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Investment in community projects agreed in the new SDC budget

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Improved community facilities, investment in local projects and help for residents who are struggling with the cost of living are key features of Stroud District Council’s 2024/25 budget.

A Full Council meeting approved the budget which includes committing a further £150,000 to refurbish play areas for children and families, building on the programme of six play areas which are already being renewed in Dursley, Stonehouse, Paganhill, and Stroud.

The agreed budget also confirms continued investment in the network of Community Hubs across the district and £120,000 for additional climate and nature recovery projects, which includes further action to reduce single use plastics.

Stroud District Council has responsibility for housing and planning and is committed to providing social housing and continuing to build new eco-efficient council homes. The budget allocates funding for the construction of 51 new council homes in Cam, Dursley, Wotton-under-Edge and Cashes Green. It will also provide extra resources for planning enforcement and to support the new requirement for planning applications to consider biodiversity net gain.

Investment in leisure and wellbeing services is also budgeted for in 2024/25, with the council taking on management of Stratford Park Leisure Centre later this year. Funding is also allocated to the waste and recycling service for new collection vehicles which will be powered by low-carbon hydrotreated vegetable oil instead of diesel. 

New initiatives and projects have also been included in the budget approved this week. 

A new Market Towns Vitality Fund of £200,000 was supported, to promote thriving high streets, with the fund to be co-designed with local town and parish councils, businesses and business organisations over the coming months. 

Investment of £200,000 was also confirmed for a new project to undertake improvement works around Stroud station. This work had been part of the Council’s levelling up fund bid and will involve acquiring land to provide pedestrian and cyclist access from the Brunel Mall multi-storey car park into the station.  It will also cover the purchase of the historic Brunel-designed Goods Shed to secure the future of Stroud Valleys Artspace on this site and modernisation work to make the Goods Shed more accessible to visitors. 

To provide extra support to community groups, the budget allocates £135,000 to a new crowdfunding platform which will reward successful local projects with match funding. 

Council Leader Catherine Braun said: “This budget will deliver improved services for our residents and businesses, in line with the council plan objectives to support our communities and the local economy, and to meet our ambitious climate and nature goals. I’m delighted that we are also investing in new initiatives this year with the project for Stroud station access and the Market Towns Vitality Fund.”

Recognising that the cost of living affects many households and with foodbank usage continuing to rise, the budget makes provision for those on low incomes to receive council tax support of up to 100% with their council tax bill.  

To help address the housing crisis, the budget also seeks to incentivise homeowners to bring over 500 second homes and over 300 empty homes in the district back into use through a council tax premium.  The council resolved to introduce a new 100% Council Tax premium on second homes from April 1, 2025. And from that date, the 100% premium on empty homes will be apply from one year, rather than from two years currently. It will continue to rise to 200% after five years of a property being empty, and to 300% if a property remains empty after 10 years.

Deputy Leader Natalie Bennett said “The Government’s funding settlement for councils assumes that all district councils will increase council tax by three per cent. We have decided to keep the council tax increase to this minimum level, in the light of the ongoing impact of the cost of living crisis on residents.  I’m pleased that there was unanimous support from councillors for maintaining our council tax support scheme that already helps the most vulnerable 5,500 households in the district”. 

The agreed budget will mean a Council Tax increase of 2.99% for Stroud District Council services, which represents just 13p per week for the average Band D household.   Stroud District Council’s services make up approximately 11% of the Council Tax bill, with the other elements provided by Gloucestershire County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire, and the Parish and Town Councils.

The council’s services include waste and recycling, planning, environmental health, parking, parks and recreation, leisure centres, The Museum in the Park, canal restoration, animal welfare, benefits administration and advice, elections, youth work, upkeep of open spaces including Selsley Common and Cam Peak and Long Down upkeep, plus licensing and flood management.

Stroud District Council and the district as a whole were recently rated well above the national average in the most recent independently conducted satisfaction survey of residents and businesses.

A recording of the meeting can be viewed online and the agenda papers are also on the council’s website.

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