Sandra Rylance, chairman of the Adult Social Care committee, said: “The scheme money is being cut off by government. They say it is now incorporated in the budget but the budget has been cut.

“The county council has to find at least £300k to make up the short fall.”

At the same time that cuts are being forced upon the council, demand for services is expanding, Mr Loades says.

The population in Cambridgeshire is ageing – there are more 85 year olds, who are likely to need support.

The key, Mr Loades says, to reduce the burden on council services, is to help people live independently.

The council has a Re-ablement scheme for adults after a hospital stay and is investing in assistive technology. For example, people get sent reminders of when to take tablets.

The tireless work of volunteers will be all the more crucial as the purse strings tighten further, Mr Loades says.

He said: “People talk about community spirit, in terms of how people look out for each other.

“We want people to live independently for as long as they can and people want to live independently as well.

“Investing in voluntary services saves us money.”

Cllr Rylance says her committee, like all others on the council, is doing all it can in difficult circumstances.

She said: “Every committee is struggling with the cuts. We’re having to choose between, for example, having street lights between midnight and 6am or helping the lady down the road to get up, washed and fed.

“People come up to me and say things like how can they talk about cutting buses but when you ask them what cuts they would make they haven’t got a clue were to start.

“We ask the community to be understanding. We don’t want to take some of the measures we are having to take.”

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