A Capital Strategy
Somebody once said to me that if we had a capital strategy looking ahead several years, it would be strategic and even statesmanlike. Perhaps that last comment was a little over-the-top but the Council’s spending programme for 2008-2012 does reach a whopping £75 million. That might seem a surprising figure but it is tabled for cabinet approval on Wednesday 25th March. This is alongside proposals to enable new bids up to 2013/14.
Given Crawley’s historic ambition, it is entirely understandable that we should be planning such substantial spending. A good part of the effort is for the delivery of Decent Homes for the Council’s housing stock which is one of the largest in the south-east at more than 8,000 dwellings. There is also a strong commitment for the delivery of new affordable housing.
The Council owns 11 neighbourhood parades and the capital programme addresses their improvement. We are just over half-way through this exercise and have taken steps to accelerate the work. Originally everything was to be completed by 2013 but it is now expected that we will finish by 2011 which is a worthwhile improvement to the timescale.
Our changing climate is something that we must offset by our own behaviour but we also need to prepare for some inevitable consequences. With this in mind, we are allocating funds for further flood prevention work in conjunction with the Environment Agency and its funding. Some of this work is planned for the Ifield neighbourhood.
Other major schemes are the neighbourhood centre regeneration initiatives in Bewbush and Langley Green. These are large-scale, transformational projects which we are determined to deliver. There have been challenges here with falling land values affecting our costs but it is important to deliver on commitments made which we are able to do thanks to sound financial management – and despite the recession.
Where does all of this money come from? Here again we are challenged. As well as declining land and property values, we have seen a reduction in the number of Council homes being bought by tenants. The Council keeps 25% of the capital receipts from these transactions with the remainder going to the government. In these difficult circumstances, it is essential to take a long view about what is possible.
There are other sources of funds including LABGI (Local Authority Business Growth Incentive) which is received from government. This is related to growth in business rateable value within the Borough but there are other factors determining the amount which are difficult to predict. A potential use for this money is investment in Manor Royal which remains one of the largest industrial estates in the south-east. We must always be mindful of the need to realise its full potential.
In today’s economic storms, the Council’s capital strategy stands out as being true to the ambition that has powered Crawley’s growth over the decades.
Councillor Bob Lanzer, Leader of Crawley Borough Council
25th March 2009