Cambridge City Council has published its Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), which sets out some of the financial challenges facing the council, and provides a context for preparing a balanced council budget for 2024-25.
The council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) forecasts the council will have to find around £6m savings in the next three years, and £11.1m in new savings by 2029. This is in addition to £13m the council has already saved over the last five years.
The MTFS acknowledges the city has been ranked ‘the most intensive science and technological cluster in the world’, but that the attendant growth in investment and jobs locally has led to challenges including rising housing costs for many, traffic congestion and harm to the environment.
National factors including government funding cuts to the public sector, inflation, and the cost-of-living crisis are contributing to social and economic inequality along with the impact of international instability.
Despite these constraints, the council remains committed to supporting residents, delivering quality services and working towards its vision of ‘One Cambridge – Fair For All’ through its four priorities:
- Tackling poverty and inequality despite the cost-of-living crisis and austerity, and promoting food and fuel injustice
- Achieving a net zero council by 2030, and addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies
- Building a new generation of sustainable council homes and working to reduce and prevent homelessness
- Protecting local services and businesses while modernising the council to best support and represent residents.
The MTFS also highlights how the council’s ‘Our Cambridge’ transformation programme continues to create a more modern and community-focused council through better use of technology, new ways of working and working more closely with charities, businesses, and other public sector organisations. To date the programme has identified savings of up to £4m each year which will contribute to the £11.1m savings requirement.
Local residents, organisations and businesses will have the chance to share their views on Cambridge City Council’s budget priorities for 2024-25 in a public consultation due to start later this month.
If approved by councillors, the consultation is set to ask the public for views on the services currently provided by the council, which services should be prioritised, and initial proposals to help set a balanced budget for 2024-25.
Among the potential budget proposals, the public will be asked to prioritise in the consultation are:
- Improving the environmental performance of council buildings
- Charging commercially for the provision of advice
- Reviewing and merging services to improve efficiency
- Renting out unused council office space
- Modernising and streamlining operational services
- Supporting households most impacted by the cost-of-living crisis
- Reducing the city’s carbon footprint in collaboration with partners
The consultation, which is set to run until January, will also give people the chance to say which current council services they value most, and state how they think the council should balance its budget – for example through better use of digital technology, and increased collaboration with communities and other organisations.
Cllr Simon Smith, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources said: “The financial picture facing the council continues to be extremely challenging due to lack of government funding to councils and a range of external pressures. Despite this we remain committed to providing sound finances and a balanced budget as we have done for many years, so we can keep providing and improving quality services for the city’s residents.
“The council’s priorities are to provide safety nets for those in greatest need, deliver more affordable housing, secure good growth that benefits all residents and address the climate change and biodiversity crises.
“The council is inviting residents, businesses and community and voluntary organisations to make their voices heard by responding to the consultation which is due to start later this month. All views and comments are welcomed and valuable as they help us gain a clear picture of which services are valued and the approaches we should take to find savings.’’
Councillors will consider the MTFS and the proposed budget consultation at a meeting of the Strategy and Resources Committee on 20 November. If approved, the public consultation will start on 21 November, and the public will be able to take part at https://cambridge.citizenlab.co
The MTFS would then be considered for approval at Council on 30 November, and councillors would have the chance to review comments received in the consultation when the council’s Budget Setting Report is considered early next year.