Bedford Borough Council faces funding gap of more than £9m

It's the worst hit authority in the East of England
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Councils in the East of England have a funding shortfall of at least £40million between them for this financial year - and Bedford is the worst hit with a funding gap of more than £9million.

The figures were obtained by Unison through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, leaving the union worried services such as libraries, child protection, care for the elderly, road maintenance and public health programmes will all be put at risk.

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However, Bedford Borough Council has said its new budget would protect the needs of the most vulnerable.

Bedford Borough Council faces a funding gap of more than £9 millionBedford Borough Council faces a funding gap of more than £9 million
Bedford Borough Council faces a funding gap of more than £9 million

Unison has launched an online map showing people how much their council needs to deliver basic services - and is encouraging people to contact their MPs to get the government to provide more funding. You can access the map here.

Cllr Michael Headley, portfolio holder for finance at Bedford Borough Council, said: “This last year has seen some of the most challenging times for our council, with the pressure that Covid-19 has placed on our services while simultaneously making it even more important that the council is here to provide vital support for people who need it.

“We are now faced with making over £10million of savings in just one financial year.”

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Last month we revealed how 95 redundancies were on the cards as the council set it budget.During the meeting, Cllr Headley added: “We are expecting 65 per cent of savings to come from areas that don’t require redundancies, however some of the savings do result in reduced posts.

“We are estimating that there will be 95 redundant posts this year. We don’t do this lightly and we are very conscious of the impact this will have on people.”

He said the council has a voluntary redundancy programme, plans to redeploy some people and some of the job losses will come from unfilled vacancies.

Nevertheless, he said that the budget is robust and protects the needs of the most vulnerable.

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Unison Eastern head of local government, Sam Leigh, said: “The financial situation councils in the East of England are experiencing is dire. They face a huge black hole in their budgets. Many need to take drastic action to ensure they can deliver vital services, but all too often even these have been cut.

“Councils were struggling even before the pandemic. But with the Government refusing to pay them back for the additional costs brought on by Covid-19, the most vulnerable will suffer and basic services will be significantly pared back or stopped."