Wey Road and Round Oak Road

Many residents of Weybridge are beset by difficulties in finding space to park their cars, especially in some of the older streets around Weybridge town centre.  To alleviate this difficulty some streets have sought and been granted on street parking controls, and these residents usually find themselves paying Surrey County (SCC) for a Resident’s Parking Permit.

Currently, and bizarrely, Surrey Highways is now consulting Weybridge residents on a proposal to introduce on street parking controls in two roads where there is no on-street parking congestion.

There is no highways reason for the scheme that has been proposed for Wey Road and Round Oak Road:

  • there is very little on-street parking in these roads, so no need for restrictive controls; 
  • most houses and flats in these roads have ample off-street parking space; 
  • there are no safety issues caused by the small number of cars which do park in these roads.

In short, there is no need for on-street parking controls.

Many of the residents in the two roads concerned do not want this scheme introduced as they have no objection to the small number of cars which do park in these roads. Surrey County Council Elmbridge Local Committee have allowed the scheme to be considered despite the proposal falling outside the normal way of approaching such schemes i.e. via the formal SCC annual review of parking.

The highways officer saw no reason for introducing on-street parking controls, but is bound to put forward a proposal as the Local Committee agreed to consider it. There are other streets in Weybridge that are not being considered despite there being severe parking related congestion.

If you would like to make your views known you can do two things:

  1. Join the “Wey and Round Oak Road NO CPZ” action group by emailing saynotocontrols@gmail.com
  2. Fill in Surrey’s online survey by clicking on this link.  

Write your own reason for objection (question eight in the survey) but, in general, the reason is quite simple, parking controls are normally introduced to meet concerns about the four main parking criteria:

  • Safety
  • Access
  • Congestion
  • Parking stress

Even a casual observer would recognise that Wey Road does not fall into any of these criteria (except at the entrances which have been dealt with already). That is why the Surrey’s parking officers rejected the proposals outright when they undertook last year’s review.

 

Proposed improvements to our town paths

The Brooklands Accessibility Project has been a major scheme to provide safer walking and cycling between Weybridge and Brooklands. So far this has provided the new path along Heath Road to the station, a wider path with a tarmacadam surface from Lonsdale Road to Seven Arches Bridge, and improvements to the path past Brooklands Museum, through the park and onto the A245.

Phase Four of the project was dependent on the cost of the first three phases but it was envisaged that some money would be available to improve the route into Weybridge town centre. This phase takes the route from the crossing on Heath Road, along Melrose Road and makes use of the paths around the allotments and Churchfields Park to finish in the town. These are a wonderful asset at the heart of the town and give a very pleasant option for residents away from the noise and risk of using the roads. To make these paths safer for all users, Phase Four proposes to widen the paths by clearing the earth alongside the fence sections around the allotments, cutting back any overhanging vegetation and laying macadam up to the fence edge.

I have proposed that a small section of allotment fencing near the skate park should be moved back in order to smooth out the rather dangerous right angled corner. 

I have also asked Surrey County Council’s Project Manager for the current cut-through track (see photo) to Churchfields car park be formally implemented as a better option for users going to the town centre than the path that goes to Church Lane and to the roundabout at the Church Street/Balfour Road junction. Furthermore, I am hoping that there will be enough money to pay for much-needed lighting of the path alongside the playground section.

 

The Future of Local Democracy

You may have recently received a leaflet through your letterbox from Surrey County Council headed “Summer 2020”. On the third page you will see that the Leader of the Council (our Conservative Weybridge County Councillor), Tim Oliver, is proposing a major reform of local democracy. 

There is no doubt that the proposed imposition of a single council for Surrey, a ‘unitary authority’, will have been discussed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, and the leaders of Conservative-held counties. Indeed, Cllr Oliver caught even his own Conservatve councillors by surprise when he announced at Council in July that there would be a re-organisation of local government structures and that “this would be in line with the government agenda” and would require “working with government as it presses ahead with the devolution white paper”. 

