The closure of recycling centres and cuts to services for the county’s most vulnerable residents were slammed as Bucks County Council’s (BCC) last ever budget was given the green light yesterday.

Councillors gathered in Aylesbury to debate on the final budget in the authority’s 130-year history – before the all-encompassing unitary-council comes into force in April 2020.

Members approved a council tax increase of 2.99 per cent – the equivalent of £37 a year for a band D home – which will be ploughed into front line services, after central government funding was slashed to zero for the first time this year.

After a tumultuous year of controversial consultations into cuts to recycling centres, home-to-school transport and children’s centres- leader of BCC, Martin Tett revealed there will be a further £19.7 million worth of budget cuts by 2022/23.

Members also raised concerns over plans to slash their individual allowances for road maintenance schemes  by more than half.

This year BCC became the first ever county, alongside Dorset, to lose all of its revenue support grant from government – which was used to fund front-line services.

The council was also forced to earmark another £11 million to plug a potential funding gap left by negative revenue support grant – the government’s reduction of BCC’s business rates income, which would then be handed over to other councils.

Cllr Tett has previously labelled this “grossly unfair” and yesterday revealed BCC would be able to hold on to that portion of cash for the next financial year – however it is unclear what will happen after that.

Addressing full council, Cllr Tett said the “challenges” faced by the authority led to “difficult and painful decisions” and highlighted the importance of building up healthy reserves to “prepare for the unexpected”.

Social care budgets have faced the biggest pressures this year due to increased demand and the growing complexity of cases – forcing the council to dip into back-up funds following major overspends.

However an extra £500,000 has been earmarked for weed-killing to tidy up towns and villages across the county, while £21 million has been allocated to road maintenance – including early repairs to tackle winter damage.

Cllr Tett said: “We don’t just accept cost pressures, we have to look at efficiencies. We have had major change programmes across most of our services.

“We look to see every year how we can keep delivering those core services to residents, quite often with less money. Or we do more with the same money.

“For years we have been doing this, and the long hanging fruit has long since been plucked and we are now in some really difficult and challenging decisions.

“We cannot keep relying on council taxpayers, it is really important that taxpayers can see we are looking after our own and looking to generate every single bit of our own income that we can, and we will be looking to do that as we look ahead.”

Leader of the opposition, Liberal Democrat councillor, Steven Lambert, addressed members – raising numerous concerns, including the potential increase in fly-tipping caused by the closure of Bledlow Ridge recycling centre.

He went on to say he is “deeply concerned” about proposals to transfer residential short breaks for disabled adults  to the Aylesbury opportunities centre – and fears BCC’s motivation is to make money from the sale of the Beaconsfield short breaks respite centre, Seeleys House, rather than “a service led need for change”.

He was also “extraordinarily taken aback” to learn members’ allowances for road schemes would be cut from £10,000 to £4,000 “not for any reason but to put money into reserves”.

Concluding, Cllr Lambert said the budget looks “reasonably healthy” however said there is “gap in funding” which will ultimately lead to further cuts to services.

He said: “Brexit is a risk to our business community, but the council budget as presented looks reasonably healthy with about 8% in reserves.

“It’s much more than the minimum. But the fact this year we are re profiling budget contingencies to bridge service gaps in children’s adult asocial care and are making cuts to household waste management services and members schemes means that the budget isn’t as rosy as it all looks and there is a real gap in funding.

“This will lead to further service cuts proposals and contingencies will have to be used again.”