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Community

A year of transformation ahead

A year of transformation ahead

As the council’s priorities and budget for 2022/2023 are brought to Elmbridge Cabinet on 9 February, the Leader of the Council, Cllr Chris Sadler, The Deputy Leader, Cllr Janet Turner, and the Leader of the local Liberal Democrats, Cllr Bruce McDonald, outline their vision for Elmbridge in the year ahead.

This is a year of transformation for Elmbridge Borough Council. The pandemic, as well as uncertain levels of Government funding, have placed the organisation at a crossroads. Our priority is always our residents and businesses - their safety, wellbeing and success. How we achieve that in 2022 and going forward will evolve to meet the changing needs and priorities of our community.

New vision for Elmbridge

2022 will be the year that leads us into a new vision for Elmbridge. We will discuss, develop and collaborate with our community, colleagues and Councillors, to prepare a strategy for the borough that provides a robust and sustainable way forward.

In 2022 we are finding our way out of the COVID pandemic. As a community we continue to assess our lives, trying to find the balance that brings us mental and physical wellbeing. In Elmbridge we are welcoming new businesses to our high streets and parades, we are seeking ways to live more sustainably, and we never forget that there are too many among us struggling financially in the midst of rising food and utility prices.

Our Council Plan for 2022/23 seeks to take this Elmbridge context and to put a programme of work in place to support the community.  This programme will include:

  • A new Local Plan for Elmbridge, including a new Design Code
  • A new leisure services contract
  • Delivering at least 100 affordable homes
  • £500,000 fund established to meet the council’s commitment to become carbon neutral
  • £1million in capital projects related to our climate change and sustainability agenda
  • Tree planting, improving play areas and maintaining our green spaces and woodlands
  • Cobham’s aim to be a ‘business improvement district’
  • Investing in local, independent businesses
  • Installation of solar panels and more electric vehicle chargers in car parks

Sustainability is most certainly at the heart of our vision, plans and budget.

Sustainable Elmbridge

The climate crisis and sustainability will dominate our lives and our work for many years to come. To have a sustainable Elmbridge, we have committed to be a carbon neutral organisation by 2030, with an action plan which proposes carbon reduction actions such as solar panel installation and making sustainability and carbon considerations integral in the development of the new Local Plan. Our 2022/2023 budget contains £1million in capital projects related to our climate change and sustainability agenda, as well as £500,000 fund established to meet the council’s commitment to become carbon neutral.

We know mental and physical wellbeing are vitally important to our community. Providing leisure facilities and play areas, maintaining green spaces and commons, as well as supporting the numerous private sports and leisure clubs in Elmbridge, all play an important role this year and, in the future, to secure a thriving Elmbridge community.

The importance of our partners in Elmbridge’s sustainable future cannot be underestimated. It is only in working with colleagues in Highways, the County Council and the Environment Agency for example, as well as third sector groups such as Rentstart and Walton Charity, that we will ensure our communities thrive and that no one feels abandoned in Elmbridge or forgotten within the system.

Our role in all our work is as both provider and enabler. We will provide the essential services our residents need, and we will assess how those services are delivered for a post pandemic Elmbridge, but our role is also to enable volunteering and community groups to come together for the greater good, especially in tackling isolation and loneliness.

Thriving Elmbridge

Our high streets and parades continue to be vitally important to Elmbridge’s economy. They too are evolving. No longer solely the domain of retailers they are becoming community hubs with shops, gyms, mental health drop-ins and cultural and entertainment activities coming together. In 2022/23 we will continue to support that evolution through the Enterprise Elmbridge Action Plan, providing grants, strategic input for Cobham’s ‘business improvement district’ aspirations, as well as the place shaping input which ensures that international businesses such as GSK and Sony are welcomed and supported in a thriving Elmbridge economy.

Supporting Elmbridge

We are building sustainable finances for Elmbridge post pandemic and closing the budget gap by taking a balanced and prudent approach. The gap we must close between what we are currently spending and our projected income for the future, is too great to close in one year without damaging disruption to services to our community.

That is why we are committing to a 3-year programme of transformation, as part of our Elmbridge 2030 vision programme. We are setting a positive vision for the future which not only meets current and anticipated needs, but which will also progressively bring our spending sustainably in line with our income. To bridge the gap, we will draw on some reserves, albeit at a reduced level compared to previous years; these reserves are the result of years of prudent financial management.

The budget for 2022/23 sets a direction which we will continue. Our use of reserves is less than in 2021/22 and will fall further, through the changes we will make under Elmbridge 2030, in accordance with our Medium Term Financial Plan  To achieve our 2022/23 budget, we are making savings and creating income of £1.9million, while also using £2million from council reserves.

However, as part of our ‘balancing the books’ there will be fees and charges increases at our Centres for the Community and within our leisure facilities, as well as a council tax increase of £5 for a Band D property. We appreciate these are further cost of living rises that impact all of us but unfortunately, they are needed to allow us to deliver for Elmbridge. We will of course work swiftly to administer the £150 council tax energy rebate announced by central Government and we will continue to advise and support those residents impacted most by the rise in the cost of living.

Our budget for the financial year 2022/2023 is reflective of our priorities, as well as the financial reality. With inflation at its highest level for almost 30years, we are not immune to the rising price of goods, services, food and utilities.

Elmbridge Borough Council has a robust structure in place, as well as the work ethic and creativity to bring the Elmbridge community forward in 2022 and beyond. As community leaders we have the best interests of our residents, businesses and colleagues at its heart and will do all we can to help Elmbridge to thrive.

 

Cllr Chris Sadler, Leader of the Council

Cllr Janet Turner, Deputy Leader

Cllr Bruce McDonald, Leader of the local Liberal Democrats