While a unitary authority would undoubtedly bring some financial benefits by eliminating the eleven borough and district councils in Surrey that have seen their financial support from central government reduced significantly over the last ten years, the key question is how a monster council serving 1.2 million people would be able to serve the interests of local residents. The SCC leaflet supports the plan by stating that ‘We want a council that gives real power to local communities’.  The Leader, in his statement to the council https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/s68594/RECOVERY%20AND%20DEVOLUTION%20WHITE%20PAPER-Cabinet%2021%20July%202020.pdf 
envisages “A new model of local government, combined with increased powers devolved down to a much more local level” – one wonders how much community power could be asserted, given the size of a single Surrey authority.   

Are the government’s proposals in fact another manifestation of the Johnson/Cummings desire to centralise as much as possible – a trend started under Margaret Thatcher? Is it  a thinly-veiled attempt to eliminate those troublesome borough councils that are not Conservative controlled? If we get one unitary authority across the whole of Surrey it is likely that Surrey would forever be in the hands of a Tory majority. This proposal, however, is not the only way of rationalising the two tier system in Surrey.

Liberal Democrat councillors in Surrey support the development of single-tier authorities across Surrey as the most cost-effective and customer-centric way forward. They note that one county-wide council would be remote and unaccountable. They suggest instead that we should  explore dividing the existing Surrey boroughs into three or four authorities. So, for example, Spelthorne, Runnymede and Elmbridge councils could be combined into a single administrative area taking on all the responsibilities currently divided between the boroughs and the county. 

Full government proposals will be revealed in a ‘Recovery and Devolution’ White Paper on local democracy to be published in early autumn. It looks certain that there will be changes. Please let us know your views. Please also contact Tim Oliver and your local MP so they can gauge the response of residents to their proposals. 

You may also like to join #Residents Against Surrey Single Unitary (#RASSU). You can find out more information at: https://rassu.org.uk/ . You can sign their petition: http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/unitary/ and join the campaign:  https://rassu.org.uk/join-the-campaign

 

Planning refusals: 85 Queens Road (former Café Rouge)

85 Queens Road: four applications 2020/0265, 0473, 1288 and 1333

At the South Area Planning Sub-Committee held on Thursday 20th August four applications for changes to the former Café Rouge building were considered. Three of these were for more residential accommodation on the site and one was for extending restaurant seating space. The planning procedure allows a developer to make multiple applications for the same site but requires that each application has to be taken on its own merits. In this case there were two very similar applications, one to provide five flats on the site, the other to add three flats. The planning committee could have permitted both and it would then be up to the developer to choose which one to implement.

The application to convert the first and second floors into four flats and add a flat in a rear extension whilst retaining a smaller restaurant (2020/0265) was refused. Councillors believed there would be a significant increase to the parking stress already experienced in this location, particularly in Princes Road and South Road. This was in light of an application for nine flats on the Wessex site in South Road, recently permitted on appeal, and concerns over the cumulative effect this could have on demand for parking spaces. 

The developer had also applied to build a mansard roof with dormer windows (2020/0473) for a two-bedroom flat. Councillors raised concerns about the increase to perceived overlooking of gardens and properties on South Road. However, it was deemed there were insufficient technical grounds to support this reason to refuse. The argument was that, as there were already windows on the second floor, windows in the mansard roof would not add to overlooking. Additionally, the separation distance was greater than the 22 metres recommended as a minimum separation distance between facades. Despite the building not being a locally listed building, i.e. a heritage asset, the majority of councillors supported refusal due to the effect the roof would have on the character of this unusual art deco building and on the overall impact to the local street scene. 

A further application for three additional flats (2020/1288) was rejected for the same reason – parking stress – as that for the five flats. 

Finally, the application for an extension to the restaurant (2020/1333) was approved given that, under the current Covid-19 circumstances, additional space in the restaurant could be of significant benefit to the long-term success of the business.

