Agenda item

Capital and Investment Strategy 2022-23 to 2025-26


The Joint Executive Advisory Board (EAB) was invited to consider this report regarding the Capital and Investment Strategy 2022-23 to 2025-26 at its meeting held on 10 January 2022.


The Lead Specialist - Finance introduced the report and sought comments from the Joint EAB in respect of the capital bids outlined within the appendices to the report.  The following points arose from related questions, comments and discussion relating to the bids for forwarding to the Executive:


Guildford Economic Regeneration (GER) Programme


This programme, which consisted of the delivery of a proactive strategy incorporating a master plan for the comprehensive economic and physical regeneration of Guildford town centre, involved expenditure in the region of £3 million over a two year period.  In response to some expressed concern, the Joint EAB was assured that full consultation would be undertaken in respect of each element of this long term scheme, such as flooding, transportation, and delivery of homes.  Early work was likely to involve flood remediation measures.  Once the current work in this regard had been progressed to a sufficient stage with evidence of the intention to pursue the programme, available grants would be applied for to provide the necessary funding.


Stoke Park Paddling Pool


This bid sought capital funding to replace the Stoke Park paddling pool rubber crumb surface during April 2022 to enable the paddling pool to be operated for the next season and beyond.  Full support was expressed for the safe and hygienic continuation of this service which was highly valued by many families.  A query as to whether the service would be open from the commencement of the season for use of the pool would be referred back to relevant officers for a response.


Albury Closed Burial Grounds


There was a statutory obligation and health and safety reasons to maintain the heritage boundary wall of the closed burial ground at the old parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Albury.  Whilst these were recognised, some concern regarding the related level of expenditure, involving the engagement of specialist architects, was expressed in the light of the Council’s Savings Strategy.  It was confirmed that the burial ground was closed to new burials and not to visitors of the existing burials.  Queries around the timing of the bid to undertake the maintenance work and the estimated cost of the wall repairs could be referred to relevant officers for a response and explanation of the amount of the budget bid.


Chilworth Gunpowder Mills


Recent renovation and repair work at the Gunpowder Mills had led to the discovery of a significant defect with a stone culvert and spillway beneath the main access path into the site.  The possibility of temporarily or permanently closing this site was suggested in reflection of the Council’s financial constraints which limited its ability to address the related health and safety liability which would render the Council culpable in the event of any injuries.  Councillors were reminded of the outcome of the recent public consultation which had indicated that investment in respect of the Borough’s heritage was the lowest priority for residents.  However, owing to the numerous points of access to the site, it was not possible to close it to the public and therefore the investment in securing health and safety measures was considered unavoidable.  The historic artefacts at the site were felt to be incidental to visitors to the site who were mainly walkers.


Fleet Replacement Programme


Whilst acknowledging the environmental benefits of replacing fleet vehicles with new electric models that contributed to climate change targets, the possibility of delaying the replacement of refuse vehicles was raised in view of the significant purchase cost of £2.5 million.


The Joint EAB was advised that the Fleet Team historically operated on the basis of a rolling programme of vehicle replacement and it was unfortunate that vehicles due for replacing in the next financial were costly refuse lorries.  It was suggested that the Council did not need to continue the rolling programme and should consider alternatives such as retaining vehicles for longer and adopting a maintenance plan to extend their life.  Although new vehicles would be less costly to maintain, their value depreciated rapidly.  There was also the question of what style and power source of refuse vehicles would be required in the future as refuse and recycling circumstances changed and it was suggested that further research should be undertaken prior to expending funds in respect of vehicle purchases.


One councillor was of an opposing view and advised that this process aimed to earmark a capital provision which did not necessitate the expenditure of funds if the exacting tests were not met.  As environmental circumstances and technologies were constantly changing, it was difficult to identify a correct time to purchase new vehicles.  Although the Council’s financial pressures lay in its Revenue Account and new vehicle purchases would be funded from the Capital Programme, the expenditure of capital would have revenue implications.  Any borrowing would not be sought until the Council had fully established its borrowing needs.  It was recognised that there was a market in respect of second hand reconditioned refuse vehicles which was possibly an economic alternative to purchasing new vehicles.


Another factor was whether this Council continued an in-house waste and recycling collection service or formed a closer collaboration in this area with Waverley Borough Council which operated an outsourced approach.  However, it was advised that it would be approximately six years before Waverley’s contract expired and there was doubt that this Council’s current refuse vehicles could be operated for that length of time without replacement.


The Lead Councillor assured the Joint EAB that, in order for expenditure of this amount to be approved, challenges and rigorous justification tests would be undertaken.  The Joint EAB thanked the Lead Councillor for his assurances and confirmed the need for more research, understanding and rigorous testing prior to any expenditure commitment being made.


YMCA Lighting


The present lighting at the YMCA steps was poor and the Joint EAB indicated its support for this proposal to improve the lighting on health and safety and public access grounds.


Millmead House Lifts


The present lifts at New Millmead House, which with some past upgrading were in the region of 40 years old, were failing and in need of further upgrade.  Under the Equalities Act, the Council was required to provide safe and reliable lifts.  The Board questioned whether it would be possible to continue without upgrading the existing lifts for a further period of time to delay incurring the significant associated costs, particularly in view of the number of staff currently working from home and the resulting diminished use of the lifts.


The Board was advised that the Council was obliged to ensure that disabled people were not disadvantaged by inoperable lifts.  Also, as the Council was actively seeking to lease office floorspace to new tenants as a form of income, malfunctioning lifts were not a feasible option.  These factors were acknowledged by the Joint EAB and it was suggested that communications with the public should stress that, whilst the Council was seeking to avoid unnecessary expenditure, investment in some projects such as this was required.


Yorkies Bridge Lighting


Yorkies Bridge and the approaches to it were currently lit by poor and constantly failing lighting.  Therefore this bid to improve the lighting at Yorkies Bridge, which was heavily used by students and local residents, was supported and would be appreciated by users.


Memorial Wall


This mandate sought a capital bid to complete a Memorial wall and garden, landscaping, and associated ground works at Guildford Crematorium.  Whilst the Joint EAB was reluctant to endorse this level of spending in respect of memorial facilities, it supported the bid to avoid the distress that may be caused to bereaved people in the absence of such facilities.


Cemetery Tarmacing


Funding to undertake tarmacing and curbing in two cemeteries, namely, The Mount and Stoke Cemetery, was sought.  This bid was supported in the interests of health and safety,meeting statutory obligations and improving the journey for loved ones travelling to the cemeteries.


Castle Multi-Storey Car Park / Car Park Lighting


It was hoped that maintenance repairs to the architectural ‘turrets’ on each corner of the above Car Park structure and car parking lighting schemes relating to Castle, York Road, Leapale Road and Farnham Road Car Parks could be funded from the Car Park Maintenance Reserve, and possibly from Salix Government funding in the case of the latter.


The same officer would pursue all the lighting schemes to achieve a co-ordinated approach in the interests of efficiency in the event that the related bids were approved.  It was not anticipated that Surrey County Council would be in a position to contribute funding towards the lighting projects and would only provide and maintain street lighting for new residential developments.


HRA Maintenance Programme


Councillors noted the details of the HRA Maintenance Programme, which totalled £24.5 million to be funded from HRA resources, and that the Table in Appendix 15 to the report would be updated to reflect additional funds for development projects to be added.


The Joint EAB’s comments in respect of the bids would be added to the report and the Board indicated its support for the recommendations to the Executive and Council contained in the report, including the deletion of some named schemes from the Capital Programme.


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