West Berks faces millions of pounds of cuts and 2.99% council tax increase

COUNCIL tax in West Berkshire will increase by 2.99 per cent from April 1, despite millions of pounds of cuts to services.

The increase is hoped to raise an extra £2.84 million, bringing the total council tax income to £97.87 million.

However, due to rapidly declining funding from central government for local councils, West Berkshire Council (WBC) is planning £6.24 million savings and income generation proposals.

This means staff and services will be cut, and fees and charges will increase.

As of last month, WBC has a £1.3 million deficit in its revenue budget.

Of those £6.24 million savings and income generation proposals, more than £1 million is from the adult social care budget.

Children and family services will see £569,000 of cuts, including £100,000 from the youth offending team.

A council report stated there is a risk that reducing preventative work could increase the chances of further offending.

Education will see £479,000 of savings and income generation proposals.

These include replacing £30,000 funding with European Social Fund money, even though this comes from the European Union which the UK will no longer be part after March.

Public health will see £176,000 of cuts, including £100,000 from the quit smoking service, despite the council acknowledging: “Cuts to this service will likely impact on high-risk groups, i.e., lower socio-economic groups, pregnant smokers, and manual workers.”

Public protection and culture will see £444,000 cuts, including £174,000 from disinvesting from the Corn Exchange in Newbury.

On February 14 a petition was presented to the council’s executive with 340 signatures asking for a £50,000 annual contribution to the Corn Exchange’s budget.

Transport and countryside will see £1 million of savings and income generation proposals, including £200,000 from charging for garden waste.

Other proposed cuts include: remove funding for the youth offending team, reduce monitoring for air pollution, remove funding for mental health first aid training, reduce support for overweight adults.

Other proposals to bring in more income include increasing a year ticket for school buses from £726 to £744.

Care homes Willows Edge, Notrees and Walnut Close will increase from £800 a week to £817, while Birchwood will go up from £830 to £847.

The council said: “The level of fees and charges can have a direct impact on usage and take up, and in some instances work against the council’s social inclusion agenda by effectively discriminating against those who are less able to pay”.

The council was approached for comment.