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The battle for West Berkshire

West Berkshire Council is a unitary authority and has all the seats up for election tomorrow. At present the Conservatives have 36 seats and the Lib Dems 16. Labour have no councillors and are not evening fielding candidates in several wards.

Despite facing higher than expected grant cuts the Council has risen to the challenge of finding the savings on admin spending. The Council leader, Cllr Graham Jones, points out that the extra freedom the Government has given Town Halls has helped. But the council is among those to note with "disappointment" that while its budget has been cut that on he European Union is rising.

Personalised budgets have meant that elderly and disabled people have exercised their choice to use alternative provision to that offered by the Council so some of the adult day centres in West Berkshire are being closed. The Labour Party organised a demo about this - pretty opportunistically given that it was their Government which (to its credit) brought in personalisation. So that is a trend that would be happening regardless of central Government grant levels.

The local Conservative manifesto notes that since the Conservatives took control Council Tax increases have been kept below inflation. Staff cuts have been overwhelmingly achieved through natural wastage, redeployment and greater use of fixed term contracts.

The standard of local schools has been generally high with tough action taken on failing schools. Village schools have been protected and more use of school facilities out of school hours has been promoted.

Theer are 15 more Neighbourhood Wardens to help fight crime and anti social behaviour. CCTV has been extended while the costs have been reduced by sharing its control system with Windsor and Maidenhead. There have also been achievements in road resurfacing and increased recycling rates.

There are pledges to keep up progress in all these areas.


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