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Balancing the books while protecting services and investing in the future – that’s what the budget is all about

Speaker's Corner

Speaker's Corner

Over the last few weeks, councils across the country having been setting out their spending plans and budget for the coming year.

At Dacorum we did this last week. Like all councils, we have to keep looking for savings as the pressure remains on our income while demand for some of our services continues to increase.

I am very pleased that as a result of our efforts to reduce cost and improve efficiency we have again – like last year – been able to protect the services you value from any reductions.

Of course, the challenge will continue for us to provide services and balance our budget.

Looking to the medium term, we have decided to increase our part of the council tax by a small amount – adding around £3.04 next year (less than 1p a day) to the average bill.

This was not a decision we took lightly, but one we felt was essential to ensure a stable financial future. The 1.75 per cent increase means you pay around 48p a day for all our services.

I hope you will agree that this provides excellent value for your money.

We’re posting council tax bills from mid-March, so look out for yours along with a leaflet explaining more about where the money goes.

It’s worth pointing out that although Dacorum is responsible for collecting the tax, only a small portion of the overall bill comes to us – the bulk goes to Herts County Council to help pay for schools, social services, libraries and other services, as well as to the police.

While it’s good to tell you we’re protecting services, it’s even better to report our capital funding ambitions.

Our plans to invest money in resources you use and benefit from will, I feel, make the most noticeable difference to our communities.

We know parking outside your home is a problem for many of you, so over the last two years we’ve created over 140 extra parking spaces in residential areas where they are needed the most. We’re now providing money for a further 250 spaces over the next two years.

There is also money in the budget for the planned multi-storey car park in Berkhamsted town centre.

Following on from our very successful refurbishment of some children’s playgrounds last year, we have also budgeted for over £1million over the next three years to upgrade the rest to the same standard.

Our ambitions don’t stop there. Our investment in the Old Town High Street will bring long-term improvements to the vitality of the area.

And now we’ve confirmed the budget to invest in the ‘new town’ centre.

We’ll start work soon in the pedestrian zone and finance is also in place to develop the bus interchange and Bank Court.

Plans for the Jellicoe Water Gardens are also well under way – we’ll provide a contribution to match the funding we’re bidding for from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Managing the budget is a delicate balance and I’m very conscious it’s your money we are spending.

I’ll continue to strive for even more efficiencies and look forward to bringing you more news of investment.

Councillor Andrew Williams is leader of Dacorum Borough Council. You can email him at andrew.williams@dacorum.gov.uk  

 

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