Underspending by Cambridgeshire Council could help future highway repairs

Cambridgeshire Council has reported that a forecasted a end of year underspend of £15.7m which could partly be used to accelerate highways maintenance plans across Cambridgeshire.

The underspend, which is the result of the short-term implications of the pandemic will also be sued to and future proof Cambridgeshire County Council’s ambitious improvements against rising costs, members will hear next week at a council meeting.

The Council’s forecast revenue underspend this financial year is concentrated in adult social care and corporate budgets.

“The Council budget for this year was set in a period of great uncertainty where the pattern of demand for social care services over the next year was unknown, and where it was unclear the level of risk of cost increases that needed to be provided for centrally, “says Tom Kelly, Cambridgeshire‘s director of resources in the report which will be considered by the Committee on Tuesday.

“As the current year has progressed – the level of demand for social care services, and the level of general risk that needed to be funded, have not been as high as anticipated.”

Council papers confirm that much of the extra provision was allowed for one year only, so doesn’t represent a long-term issue for the budget. Also the gap between anticipated and actual social care demand was revised when the council set its 2022/3 budget.

A proposal to immediately invest £1.29 million of the underspend in immediate and visible improvements to county highways will also be considered by the committee.

If approved this will include extra work in pothole ‘hot spots’, an increased programme to reduce surface water in locations highlighted by the community and improving lines and road markings in more rural areas to make driving safer at night and in bad weather, reports the Fenland Citizen.

“Last May we inherited a Council which we knew faced a challenging budget position over the medium-term, with considerable gaps forecast in our budget from 2022/23 onwards, if we didn’t take sensible and measured actions, “ said Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, chair of the committee and leader of the council.

“Unprecedented levels of inflation because of Brexit (due to the fall in the value of the pound), Covid 19 and the impact of the war in Ukraine are impacting on the prices of much of what we buy to deliver services.

“We must also consider other major government reforms on the horizon – which typically give local authorities more responsibilities but rarely come with enough cash – such as changes to Adult Social Care. We are also keen to get on with our own commitments such as improving road maintenance programmes and implementing our climate change strategy,” she added.

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