When you gave your Budget Speech in February this year, there was no mention of a Recovery Plan, something, you may remember I commented on in my speech in response to your proposals. I have been through the current proposals, and I can still see no Budget commitments within the Document, only a broad comment about working within the financial restrictions of the Council. That seems to confirm no specific financial allowance has been made to perform any of the proposals, such as they are, mentioned within the Document.
Is this document nothing more than an after thought?
When you gave your Budget Speech in February this year, there was no mention of a Recovery Plan, something, you may remember I commented on in my speech in response to your proposals. I have been through the current proposals and I can still see no Budget commitments within the Document, only a broad comment about working within the financial restrictions of the Council. That seems to confirm no specific financial allowance has been made to perform any of the proposals, such as they are, mentioned within the Document.
Is this document nothing more than an after-thought?
It is true about the Lib Dem questions. Thank you Lindsay for your question. It will obviously surprise you to know that we have been working with our Officers since the early months of lockdown in March 2020 on the Council’s response to recovery. This predates your rhetoric at Council in February 2021 by about 10 months. Although, quite rightly, our primary attention during the pandemic has been on our response and saving lives, there has been ‘shadow’ Gold meetings chaired by our Deputy Chief Executive which has focused on recovery. Work has been going on across the Council for over a year and this document simply brings this together in a formal way. The only way in which I would refer to this document and the huge work that sits beside it, as an after-thought, is that throughout the pandemic it has been the thought that we have been saving lives, communities and businesses.
As for budgets for recovery, here are some financial commitments that were incorporated in the MTFP in February 2021:
· completion of £150m investment in Wokingham Town Centre regeneration and recovery;
· climate emergency investment in seeking to become carbon neutral as part of recovery £71m over 3 years;
· investing in our contain and outbreak management plan to enable recovery over £2m;
· £250k as an initial pilot to support those with low level mental health issues, to help those who need it recover from the impact of the pandemic;
· £160k over the next 2 years to enhance our approach to domestic abuse which is another area which will need greater support as a result of the pandemic.
As I said these are just some, there are plenty more that I could cite. However more significantly you are missing the fundamental point of this Strategy. All of the Council’s resources will be utilised with these Pillars in mind as these Pillars are considered to be the most significant areas that need attending to in delivering successfully on our Council Plan.
The Recovery Strategy is also clear on its status as being a flexible, dynamic, evolving strategy, informed by the data and insight we gather along the way. No one can know all the specific issues and challenges our community will face over the next five years. You will be aware from the approach that we have taken to the pandemic; we will act clearly and decisively to do what needs to be done, we will target Council resources to where it is most important and will not be shy in seeking additional budgetary resources if and where it is needed.
I think I can make a similar comment about responses to questions as well as you made earlier. I think you have missed the point of what we have been saying particularly the Covid recovery plan because what you have mentioned mostly this evening is our activities which have been going on for 3, 4, 5 years. We as a result of the problem with Covid have had a significant number of businesses struggling, a lot of people being laid off and at the Community and Corporate O&S meeting you admitted that it was a reaction to the situation.
What are you actually doing to deal with the extra requirements associated with having a Covid problem? We have all those extra problems. What is it extra that you are doing as a result of Covid?
We generally live within the budget that we set in the MTFP and that is good financial management. I have always been rather appalled by the financial literacy of the opposition. We will come back to the Executive or Council if we need further budgetary additions to that envelope. So, we will live within that envelope.