Council Meeting 26 January
What should have been a short meeting was not completed until around 8.30pm. Several inaccuracies were found in some of the papers presented and time was taken up making amendments before decisions could be taken. The most significant decision was to agree to adopt a working age council tax reduction scheme which would allow council taxpayers on universal credit to receive up to 100% reduction of council tax and simplify the bandings used to calculate reduction amounts.
Cabinet Meeting 6 February
Cabinet will be considering the General Fund budget and Housing Revenue Account (HRA)budget for 2023/24. The administration is proposing a zero increase in Council Tax. Even without any increase, the proposed surplus of income over expenditure is planned to be £3.045million. Whatever Cabinet decides, the budget will go to the full Council meeting on 23 February for debate and decision. Cabinet will also consider the HRA budget, and their recommendation will also be debated, and decisions taken by full Council. A 7% increase in council house rents is being proposed – just over £6 for social rents and £9 for affordable rents. Also, a 10% increase in garage rents – in line with the increase in CPI – and increases in sheltered housing service and utility charges.
Cabinet are being asked to agree to pause the delivery of the electric bus rural transport project. This project was included in the 2022/23 budget as a result of an opposition amendment to the budget. An update on progress with the Stowmarket Health, Education and Leisure Facilities (SHELF) project will be considered by Cabinet with a recommendation that a full planning application be submitted.
We attended the A14 works consultation update on 27 January. The latest programme has the following details: For periods of five days or so at a time, between 7 February and 13 March, one carriageway of the A14 will be closed overnight in order to construct crossover points (just east of junction 47A, Haughley New Street, to just west of junction 49, Tothill) for the contraflow system. The closure will be from junction 43 (Bury sugar beet factory) to junction 51 (Coddenham). We have, again, asked for very clear signage to ensure the minimum of HGV traffic comes through our patch but an increase on A1120 can be expected. The contraflow system will then be in place between junctions 47a and 49 for when work starts. From 14 March for six months the eastbound carriageway will be replaced so everyone will drive on the westbound carriageway, between the crossover points, one lane each way with a 50mph speed limit. Then there will be a couple of night closures to reverse the contraflow system and six months work to replace the westbound carriageway so everyone then drives on the new eastbound carriageway, one lane each way. Further details are on: www.nationalhighways.co.uk/A14concrete. Information will be updated as work proceeds. Completion is anticipated in April/May 2024 depending on the weather and other factors.
Council Homes – Safety Issues
Action is being taken to resolve issues within the service which maintains council housing. Officers began a programme of in-depth assessments and have identified problems with health and safety compliance. Across the two districts’ 6,788 homes, 344 do not currently have up-to-date electrical safety reports. Gas inspections are also overdue on 92 properties, and asbestos reinspection surveys are required on 33 homes. Urgent work is already underway – including additional inspections, an overhaul of existing processes, and obtaining more robust data around health and safety compliance to provide tenants with complete reassurance.
The spine road connecting A1120 through the site to Mill Lane, Creeting St Peter did not open to traffic before Christmas. But a ‘grand opening ceremony’ was held on 1 February. Work has commenced on the building for The Range.
Stowmarket Placemaking and Wayfinding Project
Keith attended a briefing on this project. Unfortunately, it was poorly attended. The interim report from the consultants is now available. It is agreed that there is much to be done if Stowmarket is to be promoted as a tourist destination. More should be made of the agricultural and industrial heritage of the town. Safer and more convenient movement around the town is needed. Also, hotels, B&B establishments, quality food outlets, improved shopfronts, removal of non-essential traffic.
Local Planning Issues
DC/22/03761 – reserved matters application for the erection of 18 dwellings on land opposite the church. A further meeting has been held with representatives of the Parish Council, Vincent Pearce (MSDC Planning Officer) and representatives of Landex. Revised drawings have been submitted and the application is due to be determined on 1 March. The area for the car park has been removed from the application site.
DC/22/03911 and 03895 – applications to modify S106 obligations, including removal of obligation to provide car park for the school and church, in respect of the site mentioned above. Discussions are still ongoing.
DC/22/02091 – application for 14 new dwellings to the rear of site mentioned above. This application has been refused.
We still have funds available and would welcome applications from any local club or organisation in need of funding towards the cost of a local project.
Councillor Keith Welham: email@example.com / 01449 673 185
Councillor Rachel Eburne: firstname.lastname@example.org / 01449 673 311