Council Tax is the money we receive from people who live in West Berkshire to pay for the services we provide. In 2020/21 your Council Tax payments will provide £92.7m, which is 68% of our overall funding. The remainder is from business rates, Adult Social Care Precept, the Better Care Fund and other smaller specific grants.
The government will allow councils to increase Council Tax by up to a maximum of 2% for core services, and up to a 3% for an Adult Social Care Precept. If a council wishes to raise it above these levels, then it must hold a public referendum on the proposed rise.
The government's Spending Review and Autumn Statement in 2015 created an Adult Social Care (ASC) Precept. This gave those local authorities responsible for adult social care the ability to raise new funding to spend exclusively on adult social care, by raising Council Tax by up to 2% above the existing threshold (1.99%).
As part of the 2020 Spending Review, local authorities are now allowed to increase the ASC Precept by 3%.
We have a range of duties that are set out in legislation, e.g. the Care Act 2014, the Mental Health Act 2007 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. They seek to make sure that society’s most vulnerable people receive the support they need and are kept safe. People can be vulnerable for a number of reasons, including age-related frailty, dementia, physical disability, learning disability, sensory loss or mental health needs.
Our starting principle is that we should support people to manage independently, without our help, in the long-term. This means that most of the people we work with receive advice, information, equipment or other practical support to manage their lives successfully without us. In some circumstances, we get involved for short periods of time due to a crisis.
At any given point in time, we provide long-term support to approximately 1,600 people, who meet the eligibility criteria set out in law, as they are unable to manage without help.
We meet these needs through a combination of our in-house services and commissioning from the independent and voluntary sectors. One of our legal duties is to monitor the quality of these services to make sure that people are receiving the right support.
As far as possible, we work on a preventative basis by helping people to avoid the need for more care and support in the future.
We deliver the statutory functions required of the council to safeguard all those under age 18 in West Berkshire. For young people that have been in care our duty continues until they are 25 years old. We work with schools, the Police, and health and community groups to try and make West Berkshire the best place for children and young people to live.
We support schools, children and learners.
The majority of our activity involves delivering statutory services, from supporting pre-school children to delivering sufficient school places and running annual admissions cycles. We support schools in their operation, including recruitment, leadership, budgeting, safeguarding and raising standards.
We have key responsibilities to promote the education of disadvantaged children, including oversight and direct support for those with special educational needs and disabilities. The latter includes the disabled children’s team and respite care children’s home.
We also manage pupil exclusions, alternative provision (for those out of school), behaviour support and mental health support. We support children in public care, as well as those in hospital schools or who do not have English as their first language.
Provision and support is organised from pre-birth through early years, school years, post-16 and for adult learners.
We support the continued economic prosperity of the district by helping new businesses establish, and existing businesses grow. In recent times this has included support for businesses with BREXIT, and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Economic Development team employs two and half full-time equivalent posts.
We work to prevent and relieve homelessness including support for rough sleepers, enable customers who have a housing need to access social housing, and enable the development of affordable housing for the district.
We manage and regulate the development and use of land, including environmental protection, support economic prosperity and provide the infrastructure, including much needed affordable homes.
We develop and adopt a long term Local Plan that sets out how we will manage development and protect the district from unwanted development.
We consider planning appeals and applications for new buildings and extensions/alterations. We take action to tackle breaches of planning permission.
Last year, we dealt with a record number of planning applications, over 2,500. Making decisions on applications quickly is important, as delays could affect the confidence of businesses and investors and lead them to build/invest elsewhere.
We provide cultural services, promote health and wellbeing, learning and education and protect historic buildings so they can be accessed and enjoyed by residents and visitors to the district.
We manage and maintain the following:
We have 18 staff (15.7 full-time equivalent posts) and 70 volunteers.
We deliver the following services:
The service is run by 43 staff (28.9 full-time equivalent posts) and 354 volunteers. The libraries budget is comprised of 65% for staff costs and 35% for services and premises costs. Many costs are centralised, e.g. book stock and IT.
Public Protection incorporates:
The vast majority of these services are dealing with statutory workloads and are linked to hundreds of pieces of legislation. Officers operate across these functions to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our communities and protect the integrity of our local economy.
These services are also heavily integrated with partners in the county and beyond, involving a range on contacts and joint service agreements.
We have seven leisure centres across the district, which operate under a management contract. We ensure the contract is operated in a manner which provides a range of opportunities for residents to partake in physical activity.
We provide an effective grounds/tree maintenance and grass cutting service, and deliver high quality countryside management at key countryside sites in partnership with BBOWT (Berks, Bucks, Oxon Wildlife Trust).
We manage the council’s parks and open spaces to a high quality, retaining Green Flag status for Northcroft and Goldwell and Holybrook Linear, which means that these important spaces are available for leisure and relaxation, and hosting sporting and cultural events.
We also provide playgrounds and other facilities like fitness trails, which encourage people to exercise and improve their health and wellbeing.
We are responsible for maintaining over 1,100 km of roads, 12,500 street lights, as well as bridges, footways, verges, traffic signs and bollards and the operation of traffic lights.
We carry out emergency repairs of potholes and broken paving, grit 510 km of roads, prune trees, repair broken lights and keep roads draining well.
The budget also covers road safety training, promoting cycling/walking, and investigating and addressing traffic management problems, e.g. speeding and parking.
We give advice to developers and planning colleagues to ensure new developments take the impact on roads into account.
We monitor and check work by others, e.g. developers and utility companies, on the roads to ensure it is done safely, and with the minimum of disruption.
We manage the council’s Home to School Transport service, provide an effective transport service to the Community Care Day Centres, manage the council’s transport fleet and provide a public transport service in partnership with public transport operators.
We are responsible for household bin, recycling and garden waste collections, street cleaning, fly-tip enforcement and removal, and abandoned vehicle removal. We are also responsible for the treatment and disposal of the household waste collected.
We currently recycle or compost around 50% (approximately 40,000 tonnes per annum) of the district’s household waste.
We manage the Padworth Integrated Waste Management Facility, which includes a Materials Recovery Facility for sorting recycling, an in-vessel composting facility and operations hub, and the Household Waste Recycling Centres at Padworth and Newtown Road. Additionally, we manage seven mini-recycling centres across the district.
We provide a centralised enquiry handling service for a number of topics including:
We also provide reception and face-to-face enquiry services for customers visiting the council’s Market Street and West Street House offices in Newbury.
The annual cost of borrowing £15m to invest in council owned sports and leisure centres is £550,000.
The annual cost of borrowing to invest in a weekly food waste collection is £100,000.
The annual cost of borrowing to invest in a solar farm is £450,000.