 

 

Planning refusal: Clive House, Queens Road

Clive House, 12-18 Queens Road: applications 2018/2252 and 2019/2286

Clive House is a two storey, flat roofed construction set back from Queens Road so that it doesn’t dominate the street scene. The proposals put forward from Pegasus Life were to demolish the existing office building and replace it with 31 or 30 ‘age restricted’ apartments.

Councillors on the South Area Planning Sub-Committee refused the applications on the grounds that the proposed buildings would be in conflict with the Council’s design policies in that they would be predominantly three storey buildings with steeply pitched roof spaces which would appear oversized in the street scene. They would also harm the character and appearance of the surrounding area particularly with regard to the neighbouring Salisbury House.

The developer appealed and a few weeks ago the result of that appeal was received from the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

The Inspector dismissed the appeals. She agreed with the councillors’ reasons to reject the applications and made particular reference to the effect on the adjacent Salisbury House. This is not a heritage asset of the highest significance, but it was deemed that the proposed developments afforded it significant harm as it is of local historic value and an irreplaceable resource.

 

 

Planning appeal upheld: St Catherine’s, Thames Street/Beales Lane

St Catherine’s, Thames Street: application 2019/0386

PA Housing, who administer the majority of social housing in Elmbridge, made an application last year to demolish the two storey, brick built St Catherine’s House on the corner of Beales Lane and Thames Street and replace it with a part two and part three-storey building for 28 residential dwellings: 9 x 1 bed, 13 x 2 bed and 6 x 3 bed units.

The Area Planning Sub-Committee refused the application on the grounds that its height and mass would harm the character and appearance of the area as well as its adverse effect on traffic flow and increase to parking stress. There were also concerns on overlooking and loss of privacy to houses opposite on Beales Lane. The developer appealed and the Planning Inspector arranged a hearing at which all parties could express their views. The Inspector also visited the site and the surrounding area.

After quite a long wait, we were informed that the appeal was allowed and planning consent given.

 

 

Surrey’s Parking Proposals for Weybridge

Surrey’s two-yearly parking review proposal for Weybridge is planned to be advertised this August. We’ll send out another notice when we get the date. Apart from a minor permit change in one scheme, all the proposals bar one is recommended because of safety.  The exception is the proposal for Wey Road which some people say is a solution looking for a problem.

When the proposals are advertised you will be able to offer your comments, objections or support for any of the schemes.  You do not have to live in the street concerned.  The Weybridge streets with changes are:

Anderson Road. Allow additional properties to be eligible to apply for permits with the parking scheme 142 Oatlands Drive and 120 Oatlands Drive

Barham Close

Castle Road

Cedar Grove

Churchill Drive

Cross Road.  Allow additional properties to be eligible to apply for permits with the parking scheme 142 Oatlands Drive and 120 Oatlands Drive

Drynham Park

Egerton Road

Fortescue Road

Kemble Close

Oatlands Chase

Oatlands Drive

Park Lawn Road.  The restrictions being “revocated” (zigzag lines on the map) which are “No parking for certain periods” are being replaced by “No parking at any time”.

Parkway

Pennington Drive

Radnor Road

Ronneby Close

Rosslyn Park

Round Oak Road – see Wey Road

Rylands Place

St George’s Avenue

St Mary’s Road

The Paddocks


Vale Court. Allow additional properties to be eligible to apply for permits with the parking scheme 142 Oatlands Drive and 120 Oatlands Drive

Vale Road

Wey Road

The history.

The parking engineers do not believe that comprehensive parking controls are required for Wey Road and Round Oak Road.

The reason is quite simple, parking controls are introduced to meet concerns about the four main criteria:

  • Safety
  • Access
  • Congestion
  • Parking stress

Even a casual observer would recognise that Wey Road in does not fall into any of these criteria (except at the entrances which were dealt with already).

