Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) budget for the next years has been announced, following consultation on draft plans this winter.

The plans include a new £100,000 proposal to create a fund to provide grants of up to £5,000 to small community groups.

RBC will also give its children’s services company Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) an extra £1 million this year to allow them more time to make savings.

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Councillor Jason Brock, leader of RBC, said: “It is vital that as a council we open doors for the many small community groups across Reading who want to deliver projects which benefit local communities in the town.

“This will create opportunities for those groups to progress small local projects which will make a big difference, but which they might otherwise not be able to.

“It can be easy to disregard the benefit these small local projects bring to communities, particularly when set against some of the more ‘big ticket’ budget lines, like the £9 million on repairing roads, or £40 million on leisure centres.”

There were more than 600 responses to the council’s recent budget consultation.

Funding for small community groups

Changes in 2016 saw the council move from a grants-based process to a commissioning process for voluntary sector groups.

This can mean smaller community groups sometimes miss out on funding when competing against larger and better-established voluntary sector groups.

Cllr Brock said feedback from the voluntary sector as part of the consultation highlighted the need to make funding available to Reading’s smaller community organisations.

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The funding could be used for one off projects, start-up costs or to run events or buy equipment.

Children’s services company needs more time

Following discussions with Brighter Futures for Children about their business and transformation plan, the council is proposing a one-off injection of £1 million in 2020/21 as it is believed planned savings will take longer than previously expected.

BFfC is also seeking an extra £4 million of transformation funding from the Department for Education to speed up their transition from ‘Needs Improvement to be Good’ to ‘Good’.

What else is in the budget?

Council tax, spending and saving proposals were announced in December and have largely remained unchanged.

A 3.99 per cent rise in council tax is planned while the council wants to raise £32.9 million by being more efficient and increasing income over the next three years.

New spending proposals include £9 million on road repairs, a potential £5 million purchase of Reading Police Station and £35 million for new swimming pools.

RBC’s Policy committee will decide whether to recommend the 2020-21 budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy (2020-23) on February 17.

Proposals will then be voted on at a meeting of the Full Council on February 25.