Proposed tax hike, spending and savings for Central Beds

Central Beds Council offices  Chicksands
Central Beds Council offices Chicksands

Central Beds Council has today outlined its spending and saving plans for 2017/18 and also its forthcoming proposed council tax hike.

The council is now urging residents to have their say its proposals for the next financial year, as outlined in the draft budget.

It says it wants to protect vital frontline services and is planning to spend £189million on public services.

Over a third of this will be spent on adult social care services (£73.5m) and almost a fifth on children services (£36m).

The remaining two fifths funds services like roads and transport, refuse collections, libraries and leisure as well as the cost of running the council (£79.5m).

However, the council says it is looking to deliver these services in the face of continuing financial pressures.

It states: “Costs of providing services are rising due to an increasing older population and more vulnerable families within our communities needing support. And at the same time, the amount of money coming in from the government to help fund services is reducing significantly.

“In 2017/18, the council will receive half the amount of government grant that it was allocated in the previous year and by 2019/20 this grant funding will disappear altogether.

“Until last spring, local councils were given additional money if they did not raise council tax. Now there is an expectation that council tax will be increased to help cover the rising costs of delivering services. And a new Adult Social Care levy (known as a precept) has been introduced by the government which requires local people to pay towards the increasing costs of care for our older or vulnerable residents.”

To help bridge the gap between what funding the council needs and the income it expects the council has a plan to:

> continue to find ways to reduce spending through a range of saving measures

> apply the Adult Social Care precept with an increase in council tax of up to 3% to contribute towards funding for care services

> increase council tax by 1.75% to contribute towards the funding of other services.

The application of the Adult Social Care precept (of an increase of up to 3%) would result in a weekly increase of 78 pence in council tax for an average household (Band D).

This, combined with the proposed 1.75% increase in council tax, would result in a total weekly increase of £1.24 for an average household (Band D).

Councillor Richard Wenham, Executive Member for Corporate Resources, said: “With councils getting less money from Westminster we need to raise more money through council tax in order to avoid dramatic cuts to our services including those to vulnerable people, our roads maintenance, leisure and waste services.

“Since Central Bedfordshire Council was set up in 2009, efficiency and value for money have always been a top priority and will continue to be so.

“We are also asking for residents’ views on an additional savings package of just over £15million which is on top of the £104million we have already saved since 2009.”

Savings measures being proposed include: removing School Crossing Patrols where there are zebra crossings; closure of Tidy Tips on two midweek days from Oct 2017; school transport will only be provided to nearest school; reducing the sums paid to independent foster carers and recruiting more in-house foster carers; reviewing contracts and seeking better deals from suppliers in areas such as facilities management; reducing the use of agency workers; giving customers the option to make their own contribution to “top up” the service they receive; generating income by trading council services; and withdrawing some services where the need for them is not apparent.

Councillors are also considering investing over £60million in capital projects next year from external and council funding.

Projects being proposed across Central Bedfordshire include new school buildings, extra care schemes, road improvements, rolling out superfast broadband, improving market towns and country parks and energy efficiency improvements.

To have your say on the council’s spending plans, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/budget2017, or pick up a paper copy of the consultation summary and questionnaire at council offices in Dunstable and Chicksands or from libraries.

The closing date is Monday, January 30, with councillors then considering all responses before the final budget is approved by council at a meeting on February 23.