Central Bedfordshire Council: Budget proposals consultation

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A reduced grant for social care provision in Central Bedfordshire is “unfair” and stretches the unitary authority’s finances, it has been claimed.

A council tax increase of nearly five per cent is planned by the local authority, with at least an extra £1.48 a week to be found for Band D households.

Annual town and parish council contributions are added to this figure, along with Bedfordshire Police and county fire service precepts.

Central Bedfordshire Council intends to spend £402m on services during the next financial year, through its revenue budget, which is largely funded by council tax and business rates

Its capital programme covers investment of a further £128m for schools, roads, health, leisure and other infrastructure projects.

The council’s budget proposal has been backed by its executive to go out to consultation, ahead of a final decision next month.

On social care, deputy council leader and Conservative Arlesey Councillor Richard Wenham explained CBC would have expected under the previous format to receive £960,000.

But a grant of only £217,000 is available, which he described as being “unfair to unitary authorities, such as CBC, which have a high council tax base”, he told the executive.

“Both being a unitary and with a higher proportion of council tax raised by our tax base we’ve lost out and I believe that’s fundamentally unfair,” he said.

The budget for council activities includes services for people who are most in need of help, such as those who are disabled or in need of care or protection, according to CBC.

“These may be children and young people, and older or other vulnerable adults.

“The budget also funds services available to everyone, such as refuse and recycling, roads, leisure and libraries, as well as parks and countryside.”

Next year’s proposed rise in council tax consists of 1.95 per cent for CBC’s universal services, while three per cent is to support social care services.

“The last year has been incredibly challenging, here and across the country,” explained Councillor Wenham, who’s the executive member for corporate resources.

“While our brilliant key workers have kept vital services going, demands have been very high and are only likely to increase, not least because of the economic after effects of the pandemic.

“Our budget proposals recognise the pressures we face in key areas, such as public health, social care and children’s services, including those for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“There’s also a clear focus on economic recovery and supporting job creation,” he added.

“We’ll be spending more in these areas, notwithstanding budget pressures, while also delivering a further £10.7m of efficiency measures, through initiatives such as reduced spending on our offices, printing and travel costs.”

Liberal Democrat Linslade councillor Peter Snelling expressed concern about “the scale of council tax increase the council’s proposing” at Tuesday’s (January 5) executive committee meeting.

“I’m fully aware of the current financial pressures,” he said. “But it’s not a good time to inflict a five per cent increase on struggling families.”

The consultation period on the budget runs until 5pm on January 27.

A final decision will be taken at a full council meeting on February 25.

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