Royal Borough thanks public for amazing response to budget consultation as Cabinet amends proposals to include arts funding

Image with message thanking public

The Royal Borough is thanking everyone who took part in the public consultation on the proposed budget for 2022/23, which saw around 1,800 consultation responses submitted by residents, community groups and businesses.

This valuable community feedback has been analysed and helped to inform discussions when the proposed budget was presented to Cabinet yesterday evening, ahead of Full Council meeting on Tuesday 22 February to set the budget.

The consultation ran for eight weeks during December and January, and feedback can be read on the council’s portal.

The council’s commitment to investment was re-iterated in this consultation, which asked respondents for their investment priorities between different directorates. 58% of respondents prioritised the Place directorate, 19% prioritised Adults, Health and Housing, and 14% Children’s Services. 

For more general investment priorities, 68% of respondents prioritised placemaking, and 30% social services. Respondents were also given the opportunity to comment, and provide suggestions, on the proposals and wider consultation.

Investing in arts and culture was identified clearly as one of people’s key budget priorities. In the light of tight budgetary constraints, Full Council had decided in February 2021, as part of the budget-setting process, to stop funding for Norden Farm and the Old Court. 

Last night, Cabinet members voted to amend the proposed budget, which they have recommended for approval to Full Council, to now include arts funding of £115,000 for Norden Farm and £25,000 for the Old Court for 2022/23.

This follows constructive and purposeful discussions held with both Norden Farm and Old Court to discuss their business plans and future operating models, along with careful consideration of our consultant’s report to understand what options are available to support these venues and how the council can help them to become more sustainable.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, the council leader, said: “Thank you to all the residents, businesses, and community groups who took part in this crucial consultation. This amazing response reaffirms our belief that all residents in the Royal Borough have the opportunity to influence council decisions.

“We welcome people’s thoughts on investment priorities to shape our proposals. Taking on board the community’s strength of feeling around arts funding, as well as the findings of our own consultant’s report and our constructive discussions with both organisations, we amended the proposed budget to maintain a council-funded public subsidy for arts in 2022/23. 

“Such public feedback is critical because while the Royal Borough overall is an affluent area, we have among the very lowest Council Tax in England outside of London, which places financial pressure on budgets, especially with respect to areas of discretionary, non-statutory spend. There are also cost pressures in adults and children’s services.

“The whole budget is now due for discussion by Full Council. I am extremely encouraged by the positive level of community engagement around the budget and look forward to discussing with Full Council, in light of our Corporate Plan priorities and public feedback.”