Happy New Year to you all and I hope everyone enjoyed the festive holidays. Already they seem a long time ago.
It’s going to be another busy year for the Council with plenty of opportunities and challenges ahead.
One of those opportunities is the Town Deal fund. Loughborough has been invited to bid for up to £25 million to regenerate town centres, boost businesses and improve infrastructure.
The Council will soon be inviting people from the public and private sector to join a board to guide the project and help us secure every single penny available. The first meeting is due to take place by the end of January.
It’s worth noting that while we will be bidding for up to £25million, many projects will require match funding so we are talking about the potential investment of much more than that. It is exciting for the town, and the community will be able to get involved and have a say.
Cabinet will shortly be considering our draft corporate plan which sets out the Council’s priorities for the next four years. It includes pledges from our manifesto and reflects the views in our residents’ survey and of staff. It’s ambitious and emphasises our commitment to the environment, ensuring we look after our communities and the people in them and support the local economy – one of the fastest-growing in Leicestershire.
I look forward to the corporate plan being approved and this Council using it to guide not only the future of the borough, but also this organisation.
We will soon be setting our budget for the next financial year and funding continues to be a challenge. Our medium-term financial strategy proposes increasing the Charnwood element of your council tax bill by £5 on the average Band D property. Our share of the council tax is less than 10 per cent of your total bill and we remain one of the lowest council tax rates in the country. The Council is already a lean and efficient organisation but we will continue to look for improvements, particularly by utilising technology, as our funding challenges are not going to ease soon.
We will be aiming to reduce our reliance on Government funding and local taxation by making smarter commercial investments which give us a larger return to help fund services. And where we do offer services which operate in a commercial environment, we will be making sure we are maximising our income, again to invest in frontline services for residents.
I’d finally like to congratulate Jane Hunt after being elected as MP for Loughborough. I have known Jane for a number of years and worked alongside her on the borough council. I am sure she will do her very best for the people of Loughborough. Congratulations also to Ed Argar for retaining his Charnwood seat. I look forward to working with them both on a variety of projects.