Dif­fi­cult bud­get voted in with 3.99% tax rise

PCSO fund­ing axed and com­mu­nity ser­vices hit as belts are tight­ened

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

At a Bucks County Coun­cil (BCC) meet­ing held on Thurs­day last week in the Coun­cil Cham­ber, in Ayles­bury, leader Martin Tett an­nounced that sup­port for PCSOs will be com­pletely cut.

It was also an­nounced there will be a re­duc­tion in the sup­port for fam­i­lies, and com­mu­nity ser­vices, such as the lo­cal pri­or­i­ties fund and li­brary ser­vices, face cuts.

The over­rid­ing mes­sage of Mr Tett’s speech to BCC was one of fru­gal­ity, af­ter £53 mil­lion was slashed from lo­cal govern­ment fund­ing over the next four years just be­fore Christ­mas.

He said: “What we are faced with to­day is prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult bud­get this coun­cil has ever had to face. I don’t say that lightly. The past four bud­gets that I’ve had to de­liver have all been dif­fi­cult. We have had to make some tough de­ci­sions ev­ery sin­gle year.

“But this is with­out doubt the tough­est year yet. Ev­ery­where we turn we’re short of fund­ing, we face in­creased de­mands for our ser­vices and we’re un­der pres­sure to do more for less.”

The Rev­enue Sup­port Grant (RSG) – the amount of money given by cen­tral govern­ment to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties – for the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year has been cut by nearly £20m in 2015/16 to £23.7m. In the fi­nan­cial year 2019/20, Bucks County Coun­cil (BCC) ex­pect to re­ceive noth­ing in RSG, and Mr Tett added that the £53m cut in fund­ing was £16m worse than the ‘worst case’ sce­nario ex­pected.

The loss, he said, has meant BCC has ‘had to take some very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions, which in­clude ex­tra cuts to ser­vices and grants in or­der to help bal­ance the books’.

He added: “The po­si­tion we find our­selves in is far more chal­leng­ing than any of us had an­tic­i­pated.”

Some of th­ese dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions were out­lined by Mr Tett to­wards the end of his speech.

He said: “Ul­ti­mately we have to pri­ori­tise what we do and in some cases re­duce and re­gret­fully in some cases com­pletely stop some of the things that we are do­ing to­day. We’re as­sum­ing we will achieve sav­ings of around £1.75 mil­lion in 16/17 through ser­vice re­duc­tions.

“That will in­clude re­duc­ing a num­ber of our com­mu­nity based ser­vices, such as the lo­cal pri­or­i­ties fund, some of our li­brary ser­vices, re­duc­ing some of our sub­si­dies to trans­port and our sup­port com­pletely for PCSOs.

“Much to my per­sonal dis­ap­point­ment we’re hav­ing to re­duce our fund­ing Duke scheme.”

He added: “More dif­fi­cult still we are re­duc­ing sup­port for fam­i­lies.”

How­ever, as a re­sult of the cash injection from govern­ment, the coun­cil is able to of­fer the youth coun­selling ser­vice a two year ex­ten­sion in fund­ing.

Mr Tett cited ‘gru­elling chal­lenges’ ahead in the next few years, as avail­able BCC funds have fallen from £102m in the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year to £87m in 2016/17 to £46m in 2019/20.

And he ar­gued BCC was ‘not get­ting enough money’ for the ris­ing ‘pres­sure in school places’.

The bud­get re­quire­ment for 2016/17, ex­clud­ing the Ded­i­cated Schools Grant, is £333.674m. sup­port for the of Ed­in­burgh

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