Monday, 12 October 2015

Investing in our future

Along with the usual work going on at County Hall there have been two big issues that have been taking a lot of my time recently.  

Devolution, but that is for another day, and the Capital Programme which is how we plan and fund major projects across the county rather than the day to day business. 

Traditionally, when preparing the budget we have a detailed list of capital schemes programmed for the year ahead and that system has worked well for us. So you might be thinking why change it? 

However change it we must to meet the significant challenges that lie ahead of us.

Over the last couple of years our District and Borough Councils have been preparing their Local Plans, which include identifying sites for future housing.

These plans are gradually being given the green light by the Government and have major implications for the County Council.

Taking into account the number of houses in these Local Plans, means that by the year 2029 an extra 57,000 homes will be built across West Sussex.  For this year alone it is anticipated that around 3,250 homes will be built, with a further 4,000 projected for the following year.

Whatever your personal views are, this presents a big challenge for the County Council as we need to ensure there are good schools and enough classroom places for the children who will be growing up in these new homes.

It also means ensuring there are good roads to travel on, (not just sit on) to support a strong economy providing those all-important jobs for this and future generations of West Sussex residents.

Then, as people grow older, we need to ensure we have a good level of care and support for our elderly frail residents, either in their own home or in residential care.

So all our Capital Programme planning is around our three key priorities: start of life, the economy and later life.

Taking a five year view allows us to plan and manage the impact of the growth in house building but it will be an evolving process as we have to adapt to changes and I am sure in that time there will be a few!

The price ticket for this investment is an eye-watering £676 million over the next five years.  This is not all from the County Council I must stress but is made up of some WSCC money, government grants and developer contributions.

However when money is tight we need to take a planned and proactive approach to investment to ensure we get better value for taxpayers’ money and that funding is being targeted to the right places to ensure we continue to build a strong and vibrant economy and provide the best quality services for our residents.

The County Council will be meeting to debate and, all being well, agree these proposals on the 30th October and I am sure there will a good debate but I firmly believe we are doing what is best for our residents and the county, both now and in the future.

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