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Climate protests as Wiltshire Council approves budget

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CLIMATE change campaigners held a protest outside County Hall in Trowbridge this week as Wiltshire councillors met to discuss the council’s budget for 2023/24.

Councillors agreed the budget which will see council tax rise by almost 5%. As part of the savings, the council’s controversial parking charges for Blue Badge drivers will be kept. The council’s proposed 2.99% general increase plus a 2% levy to be spent solely on adult social care was formally agreed at a meeting of full council on Tuesday 21st February.

This will mean an increase of £1.57 per week for those in an average Band D property. Council tax bills for the coming year will start to be issued in March.

Cllr Richard Clewer, leader of Wiltshire Council, said, “It never gets any easier to set a budget, particularly given the ongoing uncertainty and huge challenges brought on by the national and international picture. However, we are confident we have set a budget that can help us achieve our clear vision over the next few years and one that allows us to continue to invest and provide the services that people rely on in a manageable self-sufficient way, with a strategic focus on prevention.

“Our business plan guides every single thing we do as a council and it gives us a solid foundation to build on and crystal-clear direction, and that’s allowed us to plan for the next three years, not just one. Working in this long-term strategic way means we’re able to control our costs and do things a little different than other councils and much to the benefit of our communities, for instance not having to spend reserves to balance the books but using them on projects that directly support our residents.

“Throughout the year we’ve worked hard with our senior officers and have been extremely thorough in looking at and questioning everything we do as a council and ensure it is being done in the most efficient way possible while providing value to residents. We know it’s a challenging time for people and we’ve had to make difficult decisions due to the huge inflationary challenges we’re all facing, but a great deal of thought and discussion has gone into every single one so that every penny is spent well and wisely.

“We’ll continue to support the most vulnerable in our county, invest in key priorities and projects such as our road infrastructure, climate projects and our high streets – and we’ll help people through the cost-of-living crisis as much as we can and ensure those who need our support gets it quickly.

“It has been a challenging few years with the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living-crisis driven by fuel and energy inflation, but there is still cause for much optimism for a bright future for the county and everyone at the council will work hard to achieve it.”

Services protecting

the vulnerable



In a budget statement, the council said, “The budget for 2023/24, which is underpinned by the council’s 10-year Business Plan, stands at £466m, with an additional £69m before savings added into the 2023/24 service budgets to cover inflation and demand for services. More than £42m of that additional spend will go towards services protecting the most vulnerable in society.

“The confirmed budget details how the council bridged its budget gap in a financially sustainable way without having to use its reserves, while limiting the impact on vital services as much as possible.

“As a result, the council is in a position to be able to allocate around £13m of reserves to spend on business priorities, particularly in supporting housing provision during the cost-of-living crisis.

“Around 84% of the council’s core funding comes from local taxes, business rates and council tax, which will help contribute towards managing the pressures faced, while ensuring that vital services can still be provided. The majority of funding goes towards the council’s statutory services, which include adult social care and children’s services – with continued pressures and demands in these areas.

“The council’s capital programme, which is spent on projects to improve and maintain the county’s infrastructure, has been confirmed in 2023/24 to be almost £200m and more than £1.1bn across future years. Including funding from the council, money for capital projects comes from various sources, such as borrowing, grants and contributions from developers.  Investment will be made on projects including building houses and major road programmes, to fitness equipment for leisure centres and school maintenance.”

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