Have your say on 4% council tax rise plans

Central Beds CouncilCentral Beds Council
Central Beds Council
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Central Bedfordshire residents are urged to have their say on council spending plans for the next financial year after the council’s Executive on Tuesday agreed to look at raising council tax by almost 4% for this year.

In a consulation, out now, it said that protecting and maintaining vital frontline services is at heart of the council’s proposals. It is planning to invest almost £190million in public services from April including £65million on adult social care services, £44million on children’s services, £40million on community services such as roads and transport, refuse collections and leisure and £10million on public health.

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But costs are rising due to an ageing population and more vulnerable families needing support at the same time the amount of money coming in from the government to help fund services is reducing significantly.

The council has identified £15.3million of possible efficiency savings. However, following a further reduction of £12million in funding for Central Bedfordshire next year alone announced by the Government in late December, the council is also consulting residents on a proposal to increase its share of council tax to help protect services.

The Government has made clear that it expects more of the resources required to provide vital services to be raised locally, through council tax. It is assuming that the council will raise a special charge specifically to support adult social care services of 2% and a general council tax increase up to 2% to cover unavoidable cost pressures on council services, like those that support an ageing population.

The proposed combined increase – the first in five years – of just under 4% would put almost £1 a week on the bills of the average (band D) household.

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

“We are also asking for residents’ views on an additional savings package of just over £15million which is on top of the £75million we have already saved in the last five years.”

Savings measures being proposed include: reviewing contracts and seeking better deals from suppliers in areas such as waste collection, street cleaning, grass cutting, CCTV and telephone services; cutting overheads and running costs in areas such as management and administration; using technology to reduce spending and improve online services; generating income by trading council services; and changing the way some council services are run.

Councillors are also considering investing up to £278million on capital projects over the next four years from external and council funding. Major projects being proposed across Central Bedfordshire include £75.3million on new school places, £41.8million on highway schemes, £8.5million on the ongoing upgrade of all tidy tips including a new site at Thorn Turn, near Houghton Regis, £9.5million on providing disabled facilities grants, £4.6million on improving care home provision, £7.6million on rolling out superfast broadband to more homes and £4million to improve market towns.

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Other local investments include, £1.5million at Stratton Park in Biggleswade to provide new employment opportunities these plans will be met by a mixture of council spending an external funding and £2.7million on a new Flitwick Transport interchange and improved Flitwick Station Area car park.

To have your say on the council’s spending plans, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/budget2016, or pick up a paper copy of the consultation questionnaire at council offices in Dunstable and Chicksands, and in libraries, leisure centres, children’s centres and customer service centres.

The closing date is Monday, 8 February with councillors then considering all responses before the final budget is approved by full council at a meeting on 25 February.