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Response to Budget Consultation 2017

Response to Budget Consultation from Cllr. Mary Temperton on behalf of the Labour Party.

I fully understand the financial predicament of Local Councils following the central government’s complete withdrawal of the Revenue Support grant by 2020; for Bracknell Forest- a hole of £23.5m. I also appreciate all the work being done in the Transformation Teams to identify savings by considering different ways of delivering service.

The Government seem to have reneged on a promise. Has the Leader appealed?

I voted for signing the four year financial settlement in September, on the understanding that this year’s government settlement would be in line with the indicative funding figures, released in February 2016.  Every other LA, except 10, also voted for this. Sadly this agreement lasted just 6 weeks. The December 2016 settlement New Homes Bonus changes seem to penalise those councils that have in fact built homes in the last few years. By changing the years for which this bonus is paid to the council from 6 to 5, 2017/18 then to 4 years, 2018/19, the Council will lose £875K this year and £1000K in the next two years. By paying no money until 0.4% of growth in Council Tax base has been achieved, allocations will again immediately be reduced. I understand that there is as yet no indication whether this will get worse in the years to come. Why was this not mentioned before the four year settlement was agreed to? Surely these changes do not reflect the response from the LAs to the summer consultation on the Homes Bonus? The Government seem to have reneged on a promise. Has the Leader appealed? What has happened to the ten authorities who did not sign up to the four year settlement?

The government has been increasingly urged to spend more money on Social Care and this is it- launched as the 2017-18 Adult Social Care Support Grant. No new money …. But money taken from one pot to fund another – New Homes Bonus, given to new Care fund –but this Support Fund is a one-off whereas the Homes Bonus reduction goes on and on!

For the second year running, the government has also not looked at the history of house completions in Bracknell Forest, but put a finger to the wind, and made a ridiculous deduction.

For the second year running, the government has also not looked at the history of house completions in Bracknell Forest, but put a finger to the wind, and made a ridiculous deduction. To cut the grant on the assumption there will be an increase in rate collection because 900 new band D houses will be built, and occupied, providing income throughout the coming year is so unrealistic- based on no evidence at all. Usually about 350 houses are completed. Has the Leader appealed?

The outcome of government’s autumn revaluation of Business rates, rateable values and multipliers has still not been received – so here could be further bad news! Because of these uncertainties, and the sure fact that there will be lots of appeals, I accept that some of the the balances in the Business Rates element of the Collection Fund may well be needed, but £7.5m seems excessive and I think some of this could be released to support the revenue budget.

All these uncertainties, and the government’s record of tearing up agreements, seem to make the ‘forecast’ budget requirements for 2018/19 and beyond seem very tenuous indeed.

I voted for the investment of £190K to refurbish the toilets, kitchens and gallery to create an income resource for South Hill Park.  South Hill Park must be the jewel in the crown of our borough and it puts us on the map.

I voted for the investment of £190K to refurbish the toilets, kitchens and gallery to create an income resource for South Hill Park.  South Hill Park must be the jewel in the crown of our borough and it puts us on the map. With the loss of £244k grant funding of the arts over the next two years, this will be a very testing time for the SHP management and all who support and love it. I appreciate the increased publicity being given to SHP by the posters and notices on screens in the Council buildings.

Will the Council also use the SHP facilities as the venue of choice when meeting with outside business delegations and encourage local businesses to invest in the arts in their town?

I fully support the increase of £7.002m to enable Downshire Homes Ltd to purchase 10 properties for homeless households and 5 for households with learning disabilities.

I fully support the increase of £7.002m to enable Downshire Homes Ltd to purchase 10 properties for homeless households and 5 for households with learning disabilities. The reduction in the number of households placed in out of the Borough B&B is to be celebrated.

I cannot support the need for £20K to replace the lockers.  The existing £1 coin will not disappear overnight and there are two very cheap alternative solutions to this proposed outlay.

As tickets are bought, the old £1 coin (or token now used that weighs the same) is paid for by the client. Or, one machine is installed to change the new £1 coin for the old one.

