HDC abandons targets as cuts bite

SPENDING cuts have forced Huntingdonshire District Council to scale back massively on its aspirations for its own performance.

Thirteen pages of performance targets in the council’s previous corporate plan have been replaced by just two in the ‘lite council plan’ for the next four years.

Some targets have disappeared because the Government no longer requires councils to meet them. Others have gone as massive spending cuts have forced the council to concentrate of its priorities, according the council leader Councillor Ian Bates.

A target to have seven per cent of streets in the district or fewer free of unacceptable litter has actually improved marginally. HDC’s aspiration is now for at least 94 per cent of streets to be kept to an acceptable level of cleanliness.

But the aim for recycling is starkly less ambitious – to achieve a recycling rate of more than 45 per cent – when the current achievement, one of the best in the country, already exceeds 55 per cent. If the recycling rate were to fall, HDC would face increased costs from continually rising landfill charges.

Cllr Bates stressed that the plan, which is still incomplete, with a number of targets identified but not yet quantified, was a first draft and would almost certainly change after input from councillors and public consultation.

“The financial situation we find ourselves in has caused us to redefine the priorities that we need to concentrate on,” he said.

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“Things that we have done in the past that were nice but not compulsory will no longer be priorities for us. But lots of things we do we shall still do, even though they’re not in the plan. This is taken as read.

“Although the plan looks light, it’s not light when you include the statutory duties the council has, such as conducting elections. But it’s not set in stone yet.”

Left in the lite version – which will, of course, save paper compared with re-printing the previous document – are preventing at least 250 households from becoming homeless, and keeping the need for temporary accommodation to fewer than 90 households on average (twice as many as the current target).

HDC will aim to enable 240 vulnerable and disadvantaged people to remain independent in their own homes each year, by minimising fear and isolation and reducing the risk of falls and injury.

It will ‘support strong communities’, though it has yet to decide how, and facilitate an increase of at least 560 homes in the district each year – unchanged from the previous plan.

But targets for increasing the amount of employment floorspace and developer contributions to infrastructure and community facilities have yet to be set. So have targets for the number of householders improving energy efficiency as a result of the example set by the council’s ‘green homes’ in St Ives and St Neots (the old target was 170 from all HDC climate change initiatives), and for the number of positively managed wildlife sites.

The only other quantified target in the lite version is for 29 per cent of new homes to be built on brownfield land.

Public satisfaction targets have evaporated, along with environmental improvement measures and energy use, housing improvements and affordable homes, service level targets, public empowerment and participation, investment funding, support for economic development and training, staff retention (understandable when so many posts are being made redundant) and bids for external funding.