Friday, 18 January 2013

Thanet's embassy mission

On 21 January residents in Cliftonville will see the beginning of a major housing restoration and improvement programme which will cover Margate Central and Cliftonville West:  Conversion work will start on the former ‘Embassy Hotel’, turning it into two four-bed family homes.

This Edwardian hotel used to reflect the former glories of Cliftonville as a resort, but subsequently being used as a 30 bed House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) it had fallen into disrepair and had been broken into and vandalised. Empty when purchased, Thanet District Council (TDC) took the opportunity to redress the balance of housing in the area, partly by reducing the number of HMOs.

With the Embassy, the intention is to improve its appearance, bringing back its character by re-instating the original fa├žade and replacing the windows and doors.  An unsightly rear extension will also be replaced by a more aesthetic single storey one. There will also be exhaustive internal renovation to replace fittings, pipe-work and electrical wiring which had been stolen before TDC acquired the building. The aim is to undertake the works with a minimum of disruption to nearby residents who should also ultimately benefit from the improvements which the changes will make to the street.

The contractors, Richardson Ltd will start work on 21 January and plan to involve a range of local contractors in the project. John Neville, the company’s Managing Director said: “Richardson Ltd are extremely pleased and proud to have been awarded this contract.”
He commented on what a great opportunity it is for the company to be involved at this early stage in such an excellent regeneration initiative and added: “The project will be of great benefit to all stakeholders in the near future.

“As a business we work closely with our clients to employ local labour, suppliers and sub-contractors. This will benefit the local community and create alignment between all organisations to achieve mutual objectives.”

Over the next 10 – 15 years the £23.1m ‘Live Margate’ programme, of which the Embassy work is a part, will help to make the Margate area a place where people will aspire to live, by increasing the number of family homes; improving living and housing standards and encouraging investment and owner occupation.

To do this Thanet District Council, Kent County Council and their partners in Live Margate are particularly targeting problem buildings which have been derelict and unoccupied for years, ensuring respect and sympathy for the original architecture as they are renovated and restored.
Cllr David Green, Cabinet Member for housing and the ward member for Eastcliff said: “Since Thanet District Council bought the Embassy in late 2012, I have been looking forward to the hotel becoming a leading example of how strategic intervention can have a positive impact on the whole feel of an area and set a course for further improvements.

“In Cliftonville and Margate there are many HMOs or unoccupied buildings that the council is trying to purchase, which is why I am thrilled that this programme (Live Margate) will see a vast improvement to the infrastructure and hopefully bring a new sense of ‘being’ to the wards of Margate.”

“The council’s Selective Licensing scheme in these areas will also enable residents to feel safer and it means that property management and housing conditions will improve and anti-social behaviour will be reduced.” 


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Residents to be spared from the predicted rise in Council Tax

Thanet District Council is set to peg its Council Tax at the same level for a fourth consecutive year.  This is despite suffering a further 7.4 per cent reduction in its annual formula grant from central government for 2013/14.

The latest government cut means that the formula grant will have fallen from £13.3m three years ago to just £8.5m from April this year.  However, recently published official figures reveal that the grant will be reduced again for 2014/15 - to £7.1m - an overall drop of 47 per cent.

In spite of this, the council’s cabinet has put together a budget which will enable it to withdraw its earlier recommendation for a 2 per cent increase in Council Tax. This would have been equivalent to £4.20 extra per year for a Band D household.

Cabinet will make its formal recommendation when it meets on 22 January, with the final decision being taken by the full council on 7 February.

Cllr Rick Everitt, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “When we considered the draft budget last November we needed to find almost £800,000 to balance the books for next year, and at that stage an increase in Council Tax looked unavoidable.

”We had also pencilled in a £580,000 contribution from the council’s New Homes Bonus reserve, although if possible we would have preferred to spend that money on one-off initiatives to improve Thanet for the benefit of residents and visitors.

“This was the prudent position for us to take, based on the information to hand at the time. However, given the continuing pressure on household finances we were very clear that we would continue to search for other ways to close the gap, including identifying additional back-office savings and finding other sources of funding. We have now been able to do this.

“Following this work and the 19 December announcement of the local government settlement, I am delighted to announce that we have fully closed the gap for this year. The settlement is slightly better for 2013/14 than anticipated but is, unfortunately, much worse for 2014/15.

“Cabinet is now able to recommend to council that there should be no Council Tax increase and no additional draw-down of the New Homes Bonus to fund our existing services in 2013/14.

“That’s the good news. However, the council’s financial position remains extremely tight. Our officers are fully stretched by their current workload and there is no escaping that there will still be some very difficult choices to be made in the years ahead.”

The council’s budget plan shows a net spend on services of £19.37m next year (this is after taking account of the income expected from fees, charges and miscellaneous grants), down from £20.38m in 2012/13, despite the effects of inflation and other cost pressures.