- West Berkshire Conservatives have set a budget fit for the future, yet with the lowest council tax increase in Berkshire.
- The Budget maintains essential services alongside increased investment into important infrastructure such as schools, leisure and the environment, with investment in the areas that will help West Berkshire Recover from Covid.
- The Conservative Administration were disappointed that the Opposition Parties chose to walk out of the door, taking democracy with them as they took away their residents right to a vote.
Yesterday evening West Berkshire Council met to debate and agree the council’s budget for 2021/22.
Recognising the pressure on family finances during the Covid-19 pandemic by setting one of the five lowest council tax increases in England at 1.99%, the adopted budget treads a careful path between affordability, core infrastructure, and new investment to support our council strategies. The decreased (immediate) demand for adult social care services, due to Covid-19, alongside extensive financial support from central government during the pandemic, and the continued strong financial control of the council, means that we are able to support our residents’ finances as well as investing in vital services.
The Council had a legal obligation to set a budget to enable it to continue to collect council tax to pay for vital services and the Council’s Constitution sets out clear rules of debate, including that all business must be concluded by 10:30pm at the very latest.
At 9:56pm, with a significant element of the agenda remaining to be discussed and to ensure that the business of the meeting was concluded by 10.30pm, Cllr Alan Law called for a vote on the Liberal Democrat’s extensive list of 21 revenue budget amendment proposals, knowing that the Green Party’s amendments were yet to be heard and that no-one had yet had the opportunity to debate the substantive revenue budget itself.
At this point, with two exceptions, the Opposition Parties left the debate and with them went any hope of their residents having a voice on the main budget item.
Commenting, the Council Leader, Cllr Lynne Doherty, said:
“It is regrettable that the Liberal Democrat and Green groups chose not to engage in the substantive budget debate tonight, choosing instead to depart the meeting in a theatrical argument over speeches. Thankfully, their attempt to derail the democratic purpose and leave West Berkshire without a valid budget failed – but it was a close run thing.
“Even without them in the virtual room, and with shortened presentations, the meeting only just ended in time – the council’s constitution has a cut-off time for meetings of 10.30pm and we just managed to conclude all of the business necessary at 10.28pm.
“Despite the theatrics, we Conservatives have set a budget that is good for the district, and affordable for our residents.”
 According to the Daily Mirror. This makes West Berkshire Council one of only five councils in England limiting rises next year to less than 2%. So far as the other unitary authorities in Berkshire are concerned, Bracknell Forest is increasing council tax by 3.49% and the remaining four (Reading, Slough, The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and Wokingham) by 4.99%