However, a petition was submitted by Michael O’Sullivan of Wey Road to the
5 December 2019 committee:

Expand further, as part of its 2019/20 Elmbridge Parking Review, the existing Controlled Parking Zone presently covering Elmgrove Road and Oakdale Road in Weybridge (and soon also to encompass Dorchester Road and Gascoigne Road) to include Wey Road and Round Oak Road. 

The petition raised 64 signatures.  Surrey does not verify the petitioners’ location.

Surrey parking professionals replied.

The existing parking scheme in Elmgrove Road and Oakdale Road, which will also be introduced shortly in Dorchester Road and Gascoigne Road is not technically a controlled parking zone, but a resident permit parking scheme. It is the county council’s policy to introduce resident permit parking controls in roads where residents with insufficient off street parking face undue competition from non-residents for the existing on-street parking space, which is the case in these four roads, but is not the case in Wey Road and Round Oak Road. Therefore to extend the scheme would not be appropriate. In the additional details supplied by the petition creator, there is a suggestion of introducing some sort of short stay parking in Wey Road and Round Oak Road, although the details are not clear. However it is generally considered that the type of parking most lacking in Weybridge is free long term parking (for employees working in local businesses and shops, for example), not short stay parking, of which plenty is already provided for free on the High Street and in other surrounding roads, as well as the various off street car parks in the town. So it is not necessary to introduce more short term parking in these two roads.

The possibility of introducing new parking controls or restrictions in Wey Road and Round Oak Road, and in other roads in the area, or changing existing controls, may be considered as part of the next parking review. This will provide sufficient time to allow for the new parking controls in Dorchester Road and Gascoigne Road to be implemented, and for the impacts of them to be assessed, before making any decisions about the introduction of any more parking controls in the area.

In response Mike O’Sullivan told the Surrey Local Committee that between 750 and 1000 commuter vehicles park in Weybridge each year  The town needs long stay parking, but not at the expense of short term parking and inconvenience for residents.  He is not requesting a resident only parking scheme and wants to make space available for short term parking for those wanting to access the town for shopping or business.

Mike O’Sullivan’s estimate of how many commuters arrive in the town centre might even be an underestimate but as many residents drive outside of Weybridge in the morning.  The net requirement could be negative.  Initial surveys suggest that for all we know more people could leave central Weybridge than enter).

Committee Decision
The Surrey Local Committee decided that the Parking Strategy and Implementation Manager to consider and agree the details of parking restrictions in Wey Road and Round Oak Road to be added to the 2019/20 parking review, in consultation with the divisional member and Local Committee Chairman.

Professionals‘ proposal
As the committee asked the parking professionals to come up with a special scheme they naturally did so.

Introduce a controlled parking zone covering Wey Road and Round Oak Road, operating Monday-Saturday 9am-7pm. Introduce DYLs (No Waiting At Any Time) and singe yellow lines and double yellow lines to prevent obstructive parking. Introduce parking bays – ‘Monday-Saturday 9am-7pm permit holders or 3hrs no return to zone’ ~ 27 spaces. This will allow permit holders (i.e. residents) to park in these bays for an unlimited amount of time, and anyone else to park for up to three hours for free. Introduce parking bays – ‘Monday-Saturday 9am-7pm 3hrs or pay by phone for longer stay’ ~ 63 spaces. This will allow anyone to park for up to three hours for free or pay a small fee to stay for longer, with a tariff of 50p/hr for the paid for period. An administration fee of 19p would apply to each transaction.

Road marking and signs
The controlled parking zone would require signs at the entry and exit points, and the parking bays would require upright signing. Key permit eligibility details (full details are listed in the draft TRO):

  • Residents eligible to apply for all permit types are those occupying any residential address in Wey Road or Round Oak Road.
  • The cost for a resident permit is £50pa for the first permit, and £75pa for any subsequent permits issued.
  • The maximum number of resident permits issuable per place of abode is calculated by the number of vehicles registered to the property minus the number of off street spaces at the property.
  • The maximum number of resident visitor permits issuable per place of abode per year is 120, at a cost of £2 per permit. Each permit lasts all day and is specific to the registration number of a visitor’s vehicle.
  • Permit types available within this scheme are residents, visitors, carers and operational.
  • There are no business permits.

