Cherwell's budget targets green issues but car parking costs to rise

Residents in Banbury will benefit as the result of a “green investment budget” that has been proposed by Cherwell District Council’s executive committee as it continues to progress its plans to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 12:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 4:50 pm
Cherwell are to raise their car parking charges
Cherwell are to raise their car parking charges

The proposed budget includes a 3.89 per cent council tax rise, amounting to £5 for the year. The new council tax rate was agreed proposed by cabinet will now be considered by a full meeting of all Cherwell District Councillors on February 24. It reflects the fact that grant funding from central Government has decreased.

The overall budget of £25.6m includes services such as waste and recycling collections, leisure centres, planning and street cleansing. Cllr Barry Wood, leader of the council, will be writing to all residents when the annual council tax bill goes out to provide more information about the tax setting and to explain where Cherwell’s portion of the money goes.

The last time parking charges were increased anywhere in Cherwell was 2011 and in Bicester it was 2009. There is a proposal in the budget for 2020/21 to align the car parking charges across Bicester and Banbury. This involves a rise of 20p per hour from 60p to 80p in Bicester and changes to prices on Sundays in Banbury and Bicester.

Cherwell District Council says its car parks remains competitive with surrounding and comparable town centres, and represents value for money compared to the parking offered by commercial car parking operators in our towns.

Cllr Tony Ilott, Cherwell’s lead member for finance, said: “This is a green investment budget with a strong emphasis on issues that will help us become carbon neutral as a council by 2030.

“We aim to achieve this while maintaining our longstanding track record at Cherwell District Council of ensuring our own house is in order before passing costs onto residents. That is why this is only our second council tax rise since 2009.

“As a council we are also proud of our long record of innovation and helping create the conditions to assist the growth that continues to provide solid foundations for the dynamism and prosperity of our local economy, in the process providing the income needed for much valued local public services.

“We have positive proposals for services that we know our residents value – including our waste collection crews and car parks and we have also set aside funding to help us make our contribution to tackling climate change.

“There are great uncertainties as regards the future funding of local government and we and many other councils are keen to hear more about what central government has in mind. However we have certainty for the next financial year.

“Our proposed council tax increase is less than 10p per week for a Band D property. Raising council tax is always something we do reluctantly. However this helps us continue to deliver high-quality services to our residents.

“During the forthcoming financial year, Cherwell’s share of council tax would be set at £133.50 for a Band D property. The 2020/21 rise of £5 would be much less than the cost of a second class stamp each month.”

Leader of the Labour Party at Cherwell District Council, Sean Woodcock, said in response to the proposed budget: "This budget reflects years of incompetence on the part of Cherwell District Council.

"They grew complacent on money from housebuilding and warehouse development all the while dodging the difficult decisions. Now they've turned to taxpayers and motorists to bail them out.

"As for their 'green budget', their record shows that they talk the talk but do not walk the walk. They failed to support divestment of council pensions in fossil fuels and continue to tacitly support an environmentally devastating expressway with their silence."

Specifically this year’s budget proposals include:

• An allocation of £250,000 (£50,000 for each year over the next five years) to ensure the council continues to build on the positive progress it has already made in responding to climate change with pace. Additional expertise is being recruited and there will be close working with Oxfordshire County Council.

The aim is for the Council’s operations to be net carbon neutral by 2030 and building towards this target is already embedded in the council’s forward planning and culture.

• A total of £69,000 is proposed to be set aside in 2020/21 to reduce energy consumption across the council’s buildings by replacing traditional lighting with LED lamps. This is an important element of the council’s plans to reduce on-going costs and the council’s carbon footprint - working with Oxfordshire County Council.

• Funding of £80,000 in 2021/22, rising to £230,000 by 2023, is proposed to be allocated to develop the Burneyhyll Community Woodland project between Chesterton and Bicester. This includes archaeological surveys, public access footpath work, signage, gates, park furniture, and tree planting.

• A further investment to reduce carbon footprint is proposed to be centred on Cherwell District Council run car parks. An allocation of £125,000 up to 2022 would fund low-energy LED lighting and plans to install electric charging points.

Signage will also be improved with an overall aim being to make them more accessible for visitors to our towns.

• A total of £230,000 is proposed to be spent in 2020/21 to come up with a delivery plan to enhance and redevelop the area around the Oxford Canal and River Cherwell in Banbury Town Centre. The council’s vision is for a vibrant, well-connected urban quarter supporting a natural green lung running through the area and beyond.

• A budget of £50,000 per year is proposed for a land drainage and flood risk management service for 2020/21 and ensuing years.

• Plans are proposed to increase recycling by installing around 60 street recycling bins that collect litter on one side of the bin and recycling on the other. These will be located at places such as bus stops to replace the current freestanding litter bins. This will require £24,000 in funding.

• Looking ahead to 2021/22 the council is proposing the refurbishment for the public conveniences at Horsefair, Banbury at a cost of £150,000.

• Replacing fences, railings and other street furniture at play areas, open spaces and other council land to maintain safety is another proposed priority – costing £12,000.

• A total of £70,000 is proposed to be allocated to set up a new waste collection crew in response to housebuilding in the district in 2020/21 with the potential for further spend up to 2025.

Residents can choose to pay their bill either annually, over ten months until January 2020, or over 12 months until March 2020. Payments can be made by direct debit, over the telephone, at a bank, or by using any of Cherwell District Council’s Link Points.