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Labour’s Budget Speech 2018

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

As in the past few years, the budget is dominated by the complete withdrawal of the Revenue Support grant by 2020, resulting in an 80% reduction in Government funding for Bracknell Forest.

£20m needs to be saved over the next two years […] as with every other Council, these huge sums can no longer be found by efficiency savings.

£20m needs to be saved over the next two years despite £80m having already been saved by this Council to date. Obviously, as with every other Council, these huge sums can no longer be found by efficiency savings.  I  acknowledge that every department has been reviewed to find alternative ways of working and this essential  ’transformation programme’ is saving money-reflected in the £6.417m reduction in the Council’s commitment budget.

The actual settlement figure is not included in the consultation papers but I understand this was as expected from the ‘four year Financial Settlement ‘signed in 2015 – an expected reduction of £2.6m for 2018/19.  The fact that fewer houses than predicted have been completed in Bracknell Forest must also affect the New Homes bonus. A reduction of £1.9m has been predicted, but the latest figure is again not included in the budget papers.

It is difficult to make an informed response to this consultation without all the actual figures. Inclusion of the value of additional grants received and all those withdrawn do enable this response to be made, however.

Capital Programme:

I support all schemes that result in more ‘affordable’ homes being made available. The Cash Incentive Scheme seems to do this, but by an unusual route.  The £8m for Downshire Homes for 25 properties for homeless households and 5 for households with learning difficulties to add to its existing 22 is welcomed.

I support all schemes that result in more ‘affordable’ homes being made available.

The papers do suggest a trading surplus should now be shown, as two years has passed. Where is this shown? If this is not the case, why is this information given? More information should have been given to explain the £233K needed to bail out Stonewater to enable the provision of 36 ‘affordable’ units to be secured; although I appreciate that this is at no cost to Bracknell Forest residents.

The Council received £9m in the Basic Needs grant from central government to support the Schools investment programme last year, and £6m the year before. The total withdrawal of this grant must affect investment in our schools and only three are benefitting substantially. Another specific grant supports the Binfield learning village. Easthampstead Park Community School is one school I would have urged needs some investment.

The £100K allocated for Off Street Parking is welcomed but will never be enough to satisfy the needs of the residents. Parking on most of the estate roads is now chock-a-block, with residents being unable to leave their homes in the evenings because they have no-where to park on their return. Many park on the grass verges and these are being churned and destroyed. As the Council will not take action against such parking, I suggest that this money be used to put meshing down on the grass verges across the borough; enabling parking but preventing our estates becoming ‘Somme-like’.

As the Council will not take action against such parking, I suggest that this money be used to put meshing down on the grass verges across the borough; enabling parking but preventing our estates becoming ‘Somme-like’.

All the Parish and Town councils have been invited to consider taking over responsibility for Play areas in their localities. I know that the response from Bracknell Town Council was positive. Since the discussion, nothing has been progressed. I suggest this be acted on.

I fully support the £30K Upgrade in Play Area and Exhibits at the Look Out. This is an excellent provision and the update is needed to ensure it retains the interest of all its regular users.

Parking here is always difficult and the suggestion to increase provision and protect the area is welcomed.  The suggested fees of £4.10 will not be popular, not because of its price hike, but because finding the odd 10p will be a pain (this applies to the other odd bits too).  In contrast, the 0-4 hours fee has been kept at a sensible £2.00.

The provision of a new Harmanswater Library is greatly welcomed.

The provision of a new Harmanswater Library is greatly welcomed. £298k is included as extra funding from the council, but with Invest to save and S106 funding, the cost for this totals £795K. This seems and excessive amount to build three walls and fit out!! Surely, the whole Community Centre should be refurbished for this or at least a lift put in to enable access to it. This would be a very good use of S106 money.

Revenue Budget:

The papers state that the revenue from Commercial Property Investment Strategy is £1m. I questioned this figure at full Council and do so again. In the minutes of the December Council meeting, it states that this strategy is ‘delivering £2m’- so why is that figure not included here- as was stated at the January Council meeting- I had found another £1m. Does this mean the transformation saving should be corrected to £7.417m? In the Annex A, Commercial Property Investment Strategy, is only showing a return of £1m. Was it the minutes of the Dec Council that were wrong?

