Dear Local Resident,
In these challenging times, being open and transparent has added importance. Councils across the country are seeking to deliver their services in the face of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that councils face cost pressures of over £5 billion in 2021/22.
We want to take this opportunity to outline our precept decision, its impact, and our strategic aspirations.
What will the increases be?
A precept increase of 9.5% has been agreed and a precept budget of £1,289m approved. In real terms, this equates to an additional sum of £14.61 per annum or 28.02p per week for a Band D property.
Why are these increases necessary?
The precept adjustment is financially prudent for the following reasons:
1. To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and the accompanying reduction in income.
2. To allow us to invest in the town through 2021/22 and beyond. This includes the development of the Neighbourhood Plan; proposed conservation work to the Drove Road Cemetery and Chapel; acquisition of a new depot and modern equipment to support the work of the Public Realm team; Town Centre refurbishment; expansion of our market offer; promotion of community events and the launch of a new website featuring more self-service functions. The Public Realm team is responsible for managing and maintaining a number of the green spaces and areas within Biggleswade.
3. To continue to support through Council grants community organisations, such as Carers in Bedfordshire, the Ivel Sprinter Community Bus, Keech Hospice Care, the Magpas Air Ambulance, and Biggleswade ATC Squadron and Biggleswade Sea Cadets. All have been hit hard by COVID.
Biggleswade aspires to be one of the best Town Councils in the United Kingdom for the betterment of our community and residents. This is a significant aspiration and needs to be properly resourced. The proposed budget and precept figures will allow for much-needed investment at a time when the Council is attempting to respond to a projected 40% population increase over the current 21,000. The increased investment in the community will help deliver the infrastructure Biggleswade needs.
A Community Engagement Group has been established as integral to our commitment to listening to the issues raised by local residents who make Biggleswade what it is. This will complement the voice of our Members; for example, the newly formed Group will be gathering community views on our emerging Neighbourhood Plan and the new Town Council website.
The Neighbourhood Plan
Biggleswade Town Council (BTC) is in the process of producing a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish area. A Neighbourhood Plan allows a community to play a more prominent role in its future, giving it the power to create a shared vision and policies that will shape the development and growth of the area.
The Neighbourhood Plan, once adopted, will sit alongside the Local Plan prepared by Central Bedfordshire Council. An adopted Neighbourhood Plan carries significant weight in determining future planning applications located in or affecting the parish.
The launch of the new BTC website
The Council is currently working on its new website, which will be more user-friendly, accessible, and informative in order to offer maximum value to our residents. It will be accessible on all electronic devices and will allow users to book and pay for a number of our services online.
Parks and open spaces
BTC owns and manages a number of parks, open spaces and play areas, providing sports facilities, walks by the River Ivel and play areas to suit all ages and spread across the town. There is never a shortage of outdoor activities in the area.
BTC runs and manages markets on a Tuesday and Saturday. At present this is limited to essential traders but we are currently determining how we can transform this offer so as to attract a greater footfall and maximise the commercial benefits to the Town Centre and complement the retail park.
The Orchard Community Centre in the new housing development off Baden Powell Way is a popular modern venue offering the choice of a Main Hall or a smaller Training Room to suit all requirements.
BTC operates six car parks around Biggleswade, mainly within the town centre.
The Town Council owns and maintains the two cemetery sites in Drove Road and Stratton Way. The Chapel in Drove Road is a Grade II-listed building.
BTC manages an allotment site at Kennel Farm Road. The site has 97 full allotment plots and 104 half allotment plots, all of which are available exclusively to Biggleswade residents.
A modern and progressive Council
Great emphasis has been placed on modernising the Council to make it more effective and to ensure that services are more accessible to residents.
In summary, the Council remains fully committed to delivering on our Community Promise, namely, to be open, trustworthy, and honest; providing value for money whilst empowering and working with the community to achieve success for all.
Town Clerk & Chief Executive