Warning that inflation will put Central Bedfordshire Council's finances under pressure as 1.95% tax rise is backed

Budget consultation 'disappointing' with only 1,100 responses from population approaching 300,000
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Council tax payers in Central Bedfordshire face a 0.95 per cent increase in the local authority's share of the bill, as well as one per cent for adult social care, subject to final approval.

The figures were confirmed at an executive meeting "at a time of unprecedented uncertainty and risk", warned a report to the February 8 committee.

A Band D increase of £16.37 is proposed, with the extra help to fund adult social care costs meaning the Central Bedfordshire Council band D council tax for 2022/23 will be £1,669.02, said the report.

The CBC share of the council tax is set to go up 1.99%The CBC share of the council tax is set to go up 1.99%
The CBC share of the council tax is set to go up 1.99%

Town and parish precepts, as well as those for the county's police force and fire and rescue service also have to be added.

Presenting the revenue budget report, Conservative Arlesey councillor David Shelvey explained: "One of the extra payments is £2m in our social care grant, which is now £6.8m.

"This has enabled us to increase the amount we pay for care fees to providers by 6.5 per cent, which is really good news.

"The result of this is to change both the pressures and the efficiencies shown in the draft budget for 2022/23 by £2m. So the efficiencies have now increased from £10m to £12m.

"The net pressures remain the same at £10m as does the net revenue budget at £240m, which is £14m up from the current (financial) year.

"As we get no grant funding, this is all raised from council tax and non-domestic rates."

With inflation at five per cent and likely to increase this will put pressure on CBC's finances, he explained.

"There remain so many uncertainties and therefore risks to our budget with the effects of Covid still unknown. Most, if not all, of the nearly £17m of Covid grants this year will be used.

"Income from services remains below the forecasts. With cost increases in adult social care and children's services, because of inflationary pressures and demand, we may find we need to use contingency and some reserves."

A fairer funding settlement for local authorities is on the way, with changes to business rate retention also likely.

Both of those are expected to be detrimental to Central Bedfordshire, according to councillor Shelvey, who's the executive member for corporate resources.

He described the response to last month's budget consultation as "disappointing with only 1,100 responses", saying: "We had 1,500 last year and 2,300 the year before, with a population approaching 300,000.

"Unfortunately, we still need a small increase to continue to provide services to our residents without making cuts."

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling said: "I'm generally supportive of the position we've taken this year over the (council tax) increase.

"The level we're going in at is right for the current situation. The problems we may have with inflation over the next year or two may make it a challenging rise.

"The reserves are very healthy compared to most of the time Central Bedfordshire Council has existed."

Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey referred to "a very challenging funding climate".

In a statement, CBC said: "In the recent budget 2022 consultation, residents were asked for feedback on proposals for investment, saving money and increasing council tax."

After carefully considering the feedback, the executive agreed to recommendations, including:

spending £468m on its services and operations;

investing £240m on roads, care homes, leisure provision, other infrastructure projects and schools, including around £9m on specialist school places for special educational needs and disabilities;

saving £12m by working smarter, being more efficient and reducing our costs.

The budget will be considered at a full council meeting on February 24.