County council chief Martin Tett is urging Bucks MPs to intervene after the government massively cut its funding.
The authority was expecting to have to make budget savings of £50 million over the next four years, however, as a result of a lower-than-anticipated revenue support grant from Whitehall, that figure has risen to £66 million. And by 2018/19 the council won’t receive a single penny from the government.
Mr Tett has warned the shortfall could have massive implications for the services the council – which is responsible for roads, social services, education, rubbish disposal and libraries – is able to deliver.
He said: “It is far, far worse than our worse case modelling.”
Conservative Mr Tett has now written to Bucks’ MPs to arrange a briefing early in the new year:
“Hopefully they can all fight our case to the government,” he said.
He added: “Government appears to be cutting the grant completely within two years when we thought it would be four years. It is also removing business rates from us which we thought were secure so we are losing millions of pounds there. They are also taking away the New Homes Bonus.”
The authority is already struggling to make ends meet and in November placed a moratorium on spending.
“Costs are going up dramatically,” said Mr Tett. “Demand for children’s services and adult social care has increased four per cent this year. There is the introduction of the living wage and the Care Act which will dramatically increase costs.”
The authority is likely to raise council tax by 3.99%, but this includes a 2% levy which can only be spent on adult social care. Raising the standard part of council tax by more than 1.99% requires a referendum. Mr Tett said it ‘was an option, but not one I am attracted to’.
He added: “What’s really important is government does not take areas like Bucks for granted. We are a cash cow and provide the money which powers government spending. Neglect us at your peril.”
Aylesbury MP David Lidington said: “I will certainly work with other Bucks MPs to make the strongest representations to local government ministers in defence of local services and local interests. Some of the things Martin (Tett) highlighted are worrying. That’s why we need to sit down quickly to understand the detail.”
Aylesbury Vale District Council, which is responsible for planning, refuse collection, environmental health, parks and community centres, will also lose all of its government grant by 2018/19.
The grant has been decreasing year-on-year and the council said that ‘actual numbers for next year are only £19,000 different from our predicted figures so no changes are needed to our draft budget’.
Neil Blake, Conservative leader of the council, said: “We’ve planned for this and have been working hard over the last five years to make service provision more efficient and cost effective, and to create income generating schemes, so that we could protect the services our residents really value.”
The government’s Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “This is an historic settlement for local government. It makes local councils fully responsible to local people for their financing – rather than central government – something that local government has been campaigning for over a number of decades.
“In doing so it protects the resources available to councils over the next four years, puts more money into the agreed priority of caring for elderly people, and offers councils the certainty of a four-year budget.”