CAMBS: Council set to end universal services in five-year freeze

PROPOSALS that will bring an end to universal public services across Cambridgeshire are expected to be endorsed by the county council today.

It is the start of a process aimed at freezing the county’s share of Council Tax for five years, assuming the Government makes modest increases in grant to compensate for the standstill.

But the decision to slash �50million from the council’s budget in the year from April 1 and �160m over five years, as Whitehall contributions dry up, that is behind a planned revolution in services.

The idea is that county council services will cease to be universally provided, as has been the case. Instead, they will be targeted at a combination of the most needy recipients and early intervention to prevent more costly services downstream.

Although education is the county council’s biggest single-ticket item, it is not directly affected by the service revolution, except for specialist teaching, including support for one of the county’s most vulnerable groups, looked-after children.

But all other county services are, including social services, highways, subsidised bus services, school transport, trading standards, environmental management and libraries.

According to CCC: “Four principles will guide the way the council works – being a genuinely local council, making sure the right services are provided in the right way, investing in prevention, and working together.”

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What that seems to mean is a blind faith that community or individual philanthropy – the Big Society – will step in to make up for the loss of services that, while not vital, are fundamental to many people’s quality of life, particularly in an overwhelmingly rural county such as Cambridgeshire.

The change will cost 450 jobs next year, with hundreds more likely in future years. Workers are expected to renew their protests this afternoon when councillors are expected to rubber-stamp the plans.

The philosophy, which the authority accepts will require significant re-training of the staff who keep their jobs, means intervening sooner – for example with families to prevent the need to take children into care, or vulnerable older people to avoid the need for long-term help – and ‘re-enabling’ folk to live without council help.

It will also mean some people paying much more for social services help, if they get any, an end to subsidised local bus services, huge savings on school transport, other than for post-16 students, and the withdrawal of direct support to some children.

The cabinet insists that taking the axe to many statutory services in this way is perfectly lawful. The requirement to provide them is in many cases so vague as to be virtually meaningless, Cllr Reynolds says,

This is where Cambridgeshire County Council says the axe will fall in its �352m budget:

In children’s services a fundamental shift from universal to targeted services is proposed, which over the next four years would save �1 million from youth services, �761,000 from home to school transport and �600,000 from children’s centres.

Direct support to some children and young people will end, saving �1m from disability services, �527,000 from specialist teaching, �315,000 from budgets for educating looked-after children and �301,000 from the Cambridgeshire Racial Equality and Diversity Service.

The council aims to save �950,000 from children’s social care, �240,000 from the early-years service, and �3m from mainstream and special educational needs school transport.

In libraries, learning and culture, the council will save �282,000 through operational efficiencies, income generation and new ways of working, �108,000 from redesigning the mobile library service, and �100,000 from introducing more self-service and using volunteers in libraries.

Working in partnership with other councils to provide support services and creating a trust to run libraries will save a further �294,000.

In social care, promoting prevention and localism will save �2.9m, adopting a ‘reablement’ approach a further �4.75m, and decreasing the cost of high-cost and complex placements will save �1.3m.

In environment services, a proposed restructuring trading standards will save �641,000 over four years, reducing spending on environment and climate change �492,000, a proposed restructuring of waste services will save �159,000 and a proposed reduction in senior management will save �100,000.

Further efficiencies from the highways services contract will save �2.4m, and restructuring highways and access �1.1m.

In public transport, phasing out subsidised bus services will save �2.7m, but there will be an extra �1m invested in supporting community transport schemes over the next five years as working on how to make public transport more locally-focused and value for money. There will also be a �1.4m saving in revenue-funded highways maintenance but an extra �3.85m investment in this area from capital funds.

In corporate directorates, over a four-year period, reducing properties and maximizing office space in retained buildings will save over �1m, reducing the contact centre opening hours and standards and moving more services being accessed and delivered online �426,000, reducing IT functions and delivering services in different ways will save �989,000 and reducing communications and marketing activity will save up to �550,000.