LESS than 0.1 per cent of the Bracknell Forest population responded to the council's budget proposals this year — and those who did give their views were split on the authority's plans to save millions.

Only 18 people filled out the budget consultation, but this is eleven more responses than last year.

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The News has seen what taxpayers have had to say about the authority’s spending and savings plans.

Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) needs to plug a £2.8 million funding gap next year as it plans to spend £91.2 million against an income of £88.4 million for its frontline, day-to-day services.

This means a council tax of increase of 3.99 per cent is likely to be approved and could bring in an extra £2.4 million for the authority.

Two per cent of the increase will funnel money exclusively to adult social care, with draft proposals showing £6.4 million spending pressures in this department and in children’s social care.

The additional money needed to balance the budget is likely to come from the council’s reserves, which is money saved for emergency funding situations.

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A third of people agreed with BFC’s proposals to reduce spending to achieve a balanced budget, according to the results of the consultation, with another third saying they were neutral and the final third disagreeing.

Local Berkshire:

Commenting on the plans, one said: “Whilst I understand the pressure the council is under from central government I don’t think councils should have to make savings that affect residents.”

Another added: “[This] reflects a measured and prudent approach to managing BFC's pressures.”

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Asked about changed to council services through increased spending in some areas, exactly half of the respondents said they ‘agreed’ and ‘strongly agreed’ with these plans.

The other half were neutral or disagreed.

Local Berkshire:

In terms of capital spending, draft proposals showed BFC planned to spend £18.7 million next year, with most of that cash coming from developer contributions.

More than 30 per cent of residents who responded agreed with these proposals, although the same number ‘disagreed’ and ‘strongly disagreed.’

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One person commented: “As the economy is vulnerable due to Brexit, and the fact that the council is not debt-free again, infrastructure must be maintained — housing is needed, there must be spend[ing].”

Another said the proposals were “prudent and measured.”

Local Berkshire:

Following the consultation’s closure, BFC’s top team of executive councillors met to carry forward the proposals for approval from councillors of all parties.

Conservative Cllr Dale Birch, BFC’s deputy leader, said: “I don’t think there has been a tougher year.

“I think the pressures that have come on us from social care and the way we have managed to absorb that is worthy of recognition.

“I’m quite confident that residents will be satisfied with the work that has been done and with the recommendation, the council tax [increase], which includes the contribution towards social services, is at 3.99 per cent.”

The Labour Party’s official response to the budget was included in the consultation responses.

It read: “As these cuts and reductions have been proposed by each individual department as things they considered can be ‘afforded’ without affecting front line services too greatly, we would find it difficult to argue against their proposals without accessibility to much greater detail.

“We accept that the council tax will have to increase but urge renewed publicity over the council tax discount scheme for the residents who need it most yet may not be aware of what support is available.”