Bedford Borough mayor to use council’s financial reserves for ‘priority’ initiatives

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Mayor Dave Hodgson

In his first major announcement on Council spending since being re-elected, Bedford Borough’s mayor has outlined a series of initiatives which he says “demonstrates the strength of [his council’s] commitment to making a real difference to people’s lives.”

Dave Hodgson has said he’s reallocating £2.4million of council reserves to help pay for four priorities that will be delivered over the next four years.

  • Town Centre Initiatives: To increase town centre footfall by funding public events that are additional and complementary to the range of services, goods and attractions already attracting people to Bedford town centre by traders.
  • Climate Change Fund: A re-established climate change grant fund will help not-for-profit organisations and facilities become more sustainable with renewable energy and energy conservation measures.
  • Young People Empowerment Fund: Third Sector groups working with children and young people will gain council support for initiatives in local communities that demonstrate a positive impact for children and young people.
  • Street Scene and Local Environment Improvements: To protect, enhance and maintain open spaces, highways and the public realm in general.

The mayor says the reserves are no longer needed after what he says was “a thorough examination of council reserves to ensure they are directed at key priorities.”

His cabinet are now set to approve the funding reallocation at a meeting this week (26 June).

But, while the initiatives have been welcomed generally, critics say they may not go far enough and a reallocation of council reserves raises concerns with how council money is managed.

“Mayor Hodgson claims the Council is under serious financial pressure but has underspent his budget by over £11m in the past four years,” said Cllr Coombes, Bedford Borough Council’s Conservative group leader.

“The decision to create a ‘Young People Empowerment Fund’ is welcome but he is the mayor that slashed children’s play schemes and the transport subsidy for sixth form pupils. He has a lot to do to regain the trust of young people and parents.

“It was a key theme of the Conservative election campaign in May to revitalise the town and Mayor Hodgson has responded to this pressure with funding for town centre initiatives, though the details are as yet unknown.

“We must see what they are but they need to be delivered very quickly. It is disappointing that he has failed to take on board our plans for a town centre task force involving residents and businesses and increase the provision of free car parking.”

In response, the mayor said: “The funding being allocated to these initiatives over the next four years demonstrates the strength of our commitment to making a real difference to people’s lives.

“From the town centre to our local neighbourhoods, from our local to our wider environment, and from our young people to those of all ages seeking employment, this funding will have a positive impact on people and places right across Bedford Borough.”

To read more about the initiatives and their associates report, head to Bedford Borough Council’s website where they are listed at item 11 on the agenda for the Bedford Borough Council Executive meeting on 26 June.