Though they’re legally obliged to balance the books – and despite having to make savings of millions of pounds – B&NES says it’s determined to budget for new social and affordable housing and putting money into greener council vehicles.
New investment to address the housing crisis and deliver the first new council houses for a generation, improve sustainable transport infrastructure and tackle the Climate Emergency are among the draft proposals being considered by Bath & North East Somerset Council as part of its budget-setting process.
The council’s draft detailed spending plans for 2022/23 have now been published in a report to the council’s Corporate Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel. They include:
- £11.7m for new social housing
- £23.4m additional investment into waste modernisation
- £5m to provide affordable housing
- £750k to replace Keynsham’s Memorial Bridge
- £754k for green investment into the council’s vehicles
- £500k to develop a business case and secure funding for a Collection Study Centre to safeguard Bath’s Fashion Museum collection
Residents are now being invited to have their say on the proposals in an online consultation. Feedback received will help shape the final budget report which will be considered by the council’s Budget and Council Tax meeting in February.
Councillor Richard Samuel, cabinet member for Economic Development and Resources said: “We face a significant budget challenge for 2022/23 due to the continuing impact of the pandemic through reduced income, an increase in demand for services, particularly in Adult and Children’s Social Care, together with recruitment and supply chain issues arising from Brexit, as well as inflationary pressures.
“By law we have to balance our budget and to do that this year we must make further savings and think differently about the way we deliver services to support residents.
“But it’s also important that we continue to invest in our priorities. It’s why we’re planning to spend more than £11m to tackle the housing crisis and build much needed new council houses.
“We’re also proposing to allocate additional funding to Neighbourhood Services which will enable us to expand our recycling teams to cope with the significant increase in kerbside and green waste being recycled by residents and allow us to improve the pay of drivers to increase retention amid the national HGV driver shortage, reducing the risk of missed collections.
“However, before we make our final budget decisions it’s important people let know what they think. So please get involved, take part in the consultation and give us your feedback.”
The report includes draft proposals for setting a budget of £136.2m for 2022/23.
It says the council intends to invest an additional £18m in services to fund an expected increase in demand, together with recruitment and supply chain issues and inflationary pressures.
To ensure the council balances its books, the report identifies £11.9m of proposed savings and predicted additional income:
- 61 savings proposals – including maintaining a 2% vacancy rate across the council, reducing borrowing costs and making efficiency savings.
- 26 streams of predicted additional income – including increases in revenue from the sale of recycled material, parking, green waste collections, weddings and events.
Councillor Samuel, added: “While we have secured an additional £3m in grant funding from the Government for 2022/23, we’re still looking at a major shortfall in our budget. To close the gap, we’ve looked hard at where we can make savings or increase income ahead of the budget decisions in February but once again government funding is inadequate for the scale of need we face.”
As part of its commitment to give people a bigger say, the council asked for resident’s initial views on its outline budget plans in December. Now it’s giving people the opportunity to comment on its detailed spending plans.
Residents should submit their responses via the council’s online questionnaire.
Alternatively, feedback can be emailed to: email@example.com
All responses must be received by 12 noon on Monday 24 January.
The detailed budget proposals will be scrutinised and considered by councillors at the following meetings:
- Policy Development and Scrutiny Panels on 10 and 31 January 2022
- Climate Emergency and Sustainability Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel on 17 January 2022
- Children, Adults, Health and Wellbeing Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel on 18 January 2022
- Cabinet on 10 February 2022
Final decisions will be made at the Budget and Council Tax meeting on Tuesday 15 February.
Information about these meetings can be found on the council’s calendar web page.
The meetings will also be live streamed on the council’s YouTube channel