Leader column: wishing everyone a Happy New Year
Published: 7 January 2020
I want to start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year, and I hope everyone had a good holiday break.
For many of us it’s now about getting back to work, and all of us at the Council have got a particularly busy agenda coming over the next few months.
Once again it’s great news for Exeter Chiefs being top of the Rugby Premiership and being seeded second in Europe in the forthcoming Champions Cup. We wish our team much success.
Turning to football, Exeter City continue to do well and remain second in the league. It is also great news that women’s football continues to gain prominence, and hopefully we will soon see a professional team here in Exeter.
Exeter is the third biggest spender on culture of any local authority in the country, and we were recently awarded UNESCO City of Literature status, which is a permanent status. All involved in this fantastic achievement should be congratulated, and we will be able to reveal more plans on this shortly.
One of the major projects I am turning my attention to this year is the ongoing issue of homelessness and street attachment.
Many of us know there is a crisis facing the whole country, and I want to turn our focus on what we can do better. We already have an excellent record in dealing with street attachment and homelessness, giving advice and support at all stages. I have mentioned before the good work that our winter night shelter does and our outreach teams.
But I feel we should be doing more and we can do more, and I am redirecting attention to this. I intend to work with other agencies and volunteer groups that already exist in Exeter and are already doing excellent work in supporting the homeless and street attached. Hopefully we can have a joined up approach where we can improve the lives and opportunities of those who find themselves in this situation.
I am pleased that I am bringing forward to the Council’s Executive an opportunity paper about Clifton Hill. This will redevelop the former brownfield site and will produce homes for residents while preserving the open green space to the rear.
We have commissioned a report by consultants Fourth Street who will be advising us on the prospect of bringing forward plans for an entertainment venue in Exeter.
Previously, we aimed to have that on the remaining bus station site. But it is clear that finance will not be possible for that, so another option we are now looking at is the possibility of updating the Corn Exchange, which could be transformed into a venue with 1,000 seats, and 1,350 standing for concerts. This will be discussed shortly by the Executive and Council.
My attention over the coming weeks will be preparing a balanced budget to present to Council in February.
Despite national pronouncements on austerity, the council will face a reduction in finances of £3.7m, owing to a phased reduction of New Homes Bonus and the re-set of the Business Rates.
This will cause me a major challenge - it represents around 29 per cent of our budget. I will update further as proposals come forward.