Central Bedfordshire Budget approved, but Linslade councillor's environment and cost of living plea is rejected

'This is the kind of funding which could make a dramatic difference to help people'
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A budget amendment "to help the environment and reduce the cost of living" was rejected by Central Bedfordshire councillors, who backed the financial package proposed by the Conservative ruling group.

Proposing an addition to the revenue expenditure for 2022/23, Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey acknowledged how committed Central Bedfordshire Council's executive is to sustainability.

She called on the council "to develop schemes to reduce carbon emissions and promote healthier lifestyles, while supporting local residents and businesses”.

Cllr Victoria Harvey... and CBC HQCllr Victoria Harvey... and CBC HQ
Cllr Victoria Harvey... and CBC HQ

This could be achieved by spending £2m in year 2022/23, a further £2m in 2023/24 and £1m in 2024/25, with funds drawn from the new homes bonus reserve, according to councillor Harvey's proposals.

She highlighted the lack of budget funding for alternatives to traffic calming around schools and to supply any bus information changes.

"That's tragic we don't have these small sums," she told a budget full council meeting, last night (Thursday February 24).

"On insulation, there's some brilliant work on park homes and some good grants," she said. "But, if you're on a low income, you can't afford to spend that extra £10 or £20 for draft sealer or a curtain over your door.

"This is the kind of funding which could make a dramatic difference to help people."

Presenting the budget, Conservative Arlesey councillor David Shelvey said: "This year we propose to spend £468m gross and £240m net providing services to our residents.

"That represents a £14m increase in our net budget and reflects planned increases in council tax and retained business rates, as well as extra government grants.

"The government has increased our social care grant by £2m to £6.8m. Covid continues to present financial challenges, especially in adult social care and children's services where costs have risen substantially.

"We've received about £17m in Covid grants, but no funding for next year. Until there's some certainty with a multi-year settlement, taking into account fairer funding and any resetting of business rates, we'll continue to have substantial risks in the medium-term.

"The one per cent adult social care precept amounts to about £1.6m for us."

Burdens on the local authority include help for vulnerable children, especially those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), he explained.

"We allocated an extra £1m in the current year and a further £500,000 next year showing our continuing commitment to children with SEND.

"Next year we're planning £12m of efficiencies, which are becoming harder for officers to deliver. That's £32.8m over the four years of the medium-term financial plan.

"There are some unidentified gaps of £5.3m in years two to four. We also have inflation at five-and-a-half per cent, which is likely to increase.

"To help with this risk the contingency has been increased to £5.8m. We need to maintain adequate reserves to see us through the funding change, which we know will be detrimental to Central Beds.

"The council is very committed to sustainability in every area of our input," added councillor Shelvey, who's the executive member for corporate resources.

"The details are in our sustainability plan which was adopted in 2020. It's not something we can do alone. The amounts involved to reach carbon net zero will need some central government funding."

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling described budget day as "overshadowed by things happening elsewhere", saying: "We're content with the increase this year, but there are exceptions.

He referred to a "lack of investment in highways maintenance and enforcement staff", suggesting he could have generated £600 in a minute for the council because of parents parking on double yellow lines by a school."

A 0.949% increase in general council tax and the 1% adult social care precept were approved by councillors.