I congratulate the officers for leading and securing the Berkshire Unitaries bid to pilot 100% business rates retention in 2018/19. This is said to bring £35m to the area – 70% for infrastructure projects and the resulting 30% allocated in proportion to the individual authorities according to their growth in business rate income. This must be very good news for Bracknell Forest with the development of the new town centre.

I totally support the committed funding in response to the pressures on the adult services and children’s services.

I denounce the Government’s withdrawal of the Education Services Grant that supported the statutory and regulatory services the Council has to provide. This money will now have to come from the Dedicated Schools’ Grant meaning less can be spent on our children.

I denounce the Government’s withdrawal of the Education Services Grant that supported the statutory and regulatory services the Council has to provide. This money will now have to come from the Dedicated Schools’ Grant meaning less can be spent on our children. The explanations describing the changes and outcomes for the schools’ budgets following the Government’s introduction of the Schools National Funding Formula (SNFF) are very confusing. Some schools were to have reductions, some increases. The SNFF has not been funded sufficiently to enable the changes promised. Because of the pressure resulting from the general election, £1.3bn extra funding is now available nationally, and every school will have now an increase. The increase cannot be as big as promised, because no school will get a reduction- so all schools in Bracknell Forest will get an increase. But then paragraph 8.14 says:- ‘despite there being an additional £1.3bn of investment in core school budgets, there is no noticeable increase in funding allocated to Bracknell Forest schools compared to the December 2016 amount. Whilst there is an increase of £0.263m of funding in 2018/19 this is offset by a similar amount of reduction in 2019/20’- ??? I understand that this whole section has now been rewritten, but I am responding to the papers published for Public Consultation. I had to attend The ‘Schools Forum’ to understand all this. I would be surprised if the ‘broad section of resident and service users’ responding to the consultation did not have the same difficulties.

The funding for opening the Binfield Learning Village is again taking money from the existing schools in the borough- £0.555m for 2018/19 and an estimated £0.479m in 2019/20. Surely this funding should come from central government? A new school is needed because of additional children. The existing children should not suffer reduced funding because of this. Has an appeal been made to the Government to honour their commitment to provide school places?

All schools will receive an increase but the proposal for staff wage increases is 2%, inflation is at 3% and there is the Local Government pension deficit to pay. This increase will be wiped out.

I oppose the further reduction in grant of £100K to South Hill Park. I understand that this was proposed in last year’s budget, on the understanding that building changes to enable weddings and other large receptions to be held there would result in increased revenue. These changes have not been possible because contractors could not guarantee their work would enable a theatre and a reception to take place in adjacent settings with no interruption from noise. Alternative building changes have now been proposed. The new management of South Hill Park is making a very positive impact and the Arts Centre, greatly loved by Bracknell Forest residents, is doing well. I ask that this reduction is not made but the grant is awarded to enable the centre to complete the building work, resource its increased revenue and prove this is sufficient to support the Centre for the future.

I oppose the further reduction in grant of £100K […] The new management of South Hill Park is making a very positive impact and the Arts Centre, greatly loved by Bracknell Forest residents, is doing well.

I fully appreciate and support all the funding for the pressures being experienced by Adult Social Care and Children, Young People and Learning departments.

The £14k cost to cut the grass in the central reservation in Millennium Way and on station roundabout seems excessive. It is stated that this has to be done out of hours. I suggest, one lane is blocked and the work done during the off peak periods. Bracknell Forest residents are very accustomed to road closures and would welcome the saving of £14k.

I fully support the proposal to employ two trainees under the National Graduate Development Programme and the eight Apprentices across the Council. This is an example of the Council leading the way and in some way justifies the apprenticeship levy paid by all schools. I would ask if our Children Looked After Leavers could be considered for the apprenticeships, an example of the Council extending its care.

I am concerned that the Council seems to be withdrawing from supporting the voluntary sector (£75K) at the same time as the success of many of the transformation projects rely on it. Each organisation will have to devote more time to fund raising at the very same time it is relied upon to increase its community involvement.

The reduction in the take up of apprenticeships is very concerning. Relevant information and support for our young people is essential. This is especially true for youngsters vulnerable to becoming ’NEET’.

The reduction in the take up of apprenticeships is very concerning. Relevant information and support for our young people is essential. This is especially true for youngsters vulnerable to becoming ’NEET’. I have been told that by combining with the regional consortium, the reduction to Elevate which supports such young people will not affect service delivery. I would hope it could be improved and will monitor this carefully.

