Where your cash goes

Social care, helping the homeless and aiding vulnerable residents takes up 71% of Buckinghamshire Council’s entire budget, it has been reported.

This leaves only 29% of the remaining capital to pay for all the other services the council provides.

This includes fixing and improving roads, collecting bins and providing libraries and leisure centres.

Council leader Martin Tett said: ‘This is the by far the hardest budget we’ve ever set during my years in local government, and the challenges facing us are acute.

‘However, I’m pleased that we can balance the books over the next three years. We remain prudently run and are not in the same position as a growing number of councils who are becoming bankrupt with some having to put council tax bills up by as much as 10%.’

The costs of providing some of these services have also risen well above an already high inflation rate.

For example, there has been a 20%-30% increase in road construction and repairs costs. With council tax funding 80% of the council’s net operating budget needed to pay for these services, councillors have agreed to raise the base rate of council tax by 2.99% with a further 2% increase in the adult social care precept.

This means an overall rise of 4.99% in council tax bills, or an extra £1.69 per week for the average Band D household.

Councillors have also voted through an amendment put forward by Councillors Gareth Williams and Diana Blamires to make an extra £5 million from reserves available directly to address the deterioration of local roads caused by the severe weather conditions in recent weeks.

It means a total of £110 million is now set aside for roads repairs and improvements during the next four years.

Overall, the final budget includes spending:

* £110 million on roads with a further £8.4 million on footways;
* £26.1 million on services to support housing and homelessness, including affordable housing action plans and disabled facilities grants;
* £14.7 million on climate change and flood management;
* £37.6 million on town centre regeneration and economic growth.

The budget has been set amidst a volatile economic environment and outlines where the council will make savings to balance the books over the next three years, while committing spend to the priority areas residents have asked for.

It also sets out how much the council proposes spending as part of its £666 million ‘capital’ programme, which is shaped by what residents have told the council they want to see prioritised.

The government made some extra funding available to councils, meaning a further £5 million can now be set aside for Social Care, the majority of which has been allocated to a contingency fund for this service.

The council has also agreed to additional council tax charges on homes that have been empty for more than 12 months. While savings across the board are still being found to balance the books, this additional income has allowed the council to reverse a small number of savings measures originally put forward.

For example, for now it will not be necessary to shorten opening hours at Household Recycling Centres and the council can continue the gully cleansing programme and reinstate a round of weed spraying and litter picking.

The council has also put forward long-term solutions to 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.

Pictured:
A highways team repairing potholes in Bucks.