Wokingham Borough residents will see no change in the Council Tax rates if the budget for the next financial year is approved at a Council meeting next week. If passed, it means that a Band D property will once again pay just £1,246.21 over the course of the year.
And the Council is committing to invest £95.8million in a range of projects in education, infrastructure, country parks, leisure and housing – with more money budgeted for years to come.
The biggest chunk sees £44million being invested over the next three years in the regeneration of Wokingham town centre, including Peach Place and the Carnival Pool area.
They include a new secondary school to be built in Arborfield and primary schools in the town’s new developments.
The Council will plough £12m into building affordable housing within the Borough. It is also planning a £20m redevelopment of the Foster Care Home and Eustace Crescent. A further £12m will help vulnerable residents with sheltered, extra-care and enhanced housing schemes.
Four new roads will be built between now and 2018: Arborfield Relief Road, North Wokingham Distributor Road, South Wokingham Distributor Road, and Shinfield Eastern Relief Road. A further £14million will be invested in the highways infrastructure between now and 2018.
New streetlights will help light up the Borough, at a cost of £12million, while another £7.2million will be poured into the Borough’s sports and leisure centres and country parks.
Bulmershe Leisure Centre will be rebuilt at a cost of £7m.
The planned council tax freeze comes despite the Council being hit hard by the Coalition Government’s continued austerity programmes, which as seen the grant the Borough Council receive shrink by 10.5%. Wokingham Borough Council receives £156.43 per head of the population, compared with the national average of £346.30, which is more than double.
The Council received £31million from the Government as a General Grant, with the remaining £81million raised from the Council Tax.
Leader of the council Cllr Keith Baker said: “Our Government grant has been decreasing year on year and this has a massive impact on the Borough. And it will come as no surprise that we remain the lowest funded unitary authority in England. Each time setting a robust budget gets harder and harder as we have to cover the funding gap whilst facing the ever-increasing demands on our services from our growing population.
“But even taking into account the savings required this year, we are set to invest around £3.2million (revenue) in our services. Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults continues to be a top priority and our investments will help create sustainable communities for now and in the future.
“Despite the financial pressures we continue to focus on maintaining good quality services.”
Full details of the proposals are included in the agenda papers for the council meeting on February 19 and can be found at: www.wokingham.gov.uk/council/meetings.