A record of delivery with a promise of more
At the local elections this year the local Redditch Conservatives are hoping to build on the success of their #UnlockRedditch campaign which helped them win control of the Borough Council after 6 years – the only council on election night last year to transfer directly from Labour to Conservative control.
The team are keen to emphasise their successes over the 12 months they have been running Redditch town hall ranging from their work to secure funding for upgrades to Redditch train station, overhaul of the grants system and the reduction in council homes sat empty.
Cllr Matt Dormer said:
“We inherited a mess from Labour it’s fair to say. A £777,00 black hole in the finances and over 130 council houses sat empty meaning local families were suffering unnecessary homelessness.”
The failings, described as a “range of historic issues” were discovered in late 2016/early 2017 following an internal audit that was a result of the Conservatives strong work on the oversight committee that held the Labour-run council to account. Conservative Craig Warhurst who took over the running of the housing portfolio in May 2018 said:
“I believe our tenants have a right to a decent, safe property and to be able to live in a great environment.”
The number of empty council houses has dropped from over 130 to less than 50 in the 11 months period, largely credited to better oversight of the housing portfolio by the ruling Conservative Group. Also under Conservative control the housing safety and compliance checks are in place which delivers a vast improvement on the previous Labour-run council.
The Redditch Conservatives local elections manifesto for 2019 goes on to offer six key points for the upcoming local elections including the policy to build more council-owned bungalows, of which Cllr Dormer says:
“If you don’t have enough bungalows you can’t move people through the housing system into the most appropriate accommodation for their needs. This goes a long way to getting people into the right home for them.”
There is a huge shortage of bungalows in Redditch for the older generation and this leaves many large homes effectively blocked with current residents being unable to downsize bungalows.
Housing allocations have also been revised with a new local connection only policies, meaning Redditch people take advantage of new homes as ruling Conservatives removed the previous ‘open list’ system that allowed anyone from anywhere in the UK to apply to Redditch.
Under the Conservatives around 67 new homes have been commissioned with more on the way. It’s the first time Redditch Borough Council has built its own council houses since the 1990s.
Local Conservatives believe in the right developments, at the right locations and at the right time. That’s why we have issued a clear ‘hands off’ to developers looking to build even more homes on the edge of Webheath and Brockhill.
Local Conservatives are also keen to emphasise their work on leisure services, pointing to their decision to bring the Arrow Valley Visitors Centre back into public ownership. Matt Dormer said:
“The visitor centre is a jewel at the heart of our Country Park and hasn’t been doing too well under the previous private owner, so we’ve asked our council-owned company to come in and run it instead, which is proving popular with local residents who want to see the visitor centre return to its former glory.”
On the town centre, the manifesto promises the Conservatives will “unlock the potential in our town centre to create new homes, jobs and a more vibrant retail and leisure offer”. Since taking control of the council over £5m has been earmarked for development works in the centre, including upgrades to enhance Redditch train station. Redditch is also pushing ahead with an application to the Future High Streets Fund, which could see Redditch benefit from a share of £675m set aside by central government.
Cllr Dormer said:
“The outcomes of our state of the area debates held earlier this year has shown the residents of our town have some great ideas to help us shape the Redditch of the future – and we’ve listened to them.”
“We said we would fully involve local residents in decisions about their areas – and we mean it. That’s why I can confirm that under a Conservative-run council we will respect the wishes of local residents and businesses when it comes to the regeneration of Winyates and Matchborough Centres for example.”
“As part of the consultation process, if local people decide they want two district centres we will fully support that decision.”