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Council set to take further 3% off council tax

Council tax in the Royal Borough looks set to drop by 3% - the fourth year in a row that residents will reap the benefits of the rigorous expense management that has made this one of the lowest council tax local authorities in the country.

The 3% proposal for 2013/14 - to be decided by the council next month - means council tax will have fallen in real terms by 11.6% since 2010/11. Previous successive cuts were 4% in 2010/11, 0.5% in 2011/12 and 1.5% in 2012/13.

The cut also means that the new Band D rate will drop by £29.25 to £945.78 - a total reduction of £91.43 over the past four years.

Cllr Simon Dudley, cabinet member for finance, said the efficiency-focused budget for residents was the result of scouring every corner for any signs of waste.

He said: "Putting residents first means that we direct every penny towards making our services better, more responsive and cost effective.

"In the past year we have developed stronger partnerships between our councillors and dedicated staff to identify where we can work smarter, better and and ever more efficiently. It doesn't stop here, however. This is an ongoing process which encourages good ideas from those delivering our services, effective and inclusive leadership from cabinet and, most importantly of all, feedback from residents and service users. At the same time our reserves have risen to record levels, making the council's finances very resilient."

"The bottom line is - there should be no hiding place for wasted money in the Royal Borough."

Cllr David Burbage, council leader, said the proposed tax cut was alongside substantial investment in services, including:
• a pay increase for more than 620 (40%) of the council's lowest paid workers
• a £1-an-hour cut in homecare charges and
• car park fees frozen again for borough residents using their Advantage card.

He explained: "Our work to make savings through better ways of working and eliminating unnecessary administrative costs - instead of direct cuts - means we can further invest in front-line services and make them even better for our residents.

"In particular, we are putting extra money in the budget for adult social care and for safeguarding the borough's most vulnerable children. In addition, we are increasing the roads budget because, through our Local Budget community consultation, residents have made it clear for three years in a row that highway maintenance is a top priority."

Investment in council services will include:
• £3.6m for the expansion of Windsor first and middle schools
• £2.1m for overall school improvements
• £1.3m for highway resurfacing (an increase of £250,000)
• £1m for the initial phase of the new Oldfield School - building to start this summer
• £950,000 for adult social care
• £550,000 for replacement street lighting
• £470,000 for parks improvements
• £400,000 for Maidenhead town centre improvements - part of the regeneration programme
• £380,000 for new library facilities including the new library and sensory room at Boyn Grove, Maidenhead
• £300,000 for the location of 24/7 Windsor fire cover at Tinker's Lane, Dedworth
• £300,000 for drainage and flood prevention schemes
• £249,000 for Manor Green School's redevelopment of facilities around accommodation in The Residence
• £205,000 for gym refurbishment at Charters Leisure Centre, Sunningdale - part of a £1m investment in leisure projects
• £200,000 for children's safeguarding placements
• £120,000 to give a 1% pay increase to 620 of the council's lower paid staff
• £50,000 for preparatory work for the Stafferton Way link road
• £25,000 extra for the Local Budget scheme in which residents vote for how they want the money to be spent - taking the total to £325,000.

Taking a 'good business' approach to council operations, efficiency savings of £7.5m have been identifed, including:
• £400,000 in the adult social care efficiency programme that is helping to divert people from nursing care and also improving homecare contracts with providers
• £385,000 from staff contract changes
• £370,000 through the Shared Lives and Homeshare programmes that help vulnerable residents in the community
• £200,000 a year by replacing the traditional chief executive post with a managing director
• £280,000 by reducing overheads and reviewing the way services are provided in libraries and leisure centres
• £166,000 from restructuring the education psychology and related services
• £116,000 from reprocurement of the mobile phone contract and reducing handset use
• £100,000 from the smarter working programme that will reduce council accommodation and technology costs
• £100,000 from a review of homecare to meet demand at a better ecomonic price
• £100,000 by reducing waste to landfill by increasing recycling and food waste collection rates
• £100,000 by taking a more commercial approach to the council's involvement in the visitor industry
• £85,000 by boosting use of online services in the customer contact centre.

Other opportunities will be maximised to increase income generation by, for example, selling council services, where appropriate, to other public bodies and the private sector and also by introducing new paid-for activities in parks and leisure centres.

Residents are already reaping the benefits of a raft of service investments and improvements in the current financial year, including the new food waste collection, extended library opening times (bucking the national trend), the new Dedworth Library, the recently-opened Larchfield community centre in Maidenhead, Windsor gym expansion and improvements, a new home for Windsor Shopmobility and the artificial rugby pitch at Braywick.

Cllr Burbage said that while the 2013/14 budget would have undoubted implications for jobs, potential redundancies would be around 40 - fewer than last year.

He explained: "The public sector is dependent on the wealth generated by the individuals and businesses in the private sector to exist - we therefore have tough decisions that have to be made.

"Here in the Royal Borough we will have a 6.4% reduction in government grant in 2013/14 - and we are likely to have a further 8% reduction in the following year, so we have no option but to concentrate on cost reduction and efficiency. That's what local taxpayers expect from their councils and we would be failing our residents if we did not deliver in that respect."

If the budget proposals get council go-ahead, the Royal Borough's new Band D council tax rate for 2012/13 will be £945.78 - a decrease of 3% over 2012/13. The borough is already £269 below the 2011/12 average Band D rate for unitary councils in England.

Budget proposals are being discussed by the various overview and scrutiny panels before going to cabinet on Thursday 7 February. The final decision will be made by full council on Tuesday 19 February.

Figures are for the council's element of the council tax. They do not include precepts for other organisations such as the police and fire authorities and parish councils.

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Modified: 2013-01-28
Published: Tue, 02 Jun 2015 15:09:03
Author: Anne Dackombe
Editor: zzzAnne.Dackombe
RDCMS ID: 13254
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