Monthly column: Investing in our infrastructure

Hometown tourist
Bedford footbridges, including the Butterfly Bridge, will receive maintenance over the next 12 months

I am pleased that we are able to continue to invest in our infrastructure.

This is despite increased pressures on the Council’s budget and the national economic situation with high inflation and the cost of living crisis and due to good financial management at the Council.

The good financial management of this council is why we are not in the same situation as many other authorities across the country. If you look at many Conservative-run councils like Croydon, Leicestershire and most recently Thurrock, they have 10s of millions – sometimes 100s of millions – in funding gaps. Of course in Northamptonshire, the local authority effectively declared itself bankrupt and was then abolished.

We inherited a lot of debt from the Conservative County Council and we have taken action to reduce it from over £90 million to £65 million. This means we are spending less on debt and have more funding available for vital services for residents. When you compare this to Central Bedfordshire Council, we are spending around 50% less on debt interest as a proportion of the total budget. This has given us the headroom to manage the external pressures we have been facing in this year’s budget.

We recently announced that the Council will invest millions into the Schools Capital Programme in 2024. This will fund two new primary schools in Wixams and Sharnbrook and around 40 new classrooms through expansions to Wixams Academy, Bedford Academy and schools west of Bedford. The investment will make sure that there is strong education infrastructure across the Borough.

Investing in schools and education is a top priority. It is vital that we have the classrooms in place so that our school children can have the best start to life. Bedford Borough is a popular place for young families to settle down, so it is important that we look ahead and invest in schools to match that demand.

The Schools Capital Programme sets out plans to build two new primary schools in Wixams (approximately 28 classrooms) and Sharnbrook (at least 7 classrooms). There will also be expansions to existing schools, with around 40 new classrooms being built across Wixams Academy, Bedford Academy and schools west of Bedford.

Since I have been Mayor, there have been 10 new schools built across the Borough. The next school to be built has now been given the planning green light, meaning there will be a brand new 200-place Special Education Needs and Disabilities School in Kempston opened in September 2024.

We have also announced several new projects to be added to the Council’s Capital Programme and we are continuing to invest in capital projects across the Borough that will benefit residents now and for years to come.

Paula Radcliffe Way is a major route into Bedford and residents will be pleased that we are resurfacing it so that it remains safe for all road users. I’m also pleased that we are installing news lifts at River Street Car Park and new Changing Places Toilets. This will continue to make the Borough a welcoming and accessible place for all residents.

Previously announced capital projects have also been expanded. Brookside Care Home will see a complete refurbishment and enhancement to reduce the carbon footprint, including a new roof with solar panels, replacement windows and improved insulation. The footbridges by the river will also be structurally maintained to ensure they remain safe for residents.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mayor Dave Hodgson. It is published unedited and
does not reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.