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County leader warns of becoming 'nothing more' than care providers

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The Conservative leader of Buckinghamshire CC has warned his authority could become “nothing more than an organisation that does adult social care and children’s services” in the future.

Martin Tett said life is “very, very difficult” for councils facing increases in service demands and reductions in budgets.

Speaking at a meeting of full council yesterday, Cllr Tett said: “We feel that there is a real prospect that we are going to become nothing more than an organisation that does adult social care and children’s services.”

While emphasising he was “not criticising government”, Cllr Tett said the government is increasingly giving councils extra responsibilities but fewer resources which is creating the “prospect of a cliff edge”.

Buckinghamshire has a net revenue budget of £338m. The county council, which is to increase council tax by 5.99% in 2018-19, plans to save £12.65m next year. It has budgeted £25m general fund reserves.

A budget scrutiny inquiry report for 2018-19 expressed concern about rising in-year overspends in health and wellbeing (£4.1m) and children’s (£1.8m) services. The report recommended a “detailed independent review of the assumptions and cost drivers” in both budgets.

LGC previously reported how a commissioner is to review children’s social care in Buckinghamshire after the county council was rated ‘inadequate’ for the second time in four years.

Cllr Tett told full council that “renewed pressures” on the council’s finances grew after the autumn period but the council leadership had now ordered “tough financial controls” with regards children’s services and adult social care.

Buckinghamshire has experienced the second fastest population growth for people over the age of 85, behind only Staffordshire, the leader said. This increased demand meant that budget spend in these two areas had increased.

After reflecting on the financial difficulties the council had faced in the past year, Cllr Tett said Buckinghamshire is “not in the dire financial position that many around us are”.

However, Cllr Tett said he wanted to “see the end” of the negative revenue support grant as he said the process is “very unfair”. Councils which tip into negative revenue support grant start paying a tariff on their business rates income to compensate. Buckinghamshire is expecting to pay almost £11m next year.

“We will be one of the first county councils to lose all their RSG alongside Dorset,” said Cllr Tett. “The assumption was that once [the government had] taken everything, they’d taken everything. But now they even want our locally sourced money.”

Cllr Tett said he was grateful the communities and housing secretary had recognised negative RSG was an “outrageous penalisation” of local councils. Sajid Javid told a District Council’s Network conference this month the government would undertake a review of the issue in spring and report back before the end of 2018.

 

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