Tue, 27 Feb 2018
WEST Berkshire Council will invest more than £190m in the district over the next five years, as part of its capital programme.
Almost two thirds of that figure – £125.3m – will be spent on education services (£69.8m for new school places and improvements to school buildings) and maintaining roads and highways (£55.5m).
Of the £10.3m to be spent on education services in 2018/19, £4m has been allocated for building the new Highwood Copse Primary School, Newbury.
This is more than the council originally forecast, owing to the delay in commencing construction work on the school following issues with land availability.
The council has allocated £150,000 for Theale Primary School to provide sufficient accommodation to enable admission of higher numbers in September 2018, in lieu of the permanent expansion project completion.
Castle School has been allocated £720,510 to support an expansion project.
And the proposed new primary school at Sandleford Park will receive more than £7m from 2020 onwards to meet the impact from the development.
At a meeting of West Berkshire Council’s executive on Monday, opposition leader Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) argued the council’s significant allocation of investment in education ate into funds for social services and that a fairer split between the two would paint a more realistic picture of the pressures on both sectors.
“In education, there is a £364k overspend on child placement costs, which is perfectly understandable,” said Mr Dillon.
“Would the council not agree that a fairer split of that money would be between education and social services?
“Given that the child would only spend so much time in school and the rest of the time being cared for, yet is still being paid for from an education budget.”
But West Berkshire executive member for highways and transport, Jeanette Clifford (Northcroft), claimed the council's allocation of capital investment had been carefully calculated.
She said: "At the heart of our capital programme is investment in two of our most important goals - better educated communities and a stronger local economy – and these are goals that really matter to the people of West Berkshire.
"It means real investment that will bring long term benefits to our residents – it is investment in bricks and mortar, in gravel and asphalt, in broadband fibre, in play equipment, libraries, leisure centres and so much more.
"It is an ambitious, costed, affordable, well thought out programme that the district can be proud of – and it will make West Berkshire a better place in which to live, work and learn."
Meanwhile, £1.3m has been set aside for adult social care for 2018/19.
The council will spend £56m over the five-year period on maintaining its transport and countryside, £38.2m of which will come from external grants.
A total of £19.6m has been allocated to carriageway resurfacing over the five years, along with £3.6m for the maintenance of major highway assets, including bridges and street lighting.
The Kings Road link road in Newbury will receive the highest single amount of capital expenditure on improving network management links, with £1.5m from government money.
Meanwhile, the council will invest £1.87m on improving the A339 Bear Lane Junction in a bid to improve traffic flow.
A combined total of £1m will be spent on building a new access to the Sandleford development.
Of this, £600,000 will be government money, while the council is investing £400,000.
In total, the council will spend a combined total of £3m over the next five years on access improvements at Sandleford, compared to the £1.5m which will be spent by developers.
A total of £5.2m has been allocated for investment in drainage and flood prevention, which includes £3.7m from Defra for major flood alleviation schemes, the majority of which will continue the work on implementing the Thatcham Surface Water Management Plan.
Approximately £7m will be spent on public transport infrastructure, with nearly £2m being invested in the construction of a new public transport interchange in Newbury’s Wharf area.
There will also be a £6m LEP- (local enterprise partnership) funded upgrade to Newbury Railway Station, spread over the next three years until 2021.
The programme also includes £96,000 for remodelling of the West Street House and Market Street council reception areas to ensure they meet the developing needs of services and service users.
An additional £4m will also be allocated to facilitate the delivery of superfast broadband across West Berkshire.
The capital programme includes approximately £17,000 per year for building works to foster carers’ homes, to enable more children with disabilities to be fostered within West Berkshire.
A £618,000 investment is planned for structural maintenance of Shaw House and its grounds.