Alan Dean

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stansted North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Learn more

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UDC round-up: council tax, airport, Local Plan & value for money

by Alan Dean on 13 February, 2018

We examined the proposed budget for Uttlesford District Council (UDC) at last Tuesday’s meeting of the scrutiny committee. There was no major objection or upset. It’s proposed that Uttlesford’s council tax rate rises by 2.99%, a whisker under the level at which a referendum would be needed by district councils. I asked for a better explanation: why 2.99%? It’s all too easy to pluck a number out of the air without explaining to the public how other funding has varied massively over the past few years and how council tax plugs the gap. Notably, central government’s funding of councils has brought Northamptonshire CC to its knees. Uttlesford’s not in that plight.

Agreement on the budget will be at a Council Meeting on February 22nd. As things stand, the biggest controversy at that meeting may involve a councillor who was outspoken on BBC Radio about the recently controversial (and now abandoned) Presidents Club charity event that employed young ladies in short skirts. I’m hoping the issue will resolve itself before the 22nd, so will reserve any remarks until a week on Thursday.

There have been informal discussions about Stansted Airport’s desire to lift its passenger limit above 35 million passengers per annum (mppa). I don’t see the hurry. Current levels are only just over 25 mppa and it’s ten years since the limit from lifted from 25 to 35 mppa. I’m also worried they are trying to ignore national commitments on carbon emissions from aviation and sneak though a local agreement that bypasses national targets.

The Local Plan workload gets bigger by the month as the enormity of promoting three Garden Settlements in the district comes more evident. The Council is still aiming at the next stage of public consultation to  be from June to August this year, an Examination in Public over the next winter and final adoption not until the autumn of 2019. Letting the last stage drift beyond the May ’19 local elections could be a big mistake, though the Planning Inspectorate may be the ultimate cause.

I’ve been concerned for a long time about the costs, mostly funded via Uttlesford DC, and delays in Stansted’s library and parish council office project. It’s almost 18 months since the construction ground to a halt after the groundwork cut through the water supply to adjacent premises. This led to a dispute between the parish council and the affected property owner. The electricity supply was diverted. A permanent rearrangement of the water supply has yet to be carried out. I have been under the impression for some months that the dispute remained unresolved. However, it now looks as though work could have resumed last November, but didn’t and hasn’t yet. I am concerned at the potential waste of public money and am asking UDC to conduct an investigation into whether the public is getting value for money.

 

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