The proposed 2021/22 BCP Council budget brings forward one of the lowest council tax rises in the country and achieves parity of council tax across our three towns, while also providing the leadership our communities deserve in recovering from Covid-19, emerging with a more sustainable and ambitious council, putting the needs of our residents and businesses at the heart of future plans.
Council tax will be harmonised for all households in the BCP area, two years to the day that BCP Council was created. To achieve this, Christchurch residents’ bills will be frozen at £1,541.57 for the BCP Council elements of every band D property, with Bournemouth residents’ bills rising by 0.76% to reach this level, and Poole households’ council tax rising by 2.99%.
Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Transformation, Cllr Drew Mellor, said: “I am delighted that, at a time of financial uncertainty for our residents, we are bringing forward a budget that freezes Council Tax where possible and harmonises tax across the conurbation. We believe this might be the lowest council tax rise of any unitary authority in the country.” He added: “Considering the huge pressures on our finances over the last year due to Covid-19, this is a significant achievement and is symbolic of our commitment to treat all those who live in the BCP area equitably, and to keep more of our residents’ hard-earned money in their pockets.”
Councillor Mellor continued: “In a time of crisis, I am incredibly proud that we are putting forward such a low council tax increase as well as investing significantly in both frontline services and the long-term future of our area.”
The proposed budget prioritises children and adults in need, dedicating new investment of £10 million to Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) capital projects (building further on the creation of new SEND school places at the Bournemouth Learning Centre and investment in SEND satellite provision at Somerford school), £8.5 million to improve children’s services, including the introduction of an innovative £1 million fund specifically to help local children catch up from the devastating impact of Covid-19, and a further £13 million for services for vulnerable adults.
£7.2 million is proposed for new investment in services, including £2 million to be invested in regeneration services and planning. £1.1 million extra is allocated for highways maintenance and street cleansing across the area, which will enable the council to level up the service in Christchurch to that of Bournemouth and Poole, given the legacy of lower street cleansing standards in the town when BCP Council was formed.
The budget also proposes £340,000 to tackle anti-social behaviour, recruiting six additional Community Safety Accreditation Officers, Youth Anti-Social Behaviour Officers and resources to tackle unauthorised encampments. It also ensures £240,000 is set aside to support the climate and ecological emergency, while delivering on our commitment to bring back pride to our towns as we emerge cleaner, greener and safer. If approved, the budget also includes funding for the reopening of Poole Park railway and £61,000 extra for improved beach cleaning.
A game-changing new £50 million Futures Fund for infrastructure investment will be created to support our towns and communities, with an emphasis on creating a world-class city region, stepping up regeneration, with a renewed focus on delivering transformative schemes that improve our towns and restore a sense of pride. More detail about this, and other elements of our “Big Plan” is set out in the BCP Council’s Vision for our Future, to be considered at Cabinet on 10 February, alongside the proposed budget.
The 2021/22 budget and medium-term financial plan is based on the delivery of a further £20.6 million in annual service-based and transformation-based savings, in addition to the £20.6 million already achieved through the 2019/20 and 2020/21 budgets. This will bring the total service-based annual savings following the local government review to £41.2 million. These savings have prevented some cuts to our services, which other local authorities are having to implement at this time.
There is more information on the council’s transformation progress here.
Proposed council tax levels and increases exclude any rises from Dorset Police and Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, as well as the separate Charter Trustee council tax charge in Poole and Bournemouth, and any potential adjustment to the Bournemouth area council tax arising from the establishment of the Throop and Holdenhurst parish on 1 April 2021.
The full budget report is available online at https://democracy.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CommitteeId=292
It will be considered by the council’s overview and scrutiny board on Monday, 1 February, after which Cabinet will discuss the proposal on 10 February, making recommendations for consideration at Full Council on 23 February.