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Agenda item

Annual State of the Borough Report

To receive the annual ‘State of the Borough’ report and receive a verbal update from the Leader of the Council.  

Minutes:

22.1           The Leader of the Council was invited to make his State of the Borough presentation which covered the following key points:

·         Our COVID response - the Council had responded very quickly and efficiently to the demands of the pandemic on its community – the Leader of the Council felt the structure put in place by the Council had been second to none and he thanked all Officers involved for their hard work in delivering it; the Council had supported local businesses to gain access to government COVID-19 support grants – with more than £30 million awarded to over 1,500 local businesses since March 2020; businesses had been supported throughout the pandemic through the Growth Hub – including around 100 webinars to more than 360 attendees – topics included online marketing, video development, social media and goal setting; the Council had provided support to reopen the high streets and retail centres across the Borough through a range of promotion activity funded by the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund; the Council had worked with community groups to provide a winter grant scheme which had helped 556 vulnerable families struggling to pay for food, essential supplies and fuel costs; a COVID-19 microsite had been built and maintained so information was easier to access and digest; the countywide response and recovery to homelessness had been actively supported – the Leader of the Council explained that the country had a huge housing problem and the Council was responsible for making strategic plans and providing housing for those that needed it - there were two priorities in the Council Plan that aimed to address that; and delivery of 81 virtual Committees and Member Working Groups. 

·         Key achievements included – the Tewkesbury Garden Town was awarded £2.4 million of funding by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) – the Leader of the Council advised that he could not stress enough how significant this was and the support and commitment it showed from the government to ensure the Council achieved its ambitions; a crucial part of the infrastructure needed for Tewkesbury’s emerging Garden Town, a bridge over the railway at Ashchurch and Northway, had been permitted by the Planning Committee; building on the Council’s longstanding commitment of improving sustainability through its Clean and Green Environment Portfolio, it had one of the best recycling rates and had approved a climate change and carbon reduction action plan with the aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030; the Garden Waste Club now had more than 18,500 customers enabling them to dispose of their garden waste in a sustainable way; a new long term lease for Cleeve Hill Golf Club was agreed with Cotswold Hub Co with the facilities and area set to be completely transformed – the Leader of the Council advised that this had responded to a very difficult problem when the previous organisation had pulled out he expressed how pleased he was at the way the situation had turned around and he thanked the Officers involved for their hard work; more than £192,000 in Community Infrastructure Levy payments were delivered to Parish Councils; the investment portfolio continued to perform well with a new commercial property being purchased which brought the total amount invested to £60 million – generating around £3.43 million gross rental and just under £2 million benefit to the Council; the new Business Transformation team had been launched and would help deliver improvement projects – the team had introduced a new digital platform within six months of going live helping the Council to provide its customers with a significantly improved online experience; an end-to-end review of the bulky waste service had been carried out and the Council now recycled/reused most of what was collected, booking lead times had reduced from seven weeks to one week, customers could now book online and the Council was on target to make £90,000 savings in the first year; and the Council had hosted a Local Government Association Peer Challenge with effective leadership, embracing digital change and a ‘can do’ attitude being reported among the positive feedback.

·         Looking forward – the Council would continue to deliver its Council Plan and Recovery Plan priorities – those needed to be flexible to accommodate its ongoing response to COVID while ensuring businesses and communities remained well supported; the Business Transformation team would continue to build on its early successes to date and the team’s new priorities would include support to licensing, planning, trade waste and community safety; Raisin UK, an online savings platform, had released findings of an economic study which revealed Tewkesbury Borough as the place most likely to recover the fastest from COVID-19 and the Leader of the Council expressed the view that this illustrated the effectiveness of Tewkesbury Borough Council; and financial sustainability would be challenging but the Council had found this drove a desire to improve further and do more with less – with austerity came innovation and the Council had proven over the years that was something it was good at.

22.2           The Mayor thanked the Leader for his informative presentation and invited questions from Members.  A Member indicated that she had spoken to a lot of people in her community recently and everyone had expressed how helpful the Officers had been and, in many cases, the amount of help offered had exceeded expectations which residents could not thank them for enough in extremely difficult times. Another Member expressed the view that the State of the Borough leaflet and presentation was a treasure trove of information which should be distributed far and wide across the Borough.

22.3           Accordingly, it was

                  RESOLVED          That the Leader of the Council’s annual State of the Borough                             report be NOTED.

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