Bracknell Forest Council will consider draft proposals for its 2019/20 revenue and capital budgets on Tuesday, 18 December, during the meeting of the council’s executive.
The potential overall cost of the revenue budget being consulted on is in the region of £78.6m, which is partly funded by income from council tax. The draft proposals include savings from the council’s transformation programme of over £3m and efficiency savings of £1.9m. However, despite this, increasing demand on local services and ongoing reductions in Government grant mean the council is likely to face a budget gap of around £2.5m in 2019/20.
This budget gap will need to be bridged by a combination of further spending reductions, drawing from reserves and/or an increase in council tax. The formal decision on any increase to council tax will not be made until February 2019.
Since becoming a unitary authority 20 years ago, the council has achieved savings of over £85m. The 2019/20 budget proposals will consult on further savings that help ensure front line services, and in particular those supporting vulnerable people, continue to be protected.
Recognising the ongoing pressures on the council’s finances, proposed new expenditure on assets used to deliver services is relatively modest at £6m. Within this are proposals to enable the amalgamation of the last remaining infant and junior schools at Ascot Heath and Holly Spring and to establish a new youth facility at Braccan Walk.
Cllr Paul Bettison OBE, Leader of Bracknell Forest Council, said:
“Like many other local authorities, Bracknell Forest continues to faces significant financial challenges and this is unlikely to change in the near future.
“We have taken a number of considered steps over the past two years to help us deliver large scale savings through our council-wide transformation programme, while also improving and modernising services for residents, businesses and visitors.
“We had a target of making savings of £11m by April 2019. However, through forward planning and good financial management we have already met this target more than six months ahead of schedule.
“Our draft proposals show we are approaching 2019/20 in an equally careful and considered way to continue to minimise any impact on residents.”
Cllr Peter Heydon, executive member for transformation and finance, said:
“It is important to us that we spend our money on things that make a positive contribution to the borough and its residents.
“Every year we have the challenge of identifying areas where we can make savings and implement them and the coming year will be no exception. As an authority we have a very good track record of managing finances well, working within our means without overspending on budgets, while continuing to provide high quality frontline services.
“Our transformation programme has already proved successful in ensuring we are systematically thinking about delivering services in different ways while making important savings. A recent example is that the council has kept all its libraries open and will shortly install further technology to extend their opening hours.
“We remain committed to consulting with residents on major changes and making the best financial decisions available to us to minimise the impact on our communities. I would encourage residents to look at the draft budget proposals on the council’s website and to take the time to feedback their thoughts on them.”
The executive will discuss the draft revenue and capital budget proposals when it meets on Tuesday, 18 December. If the executive agree to the proposals, a full public consultation will run from Wednesday, 19 December 2018 to Tuesday, 29 January 2019.
The final budget, including the proposed level of council tax for 2019/20, will be determined by full council on 27 February 2019, following the council’s normal consultation period.
The full budget proposals are now available to read online.