Cabinet agrees first Budget without Government revenue support

Cabinet members have agreed the first County Council budget to include absolutely no help towards services from the Government in the form of Revenue Support Grant.

Today (Monday, February 12) they agreed to recommend to full County Council on February 22 a revenue budget for day-to-day spending of £336 million and capital spending of £122.6m.

This includes a £26.7m investment in Buckinghamshire’s highways infrastructure – which includes an increase from £10m to £15 on resurfacing – and £36.6m on providing enough school places for a progressive county that, Leader Martin Tett said, was planning ahead for population growth of around 95,000 in the next 20 years.

And to protect libraries as community hubs, £100,000 has been earmarked from contingency funds to quash a proposal to reduce opening hours.

The County Council has seen Government support decline from nearly £61m five years ago to £8m this year. Along with Dorset, Buckinghamshire becomes the first county council to receive nothing at all.

Cabinet members, who were subjected to three days of rigorous questioning over council finances by the Budget Scrutiny Select Committee in January, agreed a 2.99% increase in standard council tax to reflect inflation, following a rise in the Government-imposed referendum threshold.

They also agreed to implement the Government proposal for a 3% Social Care Precept, and welcomed the Government’s one-year-only grant of £1m, which will be spent on social care transformation.

This would mean an increase of less than £1.40 a week for Band D.

This still leaves a funding gap of £12.65m, which will be met from efficiencies, savings and additional income. This includes £9.8m in additional pressure on services to vulnerable people across the county – children’s services and adult social care. The additional 3% adult social care precept will provide around £7.6m of this shortfall.

Leader Martin Tett said: “We, along with every other County Council, are facing severe cost pressures in Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. These pressures are forcing us to increase council tax – something I would really not wish to do, but we just can’t avoid it.

“It’s vitally important that the government sticks to its deadline and brings forward proposals on how social care will be funded, otherwise counties across the county will be under ever-increasing financial risk.”

In addition to the County Council budget, Buckinghamshire receives £430m from the Government, £310m of which is passed on to schools, and the remainder funds early years and high needs.

TheCabinet welcomed the Budget Scrutiny Select Committee’s report and adopted many of its recommendations.

Select Committee Chairman David Watson said: “Overall I’m impressed that the Cabinet listened to our report and I’m pleased that the majority of our recommendations have been taken on board. Our investigations led us to the conclusion that the budget for 2018/19 is extremely tight and there appear to be more risks than opportunities facing the council.”