WOKINGHAM borough’s spending plans for the next twelve months have been laid bare as councillors get set to sign off budget proposals.

More than £129 million is set to be spent on running the council’s day-to-day services, such as bin collections, social care and staff salaries.

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Hundreds of millions of pounds has been earmarked for spending from the capital budget, which is money saved for repairing and developing the borough’s roads and council-owned buildings.

Capital spending plans for the 2020/2021 year includes:

  • £46 million on road investments and road repairs
  • £16 million on climate emergency measures
  • £8.9 million school upgrades
  • £65 million on regeneration schemes

Conservative councillor John Kaiser, Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) finance chief, told the News: “It is very much a residents’ budget — it’s what residents want.

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“We have put another £10 million into road repairs because we know that is what residents want.

“This is a people’s budget that targets taxpayers’ money towards the things taxpayers care about such as improving roads, cutting congestion and tackling our climate emergency, and improving air quality across the borough.”

Local Berkshire:

Despite these spending promises, Liberal Democrats finance lead Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey said a lot of the proposals came from money being “moved from elsewhere.”

She said: “It seems like a lot of these proposals they were going to do anyway, like with the rebuilding of the roads.

“It is not new money — it is stuff moved from elsewhere.

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“For example, food waste [bin costs] have been moved from the environment and waste management and put into climate change.

Local Berkshire:

“It is not a safe budget. We don’t think they can deliver it.

“All of this is very dependent on us building lots of houses.

“We are concerned about the amount of borrowing [needed] in advance of houses being built.”

Documents show the authority needs to borrow £84 million in the next twelve months, which when combined with funding from developers and cash from selling off properties means WBC will have £158 million funding for its capital budget next year.

Local Berkshire:

Of the £129 million set to be spent on the council’s day-to-day services — also known as the revenue budget — most of this is money is set to be raised from council tax, as the government gives no grant to the authority.

Residents could be set to pay 3.99 per cent more on their council tax bill next year, with two per cent of this money funnelled to directly fund adult social care.

Almost 40 per cent of the council’s budget is spending on adult social care, 21 per cent pays for children’s services and twelve per cent goes towards waste collection, recycling and grass-cutting.

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WBC is planning to spend £6.6 million on new ‘special items’ this year, with another additional £6.6 million planned for maintaining services.

Local Berkshire:

This comes against £4.6 million planned in savings and cuts.

Local Berkshire:

Leader of the council, John Halsall, said: “We have no higher purpose than to serve the interests of our residents – that’s the only reason we’re here.

“Adult’s and children’s services are about 60 per cent of our annual revenue budget. This is money going to help those in need.

“This is not about numbers on a page but about dedicated caring staff making life safer and better for the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Councillors from all parties are set to debate on the spending proposals before voting on the budget at a meeting on Thursday, February 20.