Only one Weybridge Riverside councillors was permitted to speak.  Cllr Ashley Tilling made a good speech but only a couple of other councillors raised concerns and those demonstrated their lack of understand the parking controls implementation process.

After a final roundup by Cllr Tim Oliver the committee decided the following.

That the Local Committee (Elmbridge) agreed that:

  1. The county council’s intention to introduce the proposal shown in Annex 1 (map above) is formally advertised, and subject to statutory consultation.
  2. If objections are received the Parking Strategy and Implementation Team Manager is authorised to try and resolve them;

iii. If any objections cannot be resolved, the Parking Strategy and Implementation Team Manager, in consultation with the Chairman/Vice Chairman of this committee and the county councillor for the division, decides whether or not they should be acceded to and therefore whether the order should be made, with or without modifications.

Reasons: To better manage parking demand in Wey Road and Round Oak Road, so as to improve access for short term parking for visitors to the Weybridge area, whilst maintaining parking as needed by residents and their visitors.

Baker Street – Covid 19 Active Travel Measures

Finally Action is Taken

Following the British government’s recent announcements, Surrey has been working to identify potential active travel schemes across the county.  The government has given councils the authority to introduce emergency measures during the coronavirus pandemic to support social distancing within towns and to promote alternative ways to travel such as walking and cycling.

Surrey has been working with their partners to identify potential locations where improved spaces for walkers and cyclists would help residents to get out and about as lockdown is gradually lifted. One site that has been chosen to introduce these temporary measures is Baker Street.  This site has been chosen because of the shops and businesses but with the narrow footways there is not enough space for pedestrians to circulate and maintain social distancing.

Surrey will be introducing a tactical closure by means of three planters across the road – between Springfield Meadows and the Borough Council car park.  This will remove all through traffic from Baker Street. The road will be fully accessible for pedestrians and cyclists to return and support the shops and businesses like yourselves, with the removal of through traffic and resulting reduced overall traffic levels helping to provide space.

Only cyclists will be permitted to pass through the tactical closure on the road.  Access for pedestrians will not be affected.  All other vehicles will have to use alternate routes to access

Access for residents of Parkside and Springfield Meadows will be via the Hifgh Street and access for Hillcrest residents will be via Monument Hill. Road access to the off street car park will be via Monument Hill. The closure will be signed on the approaches to each end of Baker Street.

What is Surrey hoping to achieve?

It’s vital that people are able to stay safe when cycling and walking, and to have the space they need to pass each other safely. This is particularly necessary in response to the Government’s strategic objective:

“Local authorities in areas with high levels of public transport use should take measures to reallocate road space to people walking and cycling, both to encourage active travel and to enable social distancing during restart (social distancing in this context primarily refers to the need for people to stay two metres apart where possible when outdoors). Local authorities where public transport use is low should be considering all possible measures.  Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect

Funding

Surrey was granted £848,000 by the government to support the roll out of active travel schemes across the county, but not the full £1.69 million grant which Surrey had bid for. Surrey is therefore matching the money received from the government, so the projects can still go ahead.

Is this temporary?

These are temporary emergency active travel schemes and are intended to be for approximately three months. It is anticipated there will be additional longer term strategic active travel measures that will be prioritised and developed.

Why has there been no consultation?

These are temporary emergency active travel measures to meet the challenge of being able to stay safe when cycling and walking, and to have the space needed to pass each other safely, as we recover from the COVID 19 restrictions. This is in response to the reduced capacity on public transport and to build on the changes in travel choices that have seen a marked increase in active travel.  Throughout the development of this scheme, consultation has taken place with the publicly elected members for both Surrey County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council.  Surrey Police have also been consulted.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to consult with all affected residents and business owners about these temporary emergency active travel schemes due to the tight timescales set by the Government. However, the views of residents and business representatives are welcome and will be noted and taken into consideration.  This may lead to tweaks to the current pilot schemes as conditions settle down or issues are identified. These will help inform any changes of approach for emergency active travel measures in other locations.

