Report for councillors: Update on issues relating to funding of recovery/regeneration planning
Issued to: Town Improvements Committee Meeting 18/05/2020
Purpose of Report
To give a high level update on potential CV19 recovery planning and associated funding issues
In light of CV19, any recovery planning must take stock of the new socio-economic position in which we find ourselves. It is unlikely our towns’ needs will be the same as before the crisis. There must be strong collaboration and a plan to reassess the visitor economy, including leisure provision and the permitted use of high street property, as well as the immediate needs of our resident communities.
Any such plan will have significant cost implications and there is currently a lack of clarity on where any such funding might come from.
Government Funding in response to COVID19
On 30th April 2020, Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, published on the Government’s website and on social media, a letter to town and parish councils stating, “As Local Government Secretary I want you to know that I am behind you and will support the vital work that you are doing in your communities. That is why I have made £3.2 billion of additional funding available to councils, with the latest tranche of £1.6 billion including a larger share for lower tier councils. If you have questions regarding funding I would encourage you to speak with your principal council”.
Following this open letter, many of us clerks made contact with our principal councils to enquire about the funding position.
On 5th May 2020, Sedgemoor DC forwarded a letter to all town and parish clerks stating SDC has received a grant of £1.2m, in addition to the initial £63,000 from the Government. SCC also received £25.6 m to help them with their services. The letter stated that, “This money is to help Sedgemoor District Council maintain its excellent services and cover the financial impact as a result of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak…And in reality, this latest grant will only cover about a third of the estimated financial impact, as current projections show that we could have an up to a £3.8m budget shortfall over the first three months of the pandemic and these figures will increase.”
SDC states that the Government’s expectation that some town and parish councils might need financial support from this grant, will only be considered if those lower tier councils can evidence extreme financial difficulty, after looking at their own reserves and the impact on future budgets.
Burnham & Highbridge TC faces some losses from non-operational services in the Princess, but carries reserves to weather the period as it chooses.
Partnering with Sedgemoor District Council
The SDC Strategic Director, has this month stated that SDC officers are keen to work alongside any recovery planning group established by Burnham & Highbridge Town Council, acknowledging that the imperative will be to work together rather than duplicate efforts. The proposal on this agenda to establish a regeneration partnership would be the obvious vehicle to start a review and recovery process.
Future sources of funding
It is clear that, in order to progress any regeneration/recovery, funding should be identified outside the Government CV19 grants made to principal councils.
Ultimately, at the current time, external revenue funding is stretched and any recovery plan will need to seek out capital pots. SDC plans to make applications to the Government for regeneration money across its area, which includes the towns of Burnham & Highbridge. For such applications to succeed they must fit with Government set criteria and therefore must identify specific on the ground needs as opposed to engagement of consultants. This means that a list of actual works should be identified at the first opportunity.
This Town Council should consider what confirmed funds it holds and perhaps revisit them to consider whether the projects identified under that expenditure are still appropriate.
For example, Burnham is in the process of spending in excess of £350,000 from the CIM fund to meet the agreed projects adapted from the Burnham Evolution business plan. This sum includes TC & SDC match funding. Although some of this funding is already committed, the town council might want to look closely at some of the projects and identified funding to ensure it meets the current and changing needs of Burnham.
Additionally, there are anticipated s.106 funds and potentially CIL money due from local developments, primarily in the Highbridge area. There is a potential to write and utilise a Parish Infrastructure Investment Plan (PIIP) to identify the infrastructure and investment needs within the community for any (as yet unconfirmed) CIL money.
The Council might choose to identify any surplus or potential sum for reallocation in its reserves. The Council carries £365k in EMR and c. £550k in its general reserve. Whereas some EMRs might offer potential funds available for reallocation within town improvements/regeneration, it must be kept in mind that regulations require us to maintain a level of general reserve to meet costs of unexpected events and to service commitments to cover between 3 and 6 months’ expenditure.
Report author: Sam Winter, Town Clerk
Report Date: 11th May 2020