In the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board’s report, much was made of the success and importance of advocacy and independent representation, enabling young people to have their voice heard. This was said to be especially important for the Children Looked After. I am very concerned at the reduction of £19k to support this service when it has proven to be so successful with such positive outcomes.

I am very concerned at the reduction of £19k to support this service […] when it has proven to be so successful with such positive outcomes.

The support of the Education Psychology Service to schools is greatly valued. Their expertise helps teachers provide strategies and support for their students experiencing problems. When successful, this prevents the need for further testing and assessments. The statement in the papers seems to imply the schools would now have to pay for this service.  Schools have very tight budgets and I would hate advice not to be sought and preventative measures not introduced because of this increased cost to the school.  This would be a very short term saving, leading to increased costs.

I fully support the move to a Paperless council but reading ‘The local Plan’ on my iPad caused problems. However, printing these 1200 pages for all councillors seems a terrible waste of precious resources as well as a large cost. I am delighted that the Members’ Allowances budget has been underspent. I know £1.6k of this comes from me, but I am glad others are contributing too- the ‘Transformation’ of Members?

I am concerned at the proposal to reduce the face to face contact in the Welfare and Housing department. […] People in crisis need to talk to someone, not send messages on a machine.

I am concerned at the proposal to reduce the face to face contact in the Welfare and Housing department. The preventative advice and support given by this workforce saves the Council money. People in crisis need to talk to someone, not send messages on a machine. In response to my question at full Council Jan. 17, on the extension of Universal credit to Bracknell in May, I was assured that the Council would support and help claimants. This recommendation seems to make that less likely.

The Adult and Community learning has just received an excellent Ofsted report.  To celebrate this, the proposal is to increase the cost of each course by 66.67%!! Surely part of the success was that all residents could access the courses at a reasonable rate. The courses were inclusive, not just good value for those on benefits with reduced fees. The income generated in 2017/18 was £10K the expected income generated in 2018/19 is also £10K. Does this reflect expected reduced uptake?

Residents are struggling to pay the cost of the Parking Permits now. Increasing the cost for the first permit by 8%, the second by 5% but then not charging any more to the residents who are taking up more spaces than an average household, seems unjust. I suggest households should be encouraged to reduce their number of vehicles needing to be parked in residential areas.  Higher fees for the greater number of permits may act as a deterrent.

The Central Government’s withdrawal of funds has resulted in a complete rethink of the way the Council operates.I have participated in all workshops discussing ‘Transformation’ and appreciate all that has been achieved. The changes have affected every employee.

The savings are given as £6.417m (£7.417m if the £1m is found from Commercial Property investment) – a huge savings.

The Council Tax is said to generate £54.118m from all properties

Business rates are given as £20.669m which now includes the reduced Revenue Support Grant as a result of the arrangements for the Business Rates Pool.

Although the cost of a 1% increase in pay is shown as £0.5m,these budget papers assume a pay increase of no more than 1%, negotiating contracts on minimum inflation and inflation only on Council charges and fees.

Pay negotiations are ongoing for a 2% rise and inflation is at 3%

So the gap is likely to be larger than stated.

To close the given gap in funding of £4.811m, 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 agreed last year that the adult Social Care precept could be raised by a total of 6% before 2020.A 3% increase was used last year and it was proposed that an increase of 3% would again be included this year- allowing for no such increase in 2019.

I understand the Council can now raise the Taxes by 5.99% without having to organise a referendum.

If every 1% increase in council tax gives about £0.54m revenue increase, then even this would not be enough to close the gap (£3.2m) I think most residents would accept an increase of about £1 a week to maintain services but there will also be another increase for the police.

I support an increase […] but I trust the Council Tax Discount Package will be well publicised to help those eligible.

 I support an increase of 4.99% (£2.7m) This is far more than pay increases in the last year but I trust the Council Tax Discount Package will be well publicised to help those eligible.

This increase will also improve the base revenue to help safeguard servicesfor the future.

After all the grants are considered, I would support the balance being taken from the General reserves of £8.5m.

Mary Temperton

Tom Neill

Posted by:

Tom Neill
Campaign Coordinator (North Bracknell)

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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