South Cambs tax to be frozen for further year

SOUTH Cambridgeshire looks set to buck the local trend and accept Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles’s “bribe” to freeze Council Tax for a further year.

Both Cambridgeshire County and Huntingdonshire District Councils plan to thumb their noses at a one-year deal they say offers poor value to residents and taxpayers.

The South Cambridgeshire decision is particularly surprising because it is a comparatively wealthy area with already one of the lowest precepts of England’s 200 districts – even lower than HDC’s, which is also in the lowest 10 per cent.

But the council acknowledged today (Wednesday) that the decision will mean its having to save almost an extra �500,000 in April 2013.

Yet SCDC’s spending plans still include �28million over 10 years on hundreds of new council homes, particularly to avoid young people being forced out of the villages in which they have grown up.

A further �26 million from rent collected from council-owned homes will be reinvested over the next five years, which will update and maintain properties as well slashing fuel bills on the oldest properties by making them some of the most environmentally friendly in the country, the council said.

A recent bid for EU funding will also see �100,000 of cash invested in making homes warmer and cheaper for tenants to run.

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An additional investment of �20,000 in next year’s budget will provide South Cambridgeshire businesses with better support and advice, and a new one-stop shop business website will be launched to help existing businesses, as well as encouraging more to move to the area.

Plans for the next financial year include measures to make sure rural communities do not become isolated, with extra funds being put aside to build on existing, well-used community transport projects by starting schemes in areas where none currently exist.

To promote growth in South Cambridgeshire and create new jobs for residents, a further �50,000 has been allocated to support a county Council initiative that aims to extend superfast broadband across Cambridgeshire.

Council leader Cllr Ray Manning said: “Although South Cambridgeshire is consistently recognised as one of the best places to live and work in the country, with a thriving economy, we understand that many residents are still struggling to make ends meet due to the national downturn, and the right decision for us was to freeze Council Tax for a second year running.

“As well as continuing our work to create a business-friendly environment, it is fantastic to be able to announce the biggest investment in new council-owned homes since the 1950s, as it will provide homes for future generations in South Cambridgeshire that are affordable for all.”