B&NES approves budget to increase efficiency and protect front-line services

Bath and North East Somerset Council has approved Conservative budget plans to increase efficiency, protect front-line services and keep Council Tax as low as possible.

The council’s budget has been set amid the most challenging set of financial circumstances the authority has ever faced, with the council needing to find £43 million worth of savings over the next four years.

Of the savings identified in the Conservative budget plans:

  • £5.3 million has been achieved through increasing efficiency, including £2.2 million from restructuring and management savings;
  • £3 million is being generated by increasing income through investments that produce a return for the taxpayer;
  • £770,000 is being saved by providing services in new and innovative ways.

As a result of these savings, the 1.25% increase in Council Tax agreed by the Council is likely be among the lowest in the country, with most other councils expected to implement the full 1.99% rise allowed by Government on top of the new 2% Social Care precept.

Following the Council meeting, Conservative Leader Cllr Tim Warren, said:

“As a result of the savings we have made, we have been able to protect the core front-line services residents value whilst keeping Council Tax as low as possible. We expect the Council Tax rise here in B&NES to be among the lowest in the country.

“By delivering more than £10 million worth of savings we have also been able to provide additional investment in priority areas such as transport, road resurfacing, job creation and affordable housing.”

Councillor Warren added:

“It’s a shame that we heard a lot of unnecessary criticism from Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors, mostly aimed at the Government, but nothing positive or constructive and no alternative proposals for how to balance the books whilst continuing to protect services.”

Some of the additional investment included within the Conservative budget plans include:

  • £6.6 million of Government funding to expand the number of Primary School places in the district.
  • £3.2 million to support the delivery of new affordable housing schemes throughout the B&NES area.
  • £1.8 million for transport improvement schemes and road safety measures
  • £500,000 to tackle potholes and improve the state of local roads, over and above the £3.6 million granted by Government.
  • £150,000 to upgrade and improve children’s play areas throughout the district.
  • £85,000 to tackle the area’s gull problems.

Cllr Charles Gerrish, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance & Efficiency, added:

“Despite the unprecedented level of savings we’ve had to make in this budget we have been able to protect vital services such as street cleaning, public toilets, recycling, Children’s Centres, and front-line social care services.

“However, even with the savings identified this year, we still need to find a further £31 million to balance the books in the years ahead. This means there will need to be further work in the months ahead to identify these savings and ensure the Council remains on a sound financial footing.”