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Council Lays Out Its Budget Plans For New Homes, Better Services And More Savings

Published on: 11 Feb, 2020
Updated on: 11 Feb, 2020

Guildford Borough Council has approved its budget for 2020-2021 and announced other financial plans.

And with an increase of £5 per year on the average Band D property in 2020-21, it said that it is still the second lowest council tax in Surrey.

Cllr Caroline Reeves.

Council leader Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “I’m particularly pleased that we can set this budget with a minimal 3% increase in the borough’s council tax.

“This is in spite of the Conservatives having halved central government funding for Guildford over the last seven years.”

Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch), lead councillor for finance, assets and customer service, said: “We start the year from a strong financial position.

“Our Future Guildford Transformation Project is progressing well. This will enable us to manage our budget gap to 2024.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore.

The council plans to invest £166.8 million in the capital programme during 2020-21 and a further £321 million over the next four years, including £70 million of external investment.

It estimates that its debt will peak to £650 million over the next five years, about £250 million increase, but said it should decline as it receives payments from the Weyside Urban Village. It has assessed that its assets will be around £1.6 billion by 2024.

The budget has allowed for key projects in 2020-21 ranging from new housing in the Weyside Urban Village to transport projects, town centre improvements and the town centre master plan.

An aerial view of the planned £400 million Weyside Urban Village site.

And the council is still seeking to make savings. It said it has made £12 million of savings in the past six years on services by making them more efficient and cost-effective.

On climate change, it has allowed £1.25 million over the next three years, with £217,000 government match-funding.

Mr Bigmore said: “We are fully committed to doing what we can to address the Climate Emergency. The Climate Change Board is in its infancy so I’m fully expecting increased demand for funding as it matures and starts to produce actionable projects.”

More than 1,000 people attended the Youth Strike 4 Climate protest march in Guildford in September 2019.

The budget sets a 2.7% increase on council housing rents in 2020-2021 after four years of reductions. There is £5.6 million for improving the 5,200 council homes it manages and a further £77 million to build a mix of homes for sale or affordable rent over the next four years.

Cllr Angela Goodwin.

 

Angela Goodwin (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), lead councillor for housing, homelessness, access and disability, said: “We are now in a robust position to build a mix of homes to meet the different needs across our communities.”

When challenged by The Guildford Dragon NEWS on reducing the housing list, currently standing at 2,500 people, Joss Bigmore added: “It is not always easy to find sites on which to build and we are very often competing with the private developers.”

Story based on a press release from Guildford Borough Council, another from Guildford Lib Dems, and questions asked to Guildford Borough Council that responded with comments from Cllr Josh Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch).

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test 3 Responses to Council Lays Out Its Budget Plans For New Homes, Better Services And More Savings

  1. Sam Peters Reply

    February 12, 2020 at 10:41 am

    £400,000 a year on tackling the climate crisis is simply not good enough unfortunately.

    When the council is willing to spend 10x that much on renewing a bridge which still functions, this really shows what a laughable figure we’re putting towards the largest existential crisis any of us will face.

    Guildford residents want climate action, and forced the council to declare a Climate Emergency – it looks like we’ll have to force the council to actually act on it too.

    • Helena Townsend Reply

      February 13, 2020 at 6:46 pm

      Err, Guildford residents also want a bridge that enables them to be able walk and not use cars or buses to get safely into the town centre.

      As for the £4 million cost a significant part of this has come from an external grant.

    • Steven Lee Reply

      February 14, 2020 at 9:25 pm

      Hi Sam,
      Cllr Steven Lee here, who originally proposed the climate emergency. I just wanted to quickly say that, were this the only money concerned with climate protection I would agree that £1.2 million is laughable.

      However please look at the next comment made by the executive member for finance recognising that as climate projects come on line more funding will be drafted in.

      The council has been unanimously clear that we want our projects to have a climate and nature conscience, from delivering public water dispensers to reducing energy consumption and fossil fuel reliance. So behind that small headline figure, much more is being done and much more is being spent.

      I hope that this is reassuring but I also hope that you will continue to put the pressure on both at a local but also at a national level where organisations like WWF are already fearful of Boris Johnson’s potential watering down of the environmental bill.

      Steven Lee is a Lib Dem councillor for Merrow

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