Council budget protects front line services, but criticism that urgent priorities are being missed


The 2020/21 Budget proposed by Mayor Dave Hodgson’s Executive was approved at a Full Council meeting last week with no votes against.

However, it wasn’t without its critics.

“The budget from the Mayor was a missed opportunity to address some urgent priorities for Bedford Borough,” Cllr Graeme Coombes, leader of the Conservative group, told the Bedford Independent.<

The budget protects front line services in the face of on-going financial challenges following slashed funding from central government. Elsewhere across the country, many frontline services have seen widespread cuts and closures taking place.

A statement from the Mayor’s office said, “The Council faces a growing need for services and has suffered huge government funding cuts over recent years.

“In spite of this, this budget continues to protect the front line and key facilities such as libraries and children’s centres.

“It also includes major investment for the future, with over £50m for new or enhanced schools and school buildings and the funding required to deliver the new Wixams railway station, which will be recovered through fares.”

Commenting, Executive Member for Finance, Cllr Michael Headley said, “This budget protects frontline services and invests in the future for our Borough. So it’s pleasing that not only did it pass but that it won emphatic cross-party support.’

“These continue to be extremely challenging times, and we’re pleased to win strong backing for a budget which puts local communities first, now and in the future.”

The core council tax rise is kept down for 2020/21 at 1.85%, while the Government’s Adult Social Care precept to Council Tax is applied at 2%.

Cllr Coombes voiced his criticism of the budget, saying, “The budget from the Mayor was a missed opportunity to address some urgent priorities for Bedford Borough.

“Worse still, it does nothing to give emergency support to Bedford’s hard pressed businesses.

“Conservative proposals to direct resources to our town centre, with reduced parking charges to incentivise people to come into town and reverse declining visitor footfall which has fallen by 1.75 million visits over the last 2 years, were not supported by Labour and Liberal Democrats.

“Our plans to expand the Local Community Co-ordinators scheme, addressing the issue of social isolation, supporting residents and reducing pressure on Adult Social Services were not agreed either.

“Bedford gets little from this budget that we haven’t seen before from the Mayor, with the same speech and same soundbites he’s given for the last few years trotted out yet again.

In short, it’s an uninspiring budget from a mediocre administration.”

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