By John Elworthy
Monday, January 21, 2013
NATIONAL pay bargaining is to be axed at Cambridgeshire County Council as part of the 2013/14 Budget plan and which, in this instance alone, could save £1 million a year.
County council leader Nick Clarke also revealed that next week’s budget setting Cabinet- which will be asked to approve a 1.9 per cent rise in council tax- will also be asked to agree other radical initiatives.
In what some might see as a move towards Cambridgeshire County Council plc, Cllr Clarke disclosed a move to save money by building a care home for the elderly and developing new commercial and residential properties.
Self styled ‘old guard’ Tories – many who are standing down in May- got a taste of their leader’s businesslike stance when he addressed ruling group members in Doddington near March on Saturday.
Cllr Clarke explained to a gathering – primarily of candidates for the upcoming May elections- how he saw the council shaping up in coming years and, more importantly, of the commitment he expected from councillors.
Today Cllr Clarke said he expected the Government to be none too pleased with the proposal to increase council tax but felt it was necessary – and had the support of the public.
“The cost equates to around £20 a year for a Band D property, or about 40p a week,” he said. “This is all about the people of Cambridgeshire and if, for example, some elderly lady looks me in the eye to ask about this rise I can explain it is necessary to ensure that in years to come the support will be there when they need it.
“I don’t think we should patronise the public. Four out of five people consulted supported the council tax rise.”
Cllr Clarke said a massive consultation by the council had signalled overwhelming support for a rise of two per cent “and it surprised even me how many were happy for it to be higher provided it was used on vital services”.
He believes the council can gain by ending all agreements with unions and using local negotiations. A partnership with Northamptonshire on shared services, he said, would help since our neighbouring authority had already moved to end national pay bargaining a year ago and that experience would now be shared.
Cllr Clarke said he hoped Cabinet would kick start the end to national pay bargaining and in the coming year savings of at least £250,000 were envisaged and £1 million for each of the following four years.
A site at Histon was being looked at for possible commercial and residential development by the council but it was his surprise announcement of a new care home that took many by surprise.
Cllr Clarke said the council paid much more than the sum he felt it ought to cost to provide residential care and so the county council -10 years after they quit the sector- were back with a toe in the water.
“At the moment, in the south of the county, care home provision is very expensive,” he said. “And the reality is that the private nursing homes can get more money for private individuals than they can from us. And we look after the most vulnerable. So we’re hoping to build a care home that will provide some additional capacity, which means that we can control our costs.”
Other schemes remain on target and within the budget, he said, including Ely Relief Road, broadband, and a multi million pound road improvement and investment programme.
He added: “These are very tough times for councils but we will continue to do what is best for our communities.”