Agenda item

Corporate Plan 2023-27

Report of the Leader


The Deputy Leader introduced the item by reading a statement on behalf of the Leader. Before talking about the new corporate plan, she reflected on what has been achieved in the last few years, including the development agreement with HBDX Factory to take forward the Golden Valley development; £40m invested to increase provision of affordable homes;  creation of the Climate Emergency Action Plan and SPD to raise standards for sustainable housing development; £1.1m external funding secured to support carbon-busting initiatives, skill-boosting schemes, business growth, and a new cycle hub; the launch of the Cheltenham Lottery, which has raised over £100k for local good causes; new digital services making it easier for residents and businesses to contact and transact with the council, with the newly-opened reception providing drop-ins or appointments for anyone preferring to see someone in person. Our work has been nationally recognised with several national and regional awards, and overall resident satisfaction with Cheltenham as a place to live is 90%, well above Local Government Association benchmark, and all this has been achieved despite the pandemic and the challenging financial position faced by district councils.


Looking ahead, there are huge opportunities and challenges for Cheltenham, and the new corporate plan continues our ambition, by continuing to enhance Cheltenham’s reputation as cyber capital of the UK, progressing the Climate Emergency Action Plan, including exploration of heat networks; further increasing the supply of affordable, carbon neutral homes and retro-fitting existing homes; and renewing the focus on culture, leisure, economic and community development to ensure Cheltenham is a great place to live work and explore.  This will be underpinned by continuing to improve customer services and how the Council works through new technology, and finding ways to increase income to continue investing in frontline services. He thanked the many officers who had contributed to the plan, and recommended it for approval.


The Mayor introduced a four-minute video outlining the Corporate Plan, before inviting Members to ask questions.


Before commenting, the Leader of the Conservative Group added his group’s best wishes to Councillor Hay, and also, in the historic week marking one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, invited Members to join him in remembering the late Chris Parry, a Cheltenham resident who lost his life in Ukraine while undertaking humanitarian work.


He went on to say that the plan is great and his group was happy to support it in principle, but delivery is what matters, and the 90% satisfaction of Cheltenham residents isn’t only a result of CBC’s input but equally due to many other factors that make it a good place to live.  Regarding the Golden Valley Development, he asked if CBC is confident it can fund the aims and aspirations, and that it has a robust plan for delivery.  The Deputy Leader confirmed that the plan is robust – the business case will be brought to Members in due course - and has undergone a great deal of scrutiny. There is a chance, in view of ongoing economic uncertainty, that the figures will need to be revisited, but it will be closely monitored.


In response to a Member’s question regarding how many people actually responded to the residents’ survey which produced a 90% satisfaction rating, the Deputy Leader did not have the figures to hand but the Chief Executive was able to confirm that all the figures could be found in the cabinet report, and the sample size gave a statistical level of confidence in the answers provided.  A Member of Overview and Scrutiny Committee subsequently checked the figures on line, and confirmed that 1346 residents took part in the survey.



In the following debate, Members thanked the Deputy Leader and officers for bringing the plan forward and the sound underlying financial management which made it possible to address a wide range of issues.   They raised the following points:


-       the plan rightly focusses on environmental concerns, with climate change and the move towards net zero as the headline issue, but another equally important environmental issue is biodiversity.  The catastrophic species and biodiversity loss is leading many people in the environmental movement to talk not just about conservation – protecting what is left – but about nature recovery and building biodiversity gain into everything we do, and CBC is committing itself to this through the plan.  Experts agree that what really makes a difference on biodiversity is decisions on the ground in councils and local communities. The UK is in the bottom 10% for biodiversity loss since the industrial revolution, and as part of the problem, we have to be part of the solution too.  It is good that the Corporate Plan provides practical steps to start on the journey towards nature recovery;

-       the long-term and ongoing commitment of officers to deliver the Corporate Plan is to be commended, such as the huge amount of work done by the licensing team in terms of the town’s Purple Flag status.  Cheltenham has the best night-time economy between Bristol and Birmingham, as a result of hard work by officers and supported by Members.  The council aims high and strives to deliver but we need the government to support and invest in the town;

