|Friday, 20 October, 2023|
|Bracknell Forest Council’s financial position|
Like most other local authorities across the country, Bracknell Forest Council is facing a challenging financial position – with unprecedented pressure on its budget.
On Tuesday, 17 October, the council’s decision-making executive was given an update on the interim budget position.
Earlier this year, the council was facing a financial gap of around £4m. However, due to lots of hard work behind the scenes, this had reduced to around £3m.
While this brings the council closer to balancing its books, and there is no current risk of bankruptcy (called a section 114 notice), it is still in a difficult financial position. A position it has never been in before.
This deficit is largely due to rising costs, rising inflation, increased service demand and years of underfunding from central government.
Like everyone, the council is not exempt from the rise in the cost of living. The high rate of inflation also affects all council services.
In addition to inflationary costs, the council’s budget is affected each year by other cost pressures, notably relating to increased demand for services. Alongside the higher demand for social care services, prices for care packages are rising much faster than inflation.
Additionally, more people in the borough have care needs that the council must meet, including children in care or with special educational needs and disability (SEND), and adults with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. This care and support is non-negotiable and must be prioritised but still adds to council budget pressures.
Another pressure has come from the amount of business rates collected dropping drastically. The national Valuation Office Agency (VOA) determines business rates for all businesses, and continuously re-assesses how much companies are paying. A number of significant businesses in the borough have been reassessed this year and so the council must make refunds backdated to 2017 - totalling several million pounds.
While all of these pressures are out of the council’s control, it must take action to address the budget gap.
Changes have already taken place with immediate effect to help reduce overspending, this includes making sure staff only spend on essential items necessary to provide frontline services and holding vacancies where possible.
Cllr Mary Temperton, Leader of the council, said: “Although the current year’s financial position is particularly challenging, we are in a strong place compared to similar local authorities.
“Some councils have declared bankruptcy, and the number of councils close to this position is rising. Thankfully Bracknell Forest Council is not in this position, but we want to be honest and transparent with our residents about our current financial situation.
“We are in an unprecedented financial position with a £3m gap due to spiralling costs, rising inflation and increased demand for our services. “While these are not factors within our control, we must address the budget gap. This means that over the coming months we will have to take some very difficult decisions and will have to look very carefully about what we can afford to prioritise for the remainder of this year and future years.”
The council’s interim financial position will continue to be monitored by senior staff weekly. Additional spending controls will be put in place, where necessary.
In parallel, work is being carried out on the budget for 2024/25. Many of the pressures being faced in the current year will inevitably impact on next year too. Draft budget proposals will be put to the executive in December, where they will be asked to approve a public consultation on the plans. You can watch back the update from the executive.
|You can watch back the update from the executive here|
|Monday, 9 October, 2023|
|New ‘Any of Us’ campaign to find new foster carers|
A new campaign, “Any of Us”, highlighting that anyone can be a foster carer has been launched by the Bracknell Forest fostering team.
Fostering involves giving a safe and caring home to a child (or children) who cannot live with their parents. This could be for many reasons including family illness, family breakdown, problems at home or a situation where their welfare is threatened.
The national shortage of foster carers has brought more than 80 local authorities together to collaborate in the largest ever public sector fostering campaign. The local authorities have created a powerful three-minute film showing the lives of three ordinary people who do extraordinary things by fostering local children.
The film introduces you to three people from different backgrounds, but all share an important capacity to care – an instinct that makes them ideal foster carers.
The main characters’ stories are interwoven with teenager Chloe, on her journey into foster care.
Cllr Roy Bailey, lead member for children’s services, said: “Bracknell Forest fostering, which was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2022, is responsible for finding foster families for children aged 0-18 throughout Bracknell Forest. Becoming a foster carer with a local service like ours means you can give a local home to local children. For someone like Chloe, a local home means stability, familiarity and belonging. It allows them to stay at school, continue with clubs and activities, stay close to friends and feel safe in familiar places.
“Unfortunately, we also find that a lot of men rule themselves out of fostering. However, for children who have experienced negative relationships with males in their past, a man who is calm, patient and caring can shows behavior that is socially acceptable and helps them create better connections later in life.”
Peter Hodges, service lead for fostering at Bracknell Forest Council, said: “Currently Bracknell Forest Council is urgently seeking more foster carers to care for local children and to give them a better start in life. I would encourage anyone who has ever thought about being a foster carer to watch the video then visit our website or give us a call for more information or an informal chat with our fostering team. Caring for those who are more vulnerable than us is an instinct we all have. All other skills needed as a foster carer can be gained through training and ongoing support from the Bracknell Forest fostering team.”
For more information on fostering in Bracknell Forest, visit: www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/fostering.
|Thursday, 14 September, 2023|
|Council plans to accelerate climate change strategy|
A new target to achieve net zero CO2 emissions as close to 2030 as possible, was agreed at Bracknell Forest’s full council meeting last night.
The council has been working towards the government set target of carbon neutrality by 2050. Following a successful year of climate change action in the borough, the council is committing to broaden and accelerate the climate change strategy to meet this target as close to 2030 as possible.
Last night also saw the 2022/2023 climate change progress report be shared with the full council.
Some of the council’s key actions in the report included:
To help achieve the new targets and involve all sectors of the community in the council’s climate change work, a new Joint Community Board has been formed. The board will work together on climate change projects to help the whole of Bracknell Forest reduce its carbon output and will be supported by several working groups representing different sectors of our community, such as schools, local businesses and community groups.
Cllr Mary Temperton, leader of Bracknell Forest Council and executive member for council strategy and climate change, said:
"We recognise that addressing climate change is an emergency, and our commitment to achieving net zero remains steadfast.
“The climate change summit in July reinforced the urgency of this issue, and we are taking concrete steps to accelerate our progress.
“This is everyone’s responsibility, and everyone can help. Please do your bit by recycling what you can, travelling in a greener way and making more sustainable choices."
For more information on the council’s climate change work, visit the council’s climate change page. (Link below)
|Climate change page|