Bills set to rise

In a period of seven years, a council forecasts a saving of nearly £172 million after the local authority switch-round in 2020.

Now, Buckinghamshire Council is facing up to cuts as it aims to balance its budget for the next three years.

In particular, it is focusing on rising costs in social care, helping the homeless and home to school transport.

Council Leader Martin Tett (pictured above) said: ‘I know it will not be welcome news to our residents that bills will rise again from April, but we simply have no choice.’

The council has now published its medium-term financial plan which details operations.

In a statement it says: ‘We have already made considerable savings from becoming a single unitary authority in 2020. The council forecasts that by 2027, it will have saved a total of nearly £172 million from both savings and additional income.’

‘However, the council is still facing significant extra financial pressure because of rising costs and demand particularly for services that help the most vulnerable. All of these are critical services that people depend on, and which are statutory.’

It means that to balance the budget, the council has put forward solutions to ultimately reduce costs, including:

* Investing in additional children’s homes to reduce the heavy cost burden of external placements;
* Making savings in adult social care through providing help for some residents, where it fits their need, to live more independently;
* Rationalising the council’s office space, such as closing the King George V site in Amersham;
* Investing in more housing and temporary accommodation units to bring down the spend on costly nightly-paid accommodation.

Residents were asked their views during the autumn on where they wanted the council to prioritise spending the budget and this feedback is now reflected in the financial plans.

Budget proposals include spending the following amounts in the next four years:

* £105 million on the highways network;
* £25 million on supporting housing and homelessness;
* £14.7 million on climate change and flood management projects;
* £37.6 million on economic growth and regeneration projects.

Overall, the plan proposes that the council spends £656.4 million on capital projects over the next four years.

The council raises the money needed to pay for these projects and services through grants and various income schemes.

The largest of these by far is the income from council tax, which makes up 80 per cent of how council services are funded.

Because the cost of providing services has risen so significantly due to added demand and high inflation, the council can only balance the budget by raising council tax again next year.

The council is proposing a 2.99 per cent rise in the base rate of council tax, with a further 2 per cent rise to be spent on adult social care, meaning a total rise of 4.99 per cent – or an extra £1.69 per week for the average Band D property.

Mr Tett said: ‘Council budgets are under extreme pressure everywhere and it’s been very challenging to produce a balanced budget that takes us through to 2027. This won’t come without pain and a reduction in some services that people may notice and feel.

‘I know that this might cause worry for some households, so I urge anyone who is worried about paying their council tax bill to get in touch with our team in the first instance, as there is help and advice we can offer.’