Bracknell Forest Council budget 2023 to 2024

Hand putting coin in piggy bank

Budget proposals were approved by Bracknell Forest Council’s decision making Executive on Tuesday 7 February. This includes the suggested level of council tax for 2023 to 2024. They will now be considered at a formal meeting of full council on Wednesday 22 February.  

The proposals reflect the unprecedented level of cost pressures the council is facing from high inflation and demand for services.  For the first time in over 20 years, we have to make an unplanned withdrawal from reserves in the current year, to supplement funding agreed in our approved budget. 

These pressures are continuing into next year. In total, the additional costs of inflation, rising demand for statutory services and income losses due to economic conditions total £17 million in 2023 to 2024.  Within this, the most significant cost increases relate to statutory adult social care and mental health services, which are increasing by £6 million.  Against this, our income from government grants and business rates is only increasing by £2 million. 

To balance the budget, we have identified £7.5 million of cost savings and will be drawing £3.6 million from one off reserves. The remaining gap of £3.9 million will be met by increasing council tax in line with the government’s assumed level.

The final proposals include some changes from the draft proposals published in December. These were informed by feedback from consultation with residents, businesses and the Overview and Scrutiny Commission. 

In the draft proposals, there were reductions in:

  • litter bins
  • weed treatments
  • budget for removing large scale fly tipping

In the final proposals, these reductions have been removed.

If agreed at full council, Bracknell Forest will see a council tax increase of 4.99% in 2023 to 2024. Despite this increase, we believe the council tax level in Bracknell Forest will remain in the bottom 10% of all unitary authorities. This is over £180 per year below the average level. The increase will equate to around a £1.41 increase per week for a band D council taxpayer.  

The increase in council tax is never an easy decision or one that is taken lightly, never more so than during the current cost of living crisis. However, the proposed increase covers only a small proportion of the additional costs the council is facing to sustain and protect frontline services and will be mirrored in almost all local authorities across the country.  

The alternative would be to cut these vital services, which is simply not an option, particularly at a time when more people with increasingly complex needs are dependent on these services. We are committed to making sure both adult and children’s social care can continue to support the borough’s most vulnerable residents.

We recognise that households are already experiencing cost of living increases and support is being offered to the borough’s most vulnerable residents who are facing increased financial pressure. There is a range of schemes available both locally and nationally. This includes help with energy and food bills and council tax support.  You can find more information on our cost of living page.

For 2023 to 2024, we are providing a £75 reduction to council tax bills for working age households eligible for council tax support. This is a local scheme and complements government funded discounts of £25 for all council tax support claimants, including pensioner households.

Cllr Peter Heydon, executive member for transformation and finance, said:

“Every year the council faces financial pressures and challenges, but we have never before experienced the current levels. Inevitably, the current wider economic crisis is impacting us, like it is all households and businesses.

“As always, we have worked incredibly hard to identify £7.5 million of savings without impacting on essential frontline services and will also be drawing more than £3.5 million from our reserves to help balance the budget. We are also using a further £0.4 million of our reserves to subsidise council tax bills for households most in need and to provide them with additional help and advice.  However, our proposals do include increasing council tax in line with government assumptions.

“We understand an increase in council tax is never welcomed, particularly at a time when many residents are facing further financial challenges. However, it is the only permanent income source that helps us sustain the essential services that our residents depend on.  We have always had in place a wide range of measures to help financially vulnerable households and I would strongly encourage residents to look at all the schemes available to see where they may be eligible for financial support if needed.

“Bracknell Forest still has one of the lowest council tax charges amongst all unitary authorities in England and we have promised to maintain this position. This proposed budget does this and we will continue to manage our finances well and work within our means to make sure valuable services can be maintained and protected.”

View minutes from the executive meeting