The final budget, including the agreed level of council tax for 2019/20, was agreed by Bracknell Forest Council at its meeting of full council on Wednesday, 27 February.
Despite savings from the council’s transformation programme of over £3m and efficiency savings of £1.9m, the demand on local services and ongoing reductions in Government grant meant the council still faced a budget gap of over £4m in 2019/20.
Like many other local authorities, an increase in council tax was needed to ensure frontline services, in particular those supporting vulnerable people, continued to be protected. During this meeting an increase in council tax of 2.99% was confirmed for 2019/20. This increase equates to around 73p per week for a band D council tax payer.
In addition, £2.6m will be drawn from the council’s reserve to bridge the remaining gap.
Cllr Peter Heydon, executive member for transformation and finance, said:
“Every year we face the inevitable challenge of identifying how we can continue to provide a range of important frontline services that make a positive contribution to the borough and its residents, while having to make and implement savings. 2019/20 is no exception to this.
“We don’t take the decision to increase council tax lightly and understand an increase is unlikely to be welcomed, however, it is often unavoidable due to the financial pressures we, like other authorities in the UK, face each year. The alternative would be to cut vital services, which is simply not an option. Despite the increase, Bracknell Forest still represents one of the lowest council tax charges amongst all unitary authorities.
“We have a very good track record of managing finances well and working within our means without overspending on budgets. We will continue to take this considered approach through forward planning and sound financial management as we head into the new financial year.”