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HomeNewsBig plans for Hillingdon as council plots £248m spend

Big plans for Hillingdon as council plots £248m spend

Hillingdon Council has voted to raise council tax as it plans to spend £248m over the next 5 years. During a fractious meeting last week, the council laid out plans that include big investments in infrastructure, leisure and schools.

Projects such as leisure centres and parks will receive large amounts of funding with £16.7m  set aside for the Platinum Jubilee Leisure Centre in West Drayton and £23.3m for a proposed new Water Sports and Outdoor Activity Centre.

The projects have been mired in issues which have jeopardised their completion. In West Drayton, the developer of the leisure centre, Buckingham Group, entered administration throwing the timeline of the construction into doubt, however, a recent meeting of the council’s committee seemed to confirm that it would be completed by Summer 2024.

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The new Water Sports and Outdoor Activity Centre is being set up after the construction of HS2 forced the park to close back in 2020, with cash for a new centre being approved by this budget.

A few of the  other big spending decisions over the next 5 years include:

  • £42 million investment in roads and pavements
  • £18.5 million on carrying out school building condition works
  • £14.8 million investment in digital technologies
  • £11.7 million towards the creation of more school places and classrooms for children with special educational needs
  • £10.7 million to carry out adaptations to residents’ homes
  • £10.5 million to invest in care home capacity
  • £7.5 million on the Chrysalis scheme, including a park enhancement programme
  • £6.5 million for the modernisation of the Civic Centre
  • £4.7 million on initiatives to reduce the council’s carbon footprint.

The presentation of the council’s budget had a rocky start after the live feed of the meeting was unceremoniously cut short when protestors yelling ‘ceasefire now’ can be heard bursting into the chamber, their chorus cancelled out by the on-rushing of security guards. Eventually, things got back on track giving Cllr Martin Goddard, Hillingdon Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, a chance to give a detailed account of the council’s budget.

He told councillors that Hillingdon residents are expected to pay amongst the lowest levels of council tax and fees and charges in outer London, second only to Newham. Core council tax will increase by 2.99 per cent and a levy of 2 per cent to fund residents’ adult social care will also be charged.

In practice, this equates to a total of 4.99 per cent which is equivalent to a £1.27 a week increase for a Band D property. Fees and charges will be increased in line with inflation and business rates are also set to jump by 5 per cent. The councillor added that there will be no cuts to frontline services

All of this is positive news for residents, however, it is not quite the full picture. The budget has faced criticism for its ‘short-termism’ by Labour opposition.

Cllr Stuart Mathers said the budget “will result in an £18m funding gap, a decline in council housing stock, £75m less community assets and increased capital borrowing.” The councillor aimed his criticism squarely at how the council has proposed to finance its spending as laid out in its budget report.

It proposes selling off “surplus assets” and “borrowing” as major sources of money for projects. In the budget report, the council says it will sell £40m of public assets with the number totalling £75m over 5 years.

Although these assets aren’t fully defined Cllr Mathers suggests that Barra Hall, a community park which includes a large building housing a children’s centre could be amongst the first causality of this sell-off. Cllr Goddard in his opening speech seemed to pre-empt this criticism saying that the council would only offload assets that were not financially productive.

He said: “Let’s get away from this ridiculous misconception that we might be selling the family silver.” Capital borrowing to the tune of over £63m is also laid out in the budget, again over five years.

While the council has relatively low levels of debt, especially compared to other local authorities in the UK, Labour cited the small amount of reserves that Hillingdon had at its disposal as a concern for more borrowing.

The other sources of funding for the council’s proposed spending comes from government grants and Community Infrastructure Levy. Transformation to services has also been proposed as part of a wider saving strategy by the council.

This includes joining services, investing in digital technologies to create efficiencies, relocating services to make better use of buildings monetarily and environmentally, or commissioning specialist providers to run services on its behalf. The budget was approved by the council.

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