Balancing the books

This is the month that B&NES sets its annual budget and – not unsurprisingly – our Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse, has praised her colleagues on the council for their ‘strong stewardship of finances, resources and services on behalf of residents, particularly the most vulnerable, in the face of soaring costs and chronic underfunding from central government.’

Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, commented:

“For years the Conservative Government has been starving our local authorities of vital funding. The pandemic, inflation and Brexit have loaded intense additional pressure on councils. 

“I commend my Liberal Democrat colleagues for protecting the essential frontline services our residents rely on. Councillor Richard Samuel, deputy leader and cabinet member for Resources and his team have done an excellent job. 

“Over the past four years B&NES Liberal Democrats have proved highly responsible financial stewards, competently managing diminishing resources in contrast to the chaos we saw under their Conservative predecessors. The Liberal Democrats have built in extra resilience for Council finances by restoring reserves. And they have balanced the books while investing for the future, identifying more than £14m of savings and additional income. 

“Even with these efforts, in this very challenging environment funds don’t go as far as they did previously. We currently have the third lowest Council Tax rate of all unitary authorities in the South West. Bath & North East Somerset Council is proposing a general Council Tax increase of 2.99%, The increase is in addition to a 2% increase in the Social Care Precept, which is ring-fenced to support Adult Social Care services. 

“My Council colleagues have earmarked funds to help keep our neighbourhoods clean and green. They are maintaining our supported bus network in Bath and funding a two-month extension to five key supported bus routes outside of Bath, where the Metro Mayor is introducing new demand-responsive minibus services. Other key areas include funding to meet increased demand for Children’s Services, increasing bed capacity in Council care homes and providing additional school places to meet growing demand.

“Nationally the Conservatives have lost credibility as the party of good fiscal management. Many people are struggling to keep their heads above water as inflation and energy costs remain high and some people are saddled with higher mortgage rates. Here in Bath, the Liberal Democrats are demonstrating fiscal responsibility and support for the most vulnerable in our communities.”