BFC logo web

Labour’s Budget Speech 2019

Response to the 2019/2020 Budget by Mary Temperton, Labour.

This is the eighth such response I have made and it does not get any easier. I did encourage other residents to respond to the consultation, so they too could understand the complexity of Local Government. The response of 8 is a 400% increase on last year.

I am in a privileged position and would like to thank the Finance team of officers for giving their time to answer my questions and helping me have a detailed insight.

The Government funding settlement assumed maximum council tax rises to support local services.

After many hours of door knocking, I do not think many residents realise that between 2010 and 2020 the Government has cut 60p out of every £1 it once provided for services.

After many hours of door knocking, I do not think many residents realise that between 2010 and 2020 the Government has cut 60p out of every £1 it once provided for services.

Last year, the officers did well to win the six Berkshire Unitaries bid and lead the pilot scheme to retain 100% of the business rate locally. This provided about £7m which has been put aside to provide protection against the expected negative funding changes of 20/21.

They are to be congratulated for the fact that they have done the same again for the new pilot of 75% retention, expecting a £6m gain. Spending very little of these bonuses is expected to give a balance of £19.5m in the Future Funding Reserve at the end of this financial year. This sum of £19.5m is said to be needed to provide protection against the significant funding changes. A huge cushion to reflect the huge changes expected.

Vodafone is a substantial contributor to the business rate collection in Bracknell Forest and has been a key factor in providing resources to balance past Council budgets, but the recent announcement that it is to move out of Bracknell, is said in the papers to put little risk on this year’s budget and by next year, new rules are expected.

The Government’s grant for Public Health is ring-fenced, at the moment. But is still reduced this year, despite national problems with obesity, dental health and emotional wellbeing.

The Government’s grant for Public Health is ring-fenced, at the moment. But is still reduced this year, despite national problems with obesity, dental health and emotional wellbeing.

Extra grant funding for Adult Social Care has been received and promised in 2019/20 as part of the Government’s response to the huge pressures being experienced nationwide.

I note there has been an increase in pressure for Adult Social Care of £132K since the draft budget in December – an increase of £132K in just two months. The increase for Children Looked After has also increased in these two months by £80K. These two figures alone, exemplify why local government funding is so tight. I fully support the need to raise the Council Tax to support pressures in both Adult Services and in Children’s Services.

It is appalling that houses are sitting empty because they are too expensive when there is such a shortage of affordable homes in Bracknell Forest.

It is disappointing to note that the New Home Bonus for Bracknell Forest is lower than expected partly because there are a large number of unoccupied new houses. This has also affected the growth of the tax base. Overpricing of houses does not help. It is appalling that houses are sitting empty because they are too expensive when there is such a shortage of affordable homes in Bracknell Forest.

The increase in overall maintenance liabilities is concerning… There is an alarming report on the need to renovate The High Street car park at a cost of £1.5m over 5 years. The Braccan Walk car park, built at the same time, will probably have the same issues. This does not look well for the future when Council finances will be even tougher.

For Schools… From the current building condition survey, the budget states £3.1m is needed on urgent planned maintenance works. Only £1.5m is available, funded from the DFE Schools Capital Maintenance Budget grant – so £1.6m urgent maintenance will not be done! This must create issues in future years.

I fully support the Heathlands project and look forward to its completion.

I am of course delighted that the proposed withdrawing of the final grant funding to support South Hill Park Arts centre has been reversed for this financial year.

This will give the Centre the necessary time to realise the expected new generation of income from its weddings and catering service. I am also glad to read that a longer term planning agreement will be considered.

I fully support the investment in our local neighbourhood shopping areas. They are the hub of our communities and all are looking very tired. Some of these shops have become vacant and I trust enough is being done to attract good retailers.

The Look Out, for me – after South Hill Park – is the best thing we have in Bracknell Forest. The Science Centre there is excellent and I fully support the upgrade. This has to be kept exciting for regular attendees. I have already recommended the inclusion of a solid carbon dioxide exhibit.

