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Labour’s Budget Speech 2017

Every Council is in a financial predicament following central government’s decision to completely withdraw the revenue support grant by 2020- leaving Bracknell Forest with a hole of £23.5m at the time of consultation- but now at £25m over the next three years, following the actual settlement.

Every Council is struggling to balance the books while government caps council tax and provides no extra funding.

Every Council has to look at ways of doing things differently- transformation.

After the shocking 80% cut in the settlement of December 2015, it was obvious, that signing up for a four year agreement with no such shocks, must be an improvement […] Sadly this agreement lasted just 6 weeks. […] after reneging on the 4 year agreement, who could trust them [the Conservatives] anyway?

After the shocking 80% cut in the settlement of December 2015, it was obvious, that signing up for a four year agreement with no such shocks, must be an improvement for financial planning.

Every other Local Authority, except 10, voted to do the same. Sadly this agreement lasted just 6 weeks.

The December New Homes Bonus changes penalise those councils that have in fact built homes in the last few years. Now no money is paid until 0.4% of growth in Council Tax base has been achieved and the years for which the bonus is paid is changed from 6 years to 4. By 2020, the council  will lose £2.724m.

Why was this not mentioned before the 4 year settlement was signed up to?  I understand that there is as yet no indication whether this will get worse in years to come but after reneging on the 4 year agreement, who could trust them anyway?

The Government has been increasingly urged to spend more money on Social care. It has- it has used the cuts from the New Homes Bonus to fund the one year only 2017-2018 Adult Social Care Support Grant- no new money but money taken from one pot and put in another.  The cut in New homes Bonus for Bracknell Forest this year alone is £1.141m. The one off Adult Social Care grant is £0.363m.

The most unbelievable part of the December settlement was the government’s cut in the grant on the assumption that Bracknell Forest will have built, occupied and collected council tax revenue from 900 band D houses throughout this coming year.  Historically, about 350 houses are completed. The settlement based on 900 houses is surely just dishonest.

The most unbelievable part of the December settlement was the government’s cut in the grant on the assumption that Bracknell Forest will have built, occupied and collected council tax revenue from 900 band D houses throughout this coming year.  Historically, about 350 houses are completed. The settlement based on 900 houses is surely just dishonest.

There is great uncertainty about the level of business rates Bracknell Forest can expect to receive in the coming years.  By 2020 it is said that local authorities will retain 100% of business rate but the package will certainly include an assessment of need, leading to a redistribution of resources.

Revaluation of business rates, rateable values and multipliers are still being discussed.

The effect of Brexit on our local companies, The Town Centre regeneration and certainty of appeals persuades me that some of the £9.113m in balances in the Business Rates element of the collection Fund- an increase of £1.6m since the consultation- may well be needed- but this is a very large sum of money for possible risks and some should have been released to support the revenue budget.

The withdrawal of the Dfe Education Service Grant will have a huge impact on the ability of the Council to support schools in raising standards, offering financial, Education Welfare, legal and HR support. […] Forced academisation by another route.

The withdrawal of the Dfe Education Service Grant will have a huge impact on the ability of the Council to support schools in raising standards, offering financial, Education Welfare, legal and HR support. At the time of the consultation this was a cut of £1.5m. All schools were invited to pay £77 per child to cover this cut. But schools face an average unfunded cost pressure of 2.5%due to increased wages, Local Government pension fund deficit, inflation and the new Apprenticeship levy. The schools have agreed to contribute £20 per child to make up some of this cut. The government has now given a one-off grant of £0.446m – still a cut of £1m. If LAs cannot offer good service to their schools, then schools will opt for academisation. Forced academisation by another route.

Whilst I support apprenticeships, making each child in an LA school pay for the new scheme seems very unfair. Any employer who pays over £3m in salaries has to pay towards the scheme. The LA schools each therefore have to pay the 0.5% of their salary bill. This is not the case for academies or free schools.  Next week is ‘Apprenticeship week’. There is lots of good publicity about the scheme but little knowledge has been shared with the Council. Is it value for money? How many Bracknell Forest residents are benefiting from it?

How many have a real job at the end? Who monitors the scheme? What is the success/dropout rate? What happens to rogue employees who sign up then alter the contract on sick pay and travel allowances? Where is this information recorded and to whom? I ask that it be part of a Quarterly service report.

Schools receive other grants for Sixth Form, Pupil Premium, Primary PE and Sports, Free School Meals. All these are subject to change, but this will not be settled until April- more pressures.

I have mentioned that academies do not have to pay the new apprenticeship levy. But academies, occupying and using school premises for school purposes, are also entitled to an 80% reduction in their business rates.

Local Authority schools that took up the advice to install solar panels will now have to pay higher business rates- but not academies. All this seems very unjust to me.

Local Authority schools that took up the advice to install solar panels will now have to pay higher business rates- but not academies. All this seems very unjust to me.

