WOKINGHAM’S Council Tax bills are expected to rise by 4.94% plus the parish/town councils precept if a budget is passed next week.
The rise will see the average Band D property pay £1.23 extra a week and will be debated at a council meeting on Thursday, February 23.
At a press conference, the council said that the budget it has prepared is balanced and, according to deputy leader Cllr Julian McGhee Sumner, the leadership are “really proud we haven’t cut any services”.
The budget has been drawn up as the council prepares for a complete withdrawal of the central government grant is has been receiving. This will go in 2020 and, to help get ready, the council said it needs to save £19 million in the financial year 2019/20.
In a statement, the council said: “Rather than a slash and burn budget, the borough council is instead undergoing a radical reorganisation to reduce running costs and is proposing a financial plan based on efficiencies, innovation and a focus on priorities that are supported by the public.”
Cllr McGhee Sumner said: “Although we are facing severe financial challenges, we are proposing a balanced budget that means we can protect services that residents most value.
“We are continuing to focus on protecting vulnerable people and investing in prevention services with £76 million dedicated to this area.
“Both of these areas received strong support in the budget engagement process we undertook last year and continue to be our central focus. We are also streamlining our organisation even further, with an investment in IT that will allow us to reduce staff costs and provide a better service to residents.”
The council said that its budget will include finance for a number of projects including the reopening of the Ryeish Green Sports Centre, redevelopment of Carnival Pool and Bulmershe Leisure Centre, improvements to Barkham Bridge and a new primary school at Matthewsgreen development.
It is also pledging to invest £90 million in highways, £46 million on schools and £23 million in affordable housing.
We will have full reaction from the budget plans in next week’s Wokingham Paper.