‘Just be careful about which boxes you tick’

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Voters should take care when choosing which council services should face cuts next year, a Buckingham councillor has warned.

Bucks County Council is asking residents to consider cuts and priorities in next year’s budget in a new survey.

County councillor Robin Stuchbury, of Buckingham South, says he is concerned residents do not have enough information to make a proper choice over which services should be made priorities and which should face cuts.

He said he was also concerned the survey could exclude some of the people who would be most deeply affected by cuts. Bucks County Council’s ‘Your council, your money, your choice’ survey was launched online on Thursday last week.

Councillor Stuchbury said: “I think it’s quite strange that a local authority that chooses to put itself forward before an election over what it would do for you, then asks after the election which services you would like to see funding removed from.”

He said he feared people would not be aware of the knock-on effects on friends and neighbours from any funding cuts, saying: “It’s a bit like asking a blindfolded public to pin the tail on the donkey.” He added: “If you take part, just be very careful about which box you tick.”

In addition to choosing funding priorities, members of the public will also be asked to choose how much the next council tax increase will be.

Councillor Martin Phillips, lead member for community engagement, said: “We have managed to keep council tax at the same level for four years, but this is no longer an option with the funding cuts imposed by central government.

“We need our residents’ help to decide how much the increase will be.

“The good news is that the council tax increase will give us additional funds to then spend on maintaining our main services to our most vulnerable people and improving the condition of the county’s roads, which I know are top priorities for residents.”

In last year’s survey, 54 per cent of respondents said they didn’t want to see any cuts in road maintenance, 48 per cent said they wanted the voluntary community to help provide council services, and 82 per cent voted for a council tax freeze.

The online survey is available at www.buckscc.gov.uk/budget until November 18.

Paper copies will also be available in libraries, children’s centres, adult learning centres and county council offices in Aylesbury and Wycombe.