Bedford's council budget wins cross-party backing

The budget maintains the council’s record of saving frontline services and protecting the vulnerable,

The 2021/22 Bedford Borough Council budget proposed by Mayor Dave Hodgson’s Executive was approved at a Full Council meeting last night with cross-party support, with no votes against.

The budget maintains the council’s record of saving frontline services and protecting the vulnerable, despite government underfunding and the financial challenge caused by the pandemic.

In presenting the budget Finance Portfolio Holder Cllr Michael Headley noted the ‘unprecedented levels of uncertainty’ due to the pandemic, and its impact on the council’s income at a time when many more people rely on the council for support.

Bedford Borough Council (C) Google Maps

He also thanked everyone involved in producing a budget that faces the challenges of the pandemic, protects the vulnerable and invests in the borough’s future.

Cllr Headley said: “This is a budget which addresses the unprecedented challenges we face and protects local residents from their impacts, so we’re pleased that the Full Council gave it such overwhelming cross-party support.

"It’s also a budget looks beyond those immediate challenges to invest in infrastructure to improve the quality of life for residents, support businesses and give the best educational opportunities for local children and young people.

“We continue to support the most vulnerable in our community, while also protecting our environment and saving services in the face of government underfunding and the financial impact of the pandemic.

"All this was at stake for the council in considering this year's budget, so I'm grateful to councillors for this emphatic vote in favour.”

The context in which the budget will be delivered was laid out during the meeting, including the £24 million cut in the council’s main government grant since 2015, and the need for £10.9 million of ongoing savings to be delivered in one year.

Savings are targeted at the way the council operates including the use of new technology and streamlined ways of working, with savings within directorates and increased income generation, all in order to protect vital frontline services.

There are also a range of measures to continue to reduce the council’s environmental impact and help tackle climate change, including a major investment in a Solar Energy Farm that makes new use of the former Elstow landfill site.

Ongoing support for the vulnerable includes full Council Tax Relief for those least able to pay, more investment for Adults and Children’s social care services, and more emergency accommodation for the homeless.

Investment in the Borough also includes further town centre regeneration, expanding schools to create more school places in growing areas and road and pavement resurfacing and improvements.