Central Bedfordshire Council leader praises 'excellent budget' giving better services for 'very low' council tax increase

The tax rise is set to be 1.95% for council's share of bill
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An "excellent" draft budget should be shared rather than hidden away, Central Bedfordshire Council' s executive heard today (Tuesday).

An increase of almost two per cent is proposed in CBC's council tax share for 2022/23.

Its council tax precept consists of 0.95 per cent and a ring-fenced social care precept of one per cent.

Central Beds Council HQCentral Beds Council HQ
Central Beds Council HQ

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling said: "I would generally welcome the position that's taken on this. My main concern is we haven't had a proper budget briefing for opposition members.

"We got an email saying diaries didn't allow it to happen until much later this month. This should have been one of the priorities for the dairy before it got filled up with other things.

"It's typical that opposition members are left in the dark, apart from the social care briefing we're getting from councillor (Carole) Hegley."

Conservative council leader and Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham replied: "Let me reassure you the budget presentation hasn't been made to any members yet.

Cllr Richard WenhamCllr Richard Wenham
Cllr Richard Wenham

"There will be two briefings, one for Conservative members and one for the opposition, but neither of those has taken place yet.

"The dates for those are proposed by officers and not by the administration. I don't think we can be accused of hiding the budget under a bushel.

"We don't actually want to do that as it's an excellent budget combining better services and supporting internal care provision and our external providers, while applying a very low increase in council tax."

Presenting the budget to the committee, Conservative Arlesey councillor David Shelvey revealed CBC proposes "to spend £468m gross and £240m net providing services", during the next financial year.

"This represents a £14m increase on our net budget from this current year, which reflects increases in council tax and some extra government grants," he explained.

"We're acutely aware of continuing pressures in children's services, care of elderly people and disabled adults.

"We're also seeing increased costs in many of our other directorates because of pressures of inflation, which is now at more than five per cent. We need to maintain our roads and collect our waste.

"We still have continuing uncertainty about the pandemic, with increased costs across the council."

The draft budget was prepared before the announcement of the local government settlement by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

"The council tax referendum limit has been set at two per cent this year with the option of an extra one per cent adult social care charge," said councillor Shelvey, who's the executive member for corporate resources.

"We propose to keep the general council tax increase to 0.95 per cent. Officers are still evaluating the draft settlement received just before Christmas.

"The social care grant has been increased by £2m. It's not reflected in the draft budget.

"With the requirement by the government to move towards a fair cost of care we'll be proposing to use this extra funding to increase the fees paid to care providers by six-and-a-half per cent next year.

"We're proposing £30m of efficiencies across the medium-term financial period (MTFP), including £9.5m next year," he added.

"We recognise the impact of council tax rises and are looking to keep increases to the minimum necessary, while ensuring delivery of high quality services and the financial sustainability of the council."

The executive approved the draft budget for 2022/23 and the updated MTFP 2022/23 to 2025/26 as the basis for wider consultation.

After feedback is considered, the budget is due to be presented to the executive on February 8th, with final recommendations to full council on February 24th.