West Berkshire Council approved its Revenue Budget for 2019/20 at the recent meeting of Full Council. This will see £131.11 million spent delivering essential services to the people of West Berkshire.
A Council Tax increase of 2.99% was agreed which generates £97.87 million. The increase will raise £2.84 million which will go towards meeting the pressures the council is facing from inflation and service pressures, particularly in social care. Council Tax has now predominantly become a source of funding for Community Care, as 60% of the council’s resources are needed to support 3% of the population.
However, the council is working both creatively and commercially to develop new ways of funding services. These include property development and investment to provide significant income from rent and successfully lobbying to be part of the Government’s Business Rate retention pilot which will generate an additional £1.75 million income for the district.
The council’s Capital Programme will see new investment in West Berkshire’s schools, 95% of which are already good or outstanding, plus the provision of two brand new schools, one in Theale, the other in partnership with Newbury College.
Over the next three years, the Capital Programme has earmarked £38.million for investment in schools and £34 million on roads. This includes £16.1 million for schools and £12.6 million for roads in 2019/20 alone. Part of the £12.6 million for roads is as a result of the council’s successful bid for additional government funds to repair potholes and continue to improve the condition of our roads to ensure that West Berkshire continues to be one of the best connected districts in the country.
The Programme also sees significant investment in the council’s commitment to boosting West Berkshire’s 9000 businesses, to keep the local economy buoyant.
Graham Jones, Leader of West Berkshire Council said: “This budget marks the end of a transition period which sees this council move from government support to being entirely funded by the West Berkshire Council Tax payer and the proportion of Business Rates we’re now able to retain.
“Painful choices have had to be made over recent years, but we are now in a strong, stable position for the future.
“As a council, we are growing our income in creative ways, funded by our Transformation Fund. We are thinking and acting commercially, by adapting some of our services to be traded companies and growing our property portfolio, which will provide an additional £2 million of income.
Many of our town and parish councils have risen to the challenge of devolution, allowing us to provide services in co-operation with, rather than for, our communities.
This budget shows clearly the direction we are taking to generate more revenue with which to continue to serve the people of West Berkshire and to ensure that our district continues to thrive and improve.”