Councillors Annual Borough Report

This year has been the most challenging ever for Councillors and Borough employees including the operating staff, the external facing support teams for Adult and Children’s care, Disability Care, Re-ablement support as well as supporting residents in our care homes. 

Borough Hall was closed and all employees with just a few exceptions went to work from home and are largely still there. 

Face to face Council meetings were cancelled for a while until a system for holding virtual committee meetings was available. The Borough’s broadband was improved to support home working and every single member of the authority has had to learn to fulfil their role in a different way that is COVID safe. 

The speed at which the Borough made those changes and managed to keep all services operating, from emptying bins to supporting people with needs is a credit to everyone employed in the Borough. 

The political groups put aside their flags and campaigns to effect the changes in a timely and effective manner. 

Here is a list of the decisions that have been made and affected the Borough this year. 

Budget 2021/22

Bedford Borough Council have approved an increase in core Council Tax of 1.99% supplemented by a 1.75% Adult Social Care Precept, totalling 3.74% giving an average Band D Council Tax of £1,624.14 which was agreed at Full Council on Wednesday 3rd February.

You can find more details about their budget proposals here: http://www.councillorsupport.bedford.gov.uk/documents/s53056/Item%2014%20-%20Revenue%20Budget%202021-22.pdf

At Full Council on Wednesday 24th February the completed budget was finalised and included the precepts of Police & Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, the Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Authority and the Parish Councils.

Bedford River Festival postponed until 2022

The Council has again postponed the River Festival until as well as the Kite and Motoring Festival until 2022.

The bi-annual River Festival was originally due to take place in the summer of 2020, but the growing pandemic meant it was postponed until 2021 the new date for the next River Festival is 23 and 24 July.

Bedford Council get money for High Street from Government HSHAZ programme

Bedford will receive £1.76 million to deliver building works and a cultural programme to revive Bedford High Street. The South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, Historic England and LoveBedford are contributing funding.

Bedford Borough Council has currently earmarked 43 buildings as eligible for funding under the HSHAZ programme. Improvements to these buildings could include:

  • Reinstatement of traditional shopfronts.
  • Conversion of vacant floor space for retail and/or residential use.
  • Repair and reinstatement of architectural details to the façade of buildings.
  • Undertaking structural works to help achieve these improvements.

Bedford Council receives £180k boost from round 2 of Culture Recovery Fund

Bedford borough has received £182,349 from the Government to support iconic cultural and heritage organisations and independent cinemas as they reopen and recover from coronavirus.

This is additional to the £710,000 Bedford Borough received in Round 1 of funding in October 2020 which supported local events and venues. 

Veolia Awarded Waste Contracts for Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Councils

Veolia have been given the Bedford Borough Council waste contracts which means the Covanta incinerator site in Stewartby will begin taking in waste from both Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire too. We will continue to look for ways to mitigate the effect of this decision on those living in the vicinity of the Covanta plant and who are most likely to be concerned by the invisible particulate matter that the facility will emit. We continue to believe the Mayor and Borough Council should be looking for ways to destroy the business case for Covanta rather than using it to burn Borough waste and that of our neighbouring Council.

Controversial route ‘E’ for East West Rail a source of increasing concern for Borough residents

The chosen route selected for the East West Rail project – route E – continues to prove controversial and Borough Councillors received a petition this month, signed by over 1600 Bedford residents, objecting to it. The petition was debated at a heated meeting of the Borough Council on 24th February, when a number of residents from parishes in and around the route, put a series of questions to Council Leaders, and calling for the Council to “hold a full public consultation to be followed by a debate at Full Council in respect of the Council’s decision to support Route E”. 

Many residents felt that there had been a lack of transparency around how the Mayor and Borough had come to support route E and felt that not enough information had been put in the public domain. They also demanded to know how route E, previously identified as one of the most expensive of the 5 options A-E, had suddenly become the cheapest option, without any explanation.

The subject of freight also proved controversial, with residents, parishes and Borough Councillors expressing the view that freight had been underplayed in previous discussions, and more information was required, as it forms a key part of the business case for the EWR project.  

In the Council debate that followed, the Mayor’s and Council leadership put forward a resolution which reconfirmed the Borough’s support for a route through the town centre but didn’t really address the concerns of the petitioners. Councillors representing the rural wards in the north of the Borough, those most affected by route E, objected to the motion. They feel route E will do irreparable damage to the north Bedfordshire countryside. Equally, Councillors in the south of the Borough wanted to ensure the safe delivery of Wixams station and wanted an EWR route that would not jeopardise this. Ultimately, the Mayor’s resolution was not unanimously supported.

The EWR Consultation has now opened, the Conservative Group have called for the deadline to be extended and for a number of changes to be made to the consultation. 

There are controversies over their ‘emerging preferred option’ in that it puts up to 97 properties under threat in the north of Bedford, it involves laying 2 new tracks into Bedford Station and increasing traffic congestion in the Midland Road, Queens Park, Ashburnham Road area. The residents in the properties effected were informed the day before the consultation that there property may be subject to a CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order) in the future. 

You can view all documents and respond on their website found below. There are also some dates for virtual events. We strongly urge you to respond before it closes on 9 June: https://eastwestrail.co.uk/consultation

Boundary Commission update

The Boundary Commission has changed its timetable for its recommendations.  There will now be more draft recommendations released on 11 May for 8 weeks of further consultation. The final recommendations will then be released on 31 August.

Bedford Borough Contract with Fusion 

After we came out of the first lockdown, Fusion refused to open their services until they were given money they were not entitled to by Bedford Borough Council. After receiving this the country locked down again and Fusion run services have remained closed until Monday 12 April.  

The contract remains controversial, there are concerns from residents about the cleanliness, maintenance and quality of service provided.

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