The leader of Bucks County Council has said there are ‘tough but exciting’ times ahead in 2016.
In his New Year message Councillor Martin Tett spoke of the financial pressues on the authority which will hit services, but added that there were opportunities to devolve and integrate responsibilities between public bodies.
Mr Tett devoted a large part of his address to housing and the environment.
He said: “The tens of thousands of new houses that will be required in Buckinghamshire to cope with the rapidly-growing population will bring massive changes.
“As a county council, we will continue to urge our colleagues in district councils to protect our precious Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and most attractive rural countryside.
“Nevertheless, not only will towns expand but there will be more traffic and demands for key infrastructure from roads and schools to health facilities.”
He said one of the biggest challenges facing Bucks is keeping children safe.
“There have been too many cases in the area of gangs and individuals preying on vulnerable children. Despite our very limited financial resources, the county council will continue to invest with our partners in the Police, Health and Education to tackle this modern scourge.”
Mr Tett said roads would still be invested in but warned ‘we will not be able to maintain the previous levels of expenditure’.
He said it was ‘important that I make residents and local businesses aware of our financial position’.
“The county council is an efficient organisation. We have saved more than £100 million by savings and increased income over the past five years. We have also sold off land and property and entered into cost-saving partnerships with other councils. Our staffing levels have reduced very significantly.
“Nevertheless, these savings will not be enough to cope now with the complete loss of all Government funding and indeed a new ‘tax’ being levied on our Business Rate income.
“We will be forced to consider an increase in our council tax to fund services particularly the high-cost, high-growth care for our county’s elderly.
“I am aware that this will not be popular with many residents but, along with more reductions to services, will be necessary to cope with increased demand.”