What if it is not successful, will the measures be kept in place for the entire trial?

The scheme has been subject to an independent Road Safety Audit during its development, however sometimes schemes operate in practice differently to how they were designed, and safety assessed, even after the initial change has had time to settle.  These temporary measures will be continuously monitored to assess both for ongoing road safety and effectiveness at supporting cycling and walking.

Feedback from residents and businesses is vital throughout the duration of the scheme to ensure a successful outcome for Baker Street, and the surrounding community.  Comments can be by sent to Surrey via email highways@surreycc.gov.uk or by phone on 0300 200 1003.

Further Information

The Point Closure is scheduled to installed within the next 4-5 weeks. Advanced Warning Signs detailing the start date of the restrictions will be placed around Baker Street and surrounding roads to give motorists, businesses and residents warning of when the changes will start.

Up to date information on details of any works in progress, or planned to take place can be found on the Surrey County Council website here;  https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roadworks-and-maintenance/maintenance/roads/department-for-transport-capital-funding/roads-and-pavements

 

Town Centre Traffic – a radical approach

A Radical Approach to Town Centre Traffic and Regeneration

We often wonder what will help our High Street survive and thrive. In Weybridge, through traffic is a significant negative feature and we believe that removing this traffic, which simply goes through our town, would help our High Street flourish.

Why and how would we do this?
One of the many things we have learned through the Covid 19 crisis is the value and importance of our open spaces – Churchfields Park, The Cricket Green and, for the more adventurous, Desborough Island. These have proved invaluable and well-used. What we lack in Weybridge is town centre open spaces and we will need these to help re-establish the once thriving cafe culture of our town.

The questions are where to have open spaces and how will we create them?
We are talking here about pedestrian spaces in our town centre. And in Weybridge, this would mean stopping traffic driving through the town centre itself. Impossible? Too radical to even think of!!?

Well, let’s think about it for a moment before we dismiss the idea. And let’s think in terms of how could this benefit the town, its businesses and its residents? Let’s think also in terms of what town centre services local residents will want to be able to access by car, what habitual behaviours may we need to modify and what we already do differently because of the pandemic? How many of those working at home will continue to do so? Quite a few we believe. How many of us now walk or cycle to do our shopping? Do you remember in March and early April, amidst all our concerns about the virus and how we would cope in lockdown, the bliss of a quiet, traffic free High Street? We could have this again and permanently, or something close to this.

Through traffic or a piazza and performance space?
Much of our congestion in Weybridge is caused by people driving through our High Street to get somewhere else. This does not build a thriving town. This through traffic would cease and find other routes if we created a small piazza straddling the High Street between Lloyds Bank and Robert Dyas. This could be a space for enjoying an outdoor coffee and chat – rather like Singaporean food courts, where you can buy from anywhere.  Flexibly designed, it could be transformed into a performance space. There would, of course, have to be a route through for emergency vehicles, as we see so often in European towns with pedestrianised centres.

Which services do we absolutely need to get to by car?
Clearly some people need to use a car for all services, but all these would still be accessible, just sometimes with a slightly longer journey. With less traffic this need not be slower. For local people, access to medical services with parking will remain an important element, and of course will be possible with this plan, as access to Churchfields Car Park remains open.  Banks will continue to be accessible from Churchfields and, with quieter streets, it may even be possible to increase short stay on-street parking, especially for Blue Badge holders. Truly, the only downside is a slightly longer journey for some, and for most doing this there will be the benefit of quieter roads.

But  . . .  
By now you might be wondering who loses in this scenario and what will happen to local traffic wanting to access the other end of town? And won’t new rat runs be created?

