Council budget to support town centre regeneration and tackle climate change
Rugby Borough Council has announced that its focus during 2020-21 will be on supporting economic growth in Rugby town centre and on becoming carbon neutral in response to the climate emergency.
The announcement was made as the council set its budget for the new financial year at a meeting held on Tuesday evening (25 February 2020).
To support the town centre, Rugby Borough Council will create a £200,000 business startup fund to encourage retailers into the town centre. In addition, the council has established a joint town centre office with Rugby First. This team will be responsible for bringing forward proposals for redevelopment and regeneration of the current town hall site and other development sites, and will shortly start a consultation that will be the first step towards adopting a masterplan for the future of the town centre.
It was also revealed that the council will enter into an exclusivity agreement with an international hotel operator that is keen to open on a town centre site, while later this year councillors will be asked to consider proposals to create a council-owned trading company tasked with helping cover the cost of council services and boosting the supply of affordable homes.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Cllr Seb Lowe, Leader of Rugby Borough Council, said: “Changes to how we shop continue to have an impact on high streets across the country, but tonight I can announce a brand new business start-up fund worth £200,000 that will encourage independent and artisan retailers to choose Rugby town centre so that it becomes a destination of choice for businesses.
“We have also created a project office to support economic growth and regeneration of Rugby town centre and this has already chalked up its first success, having supported the Caldecott Square development site through to planning approval.
“And, with an economic development manager due to take up their post on 1 April, I can announce that we will soon start a consultation that will be the first step towards a new town centre masterplan.
This crucial piece of work will shape the future of the town centre over the next decade, so I’m pleased to confirm that our partners at Warwickshire County Council will join a project steering group so that the Rugby Transport Plan and town centre masterplan are developed together and jointly support both our economic and environmental objectives.”
To tackle climate change the council has approved a £0.5 million fund to kick start projects that will help the borough become carbon neutral by 2030, and has signed up to a regional project to build a materials recovery facility in Coventry. Once operational the council will be able to reduce fleet mileage associated with recycling collections and will have a greater say on the materials that will be recycled. A tree strategy, recommended by the Woodland Trust for all local authorities, is currently with partners for comments and will be adopted by summer, and a new taxi licensing policy that will recommend a transition to hybrid and electric vehicles will be presented for councillors to consider later this year. The council has committed to consider the impact on climate change in all future decisions and will fund projects as they come forward.
Addressing the climate emergency that was declared unanimously by a meeting of the council held last year, Cllr Lowe added: “How we respond to climate change is fast becoming the defining issue of our generation, and I am pleased to support the cross-party recommendation to allocate £0.5million to kick start the council’s work to become carbon neutral.
More importantly, I can confirm that this council will integrate work on climate change into everything we do. This will mean that residents will need to consider how they can reduce their own impact on the environment, and together we will need to consider how we can do things differently. Urban meadows, for example, lock carbon into the soil while making only a small change to how we maintain our open spaces.”
Rugby Borough Council’s share of the Council Tax, which accounts for around eight per cent of the total bill, will increase by £5 per year for an average Band D property. Around 76 per cent of the total bill goes to Warwickshire County Council, 12 per cent goes to Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner, and the remainder goes to town or parish precepts.
Speaking to councillors during the meeting, Cllr Lowe said:
I am proud to say that we are in a position to present a balanced and sustainable budget, with measures in place to ensure the future financial self-sufficiency of this council.
“More importantly, we are doing so in a way which will regenerate our town centre, which will bring jobs, growth, and investment to this town, and which will ensure that our environment is protected for future generations.”
For more information on the council’s budget see www.rugby.gov.uk/budget.