Thu, 01 Mar 2018
WEST Berkshire Council will meet tonight to approve its budget for 2018/19.
Among the main proposals is a 2.99-per-cent rise in council tax, plus a three-per-cent increase to the adult social care precept.
The two together will see residents’ council tax bills go up by 5.99 per cent and generate £5.4m of revenue for the cash-strapped local authority.
Other recommendations include introducing a £50 charge for the fortnightly collection of green waste in a bid to raise £900,000.
If approved, it will come into effect from June 1.
Councillors will also decide on what funding to provide Citizens Advice West Berkshire (CAWB).
The council originally proposed cutting its grant by two thirds, from £120,000 to just £40,000.
That proposal has subsequently changed and the council is now looking at reducing the funding by a third, to £80,000, instead.
The council’s opposition leader, Liberal Democrat Lee Dillon (Thatcham North) will table his party’s amendment to the Conservatives’ budget, urging the council to maximise the use of its transition fund in an effort to “lessen the pain on residents” amid a period of increased charges.
These include using £450,000 of the unspent £650,000 in the transitional fund to reduce the cost of collecting green bins to £25 per household, instead of the proposed £50 per household.
Mr Dillon will also recommend to the council that £10,900 of the unspent £650,000 in the transitional fund should be used to cancel the proposed introduction of on-street car parking charges for Thatcham town centre.
The £1.4m of transitional funding was made available to the council by the Government in a bid to help soften the blow to services affected by cuts, around £650,000 of which the council still has at its disposal.
The Lib Dem leader is also proposing that the council reallocates £100,000 of the £450,000 it has set aside in its capital budget to improve the council offices and spend it on improving roads instead.
“The budget proposals are creating a two-tier council for those who can afford council services and for those who can’t – they are left to sort themselves out,” said Mr Dillon.
“These amendments show that the council doesn’t need to cut as much or as hard, nor introduce as many charges as they are currently proposing.”
He added: “The council can’t expect to work in plush offices when everything around them is crumbling.”
Councillors will also discuss proposals laid out in its capital programme, which is set to see the council invest more than £190m in the district over the next five years.
In total, £69.8m of that money will be spent on new school places and improvements to school buildings that Mr Dillon previously claimed could jeopardise social services.
Elsewhere, £55.5m will be used for maintaining roads and highways, including planned improvements to the Kings Road Link in Newbury and the A339 Bear Lane junction.