Doncaster's directly-elected mayor has pledged to invest £316m in capital projects across the borough that will include the creation of 330 new school places and 140 'affordable' council houses.
The council says its Capital Programme will lead to job creation, skills, housing, school buildings, roads, town centre regeneration - with support for the disabled and elderly at the 'heart of the spending'.
It is also delivering a number of ‘invest to save’ projects, with new equipment and technology, through which it aims to help improve services and reduce annual running costs.
A council spokesman said it is hoped these projects will help to 'minimise the impact of government cuts'.
Mayor Jones commented: “Everyone knows about the deep government cuts to our revenue budget, which has vastly reduced the money we have to spend running public services every year. However, we will not allow those cuts to take Doncaster backwards, so we have worked hard to create a Capital Programme that enables us to invest in the borough and its future.”
“This programme isn’t just about the future though. Our plans will also deliver real improvements for people straight away, including thousands of home adaptations to support the elderly and disabled, and improvements to grass cutting, street cleaning and street lighting.”
Capital spending differs from revenue spending, which covers the day to day costs of running council services. Most capital investment is allocated for spending on specific projects, and can reduce council running costs by providing more efficient facilities and equipment
The budget includes 330 new primary school places are estimated to be created over the next year following an investment of £3.9m, while there will be improvement works in 32 schools. The £2.6million programme will see a range of improvements including electrical and lighting upgrades, window replacement and heating system improvements at schools in areas across Doncaster.
Widespread improvements to council housing are proposed, with the £14.9m Affordable Housing building programme set to create 140 council-owned affordable units over the next four years. There will also be a £5.2m investment in thermal efficiency, completing a three–year programme which will result in improvements to 1,660 council properties. A further £17m will be spent on improving and maintaining the existing housing stock, with the 2016/17 focus on improvements to communal areas, heating upgrades and refurbishment of void properties.
An estimated £18.3million is also set to be invested in the National College for High Speed Rail over the next two years, following the start of construction in the Spring.
There will also be £9.1million invested in phase two of the FARRRS project, which will unlock 395,000m2 of commercial development space at Doncaster Sheffield airport. Town Centre regeneration projects are set to include improvements at Doncaster Market, the civic and cultural quarter, and around the railway station utilising money from the Sheffield City Region Investment Fund (SCRIF).
An estimated 1,200 housing adaptations for the disabled will be completed each year of the budget, with an estimated total funding package of £11.2million. There will also be between 60 and 80 places created at an extra care facility for the elderly, achieved by working with housing partners and investing £2million.
Future running costs will be reduced by a further £3.8million investment in the Smartlight project, which has already seen new LED streetlights installed in several areas of the borough and will protect the council from rising energy costs in the future. There will also be a range of road safety, traffic management and surface improvement works to local footpaths, roads and bridges during the budget, with an investment of £6m through the Local Transport Plan (LTP).
Increasing the efficiency of council services will be assisted by a £3.9m investment in IT projects, improving the council’s management of information and increasing online accessibility to customers.
Additional investment will be made in the borough’s public leisure centres, with £2.1m earmarked for maintenance and system replacement works, mainly at Adwick, Dearne Valley and the Dome.
There will also be a £1m investment in refurbishing the roof and façade of the Grade II* Listed Corn Exchange at Doncaster Market.
Speaking about the proposed budget, Mayor Ros Jones said: “This programme includes millions of pounds worth of investment in major projects to help transform our borough’s economy and increase opportunities for local people. Much of this money has been secured through our work with colleagues in the Sheffield City Region. We have adopted an outward looking, forward thinking approach for Doncaster, which is now starting to pay dividends for local residents and the region as a whole.”
“We need to drive Doncaster forward, not look to the past, and we will continue to be as innovative as possible.
“Within the next few years, we will see major projects continuing to deliver job opportunities, while infrastructure and service improvements will provide Doncaster the platform to continue its growth.”
The capital investment programme is part of the Mayor’s budget proposal and will be voted on by council members on March 1.