CBC council tax bills to rise by 2.4% in April

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Council tax is to rise in Central Bedfordshire by an average of 2.4 per cent for 2019/20.

A one per cent share of that increase was approved at a Central Bedfordshire Council budget meeting on Thursday.

The local authority’s capital programme continues to feature some significant investments, according to a report to councillors.

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“These include new school places, the M1/A6 link road, integrated health and care hubs in Dunstable and Biggleswade, and highways maintenance.”

There were 1,725 responses to the council’s budget public consultation, which included asking whether residents would pay an extra one per cent.

“The majority of respondents were supportive of a modest increase in council tax,” said Conservative Arlesey councillor and deputy council leader Richard Wenham.

“This year is the last year of changes and our revenue support grant from last year finally disappears, so there’s a further £4.7m cut compared to the funding we had last year.

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“We also continue to see huge additional burdens placed on us with no extra funding.

“These include the two-year two per cent pay award, and the welcome but unfunded increases in the living wage, which is also adding huge pressures.

“There are other responsibilities such as the Homelessness Act, which was introduced last April, and new processes in children’s services, which further increase costs.

“And we’re seeing rapidly increasing demand for our services as our population rises and the percentage of very old people in that also increases.

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“We have identified £14.8m of efficiencies next year, all of which have been identified, but are becoming ever harder for officers to deliver,” he explained.

“And there’s a total of £40m of efficiencies over the medium-term financial plan period.

“We have challenged ourselves and senior officers to find a further £6m of efficiencies, up from £5m last year, to provide a buffer against future unfunded pressures.

“Through excellent financial management of our efficient council, we are also able to recommend extra investment in key services totalling £3.3m.

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“This includes £1m for community safety, £1m for sustainable transport, cycleways and footpaths, £250,000 for countryside access and £0.5m to support new community projects.”

Councillor Wenham, executive member for corporate resources, explained the council’s one per cent share is in addition to 13.48 per cent for Bedfordshire Police and 2.99 per cent for the county fire and rescue service.

He referred to the report which notes “the average parish precept of 2.79 per cent, although there are wide variations between parishes as usual.

“The lucky residents in Streatley are getting an 8.4 per cent reduction, and it’s an 84 per cent increase in Apsley Guise,” he said.

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“Taken together it makes a typical council tax increase across Central Bedfordshire of 2.4 per cent.”

Conservative council leader James Jamieson told the meeting: “We continuously deliver better services to our residents. We also care about what we spend.

“But we don’t judge our delivery on how much we spend. We judge it on what we actually deliver.”

Four budget votes were taken in total by councillors and all were approved.