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scheme (£18.4m, with £15.5m being provided by the Government) and Wixams Railway (£27.4m, although this may be superseded by the East West Rail project).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