Cllr Katrina Wood is the Leader of Wycombe District Council.
At Wycombe District Council we are proud that as Conservatives we have frozen the Council tax for our residents for six out of the last seven years and we now charge one of the lowest levels of council tax for a district council in England.
We have worked hard over the last 10 years or so to improve our income from sources other than Government, whilst keeping prudent control of our budgets and this has allowed us to cover the cost of our services without the need to continually increase council tax. As a Conservative led council, low taxes are a priority for us and this means we are doing our bit to support our residents at a time when other organisations are asking them to pay more.
Wycombe is an ambitious Council, and we have plans which prioritise delivering value for money, customer-focussed services and enhancing the Wycombe district for the people who live, work and visit here – whilst aiming to keep the costs down for our residents.
We have delivered several projects over the last few years which have allowed us to increase our income whilst at the same time creating jobs, boosting business, and rejuvenating our town. We have built a new leisure centre on a site we own adjacent to the M40 and a gateway into the town. We also built a new Waitrose store beside it, from which we now earn an income by leasing it back to them. All of this without any borrowing, and we are now pursuing plans for the rest of the site to include an hotel and office block.
The Hughenden Quarter is another site being regenerated as part of the Council’s “Investing in Wycombe” initiative. In partnership with Buckinghamshire New University, the Council has invested £2m into this area to redevelop a derelict former factory site – which now includes an as-yet un-named spine road and environmental improvements.
The site, already home to 450 Buckinghamshire New University students, will soon include a retirement village of 260 apartments run by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, as well as Royal Star and Garter accommodation for ex-servicemen and people with dementia, and a new Marston’s pub. When completed, Hughenden Quarter will have created places for over 700 people to live and these developments on the site will in turn create new employment opportunities. Some will also have provided either capital receipts to be re-invested in other projects or an income for the Council.
Some of our other current income-generating workstreams include supporting small businesses to grow through managed workspace provision and using our regeneration fund to acquire property interests, especially empty shops, to facilitate regeneration and bring empty properties back into use.
As a Council we cannot rest on our laurels and we are always looking for new and innovative projects to continue to meet our aims of low council tax whilst improving our district. We are just starting to look at providing a block of 62 new apartments as affordable homes with a new hub for furniture-makers providing low cost workshops to protect High Wycombe’s heritage. On a further site we own we want to create a managed estate of let property investments to provide a source of new income to the Council. This latter proposal includes a new food store, a car showroom, purpose-built vehicle workshops and a funky new home for local craftspeople and artists using shipping containers.
We are always looking to diversify and to bring in more income, so life is challenging but never dull at Wycombe District Council.