17:11 Wednesday 4th February 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Plans for how South Cambridgeshire District Council’s services will be financed when all Government grant funding ends in five years time have been published this afternoon. The Government grants the Council receives to deliver services will be cut to zero by 2020. With savings in the region of £670,000 needed in this next financial year, that’s 2015/2016, to balance the books, there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m joined in the studio now by Simon Edwards, who is the Deputy Leader of South Cambs District Council. It’s a big ask.
SIMON EDWARDS: It is a big ask Chris, and this budget really is very different to previous budgets, because this one is all about vision, and I like to call it my 2020 Vision. I know it’s an overused phrase, but for the first time we can now see on the horizon of our five year strategy, in 2020 we will have virtually no, in fact we’ll have no revenue support grant from the Government.
CHRIS MANN: I know you said in a statement earlier that you need to innovate and generate your own income. So what ideas have you come up with?
SIMON EDWARDS: Well eighteen months ago we recognised that this was going to be a problem, so we set up a housing company called Ermine Street Housing. And the idea is that we’re going to be offering market housing for rent, as well as our social housing and our shared-equity housing through housing associations. And the idea is that because we’ve already got a department who can manage 6,000 homes very very well, we are creating this housing company to be an ethical landlord really, to give people the opportunity to rent market housing from us as well. And of course that will generate significant income for the Council.
CHRIS MANN: Like other colleagues across the county, you’ve already cut some quite senior management roles. Are more savings set to be made in this way? Are more jobs to go?
SIMON EDWARDS: Well we’ve got to find £670,000 of savings in the short term, that’s next year, which is a very very tall ask. There’s a number of initiatives we’ve got going. One of the initiatives we’re going to build on is the waste and recycling service. We’re hoping to deliver another £150,000 of savings there. Now the way we’re going to do that Chris is that we’ve always tried not to make redundancies to deliver these savings. So last year we’ve already delivered £4000,000 of savings from that service, but not a single person was made redundant. What we did was we saw it coming and we planned it well, and we kept those posts open. So we didn’t recruit to certain posts that went through natural wastage if you like. And that’s the way we do it. We take the posts out, but we don’t make anybody redundant.
CHRIS MANN: But jobs cuts to come.
SIMON EDWARDS: As I say, no redundancies are planned ..
CHRIS MANN: There are other ways of losing jobs than redundancies.
SIMON EDWARDS: There are indeed.
CHRIS MANN: What will your staffing be reduced by over the next five years do you think?
SIMON EDWARDS: Well last year we took twelve posts out of the waste and recycling service. And with the other packages we put in place that saved us £400,000. So we’re looking at working smarter. We had the absurd situation where we had one of South Cambs’ trucks going into Cherry Hinton to pick up the rubbish on one side of the road, and one of Cambridge City’s trucks going to pick up the rubbish on the other side of the road. So clearly there are opportunities there to make that rationalisation.
CHRIS MANN: Council tax for a Band D home also proposed to rise, that’s from about £122.86 to £125.31, an increase of about £2.45. 1.99% we calculated. People don’t like council tax rises Simon.
SIMON EDWARDS: No I know. And we don’t like putting council tax up. But the bottom line is we’ve got to find £670,000. That equates to £13.68 per band D home. So to meet that £13.68, we’re going to make £11.23 per band D home in savings, and a council tax rise unfortunately of £2.45. But those are the sort of percentages that (mean that) the bulk of those savings are going to come from us.
CHRIS MANN: What about investment in the Greater City Deal?
SIMON EDWARDS: The City Deal is in its early stages. There’s a lot of opportunities there I think. There’s still a lot of things to go through. That really is separate to the Council’s own budget. This budget is focused on South Cambridgeshire only. The City Deal is of course a partnership between three authorities.
CHRIS MANN: In five years time, if we ask the people that live in South Cambs what differences it made, these cuts made to their lives, what will they tell us?
SIMON EDWARDS: Well I hope that in five years time we will have a really good ethical housing company working for our residents. And this is housing for the executives that are coming into Cambridge, to places like AstraZeneca, I know you’re talking about that later on, to these other businesses that are coming in. And a lot of people, coming in for two year contracts and for a short period of time, want just housing for that period of time. And we believe we can offer that for our residents. We also believe that in five years time we will be free of the support of Government, which I think is an incredibly positive thing. A lot of people are saying it’s terrible, we’re not going to get any grant any more. But I think it’s an incredibly positive thing, because every year I have to sit here and justify to you why we’re making cuts. And it’s because the Government (are) taking money away from us. That won’t be the case in the future. We’ll be able to stand on our own two feet.
CHRIS MANN: Just briefly, is there anything you’re going to have to cut that you don’t want to?
SIMON EDWARDS: There’s nothing that we’re going to have to cut that we don’t want to, at the moment. We’ve got a plan to deliver these £670,000 of savings. It’s going to come from smarter working. It’s going to come from generating income, rather than making cuts, because we’re becoming more commercial. So I think it’s going to be OK.
CHRIS MANN: Simon Edwards, thank you for joining me. Councillor and Deputy Leader of South Cambs District. The report’s published today, will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet at a meeting on Thursday 12th February. A recommendation will then be considered by all councillors at a Council meeting on Thursday 26th February.