Wealth of ideas to make money stretch further

Launch of Priory View in Dunstable
Launch of Priory View in Dunstable

Central Beds Council has revealed its draft 2014/15 budget and launched a public consultation on its proposals for spending £186 million next year as well as suggested savings and investments.

The draft budget is based on freezing the council’s proportion of council tax for a fourth year running and protecting frontline services.

The greatest proportion of funds – 58 per cent of the overall budget – is earmarked for services for children and social care for vulnerable members of the community, reflecting increasing demand.

It includes plans for making money stretch further, such as using local rather than expensive out-of-county care placements for children and providing alternatives to costly residential and social care services for adults.

As well as accommodating rising demands on services, the council needs to make further savings because, in common with local authorities across England, funding for the council has been reduced by more than a quarter. Savings needed for 2014/15 stand at £17.4 million, with a further £25.6 million needed over the following three years.

Proposed savings include reductions in building-related costs, councillor expenses and non-front line services like consultants and agency staff. There are also plans to secure better deals when re-tendering contracts.

The budget also features plans for investment, including £48 million from the housing revenue account over the next four years to improve accommodation for older people and build new facilities such as the new Priory View extra care scheme in Dunstable.

Investments of over £91 million are proposed from the capital budget to provide more school places, better waste treatment facilities and improve the road network.

The council says investing in technology will help services run more cost-effectively, while capital spending to upgrade leisure centres will generate additional income that will cover costs.

Other measures are being proposed to increase income and offset the need for further savings. Among them are charging for pest control services, increasing rents on council-owned commercial properties and farms, improving debt recovery and generating more advertising and sponsorship income.

Councillor Maurice Jones,

deputy leader of Central Beds Council, said: “We have a proven track record of delivering savings, having delivered £60 million of efficiencies since the council came into existence in 2009.

“We remain determined to deliver value for money, so we have carefully scrutinised our spending to look at where further efficiency savings can be made or income generated and have put together a budget that allows us to maintain essential services.

“We also remain committed to listening to our residents and I hope that people will take time to look at our proposals and give us their views.”

The council’s spending plans are open for public consultation until Friday, January 31.

Further information and a budget survey are available online at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/consultations.

Paper copies of the consultation documents are also available at the council’s Priory House and Watling House offices.

The executive will use the feedback from the public consultation to finalise its budget proposals which will be considered by full council on February 20.