Every Council agenda includes the Council's Vision and Priorities. What specific priorities does this agenda item (item 52) address?
The investment in commercial properties will provide much needed income to the Council in the context of the severe austerity measures we have been facing since 2008 and huge reductions in Government grant.
I think it is worth mentioning that, in 2019/20, the Council will be moving into negative Revenue Support Grant which means that £7.2m of our Business Rates will be sent to central government to be redistributed to other councils. So, in the context of the escalating costs of our statutory services, this strategy is set to increase income to the Council.
This income will be available to help with the funding of all our services around our priorities, from ‘improving educational attainment and focus on every child achieving their potential’ through to ‘improving the customer experience when accessing Council services’.
The underpinning principle, set out in every Council agenda, as you will be familiar with, I’m sure, is to ‘offer excellent value for your Council Tax’. Our increasingly commercial strategy is intended to achieve just that.
In referring to “Our Vision, Our Priorities”, for the sake of completeness, you did not include two of the priorities which are “Ensure strong sustainable communities which are vibrant and supported by well-designed development and, secondly, “Tackle traffic congestion in specific areas of the Borough”.
In answer to my specific question which relates to specific priorities you make clear that there are no specific priorities. While the Council is keen for me to support local businesses, and I try to do that, if this proposal, which is nonsensical and a mistake, does go ahead, will the Council be in a position to identify where I will be able to see how I can help our investments elsewhere?
I am slightly confused by the supplementary question. I think the essence of it is: will the Investment Strategy be investing in all of the Vision and Priorities and will you, as a Council Taxpayer, be able to influence where that money is spent? If you are able to put your supplementary question in writing I will give you a written response. Then we will both understand each other.
Note: The following written answer was provided subsequently:
The Council will keep members of the public updated with the investments that they make through this new strategy. There may be incidences where there will be commercially sensitive information that cannot be released into the public domain (in line with our Constitution), however we will act in an open and transparent manner. This will enable residents to support local businesses that may in the future be part of this investment strategy. Some of this investment may also be invested in housing too.
I was pleased to see that you were promoting the two consultations that we currently have running concurrently and I hope that by having some printed in the foyer of Shute End we will encourage those visiting the offices to fill them in and spread the word that they are now open. I am also keen that we also have different methods of collecting views from our residents and that we do not exclusively rely on the computer as not everyone has either access to one or can use them for a number of differing reasons.
Thank you also for your suggestion regarding referring in every new policy and strategy to the priorities of the Council. I believe that this is inherent in the work that this Council does but if there are examples where you think that this is not the case then please do let me know and we can take a look to understand the reason behind the decisions.