Leader of B&NES Council, Kevin Guy
In my last Journal column, I said I’d provide an update this month on our plans to balance the books, despite huge financial challenges, whilst continuing to invest in local services.
I am pleased to say that our cabinet on Thursday, 10th February approved a balanced budget for recommendation on to Full Council. The proposed budget will see £11.8m of savings and additional income streams, alongside a general Council tax increase of 1.99%. The increase is in addition to a 1% increase in the social care precept, which is ring-fenced to support Adult Social Care services. For a Band D property, this would result in a total annual increase of 2.99%, £45.73, or 88p per week, which is below the rate of inflation.
I would like to thank everyone who responded to our budget consultation. After listening to local residents and businesses, and to support our local economy, parking charges in Midsomer Norton and Radstock have now been removed from the budget proposals.
We continue to have one of the lowest council tax rates of all unitary authorities in the South West and I believe we provide value for money and the frontline services – cleaner streets, council homes, improved transport and better recycling facilities that residents want.
We have injected £950,000 into neighbourhood services, to help us clean streets more frequently in more areas, empty gulleys, maintain road signs and pavements, remove graffiti and generally improve the local environment.
I said last month that previous administrations had delayed or ignored the big issues and gazed through the cracks while the sun was shining. So, we are investing for the long term, including £16.7m to deliver the first new council homes in a generation as well as more affordable housing. There is also more funding to improve transport – we are working closely with WECA to improve footpaths, cycleways and buses – and to maintain roads.
We are investing over £24m in tackling the climate and ecological emergency, including £14.2m to further enhance the council’s high levels of recycling. We will be building a new state-of-the-art recycling facility in Keynsham and expanding the council’s green vehicle fleet.
To support our young people we will be investing in new special educational needs provision at Bath College’s Somer Valley campus.
Finally, I recognise how tough things are locally with the current cost of living crisis. Clearly, many of the factors influencing the inflation rate are not within the council’s gift. However, I am determined that the council will do everything we can to help residents and businesses. As fuel bills rise, we can help people to improve energy efficiency in their homes.
Since 2005 has worked with Lendology to lend more that £676,896 to homeowners across B&NES to fund home repairs, improvements, adaptations, and energy efficiency measures.
We also need to keep attracting good-quality jobs and investment into our area. I will update more on what the Council is doing to help revitalise our town and village centres in my next Journal column.
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