Major investment in making Taunton Deane an even better place to live, work and enjoy is being planned for the coming year with more than £300,000 earmarked for initiatives.
Thanks to careful management and ongoing savings from the shared services and joint management initiative with neighbouring West Somerset Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council has achieved a balanced budget while investing in services valued by the community and freezing Council Tax for a further year.
The new investment is aimed at improving the environment, tackling the troubling issue of so-called “legal highs”, and encouraging the economy’s growth.
Initiatives to improve the environment include:
• £102,000 for improved street cleaning, extra grass cutting and weed spraying
• £55,000 on community safety measures focussed on cleaner public areas by checking for and removing needles, as well as support for programmes that help users break the cycle of addiction and match funding to help educate young people about the dangers of “legal highs”
• £10,000 towards the enforcement and collection of waste after events
• £8,000 to reopen public toilets in Hamilton Park, Taunton
The Council is also looking to improve high tech connectivity – with investment of up to £45,000 – in Taunton and Wellington to help people access digital networks if they are out and about. This could be through free wifi or through other systems such as 4G/5G.
The executive is also planning to recommend Full Council to freeze Council Tax and accept the Government’s offer of a grant equivalent to a 1% increase – about £62,000. Council tax has not been increased in three of the last four years in recognition of the hard time suffered by many in our community.
More than £9m is planned to be invested in capital projects, which includes an extra £1m to invest in new housing (up from £0.5 million last year), £6.7m in improving existing council housing such as new kitchens, bathrooms and heating systems, £0.8m on disabled facilities and adaptations in homes, plus essential investment to help maintain service quality.
Leader of the Council, Cllr John Williams, said: “This year is the same as previous years, through delivering efficiency in how we work – for example our joint management and shared services with neighbouring West Somerset Council – we are protecting frontline services as well as investing in initiatives.
“We have effectively set aside £2.8m to support growth and regeneration, using our New Homes Bonus, and this will support investment in important infrastructure and other projects aimed at boosting the local economy.
“We continue to look forward to initiatives such as combining building control and legal services with other councils in Somerset. We also have plans to rationalise our office accommodation by joining Somerset County Council in a major public sector hub. These measures will ensure protection of front line services much valued by so many as we focus spending on services for our community. Our plans – and this budget – continue our long term aims of planning and investing for the future.”