West Berkshire Council has begun a consultation on proposals affecting some frontline services as it prepares to set its budget for 2018/19.
Next year West Berkshire Council will have around £123m to spend on services in communities across the district. However, an increasing demand for these services and a reduction in central government funding means the council will have to find savings of around £10m in order to deliver a balanced budget.
The council began preparing the budget earlier this year and has worked hard to minimise the impact on frontline services. Most of the savings will be found through the council becoming even more efficient, generating additional income and through a possible increase in Council Tax. However, around £1m will impact on services delivered in communities across the district with proposals which include:
Introducing a charge for garden waste collections. More than half of councils already charge for this service and the proposal would generate around £900,000 a year. The annual subscription would be around £50 per household – which works out at less than £2 per collection.
Reducing funding for Citizens Advice West Berkshire from £120,000 to £40,000 in 2018/19.
Stopping sending planning application notices directly to nearby properties to save around £17,500 a year. Orange site notices will continue to be clearly displayed in the vicinity of all planning application sites.
Details of the proposals can be found online at www.westberks.gov.uk/budgetproposals. A public consultation on the proposals is open until Wednesday 10th January with communities asked to consider how they might be affected and suggest how the impact of these proposals could be reduced.
Speaking ahead of the consultation Councillor Graham Jones, Leader of West Berkshire Council, said: “Every year our communities are asking more from the services we provide but we are receiving less money to provide those services. We have looked first at how the council can work differently by becoming more efficient and by working more closely with other local authorities and with our communities. Our priority has been to protect those services which support the most vulnerable people in our communities but it’s inevitable that there will be an impact on some other services. Although we have set out our proposals for next year it’s important we give communities the chance to tell us how they will be impacted and what might be done to alleviate the impact of any decisions before we decide how to proceed.”
How local authority funding is changing
Over the past eight years West Berkshire Council has had to find savings worth £55m while at the same time responding to an increase in demand for its services. This is because of a reduction in funding from central government which has seen the Revenue Support Grant (worth £33.7m to the council in 2011/12) fall to just £100,000 in 2018/19.
Read our infographic to see how West Berkshire Council is funded and how money is spent.
In finding the savings for 2018/19 the council has sought to protect frontline services as far as possible. This has primarily focused on becoming an even more efficient council, which over the last twelve months has included:
A review of ward boundaries which will see the number of district councillors reduce from 52 to 43. This will come into effect, and start delivering savings, from 2019/20
A financial challenge review which saw a panel of senior councillors and officers scrutinise service budgets, and identify a further savings and income generation opportunities worth more than £1m
A more innovative approach to service delivery which has included a new shared service, bringing together trading standards and environmental protection across West Berkshire, Bracknell Forest and Wokingham councils
A review of staff terms and conditions which has seen changes to its lease car scheme and staff mileage rates
To view the budget proposals for 2018/19 and respond to the consultation visit www.westberks.gov.uk/budgetproposals by Wednesday 10th January.