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Reporting Back: Budget Council

by prestwichfocus on 4 March, 2015

Last week saw the annual ‘Budget Council’ meeting of Bury Council. Councillors are required (by law) to set a balanced budget each year so this is an important meeting.

Council Tax Rise
The first news many people want to know is what is happening to their Counci Tax bill. The GOOD news is that, thanks to another grant from the Government, Council Tax rates will be frozen from 1 April 2015 for yet another year.

The Government gives Bury a grant conditional on it freezing Council Tax. Bury Council have agreed to take the grant so our Council Tax will stay the same from April.

Reductions in Spending
Bury, like many other public bodies is having to save money this year. Bury has to save around £14 million in 2015-16 – which is a very significant task.

The biggest changes in Bury will be:
– many adult care services will in the future be provided by a company which is owned by the Council, which will apparrently save around £2.5 million a year. I think we need to watch very careful how these changes are made to ensure that the actual services provided to people remain appropriate and as needed.
–  reduction in staffing costs – for example through restructuring, voluntary retirements and reducing the amount of time that people get full pay if off sick.
–  increased charges – most significant an increase in charges that the Council makes to schools of around £600,000 a year

The only actual reduction in provision that the Council is announcing in its plan  is to funding of summer play schemes and to the maintenance of parks and gardens.

Council House Rents
Bury Council has decided that the average council house rent will be frozen at 0% this year. This is by taking ‘spare’ money in the Housing Revenue Account. Although this will be welcomed by tenants it is important to think about the long term impact of reducing the size of the Housing Revenue account for the future on how much housing we can provide – so it is a complex subject. Obviously the move does not help families or individuals who are struggling with high private sector rents who cannot get a council house.

More money for Bury New Road
Last year the Council seemed very proud to announce that £500,000 was to be spent on Bury New Road through Prestwich Village.

As you will be aware nothing has happened with this, and nothing has been announced.

This year we are being told that the bill for this will now be £2 million – the existing £500,000, £500,000 from Transport for Greater Manchester funds, and taxpayers are being asked to borrow £1 million (presumably to be repaid over decades) to make up the shortfall.

Any investment in Prestwich by the Council is welcome and long overdue – but we are very concerned that nobody has been asked for their views on this issue, there are no proposals and nobody knows what is happening. Is it single lanes? Is it a bus lane? Nobody knows – but we are being asked to borrow £1 million.

Proposals that were defeated
I voted in favour of two proposals that were voted down by the majority Labour group of councillors so will NOT be happening.
This was:
– to spend £800,000 to restore the two-weekly collection of grey bins. I am a huge fan of increased recycling – but finding ways that work for different households not a ‘one solution for all’ that we have at present

– to spend £2 million from the Council’s spare ‘reserves’ on environmental improvements like pot hole repair, street maintenance and fly-tipping

The papers for the Budget Council Meeting are here. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

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