Conservative Wiltshire Council agrees continued investment in key services, infrastructure and economy

Conservative Wiltshire Council agrees continued investment in key services, infrastructure and economy

Conservative run Wiltshire Council has passed Budget proposals for 2018/19 detailing how we will continue to deliver vital frontline services and invest in key areas have been agreed by councillors today (20 February 2018).

The decision means the almost £1 billion spent each year on more than 350 services, is aligned to our key priorities; to protect those who are most vulnerable, grow the local economy and strengthen communities.

The approved budget reflects the challenges of delivering services against a backdrop of continued reduction in Government funding, a sustained increase in demand for some services; particularly adult social care and children’s safeguarding, and the increase in the national wage and inflation costs.

It is planned to continue a programme of capital investment across the county. £310 million over the next four years will be invested to provide strong and sustainable infrastructure that includes £55 million for housing; £21 million to protect and grow the local economy; £96 million for highways; £76 million into our schools; and £40 million for community facilities.

In addition, an amendment to the budget was approved that will allocate £669,000 (£655,000 from the recently announced Rural Fund, and £14,000 from the additional New Homes Bonus) to go into street scene services to help to improve the environment, including combating litter and fly tipping.

Conservative Councillor Baroness Scott of Bybrook OBE, council leader, said: “I think we should all be proud that even in the toughest and most challenging of times we have continued to deliver services that people need and do all that we can to improve the lives for people in Wiltshire, and, in particular, for those who are most vulnerable.

“This budget continues that work, as well as allocating significant funding for investment to grow the local economy and improve the environment and facilities for local communities.”

You can read Baroness Scott’s full budget speech on the Council website - http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/articles/baroness-scotts-budget-speech

This year the Government Settlement Funding Allocation has been reduced by £18.5 million from £72.3 million to £53.8 million. Plus, the loss of a further £6 million due to the Government not continuing the Transitional Grant. Due to the reduced funding and increased costs and service demands, savings of £25.596 million have to be delivered to balance the books.

Councillors approved a 3% Social Care Levy in line with the medium term financial plan approved last year - that will help, in part, to meet the rising cost of adult social care services. Members also agreed a Council Tax rise of 1% more than published in the financial plan of 2.99%, for 2018/19. The Social Care Levy and the Council Tax increase (5.99%) will raise around £21 million.

The savings required will be found from reviewing and transforming services and the way we work. The council will become even more business-like and will increase the use of digital channels to enable services to be accessed and provided in different and more efficient ways.

There are five main transformation programmes to deliver the savings. These are:

• Adult care transformation

o This could see savings of up to £15 million of future costs by radically reviewing how we interact with, and assess people, how we care for people, and how we help people live better and healthier lives for longer in their own homes and communities.

• Families and children’s transformation

o This will also see future costs reduced by continuing to change how we monitor and interact with families to safeguard and prevent children coming into care. There is an emphasis on early intervention, and delivering better outcomes as well as reducing the high costs that occur when children become young adults.

• Digital

o We will continue to deliver more services using digital technology, wherever possible, and a £1.5 million investment is expected to see a return of £5 million on an annual basis by 2021/22.

• Community engagement and devolution

o Building on our strong partnership with local communities, we aim to save £3.5 million through the devolution of more services locally.

• Commercial

o A new commercial strategy sets out the approach to trading some services, increasing income generation and challenging costs; particularly on large contracts. This aims to secure £7.8 million of additional income. Trading more commercially with schools has already started, and will deliver £1.2 million savings a year by 2021/22.

We will continue to fund services that many other councils no longer deliver, such as:

• Weekly bin collections – some councils have moved to three-weekly, we collect alternate weeks and have invested in more recycling

• Household recycling centres – we have one of the largest number of HRCs per head of population in the country

• Passenger transport – some have removed all, or most, of their subsidy, we currently subsidise up to £3.50 per passenger journey

• Children’s centres – other councils closed these completely, we have contracted the management of 25 centres

• Libraries – we have more than 850 volunteers who help to deliver libraries

• Leisure centres – we have invested in new state of the art facilities, and we are continuing to do so. Increasingly these are not just leisure centres but a place for the whole community to visit and access a wide range of services and facilities

• Road maintenance – we have invested in roads to deliver improvements and access

The budget papers are available on the Wiltshire Council website - http://cms.wiltshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=130&MId=10974

In the last five years Wiltshire residents have had one of the lowest national increases in Council Tax. Wiltshire continues to have one of the lowest Council Taxes, with no increases from 2010 to 2016. That freeze has resulted in a saving of £1,248 to the average household in the last 10 years

Council Tax increase - impact on residents:

Council Tax Band D:

• Increase = 22p per day

• Increase = £1.54 per week


by Jonathon Seed,