Bucks County Council decries lack of funding as it agrees its first ever budget with no Government support

Cabinet members have agreed the first Bucks County Council (BCC) budget to include no help towards services from the Government in the form of Revenue Support Grant

Cabinet members have agreed the first Bucks County Council budget to include no help towards services from the Government in the form of the Revenue Support Grant.

Earlier this week, cabinet agreed to recommend to a meeting of full council on February 22 a revenue budget for day-to-day spending of £336 million and capital spending of £122.6m.

This includes a £26.7m investment in the county’s highways infrastructure - which includes an increase from £10 million to £15 million on resurfacing - and £36.6m on providing enough school places for a progressive county that leader Martin Tett said was planning ahead for population growth of around 95,000 in the next 20 years.

In order to protect libraries as community hubs, £100,000 has been earmarked from contingency funds to quash a proposal to reduce opening hours.

The county council has seen Government support decline from nearly £61m five years ago to £8m this year and along with Dorset, Bucks is the first county council to receive no financial support from the Government.

Cabinet members, who were subjected to three days of rigorous questioning over council finances by the Budget Scrutiny Select Committee in January, agreed a 2.99% increase in standard council tax to reflect inflation, following a rise in the Government-imposed referendum threshold.

They also agreed to implement the Government proposal for a 3% Social Care Precept and welcomed the Government’s one-year-only grant of £1m, which will be spent on social care transformation.

All this means an increase of less than £1.40 a week in council tax for a Band D household (£1,291.04 per annum)

This still leaves a funding gap of £12.65m, which will be met from efficiencies, savings and additional income.

This includes £9.8m in additional pressure on services to vulnerable people across the county - children’s services and adult social care.

The additional 3% adult social care precept will provide around £7.6m of this shortfall.

Council leader Martin Tett said: “We, along with every other county council, are facing severe cost pressures in Adult Social Care and Children’s Services.

“These pressures are forcing us to increase council tax - something I would really not wish to do, but we just can’t avoid it.

“It’s vitally important that the Government sticks to its deadline and brings forward proposals on how social care will be funded, otherwise counties across the country will be under ever-increasing financial risk.”

In addition to the county council budget, Bucks receives £430m from the Government, £310m of which is passed on to schools, while the remainder funds early years and high needs services.

Cabinet supported the Budget Scrutiny Select Committee’s report and adopted many of its recommendations.

Select Committee chairman David Watson said: “Overall I’m impressed that the Cabinet listened to our report and I’m pleased that the majority of our recommendations have been taken on board.

“Our investigations led us to the conclusion that the budget for 2018/19 is extremely tight and there appear to be more risks than opportunities facing the council.”

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