The saving from reduced use of agency staff as Children’s Social Workers is to be celebrated.

I voted for the investment of £190k to refurbish toilets, kitchens and gallery to create an income resource for South Hill Park. The loss of £244K grant funding of the arts over the next two years will be a testing time for the SHP management and all who support and love it. For me, it puts Bracknell on the map.

I appreciate the increased publicity now being given to SHP by posters and screen notices in the Council buildings. I hope the Council will also use this as the location of choice when impressing business delegations and also positively encourage local businesses to invest in the arts in their town?

I fully support the increase of £7m to enable Downshire Homes Ltd to purchase 15 properties for homeless households and 5 for households with learning disabilities. […] However, I look forward to the day when the Council will build its own properties for rent and so actually add to the housing stock.

I fully support the increase of £7m to enable Downshire Homes Ltd to purchase 15 properties for homeless households and 5 for households with learning disabilities. The reduction in the need for households to be placed in out-of-Borough B&B is to be celebrated. However, I look forward to the day when the Council will build its own properties for rent and so actually add to the housing stock.

I of course support the increase in the Bracknell Forest Supplement, helping the lowest paid employees to come off benefits.

I fully appreciate the increase in pressures from the capacity in the care home market-and the need to do things differently. Bracknell Forest is not alone here. I also understand the objectives and vision for the new Resource Allocation System for adult social care packages. As discussed at the O&S, I have concerns about the reliance on family and friends as part of the support network. How often will the agreed plan be monitored to ensure that this support is sustainable and what safeguards are in place should it fail?

I was shocked to see the reduction in grant to Involve of £20K at the time when the Council is asking so much more from volunteers.

I was shocked to see the reduction in grant to Involve of £20K at the time when the Council is asking so much more from volunteers. I understand that this equates to a reduction in their rent now that they have moved into the magistrates Court. But – more is needed from volunteers for Social care, and keeping the libraries open.

At the review, we learnt that the DBS checks for all these volunteers will be paid for by Involve- not a cheap undertaking. In response to a question, we were also told, that should extra funds be needed to support Involve and the library volunteers, this will be available. Regrettably, this is not mentioned in the budget!

I have been given some reassurance that the £21K cut for support for the Advice and Guidance to Young People, potentially Not in Education, employment or training, will not affect the schools and areas where there is good take up of this service. I will monitor this closely.

I support the spend to update the toilets in the Leisure Centre.

But not the spend of £20K to buy new lockers just because of the introduction of a new £1 coin. Why cannot the old coin be used as the token to open the lockers, or buy one machine to convert the new coin into the old one? I cannot imagine every supermarket is immediately replacing its trolleys. They will find another, cheaper solution. Similarly, why are new fitness machines to be purchased if the centre is to be commissioned out for another to run? They may require very different equipment.

I fully support the move to Time Square.

I would have liked to see a saving due to a move to a Paperless Council.

I would have liked to see a saving due to a move to a Paperless Council.

To close the funding gap, I do support the use of balances and raising Council Taxes.

I support the Council tax rise of 1.99% avoiding a referendum

The government has agreed that the Adult Social Care precept can be raised by a total of 6% before 2020. An interesting choice of timing and percentage. I  would support it being raised 2% for the next three years but know this Council’s preferred  option will be 3% this year, 3% next year and then none the year after ……election year!

After all the grants are considered, the balance should be taken from the reserves of £10.9m

This budget has been forced upon the Council by the tactical decisions of central government. […] But this government is very astute. When the quality of life of residents is badly affected, Westminster will be able to say- it is because of decisions made by your local councillors. […] Perhaps local councils should make more of a fuss.

This budget has been forced upon the Council by the tactical decisions of central government. Even Lord Porter, LGA Chairman said councils face an overall funding gap of £5.8billion by 2020. He added “if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all children’s centres, libraries,  museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light and shut all discretionary bus routes, they would not have saved enough to plug the gap by the end of the decade”.

But this government is very astute. When the quality of life of residents is badly affected, Westminster will be able to say- it is because of decisions made by your local councillors.

I know we all share the conviction that Local Government has a vital role to play in the well being and quality of life of our residents.

Perhaps local councils should make more of a fuss. Surrey County Council said it all when they threatened to raise their rates by 15%.

Tom Neill

Posted by:

Tom Neill
Information Technology coordinator

Election Results

> 30.2% vote share and +13.3% gain in 2017 General Election.

> Won Reading Borough Council
(31 Seats) and Slough Borough Council
(12 out of the 14 Seats).

> Increased vote share in Thames
Valley Police Commissioner elections
(46% LAB).

> Won the London Assembly (12 Seats) and the Welsh Assembly for the 5th time (29 Seats).

> New city mayors in London, Salford, Liverpool and Bristol.

> 13 Labour Police Commissioners elected nationwide (3 gains from CON)

> 1326 Councillors elected nationwide controlling 58 Councils.

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