-       the five priorities are equally weighted and will be taken forward together;

-       the Cheltenham Plan involves other strategies, including the HRA and HRA Business Plan.  CBC has committed £180m to investment in affordable homes, having already spent £43m over the last 3.5 years to build 51 affordable homes, and allocating a further £22m for an additional 76 homes.  The Plan gives structure to the way forward in delivering these homes, with net zero carbon dwellings the target on CBC and CBH-owned land;

-       regarding the clean and green initiatives, CBC has already introduced some successful improvements, including in-cab technology, a revolutionary and responsive service, to reduce the amount of fuel used in waste recycling and in parks and gardens services, better for residents and leading to a greater degree of fuel efficiency and fewer carbon emissions.  CBC is already at the national forefront in extending kerbside recycling, highlighted in the past year or so with the first pod-back scheme, collecting and recycling coffee pods, in conjunction with a commercial producer.  Two million have been recycled so far, and thousands of trees been planted as a result.  In the survey, 81% of residents were satisfied with kerbside collections.  Looking to the future, CBC will extend soft plastics recycling, maintaining its position at the forefront for recycling, and with 88% of residents declaring themselves as satisfied with its parks and open spaces, continuing to build on and extend the green flag status;

-       CBC should be proud of the Corporate Plan and its challenging but deliverable vision, although it takes more than a document such as this to make a great town.  We are lucky to have so many component parts – the friends groups, the Civic Society, the Architects Panel, football and rugby clubs – all of which take a proactive role; the council plays a big role, not only leading but also enabling and contributing;

-       unfortunately, the National Planning Policy Framework and other planning dictats from the government are outdated, and restrict what the council can do - it is difficult to protect the greenbelt and AONB and greenbelt if we can’t control our own planning decisions.  We need a modern planning framework and proper planning regimes to deliver;

-       the state of the Strand at the top of the High Street, and many other roads around Cheltenham is a disgrace, and has been so for many years.  We need Gloucestershire County Council to deliver for Cheltenham;

-       at Overview and Scrutiny last week, young people from Young Planet Cheltenham and Balcarras Years 9 and 11 came to present their findings from a county-wide climate action survey, with a 70% completion rate from participating schools.  They said specifically that they wanted more democratic engagement and there were matters they would like the council to consider.  The council used to have a youth rep on Overview and Scrutiny, which was phased out around 2004; it would be good to see this restored, to allow young people to contribute to the Corporate Plan, feed in their views, and address a longer term approach.  Other councils go much further with youth democracy representation, and it would be within our capacity to execute and fund a 2030 Community Engagement Board. For young people still at school who don’t see any future opportunities, it would be a good way for them to feed into democracy;

-       the residents’ survey returned a 90% satisfaction rate, but there is a high proportion of people with disabilities who have felt left behind in recent years.  The need for a strategy and commitment to specific communities has been raised at Overview and Scrutiny Committee;

-       through Priority No. 1, the cyber innovation centre initiative, it is important to make sure the council is working with lives of colour, that they are being funded adequately and given the support they deserve;

-       the plan is well presented, easy to digest, and includes a lot of good ambitions and commitments, including the regeneration of housing estates – hopefully the Cheltenham West Vision Master Plan can be dusted off and revisited;

-       the focus on the environment, including development of an ecology and biodiversity planning document is very welcome;

-       one concern is that a lot of priorities in the plan seem to be dependent on Key Priority 1 being successful and soon - but it all seems to pivot on the innovation centre and with no funding in place and the failure of the £20m levelling-up bid, together with existing council loans of £150m and interest rates going up, this is a worry. 


The Deputy Leader thanked Members for their positive comments across the Chamber, all of which have been noted.  He cannot respond to them all, but said the plan is a bold and future-thinking vision which will affect every resident in the town.    He and other Members got involved in politics because they care about their communities they serve, and the Corporate Plan reflects the council’s ambitions for those communities.  He commended the report to Members on behalf of the Leader. 




-       the draft Corporate Plan 2023-27 be approved. 




Supporting documents: