The Labour-led administration for Stroud District Council has passed an ambitious capital investment budget for the next 4 years which was approved at a full council meeting on 9 February in cooperation with Green and Liberal Democratic colleagues. The same meeting voted through the revenue budget for the coming year.
The capital programme includes £8m allocated specifically for building homes for rent, as well as investment in regeneration schemes to unlock brownfield sites for businesses and homes, flood management, support for market towns, and promoting cycling and walking across the district.
‘Residents and businesses have told us providing truly affordable housing is their top priority,’ said Cllr Steve Lydon, Labour Leader of the District Council. ‘The government’s white paper finally admits the housing market is broken. But they don’t talk about social housing. Where are our young people going to live? We’ve seen a local increase of 16% in homelessness this year. It is becoming more and more difficult for people to access the private sector. We will provide homes at rents ordinary people can afford.’
‘Our existing new build plans for social housing will be completed within the next few years,’ added Cllr Mattie Ross, Chair of the Housing Committee. ‘But we can’t build any more through our Housing Revenue Account because the government won’t let us borrow more. At the same time they’ve imposed a rent reduction which loses us £9 million in income over the next few years. The Treasury benefits from this but not Stroud tenants. Despite government measures we will continue to invest in new build and
Deputy Leader of the Stroud Labour Group, Doina Cornell, highlighted the economic regeneration schemes in the plan such as the redevelopment of Brimscombe Port. ‘Sites like Littlecombe show the council’s track record of achievements and ability to deliver. We’re delivering on the promises we made in our manifesto last year, and listening to what local people say are their priorities.’
‘The benefits for this will be felt across the district,’ said Cllr Steve Robinson. ‘We are allocating funds to assist market towns in the district that will benefit local economies too.’
‘We’ve managed the council’s finances well for the past four years and built up reserves. It feels now like the government is penalising us for being sensible,’ said Cllr Paul Denney in the debate. ‘The Tory councillors criticise us but don’t provide an alternative budget. What would they cut? Staff pensions, or funds for the Citizens Advice Bureau? Tory councils are doing this.’
While the council has agreed plans for an ambitious capital programme, the revenue budget was also voted through for the coming year. ‘Let’s be clear, district councils across the country feel that the future of local government funding is bleak,’ said Cllr Lydon. ‘Stroud’s government grant is being cut the most in Gloucestershire. We’ll have to work hard over the next few years to make savings and increase revenue, and we’ll fight to protect frontline services. I call on all councillors to work with us on this.’