Borough Council Annual Report – 2018/19

Borough Councillor Annual Report 2018/19 

There have been notable developments in relation to a range of significant issues in the past year: Local Plan 

The Council approved its Local Plan, determining sites for housing and employment growth, for submission to  the Planning Inspectorate on the 5th December. Following the removal of the proposed Colworth Garden  Village and its planned 2500 homes (because it was too close to the Santa Pod Raceway) the Local Plan period  has been shortened from 2035 to 2030. That lowers the housing need figure from 7855 to a minimum of 3636. 

The final allocations are set out in the below table taken from the report.  

The Local Plan will now be examined by the Planning Inspectorate which will make comments and, where  appropriate, suggestions for modifications so that it complies with national policies and legal requirements.  Local authorities are not obliged to take on board the views of the Planning Inspector, but doing so could  ensure the Local Plan is deemed to be ‘sound’ should it be subject to legal challenge from developers in the  future. Depending on the workload of the Planning Inspectorate at the time of submission, it is likely to take  several months for the Council’s Local Plan to be reviewed.  

Council Budget 

The Borough Council’s budget was agreed at a meeting of councillors on the 6th February. It includes plans to  increase Council Tax by 1.49%, with an additional 1% for the Adult Social Care precept; a £36.63 per year rise for the  average Band D property. 

Demand for adult social care continues to be one of the main pressures on the Council’s revenue budget, with  spending rising in this service area to just under £52m in 2019/20. There is, therefore, a need for the Council to continue its savings programme, with £5.3m of efficiencies to be delivered next year. The total net revenue budget  is £128.6m. 

The Council also has a Capital Programme for 2018/19 – 2021/22 covering spending on ‘one-off’ schemes. The total  value across the 4 year period is £213.2m and includes projects such as the ‘Transporting Bedford 2020’ road 

decongestion scheme (£18.4m, with £15.5m being provided by the Government) and Wixams Railway (£27.4m,  although this may be superseded by the East West Rail project). 

Infrastructure 

Black Cat / Caxton Gibbet Bypass: In February, Highways England announced its preferred option to  upgrade the Black Cat roundabout and the selected route for a new bypass between the junction and Caxton  Gibbet in Cambridgeshire. The roundabout is to be reconfigured and will become three-tier, while the new  bypass will be built south of Little Barford and will then run east adjacent to the A428 towards. The  estimated cost of the project is £810m – £1.4bn: https://highwaysengland.co.uk/projects/a428-black-cat-to caxton-gibbet/ 

East West Rail (EWR) / Wixams Station: From January – March a consultation was held on route options for  the EWR line between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge, with the potential in the future to  extend further to Norwich. There are 5 options, 3 of which mention the use of an unspecified ‘Bedford  South’ station, which could be the long-awaited Wixams station or an alternative site. Conversely, 2 of the  options see the line going through the town centre and linking with the existing Bedford Midland station.  See https://eastwestrail.co.uk/haveyoursay 

Transporting Bedford 2020: Preliminary works have started on the Transporting Bedford 2020 road  decongestion scheme. The project cost, totalling £18.4m, includes £15.5m investment from the  Government. Works will focus on the junctions at the A6 Paula Radcliffe Way bypass / Manton Lane,  Ampthill Road and the High Street. For information search ‘Transporting Bedford 2020’. 

Health 

Hospital Merger: Bedford Hospital and Luton & Dunstable Hospital both still intend to merge despite a  delay. The plans would require £100m of capital investment from central government but this has not yet  been forthcoming. Bedford Hospital’s Chief Executive has stated that the merger would see key services  including maternity, paediatrics and A & E retained at the Hospital. 

Urgent Treatment Centre: Bedford Hospital’s new Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) opened its doors on  the 1st October 2018. The UTC provides same-day appointments for minor illnesses over a 12 hour  period, 7 days a week via referrals from A & E and the 111 phone service as a means of reducing  pressure on the Hospital’s A & E function. 

Policing 

The Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, announced in February that 400 Police Constables will be  recruited in the years 2019/20 – 2021/22. In 2019/20, 160 PCs will be appointed through an average £2 rise in the  police element of Council Tax and an additional £1.3m from the Government. 

The force also received in December a £4.5m grant from the Home Office in response to ‘exceptional’ demands  placed on the force by gangs engaging in violent crimes. It will cover the cost of ‘Operation Boson’; Bedfordshire  Police’s response to gang, gun and knife crime.

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