The 2024/2025 budget for Bracknell Forest residents will be voted on at the full council meeting on Wednesday, February 21, writes council leader Mary Templeton

The consultation on the budget was far more open than ever before and I thank all those who took the time to attend the public sessions and the time to respond online.

In the past there has been limited responses. However, this year there were 330. The final budget proposals being recommended to full council reflect your responses.

As with all other local authorities, this budget was the hardest ever to balance and some very difficult decisions had to be taken.

Local government has been consistently underfunded by central government for many years. Council tax is the only source of income the council can fully control. The proposals to increase it ensures the essential services such as social care, education, public health, roads, waste collection, housing and safeguarding are supported.

We fully appreciate that there is still a cost-of-living crisis and the proposal to raise the rate by the maximum allowed, was not taken readily but considered very carefully.

An increase of 4.99 per cent is equivalent to £1.47 a week for a band D property.

To support those with the lowest household income, a discount of £75 has been proposed in the budget.

Despite the increase in council tax being recommended to full council, the budget can only be balanced by the use of minimal reserves.

The pressure on services experienced this year are also predicted in the years to come, so reserves cannot be spent all at once and have to be retained to meet all future unknowns. Once used, reserves are gone for ever.

I would like to thank all those who worked so hard to ensure this budget, the first by a Labour administration for over 25 years, was fair and equitable and reflects many of our manifesto promises.

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