Also, with commissioning of the Sports Centre being now considered, why is new fitness equipment to be budgeted for?  It should be the responsibility of the new management companies. I can understand the need to improve the greens on the golf course, as that may aid the tendering process. The toilet areas are the same.

the withdrawal of the DfE Education Services Grant will have a huge impact on the ability of the Council to support the schools in raising standards, financial, legal and HR matters.

I realise that the withdrawal of the DfE Education Services Grant will have a huge impact on the ability of the Council to support the schools in raising standards, financial, legal and HR matters. Schools will have to pay extra to buy in these services. But schools are also under pressure, having to fund increased wages, pension fund deficit, the new apprenticeship levy and inflation. For all state schools to have to fund the Apprenticeship levy, but all academies are exempt, seems totally unfair; as does the 85% tax rebate available for Academies.

Will the Council still have the capacity to organise the Schools Music Festival for which £10k has been budgeted?

The grants for High Needs and the Early Years will not be decided until March.  The settlement last year resulted in a huge pressure on the Schools’ budget. Is this again expected?

I am supportive of the fact that residents in the Council-owned temporary accommodation now also pay at the Local Housing Association level (80% of market rent), and that the Council is no longer able to charge out-of-work homeless households.

I still have grave reservations about its [new adult social care packages] dependence on family, friends and the voluntary sector.

I fully understand the increase in pressures from the capacity in the local care home market and understand the objectives and vision for the new Resource Allocation System for adult social care packages. However, I still have grave reservations about its dependence on family, friends and the voluntary sector. I will monitor that regular checks are taken to ascertain that this support is consistent and what safeguards are in place should it fail.

The move to one care provider for Clement House seems very sensible but I thought all residents were made to understand that there would be residential care there 24/7. If this care is given to Forest Care to manage, then they are not in the building and there is a time lag before help can arrive. I appreciate emergency services will not be affected.

I have been given some reassurance that the £21K cut for support for the Advice and Guidance to Young People, potentially NEET, will not affect the schools and areas where there is good uptake of this service. I will monitor this closely.

I was also assured that the reduction of £7k to the ‘Aiming High’ families is the last of the phased reduction in grant, as consulted on in 2014 and no more cuts are envisaged.

I was shocked to see the reduction in grant to ‘Involve’ at this time when the Council is depending more and more on volunteers for the provision of services.

I was shocked to see the reduction in grant to ‘Involve’ at this time when the Council is depending more and more on volunteers for the provision of services. I believe this is because ‘Involve’ have been given a peppercorn rent in their new location for the next three years. Included in the Equality Assessment papers for this item are also the charities Bracknell Shopmobility and Citizens Advice Bureau but I now understand these are now not to be cut in 2017/18.

I fully support the move of the Council to Times Square.

From every department there is a need for a spend on IT. I understand that this is an ever-changing beast but surely it must be possible to find a system that serves the whole council and that does not ‘fail to deliver’ after a year and have to be amended. I was very impressed by the local business man who has redesigned the IT system for the whole Luton Council. Are we so different from them?

To close the huge funding gap, the Council has the choice to use balances, raise Council Taxes, or make further cuts.

I favour a mixture of the first two.

The government has agreed that the Adult Social Care precept can be raised by 3% in 2017/18 instead of last year’s 2%. It can be raised a total of 6% before 2020- an interesting choice of timing and percentage. I agree with doing this but will this be spent on Adult Social Care?

I know the council can still raise the Taxes by 1.99% without having to organise a referendum.

I agree we should raise the Council Taxes by 4.99%,giving an increased revenue of £2.5m.

I agree we should raise the Council Taxes by 4.99%,giving an increased revenue of £2.5m.

The Council Tax Income is expected to be £50.37m for 2017/18 without this rise.

After all the grants are considered, I would support the balance being taken from the reserves.

In the Budget Papers it states that the Reserves are £10.00m and then late on it gives the estimated balance of £10.9m. I was very alarmed by the apparent dismissal of £0.9m, but have now been told this was a typing error and the General Reserves should also read £10.9m.

Cllr. Mary Temperton.

Tom Neill

Posted by:

Tom Neill
Information Technology coordinator

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