County Council approves 2016/17 budget

The final budget for 2016/17 was approved by Buckinghamshire County Councillors this morning (Thursday Feb 18) on a majority vote.

Members agreed a £331.674 million revenue budget, with a council tax requirement of £245.183m, and a Band D county precept of £1,160.19 for the year.

Full council approvalfollowed aspecial meeting of the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday that reconsidered budget recommendations in the light of new transitional funding announced by the Government amounting to £10.8 million over three years – the bulk of it over the coming two years.

This extra fundingwill mean that, although the financial implications for the council are the same in the long term, some of theimpact of the cuts can spread over three years rather than imposed immediately.

Council Leader Martin Tett said: ‘I do thank our Buckinghamshire MPs for all their lobbying work and the Secretary of State Greg Clark for listening, and providing this very welcome extra funding.

‘But this money can only be used for one-off transitional purposes – it cannot buy back any permanent reduction in services we’ve had to make in the budget.’

One of the services to benefit is the county’s Time to Talk youth counselling service, also highlighted as a concern by the recent Budget Scrutiny Inquiry. It will now receive continuing funding for the next three years to ease the transition to other sources of funding, with current funding in 2016/17 and then 75% of current funding in 2017/18 and 50% in 2019/20.

Cabinet Member for Educationand Skills, Zahir Mohammed, said: ‘I am really delighted that we are able to support the youth counselling service for the next few years. The funding will go a really long way and is really welcome for such an important service.’

Plans were also set out to ease the delivery of necessary savings in the council’s Family Information Service and in Learning Disability services.

Another area to receive interim funding will be roads, where extra funding will allow total investment of £16m in roads and pavements in 2016/17 and a further £13m in 2017/18.

Cabinet Member for Transport, Mark Shaw, said: ‘It’s good that we have been able to put a further £2 million into the roads programme for the next year. I think we have seen a huge improvement with more than £95 million spent over the past five years, and we continue to spend that money wisely and sensibly to deliver the safest and most secure road network we can for the residents of Buckinghamshire.’

Noting that the £53 million reduction in Government grant was still taking place over the next four years, Cabinet Member for Resources John Chilver said: ‘I would re-emphasise that this decision in no way mitigates our determination to secure the additional income and savings that we need to find in the next few years.’