Buckinghamshire Council reacts to Autumn Statement
Buckinghamshire Council recognises that the country faces some challenging years ahead caused by the war in Ukraine, soaring energy costs and the global economic slowdown.
The council welcomes the support being offered to the less well off, both directly and through local government. Buckinghamshire residents on benefits will see these increased in line with inflation and pensioners will see their pensions similarly rise. There will also be targeted support on energy costs for many. The council particularly welcomes the news that it will receive more financial support to help the most vulnerable residents in the face of cost of living and inflationary pressures.
The Chancellor announced a new social care grant to inject more money into the social care sector while major reforms to Adult Social Care are delayed. Councils will also receive a share of £1 billion of funding to support residents who need it most – in Buckinghamshire we are currently using this for our ‘Helping Hand’ service to support residents who face hardship – and for other help like food vouchers for pensioners and families in low-income households.
The council is continuing to work through the full implications of the Autumn Statement for its own budget which is under severe pressure due to high inflation increasing costs well above last year’s Council Tax increase. In particular, demand for all aspects of social care and children’s services has increased dramatically. In addition, in some cases the costs for raw materials for road repairs and major infrastructure projects have risen 20% or more.
Work to develop Buckinghamshire Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan is well underway and the draft budget for 2023/24 will be presented to the council’s Cabinet in January. Residents have until Sunday to take part in a consultation on the spending plans before they are finalised, through the Money Matters survey.
Buckinghamshire Council Leader Martin Tett said:
“On balance we welcome the Autumn Statement and recognise that it is taking tough but necessary decisions to help us get through some difficult times. We continue to digest the full implications for councils. It’s certainly welcome news to see extra money for Adult Social Care and the Household Support Fund being extended - and overall to see funding set aside for people who need it most. It’s also good news that in this budget the most vulnerable are being protected and we will see pensions and benefits rise in line with inflation.
“We have realised significant savings from becoming a unitary council but I have to be clear – budget setting this year has been the most complex we have ever known, due to the shifting landscape, uncertainty and escalating costs.
“The Autumn Statement does give us more flexibility in setting Council Tax and we cannot hide from the massive rise in the cost of providing critical services - but we have to balance this against the pressures households are facing and all of this feeds into the decisions we will make as we set the budgets. We are well advanced in this process and we’re really pleased so many residents this year have input through our Money Matters survey – if any residents still haven’t responded please go onto our website and take part.
“We know that overall many people continue to need support and I urge anyone in Buckinghamshire who is experiencing hardship to look at the Cost of Living information on our website, which outlines how to get extra help if you need it.”