The Progressive Group will put forward an alternative budget at the full council meeting of Exeter City Council that will see a £2m investment in parks and open spaces, the reopening of a city centre public toilet, introduce lockable bicycle shelters and cycle charging points and replace Mallison Bridge - an important pedestrian link at the quay. The money will also reinstate a vital grants programme, a lifeline for grass roots community action and helping those most at need in the community (see amendments below).
The proposals also include a call for almost £150,000 of unspent money to be used to kick start work to establish the viability of a city wide programme to insulate homes and reduce household energy bills.
Co-leader of the Progressive Group and Green Party councillor Diana Moore, said:
“Our alternative budget will do more to respond to what people in Exeter tell us they want and meet community needs. It will help us make progress on tackling the climate and ecological emergencies without increasing borrowing. The Progressive group believes that we can create a fairer, greener city while adding value.”
Green councillor Carol Bennett said:
“Our amendments seek to prioritise community safety through investment in our parks. It is vital we maintain and enhance our open spaces for nature and also for residents and visitors to enjoy and feel safe.
“We are all very aware of the antisocial behaviour that people experience in our parks. By investing in infrastructure we can build people’s confidence that they will be safe in the city's parks and open spaces and enjoy them.”
Green councillor Amy Sparling said:
“Visitors to Exeter and many local people make a beeline for the Quay to enjoy a stroll along the river and sample some of the many local businesses there. We don’t need to send them round the houses and down a dark alley! Replacing Mallison bridge will restore a vital link for people walking, wheeling or cycling."
Councillor Diana Moore concluded:
“Our proposals do involve raising some extra revenue. We would do this by increasing parking charges by 2.5% - which would result in a very modest average 14p an hour increase on a typical Thursday evening. Our proposals offer good value for money. I’m sure most people would support a few pence on a parking charge knowing that their money will be directly helping to make our city fairer and greener.”
The full alternative budget proposals by Green councillors of the Progressive Group
Amendment 1: Capital Budget The proposed budget transfers surplus Income from the Guildhall Shopping Centre for 2023/24 (£1,089,000) to earmarked reserves for use for purposes as agreed with Government.
The amendment is to use the surplus income for relevant purposes i.e. to repair the Guildhall MSCP (Part A), so releasing the funds proposed to be drawn down through borrowing for use on other projects (set out in Part B):
a. Use £883,400 of the surplus income to fund the repairs to the Guildhall MSCP £883,400 in 2025/26, which would be in line with the agreement with Government.
b. To install and pilot in the Guildhall Car Park two lockable bicycle shelters for use by residents and one BDS cycle charging point for use by visitors and residents at a total cost of £9,400. The remaining surplus income (£196,200) should be transferred to earmarked reserves.
The investment (from borrowing) for works to the Guildhall MS Car Park to be reallocated for:
a. A contribution of £537,750 for the replacement of Mallison Bridge to match partners’ contributions (£500,000 DCC, ECQT and Bequest). Total project costs £1,037,750.00.
The replacement of Mallison Bridge not only alleviates the problems created on the historic Quayside of funnelling all users through a small passageway but will also restore a strategic cycle and walking route.
b. Invest £250,000 in the parks and open spaces infrastructure in the City Centre parks to boost investment in nature, play and improve community safety. c. One off refurbishment of Musgrave Row public toilets of £95,650.
Amendment 2: General Fund Car Parks It is proposed to:
A. Extend the charging periods on a Thursday evening for he John Lewis, Guildhall, Mary Arches (ground level) and Mary Arches (multi storey) to align with the charges for those car parks on every other night of the week (i.e. to Page 5 Agenda Item 4 10pm) and all other Central and Zone 1 Car parks.
This will raise (£37,077.60) p.a. To be spent on the one off reopening costs of £7,000 for Musgrave Row public toilets. Thereafter this income to be used to fund ongoing staff costs of £7,200 and £1,840 maintenance costs (Total £16,040). The remaining funds £21,037.60 to be used for planting in the city's parks.
B. To reverse the proposed cut to Exeter Community Grants Programme from £204,000 to £15,000 by increasing car parking charges across the board by 2.5% to raise £193,858 to create a Community funding programme of £208,858.
Amendment 3: General Fund Retrofit
In 2020 Council allocated £300,000 for three business cases, some of which has been spent on one business case. The 2023/2024 budget proposes to use £49,000 of these funds to fund a potential compulsory purchase in respect of Mary Arches which leaves £143,000 unspent. It is proposed to use these remaining funds to kick start the work to establish the viability of a city wide retrofit programme, learning from the Council's own work on its Council Housing, the work of the Local Government Association and other Councils
The proposal is to appoint two Officers both at Grade H (£92,980 total) for a period of 16 months (Total £123,973) to develop the model and feasibility of rolling out refurbishment at scale resulting in an evidence based business case for progressing the project. The remaining funds: £19,027 would be allocated for project costs.
One role would be Technical - focusing on modelling the scope, technical and financial issues. The other role would focus on Partnership and Community engagement to demonstrate demand and delivery capability. Building on the partnerships with other District Councils, Housing Association, Exeter College, the University and business bodies to understand the supply chain, skills and workforce development needs and engage with residents and business to cultivate demand, and understand and develop solutions to the barriers to progressing this work.