Difficult budget voted in with 3.99% tax rise
PCSO funding axed and community services hit as belts are tightened
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