Cabinet aims to meet the challenges of austerity
As national debate continues over whether or not austerity is over, councillors are to consider a series of reports aimed at mitigating its impacts. Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet will consider a series of austerity-related reports at a meeting on 6 November.
Councillor Stephen Harker, Leader of the Council, said: “Whether or not austerity is over, only time will tell, but what we must remember what has already happened and I do not expect this to be reversed in the short term. The Council has lost £42m per year of government grant in real terms and when you consider our budget is now in the region £80m a year, the public will understand how the Council has been hit by austerity.
“To offset the loss of government grant, we have been working hard to create new income for the Council. The report about Investment Opportunities is a great example of that as it seeks to increase the investment fund to enable the Council to invest in improving the Borough for everyone.
“A great example of how we are achieving this is our partnership with Esh Homes where we have established a joint venture company to build and sell new houses. The first venture at Eastbourne is nearly complete and this delivered income to the Council of nearly £1m. There are three more projects agreed or in the pipeline, therefore we need to increase the Investment Fund.”
Another item on the Cabinet agenda is a report proposing the Council buys land off McMullen Road to build more council houses. Councillor Harker added: “Good quality houses are essential for everyone, but not everyone can afford to buy their own home, so we are working hard to ensure we have a good supply of affordable homes.
“I am extremely proud of the houses we have already built, which are exceptional quality and have been very much in demand. We have plans to build more quality council houses, to ensure future generations have great places to live.
“The effects of austerity will felt for many decades to come, but we are working hard to improve the outcomes for all our residents, in particular those who face the biggest challenge.”
CREATING A FAIRER, RICHER DARLINGTON
Cabinet will also consider a report on a new Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy aimed at creating a fairer, richer Darlington.
Councillor Stephen Harker, Leader of the Council, said: “Darlington is a great borough where people want to live and businesses want to invest, delivering wonderful opportunities such as the 2,500 jobs being created at Symmetry Park.
“However, not everyone has the same opportunities and we have large gaps between different parts of our Borough – the most stark being life expectancy where a man living in one part of the town can expect to live 11.6 years less than a man in a more affluent area. These gaps are mirrored in earning potential, education attainment and general quality of life.
“The strategy we are considering is aimed at trying to reduce these gaps in opportunity and to help support those in most need at the current time.
“Creating economic growth, better jobs and wealth for all is the most important part of this and we are working with other public sector bodies and the private sector to try and deliver a fairer and richer Darlington, where all residents can feel the benefit of the economic growth the borough is achieving.
“A key part of this is by changing the way we all buy goods and services to ensure that the money spent, as far as possible, remains in Darlington, the Tees Valley and the North East. By doing this we hope to generate more jobs and wealth for all residents.”