Bracknell Forest Council’s budget proposals, including a suggested level of council tax, were approved by the council’s decision-making Executive on Tuesday 9 February 2021.
These proposals will now be considered at full council on Wednesday 24 February. If agreed, Bracknell Forest will see a council tax increase of 3.49% in 2021 to 2022. This is well below the permitted increase of 4.99% and is expected to be one of the lowest increases in the country. This will equate to a rise of 91 pence per week for a band D council taxpayer.
Like many other local authorities, an increase in council tax is needed to help make sure all frontline services, in particular those supporting our vulnerable residents, continue to be maintained and protected into the future. The alternative would be to cut vital services, which is simply not an option, particularly at the current time.
This year, in recognition of the financial impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many households, a £150 council tax bill reduction will be available to protect the most economically vulnerable residents, amounting to an estimated £0.5 million overall.
This represents part of a one-off funding package in a ‘COVID-19-sensitive’ budget, which uses additional one-off grants provided by government to support activities that will help residents and businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic. The other elements are:
- additional welfare support for our most vulnerable residents (£0.3 million)
- support for the local economy, notably the town centres of Bracknell, Crowthorne and Sandhurst, recognising their importance for employment and general economic recovery (£0.6 million)
- support for individuals experiencing mental health issues, working with partners including the voluntary and community sector (£0.25 million)
- creation of a fund to support climate change and carbon reduction initiatives (£0.15 million)
- staff retention initiatives, to help make sure we retain the capacity and skills to deal with the ongoing impact and manage recovery from COVID-19 (up to £0.5 million)
Cllr Peter Heydon, Executive Member for Transformation and Finance, said:
“Every year the council faces financial pressures and challenges. Inevitably, the ongoing pandemic has impacted this further. It has been really important this year that we future proof our finances and look at ways of helping the borough to recover. A cautious approach will ensure we are able to balance the short and long term impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Bracknell Forest residents and its economy.
“We understand an increase in council tax is never welcomed, and we don’t take the decision lightly, however, it is often unavoidable due to the financial pressures we, like other authorities in the UK, face each year. This year we are not increasing council tax as much as we are permitted to do and we’re identifying and supporting those who are on lowest incomes by providing a £150 reduction on their council tax bill.
“Not only does Bracknell Forest still represent one of the lowest council tax charges amongst all unitary authorities, but we will also have one of the lowest council tax increases in the country. Additionally, the one-off government grant will enable us to maintain all our services, allowing us to continue to support our residents, particularly the most vulnerable.
“As we head into another financial year of uncertainty that the ongoing pandemic brings, we will continue to manage our finances well and work within our means without overspending on budgets. We will take this considered approach through forward planning and sound financial management, balancing the medium-term sustainability of the council’s finances while helping the borough recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
View the minutes from the executive meeting.