Major tax rise announced in Bucks Council budget proposals
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Bucks Council has announced a major 3.99% Council Tax rise in the 2022/23 budget proposals, released today (January 6).
The council has cited an 'extremely challenging financial environment', as the reason behind the significant increase.
By the Conservative-controlled council's estimation the increase will cost households £1.23 per week, or £63.96 annually.
Included in the tax rise is a 2% precept to help pay for adult social care, the council says.
It believes by making 'difficult funding choices', it can continue to support key residential projects and balance this year's budget, which is a legal requirement.
The plans were voted through at a cabinet meeting held this morning.
Bucks Council Leader Martin Tett said: “These are tough times and we are having to make really difficult choices as a result.
"There is no wriggle room in local authority budgets and I truly understand the pressures households are under with rising costs and increasing bills. I do want to stress that there is help available for people who are suffering severe financial hardship.
"Due to careful financial management, I must say that Buckinghamshire is in a better position than many other councils – we are able to dedicate funds to key capital projects that I know our residents have asked us to prioritise and many other local authorities simply aren’t able to do that.
"We’re spending more than £100 million on improving our heavily used road network and we are committed to opening an extra Household Recycling Centre – residents have told us that’s what they want, and we have listened.
"I urge residents to look at all the details of our proposed budget on the Council’s website. I know it’s not easy hearing about another rise in Council Tax but I really hope by looking at the details, the reasons behind our proposals are clearer.
"We have done our utmost to keep this necessary rise to the minimum and have managed to get this to a £1.23 weekly increase for the average Bucks household.
"I really hope as many residents as possible feedback their views to us on the budget plans through the scrutiny process.”
A spokesperson for Bucks Council added: "All councils are operating in a highly uncertain financial landscape, coping with significantly increased demands on services, alongside the added pressures of the Covid pandemic, whilst seeing reduced funding streams from areas such as car parking and leisure centres.
"In Buckinghamshire we are managing many competing challenges, from higher costs, because of inflation, to the financial pressures many of our key providers are facing.
"It’s also a big challenge recruiting and retaining staff in vital areas such as social work, where we need to be able to offer competitive wages to hire and keep staff in these critical roles."
The council believes through 'prudent financial management' means, it can continue with plans to improve roads in the county at a cost of £100 million.
Also, it will push forward with plans to develop a new household recycling centre in the North of the county.
A majority of the budget will be spent on adult and child social care services, the council confirmed.
Projections released by the council, show that 57% of the net budget will be dedicated to care services.
The council aims to spend approximately £295 million on social care services in 2022/23.
A Bucks Council spokesperson said: "We need to balance this alongside spending on the biggest priorities for our residents, like roads and pavements maintenance and improvements, tackling climate change and supporting our residents and businesses to build back from the pandemic."
Alongside the council tax rise, the following revenue raising measures have been announced:
-Reducing some of the funding for the 16 community boards, supported by the council
-Continuing as a single unitary council
-Using a one-off sum of £1.36 million from the General Fund to balance the budget and mitigate risk in 2023/24
Other key projects the council plans to support include:
-Fighting climate change by planting more than half a million new trees in Bucks, one for every resident
-Again next year, cleaning out every one of the 85,000 gullies in the county
-Spending more than £100 million on Bucks roads and pavements, as part of an improvement programme
-Enhanced street cleaning in local communities – as of its ‘Big Bucks Tidy Up’ programme
Over the next four years the council proposes spending in the following areas:
-£37.9 million to support economic growth and regeneration
-£136.4 million on schools, and school improvement projects
-£117.9 million on overall transport and strategic highways maintenance including i) £61.6m on major highway resurfacing schemes; ii) £17.7 million on smaller planned surface repairs (known as ‘plane and patch’ repairs); iii) £8.5 million on pavement repairs; iv) £8.4 million on street lighting repairs, replacement and maintenance; v) £8 million on drainage works to reduce flooding on Bucks roads
-£120.5 million on strategic infrastructure
-£24 million investment in waste, primarily on vehicle replacement and a household recycling centre in Buckingham
-£21.7 million to support housing and homelessness including affordable housing action plans and disabled facilities grants
The council advises that Bucks residents can challenge and provide direct feedback on the budget at budget scrutiny sessions next week, starting on Monday (January 10).
Dates of meetings are listed on the council's website on the meetings calendar page.