I listened in South Cambs council today to the new Liberal Democrat administration outlining its plans. Ideas, but not much about money. My concern as Opposition leader on South Cambridgeshire District Council is that the financial security of the council could be put at risk by the new regime.
The Conservatives leave the council in good financial shape – the new Liberal Democrat administration now in control has not bothered to put together a budget for the coming year – so they will have to use the Conservative one.
Last year the council’s Ermine Street housing company, that has been continuously attacked by the Liberal Democrats, generated £1.2m going into frontline council services, or ten per cent of the budget.
My fear going forward is that the Liberal Democrats will axe Ermine Street and that may see savage cuts to frontline services such as street sweeping or homelessness support officers – or council tax hikes.
The new administration wants to major on affordable homes - but the previous Conservative record on affordable housing is one to be proud of:
Despite the Liberal Democrats criticism of the council’s past record, affordable houses are already being built in South Cambridgeshire, including making good use of the money secured from the Government under the devolution deal. In fact, plans to build 588 affordable houses have been signed off in the last year alone, using funds from the Combined Authority. That is on top of the affordable housing being built by developers. The council delivered on its target of 40% of new developments being affordable homes last year.
So we leave the council with a a five-year land supply, fiscal security, and affordable houses.
Now we are in opposition, if the Liberal Democrat administration comes up with a sensible proposal, then we as the opposition may well support it, and welcome it. We will not oppose for the sake of opposition. But we will hold them to account.
As Conservatives, we know we lost, and we must plan to win back residents’ confidence. Like a tree that has had a hard winter pruning, we will come back stronger.