Earlier this month, the 2015/16 Bedford Borough Council budget was approved unanimously by the full council.
The budget freezes council tax for a fifth successive year. It also protects front line services by focusing savings in Borough Hall, not out in the community. This has enabled us to continue to save services which have been cut or closed elsewhere across the country.
A number of recent national surveys have illustrated the scale and importance of this task in the face of the unprecedented financial pressures faced by local authorities.
One of these was the annual library survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, which revealed that 337 libraries have closed since 2009/10. By contrast, not only have all branches in Bedford Borough been kept open, but there has been no reduction in opening hours either.
The Campaign for Better Transport have published a survey showing that 2000 bus routes have been cut or withdrawn nationwide in this period. Meanwhile, here in Bedford borough we have a strong, award-winning rural bus network designed following consultation with parish councils, while in the urban area we’ve introduced new evening and Sunday services. With services protected and enhanced, more bus journeys are being taken here now than in 2009/10.
A recent Daily Mail survey shows that nationally households now have an average wait of 12 days for their general waste bin to be collected. Over two-thirds of councils now collect rubbish fortnightly, while we remain steadfast as one of a shrinking group of places with a weekly black bin round.
These figures are certainly not a cause for celebration here in Bedford borough, but rather a reminder of how important it is to keep up the fight to save local services as spending reductions continue to bite. It’s the least communities across the borough have a right to expect.