Doncaster Council fights back against cuts to invest £349m in new projects

A NEW library and museum, 151 new council houses and two new link roads are to be built in Doncaster after a package of projects amounting to £349m in capital spending spent over the next four years was approved.

Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones

Doncaster Council said the projects aimed to “stimulate growth and job creation” in the borough, as its councillors fought back against “unfair cuts” that also saw them impose a 3.99 per cent council tax increase to help bridge a £44m funding gap it faces in its revenue budget over the next three years.

A report that went before councillors on Monday said the authority faced “very challenging” financial circumstances that “are not of our making” - and that a reduction in its Government grants and its commitment to pay the National Living Wage were among the “budget pressures” contributing to the gap in its revenue budget.

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As well as the council tax rise - which includes 2 per cent earmarked for the social care precept and amounts to an extra 95p per week for a Band D property council taxpayer - savings will be made across Council services to plug the gap. These include making £12.7m in savings by 2020/21 by supporting people to live in their own homes as their care needs increase.

But the Council said it had secured funding from a “range of external streams” that would allow it to commit to investing £349m in housing, schools, leisure and transport schemes over the next four years.

Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones said: “People are well aware of the government’s austerity cuts to our revenue budget. This has vastly reduced the money we have to spend on the day to day costs of running essential public services. However, these unfair cuts will not stop us from delivering our vital capital programme schemes, which continue to invest in the borough and our future.

“We have millions of pounds worth of investment lined up for a range of projects that will help transform our economy and provide more opportunities and better services for local people. What’s more, residents are going to see significant progress on many of these schemes this year.”

The projects include £13.9m for the new Doncaster Culture and Learning Centre on the site of the former Girls’ School site in Waterdale. It will include a central library, museum and art gallery.

Over the next two years, £19.3m will be spent on 151 new council houses, and £17.1m will be spent this coming year on improvements to the council’s existing housing stock.

In transport, £13.3m will be spent on the 3km Hatfield Link Road, which supports the J5/M18 Unity Project where 3,100 new homes built, and £10.3m will go towards the A630 Westmoor Link. The second and final phase of Great Yorkshire Way which completes the direct link from the motorway network to Doncaster Sheffield Airport is also supported in the budget.

Ms Jones added: “This capital programme is about more than just our future though. It will see real improvements for people straight away, including thousands of home adaptations to support the elderly and disabled, and improvements to our roads and street lighting. We’ll also be building more new Council houses and investing in our school buildings.”

‘Prudent planning’ offsets hike

Doncaster Council said its 3.99 per cent council tax increase was the lowest in South Yorkshire - and was down to “innovative and prudent financial planning”.

Two weeks ago The Yorkshire Post reported that English authorities are set to rake in an extra £1bn this coming financial year in a bid to plug Government budget cuts.

Across the region, authorities have time and time again approved the maximum rise they can without triggering a recommendation.

East Riding, Rotherham, Wakefield, Sheffield, Kirklees and Bradford have all approved 5.99 per cent council tax increases in recent weeks, which include 2 per cent for the social care precept.