Council approves spending plans to protect vital services

Central Bedfordshire Council has agreed its budget plans for 2016/17, which will see investment in local services and communities totalling £272million from April.

The spending plans were agreed at Thursday’s (25 February) Full Council meeting, which approved proposals put forward by Executive in earlier February.

Due to significant reductions in government funding, the council agreed the first council tax increase in five years. To protect services a 1.95 percent increase has been introduced along with an additional 2 per cent charge to help fund adult care services, which continue to be in high demand. The increase will mean that the average (band D) household will pay just under £1 a week extra to fund council services from April.

As well as facing significant year on year funding reductions, the council is facing additional budget pressures due to increasing demands on services and so to balance the books the budget agreed  includes savings amounting to £15.3million. Most of these have been achieved by cutting overheads and running costs and delivering services differently. The council shared its spending proposals in a public consultation which saw more than 1,000 people take part.

During 2016/17 the council will spend £68million on adult social care services, £36million on children’s services, £48million on community services such as roads and transport, refuse collections and leisure and £10million mostly from the Department of Health on public health.

Councillors also approved investing up to £284million on capital projects over the next four years from external and council funding. Major projects being proposed across Central Bedfordshire include £75.3million on new school places, £41.8million on highway schemes, £8.5million on the ongoing upgrade of all tidy tips including a new site at Thorn Turn, near Houghton Regis, £9.5million on providing disabled facilities grants, £4.6million on improving care home provision, £7.6million on rolling out superfast broadband to more homes, £20million on redeveloping Dunstable Leisure Centre and expanding provision to accommodate other services including a new library, £11million on regeneration and £4million to improve our market towns.

Councillor Richard Wenham, Executive Member for Corporate Resources, said: “Protecting and maintaining vital frontline services has been a central principle in our budget setting this year. The government is significantly reducing its funding to councils and instead expects us to raise more money from council tax to pay for services. Faced with a much higher than expected cut in government funding of £30million over the next four years on top of £45million of savings that are needed over the same period to cover rising costs, we were regrettably left with no choice but to raise council tax.

“We realise that council tax increases are never welcome and we continue to search for ways to minimise any future increases. We also provide help to the most vulnerable people through our local council tax support scheme.

“I would like to thank everyone who responded to the consultation on our spending plans and I am pleased to say we will also be investing £284million in capital investments that will bring real benefits to residents and businesses and support our priority to make Central Bedfordshire a great place to live and work.”

Council tax pays for services provided by the council and other local services including; Town and Parish Councils, Police and Fire service. The council collects money on their behalf and passes this on to them. Each of these local organisations set their own level of council tax. For every pound residents pay in council tax the money is split roughly as follows; 79 per cent Central Bedfordshire Council, 6 per cent Town or Parish Councils, 5 per cent Fire service and 10 per cent Police.

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