Council remains debt free and freezes Council Tax


East Cambridgeshire District Council remains debt free and is freezing its Council Tax again in 2024 - for the 11th year running.

The announcements were made during its Full Council meeting on 20 February.

This is despite an economically challenging environment which has seen many other local authorities rack up millions in debt.

Out of more than 500 local authority organisations in the UK only 35 (7%) have been debt free since 2021.

The council is putting its success down to an innovative and prudent approach to financing.

The council has two trading companies, East Cambs Street Scene (ECSS), to deliver its waste services and East Cambs Trading Company (ECTC) to run Ely Markets, the Parks and Open Spaces Team and Palace Green Homes which builds new and affordable homes. Since its launch in 2016, ECTC has contributed £4.2 million in funds to the council.

Actions taken by management to reduce the council’s cost base and a prudent forecast of Business Rates receipts, also means it underspent by £1,645,109 in 2022/23 and is forecasting another £852,000 in 2023/24.

Taking into account inflationary increases, it means the council now has a healthy £1.38 million in its general reserves, which equates to 10 per cent of its net operating budget.

For residents this means Council Tax paid to the district council can remain at £142.14 for an average Band D property – the same as it was 11 years ago.

It is the only district, county or unitary authority still in operation in the country not to have put up bills during this time.

The amount residents pay to the district council is less than 7% of the total bill.

The remainder is divided between Cambridgeshire County Council, parish, town or city councils, the emergency services and the Combined Authority.

As well as a freeze in Council Tax, the balanced budget takes into account:

  • Providing additional budget to ECSS, which includes funding to allow its new waste fleet to run on environmentally friendly HVO fuel
  • £1 million set aside for black wheelie bins which together with other changes coming from new legislation will improve our recycling rate even further. East Cambridgeshire District Council already has the highest recycling rate in the county.
  • Funding to support the creation of a new Local Plan
  • An increase in fees to the Internal Drainage Board

This year will also see the council start work on a new state of the art lakeside bereavement centre. The plan for the council-owned land includes a crematorium, natural burial area, and a pet cemetery. This will be financed using up to £9 million drawn from contributions from developers. It’s expected by the second year of its operation, it will start to contribute positively to the council’s budgets.

Councillor Anna Bailey, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “I am extremely proud of the fact that East Cambs is the only district, county or unitary council in the country to have been able to freeze its portion of the Council Tax bill for the past 11 years. This is at a time when many other local authorities are increasing theirs by the maximum amount possible.

“I am also proud the council continues to hold significant reserves and has been able to meet the costs of the loans to East Cambs Trading Company (ECTC) and East Cambs CLT, the construction of The Hive leisure centre, the purchase of waste vehicles and major works at our depot without the need for external borrowing.

“To date ECTC has contributed more than £4.2 million to the council, putting us in a healthy financial position for the next two years. As well as providing a new community facility, the completion and operation of our new bereavement centre at Mepal will also help increase our funds in the future.

“In addition to prudent management, interest we earn on our loans helps fund the council’s Surplus Savings reserve which in turn means the council doesn’t have to borrow money externally. This keeps our Council Tax charges low for residents at a time when household costs are continuing to rise.”