Leader's Announcements (Agenda item 5)
- Meeting of Budget & Council Tax Setting 2018-19, Council, Thursday, 22nd February, 2018 10.00 am (Item 25/18)
To receive a verbal update from Councillor Nunn, Leader of the Council.
In the absence of the Leader, the Chairman invited the Deputy Leader, Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen to make the announcements.
The Deputy Leader was pleased to announce that Breckland Council had been successful in its bid for funding for almost £10m from central government, the second biggest successful bid within Norfolk and one of only a few across the eastern region. This funding would be used to support the delivery of thousands of new homes across the District. The £9.95m investment from the Homes and Communities Agency's Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) would be used to improve infrastructure at the Thetford Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) which had been 10 years in the making and would now hopefully soon be delivered. The Council would be working in partnership with many of its key partners including the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Norfolk County Council, the Town Council and residents to draw down this funding for the delivery of this project. These, he felt, were exciting times ahead for Breckland and for the economic growth of Thetford.
The District Lottery was launched earlier in the month. The Council had seen over 100 people in attendance from a wealth of community groups and organisations from across the District and had been a fantastic initial launch. The website would go live on 1 March 2018 to allow individuals to buy tickets; and, for every pound spent, 50p would go to somebody’s designated charity. This lottery would be much more robust and 20p in every pound would go back into the Council’s community fund to support community groups in the district.
As part of the Market Town Initiative, the Council was continuing to move forward with ‘ShopAppy’. The initial launch was announced by the Leader and Councillor Claussen, the Portfolio Holder for Place, at the last Full Council meeting. There had been a very pleasing positive uptake from all the market towns. The Federation of Small Businesses had invited the Deputy Leader along to a conference to discuss ShopAppy and the reasons the Council had decided to invest such a large amount of money into its market town communities and its High Streets. This would be a good opportunity to show the market towns that the Council did understand the concerns and difficulties they were facing moving forward. The first ShopAppy launch would be in Swaffham in March/April and the Deputy Leader would be working with the Members in that area to make it a really successful day. Additionally, the Council had just commissioned another piece of work on top of ShopAppy and the Market Town Initiative. A young man from Dereham had digitally videod every shop and High Street within Breckland’s market towns which would now allow anyone to go onto the website and visualise walking along the High Street and into a shop to see what was available.
In view of the budget setting, the Deputy Leader felt that this was one of the most important Council meetings of the year. Members had hopefully seen from the budget papers that the Council had removed its reliance on the New Homes Bonus (NHB) to the sum of £1.7m as well as its reliance on the Revenue Support Grant. The £1.7m NHB would be ring-fenced to the Council’s Community projects and the Deputy Leader would be working with Members to ascertain how this money would best be utilised moving forward.
The Deputy Leader congratulated all who had been involved with the budget and stressed the envious fiscal position that Breckland Council was in compared to many other Councils.
Councillor Gilbert was very pleased with the news that Breckland Council had been successful in its funding bid and even better news was that the monies would be used for the much needed development and infrastructure in Thetford; however, he wanted to know if this funding would offer a degree of protection for other towns in relation to undesirable development.
The Deputy Leader advised that the HIF bid itself was just for the delivery of housing growth in Thetford, the secondary effect of which would hopefully protect some of Breckland’s other communities across the District from undesirable development by delivering much needed housing in Thetford and thus meeting the Council’s five year land supply. Through the Local Government Association, the Leader was currently lobbying Government to reduce the five year land supply to three but in the interim, the Council could only work with what it had in the Local Plan, and if adopted, the land allocated as preferred sites suitable for growth would be developed.