Infrastructure key to growing Central Beds
More money will have to be spent on Central Bedfordshire's infrastructure if the council is to provide the kind of area residents will want in 20 years' time, it's been claimed.
Planned growth in the middle of Bedfordshire will need to be matched by suitable transport, education and public health spending, the council’s annual meeting was told.
“We’re delivering what we can for residents,” said council leader, James Jamieson. “And we’ve made considerable progress to improve services that residents have.
“I’m always disappointed when we have to raise council tax. But we continue to increase it below the rate of comparable districts.”
He told councillors the new M1/A5 link road has reduced the number of lorries using Dunstable and Houghton Regis by 80 per cent.
Other successes included 11,500 new jobs in the area during the past year, while he said the council’s “delivering the school places our residents need.”
German discount supermarket Lidl is planning a one million square feet warehouse on the edge of Houghton Regis, its largest in the UK. But he warned Thirsday’s annual meeting: “The Budget is a big issue. “The (current) government is keeping more of the business rate and not returning all of it to us.
“We need more money for infrastructure if we are going to deliver the sort of Central Bedfordshire we want in 20 years’ time.”
Councillor Jamieson said the best way to deliver housing demand was through a Local Plan. But he stressed the need for infrastructure funding to go hand-in-hand with some of the bigger projects forecast in the next twenty years.
These include the east coast rail/expressway project and the A1/east coast main line corridor, which will open up other development opportunities.
“The Local Plan is the best we can do for residents,” he said. “Through the plan is how we get growth in the best locations.”
A further £2m funding is being made available to tackle potholes locally, after what councillor Jamieson described as “the worst winter” for the combination of ice and road salt. “We had to make 93 salting runs, double the amount of a normal winter,” he added. “We are trying to work more closely with parish councils, but we could do so much more.”
The council has much less control over schools than in the past, according to councillor Jamieson .
“We could wash our hands of it”, he said. “But if it’s important for our residents we must find a way to improve the standards of education locally.”
Councillor Fiona Chapman MBE was elected for a second term as Chairman of Central Bedfordshire Council, by the Council. Councillor Brian Saunders was also re-elected for a second term as Vice Chairman.
Cllr Chapman will continue to represent the authority on civic visits, at ceremonial events, as well as raising funds and awareness for her chosen charities Cancer Research UK and Bedfordshire Crimebeat.
Cllr Chapman, said: “I’m grateful to be given this opportunity to represent the council for another term. I will continue to do all I can to support the council, local residents and my chosen charities.”
Cllr Brian Saunders, who represents Stotfold and Langford said: “I am delighted to be re-elected as Vice Chair.”
of Central Bedfordshire Council and continuing to work with Cllr Chapman and supporting her in her role.”