A 3.99 per cent council tax rise and ‘significant’ cuts to services were approved this afternoon on a majority vote as councillors agreed the county council’s budget for the next four years.

Worse than expected funding cuts from central government meant that Bucks County Council has had to reduce or axe completely their support for community services in a bid to make £53 million of savings.

The county council is expected to claw back around £1.75 million of savings in 2016/17 by reducing funds to community-based services like the local priorities fund, some library services and completely withdrawing support for the county’s PCSOs.

Mobile libraries are set to be reduced from three to one and subsidies to Transport for Bucks will be reduced, as will money for the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Support for families will also be reduced, but a £10.8 million transitional grant from the government, which will help ‘smooth’ out reductions in services and prepare for cuts, will allow the county council to ‘protect’ their youth counselling service for at least a year.

The county council can now add £135,000 back to the counselling budget to make it £270,000, before the money will be ‘phased down’ to 75 per cent 2017/18 (£200,000) and then to roughly 50 per cent in 2018/19.

Around £200,000 from the grant will also go towards maintaining the county’s roads over the next year, increasing to an extra £2 million in 2017/18 - taking the budget to £15 million in the next year before decreasing to £12 million in 2017/18 and then down to £10 million from 2018.

£1 million will also be added to the council’s reserves, which is currently expected to be around £16 million mark – down from over £30 million two years ago.

Education is also set to be affected, as central government cuts its education services grant to the council from £5.1 million in 2016/17, to £5 million in 17/18, then down to £3.4 million in 2019/20 - prompting council leader Martin Tett to warn that the council will still have to “deliver with a significantly reduced education services budget.”  

The revenue support grant, the biggest grant from central government, has already seen a decrease from over £60 million in 2013/14 to £42 million in the current financial year, but will eventually reduce to nothing by 2018.

As well as cutting funding to services, staff restructuring at the council is expected, while more council services will be available online in a bid to save money.

And plans to increase prices for some services, as well as taking more money from car parking, increasing charges for home school transport and day care services, is expected to help save cash.

The county council are also planning to spend £255 million in 2016/17 and £459 million over four years, with the largest expense being the Energy to Waste plant - planned for opening in spring this year - at £180 million, while school places will have £90 million dedicated to it.

The increase in council tax is also expected to “plug the gap” in funding, with two per cent of the 3.99 per cent rise going toward social care.

However cllr Tett said he felt there is a “buck shifting” from central government to local, which will now be responsible for taxing social and health care and that a “cynic might say we are having to take the blame.”

32 councillors a full council meeting at Aylesbury Crown Court on Thursday morning agreed a £331.674 million revenue budget, with a council tax requirement of £245.183m, and a band D county precept of £1,160.19 for the year - with seven voting against and four choosing to abstain.

Cllr Avril Davies, Liberal Democrats, who voted against the proposals, saying some of the cuts were ‘cruel’, said: “We are being asked to approve a budget that is highly unlikely to succeed. The risk of service collapse is staring us in the face.

“The most unexpected cut is the axing of Connexions. For some reason you think schools can save it by buying back services but they have cuts too. It is essential for young people and it may not recover from this blow.”

 Cllr Tett said the council had to make some “tough decisions” in order to balance their budget.

He said: “Many of them have been unpopular but everywhere we turn were short of funding, face increasing demand for our services and we are under pressure to do more for less.

“The position we find ourselves in is far more challenging than we anticipated. There are significant risks. There are no longer any soft or easy options.

“We remain under intense pressure, but we continue to deliver first class services and we should be proud of that.”