I am pleased to report that the proposed 2015/16 Bedford Borough Council budget includes a fifth successive council tax freeze, with households actually paying slightly less than they were in 2010 – a lot less if you take inflation into account.
This is because in addition to doing all we can to protect frontline services, we have fought to protect local taxpayers from the impact of the huge reduction in council funding and growing demand for services.
The commitment to protect the frontline means that once again, services which have been closed or reduced elsewhere across the country are being maintained. Despite the council’s main government grant having been cut by a third within two years, there have been no closures of libraries, leisure centres or children’s centres.
Meanwhile weekly bin collections, a strong rural bus network and other services being lost in other areas continue to be supported.
The budget also invests in our future, with funds in place for our ongoing programme to replace all temporary classrooms with high quality permanent facilities, alongside the completion of the western bypass, bus station area regeneration and much more.
There is also extra funding for disabled facilities grants which help people to stay in their own home, an additional £1 million for pavement resurfacing and £3 million to enhance our leisure facilities.
Finding and achieving £81 million of savings since 2010 has been an extraordinary challenge, but one which has been met with a strategic approach, targeting savings in Borough Hall, not out in the community where important services are provided. This has resulted in, for example, a senior management structure which is costing £2.9 million less per year than it was five years ago.
This budget is a product of that strategic approach, and that’s why we’re able to propose a fifth year of the council tax freeze for households.