Plans to almost double the cost of garden waste collections for South Gloucestershire residents have been shelved. Cuts to the local authority’s street-care team, which repairs potholes, removes graffiti and looks after open spaces, road verges and public bins, have also been abandoned but council tax will rise by the maximum permitted 4.99 per cent, including two per cent for social care.
Changes to South Gloucestershire Council’s proposed budget following public consultation at the end of 2022 are set to be agreed by cabinet on Friday, February 10, before it goes to a vote at full council five days later. They include scrapping an increase in the fee for the annual green household waste service from £30 to £55.
The Conservative administration says its spending plans for 2023/24 will deliver on the authority’s key priorities, such as giving children the best start in life, supporting vulnerable people, boosting economic growth and giving council taxpayers value for money. Free car parking and veterans’ services will be protected while significant investment will be made in schools and community facilities, it says.
Read more: South Gloucestershire Council green waste collection charges to nearly double amid £29m gap
But the organisation is having to make other savings to plug a £29.3million shortfall for the year from April, rising to £33million in 2024/25, amid spiralling inflation, a cost-of-living crisis and increasing demand on its services. Council leader Cllr Toby Savage said: “This year we have faced enormous financial challenges beyond our immediate control.
“The global rise in energy prices has pushed inflation up and the council, like businesses and organisations all over the country, has had to adapt quickly. Despite these challenges, our budget proposals show that we are well-placed to deliver on our priorities for residents and ensure that South Glos continues to thrive.
“We aim to strike a fair balance with a below-inflation council tax increase, alongside keeping car parking free, further help with the cost of living and investing to protect essential frontline services, like street care. Whether it’s investing tens of millions of pounds in local schools to achieve record attainment levels, hitting our highest ever recycling rates and taking decisive action to tackle the climate crisis, or building vital public transport infrastructure and investing in local high streets, these budget proposals will ensure that our significant achievements over the past few years will continue into the next.”
A report to cabinet said that on top of savings, which are likely to include redundancies, reserves would be used to balance the £287million revenue budget, which pays for mainstream council services. It said 74 per cent of residents who responded to the consultation supported a rise in council tax, with 33 per cent backing the full 4.99 per cent increase and 26 per cent favouring 2.99 per cent.
The 21 per cent who wanted the bills frozen was down from 34 per cent last year. The report said there was strong agreement with the idea to dim street lights by a quarter after 11pm to save £627,000 but most people opposed reductions to the street-care teams.
Proposals to make newly formed town and parish councils pay for their own Christmas lights have been pushed back a year to give them time to become established. The report said: “The budget proposals set out in this report seek to continue to protect core areas as far as is possible and invests heavily in those areas seeing falls in satisfaction, namely adults and children’s social services.
“The capital programme proposes more to be spent in 2023/24 on highways maintenance. The new savings programme continues to focus around doing things differently to improve outcomes and delivering savings through efficiencies where possible.”
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