I fully support the long promised Youth Facility in the heart of our new town. As described, this will be a hub for Youth Work with our most vulnerable young people. It must not just be the centre for ‘targeted work’ but also a real attraction for young people so that they come into town to join in all the activities offered there. A good bus service from all our communities will be essential.

I have accessed the Schools’ budget papers from the Schools’ Forum meeting and thank the education team for helping me fully understand the detail. The further promise of £1.54m for Bracknell Forest Schools is good news but this will have to cover pay awards, inflation and increased SEND spending. Added to this, each BF maintained school has to lose some of its funding, to compensate the newly built schools that are not yet fully occupied.

I support the Council giving £1m over the next four years to address this.

I questioned the reduction of £250K under ‘Public Transport Subsidy’ and have been told this is because less than expected numbers are taking up and using the ‘Free Bus Passes’. I ask the Council to explore why these are not being used as their usage helps reduce loneliness, aids mobility and helps keep the buses available for all on all routes.

less than expected numbers are taking up and using the ‘Free Bus Passes’ […] If older residents are not coming into our new town centre- equivalent to £250K- then questions should be asked ’why not’?

If older residents are not coming into our new town centre- equivalent to £250K- then questions should be asked ’why not’?

I note the savings because of the introduction of the LED lighting. I fully supported this project, but the lights in many areas are ineffective because the poles are too short, there are not enough of them, and they often light up the road not the paths. The lights are not effective on estates designed with housing in Squares. Some of this saving should be used to make the scheme effective on all roads. Small changes would make a lot of difference. But no one is listening any more.

I fully support the permanent recruitment of a specialist worker to support the prevention of exploitation and children going missing. I greatly valued being part of the working group that looked at Child Exploitation.

I support the appointment of the Apprenticeship Manager to extend the present council apprenticeships to recruit young talent- growing our own with a good training programme.

I urge that the council pays an attractive wage so the very best young people will choose to come to Bracknell Forest.

I oppose the cut of £46K in the Special Education Team Spending. SEND, is a real priority for our residents and our children need to be assessed and supported as soon as possible.

I oppose the cut of £46K in the Special Education Team Spending. SEND, is a real priority for our residents and our children need to be assessed and supported as soon as possible. I am told that the assessment will be done differently, but even if this is the case, the £46K could be used to speed up the assessment and so support more children earlier.

Bracknell Forest needs to improve the number of completed Education, Health and Care plans in Primary Schools compared to other authorities. Early assessment of educational needs can greatly improve the child’s attainment and subsequent success at secondary school.

This £46K could even have supported a Speech and Language Therapist or half an Ed Psyche.

How glad I am that the council voted to NOT accept the recommendation to increase members’ Allowances.

I acknowledge that the transformation programme- to look at every service, the way every department works, and do things differently- has saved the Council about £12m in the last two years. I think all the workforce should be congratulated in enabling this to happen.

I support the investment in the further development of the Town Centre. Developing the Bentalls site was always in the plans and there would have been a much bigger out cry for earlier action if the boarding around this building site had not been quite so posh.

I hope the money invested by the Council will ensure a greater say in the use of the public realm areas- activities to encourage families -a Bracknell Beach!

The Joint Venture Partnership will ensure parts of Bracknell are still owned by the residents instead of being sold off for quick financial gains. This will be welcomed by all.

I regret that there is nothing in the budget to support the introduction of domestic food waste collection. This may be funded in the future by a government grant, but other Councils are already there and doing it.

Because of the huge depletion in the Government Revenue Support Grant, I appreciate how tight the finances are and recognise the need to raise the Council Tax. The permitted Extra High taxes to support the pressures in Adult Social Care were raised in the past two years. A lower tax can therefore be raised this year– by coincidence(?), the year of the Local Elections.

I support the proposed 2.99% increase in Council Tax.

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.

Back to Top