One of the investments the council has made in recent years is the new Council offices on Ketts Park. At the time it was presided over, it was sold to Councillors as being cost neutral. It turns out that a number of pots of money that had been set aside for community projects had been emptied to pay for the new offices meaning these funds are no longer available for community infrastructure investments. One in particular was the earmarked reserve of more than £213,000 that had been set aside for a new cemetery.
Recently, Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds have been made available. CIL is generated with new housing estates where the developers pay a levy to the council in regard to the number of houses that are built. This money, as indicated by the name, is for the council to invest in community infrastructure projects. Given the number of new estates that have been created, the incoming funds add up to an amount in the order of many hundreds of thousands, likely totalling into millions over the next few years.
A new cemetery has been in the pipeline for many years. The Council has been aware that the current cemetery is reaching capacity so plans for a new cemetery need to move forward. Land has already been secured to accommodate a new cemetery which should have enough capacity to exceed one hundred years. The development of the land into a cemetery remains. A motion was passed at full council to allocate the entire balance of CIL money, available at that time, to pay for this development to the tune of £413,899. There are no plans, quantification, or costings available. Given that a cemetery will serve the community over many years some people may consider that funding for such could be done in stages and spread over a wider timescale. It might be some people's perspective that more than £200k had already been saved up and then deprived from this project for a formidable office building, and that the allocation of £413k more of CIL is depriving the community further. Whilst there are many schools of thought as to how to proceed, one approach could be to develop 25% of the cemetery with the view to serve a minimum of 25 years, meaning a saving in funding that could be allocated to other worthwhile projects that have a shorter time of return of benefit to the community, and the project revisited in 25 years. Whatever the perspective, a new cemetery is needed.
The council has been aware for many years that a refurbishment of Browick Road Park is desperately needed. Over the years there have been attempts to put forward plans of refurbishment but none had found any traction. This has recently changed. A motion was passed at full council to allocate £250,000 of CIL money for a new refurbishment plan, plus more for consultant’s design fees. Whilst this may seem like good news, no plan or design or costing have been formulated, leaving unanswered questions such as how was the allocation of £250k of CIL calculated? Where did that number come from?
It seems that the £250k of CIL was simply the remainder of that which has currently been made available to the council after the deduction of £413k for the new cemetery. It may be some people's perspective that allocating the entirety of the CIL to these two projects alone may not be best in serving the interests of the wider community of Wymondham.
My personal view is that funds should not be moved or allocated until a clear and detailed project cost estimate and design has been scrutinised by elected councillors. This is the procedure followed for very small projects, and it is unthinkable that huge sums of money have been moved around without the same due diligence.
More CIL money is coming our way soon, and I look forward to promoting a focus on empirical data and fact based evidence, with a demonstrable analytical process, that will hopefully encourage great decisions for the betterment of the community.