Lancaster park development among future council budget proposals

Plans have been revealed for Williamson Park if the city council's budget proposals are given the go-ahead.
Plans have been revealed for Williamson Park if the city council's budget proposals are given the go-ahead.

A treetop trail and a new cafe and wedding venue could soon be developed at a popular Lancaster park.

Plans to enhance Williamson Park were discussed at a budget proposal meeting for Lancaster City Council.

The existing café, which is struggling to cope with increased demand, could be replaced with a new facility including a café, shop, education suites, and enhanced facilities for weddings.

Outside, meanwhile, a family attraction such as a treetop trail could be developed.

This comes as the Labour cabinet presented its budget proposals for 2018/19 to 2021/22 to the cross-party Budget and Performance Panel.

The city council needs to achieve an annual savings target of £1m for 1029/20 and £2.4m for 2020/21.

Coun Anne Whitehead, cabinet ember for finance, revenues and benefits, said that the number of large and regeneration and infrastructure projects to consider and manage adds to the challenge of council spending investments and borrowing.

A rise of 2.99 per cent in the city council’s share of council tax is, which is 13 per cent of the total bill, is being proposed in line with Government thresholds – equivalent to an extra 12p a week for a Band D property.

“We want the very best for our district and residents,” said Coun Eileen Blamire, leader of Lancaster City Council.

“That is why we continue to work hard to protect and improve frontline services, save money and generate income where we can, and develop a longer-term vision of a clean, green and prosperous district – with good jobs and housing, a strong economy and leisure facilities for all.”

A member of Lancashire County Council, a representative of Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner and Lancashire Fire Authority, were invited to the budget meeting on Tuesday night at Morecambe Town Hall but did not attend.

The authorities have submitted their budget proposals to the Lancaster City Council ahead of the next budget meeting on February 28.

A business case was also discussed for a solar farm at Middleton.

Plans had previously been developed but were halted due to cut backs and the cost of solar energy.

Since then, the cost of solar panels has fallen and other technology like battery storage has been developed.

Energy generated by the solar farm would help to save the council money on its energy costs and could also raise revenue for the authority by being sold to the National Grid.

Under Labour’s budget plans, which are still being finalised, an extra £152,500 would be invested in street cleaning over the next three years, helping to fund two new staff as well as an additional enforcement officer.

The funding would allow for more education and preventative work with residents in areas affected most by problems like littering.

It would help with the roll-out of a new Clean and Safe Neighbourhoods Project under which each neighbourhood will get its own dedicated cleaning team, replacing the current district-wide approach.

It is hoped this would mean an even more responsive and customer-focused service, working more closely with local communities.

Concerns were raised over tourism in Carnforth.

Coun Chris Smith, of Carnforth Town Council, asked at the meeting if there would be any liaising with city and county councils over the proposed closure of Carnforth Information Centre.

Coun Darren Clifford said: “There is a liaison at this present time, we are trying to lobby to get that decision reversed. “We have got our own staff in Morecambe and Lancaster centres, they are not closing.

“I am very disappointed with the reduction of these funds down at county hall, especially when I know there is a lot of hard work going on with Carnforth, with the David Lean exhibition and the Heritage Trust.

“I will continue to keep you in the loop as best as I can.”

Others proposals were also discussed at the budget meeting which included historical works and new roles.

Further archaeological work at Vicarage Fields in Lancaster would be funded under plans and a museums manager recruited to help develop a plan for the city’s museum offer.

Funding for decontamination work at the seven-acre ‘Heysham Gateway’ site is also proposed.

Another proposal includes two new staff to support council tenants, including those struggling with budgeting amid the introduction of the new Universal Credit.

Support could include processing crisis grants, help with benefit applications and obtaining food bank parcels.

Other proposals include work to develop Community Wealth Building Schemes which keep spending and economic benefit within the local area.

The idea of setting up Local Authority Trading Companies to deliver some non-statutory services would also be explored. This would enable these services to make surpluses which could then be re-invested into statutory council services like bin collection and help to protect them from further Government cuts.