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New initiatives as pressure on city council finances continues

September 11, 2012 11:25 AM

Cambridge City Council could share 'back office' operations with other local authorities in a bid to cut spending over future years.

The plan is outlined in its Medium Term Strategy which estimates savings of £2.5 million are necessary over the next 24 months.

Routine efficiency measures taken by the Liberal Democrats have already this year yielded additional results, helping to reduce the overall savings target by £500,000.

The Liberal Democrat-run council is also looking at how it generates income from some of its services and its assets and is exploring the possibility of a lower cost operations centre to replace the Mill Road depot, possibly co-located with other agencies.

These initiatives are being explored after it became clear that the financial challenges from year-on-year reductions in government grant are unlikely to let up.

Cambridge City Council Leader Tim Bick said: "Through our rigorous annual reviews of spending, we believe we can accommodate our spending targets in the near term and will bring our proposals forward in our budget. But in order for us to have that confidence in the longer term we need to look at new possibilities to continue to ensure that our basic universal services are maintained, the vulnerable in the community are protected and we get today's long term investment decisions right.

"The council generates income from many of its assets and services and this already offsets a good deal of the reliance on government grants and Council Tax. This is the right time to look systematically at whether this could be done better, organised or managed in a more commercial way. Obviously the more effective this is, the more we are in a position to protect other services and particularly the ones that concern the vulnerable.

"Included in this, are the council's property assets which we occupy for our own operations. We will be examining means of rationsalising these to combine an efficient functional environment for staff with accessibility to the public at sustainable cost, and managing those not needed as investments."

Cambridge City Executive Councillor for Customer Service and Resources Julie Smith said: "Pooling some of the council's very necessary in-house back room operations, which the public doesn't really encounter, seems a very logical way to go. We would certainly not want to jeopardise local democratic accountability and we would want to retain influence over the support provided. But if such objectives can be shared with other authorities money could be saved while at the same time services actually provided to the public could be as efficient or better than they are today."