History has been made as Buckinghamshire Council’s first ever budget received a green light from the Shadow Executive at its meeting yesterday (Tuesday 18 February).
The detailed spending plans mark the start of an exciting new future for residents, businesses and local communities right across Buckinghamshire said Shadow Executive Leader, Martin Tett.
Central to the plans is the council’s new corporate plan. It guides how more than one billion pounds will be spent on services and schools each year in line with major new commitments to strengthen communities, improve the environment, protect the vulnerable and increase prosperity.
There’s more cash for key areas like maintaining roads and pavements, protecting vulnerable children, adults and older people, tackling homelessness, recruiting more social workers and delivering more local priority schemes. There’s also a £5m allocation for the council’s priority to tackle climate change.
Major capital investment of over £500m is also included to improve Aylesbury and High Wycombe town centres, resurface more roads, clear blocked drains, provide extra school places and deliver more affordable housing.
To help provide that much-needed funding, particularly for frontline services that people really depend on, the plans include a ‘cost of living’ council tax rise of 1.99%. In addition, the council will also implement a government proposal for an additional 2% ‘social care’ increase. This will be used exclusively to cover the growing demand for adult social care and looking after the elderly.
There will also be small adjustments across the four district areas to ‘harmonise’ council tax and make sure everyone is paying the same amount for the same services no matter where they live.
“It’s the start of a brand new era,” said Martin. “We’ve been working together across all five councils, as one team, to create a new council that brings together the very best from the past, but which is also strongly focused on the future. This will serve residents better and provide stronger representation for Buckinghamshire nationally.
“Of course, these remain extremely difficult times for local councils and tough decisions still lie ahead, but I believe these plans provide us with the best possible start. Extensive public consultation and rigorous scrutiny have also really helped to make sure every single pound is spent where it’s needed most.
“Inflation and rapidly rising demand for services, particularly looking after the elderly and protecting children from exploitation, have meant a rise in council tax. Increasing council tax is never something we take lightly, but it is morally right to look after our most vulnerable and I hope people will understand what a crucial difference this will make to them.
“This budget also looks to the longer term, particularly in areas like roads and pavements, which have taken another battering from the rain and recent heavy storms. My aim is to invest over £100m over the next five years on restoring these and this budget gives us a flying start.”
Martin added, “We’ll continue to look for additional funding sources. For example, the council still awaits the outcome of a £180m bid to the Government’s ‘Housing Infrastructure Fund’ for investment in the Aylesbury Garden Town project to improve roads, local green spaces and walking and cycling routes.
“Lastly, one of my personal passions is that the new council must work better for people locally. Therefore, we are introducing 17 new Council Access Points where residents can obtain information on services; five Local Planning Committees to make decisions more locally and 16 new Community Boards bringing people together to tackle local issues with a combined investment of over £5m.
These recommendations will now go forward to the full Shadow Authority meeting on February 27 at The Oculus in Aylesbury for final decisions.
The Shadow Executive papers from the meeting on 18 February can be accessed here.