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Mayor Dave Writes: Cross-Party Support for Council Budget as Funding Crisis Continues

March 10, 2017 4:36 PM

CoinsIn his latest monthly column for the Bedford Bulletin, Mayor Dave Hodgson has laid out the dire funding situation in which the 2017/18 Council budget was delivered, and of the importance of the all-party support it received last month.

Here's the full text of the piece:

The combined effect of massive government cuts and rising need for care services is a full-blown funding crisis for Bedford Borough Council. The Council's main government grant is falling from £30 million in 2015 to under £6 million in 2019. By 2020/21, there is a funding gap of £27.5 million.

In the face of this crisis for the Council, we were pleased that our budget received all party support, with thirty nine votes for and one against.

The budget includes tough decisions which frankly we do not want to make, but which are sadly unavoidable. It protects the vulnerable in need of vital care, so we are grateful for the overwhelming support for it across the Council chamber.

The budget includes more money for both adult and children's social care, more money for emergency accommodation for the homeless and funds for the ongoing refurbishment of the Council's older people's residential homes. It also includes the school investment programme which will enable the transfer to the two-tier schools system and the replacement of all temporary classrooms.

We've seen the impact of the dire funding situation elsewhere, such as Surrey County Council's initial plans for a 15% council tax rise, and Lancashire County Council closing 28 of its libraries. The situation is very different here, with all libraries saved, for example. But as the government cuts continue to bite we are having to make some unwanted changes we have successfully averted until now, long after they became typical elsewhere.

We want to avoid the loss of services as far as possible, and that's the motivation behind our new efficiency programme. This shift to digital technology to support more efficient working will save over £10 million per year which would otherwise have to be cut from services. Meanwhile, I'll keep up the fight for fairer funding from government, which is desperately needed.