County Councillor for Gartree – October 2022
LEICESTERSHIRE FINANCIAL SITUATION
A report for the Council Cabinet on 23 September laid out the dire financial position for local government and for Leicestershire County Council in particular. The Council’s budget gap is set to grow from £8m to £28m next year and could surpass £140m by 2026. Although the Council, which is known for its efficient spending of available money, has had to face and plan for many budget challenges in recent years, this is on a scale never seen before in my 21 years as a County Councillor.
Global events such as Covid , Putin’s war in Ukraine, rising inflation, the cost of living, growing infrastructure costs and an unrelenting demand on services have all contributed to what is being described as this ‘dire’ financial challenge.
As the lowest funded County Council under the Government’s present funding system, Leicestershire will always be sensitive to financial shocks. But the challenge currently being faced has put even the best funded local authorities under pressure.
Inflation is expected to continue to rise, despite recent interventions, adding another £20-£30m every year to the budget, while service demand is expected to go up by £18m per year, plus infrastructure costs (building roads and schools, for example) could increase this by a further £45m. The current national pay offer alone, if accepted, would mean the Council has to find an extra £8m, whilst every 50p added to the National Living Wage would cost the Council over £10m.
Whilst there are no firm proposals at this stage, the Cabinet report illustrates the challenge ahead by providing an initial list of potential areas to investigate for possible service changes or reductions. These include winter gritting, country parks, bus subsidies, projects for reducing smoking and boosting health, selling Beaumanor Hall and reducing or omitting planned large road schemes. The reality is that all income and expenditure is being looked at. A public consultation will take place this autumn and I will publicise ways in which residents can respond to it.
The Council’s budget scrutiny process will review proposals next January, before the full Council votes on the medium term budgets for 2023 to 2026 in February.
STRATEGIC HOUSING ASSESSMENT ONLINE
Supplementary planning documents to the adopted HDC Local Plan (2011-2031) are continually being updated and the Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA) is how Local Planning Authorities in the Leicester & Leicestershire Market Area obtain a clearer understanding of the available land being offered for development in their area over the next 15 years or so.
The latest such assessment for HDC is now available on the Council website (search for SHELAA) and includes several communities in the Gartree Division. Although this assessment does not give any planning approvals, it does give locations where landowners and developers are offering sites for more houses and employment.
In total, the estimated land capacity for new houses, at 30 dwellings per hectare, for the Kibworths totals 4,060. This includes around 1,500 houses in a strategic development north of Kibworth Harcourt which, if approved, would have to include a relief road (or bypass) and school, but as the road has an estimated likely cost of £40-50m, this number of houses is much too low to provide funding of this level. The only conclusion being that many more houses would be needed.
Other nearby community housing capacity numbers are Great Glen: 3,228; Newton Harcourt: 3,174 (not even a rural centre!); Stoughton: 10,000 (Pennbury resurrected!); Fleckney: 1,458 and Market Harborough: 7,411.