Council Passes Carbon-Busting Budget

03 Mar 2020

The 2020/21 budget sets out how, despite a challenging funding environment, the council has balanced its finances over the coming year whilst also delivering critical services to residents. The budget includes provision for investment in climate change initiatives - a priority for the council moving forward - town centre regeneration, the delivery of affordable homes, Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse service and funding our community wardens and co-operative neighbourhood programme.

Leader of Stevenage Borough Council, Cllr Sharon Taylor said: “Our council is one that continues to punch above its weight. Although we are a small borough, we are an award-winning one, demonstrating innovation and positive outcomes for residents, whilst also leading the single largest regeneration programme in the East of England, which is no easy task”

Cllr Taylor emphasised that providing quality, affordable housing for the people of Stevenage is one of the council’s top priorities. With funding set aside to ensure the council meets its ambitious target of building over 500 council homes by 2025, whilst also investing in improving existing council properties so that they remain sustainable, safe and comfortable.

Council Tax paid to Stevenage Borough Council for a Band C property will go up by £4.45 (2.37%). Each Band C household will next year pay Stevenage Borough Council £191.62. That’s 53pence a day for more than 120 services, including doorstep refuse and recycling collections, maintenance of parks and green spaces, the play service and play areas, community safety, cemeteries, environmental health, and leisure and cultural facilities such as the Museum. The County Council’s increase of 3.99% and the Police and Crime Commissioner’s increase of 5.32% means the Band C council tax in Stevenage for 2020/21 will be £1,624.69.

Cllr Taylor also unveiled plans for the Leader’s Spending Initiatives, reconfirming her and the council’s commitment to tackling Climate Change with the announcement of a £20,000 budget to fund initiatives to ensure the council reaches carbon-neutrality by 2030.

She said: “Adapting to Climate Change and building a sustainable future is a priority, key to this is engaging residents to reduce the carbon footprint of our town. The threat of Climate Change is one that affects us all, we have all seen the events in Australia and other parts of the world in recent months and it should be a global priority to reduce emissions and increase our efforts to adapt. A number of initiatives will begin shortly including a People’s Assembly to capture project ideas from local people. 

“This will build on our commitment to Climate Change and a brand new officer role will exist to deliver our local programme. The £20,000 fund will be used to engage and excite members of the public in a variety of eco-friendly projects. This includes revitalising two community orchards with more opportunities being identified by residents and councillors.

“I am also proud that our council is one of a small handful of local authorities that continues to collect garden waste with no charge for residents.”

A number of projects are already underway, for example identifying further electric car charging points across the town, continuing to work with retailers to encourage them to provide free water refill stations and delivering a cycle hire scheme to travel in a more environmentally-friendly way around the town.

A brand new scheme called ‘Park and Stride’ will also be available to residents and visitors to the Old Town to encourage more people to shop and support the local economy. The new Primett Road parking offer is designed to attract those who need to park and use the train service to travel beyond the borough. 

A further £387,000 will support the council’s Co-Operative Neighbourhoods programme which focuses on supporting local communities and groups. Stevenage Borough Council currently has a team of four Neighbour Wardens which will be expanded to include local groups to help engage, work with and build relationships with local people and neighbourhoods.

Another highlight from Cllr Taylor’s speech included the announcement of the town’s plans to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Each of Stevenage’s award winning Green Flag parks; Town Centre Gardens, Fairlands Valley, Hampson and Shephalbury, were given the award for Keeping Britain Tidy and each site will host a celebration called ‘Party in the Park’ with local people invited to join in festivities and learn more about how Stevenage became the first New Town after the Second World War.

In addition, Cllr Taylor also announced a contribution of £20,000 towards funding Stevenage Citizens Advice Bureau to ensure residents in Stevenage continue to receive free, confidential information and advice. The funding will reduce this year’s Citizens Advice funding cut.

Cllr Taylor concluded by reiterating the council’s commitment to working co-operatively to bring social and economic benefits to Stevenage communities and businesses.

She said: “We highly value the work of our partners, without whom we would not be able to deliver some of our key services and extend our reach and ability to support local people facing challenges.”