Meeting the Budget Challenge

As Buckinghamshire County Council looks to save another £31m next year, Leader, Martin Tett explains some of the challenges involved in managing the budget of one of the county’s biggest service providers and why it’s so important for local people to have their say about where money is best spent in the future.

‘We are currently reviewing our budget priorities for 2016/17 and we’d like your views as we face some really difficult decisions.

‘Reductions in funding from central government means there is significantly less money available, but at the same time the population is growing and ageing, birth rates and migration are also increasing so there are more and more people who need our help and support.

‘We are already an efficient council having saved over £100 million since 2010. We have also cut back on office costs, sold property, introduced new technology, joined services with other councils and increased income. However, in the face of growing demand and increasing costs, more savings are inevitable. In fact, we need to save at least another £31 million next year alone.

‘The County Council currently provides over 120 different services to the residents and businesses of Buckinghamshire. These include schools, social care, registrars’ services, country parks, road maintenance, waste disposaland much more.

‘But, we simply cannot continue to run all of these services at the same level. For some services we have already reduced opening hours, introduced higher charges, or stopped doing things as often. Our priorities are now focused on keeping the most vulnerable children and the elderly safe and protected, creating opportunity and self-reliance and keeping Buckinghamshire a thriving and attractive place to live.

‘Buckinghamshire is not alone in facing such tough times, but the reality is that we must take action now to address the continuing, long-term pressures on our finances.

We were originally proposing to increase Council Tax next year by 1.99%, the maximum the Government normally allows. However, in the recent Spending Review and Autumn Statement, the Chancellor, George Osborne, recognised the extra pressures facing those councils like Buckinghamshire with social care responsibilities. These pressures include funding the new National Living Wage to those organisations like Care Home and Home Helps who look after our senior citizens. If we do not do so, there is the very real risk that many will simply be unable to continue in business.

‘Adult Social Care is also a vital partner of the NHS helping keep people out of hospital and helping them home if they do need to go in. Without effective Social Care the NHS will find it very hard to cope, particularly during the winter months. Therefore, the Chancellor told councils that they can raise up to 2% extra from Council Tax to spend specifically on Adult Social Care. We are planning to accept the Government’s proposal and are therefore now suggesting a 3.99% rise for next year. Instead of being a 43p a week rise for a band D property, that would rise to 85p.

‘This extra will help, but it’s not enough to cover the entire budget gap and some service reductions will again be necessary. We therefore have some very tough decisions to make about how we prioritise our remaining budgets. We will need to continue looking long and hard at the current services we provide and where we can make savings and changes.

‘Before we make any final decisions, we would like your views. 1,700 people have so far completed thequestionnaire on ourwebsite at but we would like to hear from more of you. Please tell us what is important to you to help us decide the Council’s final budget priorities for 2016/17.

The closing date for responses is 17 December 2015. For those who don’t have access to the internet or a computer, you can still take part at any of the county’s libraries, where staff will help people to complete the survey.’