Tonight (18 February 2020), councillors set the first BCP Council budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan since the formation of BCP Council in April 2019.
In an approach that sees budget-setting closely aligned to council priorities, and underpinned by our guiding principles of wellbeing, investment and sustainability, the 2020/21 budget focuses on investment that supports people and vibrant communities.
The budget clearly outlines spending commitments to each of our priorities, setting out financial plans that support:
- a sustainable environment;
- dynamic places;
- connected communities;
- brighter futures; and
- fulfilled lives.
Cllr David Brown, cabinet member for finance, said, “Fairness is at the heart of this budget. We are now on a clear path to set a council tax that makes a single charging structure possible right across the conurbation from April 2021 and fulfil our promise that all households will be billed the same within two years of the formation of BCP Council. In progressing this, we have been able to keep council tax rises within the government’s 3.99% increase threshold, including a 2% adult social care precept.”
Cllr Brown continued, “The age of austerity has not ended for local government, nor has the impact on the essential local services we provide. We have had to manage a £103million annual reduction in the council’s core funding from government compared with 2010/11, with only £3million in core un-ringfenced government funding provided next year. All forecasts are that this amount will dry up completely from 2021/22 onwards.”
Cllr Vikki Slade, Leader of the Council, sets out how each of the council’s strategic priorities is benefiting from the 2020/21 budget, saying: “We know that our priorities reflect those of local people and our vibrant communities. We know this because these priorities have been developed with stakeholders from right across the BCP area. Having done that, local people rightly expect us to follow through on these stated priorities and put their money into the things they’ve told us they care about most.”
She said, “Brighter futures is all about improving the lives and prospects of our young people. We’ve invested £3m to ensure children in care and those with special educational needs and disabilities get the right support. We’re protecting and investing in Children’s Centres and Youth Services as key frontline services.” Cllr Slade continued, “We’ve prioritised brighter futures for the long term, by responsibly managing the financial pressure that exists in the high needs element of schools funding, working with school partners to reduce this financial burden while still providing the education which is so important to those pupils with additional needs.
“Our fulfilled lives priority has seen us invest in services for the most vulnerable members of our community, with an extra £11 million allocated to the base budget for Adult Social Care services in 2020/21. This means we can meet rising costs associated with residential care for older people with complex needs, those with learning disabilities, and adults living with long-term conditions, as well as the cost pressures brought about by the 6.2% increase in the national living wage, meaning the dedicated care workers who provide these vital services are fairly paid.”
Cllr Slade continued, “To support a sustainable environment, we’ve created the capacity to access national capital investment, such as a recently-awarded 1/3 share of £1.5million for smarter management of the transport network and made significant investment in sustainable travel.” She added, “We’re investing to bring equal street cleansing and highway maintenance standards across our area, to support the climate change and ecological emergency, and in protecting our treasured coastline.
“We want to see our dynamic place grow and prosper. This budget invests in regeneration and in increasing the number of homes built locally, to both increase growth and to boost the council’s taxbase. We’ve allocated £184million to local housing provision over the next three years, committing to building the homes people need and can afford.
“We’re increasing what the council spends on accessible arts and culture, in regenerating our high streets but we must recognised that our town centres have changed forever. Our regeneration plans will focus on creating town centres where people choose to shop, work, eat, play and live.” She added, “This budget also invests in enhancing public conveniences and our parks and open spaces strategy.”
Cllr Slade continued, “We want to develop connected communities. This budget specifically allocates annual funding for community engagement, so that asking and listening to people really is inbuilt to our decision making.” Cllr Slade added, “We’ve allocated almost £3million to prevent and reduce homelessness and help those sleeping rough to move away from the streets in to sustainable and affordable housing.”
Having presented the budget, Cllr Brown noted the savings already achieved through local government reform, as well as required continued investment, saying, “This budget delivers £9.4million in annual savings in addition to the £11.2 million already achieved, bringing the total service-based annual savings following Local Government Review to £20.6million.” He added, “Up to £18.2 million initially set aside for organisational redesign will transform BCP Council in to a modern, accessible and accountable council which re-imagines and creates a 21st century organisation.”