People power brings down council tax bid

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People power has seen a local council drop plans for a large council tax increase.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Executive is recommending a smaller increase in council tax next financial year in response to public feedback on their spending plans.

The council proposed to apply the Adult Social Care precept which would see an increase in council tax of 3% to contribute towards funding for care services plus an increase incouncil tax by 1.75% to contribute towards funding of other services, however, this is being reduced to a 1.5% increase after listening to residents.

The feedback on the draft budget proposals showed that the majority (55%) supported the Adult Social Care levy. The majority (53%) also supported the proposed increase in Council Tax to pay for other services but there was also a significant minority who disagreed and some concerns expressed about the impact this would have on some people such as pensioners and those on low incomes.

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 1.5% increase in council tax, would result in a total weekly increase of £1.19 for an average household (Band D).

The public also wanted to see the council continuing with its efficiency drive which is set to bring savings of more than £15m. This will be achieved through a range of measures including 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.

Councillor Richard Wenham, Executive Member for Corporate Resources, said: “Although most people were supportive of the increases in council tax we recognise that, for some people, this increase will be difficult so we have reduced the increase as much as we can.

“Almost 40 per cent of our revenue budget, which we raise from council tax, will be spent on adult social care services (£73m) next year. This is an important frontline service that provides vital support for vulnerable people but with increasing demand, increasing costs and less money from Westminster we need to raise more money through council tax in order to avoid dramatic cuts to our services.

“Efficiency and value for money continue to be a top priority too. Next year we will be reducing our spending by just over £15million which is on top of the £104million we have already saved since 2009.”

Councillors are also recommending investing over £308million in capital projects over the next four years from external and council funding. Projects include new school buildings, extra care schemes, road improvements, rolling out superfast broadband, improving our market towns and country parks and energy efficiency improvements - which in turn save money.

The final budget is approved by Council at a meeting on 23 February.

Read more about the budget on the council’s website.