This additional investment means that, if approved, some £185m of capital investments will made into the Borough over the next four years.
It is also proposed that a further £2.7m of council capital funding is set aside towards developing ‘The Forum II’, an educational, cultural and business space for the digital, cultural and creative industries. This extension to The Forum will, subject to relevant approvals, be majority-funded by Local Growth Funding and South Essex College.
The capital budget, which is separate to the council’s reducing revenue budget, is a rolling budget used to make one-off investments in things like regeneration and housing projects, and to carry out essential improvements to leisure and cultural facilities and ICT systems for example. Funding is raised from a mix of external funding, reserves and borrowing.
Proposed new investment includes:
- Adding a further £10m to the current budget for investment in commercial property. As central Government funding reduces, councils must become financially self-sustaining. Continuing to build a commercial investment portfolio will help build long-term income streams to help fund services. The fund will also be used to secure housing for temporary accommodation. The funds will only be spent if and when appropriate opportunities arise.
- £3.7m on highways schemes, including:
£350,000 to improve the condition of pavements around existing trees.
£325,000 to stabilise an area of emerging cliff slip close to Manor Road, to protect the public footway, coastal road and support of private properties.
£300,000 to undertake improvements to Shoebury Common North, including the creation of a new children’s play area, new paths, new seating and outdoor fitness equipment.
£250,000 to create coach parking and drop-off facilities to accommodate visitors to the seafront.
£200,000 to develop and improve car parking signage for the whole Borough and introduce new signage for the seafront car parks and potential park and ride sites.
- £1m for fire improvement works that become necessary due to any national changes to building regulations and compliance, and £500,000 for planned refurbishment to council property.
- £925,000 for essential works at our theatres and leisure centres.
- £875,000 to convert the former Beecroft Art Gallery in Station Road, Westcliff-on-Sea to 20 artist studios for rent. The building is owned by the Beecroft Art Trust and this project will largely be funded through £575,000 from Arts Council England and other external funding.
- £400,000 to create a small number of local residential care places for children. This will enable children to stay near their communities, improve their life chances and reduce the number of costly out of borough placements saving £80,000 per year.
- £750,000 to get the Better Queensway project to the next stage of development.
- £500,000 to implement security measures required due to current national threat levels, focused on high footfall areas such as the seafront.
“Capital and revenue budgets are two separate things, and we must continue to fund essential things like secondary school places, ensuring that our famous Pier is safeguarded, maintained and improved and investing in plans to look after our elderly and vulnerable through developing new facilities which we are already doing through money already allocated.
“These new projects will allow us to do things like build a commercial property portfolio to give us long-term income streams in the future, carry out important flood prevention works in the central seafront area, carry out fire improvement works where necessary and keep all our buildings up to the standard that local people rightly expect.
“We are also proposing significant new investment in a number of highways projects, and ensuring that we remain a modern business and workforce, by investing in ICT and software improvements.
“Wherever possible these projects will bring income into the council or just must be done. Despite the austere times this gives us an impressive capital budget to make a difference to important local facilities and infrastructure and shows that we are open for business and here to do the very best for local people and businesses.”
The new investment would take the approved capital programme for 2018/19 to 2021/22 to £185m of which the level of external funding to support this investment will be £72m. For 2018/19 alone, the investment in the Borough will be £88m.