Wokingham Borough Council is set on 20 February to approve a people’s budget focusing spending on those things that matter most to its residents such as protecting the environment, cutting congestion and taking care of the vulnerable.
The budget has been designed to improve the environment as well as deliver extra funding to improve the services residents expect today and will need in the future.
The budget has been scrutinised across the political spectrum within the council during the past six months. It outlines an ambitious, but prudent, capital investment programme during the next three years that includes:
- £150million to complete the major new road projects (such as Arborfield Cross and Winnersh Relief Road, South and North Wokingham Distributor Roads and improvements to Barkham Bridge and Lower Earley Way)
- £80million on new affordable homes, including the ongoing regeneration at Gorse Ride
- £50million on measures to tackle our climate emergency
- £30million on regenerating our town centres
- £28million to improve and expand facilities for children (including schools)
- £25million on new and improved sport, leisure and community facilities
- £20million on new technology and highways improvements to tackle congestion
- £18million to improve and expand facilities for vulnerable adults
The budget also sets out how the council will be investing across the borough to generate long-term revenue to support services.
“The council is fully committed to investing for the future,” said Cllr John Kaiser, deputy leader and executive member for finance. “While other councils continue to draw in their horns and reduce services, we’re taking the opportunity to invest in facilities and infrastructure to deliver better services and help to improve choices for residents to ensure Wokingham borough continues to be a great place to live and work.
“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.
“The council is investing in things to enrich and improve people’s lives such as schools and leisure facilities but there is also commercial investment to generate income for much needed services.”
In addition to this ambitious capital programme, the budget allocates the council’s ongoing revenue budget, the vast majority of which goes on statutory services to support vulnerable adults and children. Of the annual £129.7million revenue budget, some 60% goes to adult social care and wellbeing and children’s social care and safeguarding. This year’s budget includes additional funding for children services. In addition, the council is looking to fight rough sleeping and homelessness across the borough.
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% 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.”
The final decision on the budget and financial plan will be made at the meeting of the council on 20 February. Full details of the proposals are in the agenda papers on the council’s website (search 'council and meetings').