Covid still impacting Bedford Borough Council's spending - but enhancements for the local environment are promised

New projects include funding for a pavement cleaning machine and major play area refurbishment programme

By John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 25th November 2021, 4:47 pm
Borough Hall in Bedford

Bedford Borough Council is set to reallocate £1.5million to help enhance the local environment - including major upgrades to eight play areas and a pavement cleaning machine.

But it is continuing to see Covid-related impacts and variations in its expenditure – particularly around reduced income levels, a meeting heard.

Yesterday, (Wednesday, November 24) the council’s Executive was given an update on Revenue and Capital Trends by councillor Michael Headley (LibDems, Putnoe Ward) the portfolio holder for finance.

He told the meeting that this was one of the regular updates that are given throughout the year.

“Looking at the current year budget and spend, you’ll see in there that there continues to be Covid-related impacts,” he said.

“And we’re still seeing variations in our expenditure, and particularly also around reduced income levels.

“In adult social care, we have provided an extra £4.78 million in the budget for the current year, and following the latest forecast in this report, we’re recommending reallocating one million of that to the growth that we’ve seen in temporary accommodation and that’s where we’ve seen the increased pressure.

“Also in the report, we’re able to recommend the reallocation of £3 million of funding that was available in the budget for service pressures, particularly in relation to the impacts of Covid that we might have seen and have seen during the year,” he added.

The report’s recommendation for this reallocation was to divide it between tackling climate change (£0.700 million), “enhancing our local environment” (£1.540 million – of which £0.050 million will be a revenue investment), and “Safety on Our Roads” (£0.760 million).

Councillor Headley added: “And finally, I’d ask you to consider the three new capital programme proposals that will be added if they are agreed by ourselves and full council to the new capital programme.”

The Executive agreed to the recommendations without any questions or comments.

Following the meeting, the council's Lib Dems announced that the new projects to enhance the local environment included funding for a pavement cleaning machine, protective measures for parks, a major play area refurbishment programme, tree planting, footway renewal and verge protection.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “These proposals show that as well as planning for the future, through our continued investment in green technology and tree planting, this council is also enhancing the local environments of communities across the Borough.

"The pavement cleaning machine will keep the Town Centre looking clean and attractive, and the eight-site play area refurbishment programme will be a welcome proposal for families and children.”

"There will also be measures for parks to protect them from unauthorised encampments and deter access for fly-tipping, including bollards, ditching and bund works.

"Footways in parks and open spaces will also be repaired and improved to allow for safer accessibility for all including wheelchairs and prams.

"The proposals will tackle the issue of inappropriate off-road parking at certain locations by protecting grass verges that are continually churned up by vehicles.

Councillor Charles Royden Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and Environment added “This investment will serve to protect our green and open spaces, maintain the fantastic work on Bedford Town Centre and make major improvements to eight play areas.

"Despite the government’s refusal to provide adequate funding to local authorities, these proposals can be put forward due to the hard work across the council to keep costs down and focus on the priorities that impact local residents every day.”