Agenda item

Leader's Update

To receive an update from the Leader of the Council, Councillor Richard Biggs.

Minutes:

Members received an update from the Leader, Councillor Biggs, about the ongoing activities and key work ahead for the Council.

The Leader reported that the Council is in a strong position.

The Corporate Plan presented to the Committee in July 2023 had reported on delivering homes, balancing the budget, and building towards the future, as well as the challenges around costs for both the Council and residents and the projected pressures on recruitment and retention. Since this report was received, the Council’s work has continued, providing support for those in most financial need and enabling others with information and guidance to assist their situation. Teams across the organisation within Community Development, Money Support, Housing and others are therefore all kept very busy responding to these needs, and the Leader thanked these teams for all the work carried out on this issue.

Financial Planning

The annual Service and Financial Planning process is underway, considering ways to be more efficient in use of resources, while maintaining services at high standards, and discovering ways to identify additional income and savings.

Commercial Activities

Portfolio Holders and officers continue to monitor progress of the companies owned by the Council; updates on these companies and the Council’s wider commercial strategy will be presented to this committee in December 2023.

Portfolios

New Executive Members are in post and portfolio priorities have been agreed, which will guide forthcoming work responding to current context and effectively delivering the Council’s objectives.

Anti-social behaviour

The Council continues to address anti-social behaviour, including through the recent concluded survey on the Public Space Protection Order in Redhill.

Town centres

Early indications are that The Rise is helping to boost footfall in Redhill.

Visitor levels to the Borough’s town centres have recently exceeded 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic.

Environmental Sustainability

Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil is being considered for new fleet vehicles which should reduce the Council’s carbon emissions by about 24%, however this would carry an additional financial cost; the benefits and costs are therefore being assessed and need to be balanced.

Housing

The Council has been able to access funding from the Department of Levelling Up Communities and Housing to help provide additional temporary housing in the local area, working together with local registered providers.

Options for securing a second round of funding are being explored, which will again help with providing temporary accommodation, particularly families displaced from Afghanistan.

These additional temporary accommodation units assist the Council in providing better provision for families, helping to save money by not relying on bed-and-breakfast accommodation, and reducing the demand on other local housing stock.

Local highlights

·         Work has commenced on delivering outdoor fitness areas in Woodhatch, Lady Neville Recreation Ground, and Priory Park.

·         A new transformation plan announced for Redhill library, supported by Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding.

·         Consultation on the next round of subway improvements in Horley.

Looking forward

·         Preliminary work has started on reviewing the Corporate Plan, looking at how residents can be best supported from 2026-2030. This work would involve all Members.

·         The new Local Plan will be coming forward in line with the Local Development Scheme, providing a sound basis on local planning policy.

·         Ways of working with the NHS to ensure locally integrated healthcare are being investigated, building on work with Surrey and Surrey Downs place-based health partnerships, including preventative measures and social prescribing.

·         Pride in Surrey will take place in Priory Park this Saturday, along with the Heritage Open Day.

The Leader invited Members to ask questions on his update. In response, the following clarifications were provided:

Resources and cost savings

Cost savings are being reviewed throughout the year whilst maintaining high quality services to residents. Staffing continued to be the biggest cost and balancing resources was challenging. Capacity was under regular review and vacant posts were evaluated before being recruited to. Collaborative work with other Local Authorities, technical efficiencies and redeployment were all options that would be considered with compulsory redundancy as a very last resort.

Local Plan

The Leader confirmed that consultation on the Local Plan would be ongoing throughout the entire process, including consultations with residents, Members, Residents’ Associations, parish councils, Planning Committee Members, and the Local Plan Advisory Group.

Anti-social behaviour

The Leader confirmed that the Council works with the Police to tackle anti-social behaviour. There was an intention to carry out more work in town centre management, in partnership with Surrey County Council and the Police. The Light creates an atmosphere of positive social behaviour, and it was hoped that this would discourage anti-social behaviour.

Horley Business Park

The Leader confirmed that he had met with the leader of Surrey County Council, the largest landowner in the business park area, to consider the best way forward for Horley Business Park.