More money for road repairs and improvements, affordable housing and more riverside development – providing jobs and houses – are some of the cherries on top of a rather unpalatable tax pie which will see B&NES ratepayers finding almost an extra five percent in Council Tax.
That’s if the Budget proposals which the Council says – are aimed at protecting front-line services and increasing investment in social care – are accepted.
B&NES says proposals are aimed towards ensuring the council lives within its means whilst continuing to invest in the services that are important to local people, as well as projects that support economic growth.
The accelerating cost of social care – for adults and young people – is hitting councils everywhere. In our area the Council’s budget proposals are plans to increase funding for Adult Social Care services by £3.9 million a year, in order to meet the demands caused by an ageing population and ease pressure on local health services, as well as a further £3.1 million for children’s care services and an extra £2.2 million for highway resurfacing.
In order to protect as many frontline services as possible and increase investment in Children’s Services and Adult Social Care, the Cabinet is proposing a 1.95% rise in Council Tax, together with 3% for the Adult Social Care precept.
B&NES says this means the Council will continue to have one of the lowest Council taxes in the South West despite facing complex challenges and increasing costs. The Cabinet’s proposals will be put before a meeting of the full Council, on February 13, including a recommended council tax rise of 1.95% in 2018/19 (an increase of £25.04 per Band D property) and an increase of 3% for the Adult Social Care precept in recognition of the current demands and financial pressures on this service. This is equivalent to an increase of £38.52 on a Band D property.
Councillor Charles Gerrish, (Conservative Keynsham North), Cabinet Member for Finance and Efficiency, said: “These are challenging times, and difficult decisions are required to balance the budget, but our aim is to make the Council financially self-sufficient so that in future we can invest in local priorities without having to rely on grant funding from government.
“And despite the financial pressures facing the Council, we are continuing to protect the vast majority of front-line services and invest in the priorities of residents, such as highway maintenance, street cleaning and affordable housing.
“As part of this, we are investing in infrastructure projects that support economic growth, create new jobs, improve local transport and generate a long-term income for the Council that can then be reinvested back into local services.
“The level of Council Tax proposed will help us to protect more of the services that residents value and increase funding for services that support our most vulnerable residents, with an additional £3.9 million for Adult Social Care. It will also mean that B&NES continues to have one of the lowest Council Tax rates in the region.”
Some of the key investments contained within the Council’s budget proposals include:
- An extra £3.9 million for adult social care to help support some of the most vulnerable in our society and to help address the increased pressure on this service.
- An extra £3.1 million for Children’s Services, including children’s social care and SEND services, together with £8.7 million for new school buildings and primary school places.
- A £19 million investment in road and transport improvements, including an extra £2.2 million for highway maintenance.
- £70,000 to support continued measures to tackle local gull problems – including a successful nest-removal programme – and protection of the Council’s street cleansing budget.
- £3 million to support the Council’s modern libraries programme to bring together library and customer services in Bath and Midsomer Norton and to develop a network of community libraries.
- £4.2 million expected by the end of this financial year to support local affordable housing projects, with a further £3 million from 2018 onwards
- Continued investment in the Bath and Somer Valley Enterprise Zones, including the flagship regeneration of Bath Quays to create jobs and generate new income from business rates.
The Council will also continue to work with the West of England Combined Authority to attract investment for improvements to transport and housing and to promote adult education and skills.
Councillor Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip), Leader of Council, said: “By increasing efficiency and generating more of our own income, the proposed budget will ensure that the Council lives within its means whilst continuing to deliver on our key aims of improving transport, delivering new homes and jobs, investing in young people, supporting cleaner, greener and healthier communities and promoting choice and independence for older people. We want to protect the most vulnerable, support our unique built and natural environments while also investing in those areas that will make us financially self-sustaining in years to come.”
Last month Bath & North East Somerset Council set out its Operational Plan, which identifies opportunities and challenges facing the Council over the next two years as it seeks to reshape itself and become more self-sufficient in the light of increased financial pressures.
The Council is already in the process of saving £27million, and announced £15 million of savings in last year’s budget. However, it now has to save a further £16 million by 2020.
Part of the changes already announced includes the reduction of 300 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the Council’s 2,000 FTE workforce. Consultation on these changes, including a management restructure, began last month and will be implemented over the first six months of the next financial year.
Bath & North East Somerset Council remains committed to putting residents first by supporting frontline services as far as possible, protecting and caring for the most vulnerable and providing ways for everyone in the community to reach their full potential.
The full details of the proposals are available on the council’s website at: https://democracy.bathnes.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=4721.
The key proposals – the authority says – will enable the council to invest in for the future to generate savings whilst protecting the most vulnerable in our society.