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Council agrees budget for new local homes, better services and more savings

Last night (5 February) the Council approved next year's budget and other financial plans.

Lead Councillor for Finance, Assets and Customer Service, Cllr Joss Bigmore, said: "Effective financial management and a prudent approach to investing ensures we continue to provide a wide range of important services and opportunities to meet the needs of our residents, businesses and visitors.

"We start the year from a strong financial position which helps us to address current and future funding challenges. General grant funding from the government ended three years ago and compared to 2013 we now receive nearly £4 million less per year in overall central funding support."

He explained: "We have carefully managed the impact of the reduced funding which has enabled us to maintain financial strength. Our Future Guildford Transformation Project is progressing well and has made £2.4 million savings so far. This will enable us to manage our budget gap to 2024 when we will expect to have made a total of £5.5 million savings.

 "There are further challenges ahead and we are lobbying government to improve local authority funding. As the budget shows, we are prioritising essential services and making borough-wide improvements that benefit local people and support our economy."

Capital Programme Investment

We plan to invest £166.8 million in our capital programme during 2020-21 with a further £321 million to be added over the next four years. We have also secured £70 million of inward investment.

This programme includes strategic projects from our Corporate Plan and projects emerging from the adopted Local Plan.

We have secured £70 million of inward investment from external agencies including the Homes England and the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (EM3 LEP). These funds will help deliver the ambitions of the Local Plan, the supporting infrastructure and the town centre regeneration.

Key projects for 2020-21 are:

  • Weyside Urban Village (formerly known as Slyfield Regeneration Project)
  • Westfield/Moorfield Road resurfacing
  • Town Centre street improvements (Public Realm)
  • Town Centre Master Plan
  • Guildford Museum redevelopment
  • Sustainable Movement Corridor (pedestrian and cycle ways)
  • A331 / A31 junction improvements
  • Guildford town centre transport improvements (Scheme LRN1 in the local plan infrastructure delivery plan)
  • Walnut Bridge Replacement (part of the above town centre transport improvements scheme LRN1 in the Local Plan infrastructure delivery plan)
  • Guildford Park car park redevelopment
  • Middleton Industrial estate redevelopment
  • Acquisition of new investment property
  • Vehicle replacement programme

Council Tax

We have the second lowest council tax in Surrey in 2020-21 with an increase of 9.6p per week agreed for 2020-21.

We keep less than 10% of the council tax that we collect, with an increase of £5 per year (3%) in our proportion of the bill in 2020-21.

Investing in services

We will continue to build on the £12 million of savings made in the last six years and move forward with our plans to transform services to improve efficiency and be cost effective.

These services include:

  • caring for communities, the homeless and providing transport, meals, activities and support for older and vulnerable people
  • supporting and developing our local economy, encouraging tourism
  • collecting recycling, rubbish and garden waste
  • showcasing and protecting our heritage and local attractions
  • maintaining our beautiful parks and countryside ensuring they can be enjoyed by everyone
  • looking after public health and making sure our taxis and food outlets are safe
  • enabling a variety of sports, leisure and entertainment opportunities for all ages and abilities

Climate change

Since 2013 we have spent £8 million on energy saving projects including insulation, boiler replacements, LED lighting in all car parks, air source heat pumps and solar PV panels.

Total capital funding pledged over the next three years to deliver the Council's climate change objectives and energy management plans is £1.25 million. £217,000 will be match funded by Salix Finance, a company providing government funding to the public sector to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and lower energy bills. The funds will be spent on projects such as better Co2 emission analysis, generating income from Renewable Energy Feed-in tariffs (FITS) and Renewable Heat Incentives (RHI) claims, promoting Passivhaus standards for new build homes, plus greener travel through the Easit network scheme.

Affordable homes to buy and rent

We own, manage and let a total of 5,200 homes which provide a wide-range of social housing. After four years of rent reductions rent will increase by 2.7% in 2020-2021. At the same time we will spend £5.6 million maintaining and improving our tenants' homes.
We are investing £77 million to build a mix of new homes for sale or affordable rent across the borough over the next four years.
We are already building on a number of sites including:

  • Guildford Park Road on previous open-air car park site (160 homes, 64 for affordable rent)
  • Bright Hill car park
  • other smaller scale previously developed sites (21 homes across five sites, all for affordable rent)

Lead Councillor for Housing, Homelessness, Access and Disability, Cllr Angela Goodwin, explained: "By carefully managing our housing stock and finances, we are now in a robust position to provide and build a mix of homes to meet the different needs across our communities. We believe that every person matters and we continue to invest in providing affordable social housing. We are also increasing the homes provided by North Downs Housing, the Council-owned market housing landlord company."

She added: "We continue to invest and improve our properties providing energy efficient boiler replacements and installing air source heat pumps. We also work with residents through our care and repair service helping to adapt their homes, for example with stair lifts, so they are able stay in them for longer. We've built 128 properties in and around the borough in the last six years. There are over 2,500 people on the Council's housing register and we are committed to addressing this."

To find out more about the Council meeting or to watch the debate via our webcasting please visit Council and Democracy.

Published on Thursday 6 February.