ROBERT BUCKLAND: Council tax is frozen but more savings must be found

Robert Buckland - MP for South Swindon

Robert Buckland - MP for South Swindon

First published in Adver Columnists

As local MPs and residents, Justin Tomlinson and I are always keen to work with our local service providers to ensure a fair deal for Swindon residents. On Monday, Conservative-controlled Swindon Borough Council agreed a council tax freeze for the fourth year in a row.

This is an excellent achievement, especially given the very challenging times local government is facing. Funding is being squeezed at the same time as cost pressures are increasing, and that combination means difficult decisions lie ahead. The medium term picture for Swindon is a predicted funding gap of £19m in 2016/17.

As the report discussed at Monday’s meeting said, “…it will be necessary for the council to continue to drive significant savings from its services…”.

That presents a real challenge, because much of the council’s spending goes on vital statutory duties such as adult social care and children’s services.

Significant savings have already been made across the board, costs have been reduced, and changes have been made to the way services are provided, with Swindon Council leading the way in working hand in hand with our local NHS, for example.

Working with people and groups who use local services, the council is coming up with new ways of working that will ensure a better outreach to people in need and the families who care for them. When it comes to fairer funding for schools in Swindon, Justin and I continue to make headway.

For years under the previous Government, Swindon schools have received amongst the lowest funding per head in England. This Government has agreed that the funding formula that determines the way in which money is allocated to councils should be changed, and we are working with other MPs and councils in a similar position to achieve a result that will see greater fairness for Swindon and other areas in a similar position.

On health funding, we are both delighted that the Swindon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group will be receiving an extra £1.2m of funding for the Government to help with winter pressures, which brings the total of extra funding in Swindon to more than £3m.

Most significantly, Swindon CCG will receive an extra £16m over the next two years to help bring us back to receiving a fairer share of resources, which had started to decline in the years before 2010 and which was the subject of negotiation. Both Justin and I worked with our CCG to actively support the case for fairer funding and believe that the new settlement will bring real benefit to all of us in Swindon.

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