A time for leadership says Clarke as he claims support for Cambridgeshire council tax rise

COUNCIL leader Nick Clarke dismissed Government claims that Cambridgeshire had a “moral duty” to freeze council tax and said raising it by 2.95 per cent “is simply the right thing to do for our communities.”

He told the budget setting meeting of the county council today that “this is not a time to be caught in the headlights. This is not a time for gesture politics. This is a time for leadership, a time to invest for economic success, a time to invest in our communities’ future.”

A new rail station at Chesterton – supported by the Government- together with superfast broadband and a new by pass for Ely showed “this administration is about action, not rhetoric.”

Cllr Clarke claimed the county council was “being bold and we are taking big decisions. We will not sit back and oversee the decline of our road network, we will not idly watch over as our young people see their opportunities for learning and employment dry up before their eyes.

“We will not flounder helplessly as our social care services are stretched to breaking point.”

He added: “That is not what the people of Cambridgeshire deserve from us. They deserve much, much more and that is what they are seeing from us today.”

He said the county was making �540 million worth of savings over five years but despite this “we have not raised the bar for our eligibility to our social care services, we have not closed libraries, we have protected lollipop ladies and we are making capital investments to stimulate the economy.”

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Taking the Government’s one off offer on council tax would leave Cambridgeshire with a �30 million black hole “and we just can’t afford that without applying some big cuts to our services.”

He said he needed to look people in the eye “and tell them they will be able to access support and protection when they need it I have to be able to look the young person in the eye and tell them we can keep you safe.

“I have to look the elderly in the eye and tell them that will we will give the support they need to carry on.”

Cambridgeshire, he said, had the capacity to kick start the economic recovery of the whole country and the county council would be at the forefront of investment.

But he said the council’s other priorities remained to transform social care since “the world around us is changing, and we need to keep pace.”

A ‘working with families’ model was a bold initiative embracing 44 social work units to offer the best service, best support to staff and best outcomes for vulnerable children and families.

And he promised initiatives “to target resource at tackling child poverty across the county” and to remove health inequalities.

Cllr Clarke was confident of support from Cambridgeshire’s council tax payers claiming people had told them “loud and clear that if it protects our essential services then we are willing to pay a little more.

“That’s a tough call for households to make in difficult times, but it is the right one.”

And the reason, he argued, was that “people recognise the pain that even more drastic cuts to frontline services in future years would bring.”