Most people will be aware of the continuing financial pressures facing local government.
Despite saving over £100m over the last five years, we’ve recently been forced to bring in a freeze on all but essential spending for the rest of this financial year, to halt an identified £6 million potential overspend in our budget.
Fast-rising numbers of adults and children needing social care help have triggered this massive increase in our costs. And next year, things are going to get even tougher. We, like many other councils, are facing a massive challenge to balance our budget for 2016/17 and beyond.
On top of this, the introduction of the National Living Wage in 2016, bringing extra costs for the care providers contracted by us to look after older people and vulnerable adults, in turn gives us an extra cost burden.
We were originally proposing to increase council tax by 1.99%, the maximum the Government normally allows.
However, in last week’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement, the Chancellor George Osborne, recognised the extra pressures facing those councils like Buckinghamshire with social care responsibilities.
He told those councils that they can raise up to 2% extra from council tax to spend specifically on adult social care, which will also help relieve pressure on the NHS. We are planning to accept the Government’s proposal and we are therefore now suggesting a 3.99% rise for next year – that’s 85p per week for the average Band D household. This year, more than any other, decision-making for our budget will be very challenging, and some extremely difficult financial decisions lie ahead. And that’s where you, the public, come in. We’ve just launched a survey which asks people’s views on what areas we should focus spending on next year, where we should reduce funding or even stop doing things and what you think of our council tax proposal. Go to www.buckscc.gov.uk to find out more and have your say.