Residents could face a two per cent council tax rise

Bucks Free Press: Martin Tett Martin Tett

COUNCIL tax could rise by two per cent with the county's leader saying it has been "the toughest budget" he has seen.

Buckinghamshire County Council consulted residents on a number of options regarding council tax and how much they were prepared to see it rise by.

At the council's cabinet meeting on Monday a two per cent rise was proposed, with a pledge of more money for supporting the county’s most vulnerable people and helping to ensure enough school places.

In approving the draft Revenue and Capital budgets to 2017/18, cabinet members also gave the green light to plans to reduce expenditure by £45 million and increase income by £7 million over the next four years.

Council leader, Martin Tett, said: "During our budget consultation we offered residents the option of a higher council tax increase, with the extra money above the basic increase ‘ringfenced’ for a step change improvement in funding for roads and pavements.

"A large number of Buckinghamshire people did express support for such an increase. We considered this result very thoroughly but decided that, ultimately, the result was not overwhelming enough to warrant the expenditure on a referendum. This decision was also influenced strongly by a desire to not increase council tax more than absolutely necessary at a time when many people are still struggling with the everyday cost of living."

A revision of the council’s Strategic Plan, was also given the go ahead, which would include a greater focus on the prevention of and support for young people affected by child sexual exploitation.

Cllr Tett said it was the toughest budget in his nine years as a member of the council and said although they have supported a Government freeze in council tax over the past four years, this is no longer possible.

The level of Government grant for county councils is planned to reduce sharply.

Cllr Tett added: "We’ve listened to our residents as this proposed budget focuses upon protecting the most vulnerable.

"We’ve also maintained a substantial road resurfacing programme with plans to spend over £43 million on resurfacing roads and footpaths over the next four years.

"Nevertheless, there have had to be some very tough proposals to reduce spending and increase income in areas like home to school transport, Rights of Way, some short breaks for carers, grass cutting and some public transport subsidies."

The draft budget will now go out to further consultation with the public, businesses and the voluntary and community sectors.

It will also be subject to scrutiny by the county council’s independent Finance, Performance and Resources Select Committee before Cabinet recommends the final budget to full County Council on February 13.



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