Rugby Borough Council has adopted a ‘radical and transformative’ budget according to its leader.
Cllr Seb Lowe (Con, Coton and Boughton) told this week’s (February 22) full council meeting that the measures would address key priorities as the country moves into a post pandemic phase.
He said: “We have spoken a lot at council meetings in recent years about looking at transformation, by which we mean the transformation of the organisation and the transformation of the borough.
“Since our last budget setting meeting, this council has taken a number of key steps which have laid down the foundations for genuine transformation. Having laid these foundations, this budget is designed to give the tools we need to finish the job.
“I am pleased to report that our senior officers in cabinet have been working closely with partners on a transformation programme which has identified a huge number of savings and income generating areas that this authority can make use of without compromising the frontline services that we deliver.”
Councillors approved a £5 council tax increase on a band D property and were informed that officers had already identified £293,000 of immediate savings with more expected.
Cllr Lowe then outlined plans for the centre of Rugby: “The scale of the ambition this administration has for the town centre is enormous - this is a once in a century opportunity to bring about long and lasting change funded by external investment enabling us to make the most of the huge unique advantages in terms of connectivity, geography and growth that this town already has in place.
“We have included an additional £1m of funding on top of the £400,000 already allocated that will allow us to pump-prime the transformation project.
“We have set a radical and transformative budget. Members should be under no doubt - genuine, radical, lasting transformation of this organisation and borough is the mission of this administration.
“The past year has seen us lay down solid foundations, this is a budget that will give us the tools we need to finish the job and I urge members to join me in voting for the leaner, greener and more prosperous future that this budget will enable us to unlock.”
Alternative budgets put forward by Rugby Borough Council’s Labour and Liberal Democrat groups included a £1m home insulation fund and cash to tackle run down parts of Rugby town centre.
Opposition councillors put forward their suggestions in response to the ruling Conservative group’s budget.
Labour leader Cllr Maggie O’Rourke (Lab, Benn) said: “This town is growing at an incredible rate and we need to increase the spending in our communities, not reduce it. We need to rebuild our town centre, not close it. We need to work with partners to deliver the infrastructure needed to support the new developments as well as increasing public service offerings locally. This is what the people of Rugby want - and demand."
She outlined four measures ranging from helping town centre businesses with green initiatives to community clean-up days.
And on the £1m home insulation fund, Cllr O’Rourke said: “In order to support local families we would launch a local fund to support them and stop them falling into fuel poverty while also reducing our carbon footprint.”
She acknowledged that government schemes already existed but pointed out that these were aimed at low income families on benefits, ruling out many others across the borough.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Jerry Roodhouse (Lib Dem, Paddox) urged councillors to back his party’s budget that would see immediate action taken on tackling town centre issues thanks to a £45,000 town centre improvement fund.
He said: “We should use some of the £150,000 that has come in from business rates to tackle some of the immediate issues while we wait for the town centre to get regenerated because it will take time.
“There are bits of the public realm that need tackling now and need improving now.”
In seconding the Lib Dem amendment, Cllr Neil Sandison (Lib Dem, Eastlands) said: “Rugby town centre is literally falling down around our ears. Some schemes put forward by developers have sadly fallen by the wayside leaving a number of properties vacant and easily accessible for a considerable time.”
Both amendments were defeated but there was a suggestion that the council’s scrutiny committee could look at setting up a task group to look at sites in Rugby needing the most urgent attention.