For sure the whole town wins from a re-energised centre, cleaner air, a place for people to gather safely. There would still be access to Churchfields Car Park from Church Street and Balfour Road and to Baker Street from the High Street (though this might be managed so that there was only one lane and pavements in Baker Street were widened, creating a second open space).

The level of traffic would be very much lower and Baker Street would no longer be a rat run used by people in a hurry to get somewhere.

The people most likely to lose out are the households on and off Heath Road who will lose direct access to the supermarket end of the High Street. If they wanted to drive to shop there, they would have to travel via the Station roundabout and Hanger Hill and approach via Monument Hill. This would put two (?) miles on their round journey.

It’s also the case that residents on and off Baker Street would need to take a longer journey to exit Weybridge along the A 317 and to get to the medical centre by car.  But improved pavements could mean that some, who would prefer to walk there or use a mobility scooter, would be safer.

What about new rat runs?
For such a change to work, residential streets which could become alternative routes for through drivers will need to be protected. This can be done. Streets we have identified as needing protection are: Portmore Park Road, and streets off it, and Elgin Road. Can you think of others? The simplest form of protection for these would be barriers or ‘rising’ bollards which are controlled to allow residents, their carers and visitors to pass into the street. This can be done using number plate recognition.

Other issues?
Yes, this would be a bold move! Maybe there are other problems associated with this idea.  But isn’t it time we adjusted the balance in our town?

EBC Finance – Covid 19 Implications

Elmbridge Borough Council’s finances are facing a perfect storm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. A report from the Deputy Chief Executive was reviewed by the Council Cabinet  at its meeting on Wednesday, 10th June. The situation was described as a “huge challenge for the current year as well as the medium and long-term finances.”

The pandemic has resulted in the Council having to spend more than it planned and, at the same time, receiving less money than it expected. The recommendations in the report to Cabinet included a review of “all discretionary and non-essential spend” in the current financial year and of the current capital programme.

The Council does have money held in reserve for unexpected events but the recommendation to the Cabinet calls for the Council to “limit the draw on reserves to mitigate the deficit and have plans in place to replenish the reserves being used, over the medium term.”

The Council has needed to fund more activities as it responded to the pandemic for example more “meals on wheels” and housing for rough sleepers; increased costs are faced in order to carry out normal operations, e.g. PPE is required, additional cleaning necessary and equipment purchased to assist staff in working remotely. 

The council has three main types of funding. In 2018/2019 the contribution from each was:-

Income – from Charges & Rents                  £17.2m
Tax – Council Tax & Business Rates            £16.2m  
Other – Grants, Reserves, Bank Interest      £3.7m
Total                                                              £37.1m

In a normal year the largest part of the Council’s funding is income from charges, e.g. motorists pay to park in a council car park and businesses pay rent on Council-owned properties.  

The report forecasts that the Council will lose £6.7m of funding from income in the 2019/2020 financial year. That reduction in income is 18% of the funding and expenditure that the council had planned.  

The income reduction is caused by lockdown closures. For example there was no income from parking charges and the leisure centre was closed. Businesses in council owned properties also faced lockdown disruption and are unable to meet their full rent obligations. 

The government has provided the council with extra money to help meet the costs of pandemic related activity. But it is not clear that the government is going to assist the council in the important matter of its loss of income. The Deputy Chief Executive’s report notes that “The Secretary of State having initially given assurances that all financial strain of councils will be met by the Government, it is increasingly clear now that it is expected that Districts and Boroughs will have to manage/absorb their loss of income.”

The report also notes “that it is widely acknowledged that the impact of this pandemic is not going to be for just  3 months or until the lockdown is lifted but likely to go on for at least 6 months or even longer and it is unlikely to return to anywhere “normal”.  This will undoubtedly create a structural hole in our finances forever”.

The financial future for the council will depend on how quickly or how slowly the local economy recovers from the pandemic shock. The council faces financial uncertainty on many fronts. These include to what extent income from charges and rents recovers and how well the funding from council tax and business rates returns to normal compared with previous years.