New Buckinghamshire Council budget plans reveal council tax is set to rise

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The Shadow Executive for the new Buckinghamshire Council has agreed upon the first budget to be put to the Shadow Authority later this week.

The plans include a 1.99% 'cost of living' council tax increase, as well as an additional 2% rise to cover the growing demand for adult social care and looking after the elderly.

Speaking at the meeting of the Shadow Executive on the 18 February, Alex Collingwood, Chairman of the Shadow Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said:

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"Our key aim was about making better services, better outcomes and better value for our residents.

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"The executives viewpoint was that freezing council tax wasn't an option so we took that on board and said if you're going to do the increase, where do you make it better and how do you make a tangible difference."

There will also be small adjustments within the four district areas to ‘harmonise’ council tax across the county. We have reported on this previously here: Council Tax Harmonisation.

Central to the budget is the council’s new corporate plan. It guides how more than one billion pounds will be spent each year.

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Major capital investment of over £500m is included to improve Aylesbury and High Wycombe town centres, resurface more roads, clear blocked drains, provide extra school places and deliver more affordable housing.

Introducing the budget plan at the meeting, Shadow Executive leader Martin Tett highlighted the £5 million set aside for 'plain and patch' roadworks to repair damaged sections from the heavy rainfalls over the winter months, and also spoke of the £5 million that is to be dedicated to tackling climate change.

Mr Tett subsequently wrote: “It’s the start of a brand new era. 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.

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“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.”

The recommendations will now go forward to the full Shadow Authority meeting on February 27 for final decisions.