Plans which will see £349million invested in projects across Doncaster over the next four years have been approved by Full Council, along with a 3.99 per cent council tax rise.
The projects approved in the Council’s Capital Budget aim to stimulate economic growth and job creation, as well as improve housing, roads, schools, leisure facilities and living conditions for tenants and vulnerable residents.
Full Council also approved the revenue budget which pays for public services. This will see the council fill a £44.4million budget gap over the next three financial years. As part of these proposals, council tax will go up by 3.99% for the next financial year which is in fact the lowest rise in South Yorkshire. It includes a two per cent rise to pay for social care.
Speaking about her capital budget proposals, Mayor Ros Jones said: “People are well aware of the government’s austerity cuts to our revenue budget. This has vastly reduced the money we have to spend on the day to day costs of running essential public services. However, these unfair cuts will not stop us from delivering our vital capital programme schemes, which continue to invest in the borough and our future.
“We have millions of pounds worth of investment lined up for a range of projects that will help transform our economy and provide more opportunities and better services for local people. What’s more, residents are going to see significant progress on many of these schemes this year.
“Our Urban Centre Masterplan is starting to revitalise Doncaster town centre, with the redevelopment of the historic Wool Market at Doncaster market now underway. Improvements to the railway station area will step up a gear this year, creating a great first impression of Doncaster and encouraging new investment in the town centre. I also expect construction of our new central library, museum, art gallery to start this year at the former Girls’ School site, and we are developing plans to turn Silver Street and Hallgate into Quality Streets, which support our ambitious town centre regeneration plans.
“This bold innovative approach is designed to make a real difference for all. Investing in schemes like the Herten Triangle development at Lakeside will create new jobs, improve our leisure offer and increase choice for residents. It will also provide the council with additional income from rents and business rates, helping to offset the impact of the Government cuts. This development will also start shortly and is further evidence of our transformational plans coming to fruition.
“Much of this money has been secured through our work with external funding bodies and similar investment in recent years is already paying dividends. Look at the growth created from Great Yorkshire Way and the new National College for High Speed Rail, which is supporting our expanding rail sector. Being forward thinking and investing in Doncaster’s future is having a major beneficial impact, and the second phase of our airport link road will also open this year.
“This capital programme is about more than just our future though. It will see real improvements for people straight away, including thousands of home adaptations to support the elderly and disabled, and improvements to our roads and street lighting. We’ll also be building more new Council houses and investing in our school buildings.
“These are the building blocks for sustained economic growth and prosperity and a future we can be proud of and look forward to.”
The budget supports a raft of schemes. It includes £13.9million for the Doncaster Culture and Learning Centre which will see the central library, museum, art gallery and other social and learning facilities combined in one modern building on the former Girls’ School site in Waterdale. This will complement the existing offerings in the Civic and Cultural Quarter.
Other town centre projects to be supported include the transformation of Doncaster Market to make them a vibrant place all week long, the redevelopment of the train station forecourt so it makes a real statement when people arrive, a major enhancement to Hallgate and Silver Street in the Quality Streets scheme and investment to support the new cinema in the Civic and Cultural Quarter. All these schemes feed into the Doncaster Urban Centre Masterplan which is revamping the town centre to create a thriving centre to support the creation of jobs and growth.
Housing will benefit significantly. The budget will see 151 more council homes built over the next two years at a cost of £19.3million , £17.1million spent in 2018/19 on improvements to existing council houses like heating upgrades, £5.9million invested in energy efficiency works on properties over the period and £3.3million spent on fire safety works in high rise blocks with sprinklers installed in 2018/19.
A number of key transport schemes will benefit. Investment of £13.3million will deliver the 3km Hatfield Link Road. This supports the J5/M18 Unity Project which will see 3,100 new homes built, 395,000m2 of commercial floor space delivered and a range of community, retail and education facilities in the longer term.
The A630 Westmoor Link will be built courtesy of £10.3million of funding. It will unlock housing and employment sites and improve traffic and travel in the area. The second and final phase of Great Yorkshire Way which completes the direct link from the motorway network to Doncaster Sheffield Airport is also supported in the budget.
As well as transport schemes, £4.4million has been allocated next year to a comprehensive scheme of works to help maintain and improve our roads, bridges and street lighting. £1.3million will be spent over the next three years on the work to continue to replace old lighting columns with new LED light fittings.
£4.5million will be invested in the Herten Triangle development at Lakeside in 2018/19 with the overall investment totalling £7.4million. Eight leisure related units will be built and let by the council bringing in healthy rental and business rates income. Doncaster’s leisure centres will benefit from £3.3million worth of improvements over the period too.
There is also significant support lined up to help disabled and elderly residents. About 1,200 adaptations will be made to the homes of disabled residents each year to help make their life much easier.
Investment in facilities to help our young people is highlighted in the budget. A new special school will be built and 29 schools will benefit from improvement works such as a new roofs, electrical and lighting upgrades, new windows or heating systems.
The council is also delivering a number of ‘invest to save’ projects, with new equipment and technology helping to improve services and reduce annual running costs, to minimise the impact of government cuts.
A range of external funding streams will help support these major capital projects. This capital funding must be spent on building and infrastructure projects and cannot be used to pay for day-to-day council services.