Bedford Borough councillors will consider a council tax increase of 3.99 per cent next month.
Bedford Borough Council’s Constitution requires that Full Council considers the budget proposals from the Executive for the forthcoming financial year by no later than 8 February.
As part of that process, the portfolio for finance, Cllr Michael Headley
(LibDems, Putnoe Ward), presented the General Fund Budget for 2022/2023 report to last night’s (Wednesday) Executive meeting.
Among the recommendations for the Executive to consider was an increase in council tax of 3.99 per cent. The report said this will give an average Band D Council Tax of £1,688.94.
The proposed increase is made up of a core increase of 1.99 per cent, and an Adult Social Care Precept increase of 2 per cent.
This rise does not include any increases from fire service, police and town/parish council precepts.
Cllr Headley said: “We have to consider the increased costs that we are facing. That includes the soaring inflation, as we’ve seen in the news today, and the increasing needs of local residents, particularly for social care for both adults and children.
“We see that the government’s approach is very clear, it is to push these extra costs onto council taxpayers and that’s a matter of choice, that is a decision that they are taking, they are making that decision to push those costs onto council taxpayers.
“We held back last year on pushing all that [adult social care] cost onto residents and again this year we’re not passing on the maximum expected by the government,” he said.
“Having spoken about the costs for the council, I want to make it clear that we are very concerned about the cost of the living crisis being faced by residents.
While explaining the Local Government Finance Settlement 2022/23, councillor Headley said £6.5 million in grants that the council received last year that have not been repeated for this year.
“We did receive in the new budget £1.4 million of extra grant for social care cost, but at the same time, we lost an equivalent amount in New Homes Bonus. So that really takes us back to square one on that.
“Overall we see an extra £4 million of government support through the core spending power, you’ll see that obviously in government announcements, and in our report.
“£4 million of extra government support this year, but as I mentioned that’s outweighed by the removal of the two grants we had last year, that were worth £6.5 million.
“So this year’s budget makes £4.5 million worth of savings to balance the budget. These savings able us to protect key frontline services and provide the investment needed in key areas of need, such as adult social care, where government funding is inadequate,” he said.
While there were no questions from the Executive on the budget, the portfolio holder for leisure and culture, Independent councillor Doug McMurdo (Sharnbrook Ward) commented:
“The inflation increases today are now at a 30-year record high and we are now back to March 1992 in terms of inflation.
“Now that’s against the backdrop of another challenge that many of our communities have, and we are all individually experiencing it, and that being the rising energy costs.
“We are actually a consumer of a lot of energy ourselves, and so, therefore, we have a big challenge in our own organisation that provides, in the main, statutory services, and of course the discretionary services which to a large extent lie in my portfolio, and I don’t see too many of those front-line services being hit at this present time.
“So I think having a balanced against the backdrop of 30-year high inflation rates announced today at 5.4 per cent, and anticipated to go north of 6 per cent in a few months time, and with huge energy costs, I acknowledge, we acknowledge, we’re not in a good place, but I support the recommendations,” he said.
The Executive agreed to the recommendations.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter