Freeze in council tax put forward in Central Beds budget

Central Beds Council
Central Beds Council

There will be no increase in council tax for residents for the fifth consecutive year under a draft budget put forward by Central Beds Council.

While Beds Police’s crime commissioner Olly Martins is considering a whopping 15.85% rise for its share of the overall tax bill , Central Beds has put forward another freeze on the proportion it is demanding from households.

The council’s spending plans for 2015/16 detail how it proposes to invest more than £315million in services for the public from April this year – and now it is asking residents to have their say on the draft budget.

It was put together following public consultation and reflects the views of 2,500 residents who responded.

There are plans to spend £113million in 2015/16 under the council’s capital programme, with major projects earmarked for funding including upgrades of the household waste and recycling centres in, Leighton Buzzard, Ampthill and Biggleswade, with a new waste treatment facility at Thorn Turn, Dunstable.

The redevelopment is likely to require the temporary closure of each site for between four to six months.

There is also a multi-million pound pledge for maintaining the current road network and investing in new schemes. This includes funding for a transport interchange in Leighton Buzzard, upgrading the town’s West Street car park and significant investment planned for the council’s market towns programme.

Meanwhile, there are plans to spend £63million on social care health and support services, to allow people to live independently in their own homes for longer rather than relying on residential care, while the council is also proposing to spend £44million on children’s services, including education and protecting them from harm.

After they were highlighted as key areas of investment by residents, the council is proposing to spend £34million on community services such as roads and transport, refuse collections and leisure. It also plans to spend £10million on public health, £7million on planning and business support services and £38million on other support services.

Big investment in housing is also proposed, which includes significant spending on independent living schemes and sheltered housing, plans to develop a number of garage sites for housing while, thanks to the resources available, new social housing is planned throughout the Central Bedfordshire area.

Included in the draft budget are proposals for how the council plans to make £13.7million of savings during the next financial year. These have been made necessary due to an additional eight per cent decrease in the funding which the council receives from the government, and greater demands on care services due to rising costs and an ageing population.

Among the measures included to achieve these savings are plans to work more efficiently, cut overheads, reduce the use of temporary staff and administrative functions and seek better deals with suppliers.

Councillor Maurice Jones, Executive Member for Corporate Resources, said: “The services we provide are important to everyone and that is why we sought local views in shaping this draft budget, and I hope that even more people have their say on the resulting proposals as part of the forthcoming consultation.

“While we have a large savings target to meet, we are still planning on significant investment in public services across Central Bedfordshire. We also have an ambitious capital programme which will make a massive difference to the lives of our residents for many years to come.”

The public consultation on the draft revenue budget will run until Tuesday, February 3, and you can have your say by visiting www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/budget2015, or pick up a paper copy of the consultation at the council’s Priory House and Watling House offices and at libraries across Central Bedfordshire.

The council’s Executive will use the feedback from the public consultation to finalise its budget proposals at a meeting on February 10, and these will be considered by full council at a meeting on February 26.