Over recent years we have fought successfully in the face of unprecedented council funding pressures to avoid the cuts and closures seen elsewhere around the country of services such as libraries, children’s centres and weekly bin collections.
This fight is ongoing as these pressures continue to grow, and last week my Executive approved savings proposals for 2015/16 for consultation, with protecting the frontline again the priority.
We have already had to make £62 million of savings over the past five years, and have done so via a relentless focus on making savings within Borough Hall, not out in the community where important services are provided. Savings have ranged from the huge reduction in office costs through slimming down the number of council premises to smaller but important measures such as scrapping bottled water for council meetings.
This unswerving commitment to driving out savings and working in different ways has also enabled us to avoid passing on the impact of the huge reductions in council funding to hard-pressed local households. In fact, government figures show that Bedford borough is one of just eight unitary councils to have actually cut council tax since 2010.
Meanwhile, targeted investment in the borough’s future such as the brand new bus station, the crucial western bypass link and the scrapping of temporary classrooms is set to bring benefits for years to come.
The cuts to council funding are only forecast to continue year after year, however, so the savings challenge will get ever tougher. Our focus on protecting the frontline involves being open to genuine consultation on how to achieve the required savings. Please look at and have your say on the proposals, which will shortly be available on the council’s website and at Bedford borough libraries, Borough Hall and customer service centre.