Council’s future priorities revealed
Tackling both the climate emergency and a shortage of social housing are two of the four main objectives of St Albans City and District Council’s new corporate plan.
The other two are improving the District’s community facilities and making the Council more business-friendly.
The plan, covering the next five years, was approved by the Council’s Cabinet on Thursday 19 December.
It will now be recommended to a meeting of the Full Council on Wednesday 15 January 2020 for adoption, together with a budget.
Council Leader Chris White said:
We have set ourselves some difficult challenges for the years ahead, especially in relation to climate change.
For example, we will be looking to accelerate the District’s number of electric charging points to encourage the greater use of electric rather than petrol cars.
Solutions like this cost money, so we will need to look for new funding sources as well as take tough decisions about our spending plans and how we operate.
We are also seeking a cultural change in how we do business such as working more closely with other councils on projects of mutual interest.
Our new corporate plan has been developed to greatly improve the District and I am confident our residents will support our over-arching objectives and help where they can by, for example, further improving our recycling rate.
This maps the way ahead for the Council by outlining the measures we will be taking to make a difference. We will also continually monitor our performance against key targets to ensure we make real progress.
On the Climate Emergency, the corporate plan commits the Council to a series of initiatives to reduce emissions across the District and improve air quality. These include:
- Working with Hertfordshire County Council on a plan to reduce traffic congestion, pedestrianise Market Place in St Albans and increase 20mph zones.
- Establishing anti-idling zones with effective enforcement, increasing the number of electric charging points and using more solar panels on Council-owned buildings.
- Ensuring that the Council goes plastic-free and paperless and ‘rewilding’ Council land where appropriate to increase biodiversity.
- Improving Council houses and flats to reduce energy use and emissions, maximising recycling at all Council events and progressing the plan to return the River Ver to its natural state as it flows through Verulamium Park.
On social housing, the corporate plan commits the Council to work towards becoming a large-scale developer. Other measures include:
- Maximising the amount of social housing provided by the City Centre sites that are currently being developed by the Council.
- Bringing down the number of empty Council homes to less than 1% of the total stock at any given time.
- Progressing the redevelopment of ageing sheltered housing blocks and improving the system for repairing Council properties.
On community facilities, the plan commits the Council to creating a community hub at the Marlborough Pavilion in the Cottonmill area of St Albans.
Other assets, such as the Clarence Park Pavilion and the Fleetville Community Centre, will be reviewed with the aim of restoring them to peak condition.
The Council will also help St Albans City Football Club find a suitable location for a new stadium and progress the new Harpenden Leisure and Cultural Centres.
On becoming more business friendly, the Council will set up a local economy summit to consider the impact of Brexit, the local planning system and other pressing issues.
The Council will lobby the Government about the need to reform business rates. It will reduce losses at the St Albans Museum + Gallery and develop a new Christmas programme for the District.
The Council will also progress, with other local authorities and agencies, the Hertfordshire IQ enviro-tech enterprise zone.
It will also expand the key performance indicators that are compiled and reported to Cabinet meetings to better assess progress on all its objectives.
Cabinet also approved a budget for the next five years and this has also been recommended to the Full Council.
The budget includes a 2.8% increase in its Council Tax precept for 2020/21. The overall Council Tax figure will not be decided until all the other precepts, including Hertfordshire County Council’s, are known.
Rents for Council tenants will increase by 2.7% from April. This annual increase has been set by the Government for the next five years at the CPI measure of inflation plus 1%.
The corporate plan can be viewed here in full: https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/performance-vision-policies-strategies-and-plans