January and February in the Council is budget setting time.
It’s never an easy task. Our services are mainly funded by Council Tax and business rates. We spend over £400million providing hundreds of different services, many of which everyone uses; road maintenance, household waste collection and recycling, maintaining parks and creating new walking and cycling routes in the countryside, running libraries and leisure centres.
We also provide very important services that only some people use such as child protection and adult social care. Approximately two-thirds of our budget (and therefore effectively a large part of your Council Tax) pays for these critical services which support some of our most vulnerable residents.
Demand for these services is increasing so next year we need to put more money into providing care for older people and adults with disabilities, providing additional support for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and children who need our protection.
Focussing on efficiency
As demand for our services increases, we need to look for ways to make your money go further. Next year we plan to reduce our costs by over £9million.
- getting involved as early as possible with children, families or adults who are vulnerable (because of ill health, disability or risk of abuse or neglect). By doing this, we can help them to avoid needing more support in the long term, which provides much better outcomes and saves money
- modernising care services for older people and adults with learning disabilities, so we provide care as close to home as possible, as well as services that will promote independence and reduce reliance on social care
- improving access to our online services, automating our processes and streamlining how we work to reduce our operating costs whilst still providing traditional means of access to the Council for those without internet
- building on home-based working that has been necessary and successful during the pandemic, so we spend less on offices, printing and travel costs.
Unfortunately, that’s not enough to meet the pressures we face which means Council Tax will need to increase.
Realising this is a difficult time for many people we are keeping the increase to the minimum possible and propose to increase general Council Tax by 0.95% and a 1% increase specifically for adult social care.
Investing in services for the future
Aside from the services that your Council Tax helps to fund, we also have ambitious plans to invest in new schools, roads, care homes and leisure centres. These are funded through borrowing and grants.
We’re proposing to invest £240million next year on a range of projects including:
Schools – maintaining school buildings, completing the build of the new Houstone School in Houghton Regis, refurbishment of Sandy Secondary School and expanding other schools to accommodate more pupils.
Roads – the new M1-A6 link road and new Arlesey relief road, a new transport interchange at Flitwick train station and changes to the Clophill roundabout to improve congestion.
Leisure – new leisure centres at Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard as well as improvements to leisure provision at Sandy and Rights of Way.
Health – building the new Integrated Health and Care Hub in Dunstable and new care homes in Leighton Buzzard and Flitwick.
Tell us what you think
Before a decision on the budget is made, we want to hear from residents and businesses. You can give your feedback online at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/budget2022 or pick up a leaflet in your local library and respond before 31 January.