Spending plans to protect vital services

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Central Bedfordshire residents are urged to have their say on council spending plans for the next financial year, as outlined in the budget proposals discussed in last week Tuesday’s (12 January) Executive meeting.

Protecting and maintaining vital frontline services is at heart of the council’s proposals for this year. 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.

However, the council is looking to deliver these services in the face of big financial pressures. Costs of providing services are rising due to an ageing population and more vulnerable families within our communities needing support but at the same time the amount of money coming in from the government to help fund services is reducing significantly. 

To help bridge the gap between income and spend 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 per cent and a general council tax increase up to 2 per cent to cover unavoidable cost pressures on council services, like those that support an ageing population.

The proposed combined increase – the first in 5 years – of just under four percent would put almost £1 a week on the bills of the average (band D) household. 

Saving measures

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.

Investing in our communities

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 our market towns.

Other local investments include, £13.4million on redeveloping Dunstable Leisure Centre and expanding provision to accommodate other services including a new library, £806,000 will be spent on regenerating Houghton Hall, £18million of external funding will be spent on Woodside Link to connect Houghton Regis to the new motorway junction 11a and £3million of external funding will be spent on detrunking the A5 in Dunstable and associated redevelopment once the A5-M1 Link opens in spring 2017.

Your money, your views

To have your say on the council’s spending plans, visit our dedicated Budget 2016 page, 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.

Your feedback

We want to know what you think of our new local updates. Send your feedback to updates@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.