Gravesham unveils spending plans as 2020-21 budget is set
Plans for hundreds of new council homes, a new Leisure Centre, a fully-funded renewal programme for council-owned play sites, improvements to the town centre street scene, and £500,000 towards helping meet its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 have been unveiled by Gravesham Borough Council.
They were outlined at a meeting of the Full Council yesterday (Tuesday) at which its budget and spending commitments for the coming year were agreed.
The meeting unanimously approved an increase in the Borough’s council tax of £4.95 in 2020-21. This will see the Gravesham element of the council tax charge for a Band D property rise from the current £203.13 to £208.08, the equivalent of less than 10 pence a week.
The Gravesham element is just a small part of the Council Tax bill. The majority of the annual charge goes to Kent County Council, with Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and local parish councils also levying precepts.
Unveiling the budget, Cllr John Burden, Leader of Gravesend Borough Council, said: “In common with other local authorities around the country, Gravesham has experienced a sustained period of financial austerity.
“As the 2019-20 financial year draws to a close, we have achieved our target of achieving £4.2 million of savings a year over a four-year period. Inevitably, this has had an impact on frontline services.
“However, because of our prudent financial management through such a challenging period, we are now in the enviable position of being able to present a Medium Term Financial Strategy for the next decade which is entirely sustainable and which allows us to deliver the exciting initiatives outlined tonight.”
Cllr Burden added he was particularly proud of the pledge to build hundreds of new homes for local people.
“Making quality homes available at affordable rents through an ambitious and diverse programme of building is the top of our list of priorities, and it is essential that we follow through on that commitment if we are to deliver a Borough people are proud to call home,” he said.
The commitment is in addition to the already agreed programme of building which saw the opening earlier this month of Pankhurst Place, a development of 17 affordable to rent homes built on brownfield land off St Hilda’s Way.
A further development is under construction on another brownfield site at nearby Whitehill Road where 32 homes including flats and houses are due to be completed this autumn. Work is also due to start on 48 new homes on land off Valley Drive this spring, while planning permission has been granted for 23 homes at St Patrick’s Gardens.
Funding has also been allocated to consult with local people on what they would like to see included at a new leisure centre, from which initial designs can be produced.
Cllr Burden added: “While these headline announcements are exciting, we are also concentrating on the ‘day job’ – keeping the streets and town centre clean, ensuring household rubbish and recycling is collected, tackling homelessness, and making Gravesham a place people want to live and work.
“This budget enables us to do that, including committing around £350,000 to a package of measures to help us improve the town centre environment.”
- A new six-strong team dedicated to town centre street cleansing, allowing seven days a week working between 7am and 6pm
- The purchase of specialist equipment capable of regularly deep cleaning town centre surfaces
- The appointment of an Enforcement Manager whose role will include co-ordinating direct enforcement action in respect of fly tipping in the town centre area, and who will work with property owners, businesses and local groups to promote reduction of littering in the town
- An enhanced programme of outdoor events in the town centre
- Funding to expand participation in Gravesham in Bloom
- Plans to further promote tourism in the town centre to attract tourists from the many cruise liners berthing at Tilbury.
Cllr Burden said: “Through this budget we are showing we are not making empty promises.
“We are putting in place the funding to make sure we deliver on what the people of the Borough have asked of us and expect us to do, and that is to deliver a Gravesham to be proud of.”