Higher council tax will pay for roads and children’s services

Lin Hazell, portfolio holder for children's servicesLin Hazell, portfolio holder for children's services
Lin Hazell, portfolio holder for children's services
Council taxpayers are set to pay more money again this year - to pay for potholed roads and a failing children’s services department.

Bucks County Council’s cabinet agreed their budget this morning, which includes a proposed council tax increase of 1.99%.

The budget sets out a £25 million investment in road resurfacing which the council says has been achieved by bringing forward planned spending from future years.

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There is also increased spending of £12 million to help support the council’s children’s services department, which is currently in crisis after being branded inadequate by Ofsted.

To help improve children’s services, portfolio holder Lin Hazell announced a recruitment drive in a bid to secure more full time social workers.

The department claims that relying on agency workers, and an increased number of referrals due to national scandals such as Jimmy Savile and Baby P, is at the root of the problem, and that the service as it is just cannot cope.

Mrs Hazell, who took over the role last year following the resignation of Angela Macpherson, said: “It has been a difficult time and there has been terrific pressure on staff.

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“Morale is very low, when I arrived I heard that last year we have lost 24 social workers and only taken on 12.

“On top of that our referrals are up 20%, which put a lot of pressure on the workforce.

People knew what was going on and a mechanism was put into place from January last year, but because of the pressure of the situation it became very hard to manage.”

Leader of the Council, Martin Tett, said: “This budget has been an incredibly difficult one to achieve. We are utterly committed to investing in children’s services. We have done this through both reducing our Reserves but also by reprioritising within a shrinking budget to fund the significant increase to help keep children safe. We have also tried hard to meet residents’ wishes on improving roads and maintaining key services.

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“While we were reluctant to have to increase council tax for a second year, we know from our budget consultation that residents backed a reasonable tax increase in order to maintain our most important services; and the 1.99 per cent increase will help us to do this.

“Given other high demands on the Council’s services, such as care for elderly people and an increasing demand for school places, we have had to propose reductions in some of our services to get the books to balance. These include reduced support for Police Community Safety Officers (PCSOs), less funding for local improvement schemes, reduced support for economic development and reductions in our ‘Supporting People’ budget.”

The final decision on the proposals and overall budget will be agreed by full Council at its meeting on 12 February.