West Berkshire Council consultation on spending proposals for 2024/25

Published: 29 November 2023

Press Release from West Berkshire Council, Tuesday 28 November 2023:

West Berkshire Council has begun a consultation on spending proposals affecting some frontline services as it prepares to set its budget for 2024/25.

Local authorities across the country, including West Berkshire Council, are facing significant financial pressures with funding failing to keep up with the cost of delivering services. An increase in demand for services, high inflation making those services more expensive to deliver and Government funding falling below inflation rates are all contributing to challenges in delivering a balanced budget each year.

Next year the Council will have around £176m to spend delivering services across the district – creating a £14m gap between expected funding and the forecast spending requirements next year. Work has begun to find £14m in cost-efficiency savings and income generation to deliver a balanced budget. Most of this (around £10m) has been found internally – through the council becoming more efficient, generating additional income and restructuring fees, and through a new transformation programme.

Whilst every effort has been made to protect frontline services, a small number could be impacted by the proposals being considered for next year. Before making any decisions are made, it’s important that we hear the thoughts of our residents, communities, and other stakeholders to understand how they might be affected by them, and how the impact of these proposals could be reduced should they go ahead.

Consultation on these budget proposals has begun, with residents invited to have their say by Thursday 11 January, 2024. Information about each of the proposals can be found at www.westberks.gov.uk/balancing-our-budget but in summary are:

  • Restructure car parking fees - generating up to £450,000
  • Close or find an alternative provider to run Willows Edge Care Home - a saving of up to £240,000
  • Reduce the frequency of grass cutting - saving up to £220,000
  • Restructure funding for Adult Social Care transport services - generating between £100,000 and £400,000
  • Reduce funding for gully emptying and bridge maintenance - saving up to £110,000
  • Reduce litter and dog waste bins - saving up to £90,000
  • Restructure Adult Social Care Care-Home charges - generating up to £80,000
  • Reduce the opening hours of the Household Waste Recycling Centres - saving up to £59,000
  • Reduce the frequency of annual weed treatments - saving up to £20,000
  • Reduce contributions to community transport - saving up to £10,000

If accepted, these proposals could contribute up to £1.75m – or 12.5% of the budget gap – to the Council’s budget next year.

In identifying areas to make savings the priority is to protect the most vulnerable residents, minimise the impact on frontline services and ensure the budget for the years ahead properly reflects the true cost of delivering good quality services.

On the consultation, Councillor Lee Dillon, Leader of West Berkshire Council said:

“Councils are required by law to deliver a balanced budget and we cannot spend more money than we have. It leaves us facing tough decisions about what we do, or how we do it next year. We are prioritising support for the most vulnerable residents and protecting frontline services as far as possible – with most savings being found within the organisation.

“Although we have set out our proposals for next year it's important we give communities the chance to tell us how they will be impacted and what might be done to mitigate the impact of any decisions before we decide how to proceed.

“In working through our financial plans for the year ahead we are also committed to delivering on the priorities and plans set out in our new Council Strategy. The strategy reflects issues which we know are important to local people and the commitments set out in the delivery plan for next year will be built into the budget so we continue to deliver for residents.”

The budget for 2024/25 is due to be considered by the Executive on Thursday 8 February 2024 and approved by Full Council on Thursday 29 February 2024. Both meetings will be open to the public and residents can attend either in person at the Market Street Offices or to stream live and on-demand via our YouTube channel.