A budget to help West Suffolk be greener, healthier and more prosperous is agreed
23 Feb 2022
A budget which will invest millions into helping West Suffolk be greener, healthier and more prosperous includes a £9million boost to reach carbon neutral status by 2030 – has been agreed by West Suffolk Council.
The proposals discussed last night, Tuesday, will deliver a balanced budget for 2022/23. It is designed to make sure services continue to be delivered as well as supporting economic growth, helping improve the wellbeing of communities and fund green initiatives to help tackle climate change:
The proposals include:
- £9million investment in measures to meet West Suffolk Council’s zero carbon ambitions by 2030 which will provide an income, greener vehicles and buildings as well as extending the successful solar rent and roof scheme for West Suffolk businesses.
- Hub and leisure projects which will link fitness, wellbeing and health services across West Suffolk. This provides high quality leisure facilities and includes £91m for Western Way Development – which is an NHS backed scheme that is designed to be cost neutral. (This builds on the work such as the new Mildenhall Hub which opened last year as well as improvements to Brandon, Newmarket and Haverhill leisure and health facilities totalling £45 million)
- £1.3 million investment in our parks and heritage assets such as Moyse's Hall and West Stow – including maintaining areas such as award winning Brandon County Park which has now been awarded a national green flag.
- Over £1 million invested over the next three years in Leisure Asset Management - including nearly £100,000 in Mildenhall for the replacement of the pump track and renewal of the St Johns Close Multi Use Games Area this financial year. (Building on initiatives such as the Haverhill Splash Pad, developing new skatepark in Newmarket as well as Yellow Brick Road improvements.)
- Helping businesses and visitors with over one-million-pound investment on car park improvements across West Suffolk including new EV points, improvements to an existing multi-story car park in Bury St Edmunds and car parking in Newmarket as well as the possible creation of spaces in Clare.
- £12 million for the incubator scheme in Bury St Edmunds that will benefit the whole district to grow businesses and create new jobs. (This builds on the investments such as the EpiCentre in Haverhill as well as investments in Newmarket, Brandon, Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds in properties to support businesses, housing and bring about extra income)
- Continued support of Barley Homes which is bringing an income to West Suffolk to help services while delivering affordable homes and has already been selling houses in Haverhill.
- Support for the Local Plan process to help communities plan for the future of West Suffolk.
- £650,000 to support, Community Chest and local member funding to support projects put forward by West Suffolk Communities.
- Continued investment in helping the most vulnerable off the streets or saving people from becoming homeless including helping people stay independent. (This builds on schemes such as £147,183 investment directly into resident’s homes in Newmarket to enable safe and independent living through adaptations and improvements. In addition, the building of two bungalows in Brandon with Havebury Housing Partnership to help homeless people with additional needs as well as four homes for social rent.)
The Council agreed to look at creating more savings from transforming the way it works including public trends in making services much easier to access online and digitally.
It will also embark on work planned by the council when it was formed to work alongside parish and town councils to transform how the authorities work together. This means looking at finding solutions locally to issues rather than a one size fits all approach.
One of the first things West Suffolk Council did was declare a Climate Emergency and create a taskforce to help report into the issues and create a meaningful action plan. This was agreed by Cabinet and included the aim of achieving Net Zero Emissions by 2030. The plan focused on the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the council’s operations.
The creation of a new £9 million investment facility in the council’s net zero emissions by 2030 journey builds on the plans that are already being delivered. It will deliver environmental projects which are anticipated to deliver a 31 per cent carbon saving on council operations by 2026, together with a financial return to the council of 2 per cent, even after allowing for borrowing costs.
This £9 million fund is to be utilised across the following proposed projects:
- Council buildings: improve the energy efficiency and incorporate renewable energy (electricity and/or heat) into buildings
- Electric vehicle fleet (EV) investment: replace small vehicles on fleet with EVs when replacement falls due
- Expansion of the successful West Suffolk Solar for Business scheme which provides carbon and financial savings for companies and an income for the council.
In addition, it includes a £100,000 per annum provision to support the proposed switch to use Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) derived fuel in the larger diesel-powered fleet – such as freighters used to collect rubbish. No vehicle modifications would be required, and this would achieve carbon savings of nearly 400 tonnes Co2e per annum as well as improving air quality.
In total the projects proposed under this new investment would deliver 2,279 tCo2e savings per annum once fully implemented. This should mean that the council would meet its carbon budget target for 2026 putting the council on the right path to meet its net zero ambition by 2030.
This is in the face of challenges such as historically reduced national funding for local authorities as well as the impact of COVID-19 which has meant that the council is planning to make an extra £500,000 provision to deal with the impact of the pandemic in 2022 to 2023.
Council Tax only covers around 20% of the cost of services and West Suffolk Council only gets around 11% of the total Council Tax bill. Government requires the council to help meet that gap by raising income or Council Tax. The budget means West Suffolk Council can stick to its plan to harmonise Council Tax levels across West Suffolk as proposed and agreed by parliament when the authority was formed. This will be the last step in fully harmonising Council Tax across West Suffolk.
This means that the most a Band D house in West Suffolk will pay is an extra 22p a week. £11.52 a year extra in the former Forest Heath area and £1.71 in the former St Edmundsbury area. However, most people will pay less as 70% of housing in West Suffolk are Band A to C.
Cllr John Griffiths, Leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “This budget underpins our ambitions at West Suffolk Council to help ensure and protect the future health and wellbeing of our communities, businesses and indeed our environment. It builds on a strong financial foundation enabling us to not only deliver this budget but to face the challenges of historic reductions in national funding as well as COVID-19, and inflationary price increases. The new way we are working with partners, such as the NHS, to deliver better and easier access to health services through our hubs and leisure services is nationally ground-breaking but more importantly is already seeing better outcomes for the people we serve. We also lead the way with our green agenda to help tackle climate change while investing to support, and indeed create businesses and job opportunities. Our major projects are designed wherever possible to pay for themselves as well as bringing their many other added benefits. Put simply, this is a budget that invests in the future of West Suffolk.”
Cllr Sarah Broughton, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Property for West Suffolk Council, said: “This is a budget that will help drive business growth and more employment opportunities, better health facilities and outcomes as well as tackling climate change. In short helping people be healthier, more prosperous and kinder to the planet. The £9million investment turns much of our environmental action plan into reality, delivering savings of thousands of tonnes in CO2 as well as protecting the environment. Continuing to invest in our hubs will mean state of the art health and leisure facilities for all while our growth investments will encourage businesses and jobs. It also means we can protect and help the most vulnerable and fund local programmes helped shaped by the communities it will be delivered in. At the same time, we are making sure we can meet the challenges of the pandemic while delivering high quality and value for money services.”