RESIDENTS have seen “significant enhancements” in the services the council provides, according to its Chief Executive.

Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) has saved £12 million to date in its mission to change the way it delivers its leisure facilities, its social care, its waste collection and more.

The ‘transformation’ project has been in place since 2015 as a result of heavily reduced government funding support for the council.

It aims to reduce council costs and also to “provide smarter and more modern services” for residents, visitors and businesses.

Councillors received an update on the scheme at a meeting on Thursday, April 4, where they heard how BFC is prioritising a number of projects for the coming year across social care, property and several other services.

Councillor Malcolm Tullett said: “In general terms, it’s obviously been successful, and particularly in terms of the financial savings that have been derived.”

“From my perspective as a councillor, you get a lot of misunderstanding as we’re still producing a good service but they (residents) just see it as a cut.

“We’ve done all this transformation and saved a lot of money but the bottom line is ‘so what’?”

Councillor Tullett asked whether the council had undertaken a resident satisfaction survey to assess whether taxpayers were happy with how the council was transforming its services, but Chief Executive Timothy Wheadon suggested: “The feedback we’re getting on a day to day basis, without spending money on formal surveys, is that people are appreciating it.”

He added: “There aren’t many organisations that can say when they’ve gone through a review of libraries in the current financial circumstances that what they’ve actually done is not only kept all their libraries open but extended their opening hours.

“In terms of parks and countryside, we have created a new country park. When you look at adult social care we’ve introduced a digital market place and far more choice for people.

“We need to keep context in mind for what this transformation project has delivered for the residents has been a significant enhancement to services.”

The News asked Bracknell’s residents for their thoughts on how the council’s services have changed since 2015.

Shawn Hearn said: “Personally I think we have to be fair to the council. Because central government have cut so much central funding, cuts have had to be made to balance the books.

“But, and it’s a big but, I am fed up with the constant “there’s no cuts to services” line. There have been and even the emails from the council tell us this.

“To me, it feels like the majority of services have been changed to cater for people outside of Bracknell rather than the needs (not wants) of Bracknell residents.

“Coral reef feels overpriced for many families now.

“I’m still indifferent to the libraries being open for longer hours but removing the librarians is problematic for me as you need their specific skills and knowledge. I’ve no doubt the volunteers are great but we shouldn’t have to rely on them.”

However, Paula Ridgeway said: “I am so grateful to live where there is a commitment to keeping libraries and some children centres open. This underpins families and people of all ages!”

At the meeting, BFC report outlined how the council’s ‘stretched resources’ meant it was initially managing too many projects at once, ‘making progress slow’.

But BFC is now using a ‘portfolio’ method to prioritise projects based on value, lifetime, resourcing and health moving forward.

The authority closed its library review and its parks and countryside review at the end of March, projects which saw the installation of technology at all its libraries and plans to turn Horseshoe Lake into a country park.