Residents invited to have their say on Council’s budget proposals

A TWO-YEAR plan to deliver improvements in parks, town centres and youth services, while bringing thousands of new jobs to the district, has today been discussed by Wakefield Council’s Cabinet.

The ‘Building a fairer future’ plan sets out the Council’s vision to not only help the district recover from the pandemic, but also to grow the economy, make further improvements to neighbourhoods as well as tackling climate change, and will now go to Full Council on 9 February to be formally accepted.

The plan is underpinned by the Council’s initial budget proposals for 2022-23.

Residents are invited to have their say on the Council’s budget proposals, to help deliver the plan and improve the lives of people living in the district.

The proposed two-year plan and budget for 2022-23 will support:

  • £48.8m of investment in Wakefield City Centre and Castleford Town Centre from the Towns Fund
  • £10m of Council investment in town centres across the district, including South Elmsall, South Kirby, Moorthorpe, Hemsworth, Ossett, Horbury, Normanton and Featherstone
  • £20m from the Levelling Up Fund, £12m of which will go towards a new City Library/Museum and £8 million towards phase two of Rutland Mills
  • £2.5m for the Pontefract ‘Streets for the People’ project to develop connectivity between the town centre and the castle
  • £4.4m to improve markets across the district.

This is on top of the delivery of other regeneration schemes, which includes the former market hall site (£5m), Wakefield’s Civic Quarter (£16m) and new housing at Chantry House (£10m).

In addition, the two-year-plan and budget for 2022-23 will also support:

  • Plans to secure new investment in Knottingley, South Kirkby, Ferrybridge and South Elmsall motorway corridors to attract new businesses and well-paid jobs
  • A £4.4m investment boost for Knottingley Kellingley Club
  • Continuation of the free parking pilot, pending a report to Cabinet
  • Employment, training and apprenticeship opportunities for 4,000 residents
  • Three new youth hubs to enable young people to learn new skills, take part in activities and access support
  • Investment in adult education and learning activities across the ten towns
  • Partnership working across West Yorkshire to deliver the £384,000 Safer Street fund which will focus on improving safety for women and girls.
Jack Hemingway smiling
Cllr Jack Hemingway

The Council will also continue to work towards its 2030 ‘Net Zero’ targets which will see 600,000 trees planted over five years, replacement LED street lighting, the creation of solar energy parks and further conversion of Council vehicles as part of a move towards an all-electric fleet. Investment in facilities to make it easier for people to walk or cycle is also proposed.

Cllr Jack Hemingway, Deputy Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to set out what we are about as a Council for the next two years – by creating strong foundations, we will build a fairer future for everyone.

“Over the next 24 months, there will be a greater focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, further investment in green spaces and our town centres, better youth facilities, job creation and a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

“We have listened to our communities so the new plan, and the budget proposals, build on what residents have told us they want. To make sure we continue to deliver for local people, please share your views on our budget plans for 2022/23.”

Wakefield Council is faced with a £32.5m budget gap, caused by inflationary pressures and rising demand for services – most significantly in adult and children’s social care. The Council must deliver a balanced budget, so is proposing to fill the gap by:

  • Making savings of £5.1m, none of which would impact on frontline services
  • Bringing in an additional £4.2m revenue from more homes being built and more businesses coming to the district.
  • Increasing Wakefield’s core Council Tax by 1.99% which, from April 2022, would see an increase of £19.76 per year for ‘Band A’ council taxpayers (38p per week) or £59.73 for Band D properties (£1.14 per week).
  • Applying a proposed 2% adult social care levy, to support the huge pressures on services. Combined, this brings-in £6.2m to help maintain essential Council services

The remaining £17m budget gap would be met from reserves, which is essentially the Council’s savings account.

The Council is continuing with a major modernisation programme to reduce the cost of delivering services in the future, which includes better use of technology, early intervention, and prevention.

The survey will be open from 18 January for two weeks and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BGVZK88

Once the feedback has been reviewed and any changes made, the final budget proposals will go to a special Budget Council on 2 March to be ratified.